Ummm.... yeah, what she said.
(Update: What he said, it should read. My apologies, Mr. Beato.)
"Unlike other organizations, your corporate contributions to TRMPAC will be put to productive use,” reads the document subpoenaed from Texans for a Republican Majority Executive Director John Colyandro. It’s one of hundreds of exhibits offered into evidence for a recent civil trial—and presumedly, presented to the Travis County grand jury for its ongoing criminal investigation as well. The political brochure—paid for with corporate money—was aimed at donors to the Tom DeLay-founded PAC, and titled “TRMPAC GOALS.”
What, you may ask, made TRMPAC so “productive” that it could accomplish what “other” political organizations had been unable to do in a century of political campaigning?
It continues: “Rather than just paying for overhead, your support will fund a series of productive and innovative activities designed to increase our level of engagement in the political arena.” (emphasis mine)
[Drew] Maloney also relates in his e-mails that he will be delivering “2 checks from Reliant” to “TD” (Tom DeLay). The circumstances under which DeLay sealed the Reliant deal earned him a rebuke from the U.S. House ethics committee in 2004. In early June 2002, DeLay held a two-day golf tournament at the Homestead resort in Hot Springs, Virginia. The cost of attending the event was a corporate contribution of $25,000 to $50,000. Five energy companies were invited by Maloney to attend: El Paso Corp., Mirant, Reliant Energy, Westar Energy, and Williams Companies. (DeLay’s dealings with Westar would earn a separate rebuke from the committee.) The golfing took place just before a House-Senate conference on an omnibus energy bill. (It’s understandable why, four months later, Maloney would complain about Reliant’s tardiness.) The Homestead event was supposed to benefit equally TRMPAC and DeLay’s Americans for a Republican Majority (ARMPAC), according to an e-mail from an ARMPAC staffer to TRMPAC’s accountant.
Update: Nick Penniman of TomPaine.com has a great op-ed, too.
The Public Campaign Action Fund, a group that runs an anti-DeLay blog, bought $25,000 worth of air time for separate ads in the districts of House Ethics Committee Chairman Doc Hastings, R-Wash.; Rep. Tom Reynolds, R-NY; and Rep. Rob Simmons, R-Conn.
David Donnelly, political director of the fund, said DeLay held a fund-raiser for Simmons. Reynolds sits on the House Administration Committee, which oversees campaign finance, and Hastings oversees the panel that is considering corruption allegations against DeLay. The fund´s ad exhorts the congressmen to "clean up Congress _ without DeLay."
A new drama of survival has begun here – political, not physical; legal, not spiritual. The central character isn’t a woman in a hospital bed but a controversial Republican leader in the House of Representatives. Rep. Tom DeLay may not want to admit it to himself, but he’s fighting for his political life.
I wouldn’t have said so two weeks ago. But I’ve seen enough of these dramas unfold to know when I’m watching a new one, and now I am. You know the story line, which dates back to the Greeks: a powerful, hubristic leader is brought low by his own flaws. Think Jim Wright, Newt Gingrich, Bill Clinton.
This is a city dedicated to ambition, but also to the occasional ritual (and largely ineffective) cleansing. The goal of the truly power-hungry is to find new routes to the top without antagonizing a critical mass of the trampled and the angry.
There's more, but that sums it up pretty well.
The "virtual" room was packed at this morning's telephone press conference announcing Public Campaign Action Fund's and Campaign for America's Future's ad launch criticizing Tom DeLay. More than 30 reporters were on the call, representing mainstream outlets such as CNN, NBC, Fox News, the Associated Press, Reuters, and the National Journal. Stay tuned for coverage. Meanwhile, here is the statement made by David Donnelly, Public Campaign Action Fund's political director:
Today Public Campaign Action Fund is unveiling the first wave of advertising to demand that Republicans in Congress clean up their own mess and by calling for Tom Delay’s resignation.
The ads will run in the districts of Republican National Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Reynolds of New York; Ethics Chairman Doc Hastings of Washington State; and Representative Rob Simmons of Connecticut.
Mr. DeLay is unfit to serve in, let alone lead, Congress.
He’s accepted trips paid for by a disgraced lobbyist and a registered foreign agent.
He’s helped raised corporate money for a committee in Texas that under criminal investigation.
He embodies the worst of pay-to-play politics, and has displayed a pattern of abuse of power behavior. Tom DeLay, frankly, is a politician-for-hire. He’s got to go.
We know that Mr. DeLay will not resign because some Democrats in Washington think he should.
That’s why we’re taking this issue straight to the people, and straight to the districts of Republican members of Congress who will have to make a very conscious choice: Stand with Mr. DeLay’s corruption and stench of the money-rot in Washington. Or do the job they were elected to do on behalf of voters back home.
So, today we start with Representatives Tom Reynolds, Doc Hastings, and Rob Simmons.
