A Texas state judge yesterday reaffirmed the indictment of a political associate of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), turning aside his claim that a state law barring the use of corporate funds in the 2002 Texas election was unconstitutionally vague.
The ruling was the latest of several in Texas courts to run against former officials of Texans for a Republican Majority, which was created by DeLay and his political aides to orchestrate a 2002 takeover of the Texas House. That victory in turn led to a redistricting of Texas congressional seats and helped cement GOP control of the U.S. House of Representatives.
The legal dispute has its roots in Texas's long-standing prohibition on the use of corporate money in state elections and the group's collection of more than a half million dollars of such funds, which it poured into the races of 17 Republicans elected to the state House.
In September 2004, a grand jury indicted John Colyandro, who directed the Texas group, on charges of illegally collecting the money. Colyandro, a veteran of White House political adviser Karl Rove's direct-mail firm, had sought to have the indictment dismissed on grounds that the law was poorly drafted and infringed on protected rights.
District Judge Robert Perkins, ruling in Austin, denied the motion, clearing an obstacle to Colyandro's eventual trial after appeals are heard. In remarks from the bench, he indicated he plans to dismiss next month a similar motion by Jim Ellis, the Texas group's chief fundraiser, who was indicted for money-laundering in the case.
In May, another state judge, ruling in a civil case, similarly upheld the election law's constitutionality. That judge found the group's treasurer, Bill Ceverha, had illegally failed to report the contributions and ordered him to pay $196,660 in damages to five of the defeated Democratic candidates.
DeLay, who has not been charged with wrongdoing in the case, served on the board of the Texas group, and called or met with some of its corporate donors. He also wrote a cover letter for its fundraising brochure. Ellis still runs DeLay's federal political action committee, Americans for a Republican Majority, which served as a model for the Texas group.
Staff writer Caroline Keating contributed to this report from Austin.