AUSTIN, Texas -- Individuals who worked for Tom DeLay’s political action committee, including his daughter, say the former House majority leader had little involvement in the daily operations of the group that’s at the center of his money laundering trial.
But prosecutors have implied to jurors that the that the once powerful but polarizing politician was the driving force behind the PAC, which authorities say was involved in illegally funneling $190,000 in corporate donations into Texas legislative races eight years ago.
Testimony in DeLay’s trial was to resume Wednesday with his daughter, Danielle DeLay Garcia, who took the stand Tuesday and was to continue being questioned by prosecutors.
Garcia, who worked as an event planner for the PAC, denied prosecutors’ claims that the group was run by her father. She said her father was more involved with a Washington-based leadership PAC he ran.
Two other PAC workers have told jurors a DeLay associate ran the group and they rarely had contact with DeLay.
DeLay, who faces up to life in prison if convicted, has denied any wrongdoing.
Prosecutors allege DeLay and two associates—Jim Ellis and John Colyandro—illegally channeled the corporate money, which had been collected by DeLay’s Texas PAC, through the Washington-based Republican National Committee. Under Texas law, corporate money cannot be directly used for political campaigns.
The money helped Republicans take control of the Texas House in 2002. That majority allowed the GOP to push through a congressional redistricting plan engineered by DeLay that sent more Texas Republicans to Congress in 2004 and strengthened DeLay’s political stature, prosecutors said.
DeLay’s attorneys say Texas candidates got no corporate money.
Prosecutors deny defense claims that the charges are politically motivated by former Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, a Democrat who brought the original case but has since retired.
DeLay’s defense team also worried about the trial being held in Austin—the most Democratic city in one of the most Republican states—and its timing, with testimony beginning a day before Tuesday’s midterm elections. DeLay has been pressing for a trial since he was indicted five years ago, but the case was slowed by appeals of pretrial rulings.
The criminal charges in Texas, as well as a separate federal investigation of his ties to disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, ended DeLay’s 22-year political career representing suburban Houston. The Justice Department ended its federal investigation into DeLay’s ties to Abramoff without filing any charges against DeLay.
Ellis and Colyandro, who face lesser charges, will be tried later.
DeLay, whose nickname was "the Hammer" for his heavy-handed style, has been mostly out of public view since resigning from Congress, except for an appearance on ABC’s hit television show "Dancing With the Stars." He now runs a consulting firm based in the Houston suburb of Sugar Land.