Friday, April 29, 2005

Head of panel investigating DeLay held fundraising event at Abramoff's restaurant

This is interesting.

Rep. Melissa Hart (R-PA) has been tapped to head the subcommittee to investigate Tom DeLay, and his travel on the dime of disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. But Hart held a fundraiser last election cycle at Signatures, the restaurant Abramoff runs in Washington. She paid $1,587 on 9/23/03 for "catering costs" according to FEC record.

Impartial my ---.

(Thanks to a Daily DeLay reader for the tip.)

Cincy Post has it right.

From the Cincinnati Post editorial board:

DeLay has insisted all along that he's the target of a conspiracy of liberal Democratic activists. Maybe so, but this week's version of that theory was just plain nutty.

"I know some of these leftist groups would love to isolate members of Congress so that we don't talk to Americans," he said. If it's Americans he wanted to talk to, London, South Korea, Moscow and Scottish golf courses were funny places to go looking for them.

NBC News exposes lobbyist paid for DeLay travel to Russia

On last night's NBC's Nightly News:

The cost of DeLay's room, with all the amenities, was $295 a night. On the bill, charges for DeLay and his chief of staff are mixed with Abramoff's — room charges, sports pool bar, mini bar and phone, for a total of $3,302.50

A document obtained by NBC News shows DeLay was informed soon after the trip, by the non-profit National Center for Public Policy, that it paid the bill — which is allowed under House rules. But NBC News has learned the expenses were, in fact, put on the credit card of a lobbyist and a Russian businessman.

A source close to the case says $885 was charged to Abramoff’s credit card, and records indicate the rest was put on the credit card of Alexander Koulakovsky, general manager of a Russian oil and gas company called NAFTASib.

Northern Mariana Islands, Abramoff, DeLay, and Enron

[Call on your member of Congress to demand DeLay's resignation]

Okay, this admittedly has a lot of moving parts. Let me see if I can get all of this straight.

The New York Times runs a story this morning about $1.2 million in unaccounted for work done by a Rabbi David Lapin to "promote ethics in government" for the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands (CMNI), a U.S. territory. Tom DeLay and disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff are at the center of this one.

Here's some background:

1. The Northern Marianas have weaker labor laws than the mainland U.S. and the garment industry likes it that way. They bring in labor -- some would say slave labor -- from China and other Asian countries, and pay them a pittance while exploting them. Some go into prostitution.

2. CMNI hired Jack Abramoff to lobby for them and paid him roughly $9 million to prevent the Clinton Administration from stregthening labor and human rights standards.

3. As part of Abramoff's lobbying, Tom DeLay took a trip with his family and some staff members there in 1998. While there, as ABC News caught on tape, DeLay extolled the factories as the way capitalism ought to operate. When he returned he declared the Clinton Administration efforts to raise wages and clamp down on immigration dead on arrival.

4. Abramoff also funneled more than a million dollars, it appears, to David Lapin, who is a conservative rabbi, for promoting ethics in government. Rabbi Lapin later ran a school, now defunct, that was supported by Abramoff. CMNI cannot account for what David Lapin did for the islands.

5. Who is Lapin? First off, he's the brother of Daniel Lapin, the principal of Strategic Business Ethics, a West Coast consulting operation. (Isn't that rich!) More importantly, Daniel Lapin introduced Abramoff and DeLay in 1994, just after the GOP won the House.

(Need a scorecard yet?)

6. Why would Tom DeLay care about some islands halfway around the world? Well, clearly there's the Abramoff connection. The more Abramoff made, the more he could contribute to conservative causes and campaigns to further DeLay's big money agenda. The second reason is more direct: ENRON.

7. Enron hired Ed Buckham, DeLay's former chief of staff, to lobby for their interests in a new power plant in CMNI. When Enron lost to a Japanese bid, Buckham got DeLay to try to re-open the bidding. Enron was one of Tom DeLay's biggest benefactors. Buckham, it should be noted, is the linchpin to a lot of sleaze in and around DeLay's operations, a Washington source tells me.

Island intrigue. Slave labor. Prostitution. Enron. No-bid contracts. Unaccounted for millions. All with Tom DeLay at the center. Lovely.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Voting for lower ethics

Just thought you'd want to know the 20 GOP members who voted for lower ethics in the House yesterday:

Barton (TX)
Blackburn (TN)
Burgess (TX)
Burton (IN)
Buyer (IN)
Carter (TX)
Cubin (WY)
Culberson (TX)
Gillmor (OH)
Gohmert (TX)
King (IA)
McHenry (NC)
Otter (ID)
Pence (IN)
Poe (TX)
Price (GA)
Simpson (ID)
Thornberry (TX)
Tiahrt (KS)
Weldon (FL)

30 GOP members ramp up DeLay defense

From the Hill:

Reps. Tom Feeney (R-Fla.) and John Sweeney (R-N.Y.) have been meeting with 30 House Republicans over the past few weeks to coordinate a more aggressive strategy to defend Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), according to a Republican source familiar with the meetings.

Starting last night, Republican lawmakers had planned to speak on the House floor during special orders to defend their embattled majority leader. The lawmakers will say that Democrats are just as guilty as Republicans are of oversights in their record keeping and of taking trips paid for by private groups.

“The Republican Conference has not yet awakened to the fact that this is a full-frontal attack against Republicans, leadership and against Mr. DeLay,” said Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas), one of the most committed lawmakers. “What we have is a lopsided effort by the Democrats to burn down the House.”

Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), also involved in the group, said, “We’re frustrated by Democratic hypocrisy,” adding that the group would fight back in floor speeches, press releases and letters to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to highlight Democrat’s travel violations.

“We can’t simply play defense,” he continued.

Another GOP lawmaker said, “We’re a group of people who think we’ve been involved in a knife fight and it’s time we pick up the knife.”

Asked for names of Democrats who were vulnerable to ethics charges, Republicans cited members of the Democratic leadership and Congressional Black Caucus. But Sessions said the mission was not to level ethics charges against Democrats.

Another good story on the reversal...

...from Houston Chronicle's Gebe Martinez. She ends the piece with an interesting little twist for the TX-22 crowd:

Lawmakers were split between those who are loyal to DeLay and did not want to be seen as caving in to Democrats, and others who were concerned that Republicans were seen as unwilling to police themselves.

DeLay acknowledged "that is the hottest topic in my district."


She also picks up a boneheaded quote from GOP Rep. Mark Kirk of Illinois:

"We need more ethics rather than less."


Okay, get to work on that. Step 1: Beam up your Majority Leader, Kirk.

News round up

There's a lot of news coverage on the ethics rules reversal by Hastert and DeLay, but a couple of stories caught my eye this morning.

The first is RAW STORY's outing the internal GOP talking points about the ethics reversal that were drafted and sistributed before the vote happened. Now this is standard fare, but since the GOP has claimed that the Dems are just using this issue for partisan gain, it's interesting to note that the GOP sees this only in political terms.

The second is the Washington Post's Jeffrey Birnbaum's round-up of DeLay's chances before the Ethics Committee. In short, not good. Here's what Birnbaum writes:

Now that it's clear that his controversial private-paid trips abroad will be put under a microscope in Congress, Tom DeLay is in serious danger of being declared in violation of House ethics rules, legal experts say.

Lawyers who specialize in ethics cases believe that the Republican House majority leader from Texas might be in technical breach of at least a few congressional regulations. According to published reports, a registered foreign agent paid for one of DeLay's overseas trips and a registered lobbyist used his credit card to pay for another foreign airfare -- actions the rules prohibit. DeLay may also have accepted gifts that exceeded congressional limits, taken an expense-paid trip overseas for longer than the rules allow and not disclosed all of the benefits he received.



The third is the NY Times piece linking the money ARMPAC gave to members of Congress with the money members of Congress gave to DeLay's legal defense. Since ARMPAC is limited, like any other donor, to $5,000 per year to DeLay's legal defense fund, if ARMPAC spread money to other members of Congress and they passed the money back to the legal defense to evade the limits, that could be money laundering. Let's have a look at that, Chairman Hastings.

The last story of interest to me this morning was Howie Kurtz's claim of victory for the Democrats over the Republicans in the ethics mess. Certainly the Democrats made DeLay and his ethics troubles and the bad rules an issue. But it was the public interest community -- us at Public Campaign Action Fund, our friends at CREW, Campaign for America's Future, Common Cause, Public Citizen, American Progress Action Fund, and others -- that kept this story moving. And we're not done yet. Just reverting back to old rules that barely functioned is not a victory, nor is having a jury paid for by the defendant.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

"Where's our security?"

From the AP story on the Republican reversal on ethics rules:

Republicans leaving their weekly meeting in the Capitol basement generally praised Hastert for pivoting on the issue. DeLay seemed annoyed at the crowd of reporters.

