July 08, 2006
Have we seen the last of DeLay or not?

Olivia and I drove down to Fort Bend last night where we hung out with some fellow Democrats and enjoyed a nice not-too-hot summer evening. That particular Beck's Prime is right on a waterfront, and there were ducks and turtles to look at, which needless to say was of great interest to Olivia. I missed some of the speechifying because of that, but these are the sacrifices one makes as a parent

What was of great interest to the rest of us was the question of what Tom DeLay might be up to now that Judge Sparks has ruled he either must appear on the November ballot for CD22 or withdraw and cede the race to Nick Lampson. DeLay was evasive on this point last night at a different celebration in FBC.

Former U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay told a friendly crowd Friday that Democrats seeking to force him onto the November ballot "may get exactly what they want."

After savoring a standing ovation, he quickly said the comment was not an announcement that he will seek the office he vacated last month.


"The last thing in the world Tom DeLay wants is to try and win this race and lose. That's why he quit the first time," said Southern Methodist University political scientist Cal Jillson.

"I do not think he will come back and make a significant effort to hold the seat."

Your guess is as good as anyone's, dude. It won't exactly be difficult to gin up some devastating ads about Tom "Virginia Is For Ballot Evaders" DeLay and his hasty attempted retreat out of town. But then everything DeLay has done since his sudden resignation announcement has defied explanation, so who knows what he might do?

It really is weird. First, DeLay makes a big point about collecting petition signatures for his primary ballot spot, which he says shows the depth and breadth of support he has in CD22. Then a week or two later he's phoning then-FBGOP Chair Eric Thode to inquire about procedures in the event he dropped off the ballot. At the time of his resignation announcement, there was much speculation that he wanted to have control over who his successor would be, but there's been absolutely zero indication he's taken any interest in that process, and the one candidate who could reasonably have been considered his heir apparent has made a consistent fool of himself during the Gang of Four proceedings. He insists he's a resident of Virginia, which is why he's ineligible and can be replaced instead of withdrawing, then makes no effort to actually pull up roots in Sugar Land, testifies that he can't say where he'll be on Election Day even though that's the heart of the Democrats' case, and refers to the Sugar Land home where his wife still lives as "my house" when a reporter asks for a reaction post-ruling. At the risk of dime-store psychoanalyzing, it's like he just doesn't care any more about what happens.

Well, that's not entirely true. He still clealy cares a lot about himself.

On Friday, DeLay received a warm welcome from several hundred people at the Sugar Land Marriott for a previously scheduled tribute, co-sponsored by the Greater Houston Partnership and the Fort Bend Chamber of Commerce.

They lauded him for his business-friendly voting record and for bringing what they say was $1.3 billion worth of economic impact to the Houston region in the last year.

An ice sculpture with DeLay's name carved in the middle greeted guests as they walked into the hotel ballroom, where a giant American flag hung behind the podium. Centerpieces included DeLay bobbleheads. And there was a "gift table" of presents for the former congressman, his wife, Christine, and daughter, Danielle Ferro.

How much do you think those DeLay bobbleheads will fetch on eBay? I'd pay five bucks for one.

DeLay was typically feisty, criticizing the federal judiciary in general and Sparks' ruling in particular. He referred to the court's finding that the U.S. Constitution only requires a House candidate to "inhabit" the state he seeks to represent on Election Day. Republicans asserted that DeLay was ineligible and could be replaced on the ballot because he established residence in Virginia.

"For this guy to say he can't tell where I'm going to be on Election Day, and that I am forced to be on the ballot, well, they may get exactly what they want," DeLay said. "(Sparks) virtually declared Texas election law unconstitutional. Only in this country can the federal judiciary force someone to run for office."

Actually, you were the one who said you couldn't be sure where you'd be on Election Day. It's in your testimony. Judge Sparks just took your word for it.

He said he will await the court appeal before deciding what to do, but said he's ready for battle in whatever forum.

"I always have the fight in me," he said. "I'm not quitting, I'm not stopping the fight for the conservative cause. I'm just finding a different arena to fight in. I could be the Democrats' worst nightmare outside of Congress."

That's nice, because right now, you're the Republicans' worst nightmare. You couldn't even quit right, and they're facing consequences they never expected as a result.

Jillson agrees there may be some sympathy for DeLay but also sees "a level of disgust that he didn't know what he was doing" in plotting his departure from Congress.

"He did it in a way that showed he had not mastered the rules, which is not typical Tom DeLay," Jillson said. "He either misunderstood them or chose to mischaracterize them and hope no one else understood them."

