Former House Majority Leader Tom “The Hammer” DeLay (R-Texas) was the recipient of a three-year prison sentence this week.
The once powerful lawmaker was convicted in November on charges of money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering. In 2005, Delay was forced to step down as majority leader after he was indicted on charges brought from the Texas state level.
Delay is appealing his conviction, but the sentencing most likely will provide some sense of discomfort for the once feared and powerful politician. In the peak of his power, DeLay managed to champion and macro-manage the openly and loudly protested total re-districting of Texas Congressional districts.
Delay faced up to life in prison for these serious charges. State Judge Pat Priest sentenced DeLay to a three-year term on conspiracy, and then accepted 10 years of probation in lieu of a five-year prison term on the money laundering charge. Basically this translates to three years and maybe even less time to be served, provided DeLay behaves himself while he’s in “the slammer”.
DeLay claims he always attempted to follow the law and continues to proclaim he is innocent of all charges brought against him.
DeLay will be released on a $10,000 bond while he plans his appeal.
The case originated with prosecutors claiming that the Texas Republican and his political allies violated Texas state election law by illegally funneling “soft money” in 2002 state legislative races.
Soft Money: Contributions are sometimes called “nonfederal” contributions because they are given to political parties for purposes other than supporting candidates for federal office. Unlike “hard money” contributions, there are no limits on the amounts of soft money that can be given by individuals to political parties. Moreover, while labor unions and corporations are prohibited from giving money to candidates for federal office, they can give soft money to parties. (thisnation.com)
Under the FEC Act, money given directly to candidates for federal elective office is known as “hard money” and is strictly regulated. Money given directly to political parties for the purpose of supporting candidates for federal office is also regulated “hard money.” (thisnation.com)
In September of 2002 Tom DeLay and Texans for a Republican Majority (TRMPAC), an organization founded by DeLay, donated $190,000 to the Republican National State Elections Committee, which is closely affiliated with the Republican National Committee.
TRMPAC made the donation to the elections committee in the form of “soft money” and the elections committee then donated that same amount in “hard money” to the Texas republican candidates.
Texas republicans would then seize control of the state legislature that year for the first time since Reconstruction and would promptly get to work redrawing a number of congressional districts that were held by democrats. This controversial move allowed the strategic electoral removal of a handful of these Congressional democrats and helped cement DeLay’s power in the House.