2001 Postal rate case: Tom Delay’s smoking gun?

The Washington Post reports that the Magazine Publishers Association’s efforts to thwart a rate increase in 2001 may be central to any prosecution of Tom Delay or others involved in the Abramoff scandal:

“The Abramoff plea agreement’s focus on the postal rate increase and Internet gambling bill signals that federal investigators are turning up the heat on [Tom Delay’s Assistant Chief of Staff Tony C.] Rudy and his wife, possibly with DeLay as an eventual target, said Stanley M. Brand, a former general counsel to the House, who described DeLay’s legal problems as “extreme.”

“The U.S. Postal Service had proposed a 15 percent increase, triggering a fight from the magazine industry. With a lobbying contract worth millions, Preston Gates put its heavyweights on the team, including Abramoff, and then directed the MPA to make its $25,000 contribution to Toward Tradition, headed by Lapin, a longtime friend of Abramoff’s.

“On May 1, 2000, the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call quoted Rudy as saying, “We’re planning to do all we can so that the postmaster general sticks to his word” and reduces the rate increase. By December, the magazine publishers were claiming victory: The rate increase that went into effect in January 2001 was considerably smaller.

“The case could be significant for investigators, Brand said. Federal prosecutors need only prove there was an agreement to pursue official action in exchange for favors, and the Abramoff plea repeatedly states that such agreements existed. But juries often want to see that the action took place, and in the postal rate episode, that would be clear.”

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