Thursday, December 22, 2005

More info on possible Republican lobbyist's plea agreement

The New York Times moves the story on Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff ahead a little today, particularly with this passage:

One participant in the case said the deal could be made final as early as next week.

The terms of the plea deal have not been completed, and the negotiations are especially complicated because they involve prosecutors both in Miami and in Washington, where Mr. Abramoff is being investigated in a separate influence-peddling inquiry, participants said. Details of what he feels comfortable pleading guilty to are "probably largely worked out," the participant said, while the details of the prison sentence are less resolved.

Next week? Maybe, maybe not:

"Anything can happen," the participant said, adding that the agreement could fall apart. Another person with detailed knowledge of the case said that while negotiations were continuing, the deal could take longer than another week to be settled.

Let us not forget that these details which are "probably largely worked out" are for the criminal trial set to begin in Miami on January 9 regarding fraud in Abramoff's SunCruz casino purchase. While it is possible that this case touches on a few members of Congress -- Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and former DeLay-aide-turned-Abramoff-hired-lobbyist Tony Rudy served as references for Abramoff, and Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) famously inserted comments in the congressional record about the business deal -- the real liability a dozen (or dozens?) Republican politicians and operatives face is when Abramoff cuts a deal in fraud case involving his work for Native American tribes and casinos.

It's a little surprising that it appears that the Department of Justice is separating the pleas here...

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

A Graphic Graphic

Where Tom DeLay spends his donors money, courtesy of an AP graphic designer:


(From Juanita.)

Na Na Na...Na Na Na...Bob Ney...Good Bye

On the heels of learning that he may be charged with bribery for selling votes for campaign cash, Rep. Bob Ney is going to visit the troops in Iraq for a week.

Do you think he'll come back? More at Chillicothe Gazette.

Ed. Note (from David): While Ney may have well traded votes for money (don't most of them do that?), he's likely to be specifically charged with bribery for receiving gifts and campaign contributions in exchange for official acts. He hasn't been charged yet. But what an ambassador for our democracy, eh? I can just hear him now addressing the troops in Iraq: "You're fighting over here to defend democracy at home, while I undermine it by taking bribes, playing golf in Scotland, and paying off gambling debts in London -- isn't America beautiful?"

End of the Year Goal

We don't fundraise often at the Daily DeLay, but today we're making an exception. The public needs to know about corrupt politicians and we plan to tell them -- in targeted districts around the country in 2006.

We've raised $88,000 over the past few weeks towards our goal of having $100,000 in the bank to begin 2006. If 2005 was the year of abuse of power and corruption, let 2006 be the year when politicians paid a political price. Please consider a generous donation. I've pasted the letter we sent out to our members below. Thanks.

---------------------------------------------

Dear Friend,

Remember that smiling mug shot of Tom DeLay last month? Here's why he was smiling, courtesy of the Associated Press:

"As Tom DeLay became a king of campaign fundraising, he lived like one too. He visited cliff-top Caribbean resorts, golf courses designed by PGA champions and four-star restaurants — all courtesy of donors who bankrolled his political money empire." (Photo credit: Associated Press)

Please make a contribution to help hold corrupt politicians accountable.

In 2005, you helped to knock the "king of campaign fundraising" off his throne. And in 2006, with your help, Public Campaign Action Fund will work everyday to clean up Congress.

Earlier this year, we defeated the "DeLay Rule," fought to break up one stalemate at the Ethics Committee, and took on pliant members of Congress who were all too willing to turn a blind eye to Tom DeLay's corruption and lifestyle.

Right off the bat next year, we'll continue to capitalize on stories like this one and deliver a hard-hitting message in the home districts of politicians on the take with televison ads, protests, and other creative activities.

We depend on your support to run the ads, hire organizers, and run real campaigns that produce results.

A generous year-end contribution will ensure that we hit the ground running in 2006.

When we first started, people in Washington told us that no one cared about Tom DeLay. But we knew that was wrong and we didn't get deterred. And together, we led the charge and showed the political establishment that we will not let our leaders get away with abusing power for their personal or political gain.

DeLay is just one example of this abuse of power. As today's news says, he visited "at least 48 visits to golf clubs and resorts with lush fairways;" took "100 flights aboard company planes;" stayed "200 [times] at hotels, many world-class;" and ate "500 meals at restaurants, some averaging nearly $200 for a dinner for two."

Unfortunately, he's not the only example. We're hot on the trail of members of Congress who enrich themselves on the dime of corporate donors, all while paying back those big money donors with legislative favors at taxpayer expense. With your continued help, we'll hold them accountable in 2006.

In recent weeks, we've raised $88,000 toward our goal of having $100,000 in the bank at the beginning of 2006.

Help us meet that goal with a contribution today.

Thanks for all your help, all year long. Happy Holidays from all of us at Public Campaign Action Fund.

Sincerely,

David Donnelly
National Campaigns Director

Source: The A.P. story can be found at the Washington Post's website at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/12/20/AR2005122000714.html

P.S. Some people would prefer to send contributions through the mail. If you want to send a check, make it out and send it to Public Campaign Action Fund, 1320 19th Street, Suite M-1, Washington, DC 20036. Contributions are not tax deductible. Together we'll fight DeLay's big money politics.

