As former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay’s corruption trial continues, prosecutors have finally introduced evidence tying DeLay to a money swap orchestrated by his Texas PAC which the prosecutors say was illegal.
DeLay is accused of money laundering during the 2002 Texas state house campaign. His state PAC allegedly collected $190,000 in corporate donations, then funneled that money through the RNC and into the campaigns of seven Republican candidates. Corporate donations are illegal in Texas.After six days of testimony, prosecutors last week introduced the tape of an interview DeLay had with investigators in 2005, before he was indicted. In the tape, DeLay says he knew about the deal before it happened, telling investigators that the executive director of his PAC asked him to OK the deal.
DeLay said he knew the PAC “was going to take $190,000 and take it to the RNC and exchange it for hard money.” According to the Austin-American Statesman, DeLay said he only responded, “Fine.”
“I think because it was — it’s such a large amount of money, he wanted to make sure that — that I knew it was — that it was happening,” DeLay said on the tape, according to the AP.
Here’s the transcript of one of the relevant parts, via the Houston Chronicle:
Q. The transaction that’s been the focus of a couple of the indictments where TRMPAC sent $190,010 of their soft money to the Republican National State Elections Committee, which then turned around and gave $190,000 to, I believe it was seven Texas House candidates.
A. And I don’t agree with that assessment but that’s — you can put it that way.
Q. Okay. When was the first time —
A. It wasn’t 190,000 and 190,000.
Q. Okay. When was the first time you ever heard about that?
A. Jim Ellis [the PAC’s executive director] told me he was going to do it.
Q. Before he did it?
A. Uh-huh. By the way, it’s very common practice by both Democrats and Republicans.
A. It’s been going on for years.
A. And no one has ever held that it’s illegal.
Q. Okay. Did Jim Ellis tell you that he was going to use your name at all in getting the transaction done.
A. But if he did, it wouldn’t bother me.
Later in the interview, DeLay gave more details about the meeting. He said Ellis told him about the swap face to face in DeLay’s office. He told investigators that Ellis specifically told him the amount: $190,000.
After the tape was played, DeLay claimed he had misspoken, saying he was “inarticulate and clumsy.”
“Even if I knew about the deal, the deal is legal. So what’s the conspiracy?” he said.
DeLay’s defense has repeatedly argued that the money swap was legal, and that the $190,000 that went into the RNC was different from the $190,000 that came out.
Prosecutors expect to wrap their case Tuesday.