The suit, brought by the Democrats under the Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organizations statute, alleged that House Republican Whip DeLay had engaged in illegal activities to finance political organizations promoting the Republican agenda.
The agreement concluded the case just two weeks before it was due to go to trial. It provided that it be dismissed "with prejudice," meaning that Democrats cannot bring it back to court at a later date.
DeLay attorney Ed Bethune, a former Republican member of Congress, claimed victory.
"From the beginning, we said that this was a politically inspired lawsuit that should not have been filed and that in the end it would amount to nothing," he said in a statement released Thursday afternoon.
For his part, DeLay said, "In pursuit of political advantage, the DCCC foolishly decided to threaten members of the House of Representatives with endless, costly and unfounded lawsuits. ... Today's dismissal is more than a victory for me; it is a win for the dignity and honor of the House."
Republicans all along called the filing an abuse of the RICO statute, which was originally intended to help the U.S. Department of Justice break the power of organized crime over labor unions and other organizations.
But DCCC press secretary Erik Smith says the suit was settled because DeLay was headed for defeat in court.
"We have won on every motion that has been made up to this point. They were clearly looking to settle before it went to trial. If they really thought this was a nonsense suit that had no merit, why didn't they wait two weeks and let the judge throw it out," Smith told United Press International.
Smith described the DeLay position as being one of "While we don't believe what we did was illegal, since we are no longer doing it any more the case has no merit." Part of the initial claim revolved around the issue of groups – so-called 527s – that could engage in issue political activity without disclosing the names of donors. Congress has since changed the law to require disclosure.
Smith said, "We are no longer interested in pursuing the case," because DeLay and his organizations say they are no longer engaging in the kind of behavior Democrats charged was a violation of the RICO statute.
According to Smith, Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson did not order the parties to go to settlement before the case went to trial. He also said there was an agreement between the lawyers not to discuss the details of how the settlement was reached; however, sources close to the case told United Press International that it was the Democrats who first approached DeLay.
The case was brought by the DCCC during the tenure of Rhode Island Democrat Patrick Kennedy. At the time it was filed, it created controversy in both parties. Some Democrats objected to their campaign committee bringing such action and opening up the prospect of similar legal moves in retaliation, without greater consultation with members of their caucus.
Copyright 2001 by United Press International. All rights reserved.
© 2021 Newsmax. All rights reserved.