Friday, July 29, 2005

DeLay and his donors had a good week

DeLay's Congress passed bills to ship more textile and other jobs overseas with CAFTA, and make us more dependent on foreign oil, while giving big oil and others $14.5 billion in tax breaks. They certainly came through for their big money constituencies.

How much is $1.5 billion?

DeLay slipped in a provision into the energy bill that could direct $1.5 billion to an energy consortium in his district, including big oil companies like Halliburton. We're urging people to contact their Senators to do whatever it takes to get the provision removed from the bill.

We've come up with a few ways to measure just exactly how much $1.5 billion really is...

1.5 billion dollar bills would cover more than 58 square miles, or 3397 football fields.

Lining the bills end to end, you could pave a 21.5 foot wide road from Congress to City Hall in Sugar Land, Texas, with 1.5 billion dollar bills. Or, if you'd prefer, you could go around the world 5+ times. Your choice.

A stack of 1.5 billion one dollar bills streches to 100 miles high. If you could balance them.

1.5 billion dollar bills weighs roughly 1,652 tons, the same as about 40,000 gallons of water, or enough water to fill more than 35 swimming pools.

If anyone else has other suggestions, post them in the comments.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

DeLay trying to give $1.5 billion to consortium that includes Halliburton

UPDATE, 1:41 p.m.: Bill passed the House a little while ago. I've changed the target on the campaign to the Senate. They'll vote tomorrow. Let's raise a stink.

We gotta stop this one.

Based on a letter sent to House Speaker Dennis Hastert from California Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman, Reuters is reporting that House Majority Leader Tom DeLay slipped in a provision that could give more than a billion dollars to Halliburton and other members of a consortium based in Sugar Land, Texas, DeLay's hometown. The provision was inserted, apparently, after House and senate negotiators had finished their compromise on the bill.

Contact your representative today and urge that they do everything possible to remove this provision!

Read Rep. Waxman's letter here. (pdf)

News coverage here, here, and here.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Big Money Congress Doesn't Deserve a Pay Raise

David's editorial concerning the recent, mostly unnoticed Congressional pay raise has been posted on CommonDreams.org.

It has this gem from Republican House Majority Leader Tome DeLay (R-TX): "It's not a pay raise," claimed DeLay, who will now make $183,500 a year. "It's an adjustment so that [we're] not losing [our] purchasing power."

Interesting, considering one of the areas where Congress has failed America's working families is the abysmal minimum wage.

Read the whole thing here.

Thanks, Congress, for Failing to Lower Gas Prices...

The New York Times reports today that Senate and House negotiators have reached an agreement on broad energy legislation that is expected to be up for votes in the House Wednesday and the Senate Thursday.

Unfortunately, as Americans head off on their summer vacations, the bill, which covers everything from hybrid cars to off-shore drilling, does almost nothing to immediately lowering staggering gas prices. I suppose it doesn't bother many Congressional leaders that gas is $2.50 a gallon at the pump when they're jetting off on lobbyist-funded junkets.

To add insult to injury, the bill gives billions of dollars in aid and tax breaks to traditional oil companies. After the Republican-led House majority on the conference committee rejected his bid to cut oil-industry tax breaks, Rep Ed Markey (D-MA) said: "We might as well be giving tax breaks to Donald Trump and Warren Buffett here tonight."

That same Republican majority also rejected: an effort to incorporate a plan passed by the Senate to require utilities to use more renewable energy and a bid directing President Bush to cut the country's oil consumption by one million barrels a day within 10 years.

The good news is that some Republican leaders in the house seem to be losing a bit of clout. In order to reach an agreement, lawmakers abandoned a 2003 plan, spearheaded by embattled Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX), which would have given legal immunity to producers and distributors of the environmentally harmful gasoline additive MTBE. Senators also rejected a House proposal to relax clean air standards.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Job Opening

Chairman Doc Hastings's chief of staff need not apply.

