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September 29, 2005
Color The WaPo Editorial Board ... Skeptical

The indictment of Tom DeLay by DA Ronnie Earle has split the blogosphere into predictable battle lines, with liberal bloggers celebrating the indictment and conservatives, such as myself, pointing out the long history of partisanship that Earle has displayed in his pursuit of DeLay. Lost in the shuffle, for the most part, is the indictment itself. Apart from the arguable partisanship, the argument for a criminal indictment on the basis of the kinds of transactions alleged appears very weak, as even the Washington Post acknowledges:

Nonetheless, at least on the evidence presented so far, the indictment of Mr. DeLay by a state prosecutor in Texas gives us pause. The charge concerns the activities of Texans for a Republican Majority (TRMPAC), a political action committee created by Mr. DeLay and his aides to orchestrate the GOP's takeover of the Texas legislature in 2002. The issue is whether Mr. DeLay and his political aides illegally used the group to evade the state's ban on corporate contributions to candidates. The indictment alleges that TRMPAC took $155,000 in corporate contributions and then sent a check for $190,000 to the national Republican Party's "soft money" arm. The national committee then wrote $190,000 in checks from its noncorporate accounts to seven Texas candidates. Perhaps most damning, TRMPAC dictated the precise amount and recipients of those donations.

This was an obvious end run around the corporate contribution rule. The more difficult question is whether it was an illegal end run -- or, to be more precise, one so blatantly illegal that it amounts to a criminal felony rather than a civil violation. For Mr. DeLay to be convicted, prosecutors will have to show not only that he took part in the dodge but also that he knew it amounted to a violation of state law -- rather than the kind of clever money-trade that election lawyers engineer all the time.

As I pointed out yesterday, the Democrats used the exact same manuever in the same election cycle. The Texas Democratic Party sent $175,000 to the DNC and got $195,000 in return in three pairs of matching transactions between June 2001 and October 2002, all pairs occurring on the same date:

The only problem is that similar transactions are conducted by both parties in many states, including Texas. In fact, on October 31, 2002, the Texas Democratic Party sent the Democratic National Committee (DNC) $75,000, and on the same day, the DNC sent the Texas Democratic Party $75,000. On July 19, 2001, the Texas Democratic Party sent the DNC $50,000 and, again on the same day, the DNC sent the Texas Democratic Party $60,000. On June 8, 2001, the Texas Democratic Party sent the DNC $50,000. That very same day, the DNC sent the Texas Democratic Party $60,000.

If what Earle alleges that DeLay did amounts to money-laundering -- which Earle charged the other conspirators with committing, but not DeLay -- then why not the Democrats as well? If in fact both violate Texas law, then both groups should face prosecution. Did Earle present that to the grand jury, or did he just limit it to DeLay and the GOP? Earle's use of this case as a stump speech for Democratic Party fundraising this past May indicates that he had little motivation for equal application of the law -- which gives the understandable impression that Earle acted out of political malice and not a desire to see justice done.

Again, if DeLay broke the law, then he needs to face trial for it and answer for his actions, no question. If he conspired to launder money through a series of illegal transactions, then he should not only lose his leadership post but should get booted from Congress altogether. But like the Washington Post, I remain deeply skeptical about a criminal complaint concerning what appears to be a manuever used openly by both political parties and only one of them being held accountable for it -- by an activist for the other party.

I also agree with the Post about one other issue. We need to decide whether Tom DeLay should continue to represent the GOP in a leadership position even if this indictment gets tossed out, as it likely will as soon as a judge reviews it, but not for the hypocritical "ethics" charges that the Democrats keep tossing at DeLay, such as travel-expense irregularities that they more than casually commit themselves. We need to recapture the mantle of fiscal responsibility and smaller government, and DeLay appears to have swung over to the Drunken Sailor wing of the GOP establishment. His ludicrous statement earlier this month that the House had trimmed all the fat off the government budget at first sounded like an attempt at irony, but instead it demonstrated that the one-time firebrand for limited government had grown addicted to pork.

We need to ensure that those who lead the GOP understand that we elected them to cut the pork, not just shift it around to benefit Republicans. They seem to have forgotten that it's not their money -- it's ours. We only want it spent on items of national importance, and the rest of it should come back to us. If Tom DeLay can't find any waste in a federal budget that now eats up 20% of our gross domestic product, then he's obviously the wrong man to lead the party.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at September 29, 2005 6:15 AM

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» HUNTING REPUBWICANS from Right Wing Nut House
SSSSHHHH…Be Vewy Quiet. I’m huntin’ Repubwicans…heheheheheheh! The indictment of Republican Majority Leader Tom DeLay is one of the least surprising developments in politics since the Democrats’ efforts to buy votes wi... [Read More]

Tracked on September 29, 2005 7:06 AM

» Spotlight on Ronnie Earle from Decision '08
The Commissar has a very comprehensive set of reaction links about the Travis County D.A. here. The Wall Street Journal weighs in, as well: The Majority Leader…deserves the presumption of innocence because of Mr. Earle’s guilty past. A lib... [Read More]

Tracked on September 29, 2005 7:14 AM

» DeLay from hubs and spokes
Captain Ed has a balanced and worthwhile response to the DeLay indictment: If what Earle alleges that DeLay did amounts to money-laundering -- which Earle charged the other conspirators with committing, but not DeLay -- then why not the... [Read More]

Tracked on September 29, 2005 7:59 AM

» DeLay Indictment from Standards & Grudges
Captain Ed over at Captains Quarte... [Read More]

Tracked on September 29, 2005 9:05 AM

» Tom Delay, Please Resign from The Jawa Report
Tom Delay should resign from Congress. Did he do anything illegal? I've no idea. Campaign finance laws are like the tax code: so complicated as to lose all meaning to the average citizen. But whether or not Delay broke any... [Read More]

Tracked on September 29, 2005 9:34 AM

» Serenity! from NIF
Today's dose of NIF - News, Interesting & Funny ... + Stop the ACLU Thursday! [Read More]

Tracked on September 29, 2005 2:55 PM

» Manipulating Joe Voter from kellino
Manipulating Joe Voter [Read More]

Tracked on September 29, 2005 9:17 PM

» Should Corporations Donate to the Political Process? from Jack Yoest
Christine and Tom DeLay, with the Hammer Cake I ran into Tom DeLay and his wife Christine at an event earlier this year in your Nation's Capital. Before he was indicted for "criminal conspiracy," allegedly moving money from corporate... [Read More]

Tracked on September 29, 2005 10:52 PM

» Ronnie Earle: Ethics Be Damned from Sue Bob's Diary
Captain Ed points us to the WPo editorial questioning Earle's prosecution of Delay. However Byron York is reporting something ignored by WaPo that is much worse Ronnie Earle participated in the making of a movie about the Delay case that began produc... [Read More]

Tracked on September 29, 2005 11:01 PM

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