“‘Whether or not you’ve served your constituents well, on some level you have seriously betrayed the public’s trust and abused your power as a congressman,’ Huvelle told Ney. ‘You have a long way to go to make amends for what’s happened.’” Casino Jack flunky and former House GOP poobah Bob Ney gets thirty months in prison for his role in Abramoff’s operation. Ney, meanwhile, is still blaming it on the booze: ““I will continue to take full responsibility for my actions and battle the demons of addiction.” Um, at what point between opening the beer and it touching your lips did taking bribes enter the equation? Save that stuff for Oprah…Most people hopefully realize that Ney’s corruption had less to do with the demon rum than with standard operating procedure under Boss DeLay and the Republicans.
With three opponents all bucking to take him into a runoff situation, Boss DeLay faces a tougher GOP primary than usual in his home district this Tuesday. (In a January poll, 68% of primary voters remained undecided.) And, even if he emerges from the primary dust-up relatively unscathed, DeLay will then face a credible and well-financed Democratic opponent in former Rep. Nick Lampson, who, in the same poll, led the Hammer by eight points. “It will not help DeLay that his district is more Democratic, ironically by his own making…Always a strong candidate in his own races, DeLay surrendered GOP voters in the realignment to bolster some other Republican districts. Now, after contending with indictment and departure from the House leadership, he could be facing the loss of the very seat he used to rise to power.” Update: Or not. Boss DeLay coasts to victory over his three primary challengers with 62% of the vote.
The Bush administration loves it, but many Justice Dept. officials think it’s illegal…Now, it’s the Supreme Court’s turn to weigh in on Boss DeLay’s gerrymandering plan in Texas. “Two years ago, justices split 5-4, in a narrow opening for challenges claiming party politics overly influenced election maps. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy was the key swing voter in that case, and on Wednesday expressed concerns about at least part of the Texas map.” (Rehnquist and O’Connor sided against the map challenge then, so a switch by Roberts or Alito will only mean a larger majority against the DeLay redistricting, should the same votes hold.) Update: Justice Ginsburg finds the subject exhausting, and Dahlia Lithwick reports in.
“‘This audit was political retaliation by Tom DeLay’s cronies to intimidate us for blowing the whistle on DeLay’s abuses,’ McDonald said. ‘Enlisting the IRS to intimidate critics is a dirty trick reminiscent of Richard Nixon…It is not a crime to report a crime, as we did with DeLay.’” Texans for Public Justice, a non-profit organization critical of the DeLay ring’s hold over their home state, has been cleared of any wrongdoing in an IRS audit — one seemingly triggered, it was discovered after a FOIA request, by Boss DeLay’s minions. “The [instigating] lawmaker, House Ways and Means Committee member Sam Johnson (R-Tex.), was in turn responding to a complaint about the group…from Barnaby W. Zall, a Washington lawyer close to DeLay and his fundraising apparatus, according to IRS documents.“
The Justice Department, along with Casino Jack’s lawyers, ask for a delay of sentencing for Abramoff in the Suncruz case, so that he can continue working with the Feds on the bigger picture of GOP corruption. “‘Mr. Abramoff has been working very hard in terms of his cooperation,’ said Neal Sonnett, Abramoff’s attorney in Miami.” Let’s hope so.
Despite well-publicized concerns in their own Justice Department (which were overruled by senior officials), the White House rides to the rescue of Boss DeLay’s troubling redistricting plan by filing an amicus brief before the Supreme Court. “DeLay’s efforts on behalf of the plan resulted in his being admonished by the House Ethics Committee and indicted on charges of illegally diverting money to the campaigns of state legislators who drew the new map.“
“‘Clearly, Blunt has demonstrated great leadership; Cantor has, too,’ Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) said. ‘Are we saying we don’t trust anyone in our leadership? That makes the case that everybody in Washington is on the take, that we’re all corrupt.’” Yeah, that sounds about right…Sensing electoral doom in the growing public perception that the GOP is rife with corruption, Boehner and Shadegg contemplate joining forces to knock off Boss DeLay’s heir apparent, Roy Blunt, in the House leadership race.
“‘I don’t get the sense many people are paying attention,’ said Rep. Tom Feeney (R-Fla.), who has been hoping party activists would lead demands for a shake-up. ‘Corruption is still 90 percent an inside-the-Beltway’ issue.” According to the WP, the GOP are finding that the Ballad of Casino Jack isn’t playing in Peoria just yet, at least among the conservative base. “‘The question is, is this a climate where an actual reform candidate could be elected to a leadership position?’ [GOP Rep Zach] Wamp asked. An initial pulse-taking of voters suggests that the answer is no, he and others said.’” Well, I’d expect the issue will muster more enthusiasm among Democratic and independent voters, and particularly after the indictments start rolling in.
