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Corruption Trial Of Tom DeLay Begins In Texas

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Corruption Trial Of Tom DeLay Begins In Texas

Politics

Corruption Trial Of Tom DeLay Begins In Texas

Corruption Trial Of Tom DeLay Begins In Texas

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The money laundering trial of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay got under way in Austin, Texas, today. Prosecutors paint a picture of a scheme to subvert Texas campaign finance laws — a scheme that they say was masterminded by DeLay. Defense lawyers don't dispute many of the facts in the case, but argue there was nothing illegal about it.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

In Austin, Texas today, the money laundering trial of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay got under way. DeLay is accused of illegally funneling corporate donations to some Texas legislative candidates back in 2002.

Matt Largey of member station KUT reports.

MATT LARGEY: In opening statements this morning, the prosecution followed the money. The heart of their case is a $190,000 check sent to the Republican National Committee in September 2002. The money, from DeLay's Texans for a Republican Majority PAC, came from corporate donations.

The check also came with a list of Texas legislative candidates who, by law, were prohibited from getting corporate donations. Three weeks later, the candidates on that list got their own checks from the national committee.

Prosecutors say the transaction amounts to money laundering and that DeLay and two associates conspired to commit the crime. DeLay's motive, they say, was to help Republicans take over the Texas legislature, have them redraw the state's congressional district maps, and help cement a Republican majority in Congress.

Defense attorney Dick DeGuerin argues DeLay did nothing wrong. DeGuerin said these kinds of money swaps between PACs and national parties are common, and that there's nothing illegal about them. He argued it was entirely legal for the corporate money to go to the national committee, which funded candidates as it saw fit. And even if the law was broken, DeGuerin argued his client played no role in it.

DeLay entered not guilty pleas on both charges, but had little else to say today. The trial is expected to last up to three weeks.

For NPR News, I'm Matt Largey in Austin.

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