[Update: I hear Jack Abramoff is interested.]

Schmidt, candidate in OH-02, urged to return DeLay's money

Jean Schmidt, the Republican candidate for the special election in Ohio's second congressional district (the seat was left vacant with Rob Portman's appointment to US Trade Representative), received two $5,000 contributions from Tom DeLay's ARMPAC on June 23rd and 27th, respectively.

With all the scandals in Ohio -- Bob Ney, Coingate, etc. -- do Ohioans want another representative whose in DeLay's pocket?

Today, we asked that question of Ms. Schmidt by urging her to return the $10,000 from DeLay's PAC. We sent out the following release to local reporters in the Cincinnati area:

Watchdog Group Urges Schmidt to Return $10,000 from Tom DeLay

Washington, DC – The non-partisan watchdog organization Public Campaign Action Fund urged congressional candidate Jean Schmidt to return two $5,000 donations from House Majority Leader Tom DeLay’s Americans for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee (ARMPAC) she received on June 23 and June 27.

Majority Leader DeLay’s fundraising and ethics scandals have captured national headlines since last year.

“Jean Schmidt should tell the voters of the second congressional district in Ohio that she will fight against the kind of pay-to-play politics embodied by Tom DeLay,” said David Donnelly, National Campaigns Director for Public Campaign Action Fund. “Washington has too many lobbyists, too much money, and too many members of Congress who are in the pocket of Tom DeLay. Schmidt should do the right thing and return the contributions.”

Public Campaign Action Fund compiled the DeLay Rankings (www.InDeLaysPocket.com) earlier this year, which ranks every member of Congress and how close they are to the scandal-plagued Majority Leader. Contributions from DeLay’s ARMPAC were a major factor of determining a member of Congress’s ranking.

Public Campaign Action Fund is a national nonpartisan organization dedicated to holding politicians accountable for the favors they provide to big money contributors, and to advancing comprehensive campaign finance reform at the state and national level.

—30—


We also urged residents of Ohio to sign a petition calling on Schmidt to return the contributions. Should a large number sign it, we'll consider some event in Cincinnati next week to deliver them to Ms. Schmidt. So, if you're from Ohio, sign away, or send to people you know in the Buckeye state.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

DeLay retaliates against American Airlines?

American Airlines, under pressure from our friends at American Progress Action Fund's Drop the Hammer campaign, agreed not to give any additional contributions to Tom DeLay's legal defense fund. In a May 3rd statement, Roger Frizzell, American Airlines' Vice President of Corporate Communications, said:

American Airlines does not intend to make any future contributions to Representative DeLay's legal defense fund. The $5000 contribution, made three years ago, was done by an individual who is no longer part of American Airlines.

Today, Tom DeLay apparently retaliated. Associated Press reports that DeLay offered his support for removing the 1979 "Wright Amendment," which prohibits long-distance commercial travel from Dallas-area Love Field. The other area airport, Dallas/Fort Worth, is home to American Airlines, which opposes the repeal of the Wright Amendment.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Rep. Jim Gerlach Should Immediately Cancel Rove Fundraiser

Public Campaign Action Fund called on Rep. Jim Gerlach (R-PA) to cancel his big-money fundraiser featuring presidential advisor Karl Rove tonight, and criticized him for placing special interest fundraising above the interests of his constituents. Rove, who is embroiled in an a scandal regarding his role in leaking the identity of Valerie Plame, is scheduled to attend a fundraiser for Gerlach tonight just a block away from the White House at 1700 Pennsylvania Avenue.

“Neither rain, nor sleet, nor swirling scandals can keep Jim Gerlach away from a big money Washington fundraiser,” said David Donnelly, National Campaigns Director for Public Campaign Action Fund. “In March this year, Gerlach received about $150,000 from a Tom DeLay-sponsored Washington fundraiser when DeLay’s name was in the news every day for ethically-challenged behavior. Today, Gerlach is raising money from a who's who of Washington lobbyists and insiders with scandal-ridden Karl Rove as the draw.

