Saturday, January 07, 2006

Exit the Bugman

[[S C A N D A L S]] * Just a day after moderate Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives began circulating a petition to permanently replace Tom DeLay (R-Texas) as their majority leader, the legislative strongman--who had at least temporarily relinquished his leadership post after being indicted for criminal wrongdoing in October, and is now under investigation for his involvement with disgraced GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff--agreed to end his bid to regain that previous position.

In a brief, emotionless letter addressed to House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Illinois), DeLay wrote:
Dear Mr. Speaker,

I am writing to inform you of my decision to permanently step aside as majority leader, and of my belief that the best interests of the conference would be served by the election of a new leader as soon as possible.

The job of majority leader and the mandate of the Republican majority are too important to be hamstrung, even for a few months, by personal distractions.

I will continue to serve my constituents and seek re-election to a 12th term representing Texas’ 22nd district while I work to clear my name of the baseless charges leveled against me. I will also be reclaiming my seat on the Appropriations Committee when the second session of the 109th Congress convenes later this month.

Tom DeLay
As John Aravosis of AMERICAblog explains, “What this move shows is that the damage to the Republican Party right now is significant. By shoving DeLay overboard, the Republicans clearly recognize that the ‘Culture of Corruption’ language has the potential to topple their House majority.” Meanwhile, The Stakeholder blog makes the excellent point that “DeLay was not kicked out for what he had done. He was kicked out for getting caught.” It might be all Tom DeLay can do now just to hold onto the congressional seat he’s occupied since the mid-1980s. Two former U.S. representatives from Texas--Democrat Nick Lampson and Steve Stockman, a Republican turned independent--are among eight candidates already declaring their intentions to replace DeLay in Congress, come January 2007. And polls show that 49 percent of registered voters in Texas’ 22nd District would pick a Democrat over DeLay in November’s midterm elections, while only 36 percent say they’re likely to support the incumbent.

A vote on a new Republican majority leader will likely occur during the week of January 30, when the House finally reconvenes. Between now and then, “expect every possible fissure within the GOP caucus to surface and play itself out in a very public way,” writes Steve Benen of The Carpetbagger Report.

DELIVERING ACCESS: It looks as if there’s still more trouble ahead for exterminator turned politician DeLay. As The New York Times reports today, “Having secured a guilty plea from the lobbyist Jack Abramoff, prosecutors are entering a new phase of the corruption investigation in Washington and are focusing on a lobbying firm that may hold the key to whether Tom DeLay or other lawmakers will face criminal charges in the case.” That firm, the Alexander Strategy Group, “openly promoted the idea that it could deliver access” to the former majority leader. Read on.

NO LONGER MISSING LINKS: The Houston Chronicle has produced a handy PDF illustration showing the intricate connections between Jack Abramoff, Tom DeLay (and his wife, Christine), George W. Bush, ex-Christian Coalition chief (and present Republican candidate for lieutenant governor of Georgia) Ralph Reed, the Alexander Strategy Group, David H. Safavian (formerly in charge of procurement policy at Bush’s Office of Management and Budget, but arrested in September for “lying and obstructing” the government’s Abramoff probe), and others, both inside and outside of the nation’s capital. Click here to learn more.

IS NEY NEXT? Gannett News Service is quoting U.S. Representative Jim McCrery (R-Louisiana) as predicting that fellow congressman Bob Ney of Ohio, who has been linked to an Indian gambling scandal allegedly masterminded by Jack Abramoff, will “probably be indicted.” The five-term representative has already been subpoenaed by the Department of Justice in connection with its Abramoff investigation.

READ MORE:DeLay Ends Bid to Regain Post as GOP Leader,” by Carl Hulse (The New York Times); “GOP Woes Don’t End With DeLay” (Associated Press); “Culture DeLay Helped Create May Have Been His Downfall,” by Julie Mason (Houston Chronicle); “Democrats Want Sweeping House Ethics Investigation” (Reuters); “The DeLay-Abramoff Money Trail,” by R. Jeffrey Smith (The Washington Post).

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