Thursday, September 29, 2005


Justice DeLayed
by the Editors
Post date: 09.29.05
Issue date: 10.10.05
am innocent," Tom DeLay declared in the frantic hours
after his indictment by Texas District Attorney Ronnie
Earle. "I have done nothing wrong." It remains to be
seen whether the now-former House Republican majority
leader is guilty, as Earle's indictment charges, of
conspiring to direct corporate political contributions
illegally to Texas state candidates. The indictment,
after all, offers scant details establishing DeLay's
culpability. What's more, the Texas law in question is
arcane, and, in the realm of political money, the
$190,000 DeLay and his associates allegedly
misdirected is a relative pittance. But one can hardly
say that Tom DeLay has "done nothing wrong."

Throughout his Washington career, there is little
wrong that DeLay hasn't done. He has transformed the
House Republican majority into an arm of corporate
special interests that benefit from an unprecedented
"pay to play" culture of rewards for political
donations. As symbolized by his well-known chumminess
with the oleaginous Jack Abramoff, he has
unapologetically blurred the lines between
officeholders and lobbyists, deeply integrating K
Street into his party's political and legislative
strategy and treating it like a House Republican
patronage machine. And DeLay, more than anyone, has
been responsible for running the House of
Representatives like a one-party dictatorship, both
shutting out the Democratic minority (even denying
them simple meeting space) and militantly smothering
intraparty dissent.

Those are just the overarching themes of DeLay's
disgraceful tenure in Congress. One could type for
hours without exhausting the list of particular
offenses for which he should have been ostracized by
now: He has allegedly threatened K Street firms that
failed to hire Republican lobbyists in sufficient
numbers. He was admonished last year by the House
ethics committee for essentially selling access to
energy-industry executives just as Congress was
wrapping up a major energy bill. The ethics committee
also slapped DeLay for offering to endorse the
candidate son of Republican Representative Nick Smith
in exchange for Smith's vote in favor of a GOP
Medicare bill. Then the ethics committee rebuked him a
third time for his wildly inappropriate enlistment of
the Federal Aviation Administration to hunt for a
group of awol Texas legislators back in 2003.

Which brings us back to Earle's indictment. Those
Texas lawmakers DeLay was hunting had taken flight to
inhibit a Machiavellian GOP-led vote to redraw Texas's
congressional districts. The plan, which eventually
passed, led to the defeat of four incumbent House
Democrats at the hands of Republicans in 2004--and it
was all masterminded by DeLay. It had long been
customary for parties to redraw congressional
boundaries only after the once-a-decade U.S. census.
But, under DeLay's leadership, Texas Republicans
determined that they could boost their numbers in the
state legislature and ram through a new state
congressional map mid-decade. That's why DeLay worked
so hard in 2001 and 2002 to elect a new crop of
Republicans to the Texas legislature. Earle's
indictment contends that, during that election, a
DeLay political action committee, Texans for a
Republican Majority, essentially laundered
contributions from corporations (which, under Texas
law, may not fund state political races) through a
national Republican committee and on to several GOP
legislative candidates. It was classic DeLay:
hubristic, hyper-partisan, and corporate-funded.

Of course, even DeLay himself is merely a cog in a
Washington Republican machine that has abandoned
morality in its fanatical pursuit of power. Beyond
rooting for a jury in Travis County, Texas, to return
a guilty verdict in the months ahead, Democrats need
to make clear to the public that his indictment
represents a mere fraction of the Republican
Congress's corruption. The House ethics committee, for
instance, must continue to investigate Abramoff's
sleazy lobbying, which envelops several other GOP
congressmen and reveals the disgusting influence K
Street lobbyists enjoy over federal lawmaking. Within
the panoply of DeLay's countless other ethical (and
potentially legal) offenses, Earle's indictment is
relatively trivial. But a conviction would be a
fitting end for the career of a mean-spirited,
intellectually primitive, and ethically bankrupt man.
And, with any luck, it could be the beginning of a
desperately needed fumigation of Capitol Hill. That
much DeLay, a former exterminator, would understand.

the Editors


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