Want your member of Congress to know what you think of DeLay?

Yesterday's AP article and this morning's story about DeLay-pal lobbyist Jack Abramoff possibly reaching a plea agreement soon, raises the question once again:

Isn't it time that Tom DeLay should just resign from Congress?

Ask your member of Congress this question.

Will Ney fall next?

Toward the end of the Washington Post's follow up to the New York Times' Jack Abramoff piece, there's this interesting nugget:

Prosecutors have told one lawmaker, Rep. Robert W. Ney (R-Ohio), that they are preparing a possible bribery indictment against him over official acts that benefited clients of Abramoff. Ney inserted comments in the Congressional Record at Scanlon's request praising Kidan and castigating the reputation of SunCruz's then-owner, Konstantinos "Gus" Boulis, during contentious purchase negotiations.

Is this new? Did I miss this? Prosecutors told Ney that they are preparing a possible bribery indictment?

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Abramoff singing, but what tune?

Anne Kornblut of the New York Times scoops this story, which may have more serious implications than the earlier AP story for DeLay, on how Jack Abramoff is discussing a deal with prosecutors.

I wrote recently about how the noose is tightening. But here's the first, even if anonymous, record that a deal is in the works:

Jack Abramoff, the Republican lobbyist under criminal investigation, has been discussing with prosecutors a deal that would grant him a reduced sentence in exchange for testimony against former political and business associates, people with detailed knowledge of the case say.

Mr. Abramoff is believed to have extensive knowledge of what prosecutors suspect is a wider pattern of corruption among lawmakers and Congressional staff members. One participant in the case who insisted on anonymity because of the sensitivity of the negotiations described him as a "unique resource."

Other people involved in the case or who have been officially briefed on it said the talks had reached a tense phase, with each side mindful of the date Jan. 9, when Mr. Abramoff is scheduled to stand trial in Miami in a separate prosecution.

Can't imagine it's the only tense place right now. The question is, how many members of Congress will call their lawyers in the morning when they pick up the Times? And pity that only President Bush, with his secret wiretapping, will know...

(via Talking Points Memo)

And a Peak Into DeLay's Lavish Lifestyle

A major investigation by The Associated Press is a must read. It shows what Tom DeLay does with all that special interest money--over the past six years, he's spent more than $1 million on:

...48 visits to golf clubs and resorts with lush fairways; 100 flights aboard company planes; 200 stays at hotels, many world-class; and 500 meals at restaurants, some averaging nearly $200 for a dinner for two.

That money came from his campaign committees, political action committees, and the children's charity he set up.

Here's a taste of what he encountered at one posh resort on Palmas del Mar, an oceanside resort in Puerto Rico:

"He was very friendly. We always see the relaxed side of politicians," said Daniel Vassi, owner of the French bistro Chez Daniel at Palmas del Mar. Vassi said DeLay has eaten at his restaurant every year for the last three, and was last there in April with about 20 other people, including the resort's owners.

The restaurant is a cozy and popular place on the yacht-lined marina at Palmas del Mar. Dishes include bouillabaisse for about $35.50, Dover sole for $37.50 and filet mignon for $28.50. Palmas del Mar is also a DeLay donor, giving $5,000 to DeLay's Americans for a Republican Majority PAC in 2000.

And here's what he encountered in Naples, FL, at the Ritz-Carlton, which offered:

"dazzling views of the Gulf of Mexico, warm golden sunsets and three miles of pristine beach" plus golf, a spa, goose-down comforters, marble bathrooms and private, ocean-view balconies. Rooms run from about $389 to more than $3,000 a
night in December, the month DeLay's PAC spent $4,570 on lodging there in
2004....

The villas have up to three bedrooms, kitchens, living rooms and French doors that open onto terraces or balconies facing the Caribbean. A moon-shape pool hugs the edge of a steep cliff, its waters spilling over and appearing to blend into the sea. Villa prices average about $1,300 a night.

Guests get their own butlers. The resort offers six swimming pools and an 18-hole championship golf course. Its casino served as the setting for the last scene in the James Bond movie "Goldfinger."

A true representative of the people, huh?

DeLay Throws His Hat Into Ring

DeLay has officially filed for the March 7 GOP primary.

Some GOP Members Turning On DeLay

CQ (no link available) reports today that some Republicans have approached House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) asking for his help to urge Tom DeLay to give up his goal to return to the leadership. Hastert says he won't do it. A "senior Republican" is quoted saying that “The chances of a leadership election are better than 50-50."



Be Careful What You Email

For a peek into the Judge Pat Priest's chambers, read the report in the Austin American-Statesman on how he has apologized in a previously confidential email to Tom DeLay's legal team and prosecutors about the "very confused state" of the trial. DeLay is using these emails to argue before the 3rd Court of Appeals that it reverse a ruling by Priest and put DeLay back on schedule ofr a January trial.

