The Note: Bet the Ranch

"The overriding point is that DeLay is the most important Republican leader in Congress. That is why Bush was pictured with him on newspaper front pages all over America Wednesday morning."

Tom Delay's travel investigation may start as soon as next month and Michael Hedges of the Houston Chronicle looks at how Delay's defense will be probed if an independent panel is brought in to assist with the case. LINK

Former California Rep. Pete McCloskey said in Houston on Sunday, "Tom DeLay is an embarrassment to the Republican Party." McCloskey is one of nine former congressmen who has started the informal group called the "revolt of the elders," the group is aimed at finding a candidate to defeat DeLay in the next election. LINK

The Washington Post's Mark Leibovich offers some details -- and evidently hears a few tolling bells -- on the tribute planned for House Majority Leader Tom DeLay on May 12. LINK

On Sunday, the Washington Post's Susan Schmidt and James Grimaldi turned in a front-page examination of the dealings of Jack Abramoff, focusing their energies not on the fees he collected from Indian tribes with casinos, but instead as a part owner of a fleet of gambling cruise ships -- a tale complete with allegations of mob ties and shady finances. Abramoff is the target of a federal investigation into whether the deal by which he and his partners acquired the fleet involved bank fraud -- specifically "a fake wire transfer for $23 million intended to persuade lenders to provide financing to Abramoff's group." LINK

The duo unravel a lengthy story that, in their words, "combines the South Florida of novelist Carl Hiaasen with the Washington of influence-peddling K Street: Thousands of pages of bankruptcy and other court records, along with dozens of interviews in Florida and Washington, reveal secret deals; a forged document; double-crossing partners; and socializing with government officials on a private jet, at the U.S. Open golf tournament at Pebble Beach, at a Monday night football game in a private box at FedEx Field, and at an exclusive party on Inauguration Day in Washington."

Meanwhile, Chairman/Gov. Dean has been drawing the line from Abramoff to the White House, urging the President in DNC press release Friday to return all funds from and sever ties to Jack Abramoff: "Someone facing numerous charges of corruption shouldn't be just a phone call away from the President of the United States of America. It's that simple. President Bush should return Abramoff's money immediately."

We're curious to see how many quotes from Democrats this week will contain that dotted-line message, or whether Dean stays out on his own.

Bolton:

Over the weekend, the New York Times' Scott Shane turned in a boffo profile of Mr. Bolton's life and influences. LINK

On Sunday, the Los Angeles Times' Sonni Efron took a look at the circumstances at the State Department that led to John Bolton's frustration, and how that frustration affected his relationships with both State employees and foreign diplomats, including adding to "an atmosphere of suspicion and mistrust spun out of Bolton's zealous policy initiatives and the efforts of others to thwart him." LINK

File this under "do not miss":

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