Why did the Tom DeLay investigation stop? Or, there is more than one way to skin a US attorney

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In the fall of 2005 dominos were falling fast in the Jack Abramoff investigation. And they were falling in one very clear direction, closer and closer to Tom DeLay.

First DeLay's former communications director fell:

On November 21st, 2005, Michael Scanlon, Jack Abramoff's partner in the Indian fraud and bribery schemes, pled guilty to Conspiracy to Defraud the United States.

Then DeLay's former deputy chief of staff fell:

Tony Rudy pled guilty March 31st, 2006 to one count of Conspiracy. He was a former aide to Tom DeLay, a colleague of Jack Abramoff's and then a lobbyist at Alexander Strategy Group. He was named (“Staffer A”) as a coconspirator in Abramoff's plea

The charge carries a maximum of five years, but because of Rudy's cooperation, prosecutors will recommend a sentencing range between two years and two years, six months. Rudy will pay at least $250,000 in restitution.

And it looked like the former Chief of Staff was next:

Ed Buckham, one-time chief of staff to Tom DeLay and later Chairman of the lobbying firm Alexander Strategy Group, appeared in Tony Rudy's guilty plea as “Lobbyist B.”

According to the plea, Buckham helped in routing $50,000 in payments to Rudy's wife's consulting firm – the money was to bribe Rudy for his help defeating a bill on behalf of Jack Abramoff's client.

The plea also states that Rudy worked to bring other congressional aides on a trip to the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) in part to benefit Buckham. The CNMI was a client of Abramoff's, but he seems to have shared the CNMI with Buckham.

In January 2006 Buckham shut down his business. In June 2006 the Washington Post revealed this choice nugget:

A registered lobbyist opened a retirement account in the late 1990s for the wife of then-House Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) and contributed thousands of dollars to it while also paying her a salary to work for him from her home in Texas, according to sources, documents and DeLay's attorney, Richard Cullen.

The account represents a small portion of the income that DeLay's family received from entities at least partly controlled by lobbyist Edwin A. Buckham. But the disclosure of its origin adds to what was previously known about the benefits DeLay's family received from its association with Buckham, and it brings the total over the past seven years to about half a million dollars.

Since then…..nothing. No Buckham plea. No indictments. Nothing…..was a U.S. Attorney fired to prevent the investigation from continuing to inexorably close in on Tom DeLay?

Nope. But something very fishy did indeed take place. The lead investigator was given a Federal Judgeship, a new division chief with connections to the GOP machine was appointed (AND REPORTEDLY, TO THE DELAY DEFENSE TEAM ITSELF) and presto…no more momentum in the investigation.Only trial attorney Martin Garbus spoke up at the time, in two the Huffington Post. First:

President George W. Bush has not made many moves more unethical than offering Noel L. Hillman, the Abramoff prosecutor, a federal judgeship. Hillman has apparently been talking with Bush's representatives since last year, and on last Thursday, he publicly announced he was accepting the appointment.

Let me make this perfectly clear.
At the same time that Mr. Hillman was conducting a grand jury and submitting evidence aimed at Bush's allies and perhaps Bush himself, he was meeting with Bush, who was, in effect, offering him a bribe.

Mr. Hillman, Bush is saying, leave the job, let me put someone else in your stead, someone I want. Forget, says Mr. Bush, that you have been in charge of the investigation for two years, that you have been involved on a day-to-day basis, and that your leaving seriously impedes the investigation.

I do not personally know Mr. Hillman. Thus far, his public actions seem to warrant only applause. But Hillman's boss is Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Neither has said a word about the offer and its acceptance. The public is entitled to know more.

But Bush is getting away with it. There's been very little press coverage. Alito, Hamas, Iraq, and Oprah Winfrey have buried the story.

The Democrats should insist on the appointment of a special prosecutor to fill Mr. Hillman's position. Attorney General Gonzales should not be permitted to designate Hillman's successor.

This, unlike the botched up Alito hearings, is a war we can win. We should not let Bush appoint his own person, someone like Harriet Miers, Samuel Alito, or the man Bush's father said was the best person qualified for a Supreme Court seat, Clarence Thomas.

And second he outlined the deal with Democrats that got Hillman his ill-gotten bench seat:

We now know there was a political deal between the Bush Administration and New Jersey Democrats to get rid of the Abramoff prosecutor, Noel Hillman, by offering him a federal judgeship in New Jersey.
It's a deal that had been in the making for over a year.

