HOUSTON (AP) — Former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay said Saturday he can relate to any fallout from the indictment dogging former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, noting his own nearly decade-long legal fight that cost him his powerful congressional post and public career.
Perry, who is mulling a 2016 presidential bid, is accused of abusing his power by slashing funding for a public corruption unit in Travis County when the local district attorney refused to resign. DeLay also was indicted in the liberal county, in 2005, on money laundering charges he eventually beat.
Perry has said the indictment "has no effect on the politics, but let me tell you it had a lot of effect on my politics," DeLay told a Houston Bar Association seminar on Saturday.
"People don't want to talk with you, people don't want to be seen with you. Donors certainly don't want to give you money because you have this cloud hanging over your head," DeLay said. "I'm sure Rick Perry has a lot of friends and donors to keep him going, but I also know — little or big — it's having an effect on his presidential race."
DeLay, a former Texas Republican congressman, was sentenced to three years in jail after being convicted on money laundering charges related to political fundraising and efforts to redraw Texas' congressional district lines. A court later tossed the conviction, and Texas' highest criminal court upheld that decision last year.
The charges against Perry stem from a threat the Republican made in 2013, to veto $7.5 million in state money for a public corruption division within the office of Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg.
The threat came after Lehmberg, a Democrat, rebuffed Perry's calls to resign following her drunken-driving conviction. Perry eventually followed through on the threat.
On Tuesday, state Judge Burt Richardson, also a Republican, refused to void the charges against Perry on constitutional grounds.
So far, Perry has spent about $1.1 million of his campaign money on his defense.
"I hear Rick Perry say: 'We're going to appeal,'" DeLay said. "That's a year, that's two years. You're running for office while this is hanging over your head. They can hold this cloud over his head."
DeLay, who said his nine-year legal fight cost $12 million, said he hasn't recently spoken to Perry but had previously "warned him this could happen to the Republicans in Texas, any Republican," but most importantly Perry.