Opening arguments at the DeLay trial

It’s a little weird that the Tom DeLay trial could be something other than the top news story, isn’t it?

The political money laundering trial of former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay opened Monday with the Sugar Land Republican defiantly declaring his innocence.

After prosecutors read the two-count conspiracy and money laundering indictment against DeLay, he turned to the jury and in a loud, confident voice said, “Ladies and gentlemen, I am not guilty.”


Prosecutor Beverly Mathews said the money laundering was part of a larger scheme to increase DeLay’s power in Washington, D.C.

DeLay’s defense team claims the money exchange was a legal swap so the RNC could use the corporate money in states where it is legal while giving money legally raised from individuals to the Texas candidates.

Defense lawyer Dick DeGuerin told the jury there was no crime and it should not convict DeLay just because he was politically successful.

I’ve always felt that it will be easier to convict DeLay’s minions, whose questionable actions are more clearly documented, than DeLay himself. I’m not sure that the evidence that is publicly known is sufficient to convict him, and my long-held theory that co-defendant Warren RoBold might have gotten a secret deal to testify for the prosecution was shot down. I don’t know what else there might be. But it will be fun to watch, and who knows what might come out in the testimony.

Testimony began with Craig McDonald of Texans for Public Justice and Fred Lewis, a lawyer, telling why they filed separate criminal complaints with the district attorney against Texans for Republicans Majority.

Both said they learned of the corporate money spent by the Texas committee, including the $190,000, from Internal Revenue Service reports. DeGuerin objected repeatedly during the testimony to keep the witnesses from offering their conclusions about the state’s campaign finance laws. By midafternoon, DeGuerin had moved for a mistrial based on one answer. Judge Pat Priest declined.

During cross-examination, Lewis testified that the Texas political committee spent corporate money on polling, political consultants, political fundraisers and voting lists — all activities that the Texas Ethics Commission advised against.

When DeGuerin objected, the judge said, “You asked the question.”

Former state Rep. Bill Ceverha, R-Dallas, served as treasurer of the Texas committee. He testified that the advisory board had a “general discussion” about sending corporate money to the national committee, which would then donate money to Texas candidates. He added, “This was a practice done for decades.”

Testimony is scheduled to resume today, and the trial is expected to last at least three weeks. Both sides have subpoenaed a long list of Texas political leaders, Washington lobbyists and representatives of the corporations that financed DeLay’s political committee.

Don’t know how many of them will actually make it to the stand, but I hope they all do. Let’s get it all on the record and see where the chips fall.

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