AUSTIN, TX – Wyoming Liberty Group attorneys filed a friend-of-the-court brief today on behalf of WyLiberty and the Center for Competitive Politics in Texas v. DeLay. The brief is the second filed on behalf of both organizations, discussing the free speech implications of a criminal case with origins over a decade old.
“In 2002, Tom DeLay and several others raised a good amount of money during the election cycle for their political committee. They carefully complied with the law to make sure the money was spent properly,” said Benjamin Barr, counsel to WyLiberty. “Then prosecutors at the state’s so-called ‘Public Integrity Unit’ rewrote the law and charged DeLay with money laundering.”
The case is now before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the state’s highest criminal court. In 2013, the Third Court of Appeals in Austin overturned DeLay’s 2010 conviction, ruling that there was no basis on which to charge him with money laundering or conspiracy.
“By cobbling the Texas money laundering statute together with the state’s election code, the prosecutors weaved a complex web that, if upheld, would threaten all politicians and politically active citizens,” said Steve Klein, co-counsel to WyLiberty. “But political speech and participation are the very reason we have a First Amendment, and vague inventions like this cannot stand, especially when they are created whole cloth by prosecutors instead of legislators.”
The WyLiberty Legal Center, based in Cheyenne, focuses its efforts on free speech. Its past successes span from overturning Cheyenne’s restrictive yard sign ordinance to influencing the United States Supreme Court’s landmark opinion in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.
“Campaign finance laws, ostensibly created to clean up politics, are proving to be the dirtiest political tool,” said Barr. “When you can sentence politicians to jail for campaigning, the very foundation of our republic is at stake. We will continue our nationwide effort to ensure political speech and participation are principles, not problems to be solved.”
Roger Borgelt, of Borgelt Law in Austin, serves as local counsel of record on the brief. The Court of Criminal Appeals will hear oral arguments in the case in Austin on June 18.