They've got muck; we've got rakes. TPM Muckraker

Here's a curiosity: Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) apparently continued to raise funds for his congressional campaign even after he decided to quit the race.

It's not nice or polite to mislead your supporters -- particularly when you've been indicted, you should really treat your backers extra good. But that's not the strategy DeLay appears to have adopted.

The embattled former House majority leader told Time magazine he decided on Weds. March 29 to quit his House race:

DeLay and his wife, Christine, said they had been prepared to fight, but that he decided last Wednesday, after months of prayer and contemplation, to spare his suburban Houston district the mudfest to come.

Yet his campaign sent out a fundraising appeal via to supporters the following evening, according to an email circulating from the makers of "The Big Buy," a new documentary about DeLay.

Does that mean DeLay uncharitably milked his supporters for cash he knew he'd never spend on his race? (Could he already have been planning to use campaign funds to pay his fast-growing legal bills?)

There's another possibility, equally unflattering: he lied to Time, backdating his decision so folks would believe he made his choice just before he learned Tony Rudy agreed to plead guilty. News of Rudy's plea became public on the morning of Friday, March 31.

Either way, it's an interesting twist.

TIME Magazine is reporting that David G. Wallace, the popular 44 year-old mayor of Sugar Land, has confirmed he'll make a bid for DeLay's seat. A fresh start for the local GOP? Well ... Wallace currently serves as investment committee chairman for Perry Properties Realty Investment Fund & Perry Properties, a commercial real estate company owned by Will Perry, who is the son of Bob Perry, a top Republican fundraiser in Texas. Perry pere, who goes way back with Karl Rove, came to national attention when he donated $200,000 to fund the Swiftboat Veterans for Truth ads. And, as TIME reports, Bob has recently been back in the news for a "gift" he made to Bill Ceverha, the former treasurer of Texas Republicans for a Republican Majority (TRMPAC), the PAC at the heart of Ronnie Earle's investigation of Delay.

According to Texans for Public Justice, Perry was the largest contributor to Tom DeLay's Texans for a Republican Majority PAC (TRMPAC) giving $165,000 in the 2002 election cycle.

Wallace -- remember he's the guy who may get DeLay's seat -- is also on the Board of Directors of DeLay's Rio Bend planned community, a project of the DeLay Foundation for Kids, which has come under fire as a way for would-be donors to get close to the powerful Congrsesman. At least that answers the question as to whether or not Tom DeLay will have any influence in picking his successor....

Apparently now that Tom DeLay doesn't have a congressional seat to lose, the gloves are really coming off.

This morning on Fox News Radio's Tony Snow Show, DeLay said that he's going to go after Ronnie Earle, the Texas prosecutor who indicted him on Money Laundering charges:

Texas should not allow a district attorney from Travis County have this kind of power. And they can take his power away from him because there was the Texas legislature that gave him this power. And I think that will happen in the next session of the Texas legislature.

The next session of the Texas legislature?

If such a plan has been hatched, no one has told the Speaker of Texas' House, Tom Craddick. When we called his office, spokeswoman Alexis DeLee said she hadn't heard of the plot.

More as we hear it.

Voila! As R. Jeffrey Smith pointed out in The Washington Post this morning, Tom DeLay's decision to bow out of the race means that he'll save big on campaign expenses. In my mind, this explanation for DeLay's decision to drop out has been underplayed. There were reports earlier this year that his defense fund was in the red - he needs money, and with the progress of the Justice Department's investigation against him, he's looking at the possibility of a federal indictment on top of his case in Texas.

The DeLay legal fund raised about $1.6 million over the last six years. Apparently, he's spent it all. So what's he going to do? At last count, his campaign had $1,295,350 in the bank, which he can soon use to get himself out of debt.

DeLay has good company in looking to use campaign money for his defense. Most recently, in fact, former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA) recently petitioned the FEC to let him do just that.

And since the commission already ruled on Cunningham's situation, DeLay wouldn't need to ask -- he could say he's in the same boat as Cunningham, according to FEC spokesman George Smaragdis. That'd be a curious admission, to be sure, so keep your eyes open.

The White House had kind but distant words for the former majority leader this morning. But it's hard to tell exactly how sad they are to see him go.

Bush confirmed he chatted with Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) last night, who informed him of his decision. "My reaction was, it had to have been a very difficult decision for someone who loved representing his district in Texas," Bush said. "Congressman DeLay has been a good ally with whom the president has worked to get things done for the people," spokesman Scott McClellan told reporters.