Free Enterprise Fund to Fight Earle Subpoenas

The conservative Free Enterprise Fund plans to fight subpoenas from Ronnie Earle, reports The Hill, although they have not been officially served yet. (Earle sent them courtesy copies). The group has run ads in Austin featuring a barking Rottweiler dog, with the narrative, "A prosecutor with a political agenda can be vicious." Earle is likely planning to argue that the group deliberately tainted the Travis County jury pool.

We get a mention for showing restraint:

The Public Campaign Action Fund (PCAF), a nonprofit advocacy group active on campaign finance issues, ran ads last year in the districts of many House leaders, highlighting their ties to DeLay. One of the PCAF ads, pulled from several Missouri TV stations at the behest of Majority Leader Roy Blunt’s (R-Mo.) lawyers, referenced contributions for which Earle’s office has since requested records.

PCAF made a conscious decision against buying airtime in Austin, said national campaigns director David Donnelly.

“We think it crosses the line to create a circus atmosphere behind the case, and could possibly influence the jury pool. We don’t think it’s appropriate for a nonprofit organization,” Donnelly said.

Monday, December 19, 2005

DeLay's Leadership Post Is Slip Sliding Away

With talk of new leadership elections swirling around the House, DeLay’s lawyers are trying to get his trial put back on the "fast track." Because of a cancelled hearing scheduled for the 27th and an appeal request by prosecutors, the proceedings and build up to the trial could drag on for weeks even months--which wouldn't bode well for the Hammer.

More at the Austin American Statesman (registration required).

Connecticut: Simmons and Courtney Spar Over Contributions

Political contributions are becoming a hot topic in a congressional race in Connecticut. Incumbent Rep. Simmons is dogging challenger Joe Courtney over contributions he received from Rep. Pelosi's PAC. Simmons is getting heat for the $39,000 that he took from DeLay over the years (and which he refuses to return). More on the story can be found at the Norwich Bulletin.

Public Campaign Action Fund ran this ad (mpeg file) calling on Simmons to give back the money he got from Tom DeLay.

Cartoon Of The Week

From the latest Jib Jab movie 2-0-5...

Friday, December 16, 2005

Bush On The Defensive For DeLay Comment

During an interview on FOX News Channel on Wednesday, President Bush was asked if he thought DeLay was innocent. The President responded "yes I do" immediately putting the White House on the defensive.

From the Washington Post:

"'The president of the United States said a jury does not need to assemble, that Tom DeLay is innocent,' said Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.). 'To have someone of his stature, the president of the United States, prejudge a case is something I've never seen before.'"

"'The president was asked a question and he responded to that question in the interview yesterday, and made very clear what his views were,' McClellan said. 'We don't typically tend to get into discussing legal matters of that nature, but in this instance, the president chose to respond to it. Our policy regarding the Fitzgerald investigation and ongoing legal proceeding is well-known and it remains changed.'

"'Call it a presidential prerogative,' he added.”

DeLay's Lawyers Want Transcripts

DeLay's lawyers are asking for the transcripts from the second grand jury proceedings. They're alleging that there was "prosecutorial misconduct" by Ronnie Earle.

The transcripts are "secret" and Earle does not have to release them unless ordered by a court. More from the AP.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Prosecuter Looking at MO Guv's Records

Fired Up Missouri reports that Texas prosecutors are examining campaign finance records of Gov. Matt Blunt for the year 2000. Previous news reports have said that Prosecutor Ronnie Earle was looking at records for ARMPAC; Roy Blunt's leadership PAC, the Rely on Your Beliefs Fund, and the Missouri Republian Party. It appears that the net is now wider than that.

Congress in free fall

According to a December 9-12 poll by NBC/WSJ of 1,006 voters nationwide, just 25% approve of the job Congress is doing.

And poxes all around:

But the poll finds that a whopping 79 percent believe both political parties have an equal problem with corruption and illegal activities. Just 12 percent say Republicans have a bigger problem, while 5 percent say Democrats have the bigger problem.

“Corruption is not just something that people place on Republicans,” says Hart, the Democratic pollster. “Most people see it as both parties.”


Time for someone to come up with an agenda, eh?

One other note: there's no way to get to 79% of Americans without substantial numbers of Republican and Democratic voters. Both parties have a problem with their base on this issue.

It's Nice to Give When the Folks You Give to Don't Receive

An intriguing but complicated story from the Austin American Statesman is worth a read. All the t's aren't crossed and the i's aren't dotted yet, but it looks like Tom DeLay and Abramoff could be in trouble with the IRS. The gist of the story is:

*The Capital Athletic Foundation, a charity run by Abramoff, told the IRS that it gave away more than $330,000 in grants in 2002, but none of the charities contacted by the newspaper knew anything about the money they supposedly received. "That's so weird. Why would (Abramoff) even know us?" Debra Kahn, director of the Waldorf School in Atlanta, one of the listed grantees told the paper. "The interesting thing about it is if we had a grant it would have been an unsolicited one because we weren't writing grant proposals back then. We're in the process of getting accredited, so we really can't qualify for a lot of foundation grants anyway."

*An IRS spokesman, without commenting on the particular case, confirmed that charities that misrepresent tax return information risk losing their nonprofit status, and in severe cases, can find themselves under criminal investigation.

