Politics & Policy

The Delay Case: Lawyers Intend to Subpoena Makers of The Big Buy

They ask: What did Ronnie Earle say in the outtakes?

Lawyers representing a co-defendant of indicted House Majority Leader Tom DeLay have sent a letter to the makers of a new film about the DeLay investigation, saying they will seek a subpoena that would order the filmmakers to turn over a copy of the film and all unused footage from the project.

The Big Buy chronicles Travis County, Texas prosecutor Ronnie Earle as he pursued the investigation that led to DeLay’s indictment on conspiracy charges last week and on money-laundering charges yesterday. Filmmakers Mark Birnbaum and Jim Schermbeck describe the film as “a Texas noir political detective story” about the Earle/DeLay investigation.

The still-unfinished picture, obtained last week by National Review Online, includes extensive interviews with Earle, who discusses his motivation in pursuing DeLay on charges that the House Majority Leader allegedly directed an operation in which corporate contributions were used illegally in Texas campaigns. “The root of the evil of the corporate and large-monied interest domination of politics is money,” Earle says in the film. “This is in the Bible. This isn’t rocket science. The root of all evil truly is money, especially in politics. People talk about how money is the mother’s milk of politics. Well, it’s the devil’s brew. And what we’ve got to do, we’ve got to turn off the tap.”

The Big Buy also includes video shot inside the Travis County grand-jury room, as well as inside Earle’s office during a meeting of the district attorney’s staff. Last week, Birnbaum told National Review Online that Earle had granted the filmmakers “extraordinary access” to the investigation.

Now, an attorney for Jim Ellis, a DeLay codefendant who runs ARMPAC, or Americans for a Republican Majority, has sent a letter to Birnbaum saying, “We intend to seek to subpoena all of the raw footage (whether digital or in some other format) of the interviews you conducted for The Big Buy. We believe that footage contains evidence that is relevant to one or more legal issues raised in the civil and criminal proceedings.”

The letter, from attorney Jonathan D. Pauerstein, continues, “I do not know whether you [Birnbaum] will oppose such a subpoena. In any case, the purpose of this letter is to ask that you ensure that all such footage is preserved and not lost, destroyed, erased, or filmed over, pending the resolution of our effort to obtain a subpoena and any efforts by you or others to oppose that subpoena.”

The letter, dated September 30, 2005, concludes, “I do not mean the foregoing to suggest any wrongdoing on your part with respect to the film, and hope you do not find this request offensive. I simply believe that some of those whom you interviewed made statements that will be relevant to Mr. Ellis’s defense.”

Lawyers for Ellis and another DeLay co-defendant, John Colyandro, are preparing a court motion that will request that a subpoena for the footage be issued.

Reached by National Review Online Tuesday, Birnbaum declined to comment.

When the story of the movie originally appeared in NRO, DeLay and his team cited it as evidence that Earle was seeking publicity in his pursuit of DeLay. “Oh yeah, he’s just doing his job,” DeLay said mockingly last week during a talk-radio interview. “He’s just doing his job. He’s got a film crew that has been following him around for two years to document how he’s going to get Tom DeLay.”

Byron York, NR’s White House correspondent, is the author of the new book The Vast Left Wing Conspiracy: The Untold Story of How Democratic Operatives, Eccentric Billionaires, Liberal Activists, and Assorted Celebrities Tried to Bring Down a President–and Why They’ll Try Even Harder Next Time.

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