Updated: 2:05 p.m.
Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay’s activities in the 2002 election cycle amount to “successful politics,” but he did not violate state campaign finance laws, his defense attorney said on the opening day of the ex-lawmaker’s money-laundering trial, the Austin American-Statesman reported.
The Texas Republican is accused under a 2005 indictment of illegally funneling to state candidates $190,000 in corporate money collected by his state political action committee through the Republican National Committee in 2002, in violation of state laws that prohibit such funds from being used for political campaigns.
Opening arguments in the trial, which is expected to last three weeks, began Monday.
“You cannot convict Tom DeLay because of his politics,” DeLay attorney Dick DeGuerin said, the American-Statesman reported. “And no evidence will show any act done by Tom DeLay other than politics — good politics, successful politics.”
The Associated Press reported Monday that Travis County prosecutor Beverly Mathews used her opening statement to outline the state’s allegation that DeLay orchestrated the alleged illegal money swap.
“The evidence will show you they took the corporate money they knew could not be given and came up with a scheme where that dirty money could be turned clean and given to candidates,” Mathews told jurors.
Political operatives Jim Ellis and John Colyandro, who ran the Americans for a Republican Majority PAC and Texans for a Republican Majority PAC, respectively, are also charged in the alleged scheme. They will face a separate trial.
“There is nothing wrong with Republicans trying to dominate the political world,” Mathews told the jury. “But the means to achieve that gain must be lawful.”
DeLay, who has denied wrongdoing in the case, appeared self-assured before the hearing began Monday morning.
“The prosecution doesn’t have a case. How can I not feel confident?” DeLay, accompanied by his wife, Christine, told the Associated Press.
He addressed the jury at Monday’s hearing, pleading not guilty after his indictment was read aloud in the courtroom.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I am not guilty,” he said, according to the Houston Chronicle.
DeLay also came under scrutiny in the Justice Department’s investigation involving disgraced ex-lobbyist Jack Abramoff, but the government informed DeLay in August that it would not bring charges against him in that case.
After leaving office in 2006, DeLay founded the consulting firm First Principles, which is based in Sugar Land, Texas.