Today Ronnie Earl finally indicted Tom Delay on charges of conspiracy to commit campaign finance fraud in the Texas TRMPAC case.
A couple of quick points about this:
One, Ronnie Earle definitely has it out for Delay. However, it's less of a partisan vendetta than a personal one - he and Delay just hate each other. Ronnie Earle is actually something of a pseudodemocrat, like a lot of Democratic attorney generals. It's hard to get elected AG on a social justice platform.
Two, now that Earle has secured this indictment, he is going to do absolutely everything in his power to bring down Delay. He has to; Delay is too powerful. As the saying goes, if you strike the king, you must kill him. That goes double for the King of Crooks.
Three, I would stop short of drawing the conclusion from #2 that Earle has an ironclad case against Delay. Conspiracy cases are hard to prove, and given #1 above, I think even if Earle has a weak case he wants to see it through to the end because he wants Delay very badly.
Four, this is a very serious charge and since there is no one above Delay that he can roll over on, there is a real possibility that if Delay is convicted, he will do actual prison time. That will be awesome.
Five, the conspiracy count is not necessarily the only one Delay will face. Other charges can always be added, up to a certain point in the process. The reason that's significant is that there is a very wide range of Delay's conduct that could be potentially criminal, and the more charges you tack on, the greater the chances that something will stick.
Bottom line, this is a critical factor, possibly THE critical factor, in the 2006 presidential elections. As I argued in King of Crooks, the Democrats MUST work hard to portray Delay not as a "bad apple," but as just a symptom of an ethical rot that has shaken the foundations of our republican system of government.
Our current leadership probably isn't up to the job, but there's a real opportunity here, just as there was in 2004, for some new leaders to emerge and take back the legislature just as the Gingrich Republicans did in 1994. If the Dems can recapture the Senate in 2006 (a moderate long shot) or take back the House (possibly more likely than people think; hope to detail why in a later post), we may be able to stop the bleeding on the budget.