Saturday, December 03, 2005

Muted Support for GOP Change Grows

Embattled Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) and his wife, Christine, leave an Austin courthouse last week after an appearance on campaign finance charges. Photo Credit: By Eric Gay -- Associated Press

I think it's time for another episode of The Tom DeLay Comedy Hour! I found this off of Laura Rozen's War and Piece site: The original source of the story is from The Washington Post:

Widening corruption scandals in Washington are heightening Republican sentiments for a GOP leadership shake-up early next year that would permanently replace former majority leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), according to House members and GOP leadership sources.

Many Republicans say they are troubled that DeLay's political money-laundering trial in Texas could drag on for months, leaving the question of leadership in limbo. And they are increasingly anxious that DeLay may be implicated in the bribery and corruption investigations of Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff and former representative Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.). But with few members willing to publicly challenge DeLay's return, leadership aides still give the lawmaker a strong shot at a comeback, provided a Texas court exonerates him of charges that he illegally funneled corporate campaign contributions to state legislative candidates. Much will depend on whether DeLay can get the case thrown out or win acquittal by the time Congress convenes Jan. 30 for President Bush's State of the Union address, some GOP lawmakers and aides say.

"No question, there's considerable discontent in the conference about DeLay's return, but nobody's talking on the record," said a House Republican political strategist who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of crossing DeLay, should he return. "If he beats this rap in Austin, he will be back as majority leader, because nobody's going to tell him no."

"There is a lot of sentiment out there about DeLay's radioactivity," said a leadership source close to DeLay and House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.).

The issue of DeLay's future could come to a head as soon as Tuesday, when Texas District Court Judge Pat Priest said he will rule on a motion by DeLay's lawyers to dismiss the conspiracy and money-laundering charges. If Priest dismisses the case, DeLay will immediately inform Hastert and House Republican Conference Chairman Deborah Pryce (R-Ohio) that he intends to reclaim his title as majority leader, DeLay spokesman Kevin Madden said.

At that point, "it's our understanding he would be majority leader again," Madden said.

The only thing that could derail DeLay is the signatures of 50 House Republicans calling for a leadership election. For now, such a petition could attract at most 20 to 30 signatures, a close DeLay associate said.

So in other words, if DeLay can beat the rap on this money laundering and corruption charges, he's going to push at getting his old majority leadership post back. And no one will even try to stop him. No one will want to touch him, considering how radioactive he is now. And it is not just the money laundering charges that can affect DeLay--remember, DeLay was close friends with ubber-lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Abramoff is also fighting corruption and fraud charges for his role regarding Sun Cruz and the indian casinos. With rumors floating around saying that Abramoff is running out of money, there could be a chance that Abramoff may try to cut a deal with federal prosecutors, giving the feds information of which they can further indict DeLay in this widening scandal.

Now here's some fun little tidbits of information from the Post story:

DeLay was ferried three times in 2003 and 2004 on corporate jets owned by the company of Brent Wilkes, a California defense contractor who allegedly made illicit payments to Cunningham in exchange for legislative favors. Neither DeLay nor the company has disclosed the purpose or destination of the trips, which were billed to one of DeLay's PACs at a commercial flight rate as permitted under election law.

"The Scanlon thing, the Cunningham thing, I think you have more people waiting for the other shoe to drop," said Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.).

Even if DeLay is never implicated, his return to the majority leader's post would create political "havoc," said one Republican House member, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The lawmaker pointed to DeLay's decision in October to fly to Texas ahead of his first courtroom appearance aboard a corporate jet owned by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.

"The fact that he flew down on a corporate jet for his mug shot, and not just any corporate jet but Big Tobacco's corporate jet, that's a double whammy," the lawmaker said. "A number of my colleagues say he just doesn't get it. He doesn't understand how this plays."

A link between Duke Cunningham's bribes and Tom DeLay? That's especially interesting, considering that DeLay was ferried on a corporate jet owned by Wilkes, who also gave bribes to Cunningham. I'm not sure where this link is going, but I'm especially interested in learning more.

And I'm not surprised that DeLay flew to Texas for his mug shot on a Big Tobacco jet.

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