First, there's the letter:
U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay and three other Texas congressmen prodded the Justice Department in 2001 to close an Indian tribe's East Texas casino as lobbyist Jack Abramoff was reaping huge payments from a competing tribe.Then there's DeLay's defense:
DeLay and the other congressmen sent a letter about the casino to the Justice Department on Dec. 11, 2001, eight days after Abramoff said in an e-mail to a lobbying associate, "We have to shutter Alabama Coushatta and fast."
The lawmakers wrote Attorney General John Ashcroft asking for his help in investigating what they called the illegal and inappropriate Alabama-Coushatta Tribe of Texas gambling operation in Livingston.
GOP Reps. John Culberson of Houston, Kevin Brady of The Woodlands and Pete Sessions of the Dallas area signed the letter along with DeLay.
The letter was consistent with efforts by Texas authorities and legislators to close the month-old casino.
But it also coincided with the efforts by Abramoff, on behalf of Indian clients in Louisiana, to shut down such Texas casinos.
A former DeLay top aide, Tony Rudy, had joined Abramoff as a lobbyist on behalf of the Louisiana Coushatta Indians, who didn't want Texas tribes cutting into their gambling business.
The U.S. Justice Department never took up the congressmen's cause, according to a spokeswoman. But the state, led by Texas Attorney General John Cornyn, succeeded in shuttering the casinos in 2002, a few months before Cornyn was elected to the U.S. Senate.
A DeLay spokeswoman said Tuesday that the lawmaker's letter, on which DeLay was the first signer, stemmed solely from his consistent opposition to gambling.Then there is what undermines his defense:
"The congressman has always been against expanding gambling throughout his career," said DeLay spokeswoman Shannon Flaherty.
DeLay has denied wrongdoing in the Abramoff scandal.
Federal Elections Commission records show no [Indian tribe] contributions by Abramoff to Culberson and Brady.If you are against gambling wouldn't you instruct your organizations not to accept donations from an out-of-state Indian tribe whose biggest source of revenue is casino money? Are we really supposed to believe that DeLay knew nothing of their contributions to either of his organizations? That this is all a huge series of coincidences?
DeLay did receive some benefits from another Abramoff Indian client.
A month before the letter to Ashcroft, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw wrote a check for $1,000 to Texans for a Republican Majority.
DeLay was indicted in September on charges of violating state campaign laws in connection with TRMPAC finances.
The Choctaws wrote two checks totaling $50,000 to a nonprofit organization that had DeLay on its board, appearing to offset the costs of a DeLay trip to Britain.
E-mail messages released by congressional committees show Abramoff and Scanlon worked with Ralph Reed, a prominent conservative activist and avowed opponent of gambling, to make sure Texas Indians did not gain gambling operations.To summarize: DeLay writes a letter instructing the Justice Department to do exactly what Abramoff wanted. DeLay's own organizations benefited from contributions from a competing tribe within the same period. Add the fact that DeLay has ties to everyone who is already in hot water for bilking tribes-- Jack "[one of my] closest and dearest friends" Abramoff, Delay's former deputy chief-of-staff Tony Rudy and DeLay's former press aid and business partner Michael Scanlon. (By the way, that "little" week-long $70,000 vacation to Britian that the Choctaw's helped pay for? It was Abramoff's idea and he arranged to get the money from the Choctaws. Add to the pile that DeLay went on this Choctaw sponsored-trip two months before getting legislation opposed by the tribe killed. But I suppose that's just another coincidence.)
"We need to get the (attorney general) arresting them RIGHT now. We need to get the pastors rallying right now. This is going to be the death of us," Abramoff wrote in a November 2001 e-mail to Reed as the Alabama-Coushatta casino opened.
At this point there is a very compelling case against DeLay built on circumstantial evidence. Therefore, the case comes down to evidence and trust. If no one has any damning evidence then DeLay must trust that all of his buddies who are facing prison will not give him up to help themselves.
What's the old saying about honor among thieves?