"You guys better get out of my way," he said. "Where's our security?"

Several hours later DeLay seemed to be in a jovial mood at his weekly news conference, where he pledged to support the reversal and said he was pulling together 10 years of travel records for a voluntary submission to the ethics committee.

Making friends wherever he goes.

Statement on Hastert's decision to roll back ethics rules

Public Campaign Action Fund released the following statement today regarding the reversal of the House Ethics rules by its executive director, Nick Nyhart:

"The House leadership does not deserve praise for reverting to old ethics rules. The Ethics Committee is stacked with those who have donated money to Tom DeLay's legal defense fund, or have received contributions from his PAC. Where else in America but in this Congress can a defendant place his cronies on the jury and pay them off while he's at it?"

###

UPDATE: Here's Citizen for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington's statement. Similar, and just as strong, take on this as ours. (Check out their site on Jack Abramoff.)

More reflection on $784 a day in meals

Tom DeLay and his wife spent an average of $784 a day on meals while in London and Scotland, according to the Wall Street Journal analysis of travel records. A minimum wage dishwasher in a restaurant here in the U.S. would have to work 152 hours, or almost four full weeks, to make $784. Before taxes, that is.

Disgusting.

Round up of good quotes on ethics rules stories from The Note

From ABC News' The Note:

Washington Post (Allen): A "Republican adviser" says "There will be a [political] cost to this, but if he had not done this, the cost would continue to increase."

Washington Post (Allen): A House Republican leadership aide" says the "automatic-dismissal rule is 'the rule that is most commonly believed to be designed to protect Tom DeLay' and that it was 'impossible to win the communications battle' on it.'"

New York Times (Hulse): "one senior Republican official" said "We fumbled the ball badly."

Los Angeles Times (Curtius): "Senior GOP aides" said "it would rob Democrats of a potent political weapon by resurrecting the House ethics process."

Los Angeles Times: (Curtius): "One exasperated GOP congressman" said "Why did they do it that way? Because they could."

Note advice: call the Speaker, the Leader, and/or White House now, and confess, you blind quoters, before they call you on it.

Two stories with new analysis

The first comes on the heels of the announcement yesterday that House Ethics Chairman Doc Hastings and House Speaker Denny Hastert will allow a new vote on restoring the old rules of ethics investigations. Jim Drinkard of USA Today looks ahead to whether the Ethics Committee can actually do its job in investigating DeLay without the appearance, at least, of conflict of interest. You see, Drinkard reports,

All five Republicans on the House ethics committee have financial links to Tom DeLay that could raise conflict-of-interest issues should the panel investigate the GOP majority leader.

Isn't that why they were chosen for the panel in the first place? Why are we not surprised?

The second story of note (not to slight others I haven't gotten to) comes from the Wall Street Journal's David Rogers (paid subscription, so no link). He reports that DeLay's trips are outrageously expensive in comparison to others and, in particular, what people in his suburban Houston district make for a living:

House records show that a 10-day trip to London and Scotland that Mr. DeLay and his wife took in 2000 to meet British conservative leaders, for example, cost $28,106. That equals six months' income for a median household in Mr. DeLay's district. Discounting the $20,266 attributed to airfare and transportation, the couple's meals and lodging cost an average of $784 a day, according to reports Mr. DeLay's office filed with the House clerk.

Subtracting $2,000 attributed to Christine DeLay's meals, the congressman's hotel and meal expenses averaged $584 per day. By comparison, the State Department's per diem rate for official travel in June 2000 was $318 for London and $306 for Edinburgh. These rates can change to reflect higher costs due to currency fluctuations, but even allowing an extra $50 more per day, Mr. DeLay's expenses were 60% higher than this benchmark.

A few months before Mr. DeLay's London trip, a delegation of House Judiciary Committee and House Internet Caucus members spent three days in the British capital at an average daily cost of $381 per person for meals and lodging. In Scotland, a delegation from the House Armed Services Committee visited in August 2000 at a daily cost of $346 per lawmaker.

Mr. DeLay has said he prefers to travel overseas with a private sponsor, not as part of taxpayer-financed delegations subject to the per diem limits. If properly reported and conducted according to House rules, both kinds of trips are legal, but lawmakers may not accept travel paid for directly by lobbyists.

"When I feel a need and it's important for me to travel overseas, I prefer to go with a conservative organization," Mr. DeLay said last month. Asked if he approached private groups seeking a sponsor or it they approached him, Mr. DeLay said "a little of both."

His staff later said that he misspoke and all such private trips are at the sponsor's initiative, not the congressman's. And even if the costs are high, aides say, the government isn't paying them. (emphasis added)


Of course he wants a private sponsor. And they want him... to pursue their agenda on behalf of corporate donors. DeLay seems willing to eat high off the hog in return.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Breaking News: Hastings backs down

Ethics Chairman Hastings agrees to have vote on new rules, according to AP.

Think these ads had anything to do with it?

Blunt unfit to be next Majority Leader

Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Missouri) defended DeLay on Meet the Press recently (registration required for link):

My impression is he has not done anything wrong.


He's in denial. He doesn't deserve to be in leadership of the House. All he passes is a loyalty test. And he's got a shady past with big tobacco campaign money.

Associated Press: DeLay and Abramoff talked daily

From Sharon Theimer of AP:

The Northern Marianas billing and correspondence records of Abramoff's former lobbying firm, Preston Gates, were obtained by The Associated Press under an open records request approved by the island government.

They provide a day-by-day account of the lobbyist's campaign of fundraising, trip-providing and schmoozing with lawmakers in both parties aimed at getting Congress to block Clinton administration efforts to regulate alleged "sweatshop" garment factories in the Northern Marianas. Those rules were never enacted.

DeLay, R-Texas, is now the House majority leader, but back then he was the No. 3 official in the House. His job as majority whip involved counting the way lawmakers intended to vote, which often influenced when legislation would come to a vote in the GOP-led Congress. Though Abramoff billed the island for contacts with dozens of lawmakers, DeLay's office was among the most frequently listed in the billing records.

More:

The documents show that Abramoff's firm and the House Ethics Committee began having concerns as early as 1996 about Abramoff's arrangement of numerous trips for congressional members to the Pacific islands and how they were being paid.

Abramoff billed numerous trips to his personal credit card or the firm, the records state, and then he later pressed the islands to reimburse him to avoid violating the new ban on lobbyists giving gifts to House members.

"I am under pressure here since the firm, under the gift ban rules, is not allowed to be out of pocket too long on the costs of congressional member and staff travel," Abramoff wrote in November 1996.

Maybe Abramoff should have paid closer attention to those credit card charges, as this Sunday's Post article attests to...

Abramoff, or someone very close to him, is singing. Handwriting is on the wall. DeLay's gotta be feeling the heat.

UPDATE: And this from Karen Tumulty at TIME -- gifts galore from Abramoff to DeLay staffers. All these costs were probably reimbursed by clients, too, don't you think?

Atlanta Journal Constitution: DeLay Needs to Go

From the AJC (reg. req'd):

In his arrogance, his unmitigated lust for the perks of power and his cavalier attitude toward standards of conduct that in his mind apply only to lesser mortals, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) has become an embarrassment to his party, to his supporters, to his fellow House members and to the country.

It is time for him to go. DeLay should resign his leadership position in the House immediately.

Tie an anchor to an anchor

Tom DeLay Joins Bush in Social Security Push

Roll Call: Blunt's staffers, Rep. Gerlach donate to DeLay's legal defense

Roll Call takes a quick looksy at Tom DeLay's legal defense fund contributors, and finds this:

Newly released reports from DeLay’s Legal Expense Trust show that the fund received contributions of at least $250 each from six Blunt staffers from Jan. 1 to March 31. In total, the trust banked $48,000 and spent $34,000 in the quarter.

DeLay received $500 apiece from four aides in Blunt’s leadership office — Mildred Webber, Amy Steinmann, Brian Gaston and Sam Geduldig. Keri Ann Hayes, the executive director of Blunt’s Rely on Your Beliefs PAC, also kicked in $500, while Amy Field, Blunt’s personal office chief of staff, gave $250.

“I’ve worked for the House leadership as long as Tom DeLay has been a leader, and I wanted to show my support for him,” said Gaston, the Whip office chief of staff. “That support was shared by several of our senior staff.”

Blunt spokeswoman Burson Taylor added that the donations were not all made at one particular event and were not part of any coordinated effort in the office.

While Blunt’s aides were the only Hill staffers to give DeLay at least $250, several of DeLay’s House GOP colleagues gave generously.

DeLay snagged $5,000 donations from the campaign accounts of Reps. Kenny Marchant (Texas), Spencer Bachus (Ala.) and Mario Diaz-Balart (Fla.). Rep. Jim Gerlach’s (Pa.) re-election committee chipped in $2,000, while Reps. Steve King (Iowa) and Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.) each gave $1,000.

