July 21, 2006
Chron slaps Woodfill and Abbott

The Chron has a strongly worded editorial about the recent attempts by Harris County GOP Chair Jared Woodfill and Attorney General Greg Abbott to influence the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in the DeLay ballot replacement lawsuit.

Unfortunately, some politicians seem to think an appeal to partisanship can influence how the federal courts rule.

A blatant example can be seen on the Harris County Republican Party Web site. It invites viewers to send a petition to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals jurists who will decide whether former U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay must remain on the November ballot as the GOP candidate for the 22nd District. The petition declares, "Each day that goes by with Democrats perverting the process and denying the public their choice of candidates is a travesty of justice. This deliberate subversion undermines the will of the people and sets a horrible precedent for future elections."


The notion that judges can be influenced by a partisan petition is repugnant to the concept of an independent judiciary. The state GOP is represented in its appeal by a team of qualified lawyers. If Harris County party officials succeeded in affecting the outcome through such tactics, it would constitute a real subversion of the system and a truly horrible precedent for future litigation.

Equally misguided is Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott's decision to intervene in the case. He has every right to file a friend of the court brief, but his stated reason shows a slight grasp of the particulars of the case.


For the Texas attorney general to use the resources of the state to help his party win a favorable court judgment would be an intolerable conflict of interest. If Abbott does file a brief, it should recognize that Texas law prevents parties from replacing unpopular primary winners such as DeLay with stronger candidates - exactly what the state GOP is trying to do.

And via View from 22, it turns out there's a third person attempting to inject himself into these proceedings, one David Wallace, the onetime rising star from Sugar Land.

Wallace said he has hired Jenkens and Gilchrist to file an Amicus Brief to the court of appeals. “I contacted both the national and state Republican Party’s to see what we could do to help. An Amicus Brief is a kind of ‘friend of the court’ brief. My attorneys feel good about this but who knows what is going to happen,” Wallace said.

He said the brief would focus on constitutional issues related to the case. It is a challenge, he said, because there is no existing case law to refer to. Instead the firm is having to research “200 year old documents to try and determine what our founding fathers, the framers of our constitution, meant and what their intent was,” Wallace explained.

Wallace said the appeals court required that the Republicans file their briefs last Friday, the Democrats filed their arguments this Friday and the Republicans must then file their answers to the Democrats briefs by the following Friday.

Wallace said it will cost about $10,000 of his campaign contributions to fund the research and file the brief. He filed his first congressional campaign report last week and admits that even if his bid for DeLay’s congressional seat is unsuccessful, he plans on seeking a congressional seat in 18 months.

I was going to deconstruct the twisted logic behind this, but frankly Chris Elam has already done a thorough job of it. One thing he doesn't quite touch on:

If we're going to be cynical, then three motivations exist for this brief. One, that Mayor Dave doesn't expect the appeal to succeed, and wants to score brownie points with the Establishment by appearing helpful. Two, that even if the appeal succeeds, Mayor Dave doesn't think Talton will win in November. Three, that even if Talton becomes the incumbent for 2008, Mayor Dave is confident that he can be beat in the primary. If we're going to be charitable, then one motivation exists for this brief - Mayor Dave wants to help Robert Talton beat Nick Lampson.

I think we can all reject the charitable interpretation, at least if we believe his statement about running again in 2008. Be that as it may, it seems to me that despite all the evidence to the contrary, Wallace may genuinely believe he's still the frontrunner to be the Chosen One, and thus this use of $10K of his supporters' money is appropriate and germane. That, I think, is the simplest explanation, if least flattering to Wallace, for his action.

One last point needs to be made, and that's about the recent bravado by some former colleagues of DeLay about his chances to win if the appeals court forces him to remain on the ballot.

Friends of the former House Republican boss say Mr. DeLay -- who retired to Virginia last month after being implicated in the Jack Abramoff scandal and indicted by a Texas prosecutor -- is willing to wage a full-scale campaign for the seat if Democrats succeed in preventing the Texas Republican Party from replacing him on the November ballot.

"This whole thing could explode in the Democrats' face," says Rep. Jeb Hensarling, Texas Republican. "He has indicated that if called back into battle, he'll fight -- and I'd say his chances of keeping this seat in Republican hands are pretty good."


