There's a lot of allegations and countercharges swirling around the motion by Team DeLay to remove Judge Bob Perkins from his money laundering trial, but what it all really boils down to is this:
DeLay has more at stake in today's hearing than just removing a left-leaning judge from overseeing his case.
It also is about removing a judge who has twice rejected many of the arguments DeLay, R-Sugar Land, will make about why the indictments against him should be thrown out.
Perkins, on indictments returned in 2004 against DeLay's co-defendants John Colyandro and Jim Ellis, has rejected arguments that the state election laws and money laundering statutes did not apply to the activities of the DeLay-founded Texans for a Republican Majority.
"Judge Perkins rejected our motions for dismissal as to the money laundering counts in the first two indictments, and is not likely to change his ruling on the pertinent issues as to the later indictments," J.D. Pauerstein, a lawyer for Ellis, said Monday.
"Accordingly, arguing the issues to a new judge would give us an opportunity to obtain a fresh look at the issues being raised as to the fourth and fifth indictments."
Back to the allegations and countercharges:
Earle said DeLay's lawyers had failed to cite any case that said "a judge should recuse himself or be disqualified from sitting in a case merely because he has previously exercised his constitutional right to make political contributions."
DeLay lawyer Dick DeGuerin of Houston filed a reply brief saying the dispute was not merely a matter of Democrat versus Republican.
"The state misses the point," DeGuerin said. He argued that Perkins' donations were "always in opposition to Tom DeLay and Tom DeLay's politics. ... He should not be the judge to preside over the trial proceedings relating to a person to whom he is opposed politically."
DeLay wants Perkins removed from his case because the judge has made more than $5,000 in political donations to Democratic groups in the past five years.
Late Monday, DeGuerin subpoenaed Perkins to testify at the hearing.
DeGuerin argues that Perkins is one of the few Travis County criminal court judges who give money to national Democratic organizations. Earle countered by saying public records are kept only for persons who donate $200 or more to a federal campaign.
"What this ultimately means is, none of the exhibits offered by (DeLay) purporting to compare the political contributions made by Judge Perkins with the political contributions made by other local judges can possibly be considered reliable," Earle's brief said.
They sure are casting a wide net, too:
MoveOn Executive Director Eli Pariser has been subpoenaed by prosecutors to testify at today's hearing.
Texas Democratic Party Chairman Charles Soechting on Monday filed court papers fighting a DeLay motion for all party fundraising materials from 2000 to 2005.
He said that the action would require retrieving documents from all 254 counties in Texas and would be overly burdensome.
Long as we're talking about donations, let's take a look at who's been giving to the Tom DeLay Defense Fund. What's interesting to me is that of the 136 listed gifts from members of Congress to their embattled colleague, by my count only 17 were made in the past quarter - look for dates that begin with "given on" to see what I mean. Maybe The Hammer's support amongst the membership isn't as broad or as deep as he'd like you to think.
Finally, as Roll Call notes, vindictiveness never goes out of fashion.
After reporting an eye-popping quarterly profit of nearly $10 billion last week, Exxon Mobil is catching flak from Congressional Republicans for a political contribution that, by comparison, amounts to chump change.
The oil giant recently reported that its political action committee had contributed $500 to the campaign of Nick Lampson, the former Democratic lawmaker who is challenging Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) for his 22nd district seat.
The House Republican leadership noticed the donation — and it is furious about it.
“It clearly forms an overall opinion in Congressional leadership that this company is going to have big problems if this is the way they’re trying to play the game,” said a senior House GOP leadership aide. “They have priorities they want that could be impacted.”
Republicans are angry despite a $5,000 contribution the company made to DeLay’s campaign. Indeed, so far this cycle, the company has steered $180,000, or 91 percent of its political contributions, to Republicans.
An Exxon spokesman said the $500 contribution — roughly 1/20,000,000 of the single-quarter profit the company reported last week — was made by the PAC because it received a donation from an employee who earmarked it for Lampson’s campaign.
“An individual participant in our political action committee made an earmarked contribution to the PAC,” Dave Gardner said. He called the reaction from House Republican leadership “unfortunate,” and said the company has tried to explain itself.
A GOP aide acknowledged that the context might ultimately make a difference.
“If it’s a person who lives in Texas and works on an oil rig, that’s a different story,” the aide said. But despite the company’s assertions, “we don’t know where it came from, and our assumption is it’s coming from on high.”
And the damage may already have been done.
“What a bunch of political novices,” said one energy lobbyist. “Everyone on the Hill knows they’ve made this contribution. Everyone has taken note.”
The lobbyist added that Republican wrath over the donation extended beyond the ranks of leadership and into the House Energy and Resources committees. Spokesmen for the committees did not return calls for comment.
Ed Patru, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, wondered “why someone at Exxon would want to position the corporation on the wrong side of Tom DeLay and the Republican Party.”
“You’d have to ask them,” he said.