Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The Official DeLay Announcement

Video image provided by Rep. Tom DeLay's office shows Delay announcing in Houston, Monday, April 3, 2006 his intention to resign from Congress. (AP Photo/Rep. DeLay's office)

Yes, we've got a Tom DeLay Comedy Hourmarathon going here. This is a whopper of a story here. From The New York Times:

WASHINGTON, April 4 — Representative Tom DeLay, the relentless Texan who helped lead House Republicans to power but became ensnared in a corruption scandal, said publicly today that he had decided to leave Congress.

"After many weeks of personal, prayerful thinking and analysis, I have come to the conclusion that it is time to close this public service chapter of my life," Mr. DeLay said in a statement issued this morning. He added that the time had come to open "new chapters" and to "engage in the important cultural and political battles of our day from outside the arena of the United States House of Representatives."

He said that he would relocate to Virginia, living closer to Washington to help make a "successful transition" from public to private life.

"I have no regrets today and no doubts," Mr. DeLay said. "I am proud of the past, I am at peace with the present and I'm excited about the future, which holds as always America's brightest days and mine, too."

Mr. DeLay's decision was first reported Monday by MSNBC and by Time magazine, which posted an interview with him on its Web site, as did The Galveston County Daily News.

Of course, this is the PR-spin regarding DeLay's departure. But there is more to this story regarding why DeLay decided to leave. DeLay's answer as to why he left is pretty much political spin. In the Time article, Delay says:

DeLay got a scare in a Republican primary last month, and a recent poll taken by his campaign gave him a roughly 50-50 shot of winning, in an election season when Republicans need every seat they can hang onto to avoid a Democratic takeover of the House.

"I'm a realist. I've been around awhile. I can evaluate political situations," DeLay told TIME at his kitchen table in Sugar Land, a former sugar plantation in suburban Houston. Bluebonnets are blooming along the highways. "I feel that I could have won the race. I just felt like I didn't want to risk the seat and that I can do more on the outside of the House than I can on the inside right now. I want to continue to fight for the conservative cause. I want to continue to work for a Republican majority."

DeLay may have been worried about his falling poll numbers to Democratic challenger Nick Lampson, but I don't believe that was enough to make him quit. This guy is a political fighter, who will do anything to win at all costs--they didn't call Tom DeLay "The Hammer" for nothing. DeLay saw this race as a personal challenge to his high profile position. DeLay has repeatedly labeled Texas prosecutor Ronnie Earle as embarking on Democratic partisan attacks with Earle's indictment on money-laundering charges against DeLay. And even though DeLay had to give up his House Majority Leadership post after being indicted, there was no way that DeLay was going to give up his seat in the House. So there is more here.

DeLay announced his withdrawal just thee days after his former chief of staff, Tony Rudy, pleaded guilty to corruption charges in the Jack Abramoff scandal. And not only did Rudy plead guilty, but DeLay's former press secretary Michael Scanlon also pleaded guilty in the Abramoff case, and we certainly know that Abramoff is talking to the feds. Consider this on the Time article:

One DeLay ally said that the lawmaker had been considering leaving Congress since he gave up his leadership post in January and that he had been persuaded to make the break last week, when his former deputy chief of staff, Tony Rudy, pleaded guilty to corruption charges. He was also said to have been influenced by troubling poll numbers in his district in the Houston area.

With Mr. Rudy's guilty plea last Friday, he became the second former DeLay aide to admit wrongdoing in the corruption investigation centered on Mr. Abramoff, who has also pleaded guilty to conspiring to corrupt public officials, including members of Congress.

Mr. Abramoff, Mr. Rudy and the other aide, Michael Scanlon, who had been Mr. DeLay's press secretary in the House, are all cooperating with the Justice Department, which is investigating whether Mr. DeLay and other members of Congress accepted travel, gifts or money from Mr. Abramoff and his associates in return for legislative favors.

Mr. Rudy's plea agreement, which covers actions he took on Mr. Abramoff's behalf both while on Mr. DeLay's staff and after leaving the House to work as a lobbyist, did not allege any wrongdoing by Mr. DeLay or say that Mr. DeLay knew of any criminal activities by Mr. Rudy.

All three--Rudy, Scanlon, and Abramoff--are talking to the federal prosecutors. And you can bet that the feds are especially interested in the K-Street Project, which DeLay engineered as a means of forcing the K-Street lobbying industry to deal exclusively with the Republicans in Congress. So the heat is bearing down on DeLay, just as he's fighting the money-laundering charges in Texas, and he's fighting a tough re-election campaign against a Democratic challenger, who was planning to make full use of the scandals in attacking DeLay.

Now we come to this interesting scenario. DeLay is fighting a tough re-election campaign. The time is around September of this year. As a result of Rudy, Scanlon, and Abramoff's cooperation, federal prosecutors hand down indictments against DeLay in the continuing corruption scandal in Congress. Such a move would destroy DeLay's campaign. This is what forced DeLay to pull out. In fact, with DeLay pulling out now, this could provide a means for the Republicans to still choose a candidate to replace DeLay for this year's elections. Consider this from The Washington Post:

The timing of DeLay's resignation could affect how the seat is filled.

Depending on when DeLay steps down, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) could call a special election to fill the vacancy. It would be up to local GOP officials to replace DeLay formally on the ballot in November, but party officials say that the winner of a special election -- assuming it is a Republican -- would almost certainly be placed on the fall GOP ballot.

Republicans said that, with DeLay gone, they have a much better chance of holding the seat. Although redistricting took some Republicans out of the district, Bush won 64 percent of the vote there in 2004. According to GOP sources, one almost-certain candidate is Sugar Land Mayor David G. Wallace. Tom Campbell, who was second to DeLay in the primary with 30 percent of the vote, said last night he would run in any special election.

I wonder if some high-placed GOP party officials reminded DeLay of this scenario? The GOP evaluated the deteriorating situation with DeLay, and then realized that they needed to pull DeLay out of the race and replace him with a fresh Republican face. Otherwise, the Republicans would risk losing DeLay's seat to Lampson.

I'm sure there will be more details coming out in the next couple of days. And I'm sure I'll be posting some more on DeLay later on--I haven't even critically looked at DeLay's comments yet from the Time article. So there will still be more to come.

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