Bachus’ Growth and Prosperity PAC contributed another $5,000, while Rep. Dan Burton’s (Ind.) Hoosier PAC gave $1,000. (emphasis added)


Not a coordinated effort? Blunt's staffers are the only congressional staffers to give money this quarter, and six of them make donations? That's just not believeable.

And, Rep. Gerlach... you're really hoping DeLay stays around, eh?

Therapeutic

From Democracy Radio comes...

Hammer the Hammer!

More news

To show his support, President Bush is going to give Tom DeLay a ride on Air Force One today from Washington to Galveston after they both attend an event on Bush's social security plan, reports the Los Angeles Times. This time it's all of us taxpayers who are footing the bill for Tom DeLay's travel.

Doonesbury continues to feature Tom DeLay: today's strip is all about friendship.

Richard Morrison, the Democratic challenger who won 41 percent of the vote against House Majority Leader Tom DeLay in the 2004 elections, said he won't run again, reports The Washington Post. Morrison cited financial and family obligations.

Not Exactly Rallying Around DeLay

Money is not exactly pouring into Tom DeLay's Legal Defense Fund, according to an Associated Press report. He collected $47,750 during the first three months of the year, comapred to $254,250 raised in the last three months of 2004. During the first three months of this year, DeLay also spent $34,000, largely on attorneys' fees. Dan Allen, DeLay's spokesman, trys to put a positive spin on it, saying DeLay is pleased with the support "helping him fend off the barrage of attacks" he attributes to "the Democrats and their allies."

Serious business

The Day of New London, CT covers Rep. Rob Simmons statements to a ocal Chamber of Commerce regarding the Base Realignment and Closure commission (BRAC), the independent group that identifies military bases to be shut down and offers the list to Congress as an up-or-down vote. The hope is that the politics is, as much as possible, taken out of the decisions regarding the country's military bases.

During the presentation, Simmons joked about our demand that he ask Tom DeLay to resign:

Simmons said he's taken some political heat in recent weeks for not doing more to criticize the president's Social Security plan, which he opposes, and for not calling for an ethics investigation of House Republican Leader Tom DeLay, who has been accused of ethics violations.

But Simmons said while the BRAC list is still being drafted, it's not the time to make political waves. He had the crowd laughing with a mock telephone call to DeLay's office in which he asked the congressman to resign, and then continued, “But while I have you on the phone, I'd like to talk to you about our sub base. We really need to keep it open, OK Tom? Tom? Tom? Gosh, he's not there anymore.

“It's kind of funny, but it's serious,” Simmons said.



So, let me get this straight, Rep. Simmons... after the list comes out, that's when you'll call on DeLay to resign?

Now, I'm not so naive that I think that no politics enters into the BRAC decisions. But is Simmons really saying he can't speak out on major issues because his views might upset those in his party? It's the base commission now. What will it be next week? Will Simmons hide behind something else?

Where's his backbone? Or did the $150,000 from the DeLay-sponsored, ROMP fundraiser buy his silence?

Monday, April 25, 2005

WaPo national poll

The Washington Post conducted a national survey April 21-24 among likely voters and included questions regarding Tom DeLay. Here are the results:

On another subject, do you approve or disapprove of the way Tom DeLay is handling his job as majority leader of the U.S. House of Representatives?

Approve: 35%
Disapprove: 38%
No opinion: 27%

How closely have you been following the ethics charges that have been made agaist DeLay -- very closely, somewhat closely, not too closely or not closely at all?

Very closely: 8%
Somewhat closely: 28%
Not too closely: 29%
Not closely at all: 35%
No opinion: 1%

Do you think DeLay should step down as majority leader, or retain in his job?

Step down: 41%
Remain in his job: 32%
No opinion: 28%

My reaction:

a) With relatively few people paying attention (so far), DeLay's approval numbers are very low. Politicians like to have a better than three to one ratio in approval numbers, not worse than one to one ratio.

b) Having a plurality of voters, and more than two out of every five, wanting you to step down is not a good thing for DeLay.

c) We need to continue to educate people about DeLay's scandals, particularly those who have no opinion about the way DeLay is handling his job.

What's your take?

Update: The Washington Post's key finding (since they have the crosstabulations, they can tell us stuff like this!):

Among the 36 percent who said they have been following the allegations against DeLay, nearly two in three said DeLay should step down.

The expenses charged to lobbyists' credit cards

Gebe Martinez and Michael Hedges of the Houston Chronicle take a look at the actual expenses charged to the credit cards of two DeLay-friendly lobbyists:

• Business Class tickets for DeLay and his wife to London on Continental Airlines and British Airways: $6,938.70
• Golfing fees at St. Andrews: $5,000 per golfer, including DeLay.
• Deluxe room at the London Four Seasons Hotel: $790 a night for four nights.
• Private car from Heathrow airport to the hotel: $302.
• Six theater tickets: $434. (DeLay's attorney said the lawmaker did not recall attending the theater but the tickets were charged to his room)

• Getting caught: Priceless.

Sorry, that was predictable. What do you think ought to be the ending?

Picking up the tab

Why do I continue to be shocked by this?

About ten years ago, colleagues of mine sat down with a very prominent Democratic Party operative after Bill Clinton had won the 1992 presidential election. My colleagues argued that the public was increasingly cynical about how legislation was bought by the biggest donors. The prominent operative interrupted and said, "If the American public really knew what happened in Washington, they'd come and burn the place down."

From U.S. News and World Report we hear the latest story of corrupt culture in Washington:

Every few years in Washington a new scandal blows up, and it usually involves lobbyists, lawmakers, money--and a well-heeled watering hole. Thus, it comes as small surprise that Jack Abramoff, a GOP superlobbyist now under investigation by a grand jury and two Senate committees, owns a restaurant called Signatures and that some lawmakers were not paying for fundraising events held there--until questioned by the press. Hill staffers say there may be other shenanigans involving lawmakers and lobbyists who frequent the restaurant/bar.

Located on Pennsylvania Avenue between Capitol Hill and the White House, Signatures has hosted more than 60 Republican fundraisers in the past three years--many in a dimly lit back room behind the sushi bar. One fundraiser, in June 2003, was for Illinois Rep. Dennis Hastert.

This month, BusinessWeek Online reported that Hastert failed to pay for the fundraiser until a reporter began asking questions. The tab has since been paid by Hastert's political action committee and filed with the Federal Election Commission. Sen. David Vitter, a Louisiana Republican, acknowledged that his campaign also failed to pay a Signatures fundraising tab from September 2003. Vitter said he had intended to pay but was never charged.

U.S. News has learned that some congressional staffers have asked lobbyists to leave their credit cards at Signatures so they could eat and drink on their tabs--sometimes even if the lobbyist wasn't there. Such actions could violate congressional ethics rules.

Abramoff also once owned a kosher deli, and he apparently wined and dined his pals at both joints. He'd take you to "the deli if you were not too important," an investigator joked, "and to the steakhouse if you were." (emphasis added)


Top congressional staff make upwards of $100,000 to $150,000, from what I recall. I think these people can afford to buy their own drinks and meals. But the real issue is the constant influence-peddling -- the campaign donations, the junkets, the golf games, the charitable donations, the wining and dining, etc. It's non-stop.

Rules are pesky things, huh?

[Ed. note: I didn't notice that I was making a second post on this... since I've added some additional content from today's coverage, read down...]

Jeffrey Smith of the Washington Post blows open another damning element of Tom DeLay's wining and dining on the tab (LITERALLY) of disgraced lobbyists Jack Abramoff and Ed Buckham, a former staffer. The story is syndicated all over the place, and other major newspapers have picked it up to run their own version.

The story is basically this:

DeLay's travel expenses, according to receipts and those with knowledge of Abramoff's credit card number (who are these sources?!? what reporting!), were charged to Abramoff's credit card. He's a lobbyist. DeLay is a member of Congress (at least of this writing). Members of Congress can't received gifts or travel expenses from lobbyists. It's against the rules.

Then Smith adds this nugget:


DeLay's expenses during the same trip for food, phone calls and other items at a golf course hotel in Scotland were billed to a different credit card also used on the trip by a second registered Washington lobbyist, Edwin A. Buckham, according to receipts documenting that portion of the trip.

This is yet another piece of evidence in a long pattern of blatantly disregarding the rules. Rules are for someone else, according to DeLay and lobbyist friends.

Here's some more from the story, including DeLay's "I knew nothing" defense:


Yesterday, DeLay's lawyer, Bobby R. Burchfield, said that DeLay's staff was aware that Preston Gates was trying to arrange meetings and hotels for the trip but that DeLay was unaware of the "logistics" of bill payments, and that DeLay "continues to understand his expenses" were properly paid by the nonprofit organization, the National Center for Public Policy Research.

