Monday, February 28, 2005

Early coverage of today's civil trial

Reuters on Wired.com.

Also making today's wire story (read down) was House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi calling for an ethics investigation of DeLay for accepting travel paid for by a lobbyist, Jack Abramoff. (There's that name again.)

Funny

Jon over at Think Progress, the Center for American Progress and American Progress Action Fund's blog, has a great post on DeLay and his trips with corrupt Jack Abramoff.

Raw Story has two stories (make it three)

The Raw Story reported two stories on DeLay, the first using info from National Journal story over the weekend by Peter Stone and the second linking DeLay to a supposedly nonpartisan outfit sending scare mail on Social Security.

The first on Friday helped to break open the Tom DeLay links to the bilking of six Native American tribes by super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff and PR consultant (and former DeLay aide) Michael Scanlon. This scandal has been festering for a while and because of the amount of money involved -- $82 million in payments from six tribes to these two men -- it ain't going away. DeLay's connection:

The prominent lawyer and former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who is being investigated by federal authorities for his lobbying efforts of an Indian tribe and his relations with House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX), paid for DeLay and DeLay's staff's stay in an expensive London hotel in mid-2000.

In addition, Raw Story broke a story today establishing a link to the Majority Leader and the National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR). The center spent more than $130,000 on travel expenses for DeLay, his wife and his staff. They have recently been exposed for sending out "fright mail" on Social Security.

UPDATE: Chris Bell does an interview with Raw Story regarding the emerging DeLay scandals.

More on civil trial

Austin American-Statesman (registration)

AP (DMN, registration)

Houston Chronicle

Off the Kuff

All kinds of stories posted at the Scandal Blog of Clean Up Texas Politics

Trial begins in civil suit involving DeLay's TRMPAC

The New York Times (registration) takes a look at the story behind the story in the civil lawsuit filed by five former Texas state representatives against Tom DeLay's TRMPAC's treasurer:

A civil trial scheduled to open here on Monday involving allegations of illegal campaign contributions to Republican members of the Texas House is likely to attract almost as much attention in the halls of Congress as it will on the floor of the State Legislature.

The reason is the House majority leader, Tom DeLay, the Texas Republican who is among the most powerful men on Capitol Hill and his party's most potent fund-raiser in Congress. While not named as a defendant in the civil trial or placed on the witness list, Mr. DeLay is still likely to find himself a focus of attention in the Travis County courthouse, with Congressional Democrats looking for any sign that his legal troubles back home could be widening.


It won't be just those in Washington who will be watching -- the most important observer will be Ronnie Earle, the Travis County District Attorney, who will look for information useful to the criminal investigation he is leading.

An interesting development on Friday in this case expanded House Speaker Tom Craddick legal exposure. To avoid testifying under oath,

[Craddick] acknowledged through his lawyers that his office had distributed $152,000 in donations raised by the committee to Republican candidates in the months before his election as speaker, and after conceding that he and his staff might have shredded documents about the committee.

Will there be some fireworks to report later, or is everything already out? We'll see... Let us know what else you're reading on this one.

Saturday, February 26, 2005

San Antonio Express News: Throw out Politician Protection Act

An editorial in the San Antonio Express News urges the Texas Legislature to throw out HB 913, the bill designed to protection Tom DeLay, Tom Craddick and their corporate friends from prosecution. The editorial board rightly connects this bill to the rule pushed by U.S. Rep. Henry Bonilla (R-TX) -- the DeLay Rule -- last November:

No wonder a watchdog group is calling this a "Politician Protection Act."

The bill has attracted national attention because of comparisons to an effort last fall. Spearheaded partly by U.S. Rep. Henry Bonilla, R-San Antonio, the effort would have changed a U.S. House ethics rule and protected DeLay from having to step down from his post if indicted. Embarrassed Republicans backed off that effort.

The Texas bill would be even more effective because it would almost guarantee that no one would be indicted in the first place.

Plainly put, HB 913 stinks. Throw it out of the House.


