Michael: Without Further DeLayAt long last, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay has been indicted for conspiracy in connection with a campaign finance money laundering investigation. DeLay stepped aside from his leadership role in reponse to the indictment; no doubt under pressure from his own party caucus.
Though the GOP spin machine is trying to cast this indictment as a political vendetta by Ronnie Earle, the Democratic Travis County district attorney who presented the indictment to the Grand Jury, that dog no longer hunts for the GOP. No one outside of the most committed of the GOP base will believe that Earle, who has prosecuted a dozen Democratic politicians for corruption in his long career, and only 6 Republicans, is motivated solely by political animus. To the contrary, DeLay has been protected by months of determined inaction by the district attorney of DeLay's home country, who is a Republican.
The press release, accompanying the indictment by the prosector's office states:
"The indictment charges DeLay with conspiring with [James] Ellis and [John] Colyandro to violate the Texas Election Code by contributing corporate money to certain candidates for the Texas Legislature. It describes a scheme whereby corporate, or "soft" money, was sent to the Republican National Committee where it was exchanged for "hard" money, or money raised from individuals, and sent to those candidates. Criminal conspiracy is a State Jail Felony punishable by six months to two years in a State Jail and a fine of up to $10,000."
It is hard to see this as anything but yet another blow to the Bush Administration's chances to make any headway on their legislative agenda. The result of DeLay's probable removal from his leadership position, and possibly his office, may be to erode the iron control over the House that the GOP caucus has maintained over House procedure under DeLay. In addition, DeLay's legal peril opens up the possibility of the money laundering scandal spreading, both within the Texas delegation, the Texas legislature, and the House and Senate GOP leadership.
DeLay and the GOP leaders have played with some very sharp elbows, and flexible ethics, for the past several years. I'm only saddened that their actions have taken so long to catch up with them. They have done incalcuable damage to the public welfare in the past 5 years. It is indicative of the sclerosis of American politics that the law, in all its ponderous inefficiency, caught up to DeLay and his cronies before the voters ever did.