Former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay — once one of the most powerful and feared Republicans in Congress — was convicted Wednesday on charges he illegally funneled corporate money to Texas candidates in 2002.
Prosecutors said DeLay, who once held the No. 2 job in the House of Representatives and whose heavy-handed style earned him the nickname “the Hammer,” used his political action committee to illegally channel $190,000 in corporate donations into 2002 Texas legislative races through a money swap.
Prosecutors said DeLay conspired with two associates, John Colyandro andJim Ellis, to use his Texas-based PAC to send $190,000 in corporate money to an arm of the Washington-based Republican National Committee, or RNC.
The RNC then sent the same amount to seven Texas House candidates. Under Texas law, corporate money can’t go directly to political campaigns.
Prosecutors claim the money helped Republicans take control of the Texas House. That enabled the GOP majority to push through a Delay-engineered congressional redistricting plan that sent more Texas Republicans to Congress in 2004 — and strengthened DeLay’s political power.
The 2005 criminal charges in Texas, as well as a separate federal investigation of DeLay’s ties to disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, ended his 22-year political career representing suburban Houston.
The Justice Department probe into DeLay’s ties to Abramoff ended without any charges filed against DeLay.
Ellis and Colyandro, who face lesser charges, will be tried later.
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