"If the Democrats use the courts to force him to stay on the ticket, and he doesn't even campaign, he could still win it," says Rep. John Carter, another Texas Republican. "And, remember, his district is still strongly Republican, by about 55 percent to 60 percent, and so he probably has a better chance of winning than if none of this had happened."

It's a simple matter of numbers. Juanita pointed out the problem as stated in a subscription Roll Call article.

Ex-Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) has now paid out more than $1.7 million in legal bills resulting from a pair of investigations over the past two years, including close to a half-million dollars in the second quarter of 2006 as he was retiring from the House.


Some have suggested that he would wage an active campaign to defeat Lampson with the understanding that he would not then accept the seat, forcing a special election late this year or early next.

However, that likely would force DeLay to abandon his plan of using his remaining campaign cash to pay legal bills.

And if he decided to run and take the seat, he’d once again be restricted to $5,000 donations to his legal defense fund if he were to win.

Remember: In the last quarter DeLay raised $12K and spent over $800K, which knocked his cash on hand down to $641K. Needless to say, that's unsustainable. DeLay can raise cash for a campaign, or he can raise cash for his legal defense. He can't do both, and of the two only the former is optional. Do the math for yourself and you'll see.

To cite Elam again, having DeLay on the ballot, even as a placeholder for whoever would be the standard-bearer in a 2007 special election following his re-resignation (and does anyone think there'd be a consensus Republican choice for that?), is like having a candidate who's dead. We know from prior history that it's not impossible for the dead guy to win, but I feel pretty confident in saying there'd be little parallel between Mel Carnahan in 2000 and Tom DeLay in 2006.

At this point, as far as I'm concerned, if the Republicans' appeal is denied, the only question remaining is whether DeLay would formally withdraw and give his party the option of (quickly) getting a write-in candidate in place, endorsing Libertarian Bob Smither, or cutting its losses and putting its resources into other races, or if he'd stay put and lead them over a cliff. Given how utterly self-centered DeLay has been since he first announced his departure, I wouldn't be at all surprised by the latter.

UPDATE: Just as I hit Publish, I see that Abbott has filed his amicus brief. So much for that.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on July 21, 2006 to Election 2006 | TrackBack

The Chronic states: "The notion that judges can be influenced by a partisan petition is repugnant to the concept of an independent judiciary" [the italics are mine]. The Chronic would obviously prefer that the influence be a petition through the printed media example here as the Chronic seems to think that that route is apparently not "repugnant to the concept of an independent judiciary".

Cut some slack Chronic: the Harris County GOP is only following your lead - "repugnant" as it may be.

Posted by: Charles Hixon on July 21, 2006 6:34 PM

Mr. Hixon grasps at non-existent straws in his illogical defense of the GOP. Our legal system does not provide any basis for public appeals through a petition. Any attorney Jared Woodfill might have first consulted would have so advised. But instead, the Republican Party again demonstrated their blatant and outright contempt for our judiciary, by trying to make up the rules as they go along. Sorry, Mr. Nixon, the rules still do matter.

Posted by: Dennis on July 22, 2006 3:35 AM

The hypocrisy is so ripe it's ready to be juiced. From R.G. Ratcliffe's first paragraph:

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott four months ago urged Republicans to give former U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay another two years in office. Abbott on Friday urged a federal appeals court to let Republicans replace DeLay on the general election ballot.

Who's ready for a real Attorney General?

Posted by: PDiddie on July 22, 2006 8:18 AM

Well, if I read a rebuttal and wrote a responsee at 3:35AM Friday night/Saturday morning, I guess that would be as good as it gets too.

Dennis, my defense of the GOP is indeed illogical as I am not directing my response to the defense of the GOP, but to the hypocritical behavior of the Chronic. Get some sleep.

Posted by: Charles Hixon on July 22, 2006 11:12 AM

Charlie - thanks for your concern about my sleep patterns. I fully understood your comment, but you didn't apparently didn't quite grasp that not all of us work day-time jobs.

Posted by: Dennis on July 22, 2006 2:12 PM