By Joe Trippi
updated 9/23/2004 11:34:35 AM ET 2004-09-23T15:34:35

Almost everything that is wrong with out nation’s politics begins with the money. Now, three aides to a Texas political action group founded by House GOP leader Tom Delay are under indictment for illegal campaign activities. And yet, thanks to the slow wheels of justice, the outcome of the legal proceedings against them will do nothing to reverse the damage they did to democracy in Texas, and to the nation, as well. 

Texans for a Republican Majority P.A.C. spent $1.5 million in the 2002 election aimed at gaining Republican control of the Texas legislature. This is a lot of money for state legislative races, and it was directed to a small number of key races that led to GOP victories that gave the Republicans control of the Texas House for the first time since 1873.

On Wednesday, a Texas grand jury issued 32 separate indictments against founders, aides, and eight corporate contributors to the group. They are charged with engaging in a shell game with the Republican National Committee aimed at funneling funds illegally to these key GOP candidates in Texas.

Complex charges

The indictments allege that money from Texans for a Republican Majority were funneled to the Republican National Committee (RNC) along with a list of campaigns in Texas and amounts of money for the RNC to distribute to the listed campaigns. And guess what?  The RNC contributed the exact amount it received from Texans for a Republican Majority, to the targeted  campaigns back in Texas. This is illegal and it goes all the way back to the GOP's national chapter.

Tom DeLay, himself, was not named in the indictments, but he currently is under investigation for improper fundraising by the U.S. House Ethics Committee.

So now that it seems clear that Republicans gained control of the Texas House through what were likely to be determined illegal means. Why should someone in Delaware, California or Ohio care about that? Isn't just another disgusting example of our money-drenched political system?

A new low

No, actually, this is something new. You see after they gained control of the Texas House,   the Republicans then went to work to gerrymander and redraw new Texas congressional districts in a way that is likely to give them five new Republican controlled seats in the U.S. House of Representatives. Five votes at a time when both chambers of Congress are so even split is nothing to sneeze at, and it certainly is of concern far beyond the borders of the Lone Star state.

So I have a question: If these guys are found guilty -- if three aides, and the corporations that fueled this illegal escapade, get jail time or big fines, how do we get our democracy back?   

No judge will order the recall of the Texas House, nor the redrawing of Texas Congressional districts (certainly no Texas judge).  Illegal money will still have ensured the Republicans of control of the Texas House, and if they gain any of the five new congressional seats in Texas this November, it may well seal the GOP as the majority in Congress for years to come. All based on illegal campaign funding. Where is the moral outrage against that?  

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Joe Trippi, Howard Dean's former campaign manager, is an MSNBC contributor and a political analyst for "Hardball with Chris Matthews."  He's contributes to Hardball's weblog, and is author of "The Revolution Will Not be Televised: Democracy, the Internet and the Overthrow of Everything."

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