September 28, 2005
That loud thudding sound you just heard? It was a size 15EEEE hiking boot dropping.
A Travis County grand jury today indicted U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay on one count of criminal conspiracy, jeopardizing the Sugar Land Republican's leadership role as the second most powerful Texan in Washington, D.C.
The charge, a state jail felony punishable by up to two years incarceration, stems from his role with his political committee, Texans for a Republican Majority, a now-defunct organization that already had been indicted on charges of illegally using corporate money during the 2002 legislative elections.
An indictment does not force DeLay to resign as a member of Congress, but the GOP's rules demand that he resign his post as majority leader as he fights the charges. Congressional Republicans earlier tried to drop that requirement, citing Earle's investigation as a political vendetta, but they ultimately maintained the rule after withering criticism.
Over the past year, Travis County grand jurors have indicted three DeLay associates — John Colyandro, Jim Ellis and Warren Robold — as well as eight corporate donors, the Texas Association of Business and DeLay's Texans for a Republican Majority. Colyandro and Ellis were re-indicted this morning as part of the conspiracy indictment.
DeLay had appeared to escape criminal scrutiny as early as last year when Travis County prosecutors concluded they did not have the jurisdiction to pursue election code violations against him. Under the law, only DeLay's local district attorney, a Republican, had jurisdiction, and he expressed no interest in the case.
But a conspiracy charge falls under the criminal code, not the election statute that bans corporate money from being spent on a campaign. And Earle has the jurisdiction to prosecute DeLay for conspiring with others to circumvent state law.
In recent days, the broad-based investigation has focused on one particular transaction during the 2002 campaign.
In late September 2002, Colyandro, the executive director of Texans for a Republican Majority, sent a blank check to Ellis, who is DeLay's primary fundraiser in Washington.
According to the money-laundering indictment returned against those two last year, Ellis was accused of having the Republican National Committee launder $190,000 of corporate donations into noncorporate money that was sent to to seven Texas House candidates, including Austinites Jack Stick and Todd Baxter.
As late as Tuesday, Travis County prosecutors were interviewing Republican National Committee staffers about their roles in the transaction.
You know what the best part about this is going to be? For the foreseeable future, every story written about Tom DeLay or anyone associated with him - every story about Jack Abramoff and Bob Ney and the Ellis/RoBold/Colyandro triplets and the TAB and TRMPAC civil suits, and on and on and on - will no longer include the sentence "DeLay himself has not been charged with any wrongdoing in these matters". From here on out, it'll be "DeLay is currently under felony indictment in Travis County for criminal conspiracy". How sweet that is.
All that said, this is a bit of a surprise:
The grand jury, however, took no action against Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick, Texas Association of Business President Bill Hammond or state Reps. Dianne Delisi and Beverly Woolley, both of whom sit on the political committee's board, for their roles in the election.
I have to say, it always looked to me like Craddick was the more likely of the two Toms to have left fingerprints somewhere. Maybe I underestimated the guy.
I'm sure there'll be plenty of blogospheric reaction and analysis shortly. In the meantime, here's Ronnie Earle's statement on the indictment, and the indictment itself; both are Word docs, and both come via the Quorum Report. Here also is a press release from CREW lauding the indictment, and a reminder from them that House corruption goes well beyond DeLay.
Posted by Charles Kuffner on September 28, 2005 to Scandalized!
Line 'em up and let's do some "House cleaning." They are going to try and paint the DA in this case as "partisan" but let's all pound the fact that the DA has been VERY bipartisan in indicting both Dem's and Repub's.
I get the feeling that you're enjoying this, Chuck. :-)
One interesting thing in the indictment: It states that DeLay waived the three-year statute of limitations governing the felonies underlying the conspiracy.
Why would he do that?
There aren't any "fingerprints," you are simply over-estimating Ronnie Earle.
Just as Earle's attacks on Hutchison and Bullock and Jim Mattox were pure political scam, so too is this one.
The result will be this: Ronnie Earle will be disbarred.
And I will be among the first to file those charges against him, next week after I meet with attorneys.
Early this year I predicted this would be DeLay's last term in Congress. I could still be wrong, but I can't see DeLay beating this thing before next spring, if he beats it at all. And I can't imagine him not being challenged in the GOP primary if he's foolish enough to run with an indictment hanging over his head.
Lampson will have a good chance if DeLay does file to retain his seat, and the GOP has a knock-down, drag-out primary. He'll have an even better chance if DeLay wins said primary. Conversely, the GOP's best chance to keep this seat will be if DeLay retires, so they can unify around a new candidate.
