GOP Scandals Converge in Texas Redistricting Case
On Wednesday, the Supreme Court will hear a case that brings together three simmering Republican scandals. The GOP's unprecedented Congressional gerrymandering, Tom Delay's ethical failings and the Department of Justice's gutting of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 will be among the story lines as the Roberts Court takes on the 2003 Texas redistricting cases.
On its face, the Texas cases concern the constitutionality of a new Congressional district map put in place by Texas Republicans in 2003. Coming only two years after a federal judge in 2001 ruled on a new district map reflecting the results of the 2000 U.S. Census, Tom Delay and the GOP-controlled Texas legislature took the unprecedented step of redrawing the boundaries to ensure a solid Republican Congressional delegation. The new map produced a 21-11 Republican majority in 2004, a sweeping change from the 17-15 Democratic edge previously.
The backstory on the Texas case is as shocking and disturbing as the naked Republican power grab itself. In 2002, Tom Delay led the all-out effort to win a Republican majority in the Texas legislature, a successful effort that led to the gain of six GOP seats in Congress in 2004. But it was that very campaign that led to the indictments against Delay and his Texans for a Republican Majority (TRMPAC) on charges of money-laundering. In the aftermath of the 2002 campaign, Delay used the FAA to track a flight of Democratic legislators headed to Oklahoma seeking to prevent a quorum - and a vote - on the new GOP redistricting map. For the FAA imbroglio, the House Ethics Committee admonished Delay in October, 2004.
The Republican intrigue in the Texas redistricting controversy does not end there. As with the Georgia voter ID card program, the Attorney General overruled career Justice Department staffers who had concluded that the Texas map violated the 1965 Voting Rights Act by diminishing minority representation. While DOJ's Civil Rights Division would not grant the necessary "pre-clearance" required for electoral changes in key southern states, the White House had no such qualms.
The Texas case will be a litmus test of the partisan instincts of President Bush's new friends on the Court, Justices Roberts and Alito. As for their likely opinions, you can draw your own conclusions.