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The Syndicate of Tom Delay

The Company He Keeps

by CHRISTOPHER BRAUCHLI

They’re just a bunch of nails and nails, as is well known, do Hammer’s bidding. And that explains why during the week of November 14, there were two things that happened that were wonderful for Mr. DeLay and only one bad thing. That made it a really good week.

The first good thing was that his trucklers in the House of Representatives inoculated him against any bad results were he to face criminal charges in the future. (Three of his close Texas associates have been indicted on charges ranging from money-laundering to soliciting and receiving illegal corporate contributions. The district attorney who brought the indictments is continuing his investigation and it is not yet known whether the trail of criminal conduct will eventually lead to Mr. DeLay.)

In order to avoid any adverse political effect on Mr. DeLay were he to be indicted, those who serve him in the House voted to get rid of the House Rule that demanded that members holding leadership be purer than Caesar’s wife. The revoked rule provided that a member of the leadership who was indicted had to temporarily step aside. Under the new rule an indicted leader may continue to serve and a party steering committee then decides if the criminal charges are of sufficient gravity to warrant the indicted leader’s removal from his leadership post. As Representative Henry Bonilla, one of Mr. DeLay’s sycophants put it:"Attorneys tell me you can be indicted for just about anything in this country, in any county or community. Sometimes district attorneys . . . could make a name for themselves by indicting a member of the leadership, regardless of who it may be, and therefore determine their future. And that’s not right."

Being vaccinated against the untoward effects of suggestions he might face criminal charges was not Mr. DeLay’s only bit of good news. Equally serendipitous was the House Ethics Panel’s rebuke of Representative Chris Bell. It was Mr. Bell’s complaint against Mr. DeLay that prompted the Ethics Panel to admonish Mr. DeLay in September and October. Having acknowledged the validity of some of Mr. Bell’s complaints, the committee nonetheless found that making his complaint, Mr. Bell had engaged in exaggeration and innuendo. Ignoring the reproofs he had received, Mr. DeLay said that his accuser was nothing more than a "partisan stalker" and took the committee’s rebuke of Mr. Bell as vindication. Only one bad thing happened that week and it didn’t affect Mr. DeLay-it simply reflected on him. In the middle of the week it was disclosed that another of his close aides may be a crook of some distinction. During that week Michael Scanlon, while testifying before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, took the fifth amendment seven times.

Mr. Scanlon served as Mr. DeLay’s chief of staff and press spokesman from approximately 1997 until 2000 when he struck out on his own to make money as a publicist and, perhaps, a crook. What is alleged is that he and Jack Abramoff, a major contributor to the Bush Cheney campaign and Tom DeLay paid Ralph Reed, leader of the Christian Coalition, $4.2 million between 2001 and 2003 for him to build religious sentiment against Indian casinos operated in competition with Indian casinos represented by the two men. Speaking Rock Casino operated by the Tigua Tribe in Texas was one of the rivals. In an e mail to Mr. Abramoff Mr. Reed said he had been successful in getting "our pastors" mobilized against the Tigua’s casino. In 2002 it was shut down. Thereafter Messrs. Abramoff and Scanlon were paid $4.2 million by the Tigua tribe to correct what Abramoff told them was the "gross indignity perpetuated by the Texas state authorities." According to testimony before the Senate committee, the two men promised the tribe that they could get language inserted into a pending Congressional bill that would allow the casino to reopen. It never happened.

Mr. Scanlon was last in the news while serving on Mr. DeLay’s staff. Commenting on the upcoming impeachment trial of President Clinton, Mr. Scanlon and another staffer exchanged e mails. One of the e mails, reportedly written by Mr. Scanlon said: "This whole thing about not kicking someone when they are down is BS. Not only do you kick him-you kick him until he passes out-then beat him over the head with a baseball bat-then roll him up in an old rug-and throw him off a cliff into the pounding surf below." It is not unlikely that having heard Mr. Scanlon take the 5th after bilking them of millions, there are a lot of Indians who hope that the justice system does just that to Mr. DeLay’s former aide. Who can blame them? Brauchli.56@post.harvard.edu.