It came about this way. The Democrats wanted Magistrate Federal Judge Susan [Wigenton] to be a federal judge. The Bush Administration said no.

We also know that in 2002 Bush got rid of a prosecutor. U.S. Attorney Black, who was about to indict Abramoff in Guam. That indictment also related to Abramoff's purchasing of influence. It's the modus operandi of this administration. Bush got rid of him, put in his own man, and the Abramoff prosecution ended.

This year the Bush Administration agreed to give the Democrats who they wanted in exchange for the Democrats agreeing to remove the Abramoff prosecutor. Wingenton got her appointment; the Democrats agreed to the removal of Noel Hillman, and he accepted a judgeship.

Next we'll look at where the investigation has gone since Hillman was replaced. Hint: it's a long road to nowhere. If you can't wait, jump ahead to this Legal Times piece.

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  1. The Democratic Delusion
    Don't be so sure that the investigation was halted simply because of the involvement of Republicans. There were Democrats who were associated with Jack Abramoff as well. Tom Daschle and Harry Reid among them.

    Congress is at times just as corrupt as the White House. And when things hit too close to home, they move to protect themselves. Just like the White House does.

    Corruption is not just a Republican problem.

      • Horse hockey
        This is not a bipartisan problem. This is a Tom DeLay/Karl Rove GOP problem.

        There are individual corrupt Democrats but nothing approaching the power and corruption of this organized racket that's been running DC for the past decade.

        • Riiiight….
          And the list of corruption from the D's goes on and on and on…..:

          An independent counsel who investigated possible tax violations by former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Henry Cisneros charged that the Clinton administration thwarted his efforts to get to the truth.

          – U.S. Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.) is under criminal investigation by the U.S. Justice Department for possible bribery in exchange for promoting business deals in Africa

          – Federal prosecutors alleged in court documents that Ernest Newton, a former state Democrat Connecticut senator worked with a reputed mobster and his associate to try to stop police raids on businesses and advance their business interests

          – Clarence Norman Jr., the longtime powerbroker of Brooklyn NY Democrats was found guilty of intentionally soliciting illegal campaign contributions.

          – A top aide to Jim Black, the Democratic speaker of the state Legislature of North Carolina, resigned amid reports he had received payments from a company hoping for the lottery contract. The State Board of Elections is investigating Black's campaign finances. The investigation comes after the group Democracy North Carolina said it found evidence that video-poker operators were funneling money through unsuspecting donors to Black's campaign.

          – West Virginia Logan County Clerk Glen Dale “Hound Dog” Adkins admitted to selling his vote for $500 in the 1996 Democratic Party primary, while Perry French Harvey Jr. pleaded guilty to conspiring to bribe voters in last year's Democratic contest

          – Former Democat Gov. Donald Siegelman of Alabama was charged in a “widespread racketeering conspiracy” that includes accusations he took a bribe from former hospital executive Richard Scrushy for a key state appointment.

          – Frank Ballance – a former Democrat Rep. from North Carolina was sentenced to four years in federal prison for conspiring to divert taxpayer money to his law firm and family through a charitable organization he helped start. Ballance, was a state senator before being elected to Congress in 2002, also agreed to repay $61,917 and to forfeit $203,000 in a bank escrow account in the name of the John A. Hyman Memorial Foundation.

          – Five Democratic activists in Wisconsin accused of slashing the tires of vans rented by Republicans on Election Day 2004 are currently on trial

          – Chuck Chvala, a Former Democrat Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader was sentenced to nine months in jail for felony misconduct in office and illegally funneling campaign contributions. Chvala had reached a plea deal with prosecutors earlier this year, admitting to charges that he directed a state employee to run a political campaign and used an independent expenditure group to funnel campaign contributions to a fellow Democrat.

          – Brett Pfeffer, a former legislative director to Rep. William Jefferson, D-La., pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting bribery of a public official and conspiracy.

          – Raymond Reggie, a New Orleans political Democratic consultant and fund-raiser who is Senator Kennedy's brother-in-law was sentenced to a year in prison yesterday after pleading guilty to bank fraud charges.

          • Pretty fast with the GOP talking points
            But can you point to one instance in which any of those Democrats coordinated with one another in a systematic way?
            Anything that's resulted in multiple US Congressmen pleading guilty to felony counts like Duke Cunningham and Bob Ney before the investigations abruptly stopped?