Rep. Simmons, in particular has to make a smart choice. Back home in Connecticut, voters still remember the backbone he displayed when, early on, he called on disgraced former Governor John Rowland to step down. Today, Simmons’s campaign account is flush with cold cash from a $1.5 million fundraiser that Tom DeLay hosted for him and nine other members of Congress. Simmons should reflect on the lessons of the Rowland scandals, then refuse the money and call for DeLay’s resignation.
Other members of Congress should reflect on this as well. The next list of potential targets can be found by looking at who is receiving Tom DeLay’s fundraising help.
That $1.5 million is hush money to keep members of Congress silent on Tom DeLay. Which one of them would want to appear in their districts with him today?
Today’s news is about today’s ads. Tomorrow’s news is about how Tom DeLay and Republican members of Congress respond.
Public Campaign Action Fund is putting Republican members of Congress on notice that democracy belongs to the people, and we won’t stand on the sidelines as Tom DeLay hijacks it for his personal, political gain. Neither should members of Congress.
The Public Campaign Action Fund is spending $25,000 to pressure Republican lawmakers to denounce Mr. DeLay. Those targeted include Representative Doc Hastings of Washington, the chairman of the Ethics Committee, and Representative Thomas M. Reynolds of New York, who heads fund-raising for House Republicans.Yes, that's a money quote.
The ad involving Mr. Hastings exhorts him to "do your job and clean up Congress without delay." (Ed note: Actually, Glen, it's "without DeLay.")
Ellen Miller, deputy director at the Campaign for America's Future, said the group was focused on ethical issues throughout Congress.
"As with fish, rot starts at the head," Ms. Miller said. "The litany of complaints concerning ethical lapses by Tom DeLay have reached a point where somebody has to stand up and say 'wait a minute.' "
"In a deplorable attempt to keep House ethics watchdogs off the case of Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas), their ethically-challenged majority leader, Republicans have unceremoniously dumped committee members judged insufficiently loyal and changed the rules of engagement. In the process, any honest attempt at ethics enforcement has been abandoned. ...
...[I]n January, they changed committee rules, making ethics enforcement completely partisan and complaints all but impossible to sustain. The key change empowers any one party, acting alone, to block an official investigation. The panel, formally known as the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, is composed of five Republicans and five Democrats. Before January, if a 5-to-5 standoff on a valid complaint lasted for 45 days, a formal subcommittee investigation was automatically initiated. Now a 5-to-5 stalemate results in a complaint being automatically dismissed.
The Orwellian result? The ethics committee has become the place where valid ethics complaints go to die."
Newsday doesn't stop there. Democrats on the committee, says the paper, are protesting by preventing the committee from organizing officially for the session until the House acts on a resolution fixing the rules. Republicans ought to join them, because:
"If it turns out that Tom "The Hammer" DeLay deserves it, then the committee should be free to hammer him."
"If you've seen a chicken in the barnyard get a peck on his head so a little blood is showing, then the other chickens all rush in and peck him to death, that is the danger for Tom DeLay right now," said Charlie Wilson, a former Democratic member of Congress from Lufkin. "He's got a little blood on his head, and sometimes that is enough to get you killed."
...the unrepentant, arrogant majority leader should step down.
Smells Like Beltway
March 28, 2005; Page A16
By now you have surely read about House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's ethics troubles. Probably, too, you aren't entirely clear as to what those troubles are -- something to do with questionable junkets, Indian casino money, funny business on the House Ethics Committee, stuff down in Texas. In Beltway-speak, what this means is that Mr. DeLay has an "odor": nothing too incriminating, nothing actually criminal, just an unsavory whiff that could have GOP loyalists reaching for the political Glade if it gets any worse.
The Beltway wisdom is right. Mr. DeLay does have odor issues. Increasingly, he smells just like the Beltway itself.
Here is the abbreviated rap sheet against Mr. DeLay. First, we have the imbroglio with the House Ethics Committee, which last year rebuked him on three occasions. Among his sins: He offered to endorse outgoing Representative Nick Smith's son in a GOP primary if Mr. Smith would vote "yes" on the Medicare prescription-drug bill. (Mr. Smith declined the offer; his son lost the primary.) Mr. DeLay has since changed Committee rules so that it can no longer launch investigations on a party-line basis, and by packing the Committee with loyalists.
Next, there is the Texas business. Ronnie Earle, the district attorney for Travis County (which contains Austin), last year indicted three DeLay associates involved in his Texans for a Republican Majority political action committee for money laundering and illegal campaign contributions. Mr. Earle also will not rule out a possible indictment of Mr. DeLay himself.
Mr. Earle, a partisan Democrat, has a record of making suspect accusations: In 1993, he indicted newly elected Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison on evidence so weak the case was never brought to trial. The indictments of Mr. DeLay's associates came just six weeks before November's elections; Mr. Earle's primary aim, it seemed, was to derail Mr. DeLay's ultimately successful efforts to achieve the first Republican majority in the Texas delegation to the U.S. House since Reconstruction. Still, the "odor" stuck; last year Mr. DeLay had to fend off a stiff challenge from a complete unknown to keep what otherwise would have been his safe seat.
