Why did Mississippi's Trent Lott decide to bid adieu to U.S. Senate before year's end? Of the many theories out there, Slate's Timothy Noah deserves credit for being the first to look at an intriguing possibility -- his ties to now-indicted attorney Richard "Dickie" Scruggs (Noah posited the theory before the indictment; read Sue's post here at Facing South yesterday for more on the case).

(Sidenote: Noah incorrectly labels me as promoting the "Still Clueless About [Strom] Thurmond" theory to explain Lott's exit, based on my Wednesday post -- in reality, I said Lott is worn down by a whole series of affronts to his career since his "gotcha" moment glorifying segregation. But I digress.)

The connection between Lott and Scruggs is unclear, but it makes more sense than the notion that Lott is resigning early to escape an extra year of "cooling off" time before he can rake in millions through direct lobbying. Lott clearly wouldn't be the first to spin through Washington's revolving door between the Capitol and K Street -- you can find a nice long list of lawmakers cashing in on their political connections here -- but the lobbying restrictions are too weak to explain Lott's abrupt walk.

As for Scruggs, the Los Angeles Times has a good piece on his bribery indictment here. Scruggs has a storied history as a trial lawyer, taking on big guns like the tobacco industry. Scruggs could face up to 75 years if convicted, but the Times points to potentially bigger losers: the Mississippi homeowners depending on Scruggs' class-action lawsuit against State Farm Insurance for their alleged negligence after Hurricane Katrina.