The Lincoln Plawg - the blog with footnotes

Politics and law from a British perspective (hence Politics LAW BloG): ''People who like this sort of thing...'' as the Great Man said

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Sunday, October 03, 2004

What's Ronnie Earle's deal?

Who? That would be Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, currently leading the home state charge against Prince of Darkness Tom DeLay's Texas empire - in the form of indictments against three of DeLay's key Texas operatives for raising illegal campaign contributions (the Post explains).

Earle is a Democrat - but any temptation to a hasty connecting of the dots should be resisted. According to a March 1 piece in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Earl was born in 1942, and was first elected DA in 1976. If he has sought higher office - the piece unhelpfully does not say either way - he's not succeeded.

He's prosecuted more Democratic elected officials than Republican, he says. Time supposedly described him as:
Thoughtful. Conspiratorial. Half-whacked. Smart. Insightful. Wise. Nuts.

The impression one gets from the piece is that Earle is a Lone Gunman, an Inspector Javert when he gets the bit between his teeth - as apparently he has with the TRMPAC Three.

On the other hand, one would be loath to rule out a priori the possibility of some coordination with Dem sachems - after all, if one was going to blow a reputation for impartiality (I'm not saying he has one!), taking down the organisation of monumental hate figure DeLay might be accounted more than a fair trade.

As DA, Earle has had some colourful episodes: the lively prosecution of Kay Bailey Hutchison, for instance. He heads the state Public Integrity Unit - in Texas?! - which puts him in pole position for such cases.

A 1999 Austin Chronicle piece mentions another curious case: Service Corporation International - apparently
the largest funeral and cemetery services company in the world
and based in Houston, too! - was believed to have
bought influence at the highest levels of state government, effectively killed a state investigation into its embalming practices, and has escaped paying a record fine of $445,000,
and Earle was balking at initiating an investigation for influence-peddling.

The Chronicle piece suggests this might have been because
the last time the Democrat got involved in a big political investigation, he got crushed.
That would be the Bailey Hutchison business, when he
gave up in his highly publicized efforts to prosecute Hutchison for allegedly using her post as state treasurer for political gain...

There's talk of files going missing in the SUI case; and this little sentence:
Did Bush commit aggravated perjury when he submitted an affidavit that appears to be less than truthful?

Don't think there's any doubt which Bush we're talking about there.

What, you might be wondering, happened in the SUI case? According to Mr Google, there are only a couple of Chronicle pages returned for "ronnie earle" "Service Corporation International". I conclude that the whole thing died.

There is such a thing as Funeralgate - and a certain Governor Bush was involved (what, I wonder, is SUI's contribution record to Bush and the GOP?). And, as late as May 2004, the Texas Funeral Service Commission was still a colourful shambles.

If this tiny and insignificant corner of the Texas polity is so riddled with - to be polite, questionable dealings - the wonder is that Earle has only managed fifteen prosecutions of elected officials in nearly 30 years in office!

(Why no coverage of the SUI case elsewhere in the Texas media? Not another Google memory hole conspiracy job, surely?)

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