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Hammer slammed

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Tom DeLayBy John Terrett

One of the most powerful conservative Congressmen in recent US political history - known as "The Hammer" has been sentenced to prison for money laundering.

A judge has ordered former Republican US House Majority Leader Tom DeLay to serve three years for his role in a scheme to illegally funnel corporate money to Texas political candidates in 2002.

So the headlines on Tuesday read - "Hammer's heading for the slammer!"

His sentence comes after a jury in November convicted DeLay on charges of money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

DeLay, a Texas based politician, got "The Hammer" nickname for his strict enforcement of party discipline behind the scenes on Capitol Hill.

The Republican, who represented the Houston area, used to be one of the most powerful people in US politics, eventually holding the number two job in the House of Representatives.

After a month-long trial a jury determined that he conspired with two associates to send one hundred and ninety thousand dollars in corporate money to a division of the Republican National Committee which found its way into the campaign funds of seven local political candidates in Texas.

Under Texas law corporate money can't go directly to political campaigns.

If Tom DeLay was a powerful politician, he was also a colourful one.

In the mid-nineties he helped engineer a Republican revival that won back control of the US House and Senate in the first midterm election under Democratic President Bill Clinton.

Like a lot of political "hard men" DeLay also had a soft side. He was a leading advocate for foster care and easing adoption laws.

He appeared on the popular TV show "Dancing With The Stars" ... from which he dropped out after problems with his feet.

After hearing his sentence on Monday Tom DeLay was taken into custody but later released on ten thousand dollars bail pending an appeal by his legal team.

John Terrett is a Washington-based correspondent for Al Jazeera English.


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