Oh, my good goodness! It seems that Representative Tom "The Hammer" DeLay's roast pigeons have finally come home to roost.
AUSTIN — A Travis County grand jury today indicted U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Sugar Land on a single count of felony criminal conspiracy involving an exchange of money that made corporate cash available to Republican Texas House candidates in 2002.
"I have done nothing wrong ... I am innocent," DeLay told a Capitol Hill news conference in which he repeatedly criticized the prosecutor, Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle. DeLay called Earle a "unabashed partisan zealot," and "fanatic," and described the charges as "one of the weakest and most baseless indictments in American history."
In Austin, Earle told reporters, "Our job is to prosecute abuses of power and to bring those abuses to the public." Republicans selected Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., the current Republican whip — No. 3 in the leadership ranks — to fill the vacancy temporarily.
DeLay is the first House leader to be indicted while in office in at least a century, according to congressional historians.
The indictment alleges that DeLay conspired with two of his political associates, John Colyandro of Austin and Jim Ellis of Virginia, to convert $190,000 in corporate money into individual campaign contributions through a transfer of funds using the Republican National Committee. Colyandro and Ellis last year were indicted on a money laundering charge involving the transfer. They were reindicted earlier this month to add a criminal conspiracy charge each.
In taking its action today, the grand jury reindicted Colyandro and Ellis on criminal conspiracy charges and added the charge against Delay. Criminal conspiracy is a state jail felony....
The Indictment Itself (PDF at ABCNews.com, Adobe Reader required)
Justice DeLayed (Mother Jones)
by Lou DuBose
House Majority leader Tom DeLay is not a physically imposing man. "Five-foot-seven if he's wearing high heels," in the words of Fort Bend County sheriff Milton Wright, whom DeLay once spent $70,000 to defeat in an election because the sheriff had hired a woman whose husband had sued DeLay. Yet in the decade since Republicans took control of the U.S. House of Representatives, the former exterminator from suburban Houston has achieved the political stature of the historical giants in Statuary Hall outside his Capitol office. He did it on his own, consolidating his political power and using it with a remarkable sense of purpose. [...] three separate sets of state and federal investigators are looking into whether DeLay and his associates may have finally crossed the line. They are trying to determine how the majority leader's interlocking political action committees (PACs) work in concert with his protégés in the lobbying industry -- a fundraising apparatus the Washington press corps refers to as "DeLay Inc." They are also considering allegations that this elaborate operation broke state and federal laws -- allegations that have prompted DeLay to hire criminal defense attorneys and raise money for a legal defense fund.
Two civil suits filed in Austin allege that DeLay's Texas political action committee raised hundreds of thousands of dollars through illegal means. A parallel criminal investigation by Austin's district attorney, Ronnie Earle, has already led to the indictment of DeLay's top Texas fundraisers -- and Earle is not ruling out the possibility that DeLay himself could be a target of the investigation. And the Senate Indian Affairs Committee has subpoenaed records on two DeLay associates who used their access to "the Leader" to secure $45 million in lobbying and consulting fees from four Indian tribes. A federal grand jury in Washington, D.C., is also investigating those fees....
For some reason, ABCNews was reporting that the House GOP had selected California Representative David Dreier as DeLay's temporary replacement in his own right.
WASHINGTON Sep 28, 2005 — In elevating California Rep. David Dreier as a temporary replacement for House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, the GOP is turning to a congressman with fewer sharp edges.
Dreier, 53, a 13-term Republican from suburban San Dimas east of Los Angeles, is outgoing and friendly where DeLay can be prickly. Skilled at one-on-one politics he seems never to forget a name. Dreier maintains a reliably conservative voting record on economic issues and follows the lead of Republican leaders. He never comes off as extreme.
"When Republicans turn to Dreier they're putting their best face forward, because he's articulate, reasonable and attractive," said Jack Pitney, a government professor at Claremont McKenna College in Southern California, where Dreier graduated in 1975. "DeLay can be articulate, but in the press he shows too much of a hard edge," Pitney said.
Dreier has a more moderate voting record on some social issues than DeLay, for example opposing a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage that DeLay supported. ...
Had the GOP actually outright selected Dreier as DeLay's replacement, we could have watched the GOP sailing quietly off on the SS Suicidal Insanity, since Dreier would have been getting a good going over in the press himself ... although not precisely for ethical lapses:
Congressman David Dreier: Gay & Ashamed (Larry Flynt's weblog; this page is worksafe, but I won't vouch for anything else.)
Had this been the case -- and granted that we're talking the LA Weekly and Larry Flynt's weblog, one of which has a decent journalistic reputation and one of which ... doesnt -- people would have been be digging into his background so hard, it isn't even funny.
Alas, the House GOP apparently isn't suicidally insane, which makes me a little sad ... although, that said, ABCNews' original story wasn't entirely wrong, just a bit overstated.
A Texas grand jury today indicted Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) on a criminal count of conspiring with two political associates to violate state campaign finance law, and DeLay announced he was temporarily stepping down as House majority leader. [...] House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), emerging from a meeting with House GOP leaders late in the afternoon, announced that Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), the Republican whip, was elected to assume DeLay's role as majority leader on a temporary basis. Hastert also said some duties would be transferred to Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.), the Rules Committee chairman, and Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va.), the deputy whip...
So Dreier is only going to be one of several replacements. As one of three, he's likely to escape the sort of scrutiny that would be brought to bear if he was the one and only.
In any event, between this and Frist getting investigated for possible insider trading (of which, let it be said, he's almost certainly innocent, because his stock is now in a blind trust), the Republicans are getting a buttload of scandal coming before midterms. The Republican National Committee itself is a subject of the investigation, which also doesn't help. If the Democrats can't spin this into a need to change the culture in Washington, to reform the process, then they're just not trying. (What would really be interesting would be if a third party popped up to say that this is, plus various Democrat follies -- and they're hardly Ivory-pure themselves, are they? -- indicate a need to sweep clean and start over. Alas, not likely to happen.)
As far as DeLay himself goes, getting a conviction on this out of a jury from the district he represents is going to be fiendishly difficult. It's not going to be at all difficult for him to assert that this is some sort of personal vendetta, as indeed he's already doing. And as evidenced by Marion Berry's repeated elections out in DC, if you can get that into people's heads, they'll keep voting for you, even given absolute proof that you did the dirty deed. That said, Berry's misdeeds were purely personal malfeasance -- he only abused the public trust insofar as the public might have liked to know that it was electing a drug addict -- and it's going to be much harder for DeLay to make any such claim.
Even frothy fecal Senator Santorum and the Wall Street Journal are abandoning DeLay. If those stalwarts are distancing themselves, then maybe, just maybe, Hammer Time has actually arrived.Posted by iain at September 28, 2005 04:49 PM