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Colyandro, Ellis Lash Out at Earle as DeLay Gets Booked

John Colyandro and Jim Ellis, two political associates of indicted Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas), used a Washington, D.C., press conference Thursday to proclaim their innocence of allegations of criminally violating Texas election law. The two also lashed out repeatedly at Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, who is spearheading the probe of DeLay, suggesting that Earle is using the investigation to punish his political enemies. [IMGCAP(1)]

The Colyandro-Ellis event came the same day that DeLay was booked, fingerprinted and processed in Harris County, Texas, on state felony charges of money laundering and conspiracy. The Texas Republican, who posted a $10,000 bail bond, was required to step down as Majority Leader following the indictment, although he has vehemently attacked the charges as groundless and said he will return to his leadership post once they are thrown out. DeLay will make his first in court appearance in Travis County on Friday.

In a statement read to reporters, Ellis said he, DeLay and Colyandro “broke no law” and suggested Earle was “simply wrong” in seeking charges against any of them. Ellis is executive director of Americans for a Republican Majority PAC, DeLay’s leadership political action committee.

“The indictment of Tom DeLay is an attack at our very system of constitutional checks and balances,” said Ellis. “What we are seeing here is that one person, elected in just one county, in just one state, in one branch of government, can, and has, with evidence, a flawed grand jury system, a press release and a movie, changed the leadership of another branch of government.” Earle allowed a documentary film crew to follow him around as he prepared his case against DeLay.

Colyandro, former executive director of Texans for a Republican Majority PAC, founded by DeLay in 2001, said Earle “has sought to criminalize our right to participate in the political process.”

He added: “The charges against Tom DeLay are patently false, and they must be thrown out of court.”

Ellis and Colyandro were first indicted in September 2004 for allegedly violating Texas’ ban on using corporate campaign funds in state races, and the two have been hit with additional charges since then. The allegations stem from Earle’s investigation of TRMPAC’s activities during the 2001-02 Texas legislative races. Earle alleges that the three men used corporate funds to underwrite actions by TRMPAC that violated the corporate-funding ban. Earle also charges that a September 2002 transaction between TRMPAC and an arm of the Republican National Committee — in which TRMPAC sent $190,000 in soft money to Washington and the Republican National State Elections Committee sent a similar amount in hard money back to handpicked GOP candidates in the Lone Star State two weeks later — was improper.

Ellis and Colyandro both denied that the 2002 transaction was illegal, and they also claimed DeLay had no knowledge of which Texas GOP candidates would receive hard-money donations from the RNSEC.

Ellis and Colyandro gave reporters a copy of motion they have filed in a Texas district court asking for the latest Earle indictments to be thrown out, claiming Earle “has overstepped the bounds of proper prosecutorial practice in an effort to impose his personal moral views on all of us, not to see that justice in any objective sense is done.”