          • ProveOurDemocracy on

            Hearings so important to correct more than corruption for money
            Abramoff's and Ney's HAVA stripped evidence from elections. No more paper ballots with e-voting.

            Abramoff's lobbyists are tied to private army Blackwater.

            Is draining the strength of our soldiers and our military in Iraq on purpose?

            http://www.dailykos….

            Book Review: Jeremy Scahill's “Blackwater”
            by SusanG
            Sun Mar 25, 2007

            Blackwater
            The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army
            By Jeremy Scahill
            Nation Books, Avalon Publishing
            New York, 2007

              Blackwater is quickly becoming one of the most powerful private armies in the world, and several of its top officials are extreme religious zealots, some of whom appear to believe they are engaged in an epic battle for the defense of Christendom. …. For its vaunted American forces, Blackwater has expanded the mercenary motivating factor (or rationalization) beyond simple monetary gain (though that remains a major factor) to a duty-oriented, patriotic justification.

            Jeremy Scahill's Blackwater would be a masterpiece of the genre of futuristic sci fi were it not so regrettably real. It's got all the twists and turns and secret corners of a Hollywood thriller: records and contracts that can't be traced, shady characters recruiting other shady characters in violent Third World nations, extremist religious figures lurking in the background of a mysterious unregulated company that uses PR tactics worthy of Orwell. Unfortunately for America, we're living the plot in real time.

            snip

            The two most detailed story lines follow the four mercenaries killed in Fallujah and the rise of Blackwater founder Erik Prince. Scahill in the former case was able to interview the families of the mercenaries and follow their lawsuit against the company, which has hired such notables as Kenneth Starr to cut off discovery at every turn by bouncing issues into sympathetic courts and pleading national security issues. The families' gradual understanding that despite its PR overtures, Blackwater was most definitely not on their side is painful. Scahill's description of the early life and subsequent career of secretive Blackwater founder Erik Prince, a right-wing Christianist who has welded the perfect vehicle for his beliefs in fundamentalism, militarism and privatization/corporatism, is research at its finest.

            snip

            The use of these contractors raises an even more alarming prospect, if followed to its logical conclusion: why not cut governments out altogether? As multi-national corporations continue to grow and exercise a power greater than that of many nations, what's to prevent them from employing their own private armies – as they do now with smaller, more passive security forces – and ignoring all laws of any country, the ones they're occupying or the ones they're at least nominally registered in?

            As it is, Blackwater is floating around the world, according to Scahill, recruiting in countries with some of the most heinous human rights records and long and sordid histories of utilizing death squads. Your Solutions, a rival mercenary provider to Blackwater, actually hired the Honduran soldiers pulled out of Iraq by the Honduran government and sent them right on back to the region to fight under a private contract. Blackwater has hired and trained South Africans and soldiers who served under Pinochet in Chile.

            More disturbing is the current push of Blackwater and the mercenary industry to repackage itself to meet domestic and humanitarian needs. First, consider this passage from Scahall, describing the first-ever “World SWAT Conference and Challenge,” held at the company's North Carolina facility, where:

              … there would be a SWAT Olympics, where teams from across the United States and Canada would compete in a series of events televised by ESPN. [Army Lt. Col. David Grossman, author of the book On Killing] spoke of a “new Dark Age” full of Al Qaeda terrorism and school shootings… “Embrace the warrior spirit,” he shouted. “We need warriors who embrace that dirty, nasty four-letter word kill!”

            Totally aside from the surreal weirdness of having these events broadcast on ESPN, consider those “warrior spirit” quotations and realize that Blackwater was on the streets of New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina faster than the federal government was. And think about how the company, according to Scahill, is now making a push, with its massive lobbying arm behind it, to get into the border patrol business as well, with founder Prince talking up savings and efficiency.

            snip

            What Scahill rightly calls this “repackaging mercenaries as peacekeepers” is going on through presentations to government officials – both in this country and to officials in such places as Jordan – under the beloved conservative banner of privatization, efficiency and incredible lobbying efforts (the same lobbyists, in fact, who are threaded throughout the Abramoff scandal).

