Friday, September 30, 2005

Update on petition demanding DeLay's resignation from Congress

The indicted DeLay had to step down as Majority Leader. But we think he ought to resign from Congress. We launched a petition to force him to resign, and we just crossed 37,000 citizens. Help us reach 40,000 signatures. Sign today!

We're also building a response fund. You can make a donation here to hold DeLay and his allies in Congress accountable.

Lying

I posted earlier what Dan Balz of The Washington Post thought of former Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's recent string of interviews. Now, not only do they appear to have been ill-advised, but also untrue.

The Houston Chronicle reports that DeLay in his press interviews and his legal team seem to be contradicting each other. DeLay said Wednesday night on MSNBC that he was never asked to testify before the grand jury. The jury former says that is not true and the reason that the jury waited until the final day to indict was out of a hope that DeLay would come in to testify.

I have to run to a meeting, but check out what DeLay's own attorney has to say about the situation...

Ignoring advice

David wrote earlier this morning about DeLay's choice of playing to the jury or playing to the public through the press. Dan Balz at The Washington Post has an interesting take on that...

"If his lawyers have advised DeLay not to talk about the case, he has ignored their counsel, giving interviews on television with the frequency of someone who has just won an election rather than one who has just received legal papers," Balz writes today.

Manchester Union-Leader: BOOT DELAY

The conservative Manchester Union-Leader/New Hampshire Sunday News editorialized today that former Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay is bad for the Republican party and must leave office.

They argue that whether or not the indictment has merit, DeLay's argument that Earle is playing politics simply doesn't pass muster.

"If DeLay is right that the indictment was politically motivated, then he has finally received a taste of his own medicine," the editors write. "DeLay has used his position to crush Democrats at every conceivable opportunity, and he has overstepped ethical bounds to do so. DeLay wields power for one purpose: to enrich and empower himself and his allies."


The paper goes on to describe DeLay as "an embarassment as Majority Leader," and say that since House rules have forced the indicted DeLay from leadership, the GOP has a rare opportunity to replace him with someone "more concerned with passing good laws than humiliating his political opponents."

DeLay's defense

The indicted Tom DeLay has a choice. Play to the jury, or play to the public. Think selfishly about his own hide, or try to staunch the political wound cut deep into the Washington establishment he helped to build.

It's clear that he's pursuing the latter.

In fact, he's treating this as a diversion, a fait accompli. He told the New York Times, and I'm sure lots of other news organizations, "When this is over, I go back to being majority leader automatically."

He went on to make some as of yet unsubstantiated claims, saying:

Mr. DeLay said in an interview on CNN that he had evidence to show that the House Democratic leader, Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, and other prominent Democrats had pressured the Travis County district attorney, Ronnie Earle, also a Democrat, to pursue the indictment.

"I'm sure that they worked closely with Ronnie Earle on this strategy," he said, adding that he would make the evidence public "when it's timely."

Now, I'm not privy to what conversations Earle or Pelosi have. But I can't imagine this so-called "evidence" is anything more than public statements Pelosi has issued consistently on DeLay's corruption. If she has done more to try to influence Earle or the grand jury, that's worthy of criticism, investigation, etc. I don't know what the law is around trying to influence a grand jury investigation.

The bigger point is this: DeLay, as the Times' Shenon points out, is "usually far more reluctant than some of his Congressional colleagues to submit to broadcast interviews" and that's because he has a combative, caustic public presence. He doesn't know how to give an inch. He knows no humility in political matters. It is not in his nature to act the least bit contrite.

A court date in October is set for DeLay to enter his plea. They're pushing for a quick trial or dismissal. He's got a few months to figure out how to relate to a jury who hold far more power over his political future than the Republican caucus in Washington. The more he plays to exonerate himself in the press by smearing his opponents, the less he defends himself. Is a jury going to look at Tom DeLay and see a victim or a sympathetic figure? No way. That doesn't mean automatic conviction. But DeLay isn't helping himself.

UPDATE: The trial date isn't set, I've been told... my mistake. The October date is for his plea. I've fixed the error in the post above.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

DeLay Gets His Date in Court

The Associated Press is reporting that former Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay has been ordered to appear in a Texas courtroom the third week in October.

DeLay Makes the Case - Against Himself

Check out the video that Think Progress has up of DeLay's disastrous Fox News interview last night. If this is his "defense," I'd say he's doomed.

Beyond Tom DeLay

There is no end of verbiage about Tom DeLay in today’s editorial pages, but while most of these pieces are good at making zingers about the House Majority Leader, none are calling for major reforms that would guard against future Tom DeLays taking power. The Los Angeles Times comes closest, noting that:


Tom Delay has been so intellectually dishonest for so long that news that he may have been criminally dishonest hardly comes as a surprise. The question now is how much worse the political culture will become before it can get better…

But the real scandal in Washington, as someone once said, isn't what's illegal, it's what's legal. DeLay has practically made a career out of testing the boundaries on ethics — and going far beyond them politically.

