Less than nothing. Had Earle spoken sooner, he could have prevented some of the more rank speculation in the MSM. But Ronnie Earle is a Democrat sleaze. We should not expect any better.
PAC's indictment isn't new peril for lawmaker, ethics experts say
Friday, September 9, 2005
By TODD J. GILLMAN / The Dallas Morning News
WASHINGTON – The day after indicting House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's defunct political committee on charges of illegally using corporate money to help state candidates, an Austin prosecutor said Friday that he has not referred any information to the suburban Houston office with jurisdiction over Mr. DeLay.
Congressional ethics experts also said the latest charges probably don't put Mr. DeLay, R-Sugar Land, into any fresh peril as he girds for an inquiry into his overseas travel and his dealings with a discredited lobbyist.
"I have never said that Mr. DeLay is a target of the investigation," said Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle.
Last month, Mr. DeLay spent about 90 minutes with Mr. Earle, asserting that he played a limited role at Texans for a Republican Majority, serving on its advisory board and appearing at fundraisers.
"Mr. DeLay assured the district attorney's office that he was not involved in the day-to-day operations of TRMPAC, and to his knowledge all activities were properly reviewed and approved by lawyers," said spokesman Kevin Madden.
Three DeLay associates were indicted last year: TRMPAC director John Colyandro, fundraiser Warren RoBold and Jim Ellis, head of Mr. DeLay's leadership committee, Americans for a Republican Majority.
All deny wrongdoing.
On Thursday, Mr. Earle added two counts against TRMPAC itself, accusing it of illegally accepting $120,000 in corporate donations to help Republicans win control of the Texas House. The committee could be fined $40,000, although it was dissolved in July. Also charged was the Texas Association of Business, the state's largest business group.
DeLay allies have long accused Mr. Earle, an elected Democrat, of pursuing a partisan vendetta.
Announcing the indictments Thursday, Mr. Earle was somewhat vague on whether he was investigating Mr. DeLay, suggesting that one reason the majority leader hadn't been charged had to do with jurisdictional issues. Charges involving state campaign laws can be filed only in a person's home county.
On Friday, the district attorney in Fort Bend County, John Healey Jr., said he had never investigated Mr. DeLay or TRMPAC and had spoken with Mr. Earle for the first time on Thursday.
"He indicated to me that his comments were not intended to signal that he had anything imminent to refer to this office regarding Tom DeLay," Mr. Healey said.
Mr. Earle confirmed that. "I'm not referring anything to his office," he said.
Democrats cited the latest indictment as fresh reason for Mr. DeLay to step down as majority leader. But it's unclear whether the charges would affect an expected ethics investigation in the U.S. House.
Last year, the House ethics committee declined to look into allegations of campaign violations at TRMPAC, citing the ongoing criminal inquiry in Austin.
Jan Baran, a Washington lawyer who represented former Speaker Newt Gingrich before the ethics panel, said he doubts the indictment affects the DeLay case.
"There's got to be an allegation," Mr. Baran said. "What is the allegation against Mr. DeLay vis-à-vis TRMPAC – that he had a title and that individuals who ran TRMPAC on a day-to-day basis allegedly violated Texas law?"