December 14, 2010

Tom DeLay and moral equivalence in Travis County, Texas

By David Paulin

Many Republicans regarded the prosecution of former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay as a politically motivated witch hunt. After all, the prosecution took place in Austin, Texas, located in the heart of Travis County: It's a liberal bastion in an otherwise "red" state. DeLay is hated there.

Interestingly, most people in Travis County probably would be hard-pressed to explain exactly what DeLay did to deserve to be convicted of "money laundering" -- a crime one associates with drug dealers and thugs. He's set to be sentenced later this month, and faces decades in prison.

Countering charges of a politically motivated witch hunt, DeLay's prosecutors pointed out that they also had gone after Democrats for ethics violations.

One example: State Rep. Kino Flores, a veteran South Texas politician who was convicted last October of four felony charges for failing to fully disclose assets on ethics forms.

What exactly did Flores do? Nobody would have trouble understanding that. Among other things, he ran a shake-down business. He was known as "Mr. Ten Percent" for helping people get state contracts -- and then demanding 10-percent of their profits. His victims faced him during his trial.

As the Austin American-Statesman reported:

Jesus Sifuentes, a Palmview truck driver, testified that Flores demanded — and he paid — Flores 10 percent of the money he made on a trucking contract with Transit Mix concrete company. He said Flores got him the job. He listed Flores on checks he wrote as a “consultant.”

Over three years, those payments to Flores amounted to about $20,000, the witness said. When he objected to those payments, Flores demanded $60,000 — and he refused. He then lost the Transit Mix contract, his truck, his house and eventually his marriage, Sifuentes said.

That's just one of many sleazy dealings that were described at Flores' trial. Yesterday, Flores was sentenced for his crimes: five years of probation on four felony charges; and two years of probation on five misdemeanor charges. He'd faced a $10,000 fine -- but was ordered to pay only $1,000. He also was ordered to do 400 hours of community service.

Tom DeLay faces sentencing later this month. It will be interesting to see if he also gets probation in Travis County. (Originally published at The American Thinker.)

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