WASHINGTON – The prosecutor in the Texas money laundering case against Rep. Tom DeLay issued subpoenas Tuesday looking for links between lobbyist Jack Abramoff and fundraising by the former majority leader.
District Attorney Ronnie Earle issued the subpoenas in Austin the same day that Abramoff pleaded guilty in Washington to federal charges of conspiracy, tax evasion and mail fraud.
Abramoff's plea came in a wide-ranging corruption investigation that is believed to be focusing on as many as 20 members of Congress and congressional aides, including DeLay and one of his former aides. Investigators allege Abramoff and his ex-partner Michael Scanlon defrauded several Indian tribes of tens of millions of dollars in a lobbying scheme that also involved bribery of public officials.
In the Texas case, Earle sought records from Abramoff's former employers, legal firms Greenberg Traurig LLP and Preston Gates Ellis & Rouvelas Meeds, LLP. He also subpoenaed records from a lawyer for the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, a former Abramoff client, and from a representative for the Barona Band of Mission Indians, a California tribe.
DeLay attorney Dick DeGuerin said Earle "goes where the fish bite."
"Ronnie Earle is an opportunist," DeGuerin said. "He issues subpoenas to try to make a connection between his case and the latest scandal, whatever it happens to be. The Abramoff thing is the latest he's doing. It has nothing to do with the case in Texas. Nothing. Zip."
DeLay is facing money laundering charges stemming from corporate contributions to a fundraising committee he formed for 2002 state legislative elections. Texas law bans using corporate or union contributions for election or defeat of a candidate.
DeLay is accused with two associates of funneling corporate money through Texans for a Republican Majority, TRMPAC, and the Republican National Committee to several state legislative campaigns in 2002.
DeLay has repeatedly denied wrongdoing and labeled the investigation political.
He was forced to step aside as majority leader after he was indicted on money laundering and conspiracy charges in September. No trial date has been set because of pending appeals filed by Earle and DeLay.
Preston Gates Ellis & Rouvelas Meeds contributed $25,000 and the Barona Band, $5,000 to TRMPAC in 2002. The Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians contributed $1,000 in 2001, according to TRMPAC records.
In his subpoenas, Earle asks for correspondence between the subpoenaed parties and TRMPAC; Americans for a Republican Majority, DeLay's national fundraising committee; David Safavian, the Bush administration's former chief procurement official indicted in the Abramoff case; Abramoff, former Christian Coalition director Ralph Reed and DeLay's co-defendants.