*DeLay could be drawn into the mix because of an email conversation between his former chief of staff, Tony Rudy, who became Abramoff's lobbying partner, and Abramoff. In this 2002 exchange, Abramoff said that DeLay wanted Capital Athletic to raise some money for him for an unspecified purpose. Abramoff names the figure of $200,000 as a fundraising goal. DeLay's lawyer says the lawmaker "does not remember" making the request.

*In 2003, DeLay's short-lived charity Celebrations for Children received $300,000 in seed money. None of the emails uncovered say where this $300,000 came from; nor would DeLay's lawyer say whether DeLay's charity received the money from Capital Athletic, telling the paper "there was not enough time to track the information down."

*The article notes that federal law prohibits members of Congress from "requesting 'anything of value' from anyone seeking official action from the House or doing business in the House. Lobbyists in particular should not be solicited."

How much does it cost to silence a member of Congress?

$35,000, apparently.

Rep. Richard Pombo, R-CA, has refused repeated calls by Rep. George Miller, D-CA, to investigate Jack Abramoff's dealings with Native American tribes and the lobbying he did on behalf of the Northern Marianas Islands. Pombo is the chair of the House Natural Resources Committee with sole jurisdiction. Meanwhile, the Senate Indian Affairs Committee has conducted detailed and almost thorough investigations -- one thing Senator John McCain won't do is investigate other members of Congress.

(Via ThinkProgress.org)

Prez Bush Hanging With His Friends

President George W. Bush took an interview on Fox news as an opportunity to defend his great friend, Tom DeLay, reports the Los Angeles Times:

I hope that he will [return] because I like him. And plus, when he's over there, we got our votes through the House.

The prez didn't stop there. He went on to stick up his whole gang: Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, and Donald H. Rumsfeld. On Cheney, since the indictment of his top aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby as part of the Valerie Plame affair:

The truth of the matter is that our relationship hasn't changed hardly at all. I'd say the relationship — it's only gotten better. We didn't know each other that well when we first came to Washington, D.C., and my respect for him has grown immensely.

On Rove:

[We are] as close as we've ever been. We've been through a lot. You know, when we look back at the presidency and my time in politics, no question that Karl had a lot to do with me getting here, and I value his friendship. We're very close.

And on Rumsfeld:

He's done a heck of a job.

From Green To Shiny Green

Recently released Abramoff email messages indicate that DeLay, via a phone call from the Majority Leader himself, demanded a $25,000 contribution for a GOP dinner from one of Abramoff's tribal clients. Abramoff passed on this message to the client and, voila, the money was donated within hours.

DeLay's ties to Abramoff are expanding from golfing and lavish trips to including the Majority Leader demanding money for GOP events and fundraisers (which is what the Justice Department and Senate investigators are looking at as well).

From the New York Times:

"The e-mail messages, obtained by the Justice Department and Senate investigators and made available to The New York Times, are significant because they are the first evidence to demonstrate that Mr. Abramoff cited personal pressure from Mr. DeLay in trying to persuade Indian tribe clients to send political donations and other money to Washington. The government's scrutiny of ties between Mr. Abramoff and Mr. DeLay had previously focused on a series of lavish overseas trips taken by the lawmaker."

"The newly disclosed e-mail messages are dated July 17, 2002. One was said to have been written by Mr. Abramoff's assistant, Holly Bowers, and described a phone call from Mr. DeLay "about the President's dinner contribution you owe," a reference to the 2002 President's Dinner, a major Republican fund-raiser held in June, a month before the e-mail message. 'It was the Congressman himself,' the message said of the call. 'Needless to say, I was a bit nervous.'"

Through his lawyer, DeLay denies the call ever took place. Would you expect anything less?

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

MyDD.com Interviews Michael Schiavo

MyDD.com has an interview with Michael Schiavo on what he's doing know and his take on why some politicians (Tom DeLay for example) politicized and intruded upon his family's private matters and personal decisions.

California Dreaming: Earle Looks Into Donor's Relationship With DeLay

The Houston Chronicle and the San Diego Union-Tribune (among others) is reporting that Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle is looking into Tom DeLay's connection to a prominent poltical donor from California. The donor, Brent Wilkes, is one of the four defense contractors accused of bribing former Representative Duke Cunningham.

From the Houston Chronicle:

"Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, a Democrat, subpoenaed on Monday records of California businessman Brent Wilkes and three Wilkes-controlled companies that made a political contribution to a Texas fundraising committee set up by DeLay."

"The subpoenas focused on a $15,000 contribution by a Wilkes subsidiary, Perfect Wave Technologies, to DeLay's Texans for a Republican Majority."

From the San Diego Union-Tribune:

"The same month that Wilkes launched PerfectWave, he hired Alexander Strategy Group – composed of DeLay insiders – as his lobbying group on Capitol Hill.

"The group, which is headed by DeLay's former chief of staff Ed Buckham, staffed with former DeLay employees and included DeLay's wife as a consultant, has a reputation in Washington as a conduit to DeLay's office.

