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Morning Report 12/2/05All Scandals Bright and Beautiful


Some congressmen, great and small



Capital idea: The national Xmas tree gets lit up yesterday, draped with a shroud that looks suspiciously like the ones used at Abu Ghraib. I’m dreaming of a whiter Xmas, one with Tom DeLay’s head atop the tree, the better to light up D.C.’s dark shadows.

There may be a dim bulb in the White House, but the holiday season has brought a new glow to the scandals revolving around Tom DeLay and Jack Abramoff.

Joy to the world — not in Iraq, but in Washington, D.C. Yesterday, as the Pentagon announced the deaths of three more U.S. soldiers, George W. Bush presided over the “Pageant of Peace,” at which he and Laura lit the national Xmas tree on the Ellipse.

The White House has dubbed the theme for this holiday season “All Things Bright and Beautiful,” and gifts have already started pouring in — gifts that will light up the sky over D.C. for quite some time.

Dan Eggen of the Washington Post now unwraps a long-hidden Justice Department memo about DeLay’s redistricting scheme in Texas — the crucial maneuver that ensured a GOP majority in the House. (Read my October 2004 item about this maneuver’s blow against small-D democracy.) This morning Eggen writes:

Justice Department lawyers concluded that the landmark Texas congressional redistricting plan spearheaded by Rep. Tom DeLay violated the Voting Rights Act, according to a previously undisclosed memo obtained by The Washington Post. But senior officials overruled them and approved the plan.

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.

Even the New York Times, whose Judy Miller gift-wrapped White House lies about Iraq during the 2002 holiday season, is giving the American public a real present this time.

It’s a tie.

But not just any tie. It’s one that further connects the already closely linked DeLay and Wampumgate scandals.

Anne E. Kornblut‘s story this morning about Abramoff’s role in hiring Congressional aides is a weapon of mass destruction that the GOP really does have reason to fear.

This is a gift that will keep on giving. And it’s the perfect time of year for a sanctimonious Christian like DeLay to be shining so bright. Kornblut writes:

With a federal corruption case intensifying, prosecutors investigating Jack Abramoff, the Republican lobbyist, are examining whether he brokered lucrative jobs for Congressional aides at powerful lobbying firms in exchange for legislative favors, people involved in the case have said. …

Investigators are said to be especially interested in how Tony C. Rudy, a former deputy chief of staff to Representative Tom DeLay of Texas, and Neil G. Volz, a former chief of staff to Representative Bob Ney of Ohio, obtained lobbying positions with big firms on K Street.

Abramoff’s main lobbying pal, Mike Scanlon, has already flipped, and now Kornblut reports that Abramoff himself may roll over to prosecutors. Start weeping before you’re crushed, congressmen. As she notes:

What began as an inquiry into Mr. Scanlon and Mr. Abramoff’s lobbying has widened to a corruption investigation centering mainly on Republican lawmakers who came to power as part of the conservative revolution of the 1990’s. At least six members of Congress are in the scope of the inquiry, with an additional 12 or so former aides being examined to determine whether they gave Mr. Abramoff legislative help in exchange for campaign donations, lavish trips and gifts.

It may be difficult for prosecutors to translate certain elements of the case into indictments. Bribery, corruption and conspiracy cases are notoriously difficult to prove. But the potential dimensions are enormous, and the investigation, at a time of turmoil for the Bush administration, threatens to add a new knot of problems for the party heading into the elections next year.

Not that the Democratic Party necessarily knows how to untangle that knot.

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