Why the House Always Wins

The Texas-sized electoral scandal revolving around Tom DeLay

One of the many scandals sourly churning in the guts of the Bush regime that won't fully vomit into public view until after next week's vote is a massive electoral corruption case centered in Texas and swirling dizzily around House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

This is not an international incident, like the brewing Kazakhgate mess. But it's not just a local case, either. Focusing on influence-peddling in Texas, it explains a lot about how the country has been gerrymandered into the kind of non-democracy in which the vast majority of congressional races are practically uncontested—and why the House remains controlled by the conservative cabal. See the Center for Voting and Democracy's "Dubious Democracy" and this previous Bush Beat item from September 3.

The DeLay scandal is already at the stage at which pols are raising money from other pols to pay for lawyers to argue that the method they used to previously raise money to pay for other lawyers to hound other pols was not technically illegal.

This is the kind of hangover you get from being drunk with power.

Political Money Line reports this morning that the Tom DeLay Legal Expense Trust raised $185,300 during the third quarter of this year. He's defending himself from an ethics complaint filed by fellow Texas congressman Chris Bell. Money poured into DeLay from nine other congressmen, including Hal Rogers of Kentucky.

Rogers, hungering to become the next chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, is getting in good practice: He held a summer fundraiser for the DeLay legal defense fund that scooped up more than $100,000, most of it from construction and highway contractors, according to Political Money Line. I'd like to personally welcome Rogers to the national arena. If George W. Bush wins a second term, and the GOP machine keeps rolling along, Rogers will be there to help pave the way.

The DeLay scandal pits the powerful Republican, who practically re-gerrymandered Texas's congressional districts in 2002, against veteran district attorney Ronnie Earle of Austin, one of the few DA's in the country whose official website features not only court dockets and press releases but also planting schedules for vegetables.

DeLay, however, could be the one getting buried. Go to Congressman Bell's website to see the official complaint and a host of good stories on the topic, including Lou Dubose's terrific Salon piece from March 2004 that lays out the sordid tale involving Indian tribes, the Texas House speaker, scared legislators, and D.C. lobbyists like Jack Abramoff who are major Bush fundraisers and DeLay's pals. The watchdog group Texans for Public Justice helped spur Ronnie Earle to bring a host of indictments of various characters in this drama.

My colleague Wayne Barrett also plowed this fertile ground last spring in "Inside Bush's Indian Bureau."

Oh, and while you're watching the third game of the World Series tonight, and you hear the announcers paying tribute to various Fox celebrities and others, keep in mind that baseball's owners and execs, whose PACman games I talked about yesterday, are also paying tribute: They chipped in $5,000 in June 2003 to DeLay's PAC.

 


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