The Hammer Is Dropped

Josh Gerstein and Mike Allen at Politico:

After almost six years of investigation, the Justice Department has decided not to bring corruption charges against former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay over his involvement with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and other ethics issues, DeLay and his attorneys said Monday.

“I always knew this day would come. My only hope was that it would come much sooner than the six years we’ve been doing this,” DeLay said Monday during a conference call with reporters. “While I will never understand why it took so long for the Justice Department to conclude that I was innocent, I am nevertheless pleased that they have made their determination.”

Heather Horn at The Atlantic with the round-up

Ryan J. Reilly at Talking Points Memo:

The Justice Department notified DeLay’s lead attorney, McGuireWoods Chairman Richard Cullen, about the decision last week, the lawyer said.

“The federal investigation of Tom DeLay is over and there will be no charges,” Cullen told Politico. “This is the so-called Abramoff investigation run by the Public Integrity section of DOJ. There have been a series of convictions and guilty pleas since 2005.”

Cullen said that DeLay “voluntarily produced to the prosecutors over 1,000 emails and documents from the DeLay office dating back to 1997. Several members of Congress objected to producing official government records under Speech or Debate Clause concerns,” Cullen said.

“DeLay took the opposite position, ordering all his staff to answer all questions. He turned over more than 1,000 documents, and several of his aides gave interviews and grand jury testimony.”

Reached by TPMMuckraker, Justice Department spokeswoman Laura Sweeney declined to comment.

Peter Stone at The Daily Beast:

From the start of the scandal, when Abramoff’s influence-peddling network was exposed in numerous stories in the national press, DeLay’s role, and especially that of his key aides, in facilitating Abramoff’s rise to power was crucial.

DeLay’s office often let Abramoff’s clients and would-be clients, Indian-owned casinos and the impoverished Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, know that if they wanted access to the Texas Republican they needed to go through Abramoff, which meant one thing: Hire him for his big fees.

While he served in Congress, DeLay took three lavish junkets paid for by Abramoff’s clients to Scotland, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and Russia. These trips helped Abramoff cement his image and business: DeLay famously returned to Washington in early 1998 from the Marianas, where he golfed with Abramoff, and spearheaded successful efforts to block efforts to extend the U.S. minimum wage laws to the island’s poorly paid immigrant garment workers. And DeLay extolled the Marianas’ lack of regulation as a “perfect petri dish of capitalism.”

Abramoff cultivated his ties with DeLay not only through these trips, but also through his stellar fundraising for the Texan’s campaigns, political action committee, and favorite charities. The close links between Abramoff, aka “Casino Jack,” and DeLay, aka “the Hammer,” seemed symbiotic ones to some former GOP leadership aides who knew both men well. “Jack raised money for the pet projects of DeLay and took care of his top staff,” one ex-Capitol Hill aide told me a few years ago. “In turn they granted him tremendous access and allowed Abramoff to freely trade on DeLay’s name.”

Little wonder that DeLay was in a gloating mood on Monday when he held a phone-in press conference with reporters and declared he was “exonerated.” DeLay, who publicly announced he was going to resign from Congress not long after Rudy pleaded guilty, criticized the federal investigation as an example of the “criminalization of politics and the politics of personal destruction…”

It was the old Tom DeLay in full attack and spin mode, showing off the conservative political footwork he famously parlayed into a short-lived performance on Dancing With the Stars.

He even boasted that “the case was so weak that I was never interviewed by the investigators.”

Some lawyers familiar with the Abramoff scandal told me they think the Justice Department’s failure at least to interview DeLay, after all the time and energy it put into the probe, seems a bit odd. Even DeLay’s lead attorney, Richard Cullen, who publicly stressed how much information DeLay gave the department, told me that “we most likely would have granted the request” if DeLay had been asked for an interview.

Even if the probe into DeLay was reaching a dead end, some white-collar attorneys point out, the Justice Department should have interviewed him. “You don’t know what someone’s going to say until you talk to them,” one attorney said. “It’s a difficult decision to understand.”

Don Suber:

The Bush administration blew it.

Perhaps the prosecutorial powers of the federal government need to be reined in.

Ted Stevens, Tom DeLay, Scooter Libby…

Yikes!

One was convicted ILLEGALLY.

One was exonnerated TOO LATE.

And one is in the 14th day of jury deliberations with only 2 of 24 counts decided.

Disgusting

Ed Morrissey:

Nonetheless, the travails of DeLay and the GOP in 2006 should serve as a “stark” lesson for Republicans in the midterms.  DeLay authored the notorious “K Street Project” that attempted to build a permanent Republican majority by marrying the party to lobbyists.  That resulted in an explosion of pork and a curious predilection with so-called “big government conservatism” that exploded spending after George W. Bush took office.  That marriage of the federal government and special interests discredited the GOP as an alternative to Democrats, which combined with the scandal led to their downfall in 2006 and 2008.

No more K Street Projects, and no more big-government conservatism.  The next Republican majority had better focus on actual reductions in federal government and the end of pork-barrel spending to woo lobbyists.

And now that the Abramoff case has closed, maybe the American media can pursue the story of Paul Magliocchetti and PMA with at least half the vigor of their pursuit of the Abramoff scandal.  After all, we have another well-connected lobbyist allegedly laundering campaign contributions and winning legislative gifts for his clients.  Are they less interested in a similar scandal tied to Democrats?  And if so … why?

Jay Newton-Small at Swampland at Time:

DeLay still has one charge pending in Texas court. “I’m sure he’s very eager to see that done,” says Cullen, who is not representing DeLay in that case. A hearing in that case is scheduled for August 24 and is expected to come to trial in the fall. An email to DeLay’s office seeking comment was not immediate answered.

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