Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Florida Democratic Gov. Candidate Distancing Self From, Um, Texas Republican Congressman

The St. Petersburg Times reports that Forida Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jim Davis is using embattled Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay in his stump speeches across the state.

"I'm fighting to keep Tom Delay from imposing his family values on you and your family," Davis said.

Could it be that, as the alleged ethics violations pile up, candidates will use DeLay as representative of what they are not, even if they're not running for the same office?

Monday, August 29, 2005

Abramoff Pleads Not Guilty

Scandalized lobbyist and DeLay pal Jack Abramoff pleaded not guilty today to charges that he defrauded lenders in a casino cruise line deal. Abramoff and his partner, Adam Kidan, were indicted earlier this month by a federal grand jury on conspiracy and wire fraud charges.

According to Reuters: "The case has attracted particular attention because Abramoff is a prominent political fund-raiser and close friend of DeLay, a Texas Republican. DeLay has faced questions about whether some of his travel expenses were paid by Abramoff, which would violate House rules. DeLay has denied knowing any expenses were paid by the lobbyist."

Setting her sights, er, lower...

The Houston Chronicle reports that Cindy Sheehan, mother of Casey Sheehan who was slain in Iraq, plans to shift her focus from President Bush's Crawford ranch to Congress. The mother, who has held a vigil outside the ranch for the past several weeks, will lead a bus tour from Crawford to the White House on Thursday.

And her first stop along the way might be embattled Republican Majority Leader Tom DeLay's district office.

"I just wanted to let him know so he'll be in his office when we get there," Sheehan said. "The president is not going to meet with us, probably. We the people need to influence our congressional representatives, and I hear he's pretty close by."

It doesn't look like Sheehan should expect hot coffee and freshly made chocolate chip cookies -- a spokesperson for DeLay said the Congressman's schedule had already been set and he would not change it.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Ain't Nothin' But A Hound Dog

Oh, where to begin? The Houston Chronicle has this gem today. It accompanies Samantha Levine's story that leads with the staff of embattled Republican Majority Leader Tom DeLay calling the Sugar Land Parks & Recreation Department to say he wanted to attend their "senior citizens' sock hop."

"I was a little shocked," said event organizer Officer Todd Zettlemoyer of the Sugar Land Police Department. "This was the first year that we had the congressman there."

Levine writes: "In recent weeks, DeLay has worked his constituency harder than he has in years. . .On one day alone, DeLay held an ice cream social in Pearland, a barbecue luncheon in Sugar Land and an hors d'oeuvres hour in Pasadena." The free food seems to be key.

The story comes on the heels of news that Vice President Dick Cheney will attend a fundraiser for DeLay in September - news that analysts say is proof of growing Republican concern of the Majority Leader's vulnerability in 2006.

I don't know what they're talking about. Does that smiling man next to Elvis look desperate to you?

GOssiP Column

Cindy Adams at the New York Post has this today:

"A current Democratic Party newsletter headed 'An episode of 'The Sopranos'? No, just a week in the Republican Party" leads with: They're "having their houses raided by federal investigators or spending summer vacations making court appearances. In the past 10 days, four Bush pioneers or rangers were involved in federal investigations. One Republican governor was indicted . . . [on] charges of accepting illegal gifts. Another Republican governor reportedly paid $20,000 in hush money to a paramour. Two GOP lobbyists were fined $40,000 for channeling
illegal contributions... '"



What? No mention of walking scandal Tom DeLay? I guess that's not really a "scoop" any more...

Thursday, August 25, 2005

DeLay Loss Would be a "Disaster" for GOP

Political analysts see the announcement of Vice President Dick Cheney's September fundraiser for embattled Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay as proof of the GOP's "anxiety" over the fate of a lawmaker who once seemed unbeatable.

"'It would be such a disaster' for the GOP if DeLay loses, said Ross Baker, a congressional expert at Rutgers University, adding that the decision to send in Cheney looks like payback for DeLay, whose help was crucial on a number of close votes, including Medicare and a bankruptcy law overhaul," Todd Gillman of the Dallas Morning News writes.

Fourteen months out, DeLay's poll numbers in his district are slipping, following his closest win ever in 2004, with just 55% of the vote.

Lance Leloup a political scientist at Washington State University, said it looks "desperate" for the House leader to require such early help from the White House.

"He is in trouble," Leloup said. "It's not one thing and you wait a week and it goes away. Month after month there's some new ethical issue."

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

"Summertime, and the Living is..." Sleazy.

Something in the air seems to have politicians across the country behaving badly, according to the Associated Press.