Casino Jack’s plea deal claims another Congressional victim: Over the weekend (when I discovered his name sounds like “neigh” and not “knee”) and as expected, “Freedom Fries” sponsor and DeLay flunky Bob Ney agreed to step down as House Admin chair. And now, a few Congress-watchers are starting to take a closer look at Speaker Hastert‘s role in the Abramoff scandals, and in perpetuating the DeLay Ring’s rule. “‘I suppose that DeLay was simply a much more inviting target for the [Democrats], so Hastert is left alone,’ said Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.). ‘Maybe people will start focusing on Hastert now.’“
Meanwhile, as DeLay’s numbers plummet in his home district, things aren’t looking so hot either for former GOP wunderkind Ralph Reed, an old Abramoff college friend with a long and troubling e-mail evidence chain to Casino Jack. “‘After reading the e-mail, it became pretty obvious he was putting money before God,’ said Phil Dacosta, a Georgia Christian Coalition member who had initially backed Reed. ‘We are righteously casting him out.’“
In an interview with FOX News’s Brit Hume, Dubya backs Boss DeLay, saying he is innocent of money laundering. “It is highly unusual for a president to express an opinion on a pending legal case. Richard M. Nixon, for instance, was widely criticized for declaring Charles Manson ‘guilty, directly or indirectly’ of murder while Manson’s trial was ongoing.” Also in the interview, Dubya tried to pin Casino Jack on both parties and gave Rumsfeld the Brownie thumbs up. Update: The backlash begins.
Ten days after the Post unearthed a Justice Department memo deeming the recent Texas redistricting a violation of civil liberties, the Supreme Court says it will review the DeLay plan. “The panel stressed that it was deciding ‘only the legality’ of the redistricting plan, ‘not its wisdom.’”
In a blow to the Hammer’s hopes of regaining his seat of power in the near future, the judge in Boss DeLay’s Texas trial offers up a split decision, dismissing a conspiracy charge against DeLay (the law apparently wasn’t on the books when he broke it) while upholding the “far more serious allegations of money-laundering.” Update: As a result of the judge’s decision, DeLay’s GOP opponents start to balk under his regime.
Another smoking gun…The Post obtains a memo showing that Justice Department lawyers generally agreed that the infamous DeLay redistricting in Texas violated the Voting Rights Act. “The memo, unanimously endorsed by six lawyers and two analysts in the department’s voting section, said the redistricting plan illegally diluted black and Hispanic voting power in two congressional districts. It also said the plan eliminated several other districts in which minorities had a substantial, though not necessarily decisive, influence in elections.” Nevertheless, higher-ups at John Ashcroft’s Justice Dept. overruled the memo for partisan reasons, to great effect: “The redistricting was approved in 2003, and Texas Republicans gained five seats in the U.S. House in the 2004 elections, solidifying GOP control of Congress.” As the illegalities pile up, one has to wonder: Is there any facet of the Republican operation that isn’t rotten to the core?
Well, so much for the Blame the Dems defense. As it turns out, Boss DeLay not only considered a misdemeanor plea deal to evade his money laundering indictment, he also seems to have incriminated himself. “DeLay acknowledged that in 2002 he was informed about and expressed his support for transfers of $190,000 in mostly corporate funds from his Texas political action committee to an arm of the Republican National Committee in Washington and then back to Texas.” Whoops.
“It was unfortunate political timing for House Republicans: On Friday, as the Agriculture Committee was drafting budget-cutting legislation that could knock 295,000 people off food stamps, the Agriculture Department released findings that 529,000 more Americans went hungry last year than in 2003.” As is their wont, the House GOP cut food stamps, student loans, Medicaid, and child support enforcement in the name of preserving Dubya’s tax breaks for millionaires. Whatsmore, “[a]ccording to the Congressional Budget Office, neither the House nor the Senate bills will actually trim projected budget deficits, since they will be followed by a package of tax-cut extensions that would cost the Treasury $70 billion over five years.”
In something of a preemptive strike, Boss DeLay admits he underreported contributions to his legal defense fund in 2000. “It was not an ethical lapse, it was a bookkeeping lapse. I did not review the reports thoroughly enough,” says Brent Perry, trustee of the fund. Too little, too late, Boss Delay. This piddling and delinquent admission won’t help you in Texas, or dissuade the Abramoff investigation at your door.
Kickbacks, bribes, forgery, money-laundering…it’s all in a day’s work for Casino Jack and his band of conservative cronies. In a must-read piece of reporting, the Washington Post tells the sordid tale of Jack Abramoff’s shilling for eLottery Inc in full. Along with paying off both Boss DeLay and a senior aide on his payroll to spike an anti-gambling bill, “Abramoff quietly arranged for eLottery to pay conservative, anti-gambling activists to help in the firm’s $2 million pro-gambling campaign, including Ralph Reed, former head of the Christian Coalition, and the Rev. Louis P. Sheldon of the Traditional Values Coalition. Both kept in close contact with Abramoff about the arrangement, e-mails show. Abramoff also turned to prominent anti-tax conservative Grover Norquist, arranging to route some of eLottery’s money for Reed through Norquist’s group, Americans for Tax Reform.”
“‘The one that people are most worried about is Abramoff because it seems to have such long tentacles…This seems to be something that could spread almost anywhere…and that has a lot of people worried.’” As Rove testifies for a fourth time before Patrick Fitzgerald’s inquiry into Plamegate and Boss DeLay’s phone records are subpoenaed by Texas DA Ronnie Earle, the WP surveys the political fallout from the many GOP corruption scandals currently in play.