Prosecutors scrutinizing fundraising of DeLay PAC

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Prosecutors in the money laundering trial of former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay have been scrutinizing the fundraising efforts of his political action committee.

The detailing of that work was to resume Tuesday, with a former fundraiser for the PAC returning to the witness stand to be questioned by prosecutors.

Susan Lilly, an Austin-based political consultant, began telling jurors Monday about her work raising individual donations for DeLay’s PAC. Last week, another PAC fundraiser testified about his work raising corporate donations.

Prosecutors allege DeLay used the PAC to illegally funnel $190,000 in corporate funds into Texas legislative races eight years ago. Under Texas law, corporate money can’t go directly to political campaigns.

DeLay, who denies wrongdoing, is charged with money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering. The former Houston-area congressman faces up to life in prison if convicted.

On Monday, Dick DeGuerin, DeLay’s lead attorney, suggested to jurors the charges against the ex-lawmaker were the result of a prejudice against corporate donations held by Ronnie Earle, the former Travis County district attorney who originally brought the charges. DeGuerin’s implication came after prosecutors questioned former lobbyists for Sears, Roebuck and Co. and Bacardi USA Inc., two of eight companies charged in 2004 with making illegal donations to the PAC.

DeLay’s attorneys have said the charges against the Republican DeLay were politically motivated by Earle, a Democrat. Prosecutors deny that.

DeGuerin has repeatedly told jurors corporate donations are a legal part of politics but that no corporate money was sent to Texas candidates.

Prosecutors allege DeLay and two associates — John Colyandro and Jim Ellis — illegally channeled the corporate donations collected by DeLay’s Texas PAC through the Washington-based Republican National Committee.

Prosecutors say the money helped Republicans take control of the Texas House in 2002. That majority allowed the GOP to push through a Delay-engineered congressional redistricting plan that sent more Texas Republicans to Congress in 2004 and strengthened DeLay’s political power, prosecutors said.

The 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.

DeLay, whose nickname was “the Hammer” for his heavy-handed style, now runs a consulting firm based in the Houston suburb of Sugar Land. In 2009, he appeared on ABC’s hit television show “Dancing With the Stars.”

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