In 2000, Abramoff was a board member of the group. In a telephone interview yesterday, Hirschmann said the contacts between DeLay's office and persons at Preston Gates occurred because Abramoff "was a board member of the sponsoring organization." Hirschmann added: "We were assured that the National Center paid for the trip."

House rules do not exempt such nonprofit organization board members from the prohibition on lobbyist payments for travel. They also state that this prohibition "applies even where the lobbyist . . . will later be reimbursed for those expenses by a non-lobbyist client."

Burchfield did not dispute that Abramoff used his credit card to pay for DeLay's plane fare, but said in a statement that "the majority leader has always believed and continues to believe that all appropriate expenses for the U.K. trip were paid by the National Center for Public Policy Research." He said that "to the extent that Mr. Abramoff put the charges on his personal credit card, Mr. DeLay has no knowledge of this. But that would be consistent with Mr. Abramoff obtaining full reimbursement from the National Center."

Ethics Chair Doc Hastings might want to rethink that offer to investigate DeLay, in part because Carl Hulse and Philip Shenon of the New York Times is previewing what is likely to be the next round of deeper investigations into other trips:


Other trips by Mr. DeLay that have received attention are a 1997 visit to Russia that he reported was paid for by the research center but that public interest groups assert may have been financed by a business in the Bahamas and a visit to South Korea in 2001 that was paid for by a lobbying group set up by South Korean businessmen.

A trip Mr. DeLay took to Malaysia in 2001 also raised questions because he listed the Heritage Foundation as the trip's sponsor on disclosure forms. But several reports indicated that the trip might have been partly paid for by Belle Haven Consultants, a for-profit firm linked to the Malaysian government and based in Hong Kong.

When Mr. DeLay, his wife and other lawmakers took the four-day trip to South Korea, the Korea-U.S. Exchange Council picked up the $28,000 bill, travel records show. The trip has come under scrutiny because the Exchange Council was registered with the Justice Department as a "foreign agent," meaning it represents organizations outside the country. Mr. DeLay has said he was unaware of the foreign-agent designation.


Let's have at receipts of these trips...

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Lobbyist's Paid For DeLay Flight To London and Scotland

Washington Post Headline: DeLay Airfare Was Charged To Lobbyist's Credit Card

From the story:

"Multiple sources, including DeLay's then-chief of staff Susan Hirschmann, have confirmed that DeLay's congressional office was in direct contact with Preston Gates about the trip itinerary before DeLay's departure, to work out details of his travel. These contacts raise questions about DeLay's statement that he had no way of knowing about the financial and logistical support provided by Abramoff and his firm."

"A copy of the $184 bill for the DeLays' expenses during the trip at a separate hotel in St. Andrews -- the Old Course Hotel Golf Resort & Spa -- states that those charges were paid by the same American Express credit card used on the trip by Buckham, the lobbyist, to pay for his own hotel room at the Glasgow Hilton. Buckham could not be reached by phone at home or his office and did not respond to an e-mailed request for comment. Burchfield said he cannot explain how this happened and did not know who owned this credit card; he also said DeLay was unaware of this fact.

"Buckham, a former chief of staff to DeLay, was at the time a registered lobbyist for AT&T, Enron Corp., and the Nuclear Energy Institute. DeLay's wife was employed, at the time of the trip, by Buckham's lobbying firm, the Alexander Strategy Group, and was receiving a salary from it, according to DeLay's personal financial disclosure statement for that year, on file with the House clerk. "


Post your best guess on what DeLay's (or should I say Dan Allen's) explanation will be for these new allegations. My guess: "This is just a left wing conspiracy and one day these activist judges...uh, I mean the liberal media, will have to answer for their actions."

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Daily roundup

Dick Polman at the The Kansas City Star has an insightful piece about how the GOP faithful are rallying around their man, Tom DeLay, and what that means:

In a bygone era, circling the wagons was often the prelude to the fall, but now it might be a sign of strength. In these times, a politician under fire arguably can survive by stoking his base, painting himself as the victim of an extremist conspiracy, and relying on well-organized activists and friendly media (talk radio, Internet blogs) to raise money, and cast fiery aspersions on the accusers.


For these reasons and more (including the IOUs that DeLay has amassed, thanks to all the big money he has raised for his congressional colleagues), not a single influential House Republican has called for DeLay to quit his leadership job. Unless that happens, he stays.

Our ad on Rep. Rob Simmons (R-CT) gets an oblique mention in a Houston Chronicle story about the House Ethics Committee saga:

One Republican who has faced political heat back home because of the DeLay controversies, Rep. Rob Simmons, of Connecticut, said there should be a new vote on the rules changes, which he favors, to settle the matter once and for all.

The Washington Post editorializes that yesterday's offer by House Ethics Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA) to investigate Tom DeLay and change committee workings "Ultimately...isn't good enough." Hastings' offer to extend reviews by three months upon request of the ranking Democrat, Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-WV) and to put all complaints to a vote doesn't cut it. First of all, with a 50-50 party split on the committee, votes would more than likely be a deadlock; second of all, the new policies would not be binding on any future chairmen of the committee.

Major corporations such as AT&T, the Corrections Corporation of America, and Exxon Mobil, are among the recent donors to Tom DeLay's children's charity, the DeLay Foundation for Kids, according to a report in today's New York Times. While the charity doesn't disclose its donors, the Times gleaned the information from a review of charity records released by the companies and other documents. Melanie Sloan gets the quote on why this matters: "Having a good relationship with DeLay depends not just on funding his campaign committees and his political action committees, but also his pet causes," she told the paper. Read more about DeLay's charity work in Salon.

The Houston Chronicle's Michael Hedges has more to report on DeLay's skybox. A Rocky Mountain Telegram columnist has his tongue firmly in cheek when discussing his reaction to DeLay's email to supporters this week. It's day four of the Tom DeLay Political Deathwatch at Doonesbury.

Ethics is soooo 1995.

David Sirota has this blast from the past:

"The time has come that the American people know exactly what their Representatives are doing here in Washington. Are they feeding at the public trough, taking lobbyist-paid vacations, getting wined and dined by special interest groups? Or are they working hard to represent their constituents? The people, the American people, have a right to know... I say the best disinfectant is full disclosure, not isolation." - U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay, 11/16/95


Hmmm...

Feeding at the public trough, check.

Taking lobbyist-paid vactions, check.

Wined and dined, check.

What was that other thing our elected officials are supposed to do? Oh, right, represent us. I guess DeLay will get around to that eventually.

Reject Hastings' offer

As Nancy reported yesterday and everyone has undoubtedly seen, Ethics Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA) and three of the Republicans on the Ethics Committee (Tom Cole of Oklahoma, Judy Biggert of Illinois, and Melissa Hart of Pennsylvania) offered to begin an investigation of Tom DeLay's travel scandals. The Democrats, led by Rep. Alan Mollahan of West Virginia, are holding up the formation of the committee to protest and insist on returning to some semblance of bipartisanship in the way the committee operates. An investigation into DeLay's wrongdoings would not begin until the committee agrees to the new rules, which appears not to be acceptable to Democrats, according to Mollohan's reaction yesterday. The Dems have made the GOP move, though.

If the committee acted in a bipartisan way, there would be no need for a grandstanding press conference by Hastings (or Mollohan for that matter) to jump start an investigation into DeLay. If the old rules were in place, the mechanism would be in place for an investigation to begin without worry of a partisan standoff. That's a no-brainer.

But obviously there's a political dynamic at play. That Hastings felt compelled to begin an investigation means that Republicans are feeling the heat and are concerned about the backlash back home.

Here's where I come down.

We ran TV ads in Hastings' district a few weeks ago that ended like this:

"Congressman Hastings. You're the chairman of the Ethics Committee. Do your job and clean up Congress... without DeLay."


We didn't end the ad like this:

"Congressman Hastings. You're the chairman of the Ethics Committee. Do your job and clean up DeLay... without Congress."


We're not looking for an isolated investigation led by an Ethics Chairman acting to minimize the political fallout for his party. We're looking for an investigation into all of DeLay's transgressions, as well as a look at whomever else has violated the rules of the House. "Clean up Congress... without DeLay" is not just a slogan. DeLay is symptomatic of a culture of corruption in Washington these days, and while he deserves to take a one-way trip back to Sugar Land, we deserve more from our government officials than decisions around the ethics committee based solely in political calculations, like Chairman Hastings' announcement yesterday.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Placido Domingo, Lucianno Pavarotti, and the Other Guy...

The AP is reporting that in 2000 DeLay treated some donors to a night in an arena skybox that was leased by Abramoff so they could watch the Three Tenors. The pile just keeps getting bigger. Click here to read the AP story.