I agree. Sign our petition to TX Speaker Tom Craddick.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Social Secruity Forums Come Under Fire

James B. Lockhart III, the deputy commissioner at the Social Security Administration (SSA), has been appearing with Republican members of Congress -- including Tom DeLay -- across the country to promote the President's privatization plan. The New York Times (registration required) reports that:
"Mr. Lockhart's travels come at a time when the administration's efforts to advance its policies are under scrutiny. A few weeks ago, employees at Social Security objected to a publicity drive that they said had twisted facts about the solvency of the system to create an appetite for personal accounts."

And Senate Democrats voiced their concerns in the article:
"'The administration is running one of the most sophisticated grassroots lobbying strategies in history, and they are using federal employees and taxpayer dollars to do it,' said Senator Frank R. Lautenberg, Democrat of New Jersey. 'Social Security employees should be spending their time serving the needs of Social Security recipients, not advancing a political agenda.'

"Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, said the agency 'is supposed to serve all the people and should not be giving the appearance that it is taking sides.'

"'It is absolutely inappropriate for officials from the Social Security Administration to hit the hustings in support of the president's plan,' Mr. Schumer said in a statement."

This one may not go away -- Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington has filed a lawsuit against the SSA for failing to fulfill a FOIA request asking with which PR firms the SSA has contracts.

Texas Association of Businesses President Called To Stand

After a year of delay in the Texas Supreme Court, Texas Association of Businesses President Bill Hammond will finally have to answer questions about corporate money used during the 2002 legislative elections and his relationship with TRMPAC.

State District Judge Joe Hart has ordered Hammond to take the stand in a related case against former state Representative and treasurer of TRMPAC Bill Ceverha. More on this can be found in the Austin American-Statesman article (registration required).

Texas House Speaker Craddick Called To Testify

The Dallas Morning News reported that Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick will be called to testify next week in a civil case involving TRMPAC fundraising activities during the 2002 Texas state House races. This will mark the first time that these campaign contribution allegations will be heard in a court room.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Gingrich Warns DeLay About Ethics

Interesting column by Cragg Hines in today's Houston Chronicle entitled "If Newt is warning DeLay about ethics, times are bad."

Monday, February 21, 2005

TD

More from the Austin American-Statesman (registration required):

Looking for likely contributors to the Texas cause, [Warren] Robold also turned to other former DeLay aides who were lobbying at other firms.

In an e-mail Sept. 4, 2002, Robold asked Drew Maloney, a former DeLay staffer now at the Federalist Group, for help: "What companies that you know of would be interested in Tort Reform in Texas with asbestos problems that might support TRMPAC?"

Maloney suggested Dow Chemical Co., Owens-Illinois Inc. and Halliburton Co., among others.

"I finally have the 2 checks from Reliant (Energy)," he added. "Will deliver to TD next week probably."

TD is Tom DeLay.

On Sept. 18, 2002, John Colyandro, the executive director of Texans for a Republican Majority, urged Ellis and Robold to encourage San Antonio lawyer James Jonas to finish phoning would-be donors for an event in that city.

"Please tell him how important he is," Colyandro wrote, "and how important this is to TD."

A month later, Robold, still needing $125,000 in corporate money, urged Harlan Crow, son of Dallas real estate mogul Trammell Crow, to donate: "On behalf of Congressman DeLay and the rest of the Texans for a Republican Majority team, we thank you for all that you can do."

Robold also suggested to Colyandro that he create a top 10 list of donors:

"I would then decide from response who Tom DeLay (and) others should call."

Keep up the pressure

Sign the petition to Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick to keep the pressure on him to drop any attempt to cover up the investigation into the TRMPAC/DeLay scandal. So far, more than 4,200 people have signed on, and the national press is starting to pick upon this a little more.

Washington Post: Texas Ethics Bill Could Allow Appointees to Bar Prosecutions

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Preview of documents from civil trial

Former state reps have filed a civil suit against DeLay's TRMPAC officials. The trial date on that civil suit is scheduled for February 28. In advance of the trial date, some documents have been leaked to the Austin American-Statesman (registration required). Here's a passage that caught my eye:

Hungry for money

The new documents show that Texans for a Republican Majority had a voracious need for money.

