January 10, 2006

More DeLay DeLights (and Lowlights)

Hatched by Dafydd

This is one of the most amazing and complex smears I've yet read from the Associated Press. I would like to say "there's less here than meets the eye," but I've used that exact phrase too much lately, and I'm tired of writing it. I wonder if Movable Type allows me to create a macro?

Today's hit-piece subject is Tom DeLay, and this is the first DeLay smear in the new Abramoff category that I've read (as opposed to the stale, old Ronnie Earle category). This one wants to leave you with the impression that DeLay took a bribe from an Indian tribe to close down a rival tribe's casino... but as usual with such pieces of "journalism," they haven't the guts (or permission from Legal) to actually come right out and say it, since there isn't any actual evidence, as such. So they talk around it and hope the reader will leap to the conclusion the writer wants to insinuate.

Let's try to untangle these threads, shall we? Here is the basic charge on a nutshell:

DeLay Tried, Failed to Aid Abramoff Client
by Suzanne Gamboa
Jan 10, 2005

Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay tried to pressure the Bush administration into shutting down an Indian-owned casino that lobbyist Jack Abramoff wanted closed - shortly after a tribal client of Abramoff's donated to a DeLay political action committee, The Associated Press has learned.

The Texas Republican demanded closure of the casino, owned by the Alabama-Coushatta tribe of Texas, in a Dec. 11, 2001 letter to then-Attorney General John Ashcroft. The Associated Press obtained the letter from a source who did not want to be identified because of an ongoing federal investigation of Abramoff and members of Congress....

[The letter was] also signed by Texas Republican Reps. Pete Sessions, John Culberson and Kevin Brady.

Sessions' political action committee received $6,500 from Abramoff's tribal clients within three months after signing the letter....

The letter was sent at least two weeks after the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, a tribal client of Abramoff's, contributed $1,000 to Texans for a Republican Majority, or TRMPAC [well, actually thirteen days; but who's counting? -- the Mgt.]. That political action committee is at the center of the campaign finance investigation that yielded money laundering charges against DeLay and forced him temporarily out of the majority leader's job....

At the time of the letter, Abramoff was working for the Louisiana Coushatta and had portrayed the Alabama-Coushatta's Houston-area casino as a threat to his client's casino.

Wow, sounds like an airtight case. No need for a trial -- just fling DeLay into jail and be done with it! Airtight until one closely parses the "evidence," that is.

Let's start with this: the "tribal client of Abramoff's" who "donated to a DeLay political action committee" two weeks before this letter went out -- the Mississippi Choctaw -- do not appear to be connected to the Coushatta (Koasati) at all, so far as I can tell. I'm certainly by no means an expert in American Indian tribes and their connections; but aside from both tribes originally being mound-builders in what is now the South, there seems no connection.

Unless, that is, the "connection" in Ms. Gamboa's mind is that DeLay helped some Injuns after Injuns who were clients of Abramoff donated money to TRMPAC -- and since one Injun is the same as any other Injun, there must be a connection. To the rest of us, this sounds remarkably like saying former German Chancellor Gerhard Schreoder was obviously working for French President Jacques Chirac, because as soon as Schreoder left office he was hired by the Russian company Gazprom. Hey, one European country is the same as any other, right?

So we have DeLay and some other Texas politicians lobbying to close an Alabama-Coushatta casino over alleged violations of Texas law -- after they received a fairly trivial $1,000 from a different and unrelated tribe which (so far as we know) was not feuding with the Coushatta.

But wait -- there was a tribe that was feuding with the Alabama-Coushatta over that casino, and who were also clients of Jack Abramoff: the Louisiana-Coushatta. Yet there is no evidence that the Louisana branch contributed any money to DeLay, Sessions, Culberson, Brady -- or TRMPAC.

(Oh, don't be so picky: you say Choctaw, I say Coushatta....)

The letter-signers claim they only wanted it shut down because the Alabama-Coushatta were violating various state laws:

A spokeswoman for Sessions said he considers gaming a state issue. She said the tribe was circumventing state law and Sessions signed the letter in defense of Texas laws.

But of course, they would say that, wouldn't they? Who are you going to believe -- Republican members of the "culture of corruption," or a crusading journalist who is one of the passel assigned by AP to taking down Tom DeLay?

Well, how about a federal court that actually heard the evidence in the case?

Ashcroft never took action on the request. The Texas casino was closed the following year by a federal court ruling in a 1999 lawsuit filed by the state's attorney general, John Cornyn, now a U.S. senator.

Hm... Sessions' DeFense was that they were trying to get the feds to shut down the casino because it was "circumventing state law." This was two years after the state attorney general filed a federal case to do the same thing (to a different casino, however -- though presumably for the same reason; what other reason would be a legitimate cause of action?)... and a year after the letter was sent, a federal judge came to the conclusion that the (other) casino was engaged in such egregious illegal action that it had to be shut down.