This Just In

The Associated Press reports that:

Retreating under pressure, Republicans on the House ethics committee said Wednesday they were ready to open an investigation into allegations of wrongdoing against Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

Four out of five Republican members of the committee are "prepared to vote at the earliest opportunity to empanel an investigations subcommittee to review various allegations concerning travel and other actions," according to Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA). (See our ad on Hastings here.)

Stay tuned...

The Tom DeLay Energy Bill

The New York Times reports that Tom DeLay is the main force behind a provision in the about-to-be-debated energy bill to funnel up to $2 billion over 10 years into research for recovering oil and gas from the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The Times also reports that conservation groups are planning an advertisement urging lawmakers to vote against the "MTBE-Tom DeLay" bill, referring to the provision DeLay backs that protects manufacturers of the gasoline additive MTBE from lawsuits over pollution. For those of you following the money, the oil and gas industry contributes more to DeLay than any other--$560,400 since 1989--and he ranks fourth among his House colleagues for contributions from this industry.

Bringing Tom DeLay Closer to God

Tom DeLay tells Fox News that a "left-wing syndicate" is out to get him...but he tells Fox News Radio that all the scrutiny over his ethics is bringing him "closer to God," reports Reuters, as does The New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Associated Press. In the same interview where he talked about his closeness to the Deity, DeLay said he found it "outrageous" that Supreme Court Justice Anthony M. Kennedy cited international law, "not the Constitution," in a recent ruling barring the execution of juveniles. According to the Times, DeLay said that the House Judiciary Committee would "explore what the authors of the Constitution intended when they said federal judges hold their post on the basis of good behavior," and that "We want to define what good behavior means."

Keeping on a theological theme, The Springfield News-Leader complains that "[w]atching the campaign to oust him could lead a visitor to America to believe that he is the devil incarnate." The editorial goes on to note, however:
That said, we can only shake our head at the irony of DeLay, master of the politics of personal destruction, complaining that he is now the target of such tactics....DeLay, for all his efforts to accuse others for his current predicament, has only himself to blame....DeLay's days are numbered.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that in the midst of all this DeLay still has time to fundraise, appearing at an event for Virginia Del. Jeffrey M. Frederick, R-Prince William. Thinkprogress.org notes that the name of disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff was conspicuously absent in the email Tom DeLay sent to supporters yesterday. Read what Molly Ivins has to say here. Doonesbury is on Day Three of the Tom DeLay Political DeathWatch.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

"DeLay's Dodge"

Read the American Progress Report's rebuttal of DeLay's letter to his constituents here.

A Pig is A Horse of Course

"He can call a pig a horse, and it's still a pig...It's not going to change the facts. Everyone knows he was admonished." That's what former Rep. Chris Bell (D-TX) has to say in the Houston Chronicle about DeLay's defense that an admonishment from the House Ethics Committee does not equal a "sanction."

DeLay Sends Defensive Missive to Constituents

The big news this morning was Tom DeLay's six-page, single-spaced letter to his Houston constituents imporing them to listen to the "real story" about, well, there's a long list: the luxurious overseas trips he took paid for by lobbyists including Jack Abramoff, under investigation for bilking Indian tribes out of millions of dollars; changing the rules governing the House Ethics Committee and ousting Rep. Joel Hefley (R-CO) as chairman; etc. etc. Sounding again like former President Richard Nixon saying "I am not a crook," DeLay said he had never been found in violation of any law, and that even the three admonitions he'd received from the House Ethics Committee did not constitute a "sanction." Read about the letter in The New York Times , The Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times. Also check out ABC News' The Note on all the coverage surrounding the letter.

Meanwhile, Karl Rove on CNN says the White House is standing behind its man: "We strongly support Tom DeLay. He's a good man, a close ally of this administration."

And the Hartford Courant reports on how Republican Rep. Rob Simmons is finding himself in hot water over his contributions to DeLay's legal defense fund, as well as his acceptance of campaign cash from DeLay controlled entities such as ARMPAC. See our ad urging Rep. Simmons to tell DeLay to resign here.

And...the Tom DeLay Political DeathWatch continues at Doonesbury.

Monday, April 18, 2005

From WSJ to Doonesbury, DeLay is a Liability

The WSJ (no link) cites the letter we helped organize last week from 10 former GOP lawmakers urging House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) to reinstate old ethics rules overturned by the GOP last January: "Their home states represent every region in the nation, and the letter demonstrates how badly Republican leaders have fared in the public-relations war over House ethics." The article reports that Hastert "shows no willingness to reverse himself but compromises are being discussed." Why? Because without the Democrats' cooperation, the House Ethics Committee can't start its work, and the Democrats won't cooperate unless there's a change in the ethics rules, and without the Committee starting its work, there's no hearing for Tom DeLay. Ahhh, the headaches DeLay is causing for his colleagues.

Also, check out today's Doonesbury.

Finally, an update from the Boston Marathon. Unfortunately, David Donnelly developed a severe shin splint during the race, the bane of runners everwhere. Even so, he made it to mile 20. We suspect that this is not his last marathon.

Real Time Intro On DeLay

Real Time With Bill Maher did a parody on DeLay's woes as the lead in clip on last Friday night's show. Click here to watch it (3.5 MB and requires Real Player).

Count former Sen. Bob Dole in the list of GOP eminent grises calling on Tom DeLay to come clean. "My advice would be the sooner you can get out and tell your story the better. Lay it all out," Dole told CNN's "Late Edition." "I think maybe the long knives are out for Tom DeLay," reports the New York Daily News. Meanwhile, the newspaper reported, former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MI), revealing some personal bitterness, called on the White House to stand up and fight for DeLay: "I do think the White House needs to remember that people who fight hard for you as a candidate and for your issues as a President deserve your support, aggressive support," Lott said.

With the heat on his client, Tom DeLay's attorney attempts to defend the congressman's "fact finding" trip to Russia here.

There's also more reporting on the rallying of conservative faithful around Tom DeLay at the NRA convention here. There's definitely some dissent in the conservative ranks, however, reports The New York Times, as folks learn the tawdry details of Ralph Reed's connections to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and how Reed accepted money from gambling interests. Of course it's only one small step from Abramoff to DeLay...

And, on a more personal note, if you are wondering why David Donnelly is not blogging today, it's because he is running the Boston Marathon. Maybe there are some marathoners out there who are blogging while running, but we hope not. We wish him luck and we'll keep you posted on his progress, just as we keep you informed about the latest on Tom DeLay.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

News Round-up, Sunday, Part III, TIME Magazine travel section

Oh, how the details are indeed sleazy. This next TIME magazine piece, out on newstands and in mailboxes soon, unveils how Jack Abramoff was DeLay's travel agent and lined up his clients to pay for it. There has to be stronger word for this kind of sleaze. Whatever you call it, it's damning.

(TIME also adds the letter to Hastert from former GOP reps!)

Here's a snippet:

It was congress's holiday for memorial Day 2000, and majority whip Tom DeLay's staff thought the boss and two top aides deserved a respite from the arduous hours they had been putting in doing the people's business. They wanted to make sure DeLay's little delegation had the finest of everything on its weeklong trip to Britain—from lodgings at the Four Seasons Hotel in London to dinners at the poshest restaurants with the most interesting people, right down to the best tickets for The Lion King—at the time, one of the hottest shows playing on the West End and one for which good seats usually meant a six-month wait. So DeLay's congressional office turned to someone they trusted far more than any travel agent or concierge: lobbyist Jack Abramoff. "He ran all the trips," recalls a former top DeLay aide. "You ask where the itineraries came from, who made all the travel arrangements—it all came out of Jack's shop."

Previous trips had taken DeLay and members of his staff all over the world, but none had been planned quite as meticulously as this one.

Three sources who worked with Abramoff at the time say the majority whip's office ran one of Abramoff's assistants ragged with its constantly changing requests. Indeed, say two of those sources, the whole idea for the expensive London jaunt originated with DeLay aides as an additional stop on a golf outing that Abramoff had proposed to Scotland's famous St. Andrews course.

Abramoff delivered on virtually everything DeLay's staff requested.


And then DeLay delivered for Abramoff's clients, the Native American tribe and the gambling company, that financed the trip.

Here's another short passage, mentioning the letter we helped organize and circulate last week. It's making an impact:

It was easy for DeLay's allies to dismiss signs of erosion in his support early last week when they were largely confined to criticism by moderate Republican Congressman Chris Shays, often a voice of dissent within the ranks. But it was more difficult after 10 former Congressmen, all Republicans, signed a letter to House Speaker Dennis Hastert imploring him to reverse recent revisions in the House rules that were apparently designed to shield DeLay from being investigated by the ethics committee. What's more, conservative Tom Tancredo of Colorado, while professing his confidence in DeLay's innocence, told his hometown paper that it's "probably not the worst idea" for DeLay to step down as leader until he resolves the ethical controversies that are springing up around him. (emphasis added)


********

On a personal note, I will be handing over the full blogging responsibilities to Nancy Watzman and Rick Bielke, who have been posting from time to time for a few days next week while I participate in the Boston Marathon on Monday and travel with my family on Tuesday. You're in great hands. Back later in the week.

