Thursday, November 18, 2004

Apparently indictments are cool now

Congressional Republicans might want to check the exit polls again and see if their recent behavior comports with the "moral values" their supporters cited as their No. 1 concern in this election cycle. The GOP voted Wednesday to change the House's governing rules to allow party leaders to keep their leadership posts even if they've been indicted on felony charges. The new rules require the Republican Steering Committee to review any indictment within 30 days and decide whether the charges are legitimate or "politically motivated."

The vote, of course, was a strategic move to protect House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, who has been admonished more than once this year by the House Ethics Committee and who is at the center of a criminal investigation that has already led to indictments of three of his associates on money-laundering charges. DeLay, perhaps not coincidentally, controls a political action committee that has given campaign money to dozens of GOP congressmen, including four of the five Republican members of the ethics panel that limited his sanctions to admonishment.

DeLay and his comrades this week have publicly savaged Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, the Democratic Texas prosecutor pursuing the investigation. DeLay called Earle's work "frivolous," and Rep. Henry Bonilla, R-Texas, said, "We are trying to protect members of our leadership from any crackpot district attorney in any state in the nation from taking on a political agenda and indicting any member for any frivolous cause."

There's an old saying among lawyers: "If you've got the facts, pound the facts. If you don't, pound the table." There seems to be a lot of table-pounding going on lately.

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