          • ProveOurDemocracy on

            Kucinich plans to investigate the privatization of war
            from: http://www.thenation

            Kucinich says he plans to investigate the potential involvement of private forces in so-called “black bag,” “false flag” or covert operations in Iraq. “What's the difference between covert activities and so-called overt activities which you have no information about? There's no difference,” he says. Kucinich also says the problems with contractors are not simply limited to oversight and transparency. “It's the privatization of war,” he says. The Administration is “linking private war contractor profits with warmaking. So we're giving incentives for the contractors to lobby the Administration and the Congress to create more opportunities for profits, and those opportunities are more war. And that's why the role of private contractors should be sharply limited by Congress.”

          • Proof of corruption?
            How's this crap hold up in the light of the DOJ  shennanigans? (Read “fuckery”).

            Did you grok the study by Shields & Cragan that shows the USA's prosectuted Dems at a 7 to 1 ratio?

            “Data indicate that the offices of the U.S. Attorneys across the nation investigate seven (7) times as many Democratic officials as they investigate Republican officials, a number that exceeds even the racial profiling of African Americans in traffic stops.”

            RICO crime in our government, thanks to the GOP machine.  They cheat and lie and steal and think God ordains it.

            Wake up & smell the shit!

  2. i have jury duty on monday…
    …here in travis county, so maybe there will be a surprise good news!

    wait, if i play this properly, do you think this post will/could be used to prevent my selection?

    ; )

    • repeating the same crap
      with different sources doesn't make it true. Media Matters — as cited by MsInformed above — is refuting the Post's crappy reporting.
      There's nothing corrupt about accepting money from Native Americans. It was Abramoff's redistribution of gambling money to the GOP that resulted in his felony plea.
      Your guys are scum, that is all.

      • Some of “our” guys are too
        The crappy reporting by the Washington Post is what spurred the investigation into Jack Abramoff to begin with. Tends to lend a little credibility to the crap if you ask me.

        Jack Abramoff was not the only lobbyist involved and Greenberg Traurig was not the only law firm involved. They just caught. 

        Should prove interesting to see if Chris Bell suddenly starts lobbying the Texas Legislature on the issue of casinos.

        Like a wise old Indian sage once said, where there are smoke signals in support of casinos on the reservations, there is usually a lobbyist hiding behind the smoke.

        And usually the lobbyist is not representing the tribe the lobbyist says wants the casino.

        • when “our” guys are organized enough
          To basically merit a RICO prosecution I'll eat my hat.
          The GOP went from reformers to the most corrupt congressional delegation in US history in less than 10 years.
          It took the Democrats 60+ years to come up with the congressional post office scandal.
          There's just no comparison.
          Not that we should tolerate corrupt Democrats, but let's cut the crap. DeLay, Inc. was an unbelievably corrupt machine and BushCo. is still operating the White House and executive branch from that same craven play book.

  3. Back to the US Attorneys NOT fired…
    That is the other side of the coin that makes the whole story even more chilling – the 'underperfomers' who would not play by the crooked Bushco canon were purged – but what evil was done under the cover of the US Attorneys' offices according to those twisted rules?

      • NO
        He committed crimes, more than we know about.
        DeLay and company perverted the people's business into a mad quest for partisan power.
        He sold access to the highest bidder and used that money to buy more power.
        The damage he caused by gutting our Congressional delegation is still ongoing.
        This wasn't Jim Wright selling some books in a shady way. It wasn't even Ben Barnes doing a dirty real estate deal or two.
        This was wholesale corruption, extortion, and abuse of power on a scale I hope to never see again in my lifetime.
        The SOB is still on TV spreading lies and pretending to be principled. He'll get what's coming to him.

        • Wow
          “This wasn't Jim Wright selling some books in a shady way. It wasn't even Ben Barnes doing a dirty real estate deal or two.
          This was wholesale corruption, extortion, and abuse of power on a scale I hope to never see again in my lifetime.”

          This is the same level of crap that Kay Bailey Hutchison put out when she talked about perjury not being perjury in some cases.

          This is the same level of crap that Nancy Pelosi put out when she talked about ethics violations by Democrats not being the same as ethics violations by Republicans.

          Corruption is corruption. There are no “levels” of corruption with regard to an elected official violating the public trust.

          When you believe there is, you are no better than the Republicans who believe there is.

