DeLay indicted in Texas probe
A Texas grand jury today charged House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and two political associates with conspiracy in a campaign finance scheme, an indictment that forced him to temporarily step down as leader according to House rules.
DeLay attorney Steve Brittain said DeLay was accused of a criminal conspiracy along with two associates, John Colyandro, former executive director of a Texas political action committee formed by DeLay, and Jim Ellis, who heads DeLay's national political committee.
The indictment against the second-ranking and most assertive Republican leader came on the final day of the grand jury's term. It followed earlier indictments of a state political action committee founded by DeLay and three of his political associates.
The grand jury action is expected to have immediate consequences in the House, where DeLay is largely responsible for winning passage of the Republican legislative program. House Republican Party rules require leaders who are indicted to temporarily step aside from their leadership posts.
However, DeLay retains his seat representing his congressional district, in the southwest suburbs of Houston.
DeLay has denied committing any crime and accused the Democratic district attorney leading the investigation, Ronnie Earle, of pursuing the case for political motives.
Democrats have kept up a crescendo of criticism of DeLay's ethics, citing three times last year that the House ethics committee admonished DeLay for his conduct.
Earlier, DeLay attorney Bill White told reporters, "It's a skunky indictment if they have one."
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi released a statement following the indictment saying, "The criminal indictment of Majority Leader Tom DeLay is the latest example that Republicans in Congress are plagued by a culture of corruption at the expense of the American people."
As a sign of loyalty to DeLay after the grand jury returned indictments against three of his associates, House Republicans last November repealed a rule requiring any of their leaders to step aside if indicted. The rule was reinstituted in January after lawmakers returned to Washington from the holidays fearing the repeal might create a backlash from voters.
DeLay, 58, also is the center of an ethics swirl in Washington. The 11-term congressman was admonished last year by the House ethics committee on three separate issues and is the center of a political storm this year over lobbyists paying his and other lawmakers' tabs for expensive travel abroad.