Hey, a common-sense decision -- unanimous, no less -- from a Texas appeals court. Via Austin Legal: The Austin appeals court erred in deciding that
April 29, 2010

Hey, a common-sense decision -- unanimous, no less -- from a Texas appeals court. Via Austin Legal:

The Austin appeals court erred in deciding that the state’s money-laundering statute - used to prosecute associates of former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay - did not apply to transfers made via checks, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled today.

The court’s 9-0 decision also upheld the state’s election laws prohibiting corporations from making political contributions to candidates. DeLay’s associates - John Colyandro and Jim Ellis - had challenged the law as an unconstitutional infringement on First Amendment right.

Nice to know there are limits somewhere on First Amendment rights. I can almost understand the logic behind the Supreme Court's ruling about issue-based contributions, but candidates? Not so much. Glad to see it fail.

The issue in this case centered around a big check exchange between the RNC and a candidate's PAC. Here's what they did:

Colyandro and Ellis also were charged with money laundering by transferring $190,000 in corporate contributions to the Republican National Committee by a check, with a similar amount later returned to the state organization.

The law prohibits corporate contributions to candidates. That's why there are PACs, and that's why PAC contributions are limited to $5,000 for any one candidate. These two buddies of Tom Delay's argued that corporations OUGHT to be able to give directly, but since they didn't, it's not money laundering if the transactions weren't in actual bags of cash.

They almost got away with it, too. The definition of proceeds of criminal activity (the direct donation of money to a candidate) was a little bit vague, in that it didn't specifically say checks. It also didn't specify PayPal or EFT transfers, but I doubt anyone wouldn't consider those to be money.

In 2008, the appeals court ruled that the money-laundering law did not apply to Colyandro and Ellis because it did not specifically refer to checks.

The appeals court evidently also figured it out pretty quickly.

The appeals court had no authority to determine that the law only applies to cash payments, Keller wrote.

Keller also noted, however, that the statute could also be read to apply to checks, Keller wrote, noting that “foreign bank notes” operate on the same principle as checks.

The only thing that could make good news like this great? Discovering Tom Delay right smack dab in the middle of a check swap scheme like this.

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