Finally, there are the junkets, three in particular. In December 1997, Mr. DeLay visited the Northern Marianas Islands in the company of lobbyist pal Jack Abramoff, now under investigation by the Senate Finance Committee, who just happened to be representing the garment industry there. Mr. DeLay later led a legislative effort to extend the Islands' exemption from U.S. immigration and labor laws.
In August 2001, Mr. DeLay and several House colleagues (including four Democrats) visited South Korea on a trip sponsored by the Korea-United States Exchange Council, which has close ties to former DeLay staff chief Ed Buckham and was registered as foreign agent just days before the trip. House rules forbid members from traveling at their expense, but it is unclear whether Mr. DeLay or his colleagues were aware of the Korean Exchange Council's status at the time of their departure.
Taken separately, and on present evidence, none of the latest charges directly touch Mr. DeLay; at worst, they paint a picture of a man who makes enemies by playing political hardball and loses admirers by resorting to politics-as-usual.
The problem, rather, is that Mr. DeLay, who rode to power in 1994 on a wave of revulsion at the everyday ways of big government, has become the living exemplar of some of its worst habits. Mr. DeLay's ties to Mr. Abramoff might be innocent, in a strictly legal sense, but it strains credulity to believe that Mr. DeLay found nothing strange with being included in Mr. Abramoff's lavish junkets.
Whether Mr. DeLay violated the small print of House Ethics or campaign-finance rules is thus largely beside the point. His real fault lies in betraying the broader set of principles that brought him into office, and which, if he continues as before, sooner or later will sweep him out.
IN RARE PUBLIC APPEARANCE, GOD BLASTS TOM DELAY
'Enough is enough,' Says Almighty
In a rare public appearance that leading theologians called “extraordinary,” God held a press conference in Washington on Sunday to disavow the recent words and deeds of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas).
The normally reclusive Ruler of the Universe took the unusual step of speaking to reporters to blast Rep. DeLay for repeatedly invoking His name in political fundraising appeals.
“I usually don’t like to shoot my mouth off about every little thing that bugs me,” the surprisingly outspoken Supreme Being said. “But enough is enough.”
After complaining about Rep. DeLay’s unauthorized use of His name in fundraising pitches, God warned the Texas congressman to discontinue the practice at once “or else.”
When asked if He intended to strike Rep. DeLay with a lightning bolt, God replied with a terse “no comment,” but later said, “I’ve been known to smite people in the past, and I’m not prepared to take smiting off the table.”
Hours after God’s press briefing concluded, a spokesperson for Rep. DeLay issued a one-sentence statement saying that the congressman and the Almighty remain on good terms and that he hoped to have God’s support in the 2006 midterm elections.
But Dr. Harland Minter of the University of Minnesota’s School of Divinity said that Rep. DeLay would be well advised to heed God’s words of warning: “It means a lot that God took the trouble to hold a press conference, especially on His day off.”
Elsewhere, a new poll shows that a majority of Americans favor disconnecting Pat O’Brien’s telephone.
DeLay's Own Tragic Crossroads
by Walter F. Roche Jr. and Sam Howe Verhovek
CANYON LAKE, Texas — A family tragedy that unfolded in a Texas hospital during the fall of 1988 was a private ordeal — without judges, emergency sessions of Congress or the debate raging outside Terri Schiavo's Florida hospice.
The patient then was a 65-year-old drilling contractor, badly injured in a freak accident at his home. Among the family members keeping vigil at Brooke Army Medical Center was a grieving junior congressman — Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas).
More than 16 years ago, far from the political passions that have defined the Schiavo controversy, the DeLay family endured its own wrenching end-of-life crisis. The man in a coma, kept alive by intravenous lines and oxygen equipment, was DeLay's father, Charles Ray DeLay.
Then, freshly reelected to a third term in the House, the 41-year-old DeLay waited, all but helpless, for the verdict of doctors.
Today, as House Majority Leader, DeLay has teamed with his Senate counterpart, Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), to champion political intervention in the Schiavo case. They pushed emergency legislation through Congress to shift the legal case from Florida state courts to the federal judiciary.
And DeLay is among the strongest advocates of keeping the woman, who doctors say has been in a persistent vegetative state for 15 years, connected to her feeding tube. DeLay has denounced Schiavo's husband, as well as judges, for committing what he calls "an act of barbarism" in removing the tube.
In 1988, however, there was no such fiery rhetoric as the congressman quietly joined the sad family consensus to let his father die.
"There was no point to even really talking about it," Maxine DeLay, the congressman's 81-year-old widowed mother, recalled in an interview last week. "There was no way [Charles] wanted to live like that. Tom knew — we all knew — his father wouldn't have wanted to live that way."
One senior GOP lawmaker involved in the negotiations, who did not want to speak for the record, said that DeLay, who is fighting ethics charges on several fronts, faced considerable pressure from Christian conservative groups to respond to pleas by the parents of the brain-damaged woman to intervene before her husband, Michael Schiavo, removed the feeding tube that kept her alive. The lawmaker said that DeLay "wanted to follow through" but added that many House Republicans were dubious and suspected that the leader's ethics problems were a motivating factor.
