Friday, October 14, 2005

Fact check: the DeLay Case

It is important to test the claims of lawyers who make their case in the media rather than in court.

Tom DeLay and his attorneys have engaged in a major publicity campaign – and now DeLay is going beyond press conferences and interview shows. He’s spending his campaign funds in the effort to fight a battle that won’t be decided in the court of public opinion.

"Help Tom fight back," reads one of the solicitations on the Web site that voters are being directed to as part of an Internet-based campaign paid for by DeLay's re-election committee.

Contributors, voters and others who sign up can get regular e-mails and an electronic "toolkit" from DeLay's campaign with the latest disparaging information his legal team has prepared on Texas prosecutor Ronnie Earle.


Legal experts said DeLay's use of congressional campaign donations to attack Earle probably was permissible, though it could lead to legal questions about whether he was trying to influence potential jurors for his trial.

"He clearly is aiming at the jury pool and aiming at voters, hoping to generate as much sympathy as he can," said Larry Noble, the government's former chief election enforcement lawyer. "And it shows DeLay never misses a beat when it comes to fundraising — no matter how dark things get."

Whether DeLay is attempting to influence the jury pool, or possibly contaminate the pool either can be beneficial to his defense. Early chatter was that DeLay will want a change of venue because Travis County is heavily Democratic in a Republican state.

If the Jury pool thinks bad things about Ronnie Earle? DeLay wins. Jury members found to be biased for or against Tom DeLay? New Venue. That's a Win-Win for the defense.

Pure speculation on my part, but it is odd to have a defendant in a case who almost never talks to the media to be doing 40 interview shows, and building a major communications effort on the web. There’s a reason for that.

By the way –

One of the mantra’s of the defense in this case that the Prosecutor had sought an indictment for a crime that did not exist at the time the alleged actions occurred. There’s a flaw in that argument. The Austin Statesman looked behind the laws in question and the claim might be a stretch. Read for yourself, right here.