Dismantling the Machine

November, 2005:
A onetime congressional staffer who became a top partner to lobbyist Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty yesterday to conspiring to bribe a congressman and other public officials and agreed to pay back more than $19 million he fraudulently charged Indian tribal clients.

The plea agreement between prosecutors and Michael Scanlon, a former press secretary to then-House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), provided fresh detail about the alleged bribes. The document also indicated the nature of testimony Scanlon is prepared to offer against a congressman it calls "Representative #1" -- who has been identified by attorneys in the case as Rep. Robert W. Ney (R-Ohio).
January, 2006:
Jack Abramoff, the once-powerful lobbyist at the center of a wide-ranging public corruption investigation, pleaded guilty yesterday to fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy to bribe public officials in a deal that requires him to provide evidence about members of Congress.

The plea deal could have enormous legal and political consequences for the lawmakers on whom Abramoff lavished luxury trips, skybox fundraisers, campaign contributions, jobs for their spouses, and meals at Signatures, the lobbyist's upscale restaurant.

In court papers, prosecutors refer to only one congressman: Rep. Robert W. Ney (R-Ohio). But Abramoff, who built a political alliance with House Republicans, including former majority leader Tom DeLay of Texas, has agreed to provide information and testimony about half a dozen House and Senate members, officials familiar with the inquiry said. He also is to provide evidence about congressional staffers, Interior Department workers and other executive branch officials, and other lobbyists.
February, 2006:
Rep. John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), who ran an insurgent campaign calling for change in the face of a widening corruption scandal, was elected yesterday to succeed Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) as House majority leader in an upset over the acting majority leader.

Boehner's victory over Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), a longtime DeLay ally, stunned even the Ohioan, said House members attending the closed-door election. It sent a clear signal that most House Republicans were eager for a relatively fresh face to lead the party in an election year when the GOP's decade-long control of the House is under threat.

Boehner, 56, was part of the 1994 "Republican Revolution" and held a high-ranking leadership post under Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), but he operated on the edges throughout the reign of DeLay and House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.).
April, 2006:
Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), a primary architect of the Republican majority who became one of the most powerful and feared leaders in Washington, told House allies last night that he will give up his seat rather than face a reelection fight that appears increasingly unwinnable.

The decision came three days after Tony C. Rudy, his former deputy chief of staff, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and corruption charges, telling federal prosecutors of a criminal enterprise being run out of DeLay's leadership offices. Rudy's plea agreement did not implicate DeLay in any illegal activities, but by placing the influence-buying efforts of disgraced Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff directly in DeLay's operation, the former aide may have made an already difficult reelection bid all but out of reach.
May, 2006:
A former senior aide to Rep. Robert W. Ney (R-Ohio) who left Congress to join Jack Abramoff's lobbying team pleaded guilty yesterday to conspiring to corruptly influence Ney's official actions by showering him with gifts and trips.

Neil G. Volz, 35, a Ney confidant who spent seven years on the congressman's staff, joins Abramoff and three of his other former associates in agreeing to cooperate with the government and testify against Ney in the unfolding public corruption scandal on Capitol Hill.
June, 2006:
A federal jury found former White House aide David H. Safavian guilty yesterday of lying and obstructing justice, making him the highest-ranking government official to be convicted in the spreading scandal involving disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Safavian, a former chief of staff of the General Services Administration, was convicted in U.S. District Court here of covering up his many efforts to assist Abramoff in acquiring two properties controlled by the GSA, and also of concealing facts about a lavish weeklong golf trip he took with Abramoff to Scotland and London in the summer of 2002.
August, 2006:
A former Interior Department employee pleaded guilty yesterday to a misdemeanor charge for failing to report gifts he received from lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Roger G. Stillwell, 66, told a federal magistrate that he had been given hundreds of dollars' worth of football and concert tickets by Abramoff, who at the time was lobbying for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.

Stillwell was with the Interior Department's office of insular affairs, which handles issues involving the island government. He is the fifth former government official to plead guilty or be found guilty by a jury in the investigation of Abramoff, who was convicted on felony counts of fraud and corruption.
October, 2006:
Rep. Robert W. Ney (R-Ohio) pleaded guilty yesterday to corruption charges arising from the influence-peddling investigation of lobbyist Jack Abramoff, becoming the first elected official to fall in a scandal that may damage his party's chances in next month's elections.
November, 2006:
Triggering a post-election shake-up, Dennis Hastert announced Wednesday he will not run for leader of House Republicans when Democrats take control in January.

"Obviously I wish my party had won," the House Speaker said in a statement that added he intends to return to the "full-time task" of representing his Illinois constituents.

His decision to step down from the leadership cleared the way for a likely succession battle among lawmakers who face the sudden loss of power after a dozen years in the majority.
Staunch DeLay ally Roy Blunt will hold the number-two spot in the Reep minority in the next Congress -- unless an unforseen indictment happens to land on him in the near future, that is. And, of course, inside the White House the gears keep turning.

Even so, the Machine has taken a pretty severe pounding, and with the Reeps no longer in a position to sell legislation, real conservatives might have a chance now to finish dismantling the thing and take their party back.

Assuming, as I am, that the Dems lack the intestinal fortitude to do it themselves.

No comments: