Going deeper on DeLay: Muddying the waters or connecting the dots?

DeLay's Texas prosecutor seeks documents related to the Randy "Duke" Cunningham bribery case in California.

By Tim Grieve

Published December 14, 2005 2:26PM (EST)

So it's not quite proof that Jack Abramoff masterminded the outing of Valerie Plame. But for those who have hungered for some connecting of the dots among the various and sundry scandals rocking the GOP, the news out of Texas today must be welcome: The prosecutor in the money-laundering case against Tom DeLay has subpoenaed documents related to the defense contractor implicated in the Randy "Duke" Cunningham bribery case.

As the Houston Chronicle reports today, Travis County district attorney Ronnie Earle has subpoenaed bank records and other documents of Brent Wilkes and three companies he controls. Wilkes has been identified as the man called "Co-Conspirator No. 1" in court documents filed in the Cunningham case in California.

The Texas subpoenas focus on a $15,000 contribution one of the companies Wilkes controlled made to DeLay's Texans for a Republican Majority, but the Chronicle says the connections between DeLay and Wilkes are bigger than that. They involve "legal political donations by Wilkes and his companies to DeLay, along with the hiring by Wilkes of a Washington lobbying firm started by a DeLay associate that also employed DeLay's wife, Christine," the paper says. DeLay was also a frequent flier on Wilkes' private jet.

The DeLay camp has moved quickly to denounce Earle's decision to seek the Wilkes documents. DeLay lawyer Dick DeGeuerin says that Earle is going down a "rabbit trail" in an attempt to "muddy the waters." DeLay spokesman Kevin Madden says that Earle "has turned a three-year political vendetta against Mr. DeLay into a zany, careless subpoena bazaar."

"Bazaar" is an interesting choice of words, carrying the connotation, as it does, of horse-trading and bartering. As the San Diego Union-Tribune has explained, Wilkes' story "shows how gifts, favors and campaign contributions can be used to gain lucrative business from the government." DeLay and Cunningham aren't the only politicians to be at the receiving end of his largess. As the Associated Press reported the other day, Wilkes raised at least $100,000 for George W. Bush's reelection campaign, contributed more than $70,000 to California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger -- who appointed him to two state boards -- and gave more than $40,000 to each of several members of Congress, including DeLay and GOP Reps. Duncan Hunter, Jerry Lewis and John Doolittle, all of California.

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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