However, the LA Times does not offer any specific prescriptions for change. The New York Times, meanwhile, chastises the Republican leadership for “[making] it obvious to everyone that Mr. DeLay would run the show from the wings,” despite the announcement he was leaving his post as House Majority Leader:


The imperious Texan is an increasing embarrassment to his party, turning its majority into an undisguised fountain of patronage and an ideological cudgel while skirting the bounds of campaign law…It's long been clear that the political damage to Mr. DeLay has been self-inflicted. His value as a leader was compromised well before his run-in with the prosecutor in Texas.

The Washington Post calls The Hammer an “ethical recidivist -- unabashed about using his legislative and political power to reward supporters and punish opponents, and brazen in how he links campaign contributions and political actions” but rather lamely concludes that “Whatever happens in the criminal case, perhaps this latest controversy will cause his colleagues to rethink whether he is, in fact, the person they really want as their leader.”

These papers are missing the boat. DeLay shouldn’t just resign from his leadership position, he should also resign from Congress. (Sign our petition here.) But even that isn’t enough. We need comprehensive campaign finance reform that changes the rules of the game so that qualified candidates can mount competitive campaigns against the Tom DeLays of the political world without resorting to taking special interest cash. We need to put voters back in charge, where they belong.

DeLay Indictment News Round-up - Where to Begin?

So much to read this morning!

Former Republican House Majority Leader DeLay's indictment on one count of criminal conspiracy is the lead story in almost all of the nation's newspapers this morning (and some great international coverage too!). The Washington Post headlines their coverage thusly: "Troubled Year Gets Worse for the GOP," and Dan Balz outlines the successful electoral and legislative partnership between DeLay and President Bush. "Bush has been the party's public face, direction-setter and most effective campaigner. But in Washington, DeLay has been an iron force who bent the system to his will and priorities," Balz writes. My how the times have changed. Now, "on almost every front, Republicans see trouble."

DeLay's hometown paper, the Houston Chronicle, has this from DeLay: "Let me be very clear: I have done nothing wrong," DeLay said at a Washington news conference. "I have violated no law, no regulation, no rule of the House." Er, this time...those three admonitions by the House Ethics Committee, eh...

Mary Flood, also of the Chronicle, talks to legal experts who say DeLay "better have a smoking gun." Buck Wood, and Austin lawter who filed a related similar suit on behalf of Democratic congressional candidates said:
"I can't imagine indicting a majority leader of the U.S. House of Representatives without having a smoking gun, and that means someone who flipped on DeLay. He's got to have corroborating evidence, too, bills and things proving where DeLay was at key times."

David Crump, a University of Houston professor, explains what the conspiracy charge means by comparing it to "moonshine cases," in which courts found that people who delivered sugar, knowing it would be used in the production of moonshine, could not be charged with conspiracy.

The Austin-American Statesman has DeLay defending himself and attacking Earle: "This act is the product of a coordinated, premeditated campaign of political retribution, the all-too-predictable result of a vengeful investigation led by a partisan fanatic," DeLay said.

The New York Times has a handy timeline running from DeLay's first term in the house in 1984 up to yesterday's indictment.

Robin Toner at The New York Times strikes a similar chord as Dan Balz, with a headline that reads: "For G.O.P., DeLay indictment adds to a sea of troubles."
"This is not what the Republicans envisioned 11 months ago, when they were returned to office as a powerful one-party government with a big agenda and - it seemed - little to fear from the opposition," she writes.

The Los Angeles Times reports that the GOP lost a "powerful enforcer" when DeLay resigned his post as Majority Leader. The indictment came at a time when the Republican party can least afford it and is "already battered by other ethics controversies, plummeting public confidence and intraparty divisions over budget policy."
Hook and Reynolds get some good quotes from GOP notables.
"It's hard to spin this as anything other than another problem dropped on the pile of troubles our side faces now," GOP pollster Whit Ayres said. "Bad news tends to come in bunches, and we've had a bunch lately."

"It's going to be harder for Republicans to pass whatever it is the Republicans want to pass," said former Rep. Patrick J. Toomey (R-Pa.)

Others appear to be rallying around the shamed former Majority Leader.
"This is the first day of a war," said Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.). "This was a cheap shot against Tom DeLay, and he was indicted because he was majority leader. If we abandon Tom DeLay, we're abandoning ourselves."

The stories go on and on...and I have a feeling this is just getting started.

Rep. Jeb Bradley (R-NH) gives back $15K ARMPAC money

Is this the beginning of a stampede? Should members be pressed to give DeLay's money? That's 225 of them. Wow.

UPDATE: TalkingPointsMemo.com with the same question.

UPDATE 2: You can also put pressure on members of Congress to call on DeLay to resign by signing this petition. 36,277 have signed. Download your own button for your site from the right side, and link it to withoutdelay.org.

