Tom DeLay was preparing to make a triumphant return to the Capitol this afternoon, hours after his political corruption conviction was overturned by a Texas appeals court.
The former House majority leader is in town this week by coincidence, and was already planning to have lunch with his former Republican colleagues in the Texas delegation.
The Texas 3rd Court of Appeals decided 2-1 this morning to set aside DeLay’s 2010 conviction for money laundering and declare him acquitted. The majority said the evidence in the case was “legally insufficient to sustain DeLay’s convictions.”
The charges were connected to an alleged scheme to illegally funnel corporate money to state legislative candidates in 2002, when DeLay was at the height of his congressional influence as “The Hammer.” He sought to expand his hold on power by engineering a GOP takeover of the state House in Austin, which would then lead to a more Republican-friendly reconfiguring of the state’s congressional map.
The effort worked in the short term; the GOP gained six seats in Texas under the reconfigured boundaries in 2004. But DeLay’s hold on power began to unravel right after that election cycle.
He was admonished later that year by the House Ethics Committee for an array of transgressions, weakening his ability to combine political intensity and political persuasiveness to get what he wanted. The next year he was forced to step aside as majority leader after his indictment on the money laundering charges, and in early 2006 he resigned altogether after one of his closest allies on K Street, Jack Abramoff, pleaded guilty and started cooperating with a federal investigation of lawmaker-lobbyist relationships.
It was DeLay’s departure that created the opening that allowed John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, to return to the leadership.
DeLay had been sentenced to three years in state prison but remained free while he mounted a vigorous appeal, which included successfully getting one of the original judges assigned to hear the appeal removed because of anti-Republican sentiments she’d expressed.
In July 2012, DeLay filed paperwork to lobby for Argus Global LLC on sex-trafficking issues, according to records tracked by our sister blog, Political MoneyLine.