The best defense is a re-election war chest |

The best defense is a re-election war chest

We’re a long way from Washington, D.C., but that doesn’t keep the stink from wafting this far west.

At this point we all know that Rep. Tom DeLay of Texas is now just plain old Tom DeLay. Under indictment on a variety of charges in Texas ” not to mention his dealings with the guilty-and-talking Jack Abramoff ” DeLay resigned his Congressional seat earlier this week.

But don’t feel bad for DeLay. Even if he is the “victim” of partisan liberal politicos, the bug exterminator-turned congressman has over the years gouged his share of eyes and stomped on a few fingers in the political scrum known as Capitol Hill.

But what reeks even more than skeevy political shenanigans perpetrated by the likes of Tom DeLay is the fact that he will be able to use all of his re-election campaign contributions to defend himself in court.

Yes, under federal election rules politicians can funnel the remaining funds from their re-election bids to cover legal expenses, whether or not they resign, are indicted or lose the election, according to the Washington Post.

Earlier in the year, DeLay reported to the Federal Election Commission that he had $1.3 million in his re-election coffers. That, however, was before he ran in ” and won ” his Republican primary and undoubtedly spent a chunk of that.

I’m sure, though, that the king of fundraising has a pretty good bankroll going.

My completely out-of-the-Beltway take on DeLay’s ouster is that he bailed not so much to save his seat from the bad, bad Democrats, but because he needs money in order to save his own butt.

In a Washington Post interview, John Feehery, a former aide to DeLay and House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), said DeLay resigned, therefore ending his contested re-election bid, to bolster his defense fund.

“That was the bottom line,” Feehery told the Post. “He wanted to make sure he could take care of himself in the court of law.”

The last pol to get the FEC’s blessing to use re-election money to defend himself in court was California’s Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, who just last year pleaded guilty to accepting bribes.

You’ve got some good company there, Tom.

So let’s recap. Under federal law, money a lawmaker raises for re-election can be used to pay legal fees relating to official duties.

That’s convenient. In DeLay’s case, some of those “official duties” (my quote marks added) include a trip abroad in 2000. According to the Washington Post, the trip was taken when DeLay was House Majority Whip and was paid for with a credit card owned by Jack Abramoff. DeLay dodged trouble over the trip, which ran about $120,000 and included his wife and others, by saying that it was paid for by a nonprofit group, of which Abramoff was a board member, therefore making OK as far as House ethics rules go.

The stinky part is that DeLay and his posse stopped in London, where he and his wife stayed in a $800-a-night room (among other expenses paid for either by Abramoff and/or his lobbying firm) and Scotland, where DeLay played golf at the famed St. Andrews golf course.

So as some pundits have hailed DeLay’s resignation as an adroit political move that will help his beloved Republican Party hold on to the district, it really was just another self-serving act from a guy who is now trying to save his own butt.

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