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The Family Squeeze…A Theory

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So, Tom Delay is leaving Congress in June.  Stepping out of his Congressional race (If the Texas laws allow him to do so — that’s still a big question at the moment.).  Getting outta Dodge, so to speak.  Retiring Hammer, and all that.

Hmmm….doesn’t that just get your little mind whirring on the possibilities?  It does mine.  And as I was pondering the abrupt end to the DeLay campaign, I remembered something.

Alexander Strategy Group is run by former DeLay senior staffers Edwin A. Buckham and Tony C. Rudy. Rudy served as DeLay’s deputy chief of staff until 2001, when he took a job with Abramoff, and later moved on to join Buckham.

Investigators are looking into whether Rudy aided Abramoff’s lobbying clients while he was working on the Hill, the sources said, and are reviewing payments from Abramoff clients and associates to Liberty Consulting, a political firm founded by Rudy’s wife, Lisa. The Washington Post reported last month that Rudy, while on DeLay’s staff, helped scuttle a bill opposed by eLottery Inc., an Abramoff client, and that Abramoff had eLottery pay a foundation to hire Liberty Consulting.

Richard Cullen, an attorney for the DeLays, said Christine DeLay was hired by Buckham, an old family friend, to determine the favorite charity of every member of Congress. She was paid $3,200 to $3,400 a month for three years, or about $115,000 total, he said.

"It wasn’t like she did this 9 to 5, but it was an ongoing project," Cullen said. He said Christine DeLay’s work was commensurate with the project and had nothing to do with her husband or any official congressional business. "This was something that she found to be very interesting, very challenging and very worthwhile," Cullen said.

I can’t help but think that the "Wives Club" has come back up again in the Federal probe.  When the Feds have a target in their sites, and that target has close family or friends who are also involved in the criminal enterprise, it is a common practice to try and snare the outliers as leverage to flip the target.

Let’s think about this in terms of the Sopranos for a moment:  the Feds approached Adrianna as a means to get to Christopher.  They threatened her with prosecution for something smaller unless she agreed to cooperate with them.  They then wanted her to work on Christopher as their means to move up the ladder to Tony.

Now, things did not work out so well for Adrianna (think "bullet in the head" not so well), but in the DeLay case, you have a wife and a daughter who are rumored to have served as money funnels to Tommy Boy.  And a family charity in play as well.  Remember when he got all indignant about the press even asking about this last April?  Well, I did remember, and it raised my hackles even then, because he protested way too much at the time.

The New York Times reported Wednesday that DeLay’s wife and daughter have been paid more than $500,000 since 2001 by DeLay’s political action and campaign committees, according to a detailed review of disclosure statements filed with the Federal Election Commission and separate fund-raising records in Texas….

The Times said the payments to DeLay’s wife, Christine DeLay, and his only child, Dani DeLay Ferro, were described in the disclosure forms as "fund-raising fees," "campaign management" or "payroll," with no additional details about how they earned the money.

And while sloppy bookeeping seems to be a hallmark of this rubber stamp Republican Congress and Administration (considering the raising of the debt ceiling…again…under their watch), that’s a whole lot of questions about two members of the family over a considerable amount of time. 

Let me be clear, campaigns hire family members all the time to do legitimate work.  On both sides of the aisle.  But proper accounting and record-keeping generally accompanies such hiring — because obviously in this political climate, questions are bound to be raised now and then. 

To have the DeLays be so vague, so sloppy, in their record-keeping over so many instances, really begs the question — why?  Were they hiding something?

Did the Feds find it?

It would explain a lot in my mind.  I’ve had clients in my criminal defense days be much more willing to plead out or flip to keep their family out of harms’ way.  TPM and the Muckraker have had some great information recently on the Rudy plea and its potential fallout — but where Christine DeLay and Danni DeLay fit into that, there hasn’t been a mention, which also makes me wonder. 

I’ve been wracking my brain trying to come up with motivation for DeLay to just walk away from his beloved power and money machine — and the only puzzle piece that seems to fit is some sort of concern for his family.  If DeLay’s wife and daughter were in the crosshairs, who wouldn’t he be willing to sell out to save them?  Himself?  Other members of Congress and the KStreet gang?

I really have no idea if this is the case — it’s complete supposition on my part based solely on my own experience defending clients in the federal criminal system and in observing how things went as a prosecutor.  (btw, state prosecutors don’t always have the resources to do this that the Feds do — and let me tell you that the Feds don’t mess around…)  But it makes sense to me:  DeLay is throwing himself in front of the bus to save his family from having to do so for him.  There’s an odd sense of nobility to that, I suppose, in some ways, although it would have been better all around to not ensnare your family in a criminal scheme of bribes, money laundering and who knows what else, in the first place.  But hey, I’ve never been a felon, so what do I know?  (snark intended)

Just my two cents, but if DeLay really is going to offer himself on the alter of felony plea and flip, I’d be very worried if I were a Democrat with a skeleton in my closet.  DeLay is the sort of guy for which revenge is served hot and steaming, and he’s likely got a score or two to settle.  You think he’s going down without dragging people with him?  No chance.  And DeLay has made it his life’s work in Congress to know where every skeleton is buried.  You think he won’t sell out Dems on the way down before he coughs up Republican hairballs?

Fair warning.  The Bugman may be exiting stage right, but I have this feeling that something wicked this way comes.  Everyone hold on to your hats — it’s gonna get uglier if DeLay is cutting a deal.  Clearly there is some serious cleaning that needs to be done on the Hill, but I’d be on the look-out for a surprise dust bunny or two in the process.  DeLay is the sort of fellow who likes to make a grand entrance.  Why would his exit be any different?

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Christy Hardin Smith

Christy Hardin Smith

Christy is a "recovering" attorney, who earned her undergraduate degree at Smith College, in American Studies and Government, concentrating in American Foreign Policy. She then went on to graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania in the field of political science and international relations/security studies, before attending law school at the College of Law at West Virginia University, where she was Associate Editor of the Law Review. Christy was a partner in her own firm for several years, where she practiced in a number of areas including criminal defense, child abuse and neglect representation, domestic law, civil litigation, and she was an attorney for a small municipality, before switching hats to become a state prosecutor. Christy has extensive trial experience, and has worked for years both in and out of the court system to improve the lives of at risk children.

Email: reddhedd AT firedoglake DOT com

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