The latter is wholly consistent with everything DeLay has ever done. Remember, this is the man who tried to claim that paying for pollsters counted as "administrative overhead" for a campaign. What more should you expect from him?

Well, there is one thing you should expect from DeLay. Have I mentioned naked self-interest? Yes, I think I have. But this time it's Jesse mentioning it, so that's okay.

An additional impetus for putting off the resignation until now was suggested by John Feehery, a former aide to DeLay and House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.). "He needed to raise money for the defense fund. That was the bottom line," Feehery said. "He wanted to make sure he could take care of himself in the court of law." Under federal campaign rules, any reelection money a lawmaker raises can be used to pay legal fees stemming from official duties.

Wonder how much of those campaign funds he has left now, after three more months of paying lawyer bills. That June 30 FEC statement ought to be interesting.

Finally, on a side note, it may be time to bone up on Ohio's ballot withdrawal laws. You can never be too careful these days.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on July 08, 2006 to Election 2006 | TrackBack

This really has been a comedy, a badly written one, to be sure, but still a comedy. And the self-righteous indignation about the judge's ruling is hilarious.

DeLay engineered this whole shebang, once again showing his personal contempt for the democratic electoral process.

I predict he will run again and get the ass-kicking he seriously deserves.

Posted by: Dennis on July 8, 2006 4:48 PM

refers to the Sugar Land home where his wife still lives as "my house" when a reporter asks for a reaction post-ruling.

Is it really so confusing?

He owns the house. He hasn't sold it. It's his. He may well maintain two residences, or three, or four, as a lobbyist. The pay will support it.

I don't understand the fixation on that phrase among lefty bloggers and people like Rick Casey. Is it so hard to figure out that it is still his house?

I wouldn't think that phrase would confuse Olivia, let alone smart, older folks like her dad. :)

Posted by: kevin whited on July 8, 2006 6:14 PM

What's confusing is how a guy as supposedly smart and focused as DeLay could be so incapable of keeping his story straight. If you can explain it, by all means do so.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on July 8, 2006 8:25 PM

Charles, the rumors are that he is drinking again. They are persistent or I wouldn't bring this up. It was great seeing you at our event out in Sugar Land, and especially Olivia who was the cutest person there! Thanks for coming out and joing us!

Posted by: muse on July 9, 2006 12:38 AM

Man, I'm extra-glad now that the Campaign Academy's planning to go out and support Lampson (not that he really needs MY support while Olivia's on the case, but every little bit helps).

Though I have to say, as irritating as it might be for the parties directly involved, watching this whole DeLay thing is really entertaining for me; now that I'm older and more politically aware, I'm loving the craziness of it. I plan to cherish this state of bright-eyed, blanket enthusiasm for as long as it lasts; my next phase, most likely some emo form of cynicism, probably won't be nearly as fun.

Posted by: Intrepid Intern on July 9, 2006 12:35 PM

I think it's a little odd that the newest resident of Virginia is always at home in Texas.

Personally I'd like to see him remain on the ballot and lose.

Posted by: Baby Snooks on July 9, 2006 1:52 PM

i have a couple of questions i haven't seen answered yet about the ruling. delay's purpose in all this was to transfer the money he raised for his re-election to his legal defense fund. so...

1) does the ruling mean the transfer is not allowed? or even that delay has to return any money already transferred?

2) if delay runs again, will he be allowed to transfer any money to pay for his legal fees?

'follow the money' as the saying goes.

Posted by: ElHombre on July 9, 2006 10:29 PM

El H, my understanding is that money raised can be used to campaign or to cover legal fees. I don't think there's any transfer involved, so no need to work about that.

My current theory is that the repubs assume they can win in 2008, but that Tom + lateness in the game puts them out for 2006.� They go down on Tom's technicalities now, and come back gunning in 2008 with a "we wuz robbed!" battlecry. Don't know that it's true, but if it was it would look just like what they're doing now. :)

Posted by: Michael Croft on July 9, 2006 10:57 PM

He owns the house. He hasn't sold it. It's his. He may well maintain two residences, or three, or four, as a lobbyist.

I'm not confused, Kevin. I don't have a problem with the fact that it's "his house;" what I find far more interesting is that he's always at his (Texas) house!

That makes it his "primary residence" in my book. If he'd truly been serious about this "moving to Virginia" crap, we'd expect him to be at his Virginia house more often than not.

Now if that were the case, I'd have some concerns about this ruling. (It would seem to conflict with the NJ case where Torricelli withdrew, though the facts in that case were a bit different.) But until we start finding DeLay in Virginia with some regularity, I can't see a problem with the ruling.

Posted by: Mathwiz on July 10, 2006 3:55 PM