Ally, indeed. "DeLay's relationship with President Bush is not a warm one," Congressional Quarterly notes in its annual profile of DeLay. "[A]t times he has stood in the way of Bush's agenda."

Bush ran hot and cold on DeLay, although recently he's been more cold than anything else. As noted in February, "Tom DeLay doesn’t attend White House briefings anymore."

"There are no second acts in American lives," F. Scott Fitzgerald famously wrote. But with the curtain closing on Rep. Tom DeLay's (R-TX) second act -- a bravura performance as one of the most powerful House majority leaders in modern history -- Fitzgerald can go jump in a lake.

What will DeLay do for a follow-up? We doubt he'll return to his first love, exterminating bugs. The Houston Chronicle reports today he's going to "move to Virginia to work with a conservative organization," at least unless a federal judge gets other ideas. Anybody know which group recruited the Hammer?

Well, Tom DeLay has bowed out of his congressional race to spend more time with his lawyers.

But as Josh mentioned last night, DeLay's machine remains. And since the Justice Department's bribery investigation took a direct turn toward DeLay with Tony Rudy's guilty plea last week, the second former aide of DeLay's to plead guilty, one has to imagine the fallout were DeLay to eventually be indicted in a federal investigation.

You remember the media frenzy after Jack Abramoff's guilty plea in January. Dozens of members of Congress rushed to return or donate Abramoff's and his clients' money. And recently, the same has occurred with Tony Rudy, although Rudy is not a household name - so only 13 of the 34 Republicans who received contributions from him have returned them.

But imagine the predicament Republicans would find themselves in were DeLay to be indicted as part of the Justice Department's investigation. Fundraising was DeLay's specialty, and the main way that he kept House members in his debt. It's difficult to even calculate DeLay's impact in dollars, given how central he's been to the Republican money machine (appearing at others' fundraisers, directed corporate dollars to the GOP), but at the least, one would have to look at DeLay's political committee, Americans for a Republican Majority, which he's used to spread money around to hundreds of Republican House candidates since 1996.

$3.47 million of ARMPAC's money has gone directly to Republican candidates since '96. And to over 100 members of the current Congress, usually in $10,000 payments.

So here's something to watch - here's a list of the GOP candidates who received money from DeLay in '04. How long will they hold on to it? Tony Rudy's guilty plea implicated another former DeLay aide, Ed Buckham, who used to run ARMPAC. Jim Ellis, another former head of ARMPAC, has already been indicted in Texas for laundering corporate contributions down there, along with DeLay himself. How many former leaders of ARMPAC and others connected with DeLay have to go down before ARMPAC money is finally seen as tainted?

Here's one way to drum up business.

In 2001, disgraced GOP superlobbyist Jack Abramoff approached the Sudanese government -- the one with a record of terrorism and human rights violations -- and offered to clean up its image in Washington for a few million bucks, the Los Angeles Times reports today.

[Abramoff's] former associate, who did not want to be named out of fear it might damage future business opportunities, said that Abramoff proposed a $16- to $18-million contract -- "a staggering sum" for the destitute nation -- but one that the lobbyist considered reasonable because international disapproval was so costly to Sudan's economy.

The Columbus Dispatch reports:

Ohio Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell revealed yesterday that he owned stock in Diebold, a voting-machine manufacturer, at the same time his office negotiated a deal that critics have said was an attempt to steer business to the company.

The Hammer Falls

As you've no doubt heard by now, Tom DeLay has decided to not seek re-election. Because he has already won the Republican primary, he can't simply drop out or the Republicans will have no candidate. So he has to be disqualified. "To be disqualified he must die, be convicted of a felony or move out of the state." Although DeLay may very well be convicted of a felony before November, his apparent plan is to pull up stakes and move to Virginia. He will retire from Congress sometime in late May or mid-June.

As for the reasons for DeLay's choice, most outlets buy the general storyline that polls were showing him facing a very tough race - and so DeLay selflessly decided to bow out so Republicans could retain the seat. The NY Times is one of the few to cite legal troubles as the reason:

One DeLay ally said that the lawmaker had been considering leaving Congress since he gave up his leadership post in January and that he had been persuaded to make the break last week, when his former deputy chief of staff, Tony Rudy, pleaded guilty to corruption charges.

R. Jeffrey Smith of The Washington Post points out one advantage to DeLay's quitting the race now: he can convert all of the campaign money he would have spent on a close election to his legal defense fund. Contributions to the fund had been dropping late last year.

(WaPo, The Fix, WaPo, NYT, Galveston Daily News, Time, Time Q&A, Thinkprogress, USA Today, LA TImes)

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