CNN on-line poll: Should DeLay resign from Congress?

Scroll down, on the right. As of now, 77% yes, 23% now. Express your own opinion.

News Round-Up

There's a lot of news out there on the DeLay indictment from all sorts of angles. This, folks, is wall-to-wall saturation media coverage.

The big outlets are doing two, three, four parts of this, or some combo of the following themes:

1) the news story; 2) what it means for the GOP; 3) timeline, or how did we get here; 4) editorial and op-eds proclaiming that this is a) good for democracy, or b) bad for democracy; 5) profiles on DeLay; 6) profiles on District Attorney Ronnie Earle; 7) profiles on the new Majority Leader, Roy Blunt; and 8) the schism in the Republican House caucus on the selection of a new majority leader.

Meghan, Nancy and I will help pull together interesting news coverage on this over the next hour or so.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Blunt equals DeLay

Anyone thinking there would be a new era ushered into the Capitol building with the indicted Tom DeLay out and Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri in, is, well, sadly mistaken. From our DeLay Rankings:

Blunt is a mini-DeLay:

  • Voted with DeLay 96.25% of the time (2336 with, 91 against)
  • Received $1,019 from ARMPAC
  • Donated $20,000 to Tom DeLay Legal Expense Trust

Blunt ranked 24th of the 435 members of Congress, almost securing himself a spot in the top five percent,.

Blunt cut from same cloth

AP:

The political committee of Rep. Roy Blunt, who is temporarily replacing Rep. Tom DeLay as House majority leader, has paid roughly $88,000 in fees since 2003 to a consultant under indictment in Texas with DeLay, according to federal records.

Keri Ann Hayes, executive director of the Rely on Your Beliefs Fund, said the organization has been has been satisfied with the work done by Jim Ellis, but has not discussed whether he will be retained.

"We haven't had that conversation," she said. So far, she added, Ellis' indictment had no impact on his work.

"fingerprint and photographed"

The Associated Press has the story about what is next for DeLay, and those few words "fingerprinted and photographed" stuck in my head...

And here's the other passagethat made me think:

DeLay could go to trial in 90 days, which the defense said it favored. "We want a trial right away," DeGuerin said. "We want a trial by the end of the year."


In 90 days, it'll be Christmastime, right?

Why I love ThinkProgress.org

No lying allowed.

Catching the indicted DeLay's hysterics.

Grand jury foreman speaks out

The indicted Tom DeLay (which we will now henceforth label him, until we tire of it) has been swinging at District Attorney Ronnie Earle for months, calling Earle partisan and proclaiming the whole proceedings are about politics. But I just found this great nugget from the long AP story (which allows the indicted Tom DeLay more than equal time, if you ask me):

However, the grand jury's foreman, William Gibson, told The Associated Press that Earle didn't pressure members to indict DeLay. "Ronnie Earle didn't indict him. The grand jury indicted him," Gibson said in an interview at his home.

Gibson, 76, a retired sheriff's deputy, said of DeLay: "He's probably doing a good job. I don't have anything against him. Just something happened."

The Congressman from Philip Morris and UPS

In June 2003 Roy Blunt inserted a provision benefiting Philip Morris in the 475-page bill creating the department of Homeland Security bill, according to a report in the Washington Post. At the time, Blunt had accepted more than $150,000 over just two years from PACs affiliated with the company. (Open Secrets lists Philip Morris as a top lifetime contributor to Blunt here.) According to the Post, the provision would have made it tougher to sell tobacco on the Internet and also would have made tougher laws against the sale of contraband cigarettes, both practices that cut into Philip Morris’ bottom line.

At the time, Blunt’s son worked as a lobbyist for Philip Morris in Missouri. And Blunt himself was involved romantically with Abigail Perlman, a lobbyist for the parent company of Philip Morris, Altria Corp. He later married her.

The same Washington Post article pointed out that in April 2003, Blunt had inserted another provision benefiting donors, this time on behalf of United Parcel Service Inc (UPS) (Blunt’s #9 lifetime donor) and FedEx Corp. This time the bill blocked the expansion of the U.S. operations of a foreign competitor. Blunt’s son represented UPS in Missouri.

In 2002, Broadcasting & Cable reported (text not available online) that the TV and entertainment industries were pouring contributions into Blunt’s campaign coffers, because Blunt, “a member of the Commerce Committee, one of the two key panels for the media industries, will be in position to influence both House leaders and the rank and file on critical legislation….Blunt's favor with Delay and Majority Leader Dick Armey helped broadcasters gain their ear in a successful bid to scale back the FCC's low-power radio service.” "He's been a conduit to leadership on a variety of telecommunications issues, " Jim May, executive vice president of the National Association of Broadcasters, told the magazine.

Who is Roy Blunt? Follow the money...

