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Looks like the Federal Election Commission wants to know more about these curious 15-percent "commissions" Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA) has been paying his wife, Julie.

According to financial reports on file with the FEC, Doolittle's Superior California Federal Leadership PAC paid $7612.50 to Julie Doolittle's firm, Sierra Dominion Financial Services, during the month of January. In that same period, the PAC brought in $1200 in receipts, those same documents show.

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What will they not do now?

Back when Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) was facing multiple probes from the House Ethics committee, the GOP purged the committee and packed the majority seats with loyalists -- even ousted the chair, Rep. Joel Hefley (R-CO), in favor of a loyalist leader, Rep. Richard Hastings (R-WA).

Four of the five GOP members had taken donations from DeLay's ARMPAC -- reluctantly, we're sure -- and two of the five had shown great generosity by contributing to DeLay's legal defense fund.

Unsurprisingly, the panel meditated quietly on non-being while the biggest ethics scandals in memory have stormed across Capitol Hill. In recent days, plea agreements from a key former DeLay staffer have brought the mess directly to DeLay's office door. The committee, meanwhile, has focused on detaching itself from the trappings of worldy existence. Or at least from investigating.

But if DeLay keeps his promise to exit Congress in a timely manner, the complaints against him will be rendered moot. Their docket will be lightened considerably. What then?

Earlier, we noted that Tom DeLay threatened to have Ronnie Earle's power removed: "[the Texas legislature] can take his power away from him because there was the Texas legislature that gave him this power." He promised action in the next session of the legislature.

Now, Ronnie Earle was elected by the people of Texas, so the legislature can't just boot him. The way I see it, DeLay has two options: he could somehow use the Texas legislature to strip Earle's jurisdiction over the case, but that could get sticky. Or (eureka!) he could have the Texas legislature defund Texas' Public Integrity Unit, which would cut Earle off.

I bet that last one's awful tempting to DeLay. And no one can doubt that he's shameless enough to try it.

As I reported before, if there is a plan afoot, no one has bothered to tell the Speaker of the Texas House. So maybe DeLay is just pounding his chest.

Earle's office wouldn't comment on the matter. But they said a statement was forthcoming about the case now that DeLay has said he will step down from his seat.

Late Update: Here's Ronnie Earle's entire statement:

Tom DeLay's political status has nothing to do with the criminal charges against him. This changes nothing. His criminal cases will proceed just as they would for any other defendant. DeLay's ultimate fate will be decided by the public acting through a jury.

Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA) is the favorite for filling Rep. Tom DeLay's (R-TX) seat on the House Appropriations Committee when DeLay steps down, CongressDaily is reporting.

That name's familiar. In 2004, Calvert accompanied former Rep. (and current convicted felon) Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA) to Saudi Arabia. Convicted felon Thomas Kontogiannis, a pal of Cunningham's, joined the two.

Calvert has said he didn't know Kontogiannis' past (nor, certainly, Cunningham's future), but "If I had known his background, I wouldn't have felt very comfortable." As for what they were all doing in Saudi Arabia, Calvert told TPM last November, "the three spent their time in Saudi Arabia meeting with government ministers and exploring ways the Saudis could be more helpful in prosecuting the war on terrorism."

Chris Matthews blogs on getting the scoop (kind of) from Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) that the former House majority leader was resigned to resigning. Exciting stuff!

The post is entitled -- no kidding -- "My phone call with Tom DeLay (Chris Matthews)":

[DeLay spokeswoman] Shannon Flaherty called me at the office Monday to say that Congressman Tom DeLay, her boss, wanted to talk with me in the evening. It would be around 9:15. She said he was "not calling to complain."

Despite the heads-up, I was taken aback when the former Majority Leader came on the line Monday night.

"This is Tom DeLay." "Hi Tom," I responded before reverting to protocol. The Congressman then told me the stunning news he was dropping out of his race for re-election.

. . . and that's how the news is made. Any questions?

Who will replace Tom DeLay?

Right now, the field seems open, and a handful of Texas Republicans are eager for the opportunity.

Here's how it's going to work, according to Roll Call. First, Gov. Perry will call a special election to replace DeLay when he steps down in "late May or mid-June."

But whoever wins that race will only be in office for a number of months. The real race will be for who will be the Republican candidate in November. And that will be decided by a committee "comprised of the Republican Party chairmen of the four counties that lie within the 22nd district, and four representatives elected by the precinct chairmen from each county." So it appears that whoever is selected will be the one deemed in the eyes of the party bosses to be the best candidate. Ah, democracy.

This morning I was sharing my surprise at DeLay's resignation with Texas Monthly's Jan Reid, author of The Hammer: The Nasty, Brutish, and Shortened Political Life of Tom Delay. But Reid was more circumspect than I. "I think there's a precedent for this," he told me. "If you remember when [Newt] Gingrich went down, all of a sudden he was no longer speaker, he looked back and said, 'what's the point in being one of 435?'"

I mention this because in an online chat this afternoon, The Post's Bob Kaiser made a similar observation:

How did [DeLay] decide [to quit]? I just don't know. I suspect part of it was the realization, since he was replaced as majority leader and completely displaced from any influential role in the House, that now matter what else happens, his new life was going to be a pale comparison of his old one. He would, I suspect, simply hate the idea of being a marginal player. And that's where he was headed.

In retrospect, is it surprising more of us didn't see this coming?

Over at TPM, Josh asks what House Republicans will say now about their November 2004 votes to change House rules so DeLay could stay in the leadership, even if indicted. It was a voice vote, which meant that constituents were forced to drive their representatives into the open on how he/she voted. Back then, TPM was going full bore trying to uncover which Republicans had voted which way, and over at the Daily DeLay, they kept a running tally. You can see it here.

A total of 63 Republicans said "Yea" to the change. Was your representative among them? What does he or she say about it now?

As a number of TPMm readers have pointed out, Tom DeLay has said that he's planning to move to Virginia -- since he won the Republican primary for his House seat, his name would remain on the ballot unless he left the state.

But DeLay was indicted and arrested in Texas. He's out on bond. Can he just pull up stakes and move to another state?

Apparently, yes. A review of his bond conditions shows that there's no requirement that he remain a resident of Texas. So he's free to flee the state as he pleases -- so long as he returns to stand trial.

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.