More indictments for TRMPACers Jim Ellis and John Colyandro.
Jim Ellis, who heads Americans for a Republican Majority, and John Colyandro, former executive director of Texans for a Republican Majority, already are facing charges of money laundering in the case. Colyandro also faces 13 counts of unlawful acceptance of a corporate political contribution. The use of corporate money to influence political races is illegal in Texas.
The money laundering charges stem from $190,000 in corporate money that was sent to the Republican National Committee. The party then spent the same amount of money on seven candidates for the Texas Legislature.
Austin attorney Joe Turner, who represents Colyandro, said the attorneys for the RNC examined and cleared all of the suspect transactions.
"Prosecutors must not be too confident in their indictments, otherwise there would be no need for these additional indictments on the same set of facts," Turner said. "We don't believe a crime was ever committed."
Time is running out for indictments. Under the election code, prosecutors have three years from the time of an alleged offense to bring charges.
Tuesday's indictment was returned three years to the day the $190,000 check was cut.
The additional charges also seemed to be an attempt by prosecutors to cover their bets, giving jurors more than one count to consider. By including Ellis and Colyandro in one indictment and charging them with conspiracy — as opposed to indicting them separately — the prosecutors made it more likely that the two will be tried as co-defendants.
Finally, a lawyer involved in the case suggested that the conspiracy charge added an important twist. Instead of focusing on the exchange of money, it alleges that Ellis and Colyandro conspired to raise corporate money with the intent of laundering it into campaign donations for Texas candidates.
At a news conference announcing the [TRMPAC] indictment, Earle hinted he might have sought an indictment of DeLay if he had jurisdiction. Jurisdiction for election law violations is held by the home county of the accused person.
DeLay, R-Sugar Land, would fall under [Fort Bend County District Attorney John Healey Jr.]'s jurisdiction.
Healey said Earle called him after the news conference to say no referral against DeLay would be made at present.
"I can tell you he told me his comments were not intended to signal he had anything imminent to send to me in regard to Tom DeLay," Healey said. "We did not talk about the substantive facts of the case."
Healey said he felt certain Earle will handle the case properly.
"Knowing Mr. Earle's reputation and having talked to him ... if there is a matter in reference to a case against anybody stemming from this investigation, if there is a case to be made, supported by the evidence and the law, he will either present it to a grand jury or refer the matter to the proper authorities outside of his jurisdiction."
Healey said he did not know if Earle plans to give him any evidence in the future.
"It would be reckless for any district attorney to make reference to the likelihood of an investigation coming one's way unless, of course, the target was talking about it," Healey said.
It's also not like this is the only thing DeLay has to worry about. There's still the matter of an eventual ethics investigation for all his questionable lobbyist-paid travel in recent years, and of course there's still his old buddies Jack Abramoff and Mike Scanlon getting roasted by the feds. DeLay's name won't be disappearing from those headlines any time soon.
On a related note, there's a maddeningly vague story about Colyandro being dismissed as a defendant from a civil trial.
The federal district-court judge dismissed the case brought by two Texas Democrats against John Colyandro, the former executive director of the Texans for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee (TRMPAC).
The judge, Lee Yeakel, ruled that lawyers for the two Democrats failed to prove that Colyandro had knowingly broken Texas election law in using corporate contributions to fund campaign ads.
In his opinion, Yeakel wrote that the petition against Colyandro and his three co-defendants “fails to allege any facts that Colyandro intentionally or even knowingly violated the applicable sections of the Texas Election Code.”