Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.) was indicted yesterday for a second time on ethics charges that she misused her office while serving as Texas state treasurer.
The charges against Hutchison, who won a special election last June, were identical to those in the four-count indictment issued in September. The original indictment was dismissed in October when it was discovered that a member of the grand jury was facing criminal charges and was therefore ineligible to serve on the panel.
Hutchison was charged with using state employees to conduct political and personal business on state time and with destroying potential evidence in an attempt to cover up the actions.
Throughout the investigation, Hutchison has steadfastly maintained her innocence and asserted that the charges are part of a Democratic campaign to deny her reelection in 1994.
Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle has denied that the charges are politically motivated.
Hutchison, who was traveling in Texas yesterday, had no immediate reaction to the re-indictment, which she had anticipated. Her attorney, Dick DeGuerin, issued a statement proclaiming his client's innocence: "Sen. Hutchison has done nothing wrong -- legally, morally or ethically," he said.
DeGuerin called for an immediate trial, saying Hutchison's legal team could be ready for trial before Christmas, pending decisions on a number of procedural motions. "The district attorney has had six months to prepare his case, so there should be no excuse for further delay on his part," DeGuerin's statement said.
Hutchison has filed for reelection, but the timing of the new indictment could complicate Republican hopes of holding onto the Senate seat next year.
It is not likely the trial will begin before the Jan. 3 filing deadline for candidates who want to run for the Senate. If Hutchison were convicted after the Jan. 3 deadline, her name would remain on the ballot even if she withdrew or left office. National Republican Party leaders recently expressed concern that they could be left with no strong candidate if Hutchison is found guilty.
Two Democrats have announced their candidacies: former Texas attorney general Jim Mattox and Richard Fisher, who ran last spring as a disciple of Ross Perot but who failed to make the runoff. Rep. Michael A. Andrews (D) may announce his candidacy next week.
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Henry Cisneros, the former mayor of San Antonio, is under pressure to run but so far has not shown an interest in doing so. Some Democrats fear none of the other likely candidates is strong enough to defeat Hutchison if she is acquitted.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has commissioned a state poll designed to measure public attitudes toward Hutchison and other Texas public officials, including Cisneros.
Hutchison won a landslide victory in the June special election to become the first female senator in Texas history, defeating Sen. Bob Krueger (D), who had been appointed to fill the vacancy created when President Clinton tapped Sen. Lloyd Bentsen (D) to be his Treasury secretary.