TOM DELAY’S OBITUARY?….Michael Crowley writes in the New Republic today that even if Ronnie Earle’s campaign finance indictment against Tom DeLay turns out to be weak, smart Republicans know that DeLay is finished anyway. It all turns on the golf trip to Scotland arranged by his good buddy Jack Abramoff:

Congressmen are only supposed to take such trips for business, not pleasure, and, in a March statement, the National Center avowed that the trip involved “significant policy meetings,” including ones with [Margaret] Thatcher and some Scottish politicos….But, this week, Thatcher’s office told the Mirror that “Lady Thatcher met Mr. DeLay as one politician meeting another. It was in no way a business meeting.”

….These inquiries make clear that Justice Department investigators are keenly interested in DeLay’s personal role in the Abramoff saga….This new emphasis…fits with passages from the affidavit filed last month against [David] Safavian: It cites a 2002 trip the former GSA official took with Abramoff and Ohio Representative Bob Ney ? clearly showing that Justice Department prosecutors are interested in the true purpose of Abramoff’s junkets.

….DeLay could be vulnerable to prosecution under what is known as federal “gratuity law,” which…might only require the government to show that Abramoff had some business interest in which DeLay was in a position to help. The feds would not need smoking-gun proof like, say, an e-mail from DeLay promising a House vote in exchange for a golf trip.

The Jack Abramoff scandal is so convoluted that even I have a hard time staying interested in it, let alone the average guy on the street. But it’s a time bomb. As more people get drawn into the net ? and Abramoff’s net is very wide indeed ? investigators are going to have a very wide scope for turning potential witnesses against Abramoff and his pals. It’s only a matter of time until all this digging uncovers a piece of the scandal that (a) affects someone important, like DeLay or Karl Rove and (b) is pretty easy to understand. Then it all starts to unravel.

Abramoff’s roots run very deep in the Republican corruption machine. Once people start paying attention, it’s not going to be a pretty sight.

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