Travis County D.A. Ronnie Earle told the Houston Chronicle that new information obtained over the weekend led to the most recent indictments against former Republican Majority Leader Tom DeLay.
Dick DeGuerin, DeLay's attorney, called Earle's statement "crazy," and accused the prosecutor of offering "a sweet deal" to DeLay's co-defendants to get them to testify against his client.
According to Leylan Copelin at the Austin-American Statesman, one of DeLay's biggest challenges will be making Americans understand the "monied ways of Washington's K Street."
"Focus groups of potential jurors in a related civil trial in the spring expressed serious doubts about the $190,000 transaction at the heart of the felony indictments, according to a source familiar with the litigation," Copelin writes today. "Though the average person on the street may question what DeLay's defenders say is routine business among political professionals, DeLay insists he couldn't have conspired to launder corporate money into campaign donations because he knew nothing about the transaction until after it had occurred."
Jury Foreman William Gibson has said repeatedly and publicly this week that he doesn't buy DeLay's story, and reasserts that the indictment is not politically motivated.
"We weren't looking at the big man in Washington," Gibson said. "We were looking at him as a Texan. All we were looking at was a resident of Texas violating the Texas law."
DeLay has frequently repeated the defense that "cash swaps" are a regualr practice in politics. Larry Noble, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, said the swaps "typically involved state and national political parties — not individual political committees."
He said that while the FEC considers such swaps legal, federal law prohibits "earmarking" money to a political committee with instructions that it go to a specific candidate.
"It was considered illegal at the federal level if it happened with instructions to give it to a specific candidate," Noble said.
Will a jury understand and accept the ins-and-outs of Washington money-moving?
Noble doesn't think so.
"The political culture has gotten out of touch with reality," he said.
I posted yesterday on the trend of GOP lawmakers returning DeLay's dirty money. Today, the Cincinnati Post has a story on groups urging members of Congress to return any and all contributions from DeLay's ARMPAC.
Newly-elected Rep. Jean Schmidt (R-OH) has been targeted with calls from constituents demanding that she return campaign contributions from DeLay. Her spokesperson Jessica Towhey said: "Congressman DeLay is going to come out fine. We fully expect him to return to his leadership position."
I wouldn't hold your breath, Jessica.