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Abramoff Gets Four More Years. Delay to Get Off?

September 5, 2008

Even as John McCain took to the stage of the Republican convention to belatedly decry his party's surrender to "the temptations of corruption", two of its leading miscreants were back in the news. In Washington, GOP lobbyist extraordinaire and scandal architect Jack Abramoff was sentenced to four years in prison. But meanwhile in Texas, indicted former House Majority Leader Tom Delay won a technical victory that could keep him out of jail altogether.
Comparing himself favorably to Osama Bin Laden, Abramoff in a letter to the judge in his case proclaimed, "I am not a bad man." Unfortunately for Ralph Reed and Bob Ney's partner in crime, the judge wasn't buying it.

Abramoff, 49, already has served nearly two years for his conviction in a related Florida fraud case. The sentence yesterday by U.S. District Judge Ellen S. Huvelle means that the former Republican lobbyist will likely remain in prison until 2012.

Given that his cooperation with prosecutors saved him from a maximum of 12 years behind bars, Abramoff's feigned remorse Thursday was all the more shocking. While he "choked back tears" and declared to the court he had "happily and arrogantly engaged in a lifestyle of political corruption and business corruption," Abramoff has apparently started working on tell-all, payback book to clear his name:

The Associated Press reported yesterday that although Abramoff expressed remorse in court, he has spent his time in prison cooperating with a book that portrays him as an innocent man targeted by biased prosecutors, reporters and political enemies.

To date, Abramoff's Indian casino bilking operation has led to guilty pleas from 13 lobbyists and public officials, including Ney and Tom Delay's former deputy chief of staff, Tony Rudy. As for Delay himself, he remains under scrutiny in the Justice Department investigation.
But in Austin, Texas, Tom Delay got some very good news. Almost three years after his indictment on conspiracy and money laundering charges, the Hammer may escape prosecution. Thanks to a technicality in Texas' money laundering statute, the man who once compared himself to Jesus may walk out of court, if not on water.
The Austin Statesman reported two weeks ago that the charges against Delay and his two co-conspirators John Colyandro and Jim Ellis "may be dismissed because the 2002 campaign finance case involved checks and not cash." Delay's possible get-out-of-jail free card, the paper reported, may be found in the fine print of the state's 1993 law:

The state's 3rd Court of Appeals on Friday actually upheld the money-laundering indictments against DeLay's two campaign associates, John Colyandro of Austin and Jim Ellis of Washington.
But the ruling contained a silver lining for the trio's lawyers because it concluded that the state's money-laundering statute - written in 1993 to combat illicit drug activity by focusing on the cash in the criminal transactions - did not apply to checks at the time DeLay is accused of laundering corporate money into campaign donations.

On Tuesday, Delay scored another victory when the Court of Appeals rejected "a call from one of its members for a full-court rehearing of a case involving Tom DeLay's onetime political associates." As the Houston Chronicle reported on Tuesday:

Third Court of Appeals Justice Diane Henson, a Democrat, unsuccessfully asked the six-member court to reconsider a decision, reached last month by a panel of three Republican justices, that DeLay's attorney believes will eventually throw out the prosecution's case against the former congressman.

Delay's indictment arose from his unprecedented - and successful - 2002 scheme to redesign Texas state legislative districts to ensure a Republican majority in the state. Since Texas law forbids corporate contributions to candidates, Delay's co-defendant Colyandro sent $190,000 in checks collected by Texans for a Republican Majority (TRMPAC) to the Republican National Committee. Days later, the RNC then funneled the $190,000 directly back to seven GOP candidates. Ultimately, the gambit worked perfectly, as Delay's new map produced a 21-11 Republican majority in 2004, a sweeping change from the 17-15 Democratic edge previously. (In 2006, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Delay's redistricting dirty work by a 7-2 vote.)
Once again, it's looking like Tom Delay will get away with it. Having left the House of Representatives in disgrace, the pioneer of the Republican "criminalization of politics" defense may yet enjoy a political resurrection. Given his past comparisons to Christ and his insistence that God speaks to him, Tom Delay will no doubt consider that altogether fitting.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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