"Ohio Gov. Bob Taft is hardly the only politician these days to be hit by scandal. He's just the only one to admit he was wrong," Andrew Taylor writes. "House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, is fighting ethics charges. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is too. And two federal lawmakers are under investigation over financial dealings. "

Two members of Congress, one Republican, one Democrat, are also facing charges of serious ethical shortcomings. The FBI has raided the homes of Reps. William Jefferson (D-LA) and Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA) amid charges of influence peddling.

"What's the common thread in this summer of scandal?" Taylor asks. "Money."


Recent polls have shown Congress' lowest approval ratings in a decade. I an AP-Ipsos poll taken at the beginning of August, only 33 percent of respondents said they approve of our lawmakers' performance.

Unfortunately, most of these scandals do not surprise people; they simply reinforce what voters already believe. Still, Taylor writes, there has been an increase in the number of politicians under investigation by the authorities. It remains to be seen whether this will result in a political backlash. Many in Ohio view the recent squeaker of a victory by Republican Jean Schmidt in Ohio's second Congressional district as a sign of things to come in 2006.

Charles Lewis, founder of the Center for Public Integrity, says the recent spate of scandals won't subside until lawmakers prove to their constituents that they can police themselves.

"There is a problem here and it's a substantial problem, and there seems to be very little will by politicians at most levels to face it head on," he said.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Check Your Mailbox

Have you received your invitation yet for the fundraiser that Vice President Dick Cheney is attending to raise money for embattled Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay?

No?

Well, apparently, according to the Houston Chronicle, the whole thing is very "hush-hush." Cheney's spokeswoman says it's being kept under wraps because of "security concerns."

Uh-huh. Though not so under wraps that invitations for the event, which will be held at the Westin Galleria Hotel on Sept. 16 from 5-7 p.m., haven't already arrived at the doors of DeLay supporters.

One Houston executive, who has already put the time and date on her calendar said: "It is just a fundraiser to show that Mr. DeLay has got the support of the administration," she said.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Westar Employees to Pay Fines for DeLay Contributions

Westar Energy, Inc., a Kansas-based utility company, and three of its employees have agreed to pay the Federal Election Commission more than $40,000 in fines to settle accusations that they used improper fundraising techniques to contribute to Republican Majority Leader Tom DeLay's political action committee ARMPAC.

According to The New York Times, "Westar executives violated campaign finance laws by using company resources like employee work time to organize a drive that raised $32,700 in contributions to Congressional campaigns in 2002. The drive was part of an effort to increase the company's presence in Washington."

This is not the first time that Westar has been caught up in investigations surrounding the embattled Majority Leader. A 2002 donation to his PAC was cited in an ethics committee admonishment of DeLay.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Staunton News Leader Calls for DeLay to Resign Leadership Post

"We'll stop short of calling for House Majority Leader Tom DeLay to resign from Congress altogether. It's up to the good people of Texas, after all, to decide whether DeLay is what they want representing them (or not) when he comes up for re-election," editors for The Times Leader begin their editorial today.

"We do feel, however, that DeLay should relinquish his post as majority leader for the good of the Republican Party," they continue.

Editors said they feel DeLay's situation is very similar to that of former Majority Leader Jim Wright (D-TX) who was used as a "political pinata" and wound up damaging the Democratic Party. If the Republican party hopes to regain the moral high ground, they write, DeLay must go.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Going Back To Cali

LA Times headline: Lobbyist Tied to DeLay Indicted.

Jack Abramoff was arrested in Los Angeles and will face a magistrate some time today. The LA Times and Washington Post both had good story's summarizing the scam Abramoff and his associates tried to pull of....they also name a couple of pols who were involved...Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) and Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA).

Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo has a theory on when and if Jack starts to sing:

But I hear it's a bit different. I hear Abramoff has already tried to do that, and been rebuffed. And this gets us into questions I think we'll be talking
about a lot.

Why would he be rebuffed?

Decisions like that go right to the top. And since Abramoff's shenanigans are closely tied -- to be generous -- not just to members of Congress (DeLay, Ney, Burns, et al.) but to key GOP power players (Norquist, Reed, et al.) and quite probably Karl Rove himself, you can see why he (i.e., Abramoff) might have a harder time than your usual perp cutting a deal to implicate those above him.

Only time will tell...

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Abramoff Indictment Couldn't Happen To A Nicer Guy

The Miami Herald is reporting that Washington super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff (and a man DeLay once described as a one of his "closest and dearest friends") will be indicted in Miami today on bank fraud charges stemming from the purchase of SunCruz Casinos.

Seems that Jack and his partners may have falsified the date on a wire transfer in order to get a loan to purchase the casinos...a federal crime. Whoops.

You can read the AP story here.

FEC Finds Problems with ARMPAC

The Bureau of National Affairs reports today that a Federal Election Commission audit of Republican Majority Leader Tom DeLay's Americans for a Republican Majority PAC has revealed that "soft" money was innaproppriately used. According to the report, ARMPAC owes $203,483 to its soft-money or "non-federal" account, Kenneth P. Doyle writes.

