AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - A Texas jury on Wednesday found former Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, dubbed “The Hammer” for his hard-driving style, guilty of money laundering and conspiracy.
DeLay was accused of conspiring to illegally funnel $190,000 in corporate campaign donations to Republican candidates for the Texas Legislature in the 2002 elections.
“The public officials people elect to represent them must do so honestly and ethically and if not, they will be held accountable,” said Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg.
DeLay, 63, faces five to 99 years in prison for the money- laundering conviction and two to 20 years for a conspiracy count as well, plus fines. He is free on bond until his sentencing in a Texas state court on Dec 20.
“This is an abuse of power, it is a miscarriage of justice. I am very disappointed. But it is what it is ... and we will carry on. Hopefully we can get this before people who understand the law,” DeLay said after the verdict.
“We will appeal,” DeLay attorney Dick DeGuerin said in an interview. “I’m afraid it was an emotional verdict because of all the money and politics, but we will eventually prevail.”
A former owner of a pest control company, DeLay was elected to the House of Representatives in 1984 and rose eventually to the No. 2 position in the chamber behind the speaker. He earned a reputation as a master vote-counter and prolific fundraiser.
In 1994, DeLay was part of “Republican Revolution” that won control of the House for the first time in 40 years. He then won the job of House majority whip, making him the chamber’s third-ranking Republican.
DeLay assembled a political machine that churned out narrow and largely partisan victories on legislation from tax cuts to easing federal regulations.
He resigned from the House in 2006 amid links with Jack Abramoff, a former Republican lobbyist snared in a federal investigation of influence peddling on Capitol Hill. Two of DeLay’s ex-aides pleaded guilty to corruption. Delay denied any wrongdoing.
DeLay had stepped down as majority leader the previous year after he was indicted in Texas on the campaign finance charges.
During the 2006 congressional elections, Democrats said DeLay’s actions illustrated a pattern of corruption in the Republican-led Congress. Democrats won back control of Congress that year.
During a six-day period in 2004, DeLay was admonished by the House Ethics Committee on three matters — a 2002 fundraiser that it said gave the appearance of donors getting special access; enlisting the help of a federal agency in a Texas political spat and offering a political favor to a member in an effort to win passage of a prescription drug bill.