So-called hard dollars, largely from about a dozen wealthy individuals, went to GOP candidates. Corporate money, called soft dollars, paid for the committee's consultants, pollsters, phone banks and professional fundraisers.

The committee, for example, paid a California phone bank with corporate money to identify likely Republican voters in 20 or so legislative districts. Committee officials have defended such expenses as "administrative" costs that are allowed with corporate money under state law.

On Aug. 6, 2002, three months before the election, [John] Colyandro [Executive Director of TRMPAC] wrote [Warren] Robold [TRMPAC's Washington fundraiser]: "It has become critical that we bring dollars now. On the soft money front, we need to up the take to $750,000. There are too many activities that we must fund.

"On the hard dollar front, we need $1 million."

Two weeks later, Colyandro wrote his fund-raisers that the money for candidates was not coming in fast enough: "I am very concerned about meeting our hard dollar targets. We've had three luncheons/meetings with very little return."

Robold, who was DeLay's corporate fund-raiser, focused on raising corporate money from lobbyists on Washington's K Street.

On Sept. 16, 2002, Colyandro implored Robold: "Any news? I need the dollars desperately. Sorry to sound so needy."

Texans for a Republican Majority was spending money as fast as Robold could raise it. In his message to D.C.-based lobbyists, he claimed corporations could give as much as they want, without it being disclosed: "Just a reminder, all corporate funds are unlimited and non reportable by Texas State law."

What is remarkable about this to me is how easy it would be for someone like Colyandro or Robold to relieve the fundraising pressures with one phone call to Tom DeLay.

Thanks to Off the Kuff for the link.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Rumor mill's a-churn'

Unsubstantiated rumors about Tom DeLay. (Thanks to Houtopia for the tip.)

Tom DeLay on CNN on Social Security and redistricting

The transcript:

JUDY WOODRUFF: With me now to talk more about the president's Social Security reforms and other issues is Republican Tom DeLay of Texas. He is the House majority leader. He joins us from Capitol Hill. Mr. Leader, the president is leaving the door open to raising the current $90,000 income cap on which Social Security is taxed. If that were to be raised, would that be a tax increase?

REP. TOM DELAY (R-TX), MAJORITY LEADER: Well, Judy, the president is right in listening to anybody that wants to talk to him about any issue as to how to preserve and strengthen Social Security. But I, for one, am one of those that didn't come here to raise taxes. And it wouldn't do any good if you raised -- took the cap completely off.

It pushed the problem down maybe five to six years. It doesn't fundamentally fix the problem.

We can do this. We can strengthen and preserve Social Security and retirement security for our seniors and every generation, and we can do it without raising taxes.

WOODRUFF: So you're saying that would be, in your eyes, a tax increase if that happened, raising the cap?

DELAY: To everybody that makes over $90,000 a year, it's a tax increase.

WOODRUFF: So how do you do it if you don't, in some way or another, increase taxes or have enormous borrowing?

DELAY: Well, obviously, you have to first recognize the problem. As you well know, in 1945, there was 42 workers paying for every retiree. And in the 1950s, it was 16 to every retiree.

Right now, it's three workers working for every retiree. And by the time my daughter retires, it will be two workers for every retiree.

That is a real problem. And it's also a problem -- when they created Social Security, life expectancy was 60 years old. It is now 77 years old. And in just three years, the baby boomers start retiring. And the hit on Social Security is going to be mammoth.

So you have to understand, first you have to let people control their own retirement security. And secondly, those that are presently retired or about to retire, guarantee their benefits. That combination can more than fix the problem.

WOODRUFF: Are you advocating raising the retirement age?

DELAY: Not necessarily. Although, I think we can create a system where people can decide what their own retirement age is rather than the government making that decision.

And they can -- they can decide when to retire on their own. Particularly if they're the younger generation that has their own personal accounts. They ought to be able to decide when they retire and when it's more beneficial to retire.

WOODRUFF: Two other very quick things. First of all, how much Republican opposition is there still out there to the president getting what he wants, do you think?

