By Juan A. Lozano
Tuesday, November 2, 2010; 6:28 PM
AUSTIN - The ex-treasurer of former House majority leader Tom DeLay's political action committee told jurors Tuesday that there was nothing wrong with the PAC's collecting corporate money, as long as it didn't go to candidates.
Prosecutors contend DeLay used his PAC to illegally funnel $190,000 in corporate donations into Texas legislative races eight years ago.
DeLay is charged with money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering. He has denied any wrongdoing. If convicted, DeLay could face up to life in prison.
George "Bill" Ceverha, the former treasurer of DeLay's Texas-based PAC, testified about the inner workings of the PAC and the money the group collected.
Ceverha said corporate funds had been gathered to pay for the PAC's administrative costs and not for candidates.
"At any time did you or any others ever intend to do something the law prohibited?" defense attorney Dick DeGuerin asked.
"No," responded Ceverha, a former state lawmaker who said his role as the PAC's treasurer was largely ceremonial.
Prosecutors allege DeLay and two associates - Jim Ellis and John Colyandro - illegally channeled the corporate money, which had been collected by DeLay's PAC, through the Washington-based Republican National Committee. Under Texas law, corporate money cannot be directly used for political campaigns.
The money helped Republicans take control of the Texas House in 2002. That majority allowed Republicans to push through a congressional redistricting plan engineered by DeLay that sent more Texas Republicans to Congress in 2004 and strengthened DeLay's political stature, prosecutors said.
DeLay's attorneys say Texas candidates got no corporate money and that the work DeLay did to elect candidates was merely good politics.
Representatives from two political watchdogs have already testified that they filed complaints with the Travis County District Attorney's Office seeking an investigation into DeLay's PAC for allegedly using corporate money for political candidates.
DeLay's attorneys have said the charges are politically motivated by former Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, who brought the original case but has since retired. Earle is a Democrat. Prosecutors deny the charges are politically motivated.
The defense team also worried about the trial being held in Austin - the most Democratic city in one of the most Republican states - and its timing, with testimony beginning a day before Tuesday's midterm elections. DeLay has been pressing for a trial since he was indicted five years ago, but the case was slowed by appeals of pretrial rulings.
Ellis and Colyandro, who face lesser charges, will be tried later. A previous charge alleging they and DeLay had engaged in a conspiracy to violate campaign finance laws was dismissed.
- Associated Press