November 20, 2004


A Scandal Waiting to Happen: Tom DeLay's standing is eroding among Republicans, who see him, increasingly, as the G.O.P.'s Boss Tweed. (DAVID BROOKS, 11/20/04, NY Times)

Tom DeLay is bleeding and he doesn't even know it.

This week, House Republicans bent their accountability rules to protect their majority leader from what they feel is a partisan Texas prosecutor. But they hated the whole exercise. They sat in a conference room hour after hour wringing their hands. Only a few members were brave enough to stand up and say they shouldn't bend the rule. But afterward, many House Republicans came up to those members and said that secretly they agreed with them.

Somewhere in the psychology of the caucus something shifted. That ineffable thing called political capital began seeping away from DeLay. Someday people will look back and say this could be the moment when his power begins to ebb.

It's shifted because many House Republicans know that DeLay has been playing close to the ethical edge for years. They've noticed the number of scandals - the latest involving lobbying fees for some Indian casinos - that trace back to DeLay cronies. They still remember that delicious feeling of possibility when they arrived in Washington and vowed they would not turn into the corrupt old majority they had come to replace. They know Delay symbolizes their descent from that reformist ideal.

Though there's no question that Mr. DeLay administer power with the bark on, most of his "ethical" problems seem to trace to the partisan politics of Texas and his presiding over the crushing of the Democratic Party in the state, Foe of DeLay Rebuked by House Ethics Panel (CARL HULSE, 11/20/04, NY Times)
The House ethics committee has ruled that a Democratic lawmaker exaggerated in the accusations he brought in June against the majority leader, Representative Tom DeLay.

Mr. DeLay invoked the finding to claim vindication Friday despite having been admonished by the committee after its inquiry into the complaint.

In a letter issued Thursday night, the two leaders of the bipartisan ethics panel told the accuser, Representative Chris Bell, like Mr. DeLay a Texan, that his charges violated a committee rule that prohibits "innuendo, speculative assertions or conclusory statements'' in accusations against a colleague.

"This is a serious matter,'' the senior members told Mr. Bell, who lost his seat in a March primary as a result of a redistricting plan that Mr. DeLay helped devise.

Prosecutors Look Into Possible DeLay PAC Violations (Fox News, February 26, 2004)
A few years ago, Republican state Rep. Tom Craddick (search) set his sights on the Texas House speaker's job and quietly began lining up support from fellow lawmakers.

At the same time, Craddick began doling out $152,000 to state House candidates from a political action committee created by rising Republican congressman Tom DeLay of Texas, soon to become U.S. House majority leader.

In 2002, the GOP won a majority in the Texas Legislature, and Craddick got his prize: He was elected speaker.

Now, prosecutors want to know whether the $152,000 in payments amounted to influence-buying, and whether DeLay's PAC, Texans for a Republican Majority, was used to violate campaign finance law in other ways as well.

District Attorney Ronnie Earle, a Democrat, has been conducting a grand jury investigation and has issued dozens of subpoenas in recent months. [...]

Republicans claim Earle has long used his office for political gain.

Among the politicians he has tangled with is Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. Earle accused her of using her previous office as state treasurer for personal and political purposes. But he abruptly dropped his case in 1994 before it could go to trial.

"He did it to Kay Bailey Hutchison and lost that case," DeLay said Tuesday. "He's done it to other people so he can get press but doesn't even carry through and file charges. This is an attempt to criminalize politics and we have a runaway district attorney in Texas."

Losing at the polls, Texas Democrats seem to seek revenge via bogus legal actions.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 20, 2004 9:44 AM

The former rule wasn't sensible, anyway.

Anyone can be accused of anything at any time. It's whether or not one is convicted that matters.

Why punish someone before knowing whether they're guilty or not ?

Posted by: Michael Herdegen at November 20, 2004 10:50 AM


Ask Ray Donovan. Or Casper Weinberger. Or even Mike Espy (to be bi-partisan).

Or even Rush.

Ronnie Earle needs to put up, or shut up. Now.

And if Pelosi keeps blathering, then ask her to change the Democratic rules regarding House Leadership. Jim Wright would have been gone much sooner under the current GOP rules.

And now that Chris Bell has been thoroughly discredited, perhaps he will go to that special place (with Joe Wilson and Sandy Berger).

Posted by: jim hamlen at November 20, 2004 12:02 PM

Another example of the Dems making a big deal of the GOP for failing to meet the high standards it sets for its membership while at the same time the Dems have no standards at all to measure themselves against. The response to Pelosi is to make the GOP rule she loves so much a House rule that extends to the minority, too, and will be in place when the Dems take over again in 2042. And remind her there are plenty of GOP partisans willing to play "tit-for-tat".

Hey, maybe the new GOP Attorney General here in the Upper Left Washington can indict McDermott for being himself!

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at November 20, 2004 1:19 PM

Payback for the '90s.

Posted by: Harry Eagar at November 20, 2004 5:52 PM

Who cares?

DeLay went before the voters with this purported 'scandal' in full view and won 60-40 at least.

Posted by: Bart at November 20, 2004 6:37 PM

I posted on the thread above about Earle, including his other failed effort against Jim Mattox in Texas 14 years ago. A district attorney might be able to get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich, but Ronnie Earle hasn't shown the ability to convict one.

Posted by: John at November 21, 2004 1:41 AM