Friday, March 31, 2006

Former DeLay Aide Pleads Guilty

Tony Rudy, a former deputy chief of staff to Rep. Tom Delay, leaves Federal Court in Washington, Friday, March 31, 2006. after pleading guilty to conspiracy and promised to cooperate with the governments investigation of lobby fraud. (AP Photo/Lawrence Jackson)

Folks, it's time for another exciting episode of The Tom DeLay Comedy Hour! From Yahoo News:

WASHINGTON - A former top aide to Rep. Tom DeLay pleaded guilty Friday to conspiracy and promised to cooperate with a federal investigation of bribery and lobbying fraud that has so far netted three convictions and prompted calls for ethics reform in Congress.

Tony Rudy, DeLay's former deputy chief of staff, admitted to conspiring with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff both while Rudy worked for DeLay and after he left the lawmaker's staff to become a lobbyist himself.

He faces up to five years in prison, but could receive much less based on the extent of his help with the investigation, U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle told Rudy at a court hearing in Washington.

As a top aide to DeLay in his role as House majority leader, Rudy took payments from Abramoff in 2000, then helped stop an Internet gambling bill opposed by Abramoff's clients, according to court papers.

Later, while working as a lobbyist, Rudy also was extensively involved in arranging a golf trip to Scotland for Rep. Bob Ney (news, bio, voting record), described as Representative 1, and congressional staffers, the court papers said.

The plea agreement contains no allegations that DeLay, who it describes as Representative 2, did anything wrong.

As part of the deal, Rudy pleaded guilty to the single conspiracy count and prosecutors agreed not to pursue other possible charges against him or his wife.

This is big news here. In other words, Tony Rudy decided to save his own skin and cooperate with the feds. Even more amazing, this story is coming on the heels of Jack Abramoff's sentencing yesterday. This corruption case is starting to break open. What is happening here is that the people involved carrying out the details of these scandals--Tony Rudy, Michael Scanlon, and even Jack Abramoff--have had to face a really stark choice from the federal prosecutors: Either tell us what you know about this corruption scandal, or we're going to pin this on you for the maximum jail time allowed. None of these aids want to spend 5-10 years sitting in a prison cell. So they are talking.

Will Tony Rudy be able to implicate Tom DeLay in this scandal? I can't say, although I'm pretty sure Rudy can provide some juicy details regarding DeLay's involvement. Rudy's greater asset may be in providing details that will allow the feds to go after other congressional aids and lobbyists. Consider this:

Ney's lawyer, Mark Tuohey, said a guilty plea by Rudy doesn't change Ney's situation. The congressman continues to maintain his innocence. Tuohey said he hadn't seen the court papers filed Friday and couldn't comment in detail on them.

Court papers say Rudy sent an e-mail inviting Ney and his then-chief of staff Neil Volz to Scotland in 2002, promising golf and "drinking and smoking Cubans." Ney contends he thought the trip was properly paid for by a GOP policy group for a legitimate international parliamentary event.

"Mr. Rudy had nothing to do with Mr. Ney's Scotland trip at all, nothing," Tuohey said. When asked whether Rudy could have sent the e-mail invite, he said, "If he did, I haven't seen it."

Ney is cooperating with Justice Department requests for information. For example, Ney spokesman Brian Walsh said the Ohio Republican has provided prosecutors with stacks of receipts to prove he and his staff paid for their own food at Abramoff's downtown Washington restaurant. Ney also has said he was duped by Abramoff into entering statements on the Congressional Record in support of Abramoff's purchase of a fleet of Florida casino boats.

After leaving DeLay's office, Rudy first joined Abramoff's lobbying team at the Greenberg Traurig law firm. Soon after, he signed on with another former DeLay staffer, Ed Buckham, at the Alexander Strategy Group.

Rudy sent an email inviting Bob Ney and his then-chief of staff Neil Volz to Scotland in 2002. Whatever details Rudy gives regarding this Scotland trip, could allow federal prosecutors to pressure Volz into cooperating. And you can bet the feds will be interested in Rudy's relationship with Ney. Not only that, but Rudy also worked at the Alexander Strategy Group with another former DeLay staffer, Ed Buckham. I'm sure the feds would like to know what was going on over at the Alexander Strategy Group.

Everything is inter-connected. This corruption probe that has been coming is based on the cozy relationships between the Republican congressmen, their congressional aids, and the lobbyists. And the congressional aids are really the glue that holds this corruption scam together. They develop the relationships with their Republican senators and representatives while working on the Hill. It is this marketability of their relationships that allows these former Hill staffers to land the plum jobs with the top lobbying and legal firms. The staffers become the conduits in cementing their relationships between the Republican congressmen and the lobbying groups. Money--and the power that comes from its access--becomes the incentive for all three interests. For congressmen, it is campaign contributions to fund their continued congressional careers. For the staffers, it is the multi-million salaries and the lifestyles of the ubber-rich and powerful. And for the lobbying firms, it is the hundreds of millions in lobbying fees they can charge their business clients, and expand their lobbying business. The more successful all three have become in this relationship, the more money and power they all seek to desire.

Power corrupts.

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