A man hey’re just a bunch of nails and nails, as is well known, do Hammer’s bidding. And that explains why during the week of November 14, there were two things that happened that were wonderful for Mr. DeLay and only one bad thing. That made it a really good week.

The first good thing was that his trucklers in the House of Representatives inoculated him against any bad results were he to face criminal charges in the future. (Three of his close Texas associates have been indicted on charges ranging from money-laundering to soliciting and receiving illegal corporate contributions. The district attorney who brought the indictments is continuing his investigation and it is not yet known whether the trail of criminal conduct will eventually lead to Mr. DeLay.)

In order to avoid any adverse political effect on Mr. DeLay were he to be indicted, those who serve him in the House voted to get rid of the House Rule that demanded that members holding leadership be purer than Caesar’s wife. The revoked rule provided that a member of the leadership who was indicted had to temporarily step aside. Under the new rule an indicted leader may continue to serve and a party steering committee then decides if the criminal charges are of sufficient gravity to warrant the indicted leader’s removal from his leadership post. As Representative Henry Bonilla, one of Mr. DeLay’s sycophants put it:"Attorneys tell me you can be indicted for just about anything in this country, in any county or community. Sometimes district attorneys . . . could make a name for themselves by indicting a member of the leadership, regardless of who it may be, and therefore determine their future. And that’s not right."

Being vaccinated against the untoward effects of suggestions he might face criminal charges was not Mr. DeLay’s only bit of good news. Equally serendipitous was the House Ethics Panel’s rebuke of Representative Chris Bell. It was Mr. Bell’s complaint against Mr. DeLay that prompted the Ethics Panel to admonish Mr. DeLay in September and October. Having acknowledged the validity of some of Mr. Bell’s complaints, the committee nonetheless found that making his complaint, Mr. Bell had engaged in exaggeration and innuendo. Ignoring the reproofs he had received, Mr. DeLay said that his accuser was nothing more than a "partisan stalker" and took the committee’s rebuke of Mr. Bell as vindication. Only one bad thing happened that week and it didn’t affect Mr. DeLay-it simply reflected on him. In the middle of the week it was disclosed that another of his close aides may be a crook of some distinction. During that week Michael Scanlon, while testifying before the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, took the fifth amendment seven times.

Mr. Scanlon served as Mr. DeLay’s chief of staff and press spokesman from approximately 1997 until 2000 when he struck out on his own to make money as a publicist and, perhaps, a crook. What is alleged is that he and Jack Abramoff, a major contributor to the Bush Cheney campaign and Tom DeLay paid Ralph Reed, leader of the Christian Coalition, $4.2 million between 2001 and 2003 for him to build religious sentiment against Indian casinos operated in competition with Indian casinos represented by the two men. Speaking Rock Casino operated by the Tigua Tribe in Texas was one of the rivals. In an e mail to Mr. Abramoff Mr. Reed said he had been successful in getting "our pastors" mobilized against the Tigua’s casino. In 2002 it was shut down. Thereafter Messrs. Abramoff and Scanlon were paid $4.2 million by the Tigua tribe to correct what Abramoff told them was the "gross indignity perpetuated by the Texas state authorities." According to testimony before the Senate committee, the two men promised the tribe that they could get language inserted into a pending Congressional bill that would allow the casino to reopen. It never happened.

Mr. Scanlon was last in the news while serving on Mr. DeLay’s staff. Commenting on the upcoming impeachment trial of President Clinton, Mr. Scanlon and another staffer exchanged e mails. One of the e mails, reportedly written by Mr. Scanlon said: "This whole thing about not kicking someone when they are down is BS. Not only do you kick him-you kick him until he passes out-then beat him over the head with a baseball bat-then roll him up in an old rug-and throw him off a cliff into the pounding surf below." It is not unlikely that having heard Mr. Scanlon take the 5th after bilking them of millions, there are a lot of Indians who hope that the justice system does just that to Mr. DeLay’s former aide. Who can blame them?

Christopher Brauchli is a Boulder, Colorado lawyer. His column appears weekly in the Daily Camera. He can be reached at: brauchli.56@post.harvard.edu