8 January 2006
So what's changed?
Not much, really; it's hard to imagine Tom DeLay stepping down at all unless he was at least somewhat satisfied that it would be business as usual in the House.
Now if he'd actually resigned his seat, instead of just his position as Majority Leader, it might have had some impact. But that wasn't going to happen, and everyone knows it.
I expect the Democrats to make some small Congressional gains in this year's election, but I don't think this action will have much impact either way: DeLay still has a fair amount of clout; the Democrats will likely not succeed in painting DeLay's old pal Jack Abramoff as a purely-GOP bagman; the election is still nine months away.
Posted at 10:24 AM to Political Science Fiction
Early attempts to paint Abramoff as a bi-partisan briber don't seem to be taking hold outside of wingnuttia and talk radio - over the course of five election cycles, Abramoff made $183,485 in political donations - all of it to Republican candidates and PACs (see here and here).
Some of Abramoff's lobbying clients also donated to Democrats, as interest groups will do, but there's no evidence to this date - not a single E-mail message, not a scrap of paper - that any of them were directed to do so by Abramoff, or that it was an exchange for support that rises to the level of bribery.
The closest that AM radio has come to saying so is Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-ND), who wrote in support of a tribal school program several months before he received an Abramoff client donation and wrote in support of it again. I have to wonder if the smears against Dorgan have anything to do with the fact that Dorgan and John McCain are the ranking members of the Senate committee investigating Abramoff's taking all that money from the tribes and laundering it to Republican candidates, PACs, and his own pockets.
What's changed was that Tom DeLay had significant sway over the House, both as Majority Leader and as the money man who had the bucks to influence members who wouldn't cooperate. Now that he's been caught in both the Texas redistricting scam and in the Abramoff probe, he can't run the slush fund anymore. He was using all the pull he still had to try to keep the elections open so he could get back his post as majority leader, and now that's not going to happen either.
DeLay was never a policy wonk - his purpose and usefulness were only to keep the GOP machine in power. He's lost all that ability thanks to being caught at his normal actions. Now, at best, should he manage to win re-election in TX 22, he'll be a mid-bencher who "used to be someone." He's not running the show anymore, and if he tries from the shadows, it'll be great campaign fodder for the Democrats. Even DeLay finally recognizes this.
DeLay's resolution for 2006 is to stay out of jail. Everything else takes a back seat, even if that means he can't ever drive that car again. Wise move for him personally - what gaineth a man who remains Majority Leader but loseth his freedom?
"You can't call these street drugs! I was nowhere near the street when they were delivered."
One extra level of money laundering doesn't make it clean.