Check out Roy Blunt's "lifetime profile" from the folks at Open Secrets. First elected in 1996, Blunt has managed to raise nearly $9 million in campaign contributions for his races, 96% of that from business interests. Topping the list of his top lifetime contributors is Edward Jones, a Missouri-based investment firm; Leggett & Platt, a Missouri-based mattress parts manufacturer; Dairy Farmers of America; the National Auto Dealers Association; and the National Association of Realtors. Overall, Blunt the the finance, insurance and real estate sector is the most generous to Blunt, giving him $1.5 million.

More in a bit on Blunt's campaign donors.

Hold the presses on Dreier, looks like Blunt

According to CBS News, House Republicans choose Blunt. Tea leaves? If the GOP chooses someone with a base of support, that's the deathknell for DeLay. Maybe. We'll see.

Oh, the palace intrigue!

Analysis coming on Blunt.

DeLay's future?

David Dreier is new majority leader

Not an enviable position to be in, I don't think.

Dreier has been loyal to DeLay. Gave $5,000 to DeLay's legal defense fund, and voted with him 94.23% of the time, according to our very own DeLay Rankings.

Update on the Without DeLay petition -- close to 36,000 signers.

WaPo Chat Tries to Clear Things Up

Tim Curran, editor of Roll Call, spent some time on a washingtonpost.com chat answering readers' questions about the DeLay indictment earlier this afternoon. Some interesting questions, and answers. Check it out.

PCAF Statement on DeLay Indictment

STATEMENT BY DAVID DONNELLY, PUBLIC CAMPAIGN ACTION FUND ON DELAY INDICTMENT

Calls on DeLay to resign from Congress; Leaving leadership does not go far enough


Washington, DC – Public Campaign Action Fund, a nonpartisan watchdog group, called on Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay to resign from Congress, not simply step down from his leadership post, following news of his indictment on a conspiracy charge by a grand jury in Texas. The reform group issued the following statement by its national campaigns director, David Donnelly:

“Some Americans might be tempted to cheer today, but let’s strip this down to its essence: We are witnessing an historic event. One of the most powerful politicians in America was indicted today because he conspired to subvert the democratic process – a conspiracy that used illegal corporate money to buy elections, and ultimately led to the disenfranchisement of tens of thousands of voters in Texas.

“We know that Tom DeLay must now resign from his leadership post. And that’s the result of intense public pressure on the Republican Congress to overturn a rule that was specially crafted last fall to protect DeLay in exactly this situation. But that’s not enough. He is a national embarrassment and a walking scandal.

“The former Majority Leader no longer deserves the privilege of serving in the House of Representatives. His colleagues should join our demand that he resign.”

Public Campaign Action Fund is a national, nonpartisan watchdog organization that has led the charge for greater accountability among House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and other corrupt members of Congress, and works to advance comprehensive campaign finance reform.

--
If you haven't already signed our petition demanding that DeLay resign, please do so here now. If you have, please consider making a contribution of $25, $50, or $100 to our rapid response fund to make sure this story is heard far and wide.

more on indictment

Here is the AP story.

BREAKING NEWS: DeLay is Indicted

CNN is reporting that embattled Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay has been indicted on one count of criminal conspiracy by a grand jury in Travis County, Texas.

Per House ethics rules, DeLay is now required to resign his leadership post. Stay tuned for more details...

Developing... Conspiracy charges against DeLay?

Developing... Stay tuned here all day, folks. There's a growing buzz out of Austin since last night about today's wrap up of the grand jury in Travis County surrounding DeLay's TRMPAC. I'll be in New York City most of the day, but Meghan will be following developments. Drop me an email [ddonnelly at campaignmoney dot org] with any thoughts, ideas, interesting tidbuts, etc. -- I'll be getting email, or leave a comment below.

Here are two things you can do while you wait for more news:

1. Sign our petition to demand DeLay's resignation, and tell your friends to do the same.

2. Make a donation to a fund we're establishing to help advance this story if DeLay is named as a co-conspirator, indicted or unindicted, today. You can get help us get a critical jumpstart.

Here's how the Associated Press opens its story:

The Texas grand jury investigating House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's state political organization was completing its term Wednesday after demonstrating a recent interest in conspiracy charges that could bring more indictments.

Lawyers with knowledge of the case said the DeLay defense team was concerned that the Travis County grand jury might consider counts of conspiracy to violate the state election code.

Their concern was triggered when similar charges were handed down two weeks ago in an expanded indictment against two DeLay political associates. The associates were accused of conspiring to violate the state election code by using corporate donations for illegal purposes.

House GOP rules require any member of the elected leadership to step down temporarily if indicted, and it would be up to the rank and file to select an interim replacement. Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., could make a recommendation, whether choosing to elevate another member of the leadership or tapping an alternative to reduce the possibility of a struggle if DeLay were cleared and then sought to reclaim his post.

