GOP Indictments: Party shouldn't take these charges lightlyThursday, September 23, 2004
Dallas Morning News
After Democrats treated Texas like their fiefdom for a century or so, some Texans finally turned to Republicans for relief. "Enough of the abuses of one-party rule!" they exclaimed. "We want an alternative." From that outrage, the Texas GOP started to take off in the 1960s.
That history is precisely why Republicans should not shrug off the indictments Monday of three GOP fund-raisers in Texas. A jury must determine whether the trio violated campaign finance laws. But the fact these charges have gone this far should alarm state Republican leaders. The GOP could lose its own dominance over Texas politics if the party treats these abuse-of-power charges lightly. The Democratic Party isn't so far down that a good scandal or two couldn't bring it back.
U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, the Sugar Land Republican, already is dismissing the indictments as the work of a reckless Democratic prosecutor, Ronnie Earle of Travis County. There's no doubt Mr. Earle has a tarnished record. His botched prosecution of Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison a decade ago on misconduct charges was like watching a man burn himself at the stake.
Still, this current case is important. Did Republican fund-raisers, as alleged, contemptuously ignore campaign finance laws, launder money and traffic in illegal corporate contributions?
If any of these charges is true, then Republicans should be all over this scandal, policing their own. If these accusations are proved in court, then a public denunciation of such practices by the GOP leadership is in order. Doing so would signal all the way down to the precincts that Republicans will not do business like their old nemesis, the Democratic Party.
Yes, we're in the middle of a ferocious campaign season, but the public should not cynically assume that this is merely about political partisanship and score settling. It's really about the integrity of Texas' political system, the lack of which helped birth the state's now-powerful GOP, and drove the Democrats to their current outcast state.
Those who don't remember the past may be condemned to repeat it.
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