DELAY: Well, I think there's some, but there is not very vocal. At least our members in the House understand that there is a problem, that we have to find a solution, that we can't just put this off for future generations.

Judy, every year that we wait adds another $600 billion to the cost of how to fix it later. We have to fix it now. And we know that we have to fix it now. Our members know that we have to fix it now.

Unfortunately, the Democrats won't admit that there is a problem, and certainly they're not going to provide any solution. We came here to provide solutions, and that's what we're going to do.

WOODRUFF: Mr. DeLay, I want to ask you finally about what -- one of the things that governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is trying to do, and that is reform the redistricting for not just legislative, but congressional districts in the state of California. You and I were just talking about this. You said to do it would set a bad precedent.

DELAY: Well, I'm very worried about this precedent of creating commissions to redistrict or to -- the system now of allowing judges to draw the lines. Our founding fathers envisioned having a House of Representatives that reflect the politics of the moment and reflect the politics of the people that they are representing. And they set up the system to do that for the state legislatures to draw these lines.

If you have a small group of people in a back room drawing the lines, what you'll end up with is a incumbent protection system instead of a system that truly represents the will of the people.

WOODRUFF: But don't -- but isn't there already a massive incumbent protection system with so little turnover?

DELAY: Yes, it's called judges. When the Democrats in Texas saw that they no longer were the majority party, they used judges to protect them. And they went 20 years being a minority party with a majority of the congressional delegation. And they used judges to do it. That makes my point for me.

WOODRUFF: We are going to leave it there. It's something I know we'll want to talk to you about again.

Congressman Tom DeLay, he is the House majority leader.

It's good to see you. Thanks very much.

DELAY: Thank you, Judy.

WOODRUFF: We appreciate it.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Esquire profiles Ronnie Earle

This month's Esquire has a long profile of Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle by John H. Richardson. I don't do this very often, but since it's only available on-line for those who pay $2.95 to subscribe, I recommend going to your local bookstore or newsstand and picking up the March Esquire for $3. Pass it on to your friends after you read it. It's worth the money.

Richardson writes at length about Earle's journey to take on this case. It also has the best compilation of material I've seen anywhere to debunk the charges the Republicans in Washington and Texas about Earle being a "crackpot district attorney" and on a "partisan witch hunt."

Earle comes across as an earnest, honest man trying to do what is right. He is also is a populist who sees this investigation he's leading in a much greater context than simply prosecuting crooked politicians and their corporate donors. That's what's driven him, in the three settlements so far with corporate donors to TRMPAC, to require the corporations to disclose their political donations on their websites and to give substantial donations to an institute at the University of Texas to study and educate the public on corporate money in politics.

At the beginning of the inquiry, Earle subpoenaed the executive director of the Texas Association of Business (TAB) for records related to TRMPAC. When TAB stonewalled, Earle got up in court, clearly frustrated, and said:

"If we can't tell who is behind these elections, why do we have elections? Why don't we just let the Texas Association of Business appoint our elected officials?"

He also was prescient about why these corporate donors had given so much to elect a Republican state legislature. Here's what, according to Richardson, happened in the 2003 legislative session in Austin, along with the amounts given by the interested corporations or associations:

  • A new law protecting nursing homes from lawsuits (Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care had given $100,000)
  • A law was defeated that would have prevented AT&T from entering the internet market in Texas (AT&T gave $20,000)
  • The legislature "took action that cost consumers $1.3 billion in [insurance] premiums over three years, according to one estimate (big insurance companies gave more than $1 million)

Richardson goes on:

And then, of course, there was redistricting, which had been DeLay's prime objective all along.


The profile leaves me with these three reactions:

  1. Earle is a fiercely seeking justice, and it's clear that for voters in Texas to get justice in this matter, DeLay will have to be held accountable. There is no doubt that DeLay is a target of this investigation (Richardson writes, "Over and over, Earle saw Tom DeLay's fingerprints.")
  2. This brazen power grab was masterful for its exploitation of self-interest, and shocking for its arrogant disregard for democracy and the public interest. DeLay wanted more GOP members in Congress and to make a generational shift in Texas politics. Corporate interests wanted a pliant and obedient state legislature. DeLay created one strategy to accomplish both.
  3. Earle is not backing down. With the 60 Minutes show pending, he will be vilified by Republicans and their allies in conservative noise machine as a crackpot district attorney like never before. (Richardson chronicles this, too.) We need to be there to defend him.