News Round-up, Sunday, Part II, New York Times edition

The New York Times has three stories of note today, an editorial, a news piece of unrest in DeLay's district, and a Frank Rich column chock full of insight and great writing.

The editorial's key paragraph:

Mr. DeLay's ethical and financial lapses are serious and disqualifying for his high office. But even more alarming than his love for political money is his abuse of power. He appears to be confused about the difference between a legislative majority won in an election and total control held indefinitely.


Having the nation's paper of record editorialize against DeLay's continuing hold on power will generate the same reaction from DeLay and his minions we've seen all along -- he is being attacked by the liberal media elite. So, this editorial's impact will have little effect on their message. But the impact on the so-called "elite" shouldn't be dismissed. When the Times writes in its lead editorial that a Majority Leader's actions are "disqualifying for his high office," movers and shakers in business, politics, academia and elsewhere take notice. DeLay's base of support, not that the Times was ever in it, is shrinking and shrinking fast to those who are not influenced by the WSJ, NY Times, etc. His base has shrunk to Republican members of Congress (who are increasingly worried), religious conservatives, and to those who play the money game in Washington.

The second piece warranting a read is an overview of what is happening back home in his district. It starts with the story of Patricia Baig, a retired teacher, who is a lifelong Republican. She has been turned off by DeLay's unethical behavior and she took out an ad in the local paper to help the protest in Houston yesterday. The local GOP went after her, as they had done with Bev Carter, the editor of another local paper, and who was also featured in the piece.

Frank Rich's column wraps up the Times' coverage. Rich eloquently points out the contradictions between DeLay's piety and his sleazy actions, using all of DeLay's associates as fodder. Here is one excerpt:

In the DeLay story almost every player has ostentatious religious trappings, starting with the House majority leader himself. His efforts to play God with Terri Schiavo were preceded by crusades like blaming the teaching of evolution for school shootings and raising money for the Traditional Values Coalition's campaign to save America from the "war on Christianity." Mr. DeLay's chief of staff was his pastor, and, according to Time magazine, organized daily prayer sessions in their office. Today this holy man, Ed Buckham, is a lobbyist implicated in another DeLay junket to South Korea.

But it's not merely Christian denominations that figure in the religious plumage of this crowd. Mr. Abramoff, who is now being investigated by nearly as many federal agencies as there are nights of Passover, is an Orthodox Jew who in his salad days wore a yarmulke to press interviews. In Washington, he opened not one but two kosher restaurants (I hear the deli was passable by D.C. standards) and started a yeshiva. His uncompromising piety drove him to condemn the one Orthodox Jew in the Senate, Joe Lieberman, for securing "the tortuous death of millions" by supporting abortion rights. Mr. Abramoff's own moral constellation can be found in e-mail messages in which he referred to his Indian clients as "idiots" and "monkeys" even as he squeezed them for every last million. A previous client was Zaire's dictator, Mobutu Sese Seko, who, unlike Senator Lieberman, actually was a practitioner of torture and mass murder.


There's more, and I hope you read it. Enough said.

News Round-up, Sunday, Part I

This is the first of a few posts with stories from yesterday's and today's papers and wires. There are a few interesting pieces that I'll separate into other posts.

The AP looks into DeLay's first quarter fundraising and finds two interesting pieces: 1) his pace in bringing in funds has quickened over the first quarter in off-years past, and 2) he took out a $100,000 loan to cover expenses. Interesting development -- my conjecture is that last year's election was such a scare that he overextended the expenditures and put a significant amount on credit card or put off vendors, and when the bills came due, he just didn't have the cash on-hand. But that's just an educated guess. Why else would the Bugman, the bagman of Congress, need a loan? Cashflow is really the only logical answer.

Another interesting note is where he got some of the money: business PACs of some with a very compelling MBTE issue in the upcoming energy bill (Chron reporters, are you listening?), and funds from Bob Perry, one of the biggest homebuilders in Texas and a funder of the Swift Boat Vets attack campaign (WSJ reporter, are you reading?).

The Washington Post has a mention of the letter we helped circulate on Friday from ten former Republican House members.

DeLay spoke at the NRA Convention. Write-ups here and here and here and here. Side-stepped ethics issues, I guess. 100 to 200 protesters out front. Got a gun, and held it high with his cold, dead hands. (Note to Tom: We don't want your gun, we want you to tell the truth, and then resign.) Suggested that he needs heavily armed friends. Ho. Hum. Yawn.

Rick Klein of the Boston Globe has an overview of DeLay's power structure. (Congrats, Rick!)

The Day of New London, CT says that Rob Simmons should listen to, not object to, Chris Shays. Good advice. And probably one of the more politically potent, and overlooked, developments of the day. Mr. Simmons, you should read every single word.

The New Haven Register (no link) had an editorial yesterday (thanks JG for faxing) which ended on this ominous note for Simmons and other GOP reps:

But tying a candidate to DeLay's appalling record may prove a winning Democratic campaign strategy if Shays' fellow Republicans do not soon heed his advice and dump the majority leader.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Mark Fiore flash movie

This is very, very funny. Forward it around.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Tancredo joins Shays' Rebellion, on temporary basis

Tom Ferraro of Reuters has the story, from a statement issued by Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO):

"I believe that all of the charges against Tom DeLay I have seen to date lack merit," said Rep. Thomas Tancredo, a Colorado Republican, in a statement.

"However if the majority leader were to temporarily step aside so that these trumped up charges can be dealt with in a less hostile environment, as they have proven to be an unnecessary distraction, it may be a productive move," he said.


Very calculated.

Coverage of letter from ex-GOP lawmakers

Reuters does a nice job writing up the letter from 10 former Republican Members of the House

As does Bloomberg.

More handwriting

To quote an avid Daily DeLay reader, when Jerry Falwell's hometown newspaper turns on DeLay, he's pretty close to toast.

And the Detroit Free Press cautions Senators from acting on the request earlier this week that they defend DeLay.

UPDATE: The Nashua (NH) Telegraph says that "DeLay had it coming."

Turning up the heat, member by member

This morning's New York Times story about the letter from 10 Republican ex-Representatives we helped to coordinate is accompanied by great local press regarding members of Congress feeling the heat.

We'll start in Allentown, PA, where the Morning Call picks up our demand from our TV ads and editorializes that Rep. Jim Gerlach return the money he's received from DeLay's fundraising. The paper also extends the demand to another Pennsylvania Republican, Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick:

Public Campaign's latest ads focus on Rep. Gerlach, Majority Whip Roy Blunt of Missouri and Rep. Jim Nussle of Iowa. The group is pressuring Republican members of Congress to demand Rep. DeLay's resignation for a series of alleged ethical lapses. But each ad ends differently. The Gerlach ads end with a demand that he return tens of thousands of dollars that he received at a Washington fund-raiser a few weeks ago — and he should.

Rep. DeLay has given Rep. Gerlach $20,000 over his two campaigns, plus about $150,000 this year through ROMP. One other Pennsylvanian, freshman Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick, R-Bucks, also has received money from ROMP, but to a lesser degree. Rep. Fitzpatrick, however, should return the $5,000 he received from Rep. DeLay.


In another development, the Denver Post is reporting that Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) is edging closer and closer to joining the Shays' Rebellion:

Rep. Tom Tancredo says it is "probably not the worst idea" for embattled House Majority Leader Tom DeLay to step down while he deals with ethics allegations.

Stepping into a swirling Washington controversy, the Littleton Republican said he doesn't think the current accusations of impropriety against DeLay amount to much. But Tancredo said that from a political perspective, DeLay has handled the ethics issue "stupidly."

"I don't think we should try to oust him," he said in an interview Thursday at the Capitol. "Right now, I would not encourage him to leave. If he chose to resign as majority leader until these matters are resolved, that's probably not the worst idea."


Wow. Let's keep up the heat, folks. This is getting very interesting.

If you see other stories along these lines (there's an AP story from Minnesota I need to get to, too, about their Republican members' responses), let me know and I'll post what I can.

Letter to House Leaders from former GOP Members of Congress

We're helping to distribute this powerful, strongly-worded letter to Republican leaders in the House demanding that they stop acting like they're defending Tom DeLay and restore integrity to the House.

The NYT's Shenon and Stolberg pick up the story in this morning's newspaper:

Ten former members of Congress, all Republicans, joined in a letter to the House leadership on Thursday to say they believed that revisions in House ethics rules this year were an "obvious action to protect Majority Leader Tom DeLay" from investigation. They said the changes needed to be reversed "to restore public confidence in the People's House."

