Hammer Agonistes

Tom DeLay plays victim.

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay wants you to know that he has “never been found in violation of any law by anyone.” True. DeLay further wants you to know that he does not “stand accused of any violation of any law or rule in any forum.” Now, that hurts my feelings.

I think of Chatterbox as a forum, and it’s a matter of simple fact that I have accused DeLay of violating United States Code, Title 18, Section 201, “Bribery of public officials and witnesses.” This statute says that anyone who “gives, offers or promises anything of value to any public official” with the intent to “influence any official act” has committed bribery. DeLay, by his own admission, offered to endorse Rep. Nick Smith’s son Brad in a congressional primary provided Smith voted “aye” on the Medicare drug-benefit bill. DeLay claims the swap was Smith’s idea, not his, which is somewhat at odds with the testimony of three of DeLay’s own aides. Either way, though, DeLay would be in violation of the anti-bribery statute.


I happen to believe that DeLay and Smith had a mutual understanding that, along with DeLay’s endorsement, Brad Smith would receive $100,000 from DeLay’s leadership PAC and/or through corporate donors over whom DeLay exercises influence. But even if that could never be proved, DeLay’s mere promise to endorse Brad Smith would easily meet the statute’s definition of “anything of value.” (Yes, it’s routine for a House member to agree to support Bill A provided another House member support Appropriation B, and that’s perfectly legal. But that’s official government business and therefore protected by the Constitution’s “speech and debate” clause. Swapping support for Bill A in exchange for a political endorsement is an entirely different matter.) I remain perplexed that no grand jury has yet indicted DeLay for attempting to bribe Smith.


DeLay claims as vindication the House ethics committee’s conclusion that he, DeLay, “did not believe he acted improperly under House rules during his encounter with Representative Nick Smith.” But this logic is entirely circular: I’m innocent because the investigators observed that I think I’m innocent. The ripest irony of all is DeLay’s complaint that he was denied “due process” in the Smith investigation, in part because he was “never notified” that he was a target of the investigation. In effect, DeLay is complaining that the ethics committee never told him it had figured out that he was the guy who offered the bribe. If DeLay is able to succeed with this self-defense and his “come and get me, copper” stance toward the various other scandals surrounding him (one of which may launch yet another ethics committee investigation), I will start a subscription to erect a statue in his honor.


Medicare Bribe Archive:

Oct. 6, 2004: “Defendant DeLay? Part 2
Oct. 1, 2004: Defendant DeLay?”
Aug. 4, 2004: “Brad Unbound
April 29, 2004: “Brad’s Little Problem, Part 2
March 23, 2004: “Kalamazoo Kapitulation!”
Feb. 26, 2004: “FBI Examines Medicare Bribe
Feb. 4, 2004: “Brad’s Little Problem
Jan. 22, 2004: “Burying the Bribe
Jan. 8, 2004: “Bob Novak Ate My Brain!”
Dec. 23, 2003: “Now It’s a Scandal
Dec. 8, 2003: “A Drug-Company Bribe?
Dec. 6, 2003: “Why Smith Can’t Recant
Dec. 5, 2003: “Nick Smith Recants
Dec. 1, 2003: “Who Tried To Bribe Rep. Smith?