March 20, 2006
On DeLay's legal limbo

There are two things that you should take away from this story about Tom DeLay and his re-election campaign being in legal limbo as the Scandal-Go-Round turns. One:

Former DeLay spokesman Michael Scanlon, who was an Abramoff business partner, has pleaded guilty to fraud charges in the case, and a former DeLay deputy chief of staff, Tony Rudy, remains under intense scrutiny by prosecutors.


Documents released by federal prosecutors made it clear that Rudy has been in significant legal jeopardy. He is believed to be cooperating with federal officials, and sources close to the case said he is expected to reach a plea deal with the Justice Department. But details of those negotiations have not surfaced.

That's one former staffer of DeLay's who has pleaded guilty to felony charges, and another who is in the process of working out a plea agreement. Two actual felons - not just "under investigation", not just "indicted", but two people who worked for Tom DeLay who have pleaded or are about to plead guilty to felony criminal charges. And - this is the crucial part - neither one has anything to do with Ronnie Earle. Even if DeLay and his other three indicted associates win unequivocal victories in the TRMPAC cases, even if the most casual observer ultimately concludes that the whole thing was a political hack job from the get go, DeLay's roster of former staffers will include two convicted felons.


The prosecutors' documents depicted an unnamed congressional aide, separately identified as Rudy, improperly influencing congressional action on behalf of Abramoff's Indian gaming clients. But there was no indication that DeLay was aware of Rudy's activities.

What Rudy has said or will say to prosecutors about DeLay could prove pivotal in whether the lawmaker is cleared or gets pulled more directly into the federal investigation, said lawyers close to the case.

In court documents released in January, Rudy was described as "Staffer A," who helped Abramoff stop legislation that would have hurt his clients. One bill opposed by Indian gaming interests would have banned Internet gambling; another, opposed by magazine publishers, would have raised postal rates.

In return, Abramoff funneled $50,000 to the political consulting firm of Rudy's wife, Lisa, prosecutors said in court documents. The money was "obtained from (Abramoff's) clients who would and did benefit from Staffer A's official actions," the prosecutors said. Rudy then left Congress to work directly for Abramoff.

[DeLay defense attorney Richard] Cullen said DeLay had no knowledge of any work by Rudy on behalf of Abramoff's clients.

Carol Alvarado, the embattled former Mayor Pro Tem of Houston, has repeatedly said that the staffers from the Pro Tem office who authorized improper bonuses for themselves did so entirely without her knowledge. Many people, myself included, have said that she should have had a better handle on what was going on in her office. I say Tom DeLay should be held to that same standard as well. Whatever judgment is to be visited on Alvarado for her lack of oversight should be visited on DeLay as well. It's that simple.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 20, 2006 to Scandalized! | TrackBack