The letter, to be presented Friday to Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, is signed by Mark Andrews, a former member of both the Senate and the House from North Dakota, and nine other former House Republicans. While it offers no conclusion about the merits of ethics controversies now swirling around Mr. DeLay, it says "the consensus in our respective districts" is that "the previous admonitions to Mr. DeLay for casting discredit on the House were well-merited."

The letter may be another blow to Mr. DeLay, who is under investigation by a grand jury in his home state, Texas, and is facing growing calls from fellow Republicans to answer accusations involving his financial ties to lobbyists and his management of his political and campaign committees.


Look for more news coverage throughout the day.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Questions coming from the GOP rank-and-file

AP:

Republicans held ranks one day after a few lawmakers expressed concern at a closed-door meeting over the party's handling of the ethics issue.

Several officials said Rep. Dan Lungren of California cautioned fellow Republicans about using power arrogantly, invoking the example of former House Speaker Jim Wright and the Democratic majority he once led. Wright was brought down in an ethics scandal in 1989.

These officials said Lungren did not mention DeLay in his remarks.

Officials said Rep. Joel Hefley of Colorado, former head of the ethics panel, told fellow Republicans at the same session that the issue should properly be handled in a bipartisan way.

Rep. Zack Wamp of Tennessee urged fellow lawmakers not to dig in their heels on the issue but to be prepared to "pivot and pray," these officials said.

So, the watch list grows. Reps. Jim Leach of Iowa and Joel Hefley of Colorado voted with the Democrats on revamping the rules. Reps. Dan Lungren of California and Zach Wamp of Tennessee speak out in closed door meetings. Who will join the Shays' Rebellion?

Phew. DeLay resting a little easier tonight.

House Speaker Denny Hastert (finally) defends DeLay. Mostly, anyway.

Jack in the House, from CREW

Visit Jackinthehouse.org, a new site by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW. They profile all of disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff's friends.

Also, while we're on the topic, the Austin American-Statesmen rounds up Abramoff today, too.

Is Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN) a candidate for the Shays' Rebellion?

From the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette:

“Part is political,” he said of the allegations against Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, that have dogged the House majority leader for a year. “But the truth is, we’re all reading this stuff and saying: ‘Why did you do that? Did you cross the line? Did your staff cross the line?’ We don’t know.”
Do the right thing, Rep. Souder.

More papers call on DeLay to go

Richmond (VA) Times-Dispatch:

The GOP now faces a choice. It can admit that past assaults on Democrats were cynical exercises in political hardball that had nothing to do with a genuine concern for propriety. Or Republicans can resolve to uphold the standards they set. The latter course is the better and wiser one.


Albany (NY) Times-Union:

We'd hope, too, that Rep. John Sweeney of Clifton Park would be among the leaders of the movement for Mr. DeLay to step down. Last fall it was his view that Mr. DeLay was the victim of an ethics committee that had veered out of control. Only Mr. DeLay has become a much bigger problem, both ethically and politically, since then.

Liars

Yesterday's main Republican talking point defending Tom DeLay was this:

"Tom DeLay did nothing wrong," Rep. Todd Tiahrt, R-Kan., told reporters after the weekly GOP caucus meeting. "There's no evidence of any breaking of the House rules."


That's just plain wrong. For starters, DeLay violated the House rule against accepting contributions to his legal defense fund from lobbyists - and he's already admitted it. On February 1, 2005, Public Citizen released a study of the Tom DeLay Legal Expense Trust which found that the trust had accepted contributions from lobbyists. The trust admitted that the lobbyist contributions violated House ethics rules and returned the contributions.

Contributions to a member of Congress's legal defense fund are considered gifts to the member of Congress and must be reported as gifts on the member's annual personal financial disclosure report. The lobbyist contributions to DeLay's legal defense fund are attached to DeLay's personal financial disclosure report for calendar year 2001, which Tom DeLay personally reviewed and signed on May 29, 2002.

Under Sarbanes-Oxley, a company's CEO can go to jail if he signs the company's annual report without reading it. Shouldn't a member of Congress be held accountable if he signs his own personal financial disclosure report without reading it? Tom DeLay has violated the House ethics rules and has admitted it. No action was taken against him for this because he made it the first order of business for the 109th Congress to gut the House Ethics Committee.

No investigation, no findings of guilt. How convenient.

Duck and cover, or shrewd?

From BNA (no link):

"I know that the Left and the Democrats and some in the media would rather have me addressing [ethics issues], but I will not do that here in the pen and pads [briefings]," DeLay told reporters. "If you have any questions outside of the scope of the House floor agenda or other legislative issues we're addressing in the House, then I would direct them to my press staff." He said this was not a policy change. However, he has answered dozens of questions about the ethics allegations in recent weeks during his weekly press briefings.

Absolute malarkey

Can you believe this guy?

But in an interview with The Washington Times, published Thursday, DeLay charged that Democrats had shut down the panel to prevent him from clearing his name.

"The only way I can be cleared is through the ethics committee," he said, "so they don't want one."

DeLay charged that Democrats actually want the work of the committee thwarted so that they can protect one of their own members, Rep. Jim McDermott of Washington, who is under scrutiny in connection with the illegal leak of a tape recording of a Republican congressman's cellphone conversation.

The Republican-controlled House this year changed the rules for ethics probes, contending that greater fairness was needed toward members under investigation. Democrats are trying to overturn those changes, arguing they were designed to block any new investigations of DeLay by requiring at least one Republican vote to proceed. That fight has effectively paralyzed the committee.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

In all the craziness...

I forgot to give you links to local coverage of our advertising:

Allentown (PA) Morning Call

Quad City (IA) Times

What are a Baptist deacon, a Conservative Leadership Declaration, an Onion, and the Magna Carta.

Deacon Cole Has A Potty Mouth!
Councilman Kevin Cole of Pearland, Texas (who also happens to be a Baptist deacon) emailed the American Progress Action Fund telling them what he thought of their DropTheHammer.org campaign. Turns out he's not keen on American Progress Action Fund's new campaign. Here is the text of his email:

Hey ass hole [sic]. Tom Delay happens to be my congresman [sic] and I am happy with the job he does for me and my district. Why don’t you get the F@&* out of our district and leave us alone. Better yet, come speak to me personally and I will show you what I think of you.

Kevin Cole
Pealrand [sic], TX
[Cell Phone # Redacted]

Oh oh, Here They Come, Watch out Judges, They'll Chew You Up!
The Judeo-Christian Council forConstitutional Reform announced via a media advisory that they will be holding a press conference at Noon EDT tomorrow to announce the “Conservative Leadership Declaration In Support of Tom DeLay” — (I was hoping for something snappier in a name from them like "The Death Tax").

The “Council” purports to “confronting the Judicial war on faith” while “activist Judges are undermining democracy, devastating families and assaulting Judeo-Christian morality.” These are the same people DeLay was to address on April 7 but couldn’t because he “was called to Rome as part of the US delegation attending the Pope's funeral.”

Oh How The Onion Makes Me Cry
The Onion posted a piece called Embatteled Tom DeLay with quotes on how different people feel about the charges against our fearless House Majority Leader. A couple of my favorites:

"I heard Tom DeLay's blood was in the water and the sharks were circling him, but unfortunately, it turned out to be a metaphor."
Colleen Bowers
Systems Analyst

"Enough is enough. DeLay should do the honorable thing: take all the money he's cheated out of the American people, buy himself a nice mansion, and retire."
Andre Carson
Teller

Through Tom's Eyes: Contract With America = Magna Carta
The Los Angeles Times did a little digging and found that DeLay likens the GOP Contract On....uh, I mean Contract With America, with the Magna Carta, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights (check out DeLay's website). Who'd like to point out to DeLay the irony of him and his colleagues reversing some of the ethical tenets in the "Contract"?

WSJ picks apart Abramoff/DeLay nexus

David Rogers of the Wall Street Journal digs into the Jack Abramoff, Tom DeLay, and the National Center for Public Policy Research connections...

Hartford Courant: Simmons and Johnson should join Shays' Rebellion

The Hartford Courant editorializes about Reps. Rob Simmons' and Nancy Johnson's response to their fellow delegation member, Rep. Chris Shays. The paper says Simmons and Johnson should join, not distance themselves from, Shays:

Like some House leaders before him, Mr. DeLay has grown recklessly audacious as he has accumulated power. His trips, ties to lobbyists and payments to relatives were bound to be scrutinized. He is becoming a liability to his party. Reps. Rob Simmons and Nancy Johnson of Connecticut should join their colleague Mr. Shays in demanding that the majority leader step down.