The Associated Press spoke to several lawyers familiar with the case, all of whom requested anonymity because they were not authorized to comment publicly. DeLay, R-Texas, said Tuesday that prosecutors have interviewed him. He has insisted he committed no crimes and says Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, a Democrat, was pursuing the case for political reasons.

Before the recent conspiracy counts, the investigation was more narrowly focused on the state election code. By expanding the charges to include conspiracy, prosecutors made it possible for the grand jury to bring charges against DeLay. Otherwise, the grand jury would have lacked jurisdiction under state laws.

Asked Tuesday what he had heard of any late developments, DeLay said Tuesday, "Not a word."


Also interesting is the palace intrigue that is perculating beneath the surface in the GOP caucus. Expect some fissures to widen. DeLay's recent comments about "ongoing victory" in controlling federal spending angered House conservatives, so look for someone from the Republican Study Group (Mike Pence?) to make a move for a coveted leadership post if DeLay is named today. Here's a snippet from the AP story:

House GOP rules require any member of the elected leadership to step down temporarily if indicted, and it would be up to the rank and file to select an interim replacement. Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., could make a recommendation, whether choosing to elevate another member of the leadership or tapping an alternative to reduce the possibility of a struggle if DeLay were cleared and then sought to reclaim his post.


Do you remember why House rules require a member step down? Because we and others organized after the 2004 elections to prevent the Republicans from repealing the "DeLay rule" and they backed down. We can shape this debate the same way.

UPDATE: Again, adding to his already well-established body of solid reporting, Laylan Copeland of the Austin American Statesman has a good round up of the legal issues in this morning's paper. Go read it...

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Developing Story - Stay Tuned

Three men have been arrested in Florida and charged with the murder of former SunCruz Casino owner Konstantinos "Gus" Boulis. For regular readers of this blog, those names will ring a bell. Disgraced lobbyist and DeLay pal Jack Abramoff purchased SunCruz Casinos before Boulis' gang-land style murder in February of 2001. He and his associates even went so far as to get embattled Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) to insert remarks into the Congressional Record.

One of those arrested was Anthony Moscatiello, whom we tried to ask Rep. Bob Ney about back in May and received no response. Keep an eye on The Miami Herald for more information soon.

"Republicans will defend taxpayers" (Who live off their dividends)

The Washington Times, September 14, 2005: "House Majority Leader Tom DeLay said yesterday that Republicans have done so well in cutting spending that he declared an 'ongoing victory,' and said there is simply no fat left to cut in the federal budget...Asked if that meant the government was running at peak efficiency, Mr. DeLay said, 'Yes, after 11 years of Republican majority we've pared it down pretty good.'"


The Washington Times, Sept. 26, 2005: "We need to drag this woodpile of wasteful spending that is buried in the federal budget out into the light and throw it onto the scrap heap," Tom DeLay wrote.

Um. Okay. So we thought maybe, after being called to the carpet by conservative columnists and members of his own party, that DeLay might feel the need to defend his comments.

Instead, it looks as though he's decided to pretend those words were never uttered. What else could explain the 180?

Oh wait...he goes on: "[O]ur party must also trumpet our accomplishments. So far this year, the House-passed appropriations bills have cut 98 low-priority programs."

Mr. DeLay, would you please e-mail us a list of those 98 low-priority programs? We're just wondering if New Orleans levees were on that list. 'Cause, I mean, obviously payouts to the oil industry and credit card companies and tax breaks for the wealthiest one percent -- all groups who have given generously to your campaigns in the past -- are pretty high priorities for you, so we're just wondering what you would consider "low-priority." Thanks.

Friday, September 23, 2005

More Abramoff details

The Washington Post's Jeffrey Smith has this as a lede (emphasis added):

Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff bragged two years ago that he was in contact with White House political aide Karl Rove on behalf of a large, Bermuda-based corporation that wanted to avoid incurring some taxes and continue receiving federal contracts, according to a written statement by President Bush's nominee to be deputy attorney general.

Timothy E. Flanigan, general counsel for conglomerate Tyco International Ltd., said in a statement to the Senate Judiciary Committee last week that Abramoff's lobbying firm initially boasted that Abramoff could help Tyco fend off a special liability tax because he "had good relationships with members of Congress," including House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.).

Abramoff later said "he had contact with Mr. Karl Rove" about the issue, according to the statement by Flanigan, who oversaw Tyco's dealings with Abramoff and his firm and received reports from Abramoff about progress in the lobbying campaign. Flanigan's statement is the latest indication that Abramoff promoted himself as having ready access to senior officials in the Bush administration.


Lest anyone forget, Tyco's former chairman Dennis Koslowski left under an ethical shower curtain, er, cloud.

Just keeps getting better and better.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Hurricane Rita

With all the news of evacuations from Galveston and the greater Houston area, I want to wish all Daily DeLay readers from that region safe passage and our thoughts and prayers are with the people of the region as they prepare for what is potentially a devastating hurricane.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Are we there yet?