"I am not sure it raised his name ID," said Carl M. Forti, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee. "A month from now, people are not going to remember," he said, and 20 months from now, in the 2006 elections, "it will be irrelevant."
"The public is beginning to sense a whiff of extremism in the Republican leadership in the House and the Senate," said Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. "If it continues, it could prove very detrimental to them and good for us."
It is not just Democrats who share that view. In a regular e-mail commentary he distributes, former Senator Dave Durenberger, Republican of Minnesota, wrote, "If I were a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate in Minnesota in 2006, I would make DeLay the issue in the campaign right now."
But it is this one from independent, maverick, GOP Congressman Chris Shays of Connecticut that really got me thinking. Shays' response to the question of whether DeLay was a liability:
Representative Christopher Shays, a moderate Republican from Connecticut whom the Democrats tried to tie closely to the House leadership in last year's election campaign, said of the voters in his district, "They didn't know who he is, and they didn't really care."
Well, that may be changing. But I expected Shays to be a little less interested in the narrow issue of his own race. In fact, I think it's hard to make a charge stick to Shays that he's in DeLay's orbit with the many times Shays has crossed him, particularly recently.
The questions for Shays, other GOP members of Congress, and frankly, for all of us, are these:
Do we want our government run by a man who has put personal, partisan power above the interests of the people? Put the interests of donors ahead of voters? Abused power in such a brazen way? Is DeLay Inc. what government of the people, by the people, for the people looks like?
Strategically, I'm not going to dismiss the relevance of DeLay's name I.D. numbers rising, nor the growing negativity with which Americans view the Majority Leader. But I think Shays is wrong both in what he said, and for dumbing down what Americans care about. I expected more from a representative who has fought for reform. You would think he should believe that people cared about what Tom DeLay has done. Perhaps a charitable reading of this might be that Shays answered a reporter's question about last year and didn't think more broadly in response. Or that the broader answer didn't make the story. I hope so.
I will say this, though. I believe it will take a combination of GOP leaders (with the kind of gumption Shays has shown recently), and an outraged citizenry to remove DeLay from power. The time for narrow questions about name I.D. should soon give way to questions about what we expect of our elected officials.
Let me plant my flag here: I, for one, expect elected officials and the people they are supposed to represent to speak out against DeLay's pay-to-play politics, abuse of power, and disregard for the rules.
We’ll assume Reps. Jo Bonner, Terry Everett, Mike Rogers, Robert Aderholt and Spencer Bachus don’t believe in conspiracy theories that discern “a huge nationwide concerted effort to destroy everything we believe in.” We’ll go further and suggest that they aren’t that comfortable with a leader who traffics in such, particularly one with a slippery ethical track record.
How long then, will they continue to support a House majority leader who does?
If conservative Republicans really want to talk about important issues, and not about Tom DeLay, they might start looking for a different leader.
ere is some badly needed comic relief from Congress: The House ethics committee, now that it has been rendered impotent by the Republican leadership, is plumping for a 50 percent increase in financing to see to such vital needs as writing a new ethics manual to educate lawmakers. ("J is for Junket, so naughty and nice.")
The money would also pay for the hiring of an unusual new Capitol worker - specialists authorized to explain House rules to innocent representatives. Political grief counselors, let's call them. One of their first assignments should be succoring the majority leader, Tom DeLay, who issued a plaint before a gathering of power conservatives last week that lumped his own festering ethical troubles (attacks "against me") with all criticism of conservative causes, including the sorry attempt to exploit the troubles of Terri Schiavo ("a huge nationwide concerted effort to destroy everything we believe in").
Mr. DeLay's solipsistic wailing should be a further caution to the Republican majority who went along with the replacement of the ethics panel chairman and the neutering of its rules after the committee issued three cautions to Mr. DeLay. He was told to temper his autocratic behavior in dealing with members, lobbyists and federal agencies.
The panel purge, a favor by Speaker Dennis Hastert, was aimed at protecting Mr. DeLay from more investigation of complaints about such lapses as his reported junketeering on lobbyists' money. Beyond the House, Texas prosecutors have filed money-laundering charges against DeLay political operatives. Mr. DeLay denounces all these matters as vicious assaults. For a while, he even had House rules crimped last year to let him remain in power if he were indicted. That scandalous touch of homage was reversed after Republicans felt constituent heat that they were following the leader too far.
It is time for more such second thoughts. Any new money for the ethics panel will be wasted unless Republican members, wary of being yoked to Mr. DeLay, demand that the rules be stiffened to gain some ethical credibility in the House.
"The recent swirl of ethics charges surrounding Rep. DeLay plays just about the same here in Texas as it does anywhere else outside the Beltway," writes Jonathan Gurwitz in a Wall Street Journal op-ed today, says ABC.com's The Note:
"'Tom was stupid for messing with corporate money,' a prominent Houston GOP leader told me, referring to allegations that a political action committee founded by Mr. DeLay may have violated state law by misusing corporate donations. 'If he's not careful, he'll end up like Gingrich.'"
