9/30/2005

CBS News | The Hammer Gets Hit | September 29, 2005�14:30:08

(The Nation) This column was written by Ari Berman.The Republican Party's once-copious political capital is quickly eroding. As we go to press, House majority leader Tom DeLay has just been indicted by a Texas grand jury on one count of criminal conspiracy in a fast-moving money-laundering case. "I have notified the speaker that I will temporarily step aside from my position as majority leader," DeLay said in a statement following the stunning final day of the grand jury's term. The Republican Party's go-to guy, famously nicknamed "The Hammer," finally got whacked.

DeLay's indictment comes on the heels of charges that top political aide Jim Ellis and veteran fundraiser John Colyandro illegally funneled $190,000 in corporate contributions to candidates for the Texas legislature in 2002 through the national Republican Party. "The indictment charges DeLay with conspiring with Ellis and Colyandro to violate the Texas Election Code by contributing corporate money to certain candidates for the Texas Legislature," said the statement from DA Ronnie Earle. "It describes a scheme whereby corporate, or 'soft,' money was sent to the Republican National Committee where it was exchanged for 'hard' money, or money raised from individuals, and sent to those candidates." The probe initially focused on violations of Texas election law but was recently broadened to include conspiracy charges. DeLay's modus operandi — the ruthless accumulation of money and favors to benefit corporate interests and far-right Republicans — may ultimately secure his demise. In essence, he got caught for doing business as usual.

The indictment sent a shock wave through the GOP establishment, which is already reeling from a swath of criminal and ethics investigations. Three individuals, eight corporations and two political action committees connected to DeLay have been indicted as a result of the probe. In addition, the government's top procurement official, David Safavian, was arrested in September for obstructing a criminal investigation into über-lobbyist Jack Abramoff...

CBS News | The Hammer Gets Hit | September 29, 2005�14:30:08

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