Archive for January 10th, 2011

Tom DeLay, the Arizona Shooting and the Black Hole of American Politics

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.

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