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October 3rd, 2005:

New DeLay indictment

This is a bit of a surprise, since I hadn’t realized there was another grand jury in session.

A Texas grand jury today indicted U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay on a new charge of money laundering.

A different grand jury whose six-month term ended last week indicted him on a conspiracy charge, forcing DeLay to temporarily step down as House majority leader.

Both indictments accuse DeLay and two political associates of conspiring to get around a state ban on corporate campaign contributions by funneling the money through the DeLay-founded Texans for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee to the Republican National Committee in Washington. The RNC then sent back like amounts to distribute to Texas candidates in 2002, the indictment alleges.

The new charge was the first action from a new Travis County grand jury, which started its term today. Another grand jury, which ended its term Sept. 28, handed up 41 indictments in the three-year investigation.

I presume this is a companion indictment to those handed down last September to the Colyandro/Ellis/RoBold triplets, as the original conspiracy indictment against DeLay is a bookend to the consipracy charges against Colyandro and Ellis. Looking back through my archives, I see that this is something for which Travis County DA Ronnie Earle does have jurisdiction, so that question is answered. I suspect the year-apart timing on these charges will fuel the speculation that someone (RoBold? Sears Roebuck?) flipped on DeLay. Stay tuned, as this is just the early wire-story version of this story – there’s sure to be more soon.

Public domain movies

Via Atrios, the Internet Archive has added movies and other “moving images” to its list of freely-downloadable files. You can get everything from government-financed war propaganda films to classic cartoons – I’ll be grabbing a copy of Falling Hare when I get home – to TV commercials. I have a feeling this could be a serious time-waster, not to mention hard drive-filler.

Seeing a couple of Bugs Bunny cartoons in there convinces me once again that the best thing which could have happened to this character (among others) would have been for it to fall into the public domain so that any artist with the means and inclination could tell new stories about him. I mean, it’s not like the actual copyright holders have any clue what to do with him, and maybe, just maybe, a free-to-use Bugs Bunny would mean those of us who remember cartoons like “Falling Hare” from our wasted youth would get to experience him anew as adults. Since I’m unlikely to ever get that, I’ll go get the classics while I still can. Happy downloading, everyone.

Harriet Miers

I’m not much for following the Supreme Court nomination battles – there are plenty of other bloggers who do a far better job of it than I would – but I do have a couple of thoughts now that we know that Harriet Miers has been tapped to replace Sandra Day O’Connor.

1. Is it OK if we ask this nominee some questions about what she thinks about past rulings and how they might affect her judicial philosophy in the future? I mean, given that she has no track record at all from which to judge for ourselves, maybe just this one time?

2. Is she really the best person available for this job? I don’t want to complain too much here, since we could have gotten an obvious ideologue like Edith Jones instead, but when someone like Tom Kirkendall is scratching his head, I have to wonder. I’ll reserve judgment until the confirmation hearings, again assuming that she actually answers a few questions.

3. I agree with Greg:

I’ve got to wonder if the Rove/Bush machine have truly lost their last remaining connection to the political radar that has, up till Katrina, served them fairly well.

I mean, when you’re being dogged for cronyism, is it really smart to name someone who’s only qualification for the office is her personal relationship with the President?

Have I mentioned that maybe if she answers a few questions we could put these doubts to rest? Yes, I think I have.

That’s about it. My hope for this nominee is the same as it was for John Roberts; namely, that we’ll get someone more in the Anthony Kennedy mold than Antonin Scalia. I really don’t think there’s much more we reasonably can hope for than that.

Monday DeLay roundup

This story doesn’t use the word, but I’m wondering how many times we’ll be reading articles on Tom DeLay that include the word “defiant” in the near term. Quite a few, I’d venture.

Next question: Which of these people are kidding themselves?

DeLay, R-Sugar Land, said he has arranged a way to work with Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., that will comply with the spirit of the House regulation that forced DeLay to relinquish his post.

Hastert has said that DeLay no longer will attend official meetings of the Republican House leadership while he faces the felony charge of conspiracy for allegedly violating Texas election law by funneling corporate donations to candidates for the state House.

But, DeLay remarked, “The speaker certainly asked me to continue our partnership.”

DeLay’s statements seemed to fly in the face of remarks made earlier in the day by Rep. David Dreier, a California Republican selected by his congressional colleagues to help Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., serve as majority leader while DeLay’s criminal case is pending.

On CBS’s Face the Nation, Dreier, chairman of the House Rules Committee, said of DeLay: “He’s not going to still run things. He knows he’s not going to run things. But he’s clearly a member of Congress and he’s a very important part of the team.”

Also, moderate Republican Rep. Christopher Shays of Connecticut told CNN on Sunday he was no longer comfortable with DeLay as party leader.

“We got elected basically by saying we would live by a higher moral standard, and I don’t think recently we have,” Shays said. “Tom’s problem … is continual acts that border and go sometimes beyond the ethical edge.”

On the same program, Rep. Jim Leach, R-Iowa, said the DeLay affair “isn’t just an embarrassment for the Republicans. It’s the Congress itself that’s on trial.”

Shays and Leach often speak against the grain of the Republican leadership.

DeLay, however, told the Chronicle that his clout in Congress has not been diminished.

