Tom DeLay has been indicted on a single criminal conspiracy charge relating to the 2002 legislative elections in Texas and will step down -- at least temporarily -- as the Republicans' House majority leader.
As we explained earlier today, a Texas grand jury indicted two of DeLay's associates -- Jim Ellis, who heads DeLay's Americans for a Republican Majority, and John Colyandro, the former executive director of Texans for a Republican Majority -- earlier this month on conspiracy charges related to their work in the 2002 legislative races in Texas.
The case revolves around charges that Ellis, Colyandro and, now, DeLay, tried to hide what would have been illegal corporate campaign contributions to Texas legislative candidates by laundering $190,000 through the coffers of the national Republican Party first. After the $190,000 from Texas arrived in Washington, $190,000 from Washington arrived in the campaign accounts of seven Republicans running for the Texas Legislature in 2002. The Republicans gained control of the Texas House that year, and DeLay used the Republicans' newfound legislative power to redraw the state's congressional districts and increase the number of Texas Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives.
One of DeLay's lawyers said earlier today that any indictment of DeLay would be "skunky." Republicans will undoubtedly complain, as they have before, that the criminal case against DeLay is merely a partisan ploy by a Democratic prosecutor in Texas. In the meantime, however, they'll have to start looking for a new House majority leader: DeLay just announced that, pursuant to rules adopted by House Republicans, he will step aside as House majority leader. Majority Whip Roy Blunt is next in line, but House Speaker Dennis Hastert may install David Drier in DeLay's spot instead.