“Jim Gerlach ought to cancel the event immediately.”

Gerlach, who ranks fifth in Congress on Public Campaign Action Fund’s DeLay Rankings, has received $20,000 from Tom DeLay’s contributed $2,000 to DeLay’s legal defense fund. Public Campaign Action Fund ran TV advertising in Gerlach’s district in April urging him to return the money he received from DeLay.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Duke is Done

Scandalized Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA) announced tonight that he will not seek re-election when his term is up in 2006, the North County Times reports.

Just two weeks after federal agents raided his home, Cunningham said that he can do his job and defend his honor, but "I don't think I can do either of these things effectively in the midst of a political campaign."

Don't you wish you could see the internal polling?

The eight-term Congressman continues to say he has done nothing wrong, but does plan to sell his Rancho Santa Fe home and donate a portion of the money to charities.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

DeLay's Negative Coattails

Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney (R) appeared at a DC fundraiser this week to give a speech ad to further the speculation about his presidential ambitions. While there, he gained a friend, but one who understands that he's a little radioactive, to say the least:

Asked for his reaction to Romney's speech, House majority leader Tom DeLay of Texas quipped: ''I like him, but I don't want to ruin his chances in Massachusetts."

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Ever Wonder How DeLay's Doing...in Pennsylvania?

Bennett Roth of the Houston Chronicle has your answer.

"It just seems like you think they are going to do something and then they don't do it," Gordal, 79, said as she finished an early dinner at the High Street Diner in Pottstown, an hour outside of Philadelphia.


Amy Walters of the Cook Political Report said that, if asked to choose a district that is a bellweather for national opinion, it would be Pennsylvania's sixth Congressional district.

That doesn't bode well for Congress. The people that Roth interviewed in Pottstown expressed serious concerns over Congress' handling of Social Security and the war in Iraq, as well as a growing sense of impatience.

The town's representative in Congress, Jim Gerlach (R), has received $20,000 in campaign cash from DeLay's PAC, and in return has given $2,000 to DeLay's legal defense fund. Gerlach said he didn't think the ethics scandals surrounding DeLay would have an effect on his bid for re-election, but was quick to speculate that most people in his district "don't know who Tom DeLay is."

DeLay Reports Best Fundraising Quarter in Years

Amid all of his ethical troubles, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) had no trouble raising $800,000 for his campaign over the last three months. That doesn't mean he's going to have an easy road though, according to Todd Gillman of the Dallas Morning News. He's opponent, newcomer Nick Lampson, who entered the race eight weeks ago, has raised $502,000.

Analysts anticipate a competitive and expensive race, with each side probably spending more than $5 million, not including funds raised and spent by outside interest groups.

"Tom DeLay can outraise and outspend anyone," said Robert Stein, dean of the School of Social Sciences at Rice University in Houston. "The truth is, should his problems get worse, it won't be Nick Lampson he's worried about."

Thursday, July 07, 2005

DeLay and Energy Companies: Best Friends Forever (At a Price)

For the first time since the House lobbying scandals broke, a company has said they were told that a contribution to Majority Leader Tom DeLay's political action committee TRMPAC would curry them favor with him and help them influence legislation.

The Dallas Morning News reports that Westar Energy of Kansas was told that if they wished to meet with DeLay, they would be wise to donate $25,000 to TRMPAC. A luxury golf retreat with top DeLay aides resulted from the donation.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Democrats Run Ethics Ads in Six Republican Districts

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic National Committee will begin running ads today that target Reps. Tom DeLay (R-TX), Bob Ney (R-OH), Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA) and three other Republican members for alleged ethics violations.

According to The New York Times, the total cost of the ads is $36,000.

Rep. Rahm Emmanuel (D-IL), head of the DCCC, said: "These six congressmen came to Washington to be agents of change. But Washington's ways have changed them. They're working more for their special-interest contributors than for their constituents."

