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January 10, 2006

DeLay Tried, Failed To Lobby Bush To Shut Down Indian Casino

...after Jack Abramoff donated to him, and lobbied him to get the casino shut down:

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 β€” 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.

"We feel that the Department of Justice needs to step in and investigate the inappropriate and illegal actions by the tribe, its financial backers, if any, and the casino equipment vendors," said the letter, which was also signed by Texas Republican Reps. Pete Sessions, John Culberson and Kevin Brady.

Demanded? "We feel that..." is a demand?

It should also be noted that the casino was shut down by a federal judge after a lawsuit was filed against it-- so apparently it was, in fact, acting illegally.

That lawsuit was filed by then-Texas AG, now Senator, John Cornyn. Again, though, while it is certainly true that Abramoff brought this to DeLay's attention (and it's doubtful he would have acted had he not been lobbied), a federal court apparently agreed with Abramoff's position.

Unless Abramoff bribed the judge, I'd say these guys were, as it stands, on firm ground, at least as to the substance of the letter. Again, obviously, they probably would not have taken any action without lobbying (and, yes, money), but then, that's what lobbying is. Bringing issues to someone's attention via money.

If someone acts after being lobbied, is it still corruption, even though they had a good-faith basis to believe the lobbyists' position was correct? It's a gray area, but it's obviously not a case of someone acting contrary to the law or general principles for money.

Access Versus Action: When I saw the headline for this article, I was actually ready to write, "Good thing we got rid of DeLay. He's corrupt."

As I read on, and realized the casino was, apparently, acting illegally, at least according to a federal judge, I revised my opinion. I was ready to cut DeLay loose, though, and throw him under the train. And to the wolves. Pick your own metaphor.

Obviously lobbyists pay for access. When they take you on a trip, they're doing so so that they have lots of quality time with you to make their case. (And to foster a normal sense of human obligation/gratitude as well: it's hard to say "No" to someone who just spent $15,000 to take you to a golf outing in Jamaica.)

However, it's long been accepted that lobbyists can pay a politician for access, pay them for their time. What is illegal is being paid for specific action.

Again: this may or may not be a good system (I don't think it is, but I don't know how you can ever get away from this), but it is, in fact, currently the legislatively-approved system in place.

If Democrats want to change this system, they can propose legislation regarding it, and, who knows?, maybe we'll get rid of this soft corruption as well. But no one can pretend that this hasn't been going on forever.

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posted by Ace at 03:34 PM

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