DeLay Clips Roundup

Chicago Sun-Times reporter Lynn Sweet notes that the "drip, drip, drip of negative stories" about Tom DeLay "dashes" any hope he had of succeeding Rep. Dennis Hastert (R-IL) as Speaker of the House. The Boston Globe reports that Tom DeLay is becoming a liability for GOP members facing tight races. Seattle Times columnist Floyd J. McKay talks about how DeLay is bad for GOP Reps. Doc Hastings, chairman of the Ethics Committee, and Dave Reichert. (Watch our ad on Hastings here). Houston Chronicle columnist Cragg Hines asks "Will Jack Abramoff be Tom DeLay's Monica Lewinsky?" Minnesota Daily says it's time for DeLay to go. The AP and The Kansas City Star reports that Tom DeLay told Senate Republicans that Democrats are to blame for his troubles. (Hmm...the Democrats made him take contributions from special interests and return legislative favors, promoted his friendship with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, etc. etc.?) The Hill reports on GOP plans for press rollout over the next several weeks defending Tom DeLay. ABC's The Note talks of many things DeLay, including speculation about his press briefing scheduled for 1:55 pm today.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Local Republican takes on DeLay back home

KHOU has the story of Patricia Baig, a DeLay-district GOP member, who is fed up with DeLay's shenanigans. Way to go, Patricia!

Registration is required, but it's free and when you do, vote in the poll:

"Should Tom DeLay resign?"

I've said it before... I'm not a fan of these on-line polls, but they sure can be fun. Right now it's running 79% yes to 19% no, with a smattering of undecided (who is undecided in an on-line poll?).

Simmons = Kerry

Rep. Rob Simmons (R-CT), from The Hill:

“I voted against Tom DeLay on changes to the House rules,” Simmons said in a release put out by his office, referring to the proposed rule changes that would have protected DeLay in the event that he is indicted by a Texas district attorney. The statement was released in response to Shays’s comments.

Then Simmons voted for the Majority Leader to retain his position and for the rules changes that blocked investigations by the Ethics Committee.

In other words, Rob Simmons voted against DeLay, before voting for DeLay.

This is Your Life, Tom DeLay: Mass Transit Foe

Four years ago today, reported the Houston Chronicle, Tom DeLay denounced local environmental groups’ proposal to settle a clean air lawsuit if Houston-area officials would agree to promote mass transit and cut back on plans for new roads. At a luncheon before the Houston Club:

DeLay… said the settlement offer requires that "you will implement immediately a huge accelerated rail transit system that has nine corridors and costs at least $ 30 billion."

The paper pointed out that contrary to DeLay’s claim:

The actual language of the offer calls for "accelerated development of a regional rail network" by giving "immediate priority status" to planning studies for nine new rail lines extending throughout the metropolitan area.(Houston Chronicle, 4/13/01)


In a town that had earned the dubious distinction of surpassing Los Angeles in having the worst ground-level ozone in the country, DeLay had long staked out his ground as a foe of mass transit. In addition, Houston and its suburbs is notorious for traffic back-ups and snarls, subtracting from the quality of life for area residents.

Indeed, DeLay went so far that he used the federal budget process to deny the city federal public transportation funds to prevent it from considering proposals to put in rail. (Texas Observer).

That DeLay would go to such lengths to oppose mass transit despite the interests of his constituents makes sense when you look at his more important constituents: his donors. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the DeLay ranks fourth among his House colleagues for contributions since 1989 from the oil and gas industry, with $560,400, and fifth for contributions from the auto industry, with $268,600.

Editorials EVERYWHERE

Lincoln (NB) Journal: GOP should drop DeLay as speaker

Louisvillle (KY) Courier-Journal: No More DeLay

Staunton (VA) News Leader
: Jim Wright Redux

Bergen (NJ) Record: Derail DeLay

Montgomery (AL) Advertiser: DeLay Definitely Detriment to Party

(Thanks to Daily DeLay reader BK for the links.)

Defend Shays


The Republican attack machine is going after one of its own, Rep. Chris Shays of Connecticut, just because he spoke his mind and courageously called for Tom DeLay to step down.

Yesterday, we urged our members to call Chris Shays' office to offer him praise and thanks for his position. But we weren't alone -- others generated calls to Shays office, so that the report from Shays' spokesperson last night was that the calls were running 60% against him for saying DeLay should go from calls outside his district.

Update: The calls from within Shays' district are running two-to-one FOR Shays' position.

Redouble your efforts folks. We cannot let DeLay's allies intimidate members of Congress who want to stand up for what is right.

Call Chris Shays at 202-225-5541 and tell him we have his back.

If you need extra motivation, this is what one of Shays' colleagues said about him:

"I think that Chris Shays again has demonstrated he's totally out of touch with what the mainstream of the Republican members of Congress are feeling and that he is disloyal to the party and to people as individuals," [Rep. Dana] Rohrabacher [of California] said, adding that the attacks are nonsensical "except you've got jerks like Chris Shays who get notoriety by being disloyal to their fellow Republicans."

Surprise, surprise

Group Started By DeLay Targeted Prospective Donors' Interests In Upcoming Legislation, AP reports.

UPDATE: AP has documents.

Sign the petition -- he's got to go.

Ads running in three more congressional districts

We've launched aother series of TV ads in the districts of Reps. Roy Blunt of Missouri, Jim Nussle of Iowa, and Jim Gerlach of Pennsylvania to urge them to demand that Tom DeLay resign.

Here's a screenshot of the ad.



Please help with a contribution if you can by clicking here.

Our petition campaign is also taking off -- more than 31,700 Americans have called on DeLay to resign and sent a message to their member of Congress. Sign the petition here.

More news later from the districts in which we're running ads -- and about the vindictive reaction some Republicans had to Rep. Chris Shays' courageous stand over the weekend. One GOP Congressman called him a "jerk." Amazing.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Lots of Shays Rebellion news everywhere

One of us will have a round-up later this morning, but here's a great quote from the Houston Chronicle story covering Rep. Chris Shays' Rebellion against Tom DeLay:

"I have no comment on anything," Rep. Michael Castle, R-Del., said as he avoided questions about DeLay last week.

Later in the story, the Chron picks up our announcement, which we'll release with details later today:

The Public Campaign Action Fund will announce today that it will run new anti-DeLay ads in key congressional districts.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Shays Rebellion

Rep. Chris Shays (R-CT) spoke out today -- AP is reporting that he called on Tom DeLay to step down.

This is the beginning of the Shays Rebellion. Who will be next?

Rep. Joel Hefley (R-CO)?

Rep. Zach Wamp (R-TN)?

Who will join Shays in taking on Tom DeLay and his big money agenda?

Definition of Courage

Rep. Chris Shays (R-CT) calls on DeLay to step down.

Who will be next?

We released the following statement:

Watchdog group applauds Shays on DeLay statement; Will unveil ads in three more Congressional districts

Washington -- Public Campaign Action Fund, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization fighting to hold politicians accountable for doign favors for their contributors, applauded Rep. Chris Shays (R-CT) statement calling on Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) to step down:

"Representative Chris Shays deserves an award for courage for demanding that Tom DeLay step down. DeLay's big money scandals disgrace the House of Representatives, and Shays is right to take on this dishonorable behavior on display by the Majority Leader," said David Donnelly, political director of Public Campaign Action Fund. "We will continue to press members of Congress in their districts, and now we have a shining example of integrity to point to in Chris Shays."

On Monday, Public Campaign will unveil TV ads it will run in the congressional districts of three Republican members of Congress. Last week, PCAF ran advertising in three congressional districts to put pressure on Republican Reps. Rob Simmons (CT), Tom Reynolds (NY), and Doc Hastings (WA).

###

Two GOP politicians distance themselves from DeLay

First, there's Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), who said on ABC News this morning:

"I think [DeLay] has to come forward and lay out what he did and why he did it and let the people then judge for themselves," said Santorum, chairman of the Senate Republican Conference.


A little bit of daylight between the House creator of the K Street Project, and his Senate counterpart, who mimicked DeLay's courting of the corporate lobby on K Street. This is an interesting development because Santorum is so close to the religious right which is out in force defending DeLay.

Perhaps more importantly, but also predictably, Rep. Chris Shays (R-CT) comes within a hair's breadth of saying DeLay should go. The Greenwich Times and the Connecticut Post have Shays telling a crowd in the district:

"He is on the thinnest of ice as far as I'm concerned," said Shays, who noted that the conservative Texan has been reprimanded three times by the House ethics committee. "That is disquieting. It raises huge questions that Democrats have a right to raise." (from the Connecticut Post)


..and:

"Do I think Tom DeLay will be the majority leader by the end of this term? No," Shays said. "I don't think Tom DeLay is going to survive. He goes to the edge and he goes beyond . . . Even knowing there's a microscope on him, he continues to do these things." (Greenwich Times)


But more damning is this quote in the Greenwich Times that I feel like I've said a hundred times:

"He is an absolute embarrassment to me and to the Republican Party," U.S. Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Bridgeport, told more than 50 Greenwich residents yesterday morning at Town Hall.