Crooks and Liars has CNN's Jack Cafferty asking, "Has he been indicted yet?"

Reminds me of my kids in the backseat of the car.

Operation Corruption

Tom DeLay and the Republicans, shamed by DeLay’s comments that the federal budget was "pared down pretty good," have come forward with “Operation Offset” to propose a number of cuts to help pay for hurricane relief. The New York Times’ Carl Hulse covers it this morning, listing the following items as ones on the chopping block:

At the top of a partial list of the potential cuts being circulated on Tuesday were previously suggested ideas like delaying the start of the new Medicare prescription drug coverage for one year to save $31 billion and eliminating $25 billion in projects from the newly enacted transportation measure.

The list also proposed eliminating the Moon-Mars initiative that NASA announced on Monday, for $44 billion in savings; ending support for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, $4 billion; cutting taxpayer payments for the national political conventions and the presidential election campaign fund, $600 million; and charging federal employees for parking, $1.54 billion.

What’s not on the list?

Before the list was made public, Representative Tom DeLay of Texas, the House majority leader, declared that delaying the Medicare plan was a nonstarter. Mr. DeLay also expressed skepticism that most lawmakers would want to revisit the transportation bill, saying he would be reluctant to sacrifice the projects that he won for his district in the Houston area.

"My earmarks are pretty important to building an economy in that region," Mr. DeLay said of the local projects he backed in the bill. A watchdog group said those items totaled more than $114 million.

Mr. DeLay said Republicans would press ahead this year with their planned tax cuts, though Treasury Secretary John W. Snow told a trade association on Tuesday that some tax measures might have to be delayed, including a repeal of the estate tax and the effort to make permanent some cuts instituted earlier in the Bush administration.

Figures.

I predict that much of the fight over the next few weeks will center around two of these items: Republicans' use of the disaster to attempt to eliminate funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, something they’ve fought for in good economic times and bad; and the fight over making Bush’s tax cuts permanent. These are important fights to win for the public interest.

Meanwhile, DeLay will see to it that NASA won’t get hurt too much – it is in his district, and with the Majority Leader facing the race of his life, he’s turned into a “bring home the bacon” congressman. So much so that he’s just earned Co-Porker of the Month from Citizens Against Government Waste.

The $114 million for his district won’t get touched either. Nor will the $1.5 billion giveaway in the energy bill that is likely to go to a consortium in DeLay’s district – a consortium of oil companies and research institutions, including Halliburton.

But what is still left on the chopping block is that thin veil of protection that keeps presidential elections and national conventions from being wholly-owned by wealthy interests – the $600 million for the presidential public financing system. Isn’t it amazing that with all we’re seeing in wake of Katrina – the cronyism run rampant, the arrest of a top Bush official for aiding lobbyists and foreign clients, the priorities of this Republican Congress to seek to protect tax cuts for the wealthy – the response of the Republicans is to propose an elimination of Watergate era reforms? Now, I’m not one to say that this presidential system is perfect. It’s far from it.

Yet, with the rampant corruption in this Congress – DeLay, Ney, and Cunningham examples leap to mind – shouldn’t we be looking to improve and expand our campaign finance laws along the lines of reform laws found in Maine, Arizona, Vermont, North Carolina, New Mexico, and Portland, Oregon?

By heading the opposite direction, the Republicans, should they succeed, will bring on another flood – this one of special interest money – in the 2008 elections.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Oink that

This little piggie should go home. For good.

Citizens Against Government Waste Names Reps. Tom DeLay and Don Young Co-Porkers of the Month

WASHINGTON, Sept. 20 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) today named House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) and Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Don Young (R-Alaska) Co-Porkers of the Month for their response to requests to offset the costs of Hurricane Katrina relief. According to a Sept. 14 Washington Times article, Rep. DeLay declared an "ongoing victory" in the effort to cut spending, and that the Republicans had "pared (the government) down pretty good." While claiming to be receptive to proposed offsets, DeLay said that "nobody has been able to come up with any yet."

Read the whole oinking press release. Will the co-porkers respond? I oinking hope so.

260 days

Democracy 21's press release announces that Congress convened 260 days ago and still the House Ethics Committee is not operating as it should.

What does this mean? It means that any ethics investigation into Tom DeLay's scandals will happen closer to next November's election, and there will be political pressure to whitewash the results, delay the findings, lump it all together with going after other members, or sweep it under the rug.

DeLay's "Waterloo"

Well, it looks like the "Gang of 500," who fancies itself so ahead of the curve, is finally catching on to what we've known for the past year. Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay is in serious trouble.

ABC News' The Note has this today:

"Still, there is a growing emperor's-new-clothes sensibility to the words of some conservatives — still mostly quietly. More loudly, Exhibit A today is Brendan Miniter's opinionjournal.com essay, which takes the Republican Party to task for bringing back the welfare state. It leads with Leader DeLay's Waterloo quote about the lack of excess spending in the federal budget. It also predicts doom and gloom for 2006 and 2008 if something doesn't change and quick."