Sushi with a Side of Scandal

According to Glen Justice in today's New York Times, scandalized lobbyist Jack Abramoff's upscale restaurant Signatures might not be bustling now, but in its heyday, it was filled with high-powered elected officials and well-heeled lobbyists.

For example, Justice cites an e-mail that Abramoff wrote to his restaurant managers in May 2002 which gives instructions on how to handle VIP Majority Leader Tom DeLay and his wife.

"Table of 6," Abramoff wrote, "put it where I sit and remove that other table.
Their meal is to be comped."


The restaurant kept a list of influential customers whose food was to be comped when they came in. Among those 18 lucky patrons with "FOO Comp" (Food complimentary) next to their names were: Representatives Bob Ney (R-OH), John Doolittle (R-CA), and Roy Blunt (R-MO) and former Senators John Breaux (D-LA) and Tim Hutchinson (R-AK).

When asked to comment, Breaux responded: "I never got a comped meal there
in my life. And I'm certainly not a friend of Abramoff."


Looks like the free food and wine helped Abramoff make a lot of other friends in Washington, though.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

No Pancakes, Just Search Warrants for Cunningham

Embattled Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham spent July 4th trying to avoid fireworks. Cunningham, whose home was raided over the weekend by the FBI, canceled his annual appearance at a pancake breakfast in his district.

The event was to have been Cunningham's first public appearance since the beginning of a federal investigation into shady financial dealings, including the sale of Cunningham's California home to a defense contractor whose company has benefited from numerous lucrative government contracts that Cunningham weighed in on.

According to the Associated Press, Cunningham's spokesman said the Congressman did not want a media frenzy to distract from the spirit of the event.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Wait, There's More

In a bizarre new twist on the Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA) scandal, Fox News reports that when the House Ethics Committee finally gets itself together and investigates Cunnigham, Democrats are expected to bring up Top Gun Enterprises, Inc., a business the Congressman owns that cashes in on his former life as a Top Gun pilot for the U.S. Navy.

While their is no rule that explicitly prohibits members of Congress from owning a for-profit business, it does bar them from using their elected position for personal profit.

And that's where Cunningham could have problems. The website, which has just been taken down, makes a number of references to the fact that Cunningham serves in Congress, Fox reports.

And here's the kicker...

"One item being sold on the Web site could cause additional trouble for the San Diego congressman. The Duke Cunningham buck knife, which costs $595, includes an engraved likeness of Cunningham in a flight suit and what is described as 'the official seal of the U.S. Congress.' Unauthorized use of the official seal is a violation of House rules and federal law, punishable by fine and up to six months in prison."

DeLay and Drug Companies: Best Friends Forever

"It's not hard to put a dollar figure on House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's importance to corporate America," write Bloomberg News' Michael Forsythe and Jonathan D. Salant. "For drug makers, his support is worth $13 billion; for petrochemical companies, it could be as much as $375 billion.

In recent years, DeLay (R-TX) has fought to protect energy companies from polution lawsuits, block FDA regulation of tobacco, and pass a Medicare overhaul that forbids the government from negotiating lower prescription drug prices with the drug companies.

Yeah, those are in line with the values of ordinary Americans. We want inflated drug prices, more pollution and higher rates of childhood tobacco addiction, don't we?

But hey, as long as those campaign contributions keep rolling in...

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports that Rep. Katherine Harris (R-FL), who recently announced her intention to run for Senate, has offered to return campaign contributions she received from MZM Inc., the defense contractor who bought scandalized California Republican Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunnigham's mansion at an allegedly inflated price.

The sale is currently the subject of a federal grand jury investigation in Southern California.

"Reading these reports I was very concerned. Nothing has been stated that these
contributions were illegal, but I was concerned," said Harris.


She could be paying a lot of people back. MZM and its employees were the top contributors to Harris' 2004 campaign.

Not the kind of press you want as you anticipate a tough battle for Senate.