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Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Money Flows And Flows With No Delay

Update: Las Vegas Sun reports that the grand jury that did not indict was not very impressed by Earle:
The sources, who only commented anonymously because of grand jury secrecy, said Travis County prosecutor Ronnie Earle became visibly angry when the grand jurors last week signed a document declining to indict, known as a "no bill."

One source said the sole evidence Earle presented was a DeLay interview with the prosecutor, in which DeLay said he was generally aware of activities of his associates. He is charged in an alleged money laundering scheme to funnel corporate money to Texas legislative candidates in violation of state law.

The source said that Earle tried to convince the jurors that if DeLay "didn't say, 'Stop it,' he gave his tacit approval."

The mood was unpleasant," another source said, describing Earle's reaction.
End update.

Okay, I have been trying to gear myself up to write more on the latest Delay indictment, but it's hard. Because the facts behind this increasing bizarre story keep making me think of Tommy's "Money Flows" pictorial riff on the UN and disaster aid for New Orleans. In that Mayor Nagin is depicted as thinking that the UN should get involved to keep the money flowing:
Like I said it's New Orleans, the money flows here all the time, a little flows here a little flows there and if some of it just happens to flow into your pocket, well, you know, it just helps the city function.
And that's the story of our dear Earle of Democratic Righteousness and the ever-growing number of grand juries. ( Oil, baby! Texas Crude! The Beverly Hillbillies! ) That hurts, because my colleagues at work were in the sharing mood and donated a truly evil virus to me. It does terrible things to your entire body but specializes on your stomach. Laughter is both painful and dangerous under these circumstances, and next time they want to share their deep regard I plan to ask for flowers or a memorial plaque.

But onwards into the fray. This is freakin' epic. I do not mean to cast aspersions upon Ronnie Earle's character, because he seems possessed by a genuine puritanical political fervor and a sense of public duty as explicated at Democratic party functions, but there are odd circumstances here.

1) Both parties did the same thing, but this noble crusader is only pursuing Delay. American Spectator, 2004:
Corporate contributions to legislative candidates are illegal in Texas. The DeLay aides stand accused of violating that prohibition, along with eight companies like Sears Roebuck that provided the funds. The corporate money, however, never went to the candidates. Instead, it went to a much larger fund for state elections controlled by the Republican National Committee in Washington. That committee made contributions to Texas legislative candidates, constituting what Earle now charges is "money laundering."

The only problem is that similar transactions are conducted by both parties in many states, including Texas. In fact, on October 31, 2002, the Texas Democratic Party sent the Democratic National Committee (DNC) $75,000, and on the same day, the DNC sent the Texas Democratic Party $75,000. On July 19, 2001, the Texas Democratic Party sent the DNC $50,000 and, again on the same day, the DNC sent the Texas Democratic Party $60,000. On June 8, 2001, the Texas Democratic Party sent the DNC $50,000. That very same day, the DNC sent the Texas Democratic Party $60,000.
So, as you can see, it is somewhat confusing to find all of this completely non-partisan public-spirited puritanical fervor solely directed at Republicans. It is, of course, unlikely that a jury would find intent to commit a crime when lawyers and accountants advised that it was correct, and when the common feeling was that it was legal, which does explain why the Texas Democrats would not be worried. I would accept the idea that this was completely public-spirited if he were also indicting the Democrats who did it, but somehow this has not happened. Somehow.

2) The movie! Of course every completely non-partisan public-spirited crusading District Attorney needs his own camera crew following him around for the movie, and this one promises to be a rip-roaring success a la Michael Moore:
The resulting film is called The Big Buy, made by Texas filmmakers Mark Birnbaum and Jim Schermbeck. "Raymond Chandler meets Willie Nelson on the corner of Wall Street and Pennsylvania Avenue in The Big Buy, a Texas noir political detective story that chronicles what some are calling a 'bloodless coup with corporate cash,'" reads a description of the picture on Birnbaum's website, markbirnbaum.com. The film, according to the description, "follows maverick Austin DA Ronnie Earle's investigation into what really happened when corporate money joined forces with relentless political ambitions to help swing the pivotal 2002 Texas elections, cementing Republican control from Austin to Washington DC."

"We approached him [Earle], and he offered us extraordinary access to him and, to an extent, to his staff," Birnbaum told National Review Online Thursday. "We've been shooting for about two years."
I would be surprised not to find some sort of ethics charges coming out of this one unless all the footage is of completely non-partisan public spirited DA's stalking purposefully through the halls of Travis County. I would find it easier to believe in Earle's passionate, scrupulous attention to public integrity if it were not for the film crew, somehow.

3) How many grand juries does a completely non-partisan public spirited DA need to indict someone for a crime that actually occurred? I'm just wondering, because there have been quite a few, and our completely non-partisan public-spirited hero seems to be adept at handling them. For example, he got a money-laundering indictment against Delay in mere hours after the last one was empaneled on Monday. As an anonymous source wrote me (confess in the comments, if you dare - if not, I will go to prison to protect your privacy, at least until I lose 20 pounds on the taxpayer dime and have a book deal):
The first grand jury, impaneled by state District Judge Mike Lynch, a Democrat,
Got an indictment

According to Earle's Tuesday statement, prosecutors presented "some evidence" to a second grand jury impaneled by District Judge Julie Kocurek, a Republican
Returned no indictment

When Monday's grand jury, impaneled by District Judge Brenda Kennedy, a Democrat
Got an indictment.

That's part of why I say this whole mess in Travis county stinks, and part of what is horribly wrong with our grand jury system in Texas. A grand jury here is "impaneled" by the district judge, who campaigns and is elected to office. So you have Democratic DA, and a Democratic Judge, picking grand jury in the most Democratic county in the state in order to indict Delay. I'm not saying Delay is innocent because I don't know, but I think everyone that comments on this needs to understand the possible silliness of what is giong on here.
Possible silliness? Let's put it this way, absolutely no one actually expects Delay to be convicted. If he were to be convicted, a bunch of Democrats would be on a greased slide to jail as well. This can have only one likely outcome, and that is to keep Delay out of the leadership for a few months. I will believe differently when I see this completely non-partisan public-spirited crusading DA indicting the Democrats for the same deeds.

4) Even the Earle of Democratic Righteousness must realize that the Monday Moneylaundering Maneuver looks a bit odd, because he is claiming that he got new evidence over the weekend. We can only hope that the film crew got Bill Burkett on tape handing him the documents. He also states that he presented charges to the previous grand jury out of an "abundance of caution", but I suspect it was because Delay's lawyer spent half of last week looking for a judge to quash the first indictment and he believed DeGuerin would succeed.

So I rest my case, your honors.

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