I read the 3-page indictment and there's no mention of DeLay except in listing him among the conspirators. Now I have no reason to doubt the grand jury that DeLay looks guilty. But I also believe in the criminal justice system which imputes innocence to the accused. Given these contradictory states, just what is the evidence against DeLay beyond guilt by association? I'm sure it is there.
Is this the right time for me to crow on about the wrong-headedness of campaign finance reform? I do see that the indictment is for breaking State law, not Federal.
You haters of Ronnie Earle forget the fact that he has gone against 15 politicians during his term and 12 have been democrats. Now try and tell me that he is partisan.
James, your comment shows you are not very familiar with Earle's real record.
Firstly, his investigations of politicians are not always motivated by politics. For example, he prosecuted Justice Don Yarborough, an insane judge.
But Earle has always been a player among the internal Texas democratic party factions.
For example, it's well known that Earle's attacks on Jim Mattox and Bob Bullock were motivated by hatred as well as internal Texas democratic politics.
Bullock called Earle " a little boy playing with matches" and had his funding cut back.
In Mattox's case, the indictment was over the 1984 US Senate race. Earle's scam indictment of Mattox for bribery --- Mattox was of course found "Not Guilty" at trial --- kept Mattox out of the democratic primary race and ensured that Earle's Travis county buddy Doggett would run as the democrat. Doggett was destroyed by Phil Gramm in the general (Gramm won more votes in that election than any statewide candidate in Texas history) but anyone would have lost that race. The point is Earle's motivations were political, not legal.
Yeah, he had it coming, but before Democrats get too giddy, or claim the moral high ground...I'd just say two words:
Jim Wright is on many a mind. Did republicans feel as joyful when they tagged Jim for a lousy book deal as Dems do with DeLay indicted for capaign finance shenanigans designed to shape the future of the congressional makeup of Texas?
I dunno, but it's interesting that Wright lost his position for a questionable personal financial arrangement (which Democrats might say is normally Rebublican territory) and DeLay lost (however temporarily) his position for a questionable effort to influence votes (which Republicans might say is normally the Democrat's vice).
Could be a strecth, but I'm happy enough that Tom got indicted. That's one more time than the current Mayor of Jersey City.
"The result will be this: Ronnie Earle will be disbarred. And I will be among the first to file those charges against him, next week after I meet with attorneys."
That's a good line. Not as good as "The sea was angry that day my friends, like an old man trying to return soup at a deli!", but close, and in the same vein. A pat on the head for Tyler!
Ooh! Ooh! I wanna play too!
The result will be this: Tom DeLay will attempt to use his power and influence to escape the prosecution he so richly deserves, but in the end his powerful friends and allies will desert him, leaving him high and dry, because they are faithless, dishonorable scumbags, just like he is. DeLay is convicted, gets a relatively mild punishment, and retires in disgrace. The people rejoice.
Man, that was fun! Who's next?
Mistermark, we are preparing the complaints against Earle, even as you shoot off your mouth here about whatever it is you think you are talking about.
"Jim Wright is on many a mind. Did republicans feel as joyful when they tagged Jim for a lousy book deal..."
No, in fact, I thought the whole thing was stupid from our (Texas) point of view.
The feds have since as long as I can find records on this ( all the way back to SAM RAYBURN!) taken much more money outta here (ie, Texas) than they "gave back" in fed funds.
It actually got better under Nixon and Reagan for a short time,( we did not lose as much) but we have always been net "givers" or "donors" to the fed budget, even though we have a much lower per capita income, for most of the period our state per pupil expenditure were lower, etc etc etc.
We've always been at a disadvantage in this regard and the extent to which we lose any Congressional clout affects this.
Whether it was Jim Wright, or Martin Frost, or now Delay, it means LESS in return from the congress than what we are catually paying in to the system.
The Senate doesn't help much, whether we had Lloyd Bentsen or Phil Gramm or now Hutchison, who is moving into a really good position in the Senate to represent our interests, the Congress matters.
History shows that the feds, no matter which party runs it, short-change us. And the money is BIG --- when you are talking about what we need to do here, and Hispanic education is at the very top of the list, we are sending billions to DC and we are not getting it back.
Wow... I was pretty lost on this whole scandal aside from the largely empty indictment. Great job, Charles, in catching me up! "Delayathon Day Three" is a great post.
I also read a loose post on another site that roughly 3 Democrats have been indicted by Earle for each Republican he indicted. The writer both noted that this tended to dispell the notion of Earle following a political agenda (as opposed to a person al one -- DeLay is still himself, after all), and wryly asked if this meant that the Democrats were three times more corrupt in Texas than the Republicans. Texas politics is more interesting than that in some of those other, smaller states. :)
(Unfortunately, I've lost the link for the posting. Argh!)