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October 6th, 2004:

D-Day for DeLay?

The House Ethics Committee is supposed to have met at 2 PM EDT to (finally) decide what to do on the Chris Bell ethics complaint against Tom DeLay. Let’s hope they take this group’s advice and appoint an outside counsel.

I note with some amusement that Judicial Watch is calling on DeLay to step down as Majority Leader. They don’t even address the Bell complaint here (though they do call on the ranking Democrat on the Ethics Committee to recuse himself for discussing the case with Nancy Pelosi) – their beef is over the admonishment DeLay got for the Medicare vote wrongdoing. Judicial Watch is and has always been a bunch of cranks, but every once in awhile they’re cranks who advocate something I agree with.

Richard Morrison notes DeLay’s continuing ethical struggles. Click the More link for his take on the Judicial Watch action and other related items.

UPDATE: I’ve heard the same rumor as Andrew D. We should know Real Soon Now. There’s more from the Christian Science Monitor (via ToTD) and The Hill (via Byron). Check this out from the Hill article:

Something else that will determine what effect the admonishments and controversies will have on DeLay’s future is how Republicans fare in the upcoming election.

“I think it could add up eventually, but I don’t think it’s a problem for him right now,” said Rep. Ray LaHood, a fifth-term Republican from Illinois who is close to Hastert. LaHood then referred to the Texas legal proceedings: “I think people will be watching the grand jury investigation and the election.”

“If we pick up four or five seats [in Texas], that’ll help the conference,” LaHood added. “I think there would be a lot of appreciation for [DeLay] because he got it done.”

If there’s a better reason to give to the redistricted Democrats, I’d like to hear it. Remember what happened to Newt Gingrich after the GOP lost seats in the House in 98? Think about it.

UPDATE: MSNBC reports a second rebuke for DeLay.

The House ethics committee Wednesday criticized House Majority Leader Tom DeLay for conduct that appeared to link political donations to legislation and for improperly contacting U.S. aviation authorities for political purposes, House sources said Wednesday.

The committee’s findings were an extraordinary second rebuke of the Texas Republican’s ethical conduct in just six days.

The committee of five Democrats and five Republicans deferred to Texas authorities’ allegations that DeLay violated state campaign finance rules.

The committee’s findings — a letter admonishing his conduct — nonetheless spared him a lengthy investigation by the ethics panel.

[…]

The sources spoke on condition of anonymity because the report had not yet been released.

There could still be more to come, so stay tuned.

(more…)

The endorsement season begins

The Chronicle finally realizes there’s less than four week to Election Day, and so they better get cracking on endorsements. (The Dallas Morning News has already made seventeen endorsements.) They get started by endorsing City Prop 1 while opposing City Prop 2. I could have seen them go either way on Prop 1, and I fully expected their opposition to Prop 2, so no surprises there.

Though they do occasionally surprise me, I feel like I can usually predict how the Chron will dole out its endorsements. With that, I’m going to put my money where my mouth is and prognosticate it. Here’s who I think the Chron will endorse:

For President: George W. Bush. The President would have to bite the head off of a live bat and urinate on the Alamo during the next debate for the Chron to have a chance of overcoming their inherent Bushophilia. I just don’t see any other possibility here.

For Congress: Mike McCaul over Lorenzo Sadun, Al Green over Arlette Molina, and Richard Morrison over Tom DeLay. All incumbents otherwise, including Nick Lampson over Ted Poe.

Normally, the Chron is loath to go against powerful incumbents (more on this soon). The main exceptions to this are where they consider the incumbent to be tainted by scandal and corruption, and where they feel the incumbent puts his or her own interests above those of their constituents. DeLay, whom they last endorsed in 1998, fits on both counts. The Chron took a pass on CD22 in 2000 and gave the nod to Tim Riley in 2002. I’ll be shocked if they reverse themselves here.

State House: I’ve been trying to convince myself that they’ll give the nod to Hubert Vo over Talmadge Heflin, but as noted above, I just don’t see the Chron advocating the defeat of a senior committee chair. Given that, and given that there’s no Democratic opposition for Moldy Joe Nixon or Debbie “Pit of Hell” Riddle, I’m calling this a straight sweep for the incumbents. There’s a chance they could go with Vo, and outside chance they could pick Jim Daugherty over one-termer Martha “No Thong” Wong (whom they did not endorse in 2002), and a tiny chance they could do something oddball in some other race I’m not considering, but I say the smart money is on those with “Re-Elect” on their campaign signs.

Countywide races: It’s not a slamdunk, but I feel pretty confident that the Chron will support Reggie McKamie for District Attorney over Chuck Rosenthal. They’ve justifiably pounded Rosenthal in the editorials for his handling of the Crime Lab debacle, so this pick stands out even if I have a little niggling doubt in the back of my mind. For sure, they’ll go with the incumbents elsewhere – Paul Bettencourt for Tax Assessor, and Tommy Thomas for Sheriff.

