Thursday, October 06, 2005

Tom Delay: The Enron of Fundraising

The more we learn about Rep. Tom Delay's (R-TX) fundraising shenanigans, the more he looks like another corrupt corporate CEO. Delay's public defense largely rests on two points. First, he did not personally do anything illegal. If something went wrong, it must be because of what some underling was up to. Second, if he did, personally, do something wrong, it should be forgiven because "everybody was doing it."

Down in Houston, they were mighty proud of their cowboy capitalists at Enron. Right up until the point where the company collapsed, taking jobs and life savings with it. One of the games played by the crooks at Enron was to set up scam transactions so they could cycle money through the system to make it look like they were turning a profit. One scam involved power generation barges in Nigeria. Enron executives made a secret side agreement with Merrill Lynch whereby Enron promised to reimburse Merrill Lynch for financing the barges. The purpose was to make the transaction appear legitimate while in reality it was a tit-for-tat movement of money in and out of various accounts.

Sounds a lot like what Delay is accused of, doesn't it? The first Enron trial demonstrated "that when corrupt officers of Enron set out to cook its books, they did not do so alone ... [t]hey had help from corrupt bankers at Merrill Lynch." Delay stands charged with conspiracy and money laundering at his Texas money machines. Yet Delay also orchestrated money transfers in and out of national accounts and arranged exact-money exchanges between numerous candidates and campaigns. The Associated Press, reporting on Delay's indictment, said "The grand jury accused the men of conspiring to route corporate donations from DeLay's Texas committee to the Republican Party in Washington, then returning the money back to Texas legislative candidates. It was a scheme intended to evade a state law outlawing corporate donations going to candidates, the indictment said." Those checks didn't just write themselves and fly down to Texas of their own free will.

In addition, Delay has long insisted that citizens "pay to play." That is, if you didn't "donate" to Delay-designated causes, you didn't get in to see him. Delay has been so brazen about his shakedowns, and for so long, that it is hard to believe there has not been an active, organized effort to protect him.

When this levee breaks, will the flood claim more than just Delay and his immediate circle?

UPDATE: Well that didn't take long. The Washington Post has an article this morning (DeLay Meeting, RNC Actions Coincided, Oct. 7) that provides more details on the timeline of the money trail between the Republican National Committee and the Texas indictees. It's hard to imagine a conspiracy that was limited to the Texas side of this equation.

1 comment:

Kannafoot said...

The DeLay issue may not turn out the way many are hoping. The prosecution is building as many problems for itself as DeLay himself dug in the first place. The initial charges may well be dropped because the law upon which the charges are based took effect a year after the alleged incidents.

Revelations earlier this week that a prior grand jury refused to indict DeLay posed additional complications for the prosecution. DeLay's defense is already floating charges of "jury shopping", and the prosecution's actions only lend credence to the claim.

The heart of the matter is going to be the money laundering charge, but that one will be a difficult charge to prove against DeLay himself. It's highly unlikely that there will be a direct paper trail that leads to him. The best the prosecution can hope for is one or more underlings willing to cut a deal to testify against DeLay.

This entire affair reminds me of the Buddy Cianci (former mayor of Providence, RI) trial. No paper trails ever lead directly to him and the only thing they could ultimately get him on was a racketeering charge. Don't be surprised if they are ultimately unable to convince a jury of DeLay's guilt.