Buy this magazine. Pass it to friends. Urge them to pass it along as well. And let's be ready to defend Ronnie Earle's investigation when they come after him. It's not just his fight; it's all of ours.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

AP: New Ethics Committee chair fires lawyers who investigated DeLay

The story.

Pretty clear retribution here.

Campaign for America's Future kicks off "Most Corrupt Congress Ever" campaign

Here's their opening salvo.

Tell Craddick to drop efforts to stop Ronnie Earle's investigation

We launched a petition drive yesterday calling on Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick to drop any efforts to cover up or halt the investigation into the DeLay-related corporate fundraising scandal in Texas. Go sign, repost on your blog, or email it to your friends. Or all of the above.

As of this morning, more than 3,300 people have signed. Help keep up the momentum!

Monday, February 14, 2005

What Would Tom DeLay Do?

A while back, we were nominated as a semi-finalist for the Sandy Koufax Awards in two categories, best single-issue blog and best blog series (for the work on the DeLay Rule). I noted at the time that it was an honor to be listed among the 25 or 30 or so blogs on those lists.

Over the weekend, we found out that the Daily DeLay had made the finalist list for the Sandy Koufax Best Single-Issue Blog of the Year. It is humbling to be among the 11 finalists with so many well-regarded bloggers. But it doubly the honor knowing that many other deserving blogs did not make it to this final round.

The voting is open until Friday. Please go look at the contest finalists in this category and the others and cast a vote for your favorite in each.You vote by leaving a comment with your vote.

You can vote in the single-issue category here.

If you think our blog is worthy of recognition, consider casting a vote for the Daily DeLay. If you can't decide whether you like us or someone else the best, then here is some advice:

Think WWTDD? and do then the opposite.

Friday, February 11, 2005

We stopped the DeLay Rule, now they're trying an end run.

LA Times: Texas GOP Trying to Gut Ethics Inquiry, Critics Say

We stopped the DeLay loyalists from giving him a get out of jail free card earlier this year. Now the Texas Lege is considering what my colleague Craig McDonald at Texans for Public Justice calls the "Politician Protection Act."

Comments?

UPDATE: Craig emails this Austin American-Statesman editorial. Killer.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Interview with former Congressman Chris Bell on Ethics

Last week, in what was called a bloodless coup, House Speaker Dennis Hastert revamped the makeup of the House Ethics Committee. Replaced were lawmakers who had demonstrated a willingness to act independently in investigating powerful figures like Majority Leader Tom DeLay. Newcomers were all DeLay loyalists. Former Congressman Chris Bell, the man who has done as much as any other in bringing Tom DeLay’s ethical transgressions to public attention, agreed to answer some questions about this ethics shake up and others for the Daily DeLay.

Daily DeLay: Recently, Speaker Dennis Hastert replaced three of the five Republican members of the House Ethics Committee. All three had taken action against Tom DeLay. What do you make of this decision by Hastert? What message does it send?

Chris Bell: Packing the Ethics Committee with DeLay loyalists further immunizes the Republican congressional leadership not just from the Democrats but also from democracy. I filed the ethics complaint against Tom DeLay not because I'm a Democrat and he's a Republican or even because he drew me out of my congressional seat but because he engaged in corruption to further his plans to disenfranchise voters in Texas. The message the Speaker sent by doing this is that the Republican congressional leadership does not feel like it needs to play by the rules anymore, and they don't even care what it looks like.

DD: Before you filed your complaint last summer regarding Tom DeLay's fundraising practices and other questionable activities, there was a seven-year long "ethics truce" between Democrats and Republicans. Was this good for Congress?

CB: The American people expect public servants to be able to police themselves. But instead of designing a system to enforce ethical conduct, Tom Delay and his cohorts have implemented a self protection system. Obviously, it wasn't good for democracy. Fair play should be a minimal expectation, and the "ethics truce" prevented Congress from meeting even that low standard.

