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Top GOP Leader In Hot Water

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, is telling close colleagues he may have to temporarily abandon his leadership post if he is indicted by a Texas grand jury investigating alleged campaign finance abuses, Roll Call reports.

The Capitol Hill newspaper said a GOP congressional rule stipulates that members who hold elected leadership posts must temporarily step down if they are indicted on a felony charge. The member may resume his or her post if found innocent, or if the charge is dropped, or if the charge is reduced to a misdemeanor.

DeLay's problem stems from a state grand jury sitting in Austin that is probing allegations that corporate money was used illegally in 2002 legislative races in Texas.

Specifically, the grand jury is investigating whether state law was violated when a Republican National Committee group gave $190,000 to seven candidates for the Texas House in 2002.

The donations were made on the same day, two weeks after a political committee called Texans for a Republican Majority sent $190,000 in corporate money to the RNC group.

Under state law, the political committee, created by DeLay, could not legally give corporate donations to candidates.

Democrats allege that Republicans took money that could not be given to candidates and moved it around before donating it to candidates.

Republican officials have said the transactions were legal, and the timing and amounts were coincidental.

Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, a Democrat, is in charge of the investigation, and Republicans charge that the probe is politically motivated.

No indictments have been issued.

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