WASHINGTON (AP) – Tom DeLay is using his congressional campaign to distribute to voters derogatory information about the Texas prosecutor who has indicted him – and to raise more money for a re-election bid that has been affected by the criminal case.

“Help Tom fight back,” reads one of the solicitations on the www.TomDelay.com Web site that voters are being directed to as part of an Internet-based campaign paid for by DeLay’s re-election committee.

Contributors, voters and others who sign up can get regular e-mails and an electronic “toolkit” from DeLay’s campaign with the latest disparaging information his legal team has prepared on Texas prosecutor Ronnie Earle.

“Join thousands of conservatives across the country in the fight against liberal DA Ronnie Earle,” recipients are told.

Recipients are offered a full dossier about the Democratic prosecutor and his “baseless political indictment” with subjects like:

-“Ronnie Earle’s previous misuse of his office,” which highlights failures in Earle’s career such as his unsuccessful case against Republican Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison in the 1990s.

-“Earle asks for a Do-Over,” which focuses on the prosecutor’s decision to seek a re-indictment of DeLay on different charges after the congressman’s lawyers raised technical questions about the first indictment.

-“Coming Soon: The Ronnie Earle Movie,” which highlights reports that Earle allowed a film crew to follow him during parts of the investigation.

Legal experts said DeLay’s use of congressional campaign donations to attack Earle probably was permissible, though it could lead to legal questions about whether he was trying to influence potential jurors for his trial.

“He clearly is aiming at the jury pool and aiming at voters, hoping to generate as much sympathy as he can,” said Larry Noble, the government’s former chief election enforcement lawyer. “And it shows DeLay never misses a beat when it comes to fundraising – no matter how dark things get.”

Bruce Yannett, a former Iran-Contra prosecutor, said DeLay’s campaign effort might raise questions of trying to taint the potential jury pool but the legal standard for making such a case is difficult to meet.

Nonetheless, Yannett said he could not imagine former President Reagan overtly using his campaign to attack prosecutors during the 1980s investigation of the Iran-Contra affair. “It does seem a little unusual,” Yannett said.

DeLay has been indicted along with several colleagues on charges he conspired to launder illegal corporate contributions to Texas state candidates. He denies the charges.

Earle, apparently, hasn’t been solicited by the campaign. “I haven’t seen it and have no comment,” the prosecutor said when reached Friday. Earle has strongly denied politics has anything to do with his prosecution.

Don McGahn, a lawyer for DeLay’s campaign, said the use of the campaign for the anti-Earle effort was “perfectly legal” and had nothing do with trying to sway jurors.

The indictment “is obvious big news in Texas so it is obviously something the campaign should address for the voters whom it affects,” McGahn said. “The intent is just for people to understand the truth. There is no other purpose here.”

“Ronnie Earle is wrong on the facts. Ronnie Earle is wrong on the law,” the Web site states as it analyzes the twists and turns in the case in the most favorable light to the congressman.

It also gives readers their own tools – letting them send a letter to newspaper editors in support of DeLay, contact a radio talk show or e-mail DeLay’s statement to friends.

And the Web site wouldn’t be complete without the oldest pitch in politics.

“Make a contribution,” it asks.


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