One of these things is not like the others. The Stakeholder has been keeping an eye on Zach Wamp of Tennessee as a potential skunk at the garden party for DeLay and his still-loyal followers, but I’m willing to bet he’s not the only one.

I’m glad to see that the idea that DeLay himself is just a part of the problem, a problem that won’t be fixed by his departure, is getting some play on the op-ed pages. This is the man who has stepped in for The Hammer.

Although the two have very different personalities, [Roy] Blunt has modeled his political career on DeLay’s, becoming in many respects a replica of the former majority leader. Like DeLay, Blunt quickly set up multiple political committees to establish a power base in the House.

Blunt has strengthened and enlarged DeLay’s “K Street” alliance with Washington lobbyists. The two have a similar network of major corporate donors. Both have extensive financial ties to the Washington lobbying firm Alexander Strategy Group. Some of Blunt’s actions have raised ethical issues.

Different person, same misplaced priorities, same ethical void. It’s as simple as that. As Ezra says:

In some ways, losing him is worse, as DeLay was an easy stand-in for the corruption he’d created, and his personal proximity to scandal and ethics allegations sometimes proved a useful, if minor, check on his behavior. Blunt will have no such restrictions; if anything, he’s worse than his predecessor. And that should be the message. This is not about Tom DeLay, it’s about the house that DeLay built. The job for Democrats is to convince the public that it’s time to tear it down.

If they can do that (no guarantees, that’s for sure), the Dems can put themselves in a position to make big gains in 2006 as the Republicans did in 1994. It’s a big if.

Well, okay, there is at least one Democrat talking about this in broader terms.

Taking out Tom DeLay would boost the morale of the Democratic Party and, I dare say, improve the representation for the 22nd Congressional District — but it would prove a pyrrhic victory on its own. Everyone but the scoundrel wants fair elections we can all trust. Everyone wants a democracy to hold the corrupt accountable. Taking on Tom DeLay without accomplishing these goals is an empty pursuit.

I worked for ethics reform long before Tom DeLay and I crossed paths, but our stories have become inextricably linked. I’m sure that I will have to answer questions about Tom DeLay for the rest of my life. Someday, I would like to be able to say that even though he has
repeatedly demonstrated his passion for power at the expense of ethics and integrity — to the detriment of those he serves — we all owe him a great debt. Without the scandals he caused, the people of Texas would not have demanded real ethics reform and reclaimed our government from the stench of corruption and special interests.

And I hope he gets to say that some day, too.

Finally, for a little finely honed sarcasm to go with the outrage, one turns to Julia. Enjoy.

Life after Rita

Folks are returning back to Port Arthur and Sabine Pass to see how bad the damage from Hurricane Rita was in their neighborhoods. Sadly, it was very bad.

Teresa MacLelland expected some damage to her Sabine Pass home as she returned Saturday for the first time since Hurricane Rita forced her to evacuate.

“I saw other people’s houses and thought they were bad,” the office manager for Black Offshore said. “Then I saw my house.”

Or what was left of it.

Rita struck the Sabine Pass community Sept. 23 as a Category 3 hurricane with 130-mph-plus winds and a 10-foot storm surge that left most of the shrimp-fish-
ing fleet on dry land.

“Sabine Pass is 99 percent gone,” Port Arthur Mayor Oscar Ortiz said. “I don’t know of one home that doesn’t have severe damage.”

[…]

The storm surge, which also deposited a 100-foot, steel barge from the Intracoastal Waterway in the yard of a home about a quarter of a mile away, cut the heart from the economy.

The hurricane devastated the shrimp industry and damaged oil refineries, the mainstays of this blue-collar community. Hebert said many of the residents have said they may not return.

Yet a school board member sees the seeds of the community’s revival. Trustee Sam Garrison, 75, said oil rigs damaged by Rita in the Gulf will be coming to Sabine Pass docks for repair.

“Jobs will revive anything,” Garrison said. “Sabine Pass will come back.”

I hope so, and I hope they’ll get all the help they need to do so. Houston and Galveston may have “dodged a bullet”, as everyone keeps saying, but that doesn’t mean that bullet vanished into thin air. It just hit someone else.

On a related note, here’s an update on the Houston apartment market from Nancy Sarnoff.

More than 17,600 apartments have been absorbed since Labor Day, according to preliminary estimates from O’Connor & Associates, a real estate research firm. They also show that Houston landlords will absorb more than 10 times the normal level of apartments in September.

While no one knows how long these units will stay leased as some hurricane evacuees will return to New Orleans or other areas, the bump in leasing already is affecting the multifamily sales market.

“Expectations have increased as far as the pricing sellers are expecting,” said David Wylie, an apartment broker with Apartment Realty Advisors in Houston.

Wylie hasn’t sold a complex since Hurricane Katrina hit, but the number of offers coming in for properties on the market is more than doubling, he said.

The increased leasing activity is also expected to increase rents, giving property owners the upper hand for the first time in a while.

“Now it’s a landlord’s market,” Wylie said.

Will developers rush to build more apartments to take advantage of this market as long as it lasts, or will they wait to see how many of those new residents will be here longer term? I’m just glad I don’t have to make that kind of decision.