Republican Representative Tom DeLay has temporarily stepped down from his post as House majority leader after being indicted by a Texas grand jury Wednesday (September 28). He was charged with conspiracy for allegedly misdirecting thousands of dollars in corporate funds to local political campaigns in his home state.
DeLay was formally charged along with two of his associates, John Colyandro and Jim Ellis.
“The defendants entered into an agreement with each other or with [DeLay’s] Texans for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee to make a political contribution in violation of the Texas election code,” the four-page indictment read. “The contribution was made directly to the Republican National Committee within 60 days of a general election.”
The TRMPAC allegedly accepted $155,000 from outside companies and then doled out a $190,000 check to a division of the RNC with a list of political candidates who were to receive portions of the money.
Texas law prohibits corporate monies from being used for political campaigns, and House rules state that a member must resign any leadership position if indicted on criminal charges. DeLay could face up to two years in state prison if convicted.
Republicans chose to fill DeLay’s vacancy with the current Republican whip, Roy Blunt of Missouri, according to The Associated Press.
DeLay — who will remain in Congress — vehemently denied the charges, saying the indictment was retribution for a bitterly fought redistricting battle in the Texas legislature after the 2000 census.
“This is one of the weakest, most baseless indictments in history,” he said. “This act is the product of a coordinated, premeditated campaign of political retribution, the all-too-predictable result of a vengeful investigation.”
The White House rallied to DeLay’s side in a show of support.
“Congressman DeLay is a good ally, a leader who we have worked closely with to get things done for the American people. I think the president’s view is that we need to let the legal process work,” said White House spokesperson Scott McClellan.
Still, not everyone had kind words for DeLay, who has earned a reputation for strong-arming tactics on Capitol Hill.
“The criminal indictment of Tom DeLay is the latest example that Republicans in Congress are plagued by a culture of corruption at the expense of the American people,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said in a statement.
Others, meanwhile, are remaining on the fence, including National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Reynolds of New York.
“Until Majority Leader Tom DeLay has his day in court, it is vitally important he be afforded the same presumption of innocence afforded to every other American,” Reynolds said.