"Over the next three years, Wilkes paid about $630,000 in lobbying fees to the group. Although Wilkes' own two-man lobbying group – Group W Advisors – officially represented PerfectWave in Washington, Group W Advisors was represented by the Alexander Strategy Group.

"During 2003 and 2004, as Wilkes pushed for contracts for PerfectWave and his other companies, DeLay was a frequent flier on a corporate jet partly owned by Wilkes and was often seen in his company at Southern California golf courses. "

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

DeLay to Face Primary Challenge

Tom DeLay will face a challenge in his 2006 primary from Attorney Michael Fjetland, reports today's edition of the Houston Chronicle. Fjetland has run against DeLay three times both as a Republican and an independent and lost each race. Says Fjetland:

I was not willing to run again. I had decided not to. But when the indictment came down, it became a whole new ballgame. It really does change the entire dimension of the whole thing. If he's convicted and I'm not on the ballot, then no one is.

DeLay Front Page News...Again

Tom DeLay must be rethinking the adage that all publicity is good publicity. He makes the nation's front pages again today, as newspapers report on the Supreme Court's decision to take up the Texas redistricting case. Here is the Washington Post story; here, the New York Times, and here the Los Angeles Times.

Everyone notes that while in 2004 the court upheld the Pennsylvania Republican-drawn redistricting plan by a vote of 5-4, there is a different cast of characters this time around. Then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist, one of the majority in the case, has since died; Sandra Day O'Connor, another member of the majority, is serving only until her replacement is confirmed. Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, also among the majority, are not expected to be sympathetic to arguments challenging the Texas plan, but the fifth vote, from Justice Anthony Kennedy is not as certain, as he said at the time that the Constitution might provide some relief in such situations.

Prosecutors Want DeLay, Whoops, Delay

The AP reported yesterday that prosecutors asked Judge Pat Priest not to let Rep. Tom DeLay's trial begin because they plan to appeal the judge's dismissal of one of the three campaign finance charges against him. If Judge Priest agrees, that makes it tough for DeLay to regain his leadership seat in January.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Quick links to stories of note

I'm in meetings over the next couple of days so blogging will be a little light. Here are two stories of note, though. The first is a Dallas Morning News editorial that was syndicated by Knight-Ridder, which means it appeared elsewhere:

Beyond DeLay: New leaders could help GOP - and country

The second is a breaking story from AP that the Supreme Court will take up the Texas redistricting case. Look for more internal memos from Justice to leak:

Court Agree to Revie Texas Redistricting

Friday, December 09, 2005

People to Congress: You're Corrupt

A short, three question AP/Ipsos public opinion poll (pdf):

How serious a problem is political corruption in the United States today? Would you say

Very serious -- 51
Somewhat serious -- 37
Not too serious -- 8
Not at all serious -- 3
Not sure -- 1

Total Serious -- 88
Total Not Serious -- 11

How widespread do you think corruption is in public service in America? Would you say

Hardly anyone is involved -- 1
A small number of people are involved -- 20
A moderate number of people are involved -- 39
A lot of people are involved -- 28
Almost everyone is involved -- 10
Not sure -- 2

Total Hardly Anyone/A Small Number -- 21
Total A Lot/Almost Everyone -- 38

In general, which elected officials would you say are more ETHICAL?

Democrats -- 36
Republicans -- 33
Both equally -- 10
Neither is ethical -- 15
Not sure -- 6

For three questions, this poll sure says a lot:

The coverage of the scandals in the papers, on TV and radio newscasts, and on the web have shifted public opinion dramatically. Almost nine in ten believe corruption is a somewhat or very serious problem. Think about that figure as you're walking down the street, or riding on the train, or attending a football game.

The public is clearly concerned about the scope of the problem -- almost 2 in 5 believe almost everyone or a lot of those in public office are involved in corruption. Not just a few, or a handful. And not just Congress, but "corruption in public service." These are Nigerian numbers. (My apologies to Nigeria.)

The congressional Democrats' strategy of blasting the GOP's "culture of cronyism and corruption" hasn't improved what voters think of Democrats. They haven't rallied around any proactive agenda, and none of their leading spokespeople spend much time talking about what to do about the corruption (except for throwing out Republicans, which isn't a reform agenda).

To sum it up, there is a big opportunity for someone -- probably the Democrats -- to seize this issue and be on the side of the voters. Employing this issue for partisan gain -- the GOP culture of blah blah blah -- doesn't win any support. The party or the candidates who figure out that Americans want these big problems addressed with common sense, but similarly big solutions, will get a wind at their back.

(Tip on polling results to MyDD.)

DeLay Has Link To Some The Duke's Defense Contract Buddies

Could there possibly be more big money political contributors who can flip on members of Congress, including DeLay? But of course.

It's come to light that two of the defense contractors that are at the center of the Randy "Duke" Cunningham bribery scandal had dealings with other members as well. And to no one's surprise, one of those members is Tom DeLay. From today's USA Today:

"One contractor, Brent Wilkes, provided private jet flights to lawmakers, including Reps. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, and Roy Blunt, R-Mo., who is serving as majority leader while DeLay fights money-laundering charges in Texas."

and...