Mr. DeLay moved yesterday to file a friend of the court brief with the Supreme Court asking that Ms. Schiavo's feeding tube be restored while the federal court is deciding what to do. But as he exploits this one sad case, Mr. DeLay has voted to slash Medicaid by $15 billion, denying money to care for poor people in nursing homes, some on feeding tubes.
Mr. DeLay made his personal stake clear at a conference last Friday organized by the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian group. He said that God had brought Terri Schiavo's struggle to the forefront "to help elevate the visibility of what's going on in America." He defined that as "attacks against the conservative movement, against me and against many others."
So it's not about her crisis at all. It's about his crisis.
"It is more than just Terri Schiavo. This is a critical issue for people in this position, and it is also a critical issue to fight that fight for life, whether it be euthanasia or abortion. I tell you, ladies and gentlemen, one thing God has brought to us is Terri Schiavo to elevate the visibility of what's going on in America. That Americans would be so barbaric as to pull a feeding tube out of a person that is lucid and starve them to death for two weeks. I mean, in America that's going to happen if we don't win this fight.
"And so it's bigger than any one of us, and we have to do everything that is in our power to save Terri Schiavo and anybody else that may be in this kind of position, and let me just finish with this:
"This is exactly the kind of issue that's going on in America, that attacks against the conservative moment, against me and against many others. The point is, the other side has figured out how to win and to defeat the conservative movement, and that is to go after people personally, charge them with frivolous charges, link up with all these do-gooder organizations funded by George Soros, and then get the national media on their side. That whole syndicate that they have going on right now is for one purpose and one purpose only, and that is to destroy the conservative movement. It is to destroy conservative leaders, and not just in elected office, but leading. I mean, Ed Feulner, of the Heritage Foundation today was under attack in the National Journal. This is a huge nationwide concerted effort to destroy everything we believe in. And you need to look at this, and what's going on and participate in fighting back.
"You know, one way they stopped churches from getting into politics was Lyndon Johnson, who passed a law that said you couldn't get in politics or you're going to lose your tax-exempt status, because they were all opposed to him when he was running for President. That law we're trying to repeal. It's very difficult to do that, but the point is, when they can knock out a leader, then no other leader will step forward for a while, because they don't want to go through the same thing. If they go after and get a pastor, then other pastors shrink from what they should be doing. It forces Christians back into the church. That's what's going on in America. The world is too bad and I'm going to get inside this building and I'm not going to play in the world. That's not what Christ asked us to do.
"And so they understand that. It is a political maneuver, and they are going to try to destroy the conservative movement, and we have to fight back, so please, this afternoon, each and every one of you, if you know a senator, give them a call. They'll say our bill can pass in the House. Tell them, okay, your bill is fine, but the House bill is better, and I want the House bill. Particularly if you know Democrats. Don't let them get off the hook by hiding behind one House and the other is adjourned. We can do anything we need to do to pass any bill that we need to pass."
Over a five-day span, ending last Thursday, TV and radio stations and print publications from around the country featured at least 290 stories either about a controversial junket he took to Scotland in 2000, his response to criticism about the propriety of that trip or his offer to discuss the matter with the House ethics committee, according to a survey. The articles by The Associated Press, Reuters, Knight Ridder and The Washington Post were picked up by news outlets around the country.
The latest spate of broadcasts and articles, a glut of the type of negative coverage that has plagued DeLay in recent years, likely explains why his name identification has risen from 46 percent to 76 percent between September 1999 and last month, according to several CNN/USA Today/ Gallup surveys of adults nationwide, cited by Democrats. During the same span, DeLay’s unfavorable ratings have swelled from 11 percent to 24 percent, according to the same surveys.
“The DeLay scandal is getting to the point where House Republicans just won’t be able to withstand much more,” a Democratic aide said. “With every story that is written, it becomes more clear that House Republicans are risking their political futures by associating themselves with him. When literally hundreds of stories about the GOP leader’s shoddy ethics are appearing in nearly every local and regional paper across the country, you can’t blame voters for painting them all with the same brush.” (emphasis gladly added)
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.
Schiavo’s medications are paid for by Medicaid. Just last week, DeLay marshaled a budget resolution through the House of Representatives that would cut funding for Medicaid by threatening the quality of care for people like Terri Schiavo. Because the Senate voted to restore the funding, DeLay is threatening to hold up the entire budget process if he doesn't get his way.
DeLay is becoming a major distraction to the Republicans' legislative agenda. How long will it be before they realize that DeLay, a political enforcer so powerful he's nicknamed The Hammer, isn't worth the ethical stain on GOP integrity?
DeLay recently issued a statement saying the revelations of his trips to England and South Korea are not ethical lapses. Luxury travels with lobbyists paid for by gambling interests? Junkets to South Korea paid for by registered foreign agents? How long will GOP members in the House tolerate these embarrassments?
To paraphrase Hunter S. Thompson, Tom DeLay is beginning to look like a farmer with terminal cancer trying to borrow money on next year's crop.
