January 04, 2006
Earle subpoenas Abramoff documents

As Jack Abramoff was pleading guilty today, Travis County DA Ronnie Earle took the opportunity to do a little more research for his money-laundering case against Tom DeLay by issuing more subpoenas.

Prosecutor Ronnie Earle is seeking correspondence among a number of parties, including DeLay, other TRMPAC officials, Abramoff and Ralph Reed, a political consultant and former Christian Coalition director.

In a March 2002 e-mail to Abramoff available on the Senate Indian Affairs Committee Web site, Reed proposed spending millions of dollars to defeat Texas Democrats who might want to reopen the Tigua casino in El Paso.

DeLay's lead lawyer, Dick DeGuerin, said Earle is "simply trying to cash in on the Abramoff scandal." DeLay and two associates, John Colyandro and Jim Ellis, are facing criminal charges related to fundraising in connection with 2002 Texas legislative races.

DeGuerin said there is no link between the case involving corporate contributions that Earle is prosecuting and the federal investigation of Abramoff.

"Jack was a friend of Tom DeLay, and DeLay is not the kind of person who's going to abandon a friend in trouble," DeGuerin said. "Every connection between them is on the record."

He said the subpoenas "may serve to clear the air where Tom DeLay is concerned."

BFFs indeed.

Earle also formally responded to the motion to dismiss as directed by the Court of Criminal Appeals.

In his brief, Earle said it would be unprecedented for the state's highest criminal appeals court to step in when an appeal is properly pending before a lower appellate court.

"This is a bold attempt to bully his way to the very front of the line simply and solely to serve his own political interests and ambitions," Earle said.

The Quorum Report has more details on both actions.

Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle issued four subpoenas that seemed to peg off the federal investigation. In fact, one of the four subpoenas was issued to Michael E. Williams, Director of Government Affairs for Abramoff's former law firm of Greenbert Traurig, LLP. The other three subpoenas were to Jonathan Blank, Managing Partner. Preston Gates Ellis & Rouvelas Meeds, LLP and Chairwoman Rhonda Welch Scalco Barona Band of Mission Indians and Don Kilgore, General Counsel Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians.

The subpoenas request the witnesses provide records of any and all contacts with Texans for a Republican Majority and its principals suggesting that Earle is looking at the role played by Abramoff and the Indian tribes in attempting to manipulate the 2002 Texas elections. Linking Abramoff and the Choctaws to Texans for a Republican Majority would signal an escalation in the significance of the criminal case.

Quorum Report has already published documents describing a grass roots election plan developed by former Christian Coalition impresario Ralph Reed seeking to bolster anti-Indian casino forces in the Governor's Mansion and the Legislature.

Tom Delay is accused of laundering corporate funds in violation of the Texas Election Code.

In addition, the District Attorney's office today filed its pleadings to the Court of Criminal Appeals. The Court had asked for briefs from the State and the defendant before deciding whether or not to hear arguments on the dismissal of one indictment and DeGuerin's motion to dismiss the second.

The Court took the unusual step of inserting itself after the Third Court of Criminal Appeals declined to fast track consideration of Earle's Motion to revive the first indictment quashed by Judge Pat Priest.

It has been an article of faith among some Republican operatives that the Court of Criminal Appeals would be a sympathetic court to the criminal defendants. However, the political stakes for the Justices may be increasing as Earle injects the Abramoff scandal into the proceedings. Of the three Republicans up for re-election on the Court, only Charles Holcomb faces any primary opponents (including Rep. Terry Keel of Austin). Prematurely aborting the criminal case against Delay amidst the backdrop of the escalating Abramoff scandal may not be in the interests of the Justices.

I doubt I'll be able to keep up with the avalanche of information that will flow from this activity, so let me recommend that those of you who can't get enough of it (and you know who you are) make a point of regularly checking The Stakeholder, Josh Marshall, and The Daily DeLay.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 04, 2006 to Scandalized! | TrackBack