"Wilkes' donations to DeLay included $15,000 from one of his companies to Texans for a Republican Majority, the state committee whose spending is at issue in DeLay's criminal case. Wilkes' company also hired Alexander Strategies, a consulting firm that employed DeLay's wife, Christine.

"Wilkes' private jet company, Group W Transportation, provided flights to DeLay three times and Blunt twice. In each case the lawmakers reimbursed Group W as required, records show."

DeLay Hearing Put Off Until After The Holiday Season

More bad news for DeLay. Judge Priest has sent a letter to DeLay's defense team telling them that because of other cases the Judge has pending, he won't be able to hold any hearings on DeLay's case until December 27--at the earliest.

The Judge also told DeLay's lawyers that DeLay will be on trial with John Colyandro and Jim Ellis--the others accused along with him.

More on the story here...

Election Call Numbers Are Growing

The odds that DeLay could return as House Majority Leader are becoming smaller by the day. The Houston Chronicle reports that two new moderates, Rep. Chris Shays (R-CT) and Rep. Sherwood Boehlert (R-NY), have joined the chorus in calling for elections to select a new House Majority Leader. From the article:

"Shays, a vocal DeLay critic, said it 'would be a disaster' to have him return to a leadership position. 'There is no way he is going to be healthy' in the political sense, Shays said, and as a consequence he could cast an ethical pall over the GOP."

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Whoops...Forgot Another

A Daily DeLay reader passed along a note that yesterday the McGuireWoods LLP PAC filed an amended mid-year report for 2005 showing the PAC failed to itemize almost 200 contributions totaling nearly 60 pages of additions to the report.

What’s the significance? This is the same law firm that advices Tom DeLay and ARMPAC on how to comply with federal campaign finance laws.

Abramoff's decision

I agree with Josh's take on this Sun-Sentinel story regarding Adam Kidan's guilty plea-to-be. Kidan was Abramoff's business partner in a shady and fraudulent deal to buy Sun Cruz casino liners, which led to the gangland-style murder of the previous owner.

It's possible Kidan will implicate Abramoff in the conspiracy to commit murder. But he'll also lay the federal charges of fraudulent money dealings at Abramoff's feet (they forged documents to represent that they had much more money available to buy SunCruz and convinced the bank they'd wired the money). The reason for prosecutors to allow Kidan to enter a plea in exchange for some leniency (you have to guess that's the case) in giving up Abramoff is that they want to squeeze Abramoff for bigger fish. And that's not just Rep. Bob Ney. Michael Scanlon's guilty plea a few weeks ago, and his cooperation with authorities is enough to bag Ney.

My guess is that Abramoff will be squeezed by DoJ to provide information implicating Tom DeLay or a host of members of Congress, including DeLay, Ney, Sen. Conrad Burns, Rep. Richard Pombo, Rep. John Doolittle, and maybe others.

That's because it's not just this SunCruz case that's boxing Abramoff in. Let's take a snapshot of where these investigations stand, and how they're merging:

SunCruz investigation in Florida. Three people arrested for murder. Abramoff business partner Adam Kidan turning state's witness in exchange for something. Abramoff under indictment. When new charges are entered next week on Kidan, we'll know the scope of the information he provided to the investigators.

Native American tribe fleecing. Former DeLay staffer Michael Scanlon pleads guilty to bribery and agrees to pay $19.5 million and restitution. Turns state's witness. Rep. Ney and Jack Abramoff implicated in plea agreement.

Northern Marianas Islands. Gov. Elect Fitial cooperating with DoJ's investigation into Abramoff's lobbying. DeLay key figure in Abramoff's dealings, including taking a trip to the islands.

The direction of these investigations are merging toward one important linchpin target: Abramoff. Who will he take down with him? Does he have the ability to negotiate at all with prosecutors at this stage? One thing is clear... this is moving rapidly. Stay tuned.

DeLay's New Strategy Involves A Lot of "If's"

Judge priest stripped out some language in the conspiracy charge against DeLay which could push back the trial date if the prosecutors decide to appeal that decision.

Because of this, DeLay is trying to separate the two charges--money laundering and conspiracy to launder money--that are still pending against him in hopes of getting a speedy trial.

By getting the charges severed and getting a fast track trial on the money laundering charge, and if found not guilty, DeLay’s lawyer’s theory is that the conspiracy charge will become moot.

I wonder what his plan will be if he gets a speedy trial and is convicted?

CNN has more on the story...

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Gov-elect of Northern Marianas Islands cooperating with Abramoff/DeLay investigation

Here's the headline:

CNMI: Fitial Will Cooperate With Feds In DeLay Probe

This is important on a lot of levels, but I'm still trying to sort them all out. The CNMI (Commonwealth of Northern Marianas Islands), you'll recall, is the U.S. protectorate in the Pacific with reported slave labor factories and forced/coerced prostitution. DeLay went there in the late 90s with Jack Abramoff, played golf, and toasted Casino Jack as a "close friend," while claiming that CNMI was the kind of "petri dish" of capitalism he could really support.

One of the main garment manufacturers is Tan Holdings, a slimy business by all accounts.

