…is like a day without scandal.
Carlos Guerra notes the Bacardi-FEC settlement of the rum maker’s unreported donation to DeLay’s ARMPAC, and notes its propitious timing.
The state’s probe started after the GOP took the Texas House speakership, the Democrats’ last bastion in state government, and an official of the Texas Association of Business bragged about using corporate money to do so. The investigation — which continues — was widened to include the Americans for a Republican Majority political action committee (ARMPAC) and Texans for a Republican Majority PAC (TRMPAC), both closely tied to DeLay.
One day before the indictments were returned, the political action committee of Bacardi USA Inc., one of the corporations facing criminal charges in Texas, quietly settled with the Federal Elections Commission, agreeing to pay a $750 fine for making secret contributions to, among others, ARMPAC, which got $2,500.
“It was resolved by alternate dispute resolution,” said FEC spokesman Ian Stirton, confirming the settlement, which, until we asked, had not been made public. “When the parties want to hurry the process on, they can come to an agreement instead of going through the enforcement process.”
“It vindicates everything we said,” said Marjorie Sloan, executive director of Committee for Responsibility and Ethics in Government, which filed the FEC complaint against Bacardi. “They were doing something wrong and the FEC found that they were doing something wrong.”
(ed. note: He means Melanie Sloan, and her organization is called Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.)
“These cases have no link, they are two completely separate issues,” Bacardi USA spokeswoman Pat Neal said of the FEC case and Bacardi’s indictment in Texas. “At the FEC, there was an administrative filing error. We had been in touch with the FEC all along and the issue has been resolved.”
But Sloan, who also has filed complaints with the FEC and IRS against at least one of the other corporations under investigation in Texas, doesn’t buy Bacardi’s explanation.
“I think their excuses are BS,” she laughed. “They say they didn’t know they were supposed to be filing? These are sophisticated players; this is not believable.
“The settlement is not significant enough, it’s a slap on the wrist,” Sloan said, “but one can hope that they will be convicted of a crime in Texas.”
And we have some more evidence of voters turning against DeLay.
“I think he ought to quit,” said Amin Abdulla, 45, who owns an ice cream shop and who has voted for DeLay in the past. “I was in denial for the last year. But the reality is I’m disappointed to see how much he’s abused power. He takes it for granted.
“I would recall him in a heartbeat,” Abdulla said.
DeLay’s Democrat opponent, Richard Morrison, tells voters he’s a person they can trust, but in his stump speeches he steers clear of deliberately skewering DeLay for the ethics reprimands.
“I don’t take delight in another man’s pain,” said Morrison, an attorney. “That’s not what I’m about.”
Morrison can’t escape the issue though. He usually gets asked about the investigations during campaign appearances.
“I can just tell you if I’m your congressman and the House ethics committee gives me even one rebuke against any action I did for official conduct, I will resign immediately,” Morrison told an audience earlier this month.
“Voters must be represented with dignity, honesty and fairness, and I would not subject y’all to that embarrassment if that occurred,” he said.
That kind of attitude gets Morrison the vote of David Brown, a NASA contractor who used to be a registered Republican. “Against DeLay, certainly,” Brown said.
There’s little doubt where Lynn Watkins’ vote is going. Outside her house a mile or so from DeLay’s district office is a Bush-Cheney campaign sign and a sign proclaiming support for Bush and U.S. troops. But instead of a DeLay sign, there’s one for independent congressional candidate Michael Fjetland.
“I just feel Tom DeLay has been in office too long,” Watkins said. “When our forefathers set up elections they were for people like you and me for one or two terms and not for a lifetime commitment.”
That sound you hear is three more angels getting their wings.
Finally, if you’re sad that you won’t get to see DeLay debate his opponents today in Clear Lake, you can see him in all his magisterial glory at the METRO Advanced Transportation Technology Forum next week. Assuming, of course, that he doesn’t chicken out again at the last minute. Thanks to Drew for the tip.