Miniter's writes that "Hurricane Katrina has peeled back the lid on Republican rule and many Americans aren't happy with what they see." In the wake of Katrina, he says, Republicans in Congress have brought back the welfare state, at a time when their leader is claiming victory over budget pork. Katrina only exposed the problem, but, Miniter argues, Republicans have been "kidding themselves for years" that they are the party of small government and fiscal conservatism.

Contrary to what DeLay said, the money is still being spent. The budget is more bloated than ever. But...it's not being spent on the people or infrastructure or disaster relief and prevention. It's not being spent where it should be. It's being paid out in paybacks to oil companies. It's being spent in payoffs to credit card companies and big donors. The mismanagement we saw in Katrina's wake was a direct result of cronyism and the style of pay-to-play politics that have become all too common.

The conservative Wall Street Journal goes so far as to say:

"What we're seeing in the wake of Katrina is that despite all the winks and assurances to the contrary as they passed the energy and transportation bills, Republicans in Congress don't know how to control spending and are at a loss as to why they even should. That's one way to govern. But if Republicans no longer believe in smaller government, why not put the Democrats back in charge?"

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Ooohhh, Rush Says It was a Joke!

Under the headline "Everyone falls for DeLay Rope-a-Dope," Rush Limbaugh explains that, you know, all that stuff Republican Majority Leader Tom DeLay said yesterday about the budget being pared down, that was just a joke. That no one else got.

(You can see the story Rush is talking about in David's earlier posting.)

"So everywhere I've gone today, Republicans think DeLay's lost his mind...I was getting instant messages and flashed e-mails all morning, 'What's wrong with DeLay?'" Limbaugh said. "And I said, 'Absolutely nothing. DeLay is pulling a Rush Limbaugh on everybody here.' And let me explain it to you this way."

Apprently, Rush thinks that DeLay was speaking sarcastically; "it's a mock display of throwing up his arms in frustration."

Rush goes on to say he thinks it's "funny" and "fascinating how no one gets it."

Huh. Maybe he can explain the humor in what DeLay said to those boys in the Astrodome. Or that really funny time when DeLay called the response to Hurricane Katrina a "phenomenal accomplishment." Or how about those hysterical indictments of his PAC? The ethics violations - a RIOT!

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

DeLay More Concerned with Partisan Divides than the Truth

Democrats in Congress have asked for an independent panel, similar to that which investigated the events of September 11, to look into what went wrong in the federal government's bungled response to Hurricane Katrina.

Embattled House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, however, has "shrugged off" those proposals, according to the Houston Chronicle. Speaking to reporters, DeLay "mocked" Democrats who have said they will boycott the panel unless its composition is altered.

Apparently, the GOP's image is more important to DeLay than uncovering the truth to prevent future tragedies of this magnitude.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi responded to DeLay's dismissal, saying "the truth is not obtained by having two Republicans go in a room and decide how it's going to be obtained. This Congress has a record of obstruction when it comes to oversight of the administration," she said. "They know serious mistakes have been made."

Of course, it would seem, based on DeLay's previous comments and conversation with three little boys now homeless and living in a sports complex, that maybe he thinks nothing went wrong?

Drowned

Much has been made about Grover Norquist's famous utterance that conservatives ought to reduce the size of government so much that you could drown it in a bathtub.

At these times, when we have seen the human suffering caused by the success of this ideological agenda, Tom DeLay's statement in the Washington Times this morning should be seen in all of its candor and callousness:

Asked if that meant the government was running at peak efficiency, Mr. DeLay said, "Yes, after 11 years of Republican majority we've pared it down pretty good."

Do you think victims of Katrina believe that the government has been "pared... down pretty good" and is running at peak efficiency?

I've said it before, I'll say it again, Tom DeLay is a national embarrassment and ought to resign.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Wow.

The Houston Chronicle launched a blog from the Houston Astrodome, where thousands of New Orleans residents, displaced by Hurricane Katrina, are being sheltered.

In the latest blog posting, the writer recounts an unbelievable conversation between Republican Majority Leader Tom DeLay and three boys currently living in the Astrodome.

"DeLay stopped to chat with three young boys resting on cots.

The congressman likened their stay to being at camp and asked, 'Now tell me the truth boys, is this kind of fun?'

They nodded yes, but looked perplexed."


Katie Schleiper, special to the Daily DeLay, responded: "...DeLay then gave each boy a firm handshake and said 'Now, I hear that all you evacuees will be receiving $2,000 in disaster relief money and let me tell you the best way to get some relief in THIS town is a little contribution to my PAC. Believe me, I can make things happen for you. You like casinos?'"

