For a Second Time, Texas Dems Bravely Defy Gerrymandering Scheme by GOP

"When preparing for life on the legislative lam, it's always a good idea to pack extra underwear. As 11 Democratic state senators from Texas fled here to New Mexico on Monday to deny their Republican counterparts a quorum, their priorities had more to do with staving off a Republican redistricting effort than with basic personal needs... The Democrats escaped from Austin, a 641-mile trip, after learning that Republican leaders were planning to force them into a vote on redrawing Congressional districts in the Republicans' favor. Some lawmakers said that the chamber doors would be locked, and because the Republicans have a majority, the Democrats were sure to lose - particularly if, as expected, Senate leaders suspended a rule that requires a two-thirds majority when bringing bills to the floor... The Democrats in exile appear convinced that redistricting is being orchestrated by Republican leaders in Washington, particularly the House majority leader, Representative Tom DeLay."

Texas Search for Democrats is Ruled Illegal

AP reports: "The Texas Department of Public Safety lacks the legal authority to track down and arrest rebellious state lawmakers who block a quorum, a judge has ruled. Visiting Judge Charles Campbell of State District Court in Austin made the ruling on Thursday in a lawsuit filed last month by State Representative Lon Burnam of Fort Worth, one of 51 Democrats in the Texas House who fled to Oklahoma for four days in May to prevent a vote on a Republican-backed Congressional redistricting plan."

Texas-Gate: DeLay Request Led FAA to Hunt for Dem's Plane

WashPost reports: "A request from the office of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) for information about an airplane he suspected was carrying Texas Democrats from the state legislature ultimately led the Federal Aviation Agency to issue a special lookout for the plane in May, U.S. officials said yesterday. The plane was owned by state representative James E. 'Pete' Laney, who with other Texas House Democrats was trying on May 12 to evade an edict by Texas Republicans for his arrest and forced attendance at a House meeting in Austin. DeLay's allies needed a quorum to pass a congressional redistricting plan that favored the election of more Republicans... Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.), who requested the Mead probe, said: 'This strikes me as a clear abuse of the federal government's resources, and an invasion of privacy, and one that shouldn't happen again.'"

House Panel Won't Subpoena Ashcroft in 'Killer Ds' Inquiry

"U.S. House Republicans refused Wednesday to order Attorney General John Ashcroft to divulge his agency's role in the search for Texas lawmakers who went into hiding in May. The subpoena, requested by Rep. Gene Green, D-Houston, was rejected on a 19-15 party-line vote by the House Judiciary Committee. Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., led the opposition to the bill, noting the 'Don't mess with Texas' slogan. 'What this resolution does is bring Texas' mess to Washington and asks us to work on it,' he said [Hey, isn't that what DeLay and Ashcroft did in the first place, when they got the Feds involved?]. 'Let Texas settle its own problems.' Democrats charged Republicans with joining a coverup by Ashcroft's Department of Justice, which has not answered questions about the involvement of FBI agents, U.S. marshals and U.S. attorneys in the search for Texas Democrats. The lawmakers hid out in Oklahoma to break Texas House quorum and derail a congressional redistricting bill."

Homeland Security Investigation Clears own Agency Worker in Texas-Gate

"A Homeland Security Department investigation has cleared an agency worker of any wrongdoing in the effort last month to help Texas Republicans track down missing Democratic lawmakers and referred questionable actions by the state Department of Public Safety to the FBI. The report... found an agency employee spent 40 minutes and was involved in eight phone calls trying to track down former state House Speaker Pete Laney's airplane during a partisan standoff over redistricting... Brian Roehrkasse, spokesman for Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, said his agency's part in determining any wrongdoing is over. 'The results of this investigation clearly indicate that the (air interdiction) officer believed he was searching for a missing aircraft,' he said. Democrats disagreed with the assessment. They argued Monday that the agency blacked out large sections of the transcript of communications between the air interdiction office and the Texas DPS, proving more needs to be revealed."

