DeLay may face a prison sentence after being found guilty of illegally transferring corporate money to party campaign funds
A prominent Republican and former Congressman, Tom DeLay, is facing prison after being found guilty of having illegally transferred corporate money to party campaign funds in Texas.
DeLay, the Republican majority leader in the House of Representatives until 2005, helped organise the campaign which saw them wrest control of Congress from the Democrats in 1994. Nicknamed ‘The Hammer’, he helped enforce party discipline during the Bush administration.
Jurors in Austin, Texas, returned after 19 hours of deliberation at the end of a three-week trial to find him guilty of money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering. He was accused of helping to shift $190,000(£120,000) from corporate donations in Texas to the Republican national committee and then back to Republican candidates for the state legislature in Texas in 2002.
Under Texas law, funding of candidates by business is illegal. Funnelling it through national headquarters disguised the source.
The judge could order him to be jailed for anything from five years to life.
DeLay’s lawyers had denied any corporate money went to the Texas candidates and that he had only minimal involvement in how the funding was run.
DeLay, who was also known as ‘The Exterminator’, partly because he had worked in pest control before going into politics and partly because of his political toughness, was in Congress for two decades.
As a whip and as majority leader, he cracked down on Republicans who opposed the party line, particularly those trying to block legislation initiated by President George W Bush.
He resigned as Republican majority leader in 2005 after being investigated in relation to a separate scandal, involving the former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, though no charges were ever filed.
Since leaving Congress, he has only occasionally popped up in the national news, with an appearance last year on the show Dancing With The Stars and being the most high-profile Republican backing the claim that Barack Obama was not born in the US, which would make him ineligible to be president.
Campaign funding is a hot topic in the US, especially after a Supreme Court ruling earlier this year opened the way for unprecedented levels of spending. Rules about donations tend to be lax and complex.
The prosecution in the DeLay case tried initially to bring charges based on breaking campaign finance law, but found this near impossible. Instead, they accused him of money laundering.
• This article was amended on Thursday 25 November 2010. We referred to ‘a Senate ruling’ earlier this year about campaign funding. This should have been ‘a Supreme Court ruling’. This has been corrected.