Finally, what firm conclusions does this story draw that would merit the clear attempt to implicate Tom DeLay in Jack Abramoff's massive bribery scheme?

The contributions are not necessarily illegal, but DeLay's association with Abramoff is under scrutiny. DeLay has taken overseas trips paid for in part by Abramoff, and his national political action committee used a skybox leased by Abramoff to treat donors to a concert.

Well, who could argue with that?

Curiously, some of the specific implications in this AP story contradict an earlier AP story by the same writer (hat tip to Charles Kuffner of Off the Kuff, who is probably unhappy that I'm using his post to attack Gamboa's insinuation): Gamboa's current story clearly implies the lawsuit was filed against the Alabama-Coushatta; but her earlier story makes clear it was actually filed against a different Indian tribe, the Tigua of El Paso, and the Coushatta shut-down was just fallout from that:

Cornyn, now a Republican U.S. senator, had filed a lawsuit in 1999 to shut down a casino operated by the Tigua tribe in El Paso, saying it violated the state's limited gambling laws. In 2002, federal courts shuttered the Tiguas' casino and Cornyn used that ruling to shut down the Alabama-Coushuttas' casino.

This Gamboa story tries very hard to connect Sen. Cornyn to Abramoff through Ralph Reed:

In 2001, Abramoff was working as a lobbyist for the Louisiana Coushatta tribe to prevent rival gaming casinos from siphoning off its Texas customers. He paid Reed as a consultant, and Reed lobbied to get the Alabama-Coushatta and Tigua casinos closed in Texas.

Reed sent Abramoff an e-mail saying he had gotten fifty conservative pastors who opposed casino gambling in Texas to meet with Cornyn, who had already filed his lawsuit two years earlier. Reed then bragged to his boss that he had "choreographed" Cornyn's response:

"We have also choreographed Cornyn's response. The AG will state that the law is clear, talk about how much he wants to avoid repetition of El Paso and pledge to take swift action to enforce the law," Reed wrote. "He will also personally hand Ed Young a letter that commits him to take action in Livingston."

Apart from a "prediction" that even the Amazing Criswell could have made -- "the law is clear," "take swift action to enforce the law" -- the only specific mentioned in this e-mail is that Cornyn would hand Young a letter. The reader only finds out later in the that not only Cornyn but also Young deny any such letter existed, and that there is no evidence from anybody else that it does, either.

So let us review the betting in this game of journalistic Texas Hold 'Em:

  • The Texas attorney general -- who has never been shown to have any connection with Jack Abramoff -- files a lawsuit to shut down a Texas casino (owned by a Texas tribe) for various illegalities.
  • Two years later, an unrelated Mississippi tribe that has hired Abramoff contributes money to TRMPAC. (They had hired Abramoff to lobby for them; but so had almost everybody, including the Illuminati, South Pacific headhunters, and Koko the Gorilla.)
  • Two weeks after that, four Texas politicians -- one of whom was connected with TRMPAC when it was founded -- write a letter to Ashcroft urging him to shut down a casino owned by an Alabama tribe; Ashcroft does not respond, and so far as we know, the congressmen do not pursue it further.
  • Around this same time, a bunch of anti-gambling pastors urge the state attorney general to also shut down the Alabama tribe's casino as well as the Texas tribe's casino he's already trying to close.
  • An Abramoff consultant, Ralph Reed, seems to have set this up; but there's no evidence the pastors knew anything about his connection to Abramoff, or the fact that Abramoff had as client the Louisiana branch of the Coushatta tribe, or that he evidently intended to get himself hired by the Alabama Coushatta after their casino was closed to lobby to reopen it.
  • A year later, the federal court closes the Texas tribe's casino in response to the lawsuit; the attorney general uses the ruling also to shutter the Alabama tribe's casino.

Forgive me if I fail to see any clear line connecting these various entites spread across four states, whose only connection appears to be that they were all pursuing goals that Abramoff was able to use to enrich himself. Ah, but there's a Tom DeLay scandal in there somewhere, and by golly, we're going to insinuate it!

I should get some sort of commendation or a free meal out of this (possibly at Signatures, Abramoff's congressional-comping restaurant)... I read these things so you don't have to. I call Ms. Gamboa's latest raise; let's flip over the cards and see if she was bluffing.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, January 10, 2006, at the time of 2:24 PM

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News flash: according to Bob Novak, tarred and feathered lobbyist Jack Abramoff is not only not implicating Tom DeLay (R-TX), he's actually going out of his way to let folks know that he's got nothing on the Texan: Disgraced lobbyist... [Read More]

Tracked on March 25, 2006 2:09 PM


The following hissed in response by: RBMN

The press is engaged in a journalistic ponzi scheme. As one charge against DeLay gets dismissed, they need a fresh sucker, er, fresh scandal to replace the old scandal that fizzled out.

The above hissed in response by: RBMN [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 10, 2006 4:57 PM

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