Delay and Earle – Rounds One and Two

Even those who pay only casual attention to the news know by now that Representative Tom Delay from Texas, in accordance with House rules, stepped down as House Majority Leader, after having been indicted by Austin District Attorney Ronnie Earle. The charges center on alleged campaign finance law violations. Known as the “Hammer,” by both fans and critics for treating every political predicament like a nail, Delay claims that he is the victim of a politically-motivated legal assault.

There are at least three possible outcomes for this legal conflict. First, it may turn out that Ronnie Earle has a strong case and manages to convict Delay. Delay’s political career would be over. Political comebacks after a conviction are virtually impossible. Former Mayor of Washington, DC, Marion Berry may be the best known exception. Second, Earle may have a sufficiently strong case that lasts for a long time, all the while bleeding Delay of political power even if acquittal is the final result. Third, the case could be dismissed or acquittal may come quickly, essentially vindicating Delay, buttressing the argument that Earle’s prosecution was without merit and politically motivated.

The first and second outcomes would impact Republicans negatively, but corruption in politics will happen. One more politician convicted of wrong doing will not have very much of a long term impact and may be salutary. In many ways, the third outcome, although beneficial for Republicans, would deal the biggest blow to the republic. It would mean that an out-of-control local prosecutor could affect the leadership of the national legislature based on frivolous charges.

The real current problem is the lack of balanced coverage by the mainstream press organs. The indictment of Delay was duly recorded. Though a Conservatively inclined ear might have detected a note a glee in the reporting on Delay, relevant facts were provided.

However, since the September 28 indictment a number of new an important facts have emerged, which have largely been ignored. The Washington Post has not reported on Delay since October 2. After the initial coverage of the indictment, the New York Times neglected reporting on the indictment until October 8. They reluctantly reported that Delay’s lawyers formally charged Earle with prosecutorial misconduct, without going into the nature of the charges against Earle. It is hard to believe that in a similar situation, a flamboyant Republican DA using extraordinary means to prosecute a Liberal Democratic leader in Congress, these two papers would have remained so silent.

What has happened since the indictment?  First the foreman of the grand jury William Gibson conceded that his decision to indict had nothing to do with the facts presented to the grand jury, but with his anger at political ads. Here is a short excerpt from an interview on KBLJ radio:

Grand Jury Foreman William Gibson: All this all came out way before I was on the grand jury, these mailers were in your paper, in Austin paper, everyone else’s paper, they flooding the market around here. But those were way before I ever went on the grand jury and my decision was based on upon those (the TAB ads,) not what might have happened in the grand jury room…

KLBJ host: Oh. Ok. Your mind was made up after you learned about the ads.

William Gibson: Right, those ads, way back. telling people how, so-called freedom of the speech deal, and I looked at it and they are just telling people go vote for that person, go vote for that person.

KLBJ host: So they didn’t have to persuade you in the grand jury with any evidence, you already…

William Gibson: That was already public knowledge there and way back (unintelligible)…they stated their positions and I could state my position by say I don’t like that.

This does not represent the sort of fairness, one normally expects from a grand juror and one can reasonably call into question the evenhandedness of the indictment process.

Second, there have been questionable and extraordinary legal maneuverings by Earle since the original indictment. After there was a technical issue arising out of the first indictment, Earle rushed back to obtain a new indictment on a slightly different alleged transgression surrounding the same campaign finance issues of the original indictment. The grand jury reported “No Bill” indicating no indictment would be returned. The Associated Press reports that Earle was visibly angry at the obstinate jurors. The reported incident is not consistent with a dispassionate DA. Frustrated, Earle rushed a newly impaneled to return an additional indictment against Delay.

None of these events proves that Earle is out of control and Delay could still be guilty even if Earle is overly aggressive in his legal pursuit of Delay. However, people deserved to know about the extraordinary events surrounding the indictment of the former House Majority Leader. The main stream media have failed news consumers once again. At the same time, these traditional news sources fecklessly wonder why fewer and fewer pay much attention to them.

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