Tom DeLay, opera buff.

Gossip, speculation, and scuttlebutt about politics.
Aug. 11 2005 7:09 PM

Tom DeLay, Opera Buff

I'm not making this up. I swear.

DeLay's secret passion. Click image to expand.
DeLay's secret passion

Jack Abramoff, Washington sleazeball extraordinaire, has finally been indicted. Surprisingly, the indictment is not related—directly, anyway—to the allegation that he defrauded the Indian tribes he represented as a lobbyist, which is the crime Abramoff is most widely suspected of committing. Instead, Abramoff stands accused of committing bank fraud by failing, along with his partner, Adam Kiden, to put up a promised $23 million for the purchase of SunCruz Casinos, a fleet of cruise ships whose customers enjoy the rare opportunity to play blackjack, craps, roulette, baccarat, etc. while getting seasick plying the waters of Florida's Atlantic coast. (The Washington angle is that Abramoff allegedly used proceeds from SunCruz to pay for political fund-raisers at his skyboxes at Washington's MCI Center and Baltimore's Oriole Park at Camden Yards.) According to the Miami Herald's description of the indictment, Kidan provided the bank with a phony document purporting to show that the $23 million had been sent to the seller, one Konstantinos ''Gus'' Boulis, who was subsequently gunned down in a gangland-style killing. This last detail is obviously a lot more interesting than playing Three Card Monte with Choctaw gambling profits.

It is also obviously bad news for House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. "Lobbyist Tied To DeLay Is Indicted For Fraud," reads the New York Times headline on an AP story. Expect to see a lot more headlines like that. But the cruelest blow for DeLay may be that the world will finally learn the original basis (besides GOP fund-raising) for the bond between Abramoff and DeLay: A shared interest in opera.


Abramoff is a huge opera buff, and—until now this has been a closely guarded secret—so is DeLay. The only previous public hint of this mutual enthusiasm was the revelation in June by Associated Press reporter Adam Nossiter that Abramoff persuaded the Coushatta tribe to put up $185,000 in 2000 so DeLay could treat some of his biggest donors to a concert by the fabled Three Tenors (José Carreras, Luciano Pavarotti, and Plácido Domingo). Apparently, DeLay is no mere opera dilettante. He knows his spintos and his verismos and his ariosos, and I guess he must work overtime to keep that knowledge a tightly held secret lest his good-ole-boy constituents in Sugar Land, Texas*, conclude the Hammer is putting on airs. You probably think I'm kidding, but I'm not. The meanest man in Congress, who used to make his living killing insects, is ... the phantom of the opera. I also happen to believe he's a crook, but that's neither here nor there.

Correction, Aug. 19, 2005: An earlier version of this column made erroneous reference to "Sugarland, Texas." It is (contrary to the title of Steven Spielberg's first feature, The Sugarland Express), two words: "Sugar Land." I leave to another day the puzzle of why, in the Spielberg movie, William Atherton and Goldie Hawn, who play a prison escapee and his wife giving chase to a fleet of police cars, would be bent on driving to Sugar Land, Texas, best known at the time as the site of a state prison farm.

Timothy Noah is a former Slate staffer. His  book about income inequality is The Great Divergence.



Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore, and Schools Are Getting Worried

The Good Wife Is Cynical, Thrilling, and Grown-Up. It’s Also TV’s Best Drama.

  News & Politics
Sept. 19 2014 9:15 PM Chris Christie, Better Than Ever
Sept. 19 2014 6:35 PM Pabst Blue Ribbon is Being Sold to the Russians, Was So Over Anyway
Inside Higher Ed
Sept. 19 2014 1:34 PM Empty Seats, Fewer Donors? College football isn’t attracting the audience it used to.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
Brow Beat
Sept. 19 2014 4:48 PM You Should Be Listening to Sbtrkt
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 19 2014 5:09 PM Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?   A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.