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Ellis, Colyandro to Hold News Conference Today

Even as Texas authorities issued an arrest warrant for Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) on felony money-laundering and conspiracy charges Wednesday, two political associates, Jim Ellis and John Colyandro, were planning to hold a news conference today at the National Press Club.

Ellis, head of DeLay’s leadership political action committee, Americans for a Republican Majority PAC, and Colyandro, executive director of Texans for a Republican Majority PAC, having been battling criminal charges filed against them by Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle for more than a year. The pair are appealing whether Earle had the legal authority to bring indictments first issued against them in September 2004, although they were also included in the indictments against DeLay earlier this month.

Ellis and Colyandro have repeatedly maintained that they are innocent of the central allegations of Earle’s case: that they conspired with DeLay and corporate officials to circumvent Texas’ ban on using corporate campaign donations in state legislative races. Earle has been investigating TRMPAC’s role in the 2001-02 state races in Texas. A GOP takeover in the Legislature led to the adoption of a DeLay-backed Congressional redistricting plan, and five House Democrats were ousted or retired last November as a result.

DeLay’s camp was reportedly unhappy with Ellis and Colyandro for setting up the event, although the former Majority Leader was scrambling all day to deal with the fallout from the Texas arrest warrant.

DeLay’s lawyers wanted to quietly surrender to Fort Bend County authorities on Friday for booking and processing; he is scheduled to be in Travis County earlier that day for his first court appearance in the money-laundering case.

But Earle allowed the summons to be issued in the normal fashion for DeLay as with any felony defendant, setting off a media frenzy, despite the fact that the warrant itself was a routine procedure, according to DeLay’s office.

Earle defended his decision to allow an arrest warrant to be issued for DeLay on Wednesday. “The District Attorney’s Office was asked after the first indictment if we objected to a summons for the defendant, and we said that we had no objection,” said a statement from Earle’s office. “The statute provides for the State to request a summons and we have not and do not request a summons. We believe that Congressman DeLay should be treated like everyone else.”

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