          • What is an ongoing criminal enterprise, Papa?
            C'mon Snooks step back from the trees and survey the forest with me a second here…

            While corruption is indeed corruption, and it is not unique to either party, what I see at issue here is a question of scale and impact.  And there IS a meaningful difference here.

            Which does not excuse ANY public official of either party who has violated the public trust – but to pretend that the wholesale politicization of the US Attorney's office in a way designed to turn elections is not a bigger deal than the venal misdeeds of a single official simply fatuous – and EVERY corrupt public official from that individual to the architect of the subversion of the US Attorney's office should go down.

      • Unless crooks go to jail
        they'll keep doing the same things because they work!
          Tom Delay was on CSPAN, at a book event at the Cornell Club (?) and he maintains that private trade groups paid for his golf trip to St Andrews.  Didn't anyone tell him that the receipt showed up on Abramoff's credit card?  He doesn't know wha' hoppen.

  4. WHY this matters – Griles plea deal announced
    So here you have it writ large, a plea deal that gets the highest ranking Bushco official implicated in the Abramoff scandal off with a slap on the wrist, half of which can be served in home confinement!  Which list did the US Attorneys working this case fall on I wonder?

    Griles, an oil and gas lobbyist who became an architect of  President Bush's energy policies while at the Interior Department between July 2001 and July 2005, is the highest ranking Bush administration official implicated in the Washington lobbying scandal.

    snip

    Prosecutors dropped earlier allegations that Griles did anything improper to help Abramoff or gained anything of value from the former Republican lobbyist, the AP was told. The agreement does not require Griles to help investigators with their grand jury probe.

    In exchange for the plea, federal prosecutors will seek no more than a 10-month prison sentence for Griles – the minimum they could seek under sentencing guidelines – but they will agree to let him serve half that in home confinement, according to one person involved in the case.

    http://news.yahoo.co

  5. The Democratic Undergrounders on here…
    have one train of thought…Ds aren't that bad…Rs are evil…if it's a story about Dem corruption, it's bulls**t, and by God, if it's a story about R corruption, it's as clean as a whistle– um like everything Joe Wilson says in his profit-making book. LOL

    Gotta love that fringe <<<---- ward hypocrisy.

  6. Hey guys!
    Just stopping by here on my spring break to say this:
    1. Stop bickering, this is a partisan D site
    2. Typing from DeLay's district right now I can tell you, he's a jerk
    3. Keep your eyes on the prize, making him slimed and irrelevant.
    4. Get Lampson re-elected.

  7. Some Republicans have had enough…
    http://tinyurl.com/y

    “Four board members of the American Conservative Union, one of the oldest and best established voices of the conservative movement, resigned recently when DeLay was brought onto the board.”

    And his book no doubt will create even further problems as more Republicans read it.  He was immoral but now is a righteous Christian.  He was unethical but got the job done and so that is all that matters. 

    He proclaims himself to be the voice of the  true conservative Republicans in this country. Some of those true conservative Republicans no doubt will move to put a muzzle on him. Because he doesn't really represent them. Or speak for them.

    In a way, no one does at this point. They are becoming the “moral minority” finally in this country.  And they can thank Tom De Lay for that.  As can we in a way.

  8. Bottom Line
    Look, Tom Delay is nothing more than white trash and like most white trash he eventually ran afoul of the law. He's a flim flam man that wanted to use his office to make himself, his whore daughter, and all his crooked friends rich.
    Delay has nothing to offer, he only wants to take and take, legally or illegally.
    The idea that there are people out there that are willing to defend him or his actions are beyond me. This moron lost the R majority in the House because he is a crook, end of story.
    The thing that absolutely kills me is that Delay was using campaign donations to pay his wife and daughter something like 500K over 4 years for “fund raising” activity. Right. How can anybody not see that as outright theft? “they earned it” Sure.
    F Tom Delay, Dying in jail would be too good for that POS.

    • The Goody Box
      Apparently politicians use their campaign funds for a lot of things.  Things that most of us would object to. If we knew.

      I doubt Tom De Lay gets out of bed in the morning without calling an attorney to see which side of the bed to get out on. 

      Reality is that ethics went out of the American ethos a long time ago. 

      It is never a question of whether something is ethical. Only a matter of whether something is legal. And in a growing number of cases juries are overruling the attorneys who tell their clients something is legal and saying no, it was not.

      But of course the attorneys then appeal and get a judge or two, or buy a judge or two,  to say yes, it was. 

       

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