As Bootrib member AP first noted:

…Tom DeLay on Saturday abandoned his bid to remain as House majority leader, clearing the way for leadership elections among Republicans eager to shed the taint of scandal.

This is a hugely significant development. Just yesterday, DeLay’s office issued this statement.

“[DeLay] appreciates that a majority of his colleagues recognizes that he remains committed to fulfilling his responsibilities as majority leader and that he’ll be quickly exonerated in Texas.”

But that charade came to an end today. DeLay is out as majority leader. He says he is planning to seek re-election. I would not be too surprised to see that change, too. The reason?

Having secured a guilty plea from the lobbyist Jack Abramoff, prosecutors are entering a new phase of the corruption investigation in Washington and are focusing on a lobbying firm that may hold the key to whether Tom DeLay or other lawmakers will face criminal charges in the case.

The firm, Alexander Strategy Group, is of particular interest to investigators because it was founded by Edwin A. Buckham, a close personal friend of Mr. DeLay’s and his former chief of staff, and has been a lucrative landing spot for several former members of the DeLay staff, people who are directly involved in the case have said.

Although the firm’s name has circulated in connection with the case for many months, prosecutors’ questions about Mr. Buckham and Alexander Strategy – which did not respond to requests for comment – have intensified recently, participants in the case said.

One of the delights of running Congress is that you get to create laws, revoke laws, create loopholes…and that means that you can carve out schemes to make buttloads of money and consolidate power. And even if any casual observer would think your scheme unethical, you can send them to a lawyer to have the legality of your racket explained in fine detail. If anyone complains, you can accuse them of engaging in the criminalization of politics.

In recent years, DeLay has been reprimanded by the House Ethics Committee three times. In spite of this, DeLay issued the following statement to his fellow lawmakers today.

“‘During my time in Congress, I have always acted in an ethical manner within the rules of our body and the laws of our land. I am fully confident time will bear this out.”

I am confident that time will not bear this out. DeLay’s schemes were always skirting the law and the self-imposed rules of the House. To protect himself from any consequences for his unethical activity, DeLay had to resort to all kinds of heavy-handed tactics.

Here is a sampler:

Protecting Delay: Changing Ethics Rules


  • Changed House ethics rules to let a complaint die if the ethics committee cannot decide whether it should be investigated within 45 days.  Link
    Source: “After Retreat, G.O.P. Changes House Ethics Rule,” The New York Times, January 5, 2005  

  • Changed House ethics rules to allow either party to block an ethics investigation by voting along party lines, thus denying a majority vote to allow it to proceed.
    Source: “After Retreat, G.O.P. Changes House Ethics Rule,” The New York Times, January 5, 2005

  • Changed House ethics rules to allow several members involved in a single ethics investigation to hire the same attorney. House rules had prohibited this practice in order to ensure one attorney could not gain access to too much information and potentially coordinate testimony.
  • The House Republican Conference changed its internal rules, rescinding a provision that required a member to step down from a leadership post if indicted.  The rule change was itself later rescinded after adverse publicity. Link
    Source: “GOP Pushes Rule Change To Protect DeLay’s Post,” The Washington Post, November 17, 2004 

  • Unsuccessful attempts were made to change House ethics rules to eliminate the broad rule that Members should conduct themselves in a manner that “reflects creditably” on the House.  This had been the basis for sanctions by the ethics committee and the House. Link
    Source: “House to Consider Relaxing Its Rules; GOP Leaders Seek Ethics Changes,” The Washington Post, December 31, 2004  

Rather than calling this the ‘criminalization of politics’ we should more properly call it the ‘legalization of graft and corruption’.

The fall of DeLay represents more than the end of one particularly powerful man’s career in politics. It represents the restoration of some standards (ethical and legal) to the way our elected officials conduct official business.

This is just the first step in a long process. But it is a highly significant first step.

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