House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) had a long day Wednesday.
A Texas grand jury indicted DeLay and two associates on charges of conspiracy in a campaign finance scheme. In response, DeLay, who insists he is innocent, has temporarily stepped down from his post as House majority leader.
The charge makes DeLay the highest-ranking member of Congress ever to face criminal indictment while in office.
”This is one of the weakest, most baseless indictments in American history,” DeLay said in a six-minute statement delivered at his office in the Capitol. ”It’s a sham, and ((Travis County District Attorney Ronnie) Earle knows it.”
Defending one’s innocence should be expected — after all, an indictment is a far cry from a conviction. But DeLay and friends know that simply saying DeLay is innocent probably won’t change public perception, let alone rally the troops.
And that’s why DeLay and friends needed to spin.
DeLay’s spokesman, Kevin Madden, took the spin against Earle. Issuing his own statement, Madden said: This is just another example of (Travis County District Attorney) Ronnie Earle misusing his office for partisan vendettas. … However, as with many of Ronnie Earle’s previous partisan investigations, Ronnie Earle refused to let the facts or the law get in the way of his partisan desire to indict a political foe.”
But is Earle actually a partisan? The facts would say otherwise.
In May, the Los Angeles Times reported that “over Earle’s 27-year tenure, his Public Integrity Unit has prosecuted 15 elected officials, including 12 Democrats.” They include include a state legislator from El Paso in 2000, and two from Waco in 1995; a San Antonio voter registrar in 1992; and the state treasurer in 1982. Earle even prosecuted himself in 1983, paying a $212 fine for tardy campaign finance disclosure filings.
Paul Burka, senior executive editor of Texas Monthly magazine and a longtime observer of the state’s politics, told the Post, “I don’t think Ronnie is seen here as a total partisan.” He added that Earle “didn’t look the other way in his own party” when public officials broke or bent laws.
DeLay also blamed another favorite conservative target: the media.
DeLay targeted the Austin American-Statesman — not generally considered a “liberal” newspaper, for an editorial that didn’t name DeLay, but said: “time is running out, and on the face of it, the felony indictments returned last week against the Texas Association of Business and the now nonexistent Texans for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee are disappointing.”
“It was this renewed political pressure in the waning days of his hollow investigation that led this morning’s action,” DeLay said yesterday.
Arnold Garcia, editorial page editor for the American-Statesman, put the DeLay spin in persepctive.
“We’re commenting on an item of public interest,” Garcia said. “But you should never forget the newspaper didn’t indict Mr. DeLay. A grand jury did.”
And of course, it helps that DeLay has friends in the media to help spin the indictment.
Fox News Channel senior judicial analyst Andrew Napolitano, interviewed several times throughout the day, offered that Earle “is openly and notoriously political. Most DAs, though they run for office, sort of take a step back from the rough and tumble of Republican versus Democrat politics once in office. This DA has not. He stayed very active in the Democratic party and, unusual in Texas, in the liberal wing of the Democratic party.”
And if ignoring Earle’s record weren’t enough, Napolitano also told Fox News viewers that Earle was “a little bit of a nut.”
How “fair and balanced” of Napolitano.
This item first appeared at Journalists Against Bush’s B.S.