Sidney Blumenthal does a good survey of all of DeLay's troubles for Salon (watch a silly ad), particularly the Jack Abramoff/Michael Scanlon/Ralph Reed/Native American tribe casino scandals. The money 'graphs about that (caution -- could make your blood boil):
Teaming up with DeLay's former press secretary, Scanlon, Abramoff charged Indian tribes seeking help for their casinos a total of $66 million in fees. He directed them to funnel money to a variety of Republican groups, including Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform and DeLay's political action committee. With Indian money flowing into Republican coffers, DeLay declared in 1995 that "people recognize that Jack Abramoff has been an important part of this transition." Abramoff also turned for help to another old College Republican friend, Ralph Reed, who was paid $4.2 million between 2001 and 2003 to organize through his consulting firm (Century Strategies) Christian constituencies against Indian gambling interests that competed with Abramoff's Indian clients. (Reed's front groups also received funds from Indians.)
One tribe, the Tigua in Texas, whose casino was under siege from Reed's lobbying, felt compelled to seek help from the main Republican lobbyist for Indian tribes, Abramoff. On Feb. 6, 2002, Abramoff e-mailed Scanlon under the subject line "I'm on the phone with Tigua": "Fire up the jet, baby, we're going to El Paso!" Scanlon replied: "I want all their MONEY!!!" Abramoff e-mailed Reed: "I'd love us to get our mitts on that moolah!!" When the El Paso Times ran the story "450 Casino Employees Officially Terminated," Scanlon e-mailed it to Abramoff: "This is the front page of today's paper while they will be voting on our plan!" Abramoff wrote back: "Is life great or what!!!!" (You can read all the e-mails here.) The Tigua paid $1.8 million in fees, but in the end Abramoff and Scanlon failed to get their casino reopened. "A rattlesnake will warn you before it strikes," said the Tigua leader. "They did everything behind our backs."
Go ahead, Ralph. Run for statewide office in Georgia.
And, the Los Angeles Times editorializes about volcanoes.
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) will receive an overwhelming outpouring of support — in cold, hard cash — from his fellow GOP lawmakers at tonight’s Retain Our Majority Program (ROMP) fundraiser.
DeLay has raked in more than $1.5 million from his fellow lawmakers and will funnel that money to the 10 most vulnerable colleagues, as identified by House leadership.
That figure amounts to $300,000 more than he raised for the same event two years ago and indicates DeLay’s enduring clout as one of the party’s premier fundraisers, even as he has been battered by Democrats and has faced a series of news reports questioning his ethics.
Those 10 lawmakers will all post more than $150,000 for the first quarter of fundraising, which ends March 31.
ROMP was designed by DeLay in 1999 as a way to channel money from members representing solidly Republican districts to their more marginal members. By topping off their vulnerable lawmakers’ accounts by March 31, Republicans hope to ward off potential opponents by letting them know that any challenge would be expensive.
More than 90 GOP lawmakers are participating in tonight’s event, said Jim Ellis, director of DeLay’s Americans for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee (ARMPAC). Only 2 percent of the $1.5 million comes from K Street, with the idea to tap business-community PACs later in the cycle, Ellis said. [Ed. note: ELLIS IS INDICTED! Isn't that pertinate information?]
To participate in tonight’s event, lawmakers had to contribute $1,000, the maximum amount that can be transferred from a personal campaign account before the primary, according to Republicans’ understanding of Federal Election Commission regulations.
Leadership PACs are allowed to transfer $5,000, and several lawmakers, including DeLay, maxed out from their PAC accounts.
“Overall, this shows an overwhelming commitment of the conference for maintaining and expanding our majority,” Ellis said.
“We’re at 1.5 million and change. I don’t think we’ll get to 1.6,” he said. “This is bigger than the other four ROMPs I’ve done.”
The 10 beneficiaries are Reps. Bob Beauprez (Colo.), Mike Fitzpatrick (Pa.), Jim Gerlach (Pa.), Marilyn Musgrave (Colo.), Anne Northup (Ky.), Jon Porter (Nev.), Dave Reichert (Wash.), Rick Renzi (Ariz.), Rob Simmons (Conn.) and Mike Sodrel (Ind.).
Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.), who narrowly won his race in November, was not included on the ROMP list. Shays was a vocal critic of a proposed change in the House rules that would have allowed DeLay to stay on as majority leader if indicted.
Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), who heads the DCCC Frontline program, said that he was confident that all 10 members would post impressive March 31 figures, but he didn’t have any specifics.
For the next ROMP, Republicans are likely to add another 10 beneficiaries, which will be a mixture of incumbents and promising challengers. There will also be a final 10 added to the list, and most of those will be challengers, with a few late-breaking vulnerable incumbents.
Bush Lends DeLaySupport; Hastert Defends Rules Changes
President Bush today expressed his support for House Majority Leader DeLay amid a recent barrage of news stories concerning allegations of ethical misbehavior, while House Speaker Hastert defended a series of rules changes that critics say were intended to shield DeLay. During a White House news conference, Bush appeared to express an unequivocal endorsement of DeLay, clearly indicating he expects the majority leader to stay in power. "I have confidence in Tom DeLay's leadership, and I have confidence in Tom DeLay," he said. "We've worked closely with Tom DeLay and the leaders in the House to get a lot done during the last four years, and I'm looking forward to working with him to get a lot done during the next four years."
