Byron York at National Review points up an interesting sidelight to the Tom DeLay affair:
Ronnie Earle, the Texas prosecutor who has indicted associates of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay in an ongoing campaign-finance investigation, dropped felony charges against several corporations indicted in the probe in return for the corporations' agreement to make five- and six-figure contributions to one of Earle's pet causes....[Earle] agreed to dismiss charges against four of the companies -- retail giant Sears, the restaurant chain Cracker Barrel, the Internet company Questerra, and the collection company Diversified Collection Services -- after the companies pledged to contribute to a program designed to publicize Earle's belief that corporate involvement in politics is harmful to American democracy.
According to Sears sources who spoke to York, Earle insisted at first that they donate to an anti-business project run by a Stanford University professor which would produce a program intended for airing on public television criticizing business involvement in politics, but Earle later consented to let the money go to a University of Texas project which some on the defense side regarded as less egregiously anti-business in its tilt.
Joseph DiGenova, a former United States Attorney, calls Earle's maneuver "an extortionate use of the indictment power." As readers of this site know, however, it's by no means an isolated such use: the dollars-for-dismissals theme has surfaced before in deals negotiated by California AG Bill Lockyer and by Westchester County, N.Y. D.A. Jeanine Pirro which specified that settlement moneys be funneled to stridently partisan private activists.