I have to refer back to some research documentation, by as I recall, Gov-elect Fitial was an executive at Tan Holdings, and was helped in his election to the CNMI's House speaker position by one Michael Scanlon and one Ed Buckham. Ever hear of them?

Where is this going? Hmmmm.

Hastert places clearing DeLay's name ahead of people's interest

In a Boston Globe story about the leadership struggle brewing within the Republican House caucus, I caught this interesting tidbit:

In addition, Hastert has scheduled the first House session of 2006 for Jan. 31 -- after a holiday break of more than a month, and two weeks after senators are due to return to Washington. The late start gives DeLay, a Texas Republican, a greater amount of time with which to dispose of the charges, as new leadership elections could not occur until the House is back in session.

So basically, Hastert is saying, "Let's take a longer vacation, and put off doing the people's business in Washington until Tom DeLay can clear his name."

How do you like those priorities?

(Of course, the longer the House stays out of session, the less they can help their big money donors.)

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Two emails

I received two interesting emails within a few minutes of each other that I thought I'd pass along.

The first pointed to this post at Think Progress by Amanda describing how desperate DeLay & Co. must have been to fill the room that they let in a protester for 10% of the minimum donation.

The second recommended a Modesto Bee article about California Rep. Richard Pombo's donations from and connections to disgraced Jack Abramoff. Pombo, it seems, supped a few times at Signatures, Abramoff's swanky restaurant. He claims he ate there only "because some constituents asked about it."

"That's not the kind of place I would normally hang out at," Pombo said.

So who were those constituents? And do you take us to be so gullible?

Round Up

Judge Priest's DeLay ruling gets front-page billing in major dailies today. There are lots of opportunities for guessing-the-anonymous-source, particularly when talking about DeLay's political future--or lack thereof.

In the Washington Post, it's a "former GOP leadership aide," speaking anonymously "for fear of crossing DeLay," who says: "'[T]he overwhelming feeling is if things are not squared away by the time they come back in January, there will be a petition dropped on the speaker's desk for an election' to permanently replace him." In the New York Times, it's "One Republican lawmaker, who has supported Mr. DeLay in the past," who says there was some "was some sense of relief with the decision, since it postponed Mr. DeLay's return to the top." The LA Times quotes an "aide to House Republican leadership," saying "Members want a permanent structure at the beginning of the year to manage the House."

USA Today concentrates on the poll David posted about below; DeLay's hometown newspaper, the Houston Chronicle, prints a photo of protesters dressed as Cheney and DeLay outside the DeLay fundraiser there last night.

Meanwhile, in the blogosphere, DailyKos quotes Hotline on Call noting that Priest said he wouldn't schedule more hearings on tossing out the remaining two charges against DeLay until he knows whether Ronnie Earle will seek to appeal yesterday's ruling throwing out one conspiracy charge. Because Earle has 15 days to appeal, he can wait until near Christmas time and "let DeLay twist in the wind" before deciding to appeal. If this happens, there won't be hearings on the case until the new year.

Sugar Land Express in reverse

TPMCafe gets Paul Begala to write a reflection of his youth in Tom DeLay's district:

I grew up in Tom DeLay's district. If you want to get a feel for what it was like back then, rent "The Sugar Land Express." It's a prison break movie, made in 1974, based on a true story - the time in 1959 when a woman convinced her husband to break out of the Beauford H. Jester Correctional Institute. The movie was the biggest thing ever to hit Sugar Land. It starred Goldie Hawn and Ben Johnson, and was directed by a young nobody called Spielberg. Don't know whatever became of him, but they let us out of school to watch 'em film it.

It's a good read. When Public Campaign Action Fund (PCAF) was considering doing voter education in TX-22 in 2004, many politicos in Washington gave me two pieces of advice: 1) Don't waste your time (and money) because DeLay is untouchable at home, and 2) Talk to Begala. Well, at least the second piece of advice was sound. Begala, over a series of calls, shared the same recollections then as he posted at TPMCafe, although with a different ending.

He wraps up his piece with this:

My guess is folks are looking for a conservative, not a crook. I know Nick Lampson. He represents the best of my part of Texas - a strong sense of community, a real commitment to family values, a rejection of DeLay's brand of whorehouse politics and a passion for reform. DeLay's sleaze, combined with the quagmire in Iraq and Bush's sinking approval, could prove fatal.

How fitting it would be if Sugar Land, a town which caught the attention of Steven Spielberg because of a big-hearted loser who broke out of prison, returned to the national spotlight 32 years later because of a hard-hearted bully who may be sent to prison.

Interesting point about looking for a conservative, not a crook. Makes me think that DeLay use everything in his arsenal to define Lampson as a liberal, not a conservative. For organizations like PCAF with a substantial number of members in TX-22 we'll have to think caefully about what we do in this district.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Trouble as far as the eye can see

A poll of DeLay's constituents in TX-22. From Daily Kos:

Gallup. 12/1-4. MoE 4%. (No trend lines)

If Tom DeLay runs for re-election in 2006, in general, are you more likely to vote for the Republican candidate Tom DeLay or for the Democratic Party's candidate for Congress?

