Wednesday, September 28, 2005

The Bugman Indicteth and Other Tales Of GOP Corruption

I know I'm getting in late on this story, but oh joy, oh joy, oh joy!!! From the Washington Post:

A Texas grand jury indicted House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) yesterday on charges of criminally conspiring with two political associates to inject illegal corporate contributions into 2002 state elections that helped the Republican Party reorder the congressional map in Texas and cement its control of the House in Washington.

The criminal indictment forced DeLay, one of the Republicans' most powerful leaders and fundraisers, to step aside under party rules barring such posts to those accused of criminal conduct. House Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), the third-ranking leader, was elected by Republican House members yesterday afternoon to fill the spot temporarily after conservatives threatened a revolt against another candidate considered by House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.).

Although the indictment had been rumored for weeks among top Republicans, based on what several described as a difficult meeting in August between DeLay and the Texas prosecutor behind the case, it shook the GOP political establishment and posed new problems for the party as it heads into the midterm elections next year.

DeLay bitterly denounced the charges as baseless and defiantly called the prosecutor, Ronnie Earle, "an unabashed partisan zealot" engaging in "personal revenge" because DeLay helped elect a Republican majority to the Texas House in 2002. "I have the facts, the law and the truth on my side," DeLay said, reading from a prepared statement, before declining to answer questions.

But the indictment, which comes after three rebukes of DeLay in 2004 by the House ethics committee on unrelated matters, poses a major political problem for the 58-year-old Bush administration loyalist, 11-term congressman, and self-described champion of free enterprise and deregulation. DeLay also faces a likely inquiry by the House ethics committee into a series of foreign trips he took that were initially partly paid for by lobbyists.

The indictment specifically alleges that DeLay, who helped organize the Texas political committee at the heart of the charges, participated in a conspiracy to funnel corporate money into the 2002 state election "with the intent that a felony be committed."

Using corporate funds for state election purposes has long been illegal in Texas, as it is in 17 other states. Earle's probe of the contributions began after 17 Republicans who received the committee's funds were elected, giving the party control of the Texas House for the first time in 130 years. One year later, following a roadmap that DeLay and his political aides drafted from Washington, the Texas House approved a sweeping reorganization of the state's congressional district map meant to favor Republicans.

Then, in 2004, five more Texas Republicans were elected to Congress, enlarging the Republican majority in the House .


The new indictment came after a 34-month inquiry and was issued on the final day the grand jury met, capping a series of indictments that targeted eight corporations and an industry group, the Texas Association of Business, alleged to have worked with the Texas committee in collecting and disbursing illegal corporate contributions.

DeLay waived a requirement that the indictment be presented within three years of "the commission of the offense," the document states; DeGuerin said DeLay did this under duress so that he could put off an indictment weeks ago and keep trying to persuade Earle not to bring one.

Earle told reporters that he brought the indictment to defend the state's democratic system from undue corporate influence. "The law says the duty of a prosecutor is to make sure justice is done," Earle said, adding that the ban against corporate contributions "is intended to safeguard democracy and make the ballot box accessible to everybody, regardless of the amount of money involved."

In other GOP corruption news, the SEC investigation into Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has moved from informal to formal, giving investigators subpoena power. Oh, goody!!! Here's CNN/Reuters with the details:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Securities and Exchange Commission has given subpoena power to investigators looking into the stock sales by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, said sources familiar with the matter Wednesday.

Moving to protect the Frist inquiry from any future criticism for not being thorough, the SEC changed its status to formal from informal and gave investigators subpoena power to force individuals to talk or to produce documents or e-mails.

An SEC spokesman declined to comment.

Federal authorities are looking into Frist's recent sale of shares in HCA Inc. (Research) -- a hospital company co-founded by the Tennessee Republican's father and brother -- completed days before its stock price fell on a disappointing profit outlook issued July 13.

The company said last week it had received a subpoena from the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, seeking documents believed to be related to the Frist matter. HCA also said the SEC had sought similar information.

Frist -- viewed widely as a potential 2008 presidential candidate -- said Monday he had no inside information about the coming profit forecast when he began taking steps in April that led to the HCA stock sale being completed July 8.

He said he would cooperate with investigators, and forecast that an examination of the facts would show he acted properly.

The SEC has conducted many probes of this sort and will likely be looking for "phone records, trading records, bank records and other records that might have authorized the trading at issue," said Mark Braswell, a partner at the law firm of Venable LLP and a former SEC enforcement attorney.

SEC Chairman Christopher Cox -- who took over the investor protection agency last month and was formerly a Republican congressman from California -- Monday recused himself from the investigation of Frist, a former colleague in Congress.

Securities lawyer Stanley Brand, of the firm of Brand and Frulla, said SEC investigators would likely not be deterred by Frist's high political profile in pursuing the case.

"They've run a thousand insider trading investigations for people ranging from Martha Stewart to captains of industry on Wall Street," said Brand, also a former SEC staff attorney.

"They'll do their thing," Brand said. "They have a reputation for tenacity and not fearing anyone ... I can't imagine there will be an issue with Frist."

So let's list the GOP criminal investigations/indictments, shall we?

First the House Majority Leader has been indicted on criminal conspiracy charges and forced to step down.

Next, the Senate Majority Leader is under investigation for alleged insider trading.

Deputy chief of staff Karl Rove and Vice Preznit Cheney's chief of staff Scooter Libby are waiting to hear whether they will be indicted on obstruction, perjury and/or conspiracy charges in the CIA leak case. Other former or current senior White House and Bush administration officials could also be indicted in the case.

GOP uber-lobbyist and chief bag man Jack Abramoff has been indicted along with his casino partner in a wire fraud scheme. Abramoff, along with GOP strategists Grover Norquist and Ralph Reed, also is being investigated for bilking Indian tribes out of 80 million dollars in another casino scheme. And Abramoff may face indictment in the gangland style murder of the former owner of his casino boating business, Gus Boulis. Abramoff's business partner and co-indictee on wire fraud charges, Adam Kidan, paid three men (one a Gambino Family associate) over a hundred thousand dollars right before Boulis was murdered in Florida.

Finally, the head of procurement for Bush's Office of Management and Budget was arrested in connection with another Abramoff corruption case involving the infamous Scotland Golf Trip, which also involved Mr. Delay and Rep. Bob Ney (R-Oh).

And these guys beat John Kerry and the other wishy-washy Dems on "values" in 2004?

Gee, even Howard Fucking Fineman ought to be able to see that the culture of corruption surrounding the GOP leadership and the White House is going to cause some GOP angst come 2006. It may not bring on a 1994 watershed moment where Republicans are swept from power, but I bet Dems can now take back the House and close the gap with the GOP in the Senate.

And the preznit is now officially the earliest lame duck ever and his agenda is dead. The GOP will no longer have the muscle to wrangle anything through Congress. Not social security, not tax reform, not the nuclear option to end judicial filibusters.

Too bad this couldn't have happened before they rammed through that fucking bankruptcy bill that takes effect in a couple of weeks. But at least maybe now Dems will have the courage to limit the damage some of the crazies in the GOp want to do to the nation.

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