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Texas appellate court refuses to dismiss charges against DeLay associates

[JURIST] The Texas Third Court of Appeals [official website] has allowed money-laundering indictments to stand against two alleged co-conspirators of former US House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) [JURIST news archive], rejecting their argument that the state laws used to prosecute them were unconstitutionally vague or overbroad. The Austin-based intermediate appellate court on Friday affirmed [opinion, PDF] a trial court's denial of habeas relief sought by John Colyandro and Jim Ellis, who were originally indicted [JURIST report] in 2004. The defendants are accused of accepting $190,000 in illegal campaign contributions from corporations and transferring the money to the Republican National Committee [party website], which then allegedly donated the same amount to candidates for the Texas Legislature. The court concluded that restrictions on corporate campaign contributions in the Texas Elections Code [PDF, text] need not survive strict scrutiny, and Justice G. Alan Waldrop wrote:

[W]e believe that a person of ordinary intelligence is capable of intending and designating his or her contributions to a political committee to be for lawful purposes unrelated to supporting or opposing a political candidate. Whether misuse of such funds by the political committee or innocent redistribution of such funds for unlawful purposes may have implications for the contributor or raise additional constitutional concerns is not before us in this appeal.
An attorney for DeLay predicted [Austin American-Statesman report] on Monday that the charges against the defendants would eventually be dismissed because the defendants are accused of accepting checks, while the appellate court concluded that the term "funds" applied only to cash until the language was amended in 2005. AP has more. The Houston Chronicle has local coverage.

DeLay himself still faces money-laundering and conspiracy charges, although another conspiracy charge was dismissed [JURIST report] last year. Following his indictment in 2005, DeLay stepped down as House majority leader, later resigning from Congress and eventually withdrawing his candidacy for re-election [JURIST reports]. Separately, a former aide to DeLay pleaded guilty [JURIST report] in 2006 to conspiring with lobbyist Jack Abramoff [JURIST news archive] and others to bribe public officials. The US Senate Indian Affairs Committee that year issued a report [JURIST report] calling the connections between Abramoff and another former DeLay aide "astonishing." US Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) also pleaded guilty to conspiracy and making false statements [JURIST report] after accepting money and gifts in exchange for taking actions on behalf of Abramoff and his clients.

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