Tom DeLay- Corporate Whore

The law and Tom DeLay

The Bush administration's chief far-right Ninja on Capitol Hill, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, will be swinging his legal and political nunchucks more fiercely than ever in coming months, for some of his bloodied victims are starting to fight back. Late last month, the House Committee on Standards decided not to dismiss a House member's complaint that Mr. DeLay organized the illegal funding of a campaign to rob the congressman of his Texas seat in an off-year redistricting maneuver. As a merciless wielder of both power and perks in the House, Mr. DeLay may see to it that the ethics group scurries off in another direction. Back in Texas, however, a criminal probe of the same rancid operation may gain more traction, inasmuch as it is being run by a Democratic district attorney.

So hellbent was Mr. DeLay on shrinking Texas' Democratic congressional delegation that he apparently -- though he denies it -- broke Texas law in 2002 by raising corporate money, via a political action committee, for state legislative races. Politically, the ploy succeeded. Republicans took control of the Texas House of Representatives for the first time in 130 years and set about ruthlessly gerrymandering congressional districts to favor GOP candidates. The results will be apparent in the November election, when five Democrats will almost certainly lose their seats and be replaced by Republicans who will help secure the GOP majority in Congress.

One of the Democrats on his way out the door is Texas Representative Chris Bell, who wants the House Committee on Standards (formerly the Ethics Committee) to toss out an outrageous seven-year-old agreement between Republicans and Democrats in which each party avoids bothering the other, ethics-complaint-wise. Mr. Bell's list of charges against the majority leader, nicknamed "The Exterminator" for his former profession and his current political style, includes illegal corporate money-laundering and state campaign funding, as well as Mr. DeLay's misuse of his office by asking the Federal Aviation Administration to track aircraft carrying Democratic legislators out of Texas during the redistricting battles.

The Standards Committee should go after the lawless Mr. DeLay -- or, even better, appoint an independent counsel to investigate charges -- but the chances are it will do neither. So fairness and decency's best hope may be Travis County D.A. Ronnie Earle, who has been investigating campaign fund-raising in Texas for 20 months. Over 100 subpoenas have been issued and a grand jury convened. Mr. DeLay is not yet an official target of the investigation. But the Texans for a Republican Majority PAC, which Mr. DeLay created and guided, is at the center of the probe, so his decision to retain a criminal lawyer sounds smart. Previously, Mr. Earle prosecuted four elected Republicans and 12 members of his own party for election-law violations.

One of the biggest donors to TRM-PAC was Enron, which soon afterwards received a big corporate boost when Mr. DeLay rammed through deregulation legislation the Houston energy giant desired. This rotten-to-the-core company later collapsed. It's too bad the anti-democratic Mr. DeLay didn't go down with it, but there's time.

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