"We all wish there were not news stories about Tom DeLay, but there are," said Rep. Zach Wamp (R-Tenn.). "He is a tough character. Like him or not, everyone needs to recognize how tough and durable he is. I wouldn't bet against him. But there's no question that it's something we all wish would go away, and over time, it probably will."
One senior House Republican voiced his concerns to House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert's (R-Ill.) chief of staff after seeing a front-page story on DeLay in one of his home-state newspapers Tuesday morning.
"The perception is that we're not in control of the ethics process, that DeLay can do what he wants," said the lawmaker. "It's giving the party a bad name…. This thing is no different and has the same flavor and tone as when we knocked Jim Wright out."
House Majority Leader DeLay told reporters today he has instructed his staff to contact the Ethics Committee to clarify his role in two trips he made overseas that may have violated House ethics rules. "I'm anxious to discuss them," DeLay said of the trips. "There's nothing sinister about this." However, the Ethics Committee is not fully operating since it failed to approve its internal rules last Friday because of a partisan deadlock over GOP-supported changes to ethics rules at the beginning of the 109th Congress. It is unclear in what capacity the Ethics Committee could provide guidance to DeLay, although he said he would welcome discussions with Ethics Chairman Hastings and ranking member Alan Mollohan, D-W.Va. DeLay singled out recent reports in The Washington Post that implied he may have voted against gambling legislation opposed by a group linked to a conservative think tank that paid for one of his trips overseas.
DeLay said the articles lacked "any factual basis" and said they used "implication and innuendo" to draw conclusions. DeLay, in turn, said Democrats are infusing the ethics process with partisanship and engaging in the "politics of personal destruction" to bring him down. "In recent years, there has been a growing frenzy surrounding the Ethics Committee, with Democrats and their allies attempting to use it as a partisan tool for partisan ends," he said. "It's very unfortunate that Democrats have no agenda. All they can do is carry on in the House and try to burn it down in order to gain power." DeLay maintained that he has never violated House rules or ethics rules.
A groundswell of criticism generated by alleged ethical lapses concerning House Majority Leader Tom Delay is forcing the Texas lawmaker to seek support from GOP colleagues and is threatening to harm the Republican legislative agenda on Capitol Hill.
DeLay plans to start talking to fellow Republicans in his own defense this week, a senior aide said, as Democrats intensify their attacks on him in an effort to neutralize their longtime foe.
While DeLay defends himself against questions about his fundraising activities and travels, as well as the dealings of lobbyists closely aligned with his office, Democrats and their supporters are sensing a rare opportunity and have launched a multipronged effort to publicize the allegations against him.
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay strongly denied wrongdoing Tuesday in connection with two overseas trips financed by outside organizations, and said he is eager to discuss the facts with leaders of the House ethics committee.
"I feel confident I've done nothing wrong," the Texas Republican said as fellow lawmakers and aides sought to assess the impact of fresh controversy on the party in general.
The Texas Republican laid the blame for the recent controversy at the feet of congressional Democrats and what he charged was inaccurate newspaper reporting.
He said there was nothing wrong with either of the two trips. One involved going to South Korea in 2001 — a trip bankrolled by the Korea-U.S. Exchange Council.
The other trip was to Britain in 2000. The Washington Post reported Saturday that the cost of that voyage was picked up mostly by an Indian tribe and a gambling services company.
In unusually direct terms, DeLay criticized the Post story, accusing the paper of a "zeal to leave readers with a false impression that I did something that I did not do."
The Post did not immediately have a comment.
How long the GOP will put up with DeLay's power plays and ethical lapses is a matter for speculation. But some Republicans already are acknowledging that DeLay's position is weakening.
One Republican consultant quoted recently resorted to a remarkable bit of verbal gymnastics to describe DeLay's position. "The situation is negatively fluid right now for the guy," he said.
DeLay brought this on himself. His scorched-earth partisanship, coziness with lobbyists and flippant attitude toward House ethics rules made him a vulnerable target.
Republicans would be wise to get themselves another majority leader before more damage is done.
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) has dismissed questions about his ethics as partisan attacks, but revelations last week about his overseas travel and ties to lobbyists under investigation have emboldened Democrats and provoked worry among Republicans.
With some members increasingly concerned that DeLay had left himself vulnerable to attack, several Republican aides and lobbyists said for the first time that they are worried about whether he will survive and what the consequences could be for the party's image.
"If death comes from a thousand cuts, Tom DeLay is into a couple hundred, and it's getting up there," said a Republican political consultant close to key lawmakers. "The situation is negatively fluid right now for the guy. You start hitting arteries, it only takes a couple." The consultant, who at times has been a DeLay ally, spoke on the condition of anonymity, saying he could not be candid otherwise.
