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Indictments in Texas over...
Tom DeLay's plot for a GOP takeover

By Cindy Beringer | October 8, 2004 | Page 2

ANOTHER POLITICAL scandal is brewing in Texas, and right smack in the middle of it is House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and his plan to take over the U.S. government. Three of DeLay's top aides and eight corporations were named in 32 indictments for their involvement in what the biweekly Texas Observer calls "the most audacious electoral efforts seen in Texas since Lyndon Johnson stole the 1948 Senate race."

According to the Observer, the reactionary Texas Association of Business raised corporate cash for one of DeLay's pet political action committees. The money was then laundered through Texans for a Republican Majority and funneled into 17 Republican races in the Texas House of Represenatives. This ensured a Republican majority that would elect Tom Craddick as speaker.

Later, with DeLay and his aides pulling the strings, Craddick forced through a crazily drawn redistricting plan in a special session that favored the election of more Republicans to the U.S. House.

Oddly enough, Texas law prohibits the use of corporate cash for political activity such as polling, phone banking and consulting. Among the corporations indicted for contributing were Sears, Roebuck, Cracker Barrel, Bacardi USA and Westar Energy. Not all of the corporate contributors whose money was laundered through DeLay's PACs were Texas-based.

According to the Texas Observer, an executive of Kansas-based Westar Energy questioned why the company should give $25,000 to influence elections in Texas, where the company had no operations. The executive was told that the contribution would help get DeLay's support for language in federal legislation that would benefit Westar. After a $60,000 contribution, Westar's exemption for certain kinds of regulations was added to the energy bill. The exemption was quietly dropped, however, when the Washington Post reported that the company was under investigation.

DeLay is nicknamed "The Hammer" for his ability to extort huge amounts of political contributions in ways that are as creative as they are coercive. He started a tax-exempt corporation, Celebrations for Children, to solicit "donor packages" of up to $500,000 to pay for extravagant entertainment during the Republican National Convention. Leftover money was to go to foster children in his home district. The plan was dropped after it was exposed in the media.

Last week, the U.S. House censured DeLay for putting pressure on Rep. Nick Smith (R-Mich.) to change his "no" vote on last year's Medicare prescription drug benefit legislation. DeLay promised he would endorse Smith's son in his congressional race, and that unidentified lawmakers and business interests would provide big campaign contributions. Smith refused, and his son lost the Republican primary.

So far, the grand jury hasn't questioned DeLay about his role in the latest Texas travesty, limiting its investigation to DeLay aides. To judge from past history, the smart money is on DeLay coming through all this without a scratch.

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