Sitting here on the outskirts of Austin Texas, the home territory of District Attorney Ronnie Earle, I get exposed to some things that those in other parts of the country may not be picking up on from the news stories about the indictment of House Speaker Tom DeLay.
To start off with, people outside of Texas seem not to be aware of Ronnie Earle's long history of vindictive and unprincipled attacks against Republican officials and personal rivals.
Earle sees himself as the last bastion of populist and progressive ideals in an increasingly Republican dominated state and with good reason. He's the only Democrat with prosecutorial powers which cover the entire state because of special priveleges given to the Austin DA's office under Texas law. He's self-righteous and opposed to the power elite, and willing to use his position to prosecute cases which have little merit but substantial political impact. With the backing of the far left in Austin he has an unassailable position from which he can go after anyone with an indictment from a spoon fed grand jury and get away with it, faccing few consequences if he fails. He's held this position for almost 30 years and isn't likely to lose it any time soon. If he does fail in one of his prosecutions he can try and try again because his local constituency has infinite patience for wasted time and effort so long as it involved pillorying Republicans or even Democrat political rivals.
He's quick to claim that he's prosecuted more Democrat than Republican officials, but fails to mention that most of his prosecutions of Democrats were of minor figures on obvious criminal charges, or were political attacks targetting personal enemies within the Democratic party.
His current crusade against Tom DeLay is reminiscent of his attack on Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison in 1994. As she was running for the Senate, Earle tried to derail her campaign by launching an investigation into supposed misbehavior while she was State Treasurer, including misuse of state telephones and assaulting a staff member. The first time he filed the charges the grand jury indictment was disqualified because of irregularities in the composition of the jury. He convened another grand jury and brough the charges a second time. This time, when Earle took his evidence in front of a judge it became immediately apparent that he had no evidence and was merely trying to use the indictment to smear Hutchison politically. He then attempted to withdraw the charges after being questioned about whether there was any actual evidence at the pre-trial hearing. The judge refused to allow Earle to withdraw the charges and instead instructed the jury to return a "not guilty" verdict so that the charges could not be refiled, thereby preventing Earle's standard practice in these witchunts of filing the same charges over and over until he can find a sympathetic judge or jury and make them stick.