“That’s happened with increasing frequency at the FEC lately. Election-law experts, supporters of campaign-finance regulations, and even some members of the commission itself are expressing growing concern about a string of cases in which the three Republicans on the commission — led by Tom DeLay’s former ethics lawyer — have voted as a block against enforcement, preventing the commission from carrying out its basic regulatory function.” Pete Martin and Zachary Roth of TPM Muckraker delve into how Republicans antithetical to campaign finance reform have effectively sabotaged the FEC. “The FEC, he said, has been made ‘ineffective’ — and not by accident. ‘This is what McConnell had in mind.’“
“Of course, the one person who could do the most to get the commission back on track is President Obama…Most experts believe that the White House supports stronger campaign-finance laws as a goal, but, with a host of other issues on its plate, is reluctant to pick a fight with the GOP Senate leader. ‘They’re picking their priorities, and they don’t want to take on Mitch McConnell right now,’ said Hasen. ‘I consider that unfortunate.‘” Anyone else sensing a pattern?
“If government is necessary, bad government, at least for conservatives, is inevitable, and conservatives have been exceptionally good at showing just how bad it can be. Hence the truth revealed by the Bush years: Bad government–indeed, bloated, inefficient, corrupt, and unfair government–is the only kind of conservative government there is. Conservatives cannot govern well for the same reason that vegetarians cannot prepare a world-class boeuf bourguignon: If you believe that what you are called upon to do is wrong, you are not likely to do it very well.” Perhaps overplaying the Hartzian “America is liberal and liberal only” card just a bit, Boston College professor Alan Wolfe argues convincingly why conservatives can’t govern, and explains how, despite the emerging right-wing consensus to the contrary, Dubya’s many failures and Boss DeLay’s corruption aren’t a betrayal of conservative thinking, but a culmination of it. (By way of Blivet.)
“Every redistricting is a partisan political exercise, but this is going to put it at a level we have never seen…That’s the gift that the Supreme Court and Tom DeLay have given us.” In other news, the Court votes 5-4 that DeLay’s Texas redistricting plan needs to be tweaked — namely, that one district needs to be redrawn to accommodate the Voting Rights Act — but is otherwise legal and constitutional. “[W]ith six justices producing 123 pages of opinions, without any five of them able to agree on how to define an unconstitutional gerrymander, politicians of both parties said that the ruling leaves the door wide open to attempts to copy the DeLay strategy in other states.”
“‘It clearly shows some members live in a dream world of high-class living and fictional accounting. DeLay’s office was part of the public deception. It makes you wonder if there are more filings as fictional as this one is turning out to be,’ said Kent Cooper, the former chief of public disclosure for the Federal Election Commission.” Prosecutors disclose an e-mail trail indicating that Boss DeLay’s office knowingly filed false reports about Abramoff-paid boondoggles and were “concerned ‘if someone starts asking questions.’“
“‘Any rational person in [DeLay's] position would be very concerned,’ said Kendall Coffey, a former federal prosecutor who is now a prominent defense lawyer in Miami. ‘Whether it’s working up the ladder at Enron or a drug organization, it’s classic strategy to work up by getting plea agreements and cooperation at each level.‘” As the GOP preps for a DeLay-less future, it seems that, for Boss DeLay — despite having theoretically left “on his own terms” — the legal woes are just beginning.
“In the three Republican primaries that DeLay has faced since he was first elected in 1984, he has never received less than 80 percent of the vote, until now. Over the past four years, the percentage of Republicans who have had enough of the Hammer has doubled.” With perhaps a dollop of wishful thinking, Salon‘s Joe Conason parses the results of Boss DeLay’s recent primary win.
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.’“