Conspiracy to violate state election code

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The September 28, 2005, indictment of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) and "two political associates", John Colyandro and Jim Ellis, all three charged with "conspiracy in a campaign finance scheme," raises the question as to whether the conspiracy to violate state election code extends beyond the Texas border, bypassing other states' laws.

Money Laundering: "Making a campaign contribution to an elected official (or to a campaign committee, PAC, or political party) through one or more third parties -- as a device for disguising the source of a contribution and getting around contribution limits." [1]

The DeLay Method

DeLay, E.J. Dionne wrote, September 30, 2005, "was a pioneer in something entirely new: a fully integrated political apparatus that linked Republican Party committees, lobbyists, fundraisers, corporations, ideological organizations and the process of governing itself."

Although "Texas law forbids the use of political donations from corporations for anything but administrative expenses," DeLay has "stood firmly against any legislation that would hamper or regulate the free flow of political money to politicians." [2][3]

In Missouri

A consent decree between Roy Blunt's Rely on Your Beliefs Fund and the Missouri Ethics Commission, dated May 23, 2002, "reveals that the basic scheme that DeLay and TRMPAC were indicted for [September 29, 2005,] in Texas was perfected" as early as 1999 and 2000 by Blunt, DeLay and Ellis in Missouri. [4]

Bruce Rushton outlined the scheme in the October 3, 2001, River Front Times.

In Alabama

In 2002, at the "same time that House majority leader Tom DeLay allegedly conspired to send $190,000 in corporate money through the Republican National Committee to candidates for the Texas Legislature," Michael Scanlon, who "was working with Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff on behalf of Indian gaming tribes" and one of DeLay's former aides, made "an even larger donation to the Republican Party," Michael Kranish wrote in the October 1, 2005, Boston Globe.

A "donation of $500,000" in checks from Scanlon's company Capitol Campaign Strategies within weeks "showed up" at the Republican Governors Association as a $600,000 check written by the Republican Party to Bob Riley, "the Republican candidate for Alabama governor."

"One of Abramoff's top clients was a Mississippi Indian tribe, the Choctaws, which hoped to stop or slow the expansion of legalized gambling in neighboring Alabama," Kranish wrote. "Riley opposed the expansion of gambling and thus was favored in the election by the Choctaws. Scanlon, in addition to having once worked for DeLay, also had once worked as a staff member for Riley."

"'It is similar' to the DeLay case, said Melanie Sloan, director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, arguing that that donation's purpose, as in the DeLay case, was to bypass state laws.

"Under Alabama law, a person can give unlimited funds to a state candidate, but a corporation can give no more than $500 per election cycle, according to a spokesman for the Alabama secretary of state. Scanlon's group would have been banned from contributing anything more than $500 to Riley," Kranish wrote.

For background, see the Abramoff-Reed Indian Gambling Scandal article.

Quotes

"In short, soft money fundraising and spending is making a mockery of virtually every campaign finance law on the books - including the laws governing contributions by individuals to Federal candidates; contributions by individuals to parties; aggregate Federal contributions by individuals in a year; the ban on expenditures of corporate and labor treasury money on Federal contributions and campaign advertisements; and disclosure of non-party electioneering spending.

"The shredding of our campaign finance laws in its own right gives rise to cynicism among the American people. But more importantly, the ever-escalating soft money arms race engenders precisely the scandals and corrupt appearances that the laws on the books were designed to prevent." --Testimony of Congressmen Christopher Shays and Marty Meehan Before the House Administration Committee, May 1, 2001.

How does campaign money laundering work?

"Typically, money laundering works like this: I give you $25,000; you deposit it into your bank account, and then write Candidate X $25,000 with your own check. You don't tell Candidate X that it is not really your money. Candidate X reports you on his or her campaign statements as the donor, and the public and the candidate's opponents have no idea that I was the true source of the money.

"What do donors get for their money? A small percentage of donors really want their candidate to win. A larger number want access to the candidate or officeholder. People who raise funds also get immediate access and influence if they bring in large amounts of money." [5]

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