Another Attempt at 'Perry-Mandering' in Texas with the Blessing of Karl Rove and Tom DeLay

The Houston Chronicle reports: "Gov. Rick Perry reignited a partisan fire Wednesday by calling a June 30 special legislative session on congressional redistricting, an issue killed by Democrats last month when they staged a walkout that shut down the statehouse for four days... White House political adviser Karl Rove contacted at least one state senator this week and told him passage of the Republican redistricting plan 'could be important to the president.' Republicans praised Perry for calling the session, while Democrats blasted him for a special legislative session that could cost as much as $1.7 million on a purely partisan issue. 'Perry-mandering is clearly the order of the day,' said U.S. Rep. Chris Bell, D-Houston, who might lose his district in the process. 'This is the worst Texas politics has to offer and voters should be deeply offended' ... State House Democrats admitted Wednesday it is unlikely they can pull off another walkout to kill the bill."

Conyers Releases New Documents Showing Cover-up in TexasGate

"These documents, provided to the Judiciary Committee late last evening, are the smoking gun that shows a cover up of Texas Gate. Who asked the Texas police to deliberately deceive the Department of Homeland Security and misuse homeland security resources? It has been alleged that the Texas Governor's office or the House Majority Leader's office may have been involved. But Texas police will only say 'several individuals' made the suggestion but refuse to provide the names of those individuals to federal investigators. Who told the Texas police to destroy documents? Again, they refuse to tell federal investigators. It is extremely troubling, it is a cover up and it is a violation of federal criminal laws when public safety officers obstruct a federal investigation in this manner. The question is: who are they trying to protect and why are they trying to protect them?"

Homeland Security Wasn't Hoodwinked into Hunt for Texas Dems

Josh Marshall writes: "Till now we've assumed that the Department of Homeland Security got hoodwinked into getting involved in the manhunt for the Texas Democrats. Apparently that's not so. (Note to Joe Lieberman, Dan Gerstein, et al.: did you guys pick up on this?) One of the things Homeland Security did to help the Texas Republicans was to put out what amounted to an APB, calling various Texas airports to see if they could track down the Democrats in question. When an official at one of the local airports contacted by Homeland Security asked what was up, the Homeland Security official told him it didn't have anything to do with a downed plane or any problem like that. 'This is just somebody looking for politicians they can't find,' an unidentified official told Marvin Miller, an airport official in Plainview, Texas, according to a Saturday article in the Washington Post. So much for an innocent misunderstanding. So much for 'homeland security'."

Dems Want FBI Probe of Agent's Role in Hunt for 'Killer Ds'

The Houston Chronicle reports: "Democratic members of the Texas congressional delegation demanded Friday that the FBI investigate how one of its agents became involved in the manhunt for runaway state legislators last month. 'We request your explanation of the protections the FBI has in place to ensure it is not involved in purely political disputes,' said the letter, signed by 15 of the state's 17 Democratic U.S. representatives... In a deposition released earlier this week, a state trooper testified that the Texas Department of Public Safety did not ask the FBI to help find the missing lawmakers on the first day of the walkout, May 12. But he acknowledged that an FBI agent called one of the runaway lawmakers... [State Rep. Juan] Escobar [D-Kingsville] said [FBI Agent David] Troutman called back later to ask if Rep. Gabi Canales, D-Alice, was with the group in Oklahoma. Escobar told Troutman that she was. 'He said, `We can call the surveillance off and save the money,' Escobar said."

Texas Trooper: Perry Helped Hunt for Dems

AP reports: "Republican Gov. Rick Perry had a greater role than he previously revealed in the hunt for more than 50 Democratic lawmakers who left the state to block passage of a bill, according to testimony from a state trooper. Lt. Will Crais, who led the search last month, said in a deposition released Wednesday that Perry was impatient with the search's progress and at one point gave troopers a tip on where to find one of the missing legislators. Texas Department of Public Safety documents released separately Tuesday indicated that Perry had personal contact with DPS officers during the search, ordered by Republican House Speaker Tom Craddick."