"The types of expenses paid by ARMPAC included costs to hold several fund-raising events, in California, Orlando, Fla., and Puerto Rico. ARMPAC also used too much soft money to pay for administrative expenses and voter-mobilization efforts, the FEC audit found."

"Tom, Jack and Friends:" A "Cheat Sheet"

It can be hard keeping your Congressional scandals and the whole cast of characters straight. Luckily, TPMCafe.com has provided us with a cheat sheet. A who's who in the world of political scandal. In "Tom, Jack, and Friends," Josh Eidelson offers his nominees for scandalized lobbyist Jack Abramoff’s "top six associates of questionable repute."

First up: Edwin Buckham, DeLay's former chief of staff and pastor. Buckham, also a registered lobbyist for Enron and the Nuclear Energy Institute, charged a hotel stay and some meals on the infamous DeLay-Abramoff Scotland trip to his credit card. DeLay's wife, who accompanied him on that trip, was being paid by Buckham's lobbying firm at the time.

Then there's the Indian Gaming Scandal. Several close DeLay associates fall into this category. Do the names Ralph Reed and Grover Norquist sound familiar? While serving as Executive Director of the Christian Coalition, Reed ramped up its advocacy of restrictions on gambling "at the request of Scanlon and Abramoff in order to help them get more cash from the tribal chiefs who hired them to block the restrictions," Eidelson writes. "Choctaw cash was then laundered back to Reed through Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform."

The list goes on. Check it out for yourself here. You might want to make flashcards.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Go to bed, now!

Buried in a Rocky Mountain News story about Rep. Joel Hefley's (R-CO) propensity for cartooning is this wonderful quote referring to rumors of his retirement:
I think I'll wake up some morning and say: 'Enough is enough. I'm tired of Tom DeLay telling me when to go to bed at night.' I'm not there now.

Hefley, of course, was the chairman of the House Ethics Committee, where he presided over three rebukes of Tom DeLay. Hefley was bounced out of the position last February as news of DeLay's scandals mounted.

"Too Much Texas Influence" in Iowa

James Berge of Kensett, Iowa writes to the Globe-Gazette that his representative in Congress, Tom Latham, has chosen to vote for the good of Republican Majority Leader Tom DeLay and his state of Texas, rather than for the good of the people he serves in Iowa.

"CAFTA will help corporate agriculture, not the farmer/producer. The Energy Bill will make us 14 percent more dependent on foreign oil by 2010, and gives $1.5 billion to Halliburton, and Sugarland, Texas, (in Delay's district). The Bankruptcy Bill that makes it harder for the working man to file, but not corporations (90 percent of bankruptcies are from medical bills, loss of a job and divorce.)," Berge writes.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Lobbyists, Legislators Avoid Those Pesky Ethics

Jeffrey Birnbaum at The Washington Post today turns in an eye-opening and disturbing story, headlined: "There's Always a Way; Exemptions From Ethics Rules Allow Lawmakers to Accept Almost Anything."

He goes on to list the loopholes and exceptions that allow lawmakers and lobbyists alike to skirt what are supposed to be meaningful ethics rules. Exceptions are made for campaign events and charities.

That's how Rep. Michael Crapo (R-Idaho) gets around charging lobbyists $2,500 a pop to "shoot...fish...and barbeque" with the legislator and his aides in Sun Valley. He calls it a "campaign fundraiser." Governmental ethics rules do not apply to campaign financing.

According to Birnbaum, investigations such as those into the behavior of Republican Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) and Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA), are rare because "overt impropriety is so simple to avoid."

And while registered lobbyists are barred from paying directly for a legislator's travel, members of Congress have received more than $18 million in free travel from private organizations. The top four destinations are, predictably: Florida, California, New York and West Virginia (home of the luxurious Greenbrier Resort).

"The House Republicans' event list between mid-July and mid-August advertises 12 golf outings, four baseball games, a musical show and a night of 'champagne and caviar,'" Birnbaum writes.

You know...you should really just go read the whole story for yourself. There are too many tidbits to list here. You will be blown away.

Oh, The Times They Are A-Changin'

Democrat and Iraq War Veteran Paul Hackett may have lost the incredibly close race for the open Congressional seat in Ohio's second district, but there is much speculation over what it might mean for Congressional candidates in 2006. Bush won the district in 2004 with 64% of the vote. Republican Candidate Jean Schmidt won with 52%.

The folks over at MSNBC's First Read wrote this:

"To the extent that ethics and the scandals plaguing GOP Gov. Robert Taft's administration kept voters from favoring Schmidt, the national party may worry that the whole Jack Abramoff/Tom DeLay/Bob Ney/dysfunctional House ethics panel ball of wax may do the same in 2006. "