DeLay Allies Circle Wagons

A Texas grand jury's decision to indict former Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) may have caught many people in Washington off-guard, but those in DeLay's inner circle had spent the past few days bracing themselves for the worst and were ready for the political firestorm when it hit.

"We knew it was coming, but we didn't believe it would really happen because it's just so terrible," one ally lamented.

Just minutes after the announcement came, DeLay's closest and strongest supporters began mounting a defense. By 2 p.m., a two-page memo condemning Ronnie Earle and the indictment was hitting Republican email in boxes all over town.

Republicans would not disclose the author of the memo, which is not the first of its kind. Earlier this year, Barbara Comstock, a lawyer and former research director at the Republican National Committee, penned a memo in response to questions that DeLay was facing involving foreign travel and reports that his wife and daughter had received $500,000 since 2001 for work they did for his campaign and political action committee.

DeLay retained Comstock last fall to help him manage his ethics troubles after he received his third rebuke from the House ethics committee.

Yesterday's memo begins with a three-paragraph denunciation of Texas prosecutor Ronnie Earle for issuing a "baseless indictment" after a "selective prosecution of an individual he knows to be innocent of any criminal activity."

The memo also argues that the prosecution was brought only to further Earle's political vendetta against Republicans.

"Indeed," it states, "the indictment against Congressman DeLay is only one example in Earle's long history of using the judiciary and abusing legal processes for political gain."

It turns the ethical spotlight on Earle and casts DeLay as the innocent victim: "No citizen, including Congressman DeLay, should be the victim of a rogue, partisan prosecutor acting with improper motives. Earle's behavior is unethical, unlawful and should not be allowed to continue."

The bulk of the memo is devoted to "important points to ponder," including:

"Ronnie Earle has repeatedly exhibited his partiality and cannot make an unbiased decision regarding prosecution of Congressman DeLay."

The memo cites a Houston Chronicle article saying that Earle had started raising money for "far-left" groups, including Texas Values in Action Coalition, a Democratic PAC that hosted a May 12 event in Dallas to raise money for Democratic efforts to take back control of the state Legislature from Republicans. The paper reported that Earle helped generate $102,000 for the organization.

"Democrats have regularly engaged in the same conduct that Earle accuses [the Texans for a Republican Majority political action committee, or TRMPAC] of engaging in, yet Earle's office has declined to call a single witness or issue a single subpoena to investigate those claims."

The indictment alleges that TRMPAC accepted corporate donations for non-administrative expense in violation of the Texas election laws, but the memo argues that Democrats have engaged in "identical behavior" without raising Earle's interest.

The memo says Earle launched a similarly motivated investigation against Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) five days after she won a special election to the Senate in 1993. Earle charged her and two of her aides with official misconduct and tampering with records and evidence.

"Not surprisingly, after the media frenzy that accompanied the indictments subsided, Earle quietly dismissed the charges on the first day of trial," the memo states.

The memo ends by impugning the basis of the indictment. "The state must show more than Congressman DeLay's mere presence on the advisory committee of TRMPAC in order to hold him responsible."

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