Monday, October 4, 2004

Justice DeLayed

Whether or not John Kerry wins the White House, the House of Representatives will probably stay in Republican hands. That means that Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) will remain as the House Majority Leader. Or will he?

Recent revelations and indictments of his associates in Texas are bringing pressure to bear on the man who singlehandedly re-districted the State of Texas and who has no qualms in either bending people to his will or destroying them. And he gets away with it without fear of consequences. Last week the House Ethics Committee tut-tutted him for attempting to buy the vote of another Republican, but he brushed it off as nothing; he basically owns the Committee as well. But there may be more trouble ahead. Lou Dubose writes in Salon.com* that the noose may be getting tighter from outside the Beltway.

Two weeks after DeLay’s associates were indicted in Texas, the Senate Indian Affairs Committee began an investigation of two DeLay associates who billed six Indian tribes a staggering $66 million in lobbying fees, after promising tribal leaders that their proximity to DeLay equaled unparalleled influence in Washington. The story, broken by Shawn Martin at the quite literally backwater American Press in Lake Charles, La., less than a year ago, quickly found its way to the front page of the Washington Post.

Jack Abramoff, a member of DeLay’s “kitchen cabinet,” and DeLay’s former press secretary Mike Scanlon billed their Indian clients twice as much as companies such as General Electric paid for outside lobbyists in the same time period. The tribes were paying the two Washington operatives — who in private e-mails referred to the Indians as “troglodytes,” “monkeys” and “moronic” — to defend their casinos. Two U.S. attorneys in Washington and a federal grand jury are also looking into Abramoff and Scanlon, who are not only frequent fliers to gaming reservations around the country but also frequent contributors to Republican candidates and think tanks.

When the story broke, DeLay denounced his longtime friend Abramoff, telling reporters that Abramoff had never been on his payroll. He also warned anyone using his name to attract lobby clients to “stop it immediately.” The warning came a little too late for tribal leaders slickered by Abramoff and Scanlon.

Everybody has lawyered up. Nobody’s talking — except when compelled to do so by state and federal prosecutors and the investigator that Sen. John McCain has assigned from the Senate Indian Affairs Committee to the case. And the upcoming 109th Congress is beginning to look like the longest two years in Tom DeLay’s political life.

Dubose, along with Jan Reid, has written a book, The Hammer, on DeLay’s shenanigans. This could be the beginning of The Hammer getting nailed.

*Salon.com requires subscription or Day Pass. It’s worth it.