DeLay 36
The Democrat 49

Voters' Opinion of Tom DeLay

Favorable 37
Unfavorable 52

Based on what you have heard or read, do you think the charges against DeLay are definitely true, probably true, probably not true, or definitely not true?

Definitely True 15
Probably True 40
Probably False 26
Definitely False 8

It's all about the money

A colleague of mine asked me today if I had any insight into what happens inside Tom DeLay's head. I started thinking..........

I'm Tom DeLay. I was indicted on money laundering charges stemming from moving $190,000 in corporate campaign contributions, and earlier today a judge just said that I had to stand trial for the crime. What do I do now?

I know! Hold a fundraiser with Vice President Dick Cheney!




These people give public service a bad name.

BREAKING: Judge upholds money laundering charge against DeLay; DeLay to go to trial

Judge Pat Priest just upheld the money laundering charge against former Majority leader Tom DeLay. He threw out the conspiracy charge. DeLay, it seems, dodged one bullet, but is heading to trial anyway. Let's see how they spin this one.

It's time for DeLay to resign, and for your representative to demand that he step down.

Here's the AP story.

Key 'graphs, emphasis mine:


A judge dismissed the conspiracy charges Monday against Rep. Tom DeLay but refused to throw out the money-laundering counts, dashing the Texas congressman's hopes for now of reclaiming his post as House majority leader.

[...]

After he was indicted in September, DeLay was required under House rules to relinquish the leadership post he had held since early 2003. While Monday's ruling was a partial victory for DeLay, he cannot reclaim his post because he remains under indictment.

At a hearing Nov. 22, DeLay's lawyers asked for a quick decision on their request for dismissal of all charges, and, if the ruling went against DeLay, a prompt trial, in hopes that he could regain his leadership post by the time Congress reconvenes in January. The House is expected to return late next month.

But the judge said at the time that it was unlikely the case would go to trial before the first of the year.

Big week for DeLay, GOP

As early as tomorrow, Texas Judge Pat Priest will reportedly determine whether DeLay will stand trial on criminal conspiracy and money laundering charges.

As AP writes up, this decision will likely decide whether or not the once Majority Leader becomes the once and future Majority Leader.

At issue are several developments:

First, the House GOP has shown how fractured and leaderless it is without DeLay. Acting Majority Leader Roy Blunt has not been able to control the agenda and win key legislation.

Second, with the clouds of this and other scandals hanging over the House Republicans, some members, like Charlie Bass of New Hampshire, are advocating a complete break from the past regime and an open leadership election.

Third, the longer DeLay's trial remains undecided, the more worried national Republicans get about the scandals political impact. Couple that with ambitious members with a once-a-decade opportunity to claim a leadership position, and you've got a recipe for unrest. If Judge Priest rejects DeLay's motion to dismiss the case, there will be future court dates, all which help drive a message about DeLay's corruption. That's not what the Republicans want as 2005 turns to 2006.

"If we have a quick time line, there is a certain segment of Congress willing to be patient," Carl Forti, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee told AP.

That segment, by all accounts, is dwindling.

So here's my prediction: If Priest dismisses the case or moves it to Ft. Bend County, look for an agressive push for DeLay's political ressurection this week in DC. If Priest rejects the motions, DeLay's political obituary (at least in DC circles) will be written this week. Ambitious pols won't wait for a verdict in this case before they seek positions of power.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Connecticut Passes Full Public Financing of Elections

Here at the Daily DeLay we are used to writing about money and politics and ethics scandals. And no wonder, since Tom DeLay is our subject. Sometimes we write about other scandals, too, like Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham's recent resignation after pleading guilty on bribery charges from campaign donors, or lobbyist Jack Abramoff's shenanigans with Indian tribes, or Sen. Bill Frist's curious choices about when he decides to sell health care stock.

Rarely do we get to write about the opposite of these scandals--about lawmakers taking a stand and voting for a new system that would help eliminate the too cozy relationship between elected officials and their well heeled donors.

But today we do.

Last night the Connecticut legislature made history when the House voted 82 to 65 in the wee hours of the morning to approve a Clean Elections bill. The House vote followed a 27 to 8 Senate vote hours before. Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell has indicated that she will sign the bill.

Connecticut will become the first state in the nation where the legislature and governor approved full public financing for their own races. It joins the ranks of Arizona and Maine among states with full public financing of statewide and legislative races. North Carolina, New Jersey, New Mexico, and Vermont have Clean Money systems for some races, and the municipalities of Portland, Oregon and Albuquerque, New Mexico recently approved full public financing for citywide races.

"Voters won today and the Connecticut legislature made history when lawmakers approved full public financing of legislative and state-wide elections. Under this system, elected officials will be free to run without having to rely on lobbyist contributions or well heeled donors," said Nick Nyhart, Public Campaign's executive director, in a statement.

Congratulations are due to Connecticut's voters, who will enjoy a system that focuses on them rather than on wealthy donors.

The Connecticut news is traveling fast. Read some of the stories here:

Hartford Courant
The Washington Post
The New York Times
Newsday
Chicago Tribune
ABC News