Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Molly Ivins, on the money

I don't know how I missed this Molly Ivins column last week, but miss it I did. Even still, it's worth a read. Here are a few pitch-perfect paragraphs:

Doing favors for big campaign donors may indeed be an "everybody does it," but when those favors take the form of laws that directly hurt your people, you're supposed to draw the line. Over the line is where Texas pols would put using a children's charity as a cover for collecting soft money from special interest groups and then spending it on dinners, a golf tournament, a rock concert, Broadway tickets and so forth. Because the money was supposedly for a charity, Celebrations for Children, Inc., special interests who wanted favors from DeLay were able to give him money without revealing themselves as campaign donors. Cute trick, Tom, but a really cruddy thing to do.

In another example of ethical rot, DeLay took a $100,000 check from the Corrections Corporation of America, a company that runs private prisons in Texas and has a 20-year history that includes mismanagement and abuse. CCA wants the Texas Lege, over which DeLay exercises considerable sway because he's a money conduit, to privatize the prisons. And that check? Made out to DeLay's children's charity, the DeLay Foundation for Kids. Barf.

Another quality that makes DeLay an un-Texas pol is that he's mean. By and large, Texas pols are an agreeable set of less-than-perfect humans and quite often well-intentioned. As Carl Parker of Port Arthur used to observe, if you took all the fools out of the Lege, it would not be a representative body any longer. The old sense of collegiality was strong, and vindictive behavior -- punishing pols for partisan reasons -- was simply not done. But those are Tom DeLay's specialties, his trademarks. The Hammer is not only genuinely feared in Washington, he is, I'm sorry to say, hated.

Some of the ethics charges against DeLay are just plain old-fashioned grubby -- letting a lobbyist pay for a fancy hotel in London and a golf trip to St. Andrews (DeLay claims he didn't know it was lobby money, even though he was accompanied by the lobbyist). What sets DeLay apart is his response when his shoddy behavior is exposed. He has been admonished three times by the House Ethics Committee, so did he clean up his act? Nope, he went after the chairman of the ethics committee, threw him out, got the rules changed and then stacked the committee with his close allies. "The ethics process in the House of Representatives is in total shambles," said Fred Wertheimer, a longtime D.C. crusader on ethical issues.

I haven't even mentioned DeLay's apparent violation of Texas campaign finance law, quite a feat, since we only have the one. Or the whole nasty and absurd redistricting mess, or the dubious donations to his legal defense fund, or the Indian casino gambling saga, or, or, or.


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