Disaster, According to DeLay

Glenn Smith of DriveDemocracy.org hit the Hammer on the head with a post at Blogging of the President. Think about the difference between the federal response to DeLay's request that Texas lawmakers get tracked down in Oklahoma versus the federal response, and DeLay's, to Hurricane Katrina. In Glenn's words:

What could make it clearer that the getting and keeping of political power is all that matters to these craven fools? With this ethos, saving lives is secondary to the appearance of saving lives. Isn't that exactly what we've seen?

To them, the functions of government are irrelevant beyond their usefulness in lining their pockets and enhancing their power. This is, of course, the very character of tinhorn totalitarians: use Big Government to reward your cronies, punish your enemies, ignore the needs of the people, and eventually destroy the middle class by looting the treasury.

These two little stories betray the real priorities of the Bush/DeLay GOP -- as if we needed more proof. But many do need such evidence. Too many Americans live in an "it can't happen here" world. "Bush may screw up, but he means well."

No, these people don't mean well. They mean to do exactly what they do. And what they mean to do begins and ends with their own power. The rest of us are irrelevant.

On to Fort Bend County?

Read this excerpt from R.G. Ratcliffe's Houston Chronicle article this morning about directions the TRMPAC case could take:

But Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle hinted that he might have indicted DeLay if the congressional leader had fallen under his jurisdiction. Because DeLay lives in Sugar Land, jurisdiction under Texas election law would fall to Fort Bend County District Attorney John Healey Jr.

"One problem we have, as you know, is with certain individuals (and) has to do with jurisdiction," Earle said.

Earle declined to say whether he had referred any information to Healey. Healey was not available for comment.

Jurisdiction

In all the stories, predictions, and hopes regarding the Ronnie Earle investigation into Tom DeLay's conduct in the 2002 Texas state legislative elections, there is one line I was worried about someday reading. From the AP story on yesterday's indictment of TRMPAC:

District Attorney Ronnie Earle, a Democrat, said he had no jurisdiction over Mr. DeLay's personal conduct.


Earle is district attorney in Travis County. He has wide latitude in investigating the actions of state elected officials because they work in Austin, which is in Travis. DeLay neither works nor lives there. He is a resident of Fort Bend County, and would have had to have been accused of committed a crime in Travis to be indicted by Earle's grand jury.

This doesn't mean DeLay is not guilty. It means the legal strategy may have to change. More later.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

From ThinkProgress.org: DeLay on the House Floor

Turns my stomach. Yours? Maybe he's trying to divert everyone's attention from his PAC's indictment today with an outrageous statement.

This from American Progress's ThinkProgress.org blog:

Speaking on the floor of the House an hour ago, Tom DeLay evaluated the response to Hurricane Katrina:

It's easy to be a Monday morning quarterback, but you should have been in that control room where those people were making life and death decisions, people that stayed up and got no sleep and very little food for five to six days straight trying to make the right decisions to save people. What happens when we come up here? They point the finger. You didn't make the right decision here. You didn't take care of my aides there. You didn't do this. You didn't do that. The point is if you look at the big picture, it's a phenomenal accomplishment by everybody involved. It's unbelievable. I am constantly struck by where we are today just a little over a week from the worst catastrophe that this country has seen.

Indictments Handed Down for DeLay's PAC

Embattled Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's Texans for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee (TRMPAC) and the Texas Association of Business (TAB) have been indicted on charges of illegally using corporate money to fund Republican legislative campaigns in 2002.

According to the Austin-American Statesman, this morning's indictments include 128 counts against the business group and two against the political action committee.

TRMPAC is charged with two counts of "illegally accepting corporate donations, including $100,000 from the Washington, D.C.-based Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care."

Last fall, three TRMPAC officials were indicted by a separate grand jury for using $600,000 of corporate cash on committee activities.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

DeLay will "absolutely not" cut gas taxes

Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay said yesterday that Congress will "absolutely not" roll back the federal gasoline tax in an effort to make gas more affordable. He said that Congress is looking at other ways to increase supply and lower sky-high gas prices.

"There's a lot of things that would increase supply which is incredibly important in order to hold down the price and have the price go down," DeLay said.


Hmmmm. Like NOT giving billions of dollars in tax breaks to his friends and big donors in the oil industry, maybe? Just a thought.

DeLay Plays the Blame Game

Embattled House Majority Leader Tom DeLay yesterday blamed local and state officials for the slow response in getting much-needed aid to storm-ravaged New Orleans, saying that the emergency response system was designed to work "from the bottom up."

"It's the local officials trying to handle the problem. When they can't handle the problem, they go to the state, and the state does what they can to, and if they need assistance from FEMA and the federal government they ask for it and it's delivered," DeLay said.


Um, perhaps DeLay didn't see any pictures of New Orleans on Tuesday. Or Wednesday. Maybe he believed what FEMA Chief Mike Brown said. Maybe he didn't realize in all of the devastation that communications networks all over the state were down.

He did mention, in a typical partisan fashion, that the Republican governors of Mississippi and Alabama did a better job responding to the crisis, according to CNN.