DD: What made you decide to break the ethics truce and file the complaint? Aside from the content of your complaint about DeLay, was there some event or experience while serving in office that was particularly eye-opening?

CB: There were several incidents which led up to the filing of the complaint. The first story to be reported involving Mr. DeLay's unethical conduct involved Westar. In those early reports, it clearly appeared that Westar was seeking special treatment in exchange for its financial contributions. However, the initial reports did not focus a great deal on Westar's contributions to Mr. DeLay's political action committee, TRMPAC. The next major story involving Mr. DeLay's questionable practices came following the walk-out by the Texas lawmakers who fled to Ardmore, Oklahoma to block redistricting. Following the walk-out, it became known that Mr. DeLay had violated House rules by using his position as a congressman to try to get the Department of Homeland Security involved in what was clearly a political matter. But the story which led me to include all of the incidents and to file them in one complaint was published in September of 2003 by the Texas Observer; it was titled "Rise of the Machine" and, in clear black and white reporting, it detailed how and why Mr. DeLay's Texas financing scheme was designed and implemented. That's when it became so abundantly clear that DeLay and his aides had flagrantly thumbed their noses at Texas law and that something needed to be done.

DD: Some people in Washington claim that the general public doesn't care about these ethical matters. You've suggested in a variety of interviews that the contrary is true. Why do you personally care about these issues and why are you right and others wrong?

CB: I think one reason many didn't care was because the stories printed about some of the matters were difficult to understand, weren't covered for very long or very thoroughly and often seemed to be part of a so-called game of "gotcha." But basically ethics stories are boring because they concentrate on process instead of characters and narrative. The DeLay story struck a nerve with people all across the United States because Tom DeLay put a face to what Walt Whitman called "the never-ending audacity of elected persons." Suddenly, they could see corruption up close. They could understand the way the Majority Leader had abused his position and why. People got angry because Tom Delay was making their votes irrelevant.

Immediately after the complaint was filed, I began receiving letters, faxes, phone calls and e-mails supporting my action. Back in Texas, strangers would approach me on the street to thank me for filing the complaint. I trust a great deal of that support was driven by an intense dislike for Tom DeLay but a lot of it was also due to people's fundamental sense of fairness. The American people do not begrudge anyone his or her power until they start abusing it. That's where the line is drawn and thousands apparently believed that Mr. DeLay had crossed it. If people need proof, they need look no further than the results from Mr. DeLay's last election. He runs in a district where 65% of the people usually vote for the Republican candidate. However, DeLay only received 55% of the vote and, even more striking, in his home county, Fort Bend, where every Democratic stronghold had been removed, the Majority Leader only received a little over 51% of the vote. What should that tell folks? People care about ethics.

DD: You are considering a run for Governor of Texas. Will ethics and campaign finance reform be major themes in your campaign?

CB: I am actively exploring the race for Texas Governor in 2006 and people can read more about my reasons for doing so at chrisbell.com. Texas has a lot of challenges, but if I choose to run I will talk about opening democracy to mainstream Texans and not just to a closed circle of entrenched ideologues. Redistricting and corporate campaign corruption have closed the doors of the capitol to all but wealthy interests who gain entrance through a revolving door in the lobby.

Ethics in government has always been important to me. When I served on the Houston City Council before going to Congress, I chaired the Ethics Committee and we passed some of the most sweeping ethical reforms the city had seen in years. I will always look for ways to make government more open and accountable.

I don't pretend to be perfect; I've made mistakes just like everybody else. When I have, I've owned up to the mistakes and moved forward. I guess what bothers me so much about what I now see going on in both Washington and in Texas is an effort to keep people from finding out about the mistakes of lawmakers and then when they're uncovered, an effort to fool people and pretend there was nothing wrong. My sense is that people aren't being fooled and are sickened by a lot of the abuses they see. If I can help open the system, I'm going to.

Is there a link between DeLay and the Talon News scandal?

