Also published on The Huffington Post
Tom DeLay was sentenced to three years in a Texas prison today, and I saw it coming almost 20 years ago. Sort of.
Back in that distant, unwired summer of 1991, I was a wide-eyed recent college grad starting a brand-new job as a staffer for a member of the Texas Legislature. One of my first assignments? To prepare a detailed analysis of a recently passed, 100+ page government ethics bill for my boss, who surely already knew it in detail already but who wanted to make sure that I did, too.
Texas legislative ethics had an oxymoronic reputation back then, and within 18 months we would lose our fourth House Speaker in a row (the Honorable Gib Lewis) for playing fast and loose with the lobby. That ethics bill I analyzed was designed to stop such exciting habits as the handing out of campaign contribution checks on the Senate floor during a vote, but it also reaffirmed a long-standing ban on direct corporate and union money in Texas politics. That was a rule folks took seriously, and it was the one that ultimately guaranteed The Hammer a spell in a Texas slammer.