EDITORIAL Crime and Punishment INhen Jan Reid and I set out to write a book about Tom DeLay in 2003, we assumed we would be writing about a subject whose political philosophy was alien to oursnot about organized crime. But a criminal conspiracywith our subject at its center became one of the themes of our book. Incidents of contempt for the law were, as far as reporting goes, low-hanging fruit. Writing about them made us feel as if we were demonstrating our grasp of the obvious. Congressional Democrats figured out how easy it was in 1998, when they filed a RICO suit against DeLay and his various “criminal enterprises.” After Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson certified the suit, DeLay settled it and shut down some of the fundraising operations described as “criminal.” DeLay’s misconduct wasn’t limited to sketchy fundraising. In that same year, he pulled an intellectual property rights bill off the House floor, to coerce a trade association into firing a former Democratic member of Congress it had hired as executive director. “That meets the legal definition of extortion as I understand it,” said New York Democrat Jerrold Nadler. DeLay was also summoning lobbyists to his office and telling them they had to contribute more money to Republicans if they wanted access, which meets my definition of extortion, tooeven if my deeper understanding of the law is derived from watching “Boston Legal” on Tuesday nights. Now as the DA in Austin and federal prosecutors in Washington are confirming the obvious claims that we laid out in our book, the House Republican Conference has punished DeLayby banishing him to an Appropriations subcommittee. The subcommittee’s jurisdiction includes the NASA complex in DeLay’s district; he can use NASA funding to try to leverage up his 28 percent approval rating before he faces Democrat Nick Lampson in November. There’s also a less obvious reason for the appointment. DeLay will temporarily occupy the seat vacated by Randy “Duke” Cunningham, the California Republican who copped a $2.4 million bribery plea and resigned from Congress. \(An appropriate seat because DeLay had previously served on Appropriations, he’s now in line to become Subcommittee chair next year when Frank Wolf leaves the post. The leverage that DeLay will get out of the chairmanship has to do with the funding jurisdiction of the Subcommittee on Science, the Departments of State, Justice, and Commerce, and Related Agencies. Forget the related agencies. DeLay really needs some stroke at Justice. Right around the time that he received his new committee appointment, the U.S. Family Network received a subpoena requesting information on DeLay and his wife Christine; DeLay’s former deputy chief of staff Tony Rudy and his wife Lisa; and the Network director, the Rev. Ed Buckham and his wife Wendy. Ralph Reed and Grover Norquist were also mentioned in the subpoena though their wives were not. This all relates to the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, which will almost certainly result in the indictment of members of Congress and their staffs. The subpoena in question was issued by the same Department of Justice whose funding DeLay will oversee, if he escapes jail time in Texas. Funny how these things always seem to work out. Lou Dubose Former Observer editor Lou Dubose is the co-author of the PublicAffairs political thriller, The Hammer Comes Down: The Nasty, Brutish and Shortened Political Life of Tom DeLay. This is the first in an occasional series of guest editorials. THE TEXAS OBSERVER I VOLUME 98, NO. 4 I A journal of Free Voices Since 1954 Founding Editor Ronnie Dugger Executive Editor Jake Bernstein Editor Barbara Belejack Associate Editor Dave Mann Publisher Charlotte McCann Associate Publisher Julia Austin Circulation Manager Lara George Art Director/Webmaster Matt Omohundro Poetry Editor Naomi Shihab Nye Copy Editors Roxanne Bogucka, Laurie Baker Staff Writers Forrest Wilder, Tim Eaton Editorial Interns Leah Caldwell, Rachel Mehendale, Sofia Resnick, Kelly Sharp, Elizabeth L. Taylor Contributing Writers Nate Blakeslee, Gabriela Bocagrande, Robert Bryce, Michael Erard, James K. Galbraith, Dagoberto Gilb, Steven G. Kellman, Lucius Lomax, James McWilliams, Char Miller, Debbie Nathan, Karen Olsson, John Ross, Andrew Wheat Staff Photographers Alan Pogue, Jana Birchum, Steve Satterwhite Contributing Artists Sam Hurt, Kevin Kreneck, Michael Krone, Gary Oliver, Doug Potter Editorial Advisory Board David Anderson, Chandler Davidson, Dave Denison, Sissy Farenthold, John Kenneth Galbraith, Lawrence Goodwyn, Jim Hightower, Kaye Northcott, Susan Reid Texas Democracy Foundation Board Lou Dubose, Molly lvins, Susan Hays, D’Ann Johnson, Jim Marston, Gilberto Ocafias, Bernard Rapoport, Geoffrey Rips, Sharron Rush, Ronnie Dugger In Memoriam Bob Eckhardt, 1913-2001, Cliff Olofson, 1931-1995 The Texas Observer \(ISSN 0040-4519/ except during January and August when there is a 4 week break between non-profit foundation, 307 West 7th Street, Austin, Texas 78701. Telephone E-mail observertexasobserver.org World Wide Web DownHome page www.texasobserver.org . Periodicals Postage paid at Austin, TX and at additional mailing offices. Subscriptions One year $32, two years $59, three years $84. Full-time students $18 per year; add $13 per year for foreign subs. Back issues $3 prepaid. Airmail, foreign, group, and bulk rates on request. Microfilm available from University Microfilms Intl., 300 N. Zeeb Road, Ann Arbor, MI 48106. Indexes The Texas Observer is indexed in Access: The Supplementary Index to Periodicals; Texas Index and, for the years 1954 through 1981, The Texas Observer Index. POSTMASTER Send address changes to: The Texas Observer, 307 West 7th Street, Austin, Texas 78701. Books & the Culture is funded in part by the City of Austin through the Cultural Arts Division and by a grant from the Texas Commission on the Arts. FEBRUARY 24, 2006 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 3 _4
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