Former White House correspondent and "reporter" Jeff Gannon (A.K.A. James Guckert) is on the hot seat along with his former "employer" Talon News. His boss at Talon News, Editor in Chief Robert R. Eberle (A.K.A. Bobby Eberle), also happens to be the CEO and President of Talon's parent organization GOPUSA.com. Eberle also lives and works in Houston, TX--a stone's throw from Sugarland, TX. See where we're going?

We're looking for help in finding any connection between Tom DeLay and Robert R. Eberle (remember that you may also know him as "Bobby Eberle"). We're also looking for any relationship between DeLay and GOPUSA.com or Talon News.

It's hard to imagine that Houston-based GOPUSA.com, who's mission is to spread the conservative message throughout America, has no relationship with DeLay. Anyone know of any? Post your comments below...

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

How to keep prosecutors from prosecuting crimes against politicians

An anti-Ronnie Earle bill was introduced in the Texas Legislature by House Elections Committee Chairwoman Mary Denny (R-Aubrey). As a response to the Travis County's investigation into alleged campaign finance violations, state lawmakers are looking, in the words of Texas District and County Attorneys Association's Shannon Edmonds, "to keep prosecutors from prosecuting crimes" by creating another bureaucracy to handle the investigations. (See also DriveDemocracy.org's blog.) A move like this was expected, now it's our time to act. Post your thoughts below about this, and watch this space for how we're going to move ahead.

Monday, February 07, 2005

With Friends Like These...

The appointment of Rep. Hastings (R-WA) to chairman of the House Ethics committee, replacing Rep. Hefley (R-CO) who allowed the admonishment of DeLay, didn't really surprise anyone--Hastings is a strong ally of Speaker Hastert. Two other members of the committee--Reps. Lamar S. Smith (R-TX) and Tom Cole (R-OK)--have contributed heavily to DeLay's defense fund. With friends like these, I'm betting "the Hammer" thinks those annoying "ethics" charges are now a thing of the past.

Both the Washington Post and New York Times had editorials over the weekend questioning the appointments, the new rules that now make it harder to file a complaint, and the extent that Speaker Hastert is willing to go to insulate and protect his friend “the Hammer.”

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Hypocrisy

John Podesta says exactly what I've been thinking, on American Progress's new blog, ThinkProgress.org, about last night's ink-stained fingers.

Ethics Committee Shake Up

Josh Marshall, as usual, has the details.

In short, Speaker Hastert revamped the Ethics Committee yesterday and tossed three members, including Rep. Joel Hefley (R-CO) as chair (as expected), Rep. Kenny Hulshof (R-MO), and Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-OH), all of who all voted against the DeLay Rule and played roles in the bipartisan investigations into DeLay.

In Mr. DeLay's House, blind, unquestioning loyalty has its rewards, and independence has its punishment.

More on Cracker Barrel

All of the news stories are about the same on the agreement reached between Travis County D.A. Ronnie Earle and Cracker Barrel for what is now termed an unintended illegal corporate contribution from the company to Texans for a Republican Majority PAC (TRMPAC), DeLay's state-based committee that was instrumental in a 2002 GOP takeover of the State House.

Basically, the outlines of this settlement are like the other two settlements with Sears Roebuck and Diversified Collection:

Cracker Barrel:

1. Agrees to cooperate with the investigation.
2. Agrees to make no more corporate political donations in Texas (corporate contributions can be used for overhead expenses, just not voter communications, so this is not entirely insignificant).
3. Agrees to make a $50,000 donation to a program at University of Texas to educate the public about corporate money in politics.
4. Agrees to to list all corporate political donations on their website.

In return, Earle drops the charges and accepts that Cracker Barrel did not intend to break the law.

The question is, who did intend to break the law? There was a lot of law-breaking.

Three of the eight indicted corporations have settled and are cooperating. Five remain, including Bacardi and disgraced energy company Westar.

Three individuals have also been indicted, and two of them, Jim Ellis, a Washington aide to DeLay, and John Colyandro, the executive director of TRMPAC, are in court today on pretrial hearings. Not sure what will surface in the trial, but if something does, you'll be sure to hear about it here.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

See this one from a mile away.