As for the countywide judicial races, I think they’ll essentially follow the HBA poll, which means all incumbents plus Kathy Stone and Devon Anderson. I could see them maybe picking Bruce Mosier over Bill Burke, and they might have another curveball in there just for the heck of it, but again, the odds say they’ll stick with who they know.

I offer no opinion on the JP, constable, or non-countywide judicial races. There’s one contested State Supreme Court race, and (surprise!) I expect them to go with incumbent Scott Brister over Democratic challenger David Van Os.

That’s how I see it. Feel free to make your own predictions known in the comments. I’ll try to keep a running score of how well I guessed.

Rack ’em up

Another Enron guilty plea.

A former assistant treasurer at Enron pleaded guilty Tuesday to a charge of conspiracy to commit securities fraud for lying to credit rating agencies.

Timothy Despain, 39, faces up to five years in prison. But he has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors, and the government is granting him immunity from prosecution for any other possible criminal activity in connection with his work at Enron or his subsequent employer, Halliburton.

In the plea agreement, Despain, assistant treasurer at Enron from January 1999 to May 2002, admitted to lying regularly to credit-rating agencies to falsely bolster Enron’s ratings.

Prosecutor Sean Berkowitz told the judge that Despain participated in schemes to falsely claim cash flow of at least $5 billion.

Tuesday afternoon, Despain explained his crimes to U.S. District Judge Ewing Werlein and said others who participated with him include ex-Enron treasurers Ben Glisan Jr. and Jeff McMahon.

He acknowledged that, at the behest of the treasurers of Enron, he and others frequently misrepresented cash flow to hide the nature of the transactions and benefit from the pumped-up credit rating.

“I and others intentionally withheld relevant information from the rating agencies about the true financial performance of Enron and way in which Enron achieved its cash flow numbers,” Despain said in his plea agreement.

He said the company set cash flow targets arbitrarily, based on what it thought the agencies wanted, and “Enron consistently struggled to achieve the cash flow targets it had set for itself.”

After Enron’s collapse, Despain went to work for Halliburton but is no longer employed there. His last job there was as a director of performance management in a budgeting section of finance, according to Halliburton spokeswoman Wendy Hall.

“This has nothing to do with Halliburton whatsoever, and reporting it as if it does is false and misleading,” she said.

[…]

Dan Hedges, former U.S. attorney for Houston and now a defense attorney, said Despain’s plea agreement “is a good indication that he’s discussed his activities at Halliburton with prosecutors.

“Now, whether any of it constitutes criminal activity is another question.”

Make of that what you will. Meanwhile, the prosecution is still putting on its case in the Nigerian Barge trial.

A former Merrill Lynch executive wrote in e-mail that Enron’s former chief financial officer promised to “pay us back no matter what” for an investment in power barges in Nigeria, according to evidence introduced during trial Tuesday.

In a March 2, 2000, message to a colleague discussing difficulties with a Continental Airlines construction-finance project, James Brown suggested getting some sort of oral assurance from the airline, just as it had done with Enron on a past deal.

“We had a similar precedent with Enron last year and we had Fastow get on the phone with Bayly and lawyers and promise to pay us back no matter what,” Brown said in the e-mail message, referring to Enron CFO Andrew Fastow and former Merrill executive Daniel Bayly, who like Brown is on trial. “Deal was approved and all went well.”

As usual, Tom has a good overview of the latest Enron goings-on.

RIP, Joyce Jillson

Joyce Jillson, famed astrologer, dead at 58. Do I really have to make the joke here, people?

A mind like a steel trap

Vice President Cheney, last night: “Now, in my capacity as vice president, I am the president of Senate, the presiding officer…. The first time I ever met you was when you walked on the stage tonight.”

Except for the 2001 National Prayer Breakfast.

“Thank you. Thank you very much. Congressman Watts, Senator Edwards, friends from across America and distinguished visitors to our country from all over the world, Lynne and I honored to be with you all this morning.”

Here’s a picture.

The first link also notes that as per Senate tradition, Sen. John Edwards escorted Liddy Dole onto the floor for her swearing in, which was performed by Vice President Dick Cheney.

I’m sure Mr. Cheney will clarify his remarks any day now.

UPDATE: And another picture, with John Edwards standing behind Sen. Dole as she gets sworn in (“in”, not “at”) by Cheney. According to Kos, Tim Russert is now saying that Cheney and Edwards met and shook hands backstage before his show. But hey, what’s three little meetings?

UPDATE: Ooooh, this is even better: Mary Beth notes that for much of 2004, Vice President Cheney was delinquent in his Constitutional duty to preside over the Senate. Maybe that’s why he didn’t remember meeting John Edwards before – it’d been too long since Cheney had had the opportunity to do so.

UPDATE: SoonerGrunt notes that John Edwards has presided over the Senate as many times as Dick Cheney has since 2001. And the story of Cheney’s “we’ve never met” fib is now on the wires.