The President of the United States by historical precedent usually refuses to comment on on-going legal cases. The most recent "no comment " came in the Valerie Plame case, in which the staffs of both the President and Vice-President were accused of leaking the identity of Plame, a covert CIA officer, apparently to "punish " her outspoken husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson. The inconsistency was explained by press secretary Scott McClellan as a "presidential prerogative. " It may be a "prerogative, " but it is also nothing short of jury tampering by a President and Republican-led Congress that appears to be doing everything in its power to protect an 11-term rogue congressman.
The House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, also known as the Ethics Committee, publicly admonished DeLay three times in 2004. The first time was because he offered to endorse the election of the son of a fellow congressman in exchange for that congressman 's vote on a key piece of legislation. The second time was because he "created the appearance that donors were being provided with special access [to him] regarding the then-pending energy legislation. " The third time was because he "used federal resources in a political issue. " In this case, he ordered the Federal Aviation Administration, the Department of Justice, and the Federal Highway Administration to track down and return Democrat state representatives to Austin to force a quorum vote on congressional redistricting that would benefit the Republican party.
The state criminal case against Tom Delay originated in 2002, almost entirely as part of that redistricting manipulation. According to court documents, he was a principal force behind the creation of a Texas political committee that is accused of illegally channeling at least $190,000 in corporate funds into a state election, "with the intent that a felony be committed. " Those financial contributions helped assure a Republican majority in the state 's congressional delegation. A year later, using a plan drafted by DeLay and with the House majority leader providing constant advice, the Republican-controlled Texas House of Representatives reorganized congressional districts.
In a 73-page memo of Dec. 22, 2003, five attorneys, an analyst, and a statistician in the civil rights division of the U.S. Department of Justice said the redistricting violated the Voting Rights Act of 1965. According to that memo, revealed by the Washington Post early this month, state officials were aware that their redistricting plan, compared to other plans, was highly discriminatory. However, senior Department officials overruled the staff recommendation. Mark Posner, professor of law at American university and a former Department of Justice attorney, told the Post it was "highly unusual " for political appointees to overrule a unanimous finding.
The solution to DeLay 's political immorality wasn 't for the House to reduce his Congressional privileges, but to redefine itself. In November 2004, the House, voting along party lines, overthrew an 11-year-old rule that required House leaders to surrender their positions if indicted. In January, exposed by heavy media and public outrage, the House rescinded that vote, but voted to dismiss all ethics investigations if there was a deadlock on the Ethics committee; that committee usually has a 5 5 Republican Democrat composition. Three months later, after the Democrats effectively shut down the committee, the House relented. It was only a minor problem for the backers of one of the nation 's most powerful congressmen. Speaker Dennis Hastert (D-Ill.) changed the composition of the Ethics Committee to include Republicans closer to DeLay, including two who had contributed to his legal defense fund.
With previous House admonishments and current legal charges against him, it may be time to rid the nation of this former pest control officer --except that the President of the United States says his Texas buddy is "innocent. "