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Speaking today on CNN, Bill Schneider perfectly voiced a growing theme:

There's a key difference between Tom Delay's troubles and those that sent former congressman Duke Cunningham to jail. Cunningham was personally corrupt. Critics link Delay to what they call a system of corruption that was more far-reaching and partisan.


This, of course, is DeLay's own spin: "You can't prove to me one thing that I have done for my own personal gain."

Now, I don't expect that we'll ever find that DeLay was as accomplished as Duke Cunningham at personal enrichment. But really, that's quite a standard to hold anyone to.

DeLay wasn't personally corrupt? How about the $3,200 per month that went to his wife Christine while she worked at Ed Buckham's lobbying firm, Alexander Strategy Group? This went on for four years, and the timing of her employment (1998-2002) indicates she may have been used as a cutout to move money to DeLay.

Prosecutors have been reported to be very interested in how congressional spouses were used as pass-throughs for bribes. Tony Rudy has already pled guilty to something very similar - his wife was employed by one of Abramoff's nonprofits. So not only is it wrong to say that DeLay was never personally enriched, it's also wrong to say that he may not be prosecuted for it.

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The DeLay Rule was actually not a rule but a rule-bending -- whereas once the GOP prohibited anyone indicted of a felony from serving in a leadership position, the DeLay Rule allowed them to do so until the day they were convicted.

The vote on the rule was done behind closed doors; thankfully, constituents wrote to their representatives demanding to know where they stood on the issue. Three GOP members of the Ethics Committee wrote back, and we have letters from two.

Committee Chairman Rep. Richard Hastings (R-WA) voted for the DeLay rule. Several TPM readers who received his explanation sent word that Hastings had spun his support with some grandiloquent argument:

In the American criminal justice system, individuals who are indicted by grand juries are presumed innocent until proven guilty. The previous Republican Conference rule turned this pillar of justice upside down for Members of Congress.


Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) was steadfast for letting indictees lead the party. "In America we believe a person is innocent until proven guilty," he wrote, "and we have changed the House Republican rules to reflect that right."

Rep. Judy Biggert (R-IL), though, appears to have been against the DeLay rule. "In the event that any member is charged in a felony indictment, he or she must focus total energy on proving his or her innocence," she wrote.

The difference between the Biggert and the others? For starters, Cole got $15,000 from DeLay's ARMPAC, and kicked back $5000 for DeLay's legal defense fund. Hastings got $6,000 -- and DeLay's assistance grabbing the Ethics chair.

Biggert meanwhile got a mere $1,700 from DeLay, although he campaigned with her in 1998.

You get what you pay for?

Looks like the Federal Election Commission wants to know more about these curious 15-percent "commissions" Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA) has been paying his wife, Julie.

According to financial reports on file with the FEC, Doolittle's Superior California Federal Leadership PAC paid $7612.50 to Julie Doolittle's firm, Sierra Dominion Financial Services, during the month of January. In that same period, the PAC brought in $1200 in receipts, those same documents show.

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What will they not do now?

Back when Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) was facing multiple probes from the House Ethics committee, the GOP purged the committee and packed the majority seats with loyalists -- even ousted the chair, Rep. Joel Hefley (R-CO), in favor of a loyalist leader, Rep. Richard Hastings (R-WA).

Four of the five GOP members had taken donations from DeLay's ARMPAC -- reluctantly, we're sure -- and two of the five had shown great generosity by contributing to DeLay's legal defense fund.

Unsurprisingly, the panel meditated quietly on non-being while the biggest ethics scandals in memory have stormed across Capitol Hill. In recent days, plea agreements from a key former DeLay staffer have brought the mess directly to DeLay's office door. The committee, meanwhile, has focused on detaching itself from the trappings of worldy existence. Or at least from investigating.

But if DeLay keeps his promise to exit Congress in a timely manner, the complaints against him will be rendered moot. Their docket will be lightened considerably. What then?

Earlier, we noted that Tom DeLay threatened to have Ronnie Earle's power removed: "[the Texas legislature] can take his power away from him because there was the Texas legislature that gave him this power." He promised action in the next session of the legislature.