Records Inquiry on TexasGate Widens

Star-Telegram Austin Bureau writes: "The controversy about records compiled and destroyed during the hunt for the AWOL House Democrats last month played out on two fronts and in two cities Thursday. In Austin, the Texas Department of Public Safety moved to dismiss a lawsuit aimed at stopping any ongoing destruction of documents. Both sides say the record-shredding has stopped, but there is disagreement about whether illegal document destruction ever occurred. In Washington, meanwhile, several Democrats in Congress sought to compel the Department of Homeland Security to release records about its role in the search for the quorum-busting 'Killer D's.' Members of the House Government Reform Committee signed a 'seven member letter' seeking tapes, transcripts and other documents related to the search on May 12 and 13. They said the letter allows them to obtain information not provided to other committees."

Texas-Gate Intrigue Gets More Intriguing

Josh Marshall writes: "Hmmm. When I talked to Texas state rep Lon Burnam he told me he had 'multiple sources' at the Texas Department of Public Safety who told him about illicit document shredding. When he was deposed yesterday he said his only source was Roberta Bilsky, a staffer for Kevin Bailey, the Democrat running the investigation in the state House. How do you explain the conflict? Good question. On an equally troubling note, the State Attorney General's Office now wants to depose Bailey. In other words, Bailey is investigating the AG's office among others to find out their role in the manhunt. And now the AG's office wants to put Bailey and his folks under oath. The saga continues." Scrolling down to the June 2 entry: "So it turns out there was more than one call to the Department of Homeland Security. Imagine that" Click on the link there to read the memo by State Rep. Kevin Bailey.

Texas AG Trying to Block Depositions of 3 DPS Officers

"A Texas official who answers to Gov. Rick Perry provided state troopers with the information they needed to get a federal terrorism-fighting agency involved in a state political battle, according to a legislator investigating the situation. Texas Homeland security coordinator Jay Kimbrough gave Department of Public Safety officers the telephone number to the agency within the federal Homeland Security Department that helped Texas officials track down more than 50 Democrats... said Rep. Kevin Bailey, chairman of the House General Investigating Committee... In a DPS surveillance videotape, Kimbrough was seen walking in and out of a makeshift command center outside the offices of GOP House Speaker Tom Craddick.... Bailey received a complete videotape late Monday night, after first receiving a tape that was missing a critical five-hour portion... Republican Attorney General Greg Abbott also is involved... Abbott is trying to block depositions of three DPS officers and a Texas Ranger."

Texas-Gate Widens to Texas Governor Perry

The Houston Chronicle: "A legislative investigator said Tuesday that Gov. Rick Perry and his point man on anti-terrorism were in a state police command post the day the state enlisted federal Homeland Security forces to help search for runaway House Democrats. House General Investigating Committee Chairman Kevin Bailey, D-Houston, said Capitol security tapes show Perry entering and leaving the office of House Speaker Tom Craddick. Bailey said sources told him that Perry went from that office to the command post established in a reception area of the speaker's office. Bailey also said Perry's homeland defense coordinator -- Assistant Attorney General Jay Kimbrough -- gave the Texas Department of Public Safety a California telephone number for the federal air interdiction service that was used to track former Speaker Pete Laney's plane during the walkout."

Shades of Watergate in Texas-Gate: 5-Hour Gap in Security Tape -- Can You Say Rosemary Woods?

The Houston Chronicle reports: "Texas state police officials on Monday blamed a faulty duplication machine for a five-hour gap in a Capitol security tape that was given to a House committee investigating how authorities handled the Democratic walkout. [Democratic Rep. Kevin] Bailey's committee is looking into how the Texas Department of Public Safety coordinated its search for 55 missing legislators on May 12, whether anyone associated with U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay helped direct the search and why DPS officials ordered some records on the issue destroyed on May 14. As part of the probe, Bailey had asked DPS to turn over Capitol security tapes for the hallway outside of House Speaker Tom Craddick's office. A DPS command post was set up May 12 in Craddick's reception room, and Bailey said he wants to know who went in and out of that room... 'It's odd that it was the day and time that we wanted,' Bailey said. 'It's fine all week, except for that one period.'"