At least six Republicans expressed concern over the weekend about DeLay's situation. They said they do not think DeLay necessarily deserves the unwanted attention he is receiving. But they said that the volume of the revelations about his operation is becoming alarming and that they do not see how it will abate.
"Yes, I raised money for them," DeLay said in an interview with the Houston Chronicle, brushing aside any implication that his activities might have been illegal. He has never been named as a target in the criminal investigation.
"Everything that TRMPAC did, they did under the advice of lawyers," he said. "When you have lawyers advising you every step of the way in writing, it's very hard to make a case stick."
The organizers of TRMPAC set up two bank accounts, one for corporate contributions and another for noncorporate donations, DeLay said.
Asked if he was involved in the transfer or disbursement of TRMPAC funds, he replied, "Absolutely not. The only thing I knew about that was, they created, which I agreed with in my advisory capacity ... two separate funds, two separate bank accounts."
The second interesting issue here is this... Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't remember DeLay doing anything but scoff, brush aside, or redirect any questions regarding TRMPAC. This is the first time, in recent months anyway, DeLay has actually answered substantive questions with substance.
The third thing I noticed was that DeLay did a separate interview with the Houston Chronicle. These are different quotes than you'll find in the AP or others' stories today. Now that might not be a big deal -- it is his hometown paper after all -- but the fact that he feels it necessary to sit down with the Chron can be seen as evidence that he is paying particular attention to how this plays in the district.
In Washington, DeLay said the civil case showed only that he took an interest in the committee he helped create.
"Yes, it was my idea. It was our idea -- those of us that wanted to enhance the Republicans that served in the House of Representatives and in the Texas Legislature came up with this idea," he said. "They took the idea and ran with it. I was on the advisory board."
DeLay said that, as an adviser, he agreed the committee should set up a separate account for corporate and campaign contributions: "I thought that was a good idea."
DeLay dismissed a report today in The New York Times that suggested he was more closely involved in the daily activities of TRMPAC, a state PAC he helped found to back state candidates. "I have no idea what you're talking about. I don't read The New York Times," he said.
To balance today’s many reports on the exercise of good government, we turn to the subject of Tom DeLay. He is the majority leader of the U.S. House of Representatives whose ethics problems have confirmed aspects of his character already known to the Texas Democrats he fantastically redistricted out of jobs and wavering House members in Washington who know why he’s called “The Hammer.”
DeLay is also known for being the object of an unusual and fruitless effort by henchmen last year to suspend rules that govern the treatment of congressmen charged with felony crimes (he hasn’t been so charged). Regarding specific behavior, DeLay has been criticized by fellow Republicans for being a bit too close to operatives who took advantage of Indian tribes; he has been rebuked by a House committee for being cozy with energy industry lobbyists; and he has been publicly chastised by his peers for trying to bribe a House member with political support for the man’s son.
DeLay’s latest escapade involves his apparently having let a registered lobbyist pay his hotel bills in London — a violation of House ethics rules. DeLay, whose salary has gone up half a dozen times in the last eight years, apparently couldn’t afford the lodging himself.
DeLay has a ready explanation. He says he likes to travel, but not particularly with other congressmen. So he flies in the company of conservative interests who apparently like spending time with someone considered a possibility for the speakership of the House, when that spot becomes available.
For a good many years, when the Democrats controlled the House, Republicans had a fine time pillorying House Speaker Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill as an embodiment of the worst excesses of liberal politics. Under no circumstances do we — or would we — consider Tom DeLay an embodiment of Republican virtue; his misbehavior simply brings too much discomfort to some of his party colleagues. The wonder of it is that they keep him in office. (emphasis added)
To the extent that there is significant abuse of the system, it's concentrated among the wealthy - including corporate executives found guilty of misleading investors - who can exploit loopholes in the law to protect their wealth, no matter how ill-gotten.
Documents subpoenaed from an indicted fund-raiser for Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, suggest that Mr. DeLay was more actively involved than previously known in gathering corporate donations for a political committee that is the focus of a grand-jury investigation in Texas, his home state.
The documents, which were entered into evidence last week in a related civil trial in Austin, the state capital, suggest that Mr. DeLay personally forwarded at least one large corporate check to the committee, Texans for a Republican Majority, and that he was in direct contact with lobbyists for some of the nation's largest companies on the committee's behalf.
In an August 2002 document subpoenaed from the files of the indicted fund-raiser, Warren M. RoBold, Mr. RoBold asked for a list of 10 major donors to the committee, saying, "I would then decide from response who Tom DeLay" and others should call to help the committee in seeking a "large contribution."
Another document is a printout of a July 2002 e-mail message to Mr. RoBold from a political ally of Mr. Delay, requesting a list of corporate lobbyists who would attend a fund-raising event for the committee, adding that "DeLay will want to see a list of attendees" and that the list should be available "on the ground in Austin for T.D. upon his arrival."
Under Texas law, corporations are barred from donating money to state political candidates. The Texas committee acknowledged receiving large corporate donations during the 2002 campaign but always insisted that the money was used for administrative costs, which is legal.
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