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DeLay Uses Campaign to Berate Prosecutor

October 15, 2005|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) is using his congressional campaign to distribute to voters derogatory comments about the Texas prosecutor who has indicted him -- and to raise more money for a reelection bid that has been affected by the criminal case.

"Help Tom fight back," reads one of the solicitations on the website that voters are being directed to as part of an Internet-based campaign paid for by DeLay's reelection 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 material his legal team has prepared on Texas prosecutor Ronnie Earle.

"Join thousands of conservatives across the country in the fight against liberal DA Ronnie Earle," recipients are told.

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.

Bruce Yannett, a former Iran-Contra prosecutor, said DeLay's campaign effort might raise questions of trying to taint the potential jury pool, but the legal standard for making such a case is difficult to meet.

"It does seem a little unusual," Yannett said.

DeLay has been indicted along with several colleagues on charges he conspired to launder illegal corporate contributions to Texas state candidates. He denies the charges.

"I haven't seen it and have no comment," Earle said of the campaign. Earle has strongly denied politics has anything to do with his prosecution.

Earle's defenders have pointed to a record that they say shows more prosecutions of Democrats than Republicans.

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