Donors to DeLay Fund Put on Ethics Panel

Title says it all. Not really a surprise, though, huh?

Breaking News: Travis County DA Settles with Cracker Barrel

Travis County drops charges against Cracker Barrel

Another corporate donor to TRMPAC apparently turns state's witness, and ponies up some more money ($50,000) to a public education campaign about the deleterious impact of corporate money in politics.

Details, if any, to follow.

Military service: Rhetoric vs. Reality

Tom DeLay issued a statement criticizing some colleges and universities from not allowing military recruiters on campus. DeLay said:

"Such policies are obnoxious in times of peace, but they are simply intolerable in times of war, and the equal access of our military recruiters to federally funded colleges and universities must be protected."


That's a far cry from his own past. At the 1988 Republican National Convention, DeLay defended a fellow draft-dodger then-Vice Presidential candidate Dan Quayle. Back in 1999, a columnist for the Houston Press wrote about it:

He and Quayle, DeLay explained to the assembled media in New Orleans, were victims of an unusual phenomenon back in the days of the undeclared Southeast Asian war. So many minority youths had volunteered for the well-paying military positions to escape poverty and the ghetto that there was literally no room for patriotic folks like himself. Satisfied with the pronouncement, which dumbfounded more than a few of his listeners who had lived the sixties, DeLay marched off to the convention.

"Who was that idiot?" asked a TV reporter who arrived at the end of the media show. When he was told the name, it drew a blank. DeLay at that time was a national nobody, and his claim that blacks and browns crowded him and other good conservatives out of Vietnam seemed so outlandish and self-serving that no one bothered to file a news report on the congressman's remarks. (emphasis added)


DeLay, unplugged, on Dean as the likely new DNC Chair

From the New York Times:

"After 10 years, you wonder if Democrats are running out of ways to say no," said Representative Tom DeLay of Texas, the House majority leader. "But then again, if they make Howard Dean the party chairman, I guess you could scream it."


With Dean having close connections to Richard Morrison, DeLay's 2004 opponent and possible 2006 challenger, and with DeLay's underperforming in his re-election in which he only garnered 55% of the vote, don't you think DeLay would be a little more careful in what he says?

Gotta think that Democracy for Texas, with its 40,000 statewide members, is taking note.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

The Hubris!

Tom "The Hammer" DeLay, commenting on the opportunities for the Republicans this Congress in the Financial Times:

Tom DeLay, the powerful Republican congressman from Texas and House Majority Leader, said Mr Bush has a great opportunity to advance an ambitious programme of change but offered a note of caution: “The only thing that could dampen this opportunity is our hubris.”

Still, DeLay has mapped out an ambitious -- so might say unattainable -- agenda for this session of Congress. In CongressDaily, he outlines a dandy of an agenda:

The House is working on a three-tier legislative plan for the 109th Congress, Majority Leader DeLay told reporters today, with Social Security and tax reform, as well as the budget resolution and FY05 supplemental war funding filling out the top tier. "Yes we can do both," he said, referring to moving Social Security and some sort of tax package over the next two years.

The second tier includes moving outstanding legislation such as tort overhaul, association health plans, trade bills, reauthorizations and highway and energy bills. DeLay said he intends to pass the energy bill, the highway bill and the budget resolution through the House by Easter recess in late March. The third tier includes bills to "protect marriage and the unborn," DeLay said, predicting that the upcoming session will be "probably the most productive Congress since we've been in the majority."

Oh, the hubris!

Public Citizen: DeLay's legal defense fund at $1 million

Public Citizen's press release reports DeLay's legal defense fund at $999,221 since it was founded in 2000. If only he hadn't had to return those donations from lobbyists earlier in the year he would have crossed a million bucks.

A closer look at the numbers shows a quickening pace. Public Citizen reports that DeLay's fund raised $439,550 in 2004, 44% of the total its raised since 2000.

Win a Tom DeLay Bobble-Head

The hundredth donor in our "Give a Dime" about Tom DeLay campaign gets a free one of these:



[Kinda scary, huh?]