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Texas court hears arguments on reinstating conviction of ex-Rep. DeLay

AUSTIN Texas (Reuters) - Prosecutors asked the highest criminal court in Texas on Wednesday to reinstate the 2010 convictions of former U.S. House of Representatives Majority Leader Tom Delay for money laundering and conspiracy, saying a lower court erred last year in throwing out the case against the prominent Republican.

A Texas appeals court in September overturned the 2010 convictions of Delay, finding there was "insufficient evidence" against him..

Known as "The Hammer" for his tough political tactics, DeLay was convicted of conspiring to illegally funnel $190,000 in corporate campaign donations to Republican candidates for the Texas Legislature in the 2002 elections.

Brian Wice, a lawyer for DeLay, told reporters the actions of the prosecution were politically motivated.

"This case isn't about money laundering or conspiracy. It is about the criminalization of politics," he said.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals will rule at a later date on whether to reinstate the conviction.

Prosecutors in the case are from Travis County, a Democratic stronghold that includes the left-leaning city of Austin, which often stands apart from other counties in the heavily Republican state.

Texans for Public Justice, a campaign finance watchdog group, argued in a friend-of-the-court brief for the prosecution that there was ample evidence to indicate that DeLay was the gatekeeper for illegal donations.

DeLay was sentenced in January 2011 to three years in prison but had been free pending the appeal.

DeLay, a flamboyant Texas dealmaker and former owner of a pest-control company, was elected to the U.S. House in 1984 and rose eventually to the No. 2 position behind the speaker. He earned a reputation as a master vote-counter and prolific fundraiser.

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Will Dunham)

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