Now, Ronnie Earle was elected by the people of Texas, so the legislature can't just boot him. The way I see it, DeLay has two options: he could somehow use the Texas legislature to strip Earle's jurisdiction over the case, but that could get sticky. Or (eureka!) he could have the Texas legislature defund Texas' Public Integrity Unit, which would cut Earle off.

I bet that last one's awful tempting to DeLay. And no one can doubt that he's shameless enough to try it.

As I reported before, if there is a plan afoot, no one has bothered to tell the Speaker of the Texas House. So maybe DeLay is just pounding his chest.

Earle's office wouldn't comment on the matter. But they said a statement was forthcoming about the case now that DeLay has said he will step down from his seat.

Late Update: Here's Ronnie Earle's entire statement:

Tom DeLay's political status has nothing to do with the criminal charges against him. This changes nothing. His criminal cases will proceed just as they would for any other defendant. DeLay's ultimate fate will be decided by the public acting through a jury.

Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA) is the favorite for filling Rep. Tom DeLay's (R-TX) seat on the House Appropriations Committee when DeLay steps down, CongressDaily is reporting.

That name's familiar. In 2004, Calvert accompanied former Rep. (and current convicted felon) Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA) to Saudi Arabia. Convicted felon Thomas Kontogiannis, a pal of Cunningham's, joined the two.

Calvert has said he didn't know Kontogiannis' past (nor, certainly, Cunningham's future), but "If I had known his background, I wouldn't have felt very comfortable." As for what they were all doing in Saudi Arabia, Calvert told TPM last November, "the three spent their time in Saudi Arabia meeting with government ministers and exploring ways the Saudis could be more helpful in prosecuting the war on terrorism."

Chris Matthews blogs on getting the scoop (kind of) from Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) that the former House majority leader was resigned to resigning. Exciting stuff!

The post is entitled -- no kidding -- "My phone call with Tom DeLay (Chris Matthews)":

[DeLay spokeswoman] Shannon Flaherty called me at the office Monday to say that Congressman Tom DeLay, her boss, wanted to talk with me in the evening. It would be around 9:15. She said he was "not calling to complain."

Despite the heads-up, I was taken aback when the former Majority Leader came on the line Monday night.

"This is Tom DeLay." "Hi Tom," I responded before reverting to protocol. The Congressman then told me the stunning news he was dropping out of his race for re-election.


. . . and that's how the news is made. Any questions?

Who will replace Tom DeLay?

Right now, the field seems open, and a handful of Texas Republicans are eager for the opportunity.

Here's how it's going to work, according to Roll Call. First, Gov. Perry will call a special election to replace DeLay when he steps down in "late May or mid-June."

But whoever wins that race will only be in office for a number of months. The real race will be for who will be the Republican candidate in November. And that will be decided by a committee "comprised of the Republican Party chairmen of the four counties that lie within the 22nd district, and four representatives elected by the precinct chairmen from each county." So it appears that whoever is selected will be the one deemed in the eyes of the party bosses to be the best candidate. Ah, democracy.

This morning I was sharing my surprise at DeLay's resignation with Texas Monthly's Jan Reid, author of The Hammer: The Nasty, Brutish, and Shortened Political Life of Tom Delay. But Reid was more circumspect than I. "I think there's a precedent for this," he told me. "If you remember when [Newt] Gingrich went down, all of a sudden he was no longer speaker, he looked back and said, 'what's the point in being one of 435?'"

I mention this because in an online chat this afternoon, The Post's Bob Kaiser made a similar observation:

How did [DeLay] decide [to quit]? I just don't know. I suspect part of it was the realization, since he was replaced as majority leader and completely displaced from any influential role in the House, that now matter what else happens, his new life was going to be a pale comparison of his old one. He would, I suspect, simply hate the idea of being a marginal player. And that's where he was headed.


In retrospect, is it surprising more of us didn't see this coming?

Over at TPM, Josh asks what House Republicans will say now about their November 2004 votes to change House rules so DeLay could stay in the leadership, even if indicted. It was a voice vote, which meant that constituents were forced to drive their representatives into the open on how he/she voted. Back then, TPM was going full bore trying to uncover which Republicans had voted which way, and over at the Daily DeLay, they kept a running tally. You can see it here.

A total of 63 Republicans said "Yea" to the change. Was your representative among them? What does he or she say about it now?

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