Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Blah blah blah

The President unequivocally supported DeLay on national TV a month and a half ago, even after DeLay's indictments. Do we believe him tonight?

A hopeful society expects elected officials to uphold the public trust. Honorable people in both parties are working on reforms to strengthen the ethical standards of Washington – and I support your efforts. Each of us has made a pledge to be worthy of public responsibility – and that is a pledge we must never forget, never dismiss, and never betray.

Does he think Tom DeLay upheld the public trust?

Do you see what I see?

The chamber, bought and sold.

Don't forget the SOTU-DeLay...

...drinking game!

And a shot of DeLay

Hanging out with Trent Lott. Lots in common there.

Who else will dare to be seen with him?

UPDATE: Yes, that's a sip of Bacardi, with vodka -- he was smiling!

And, over at the Daily Muck...and Think Progress

Paul Kiel has a good blog post on the troubles of Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA), who, it turns out, wrote letters on behalf of two Indian gaming tribes to Interior Secretary Gale Norton. Both tribes, one from Iowa, one from Massachusetts, both pretty far away from California, were clients of Jack Abramoff's. Doolittle, who claims to be anti-gambling, is stonewalling. The Sacramento Bee, (login required) meanwhile, reports that thirteen months after Doolittle wrote his letter on behalf of the Iowa tribe, it made a $5,000 contribution to Doolittle.

Kiel also has some verbiage on Tom DeLay's interview with Chris Matthews last night. Think Progress blogs on the same, showing how Mathews lets DeLay get away with glossing over just how his junkets were financed. DeLay claims the funding came from a "legitimate conservative organization." But DeLay's airfare was charged to Abramoff's American Express card! Of course House ethics rules bar lawmakers from accepting gifts of travel from registered lobbyists.

State of the Union Drinking Game -- DeLay Edition

Early press reports say President Bush's speech is likely take him about 24 minutes to deliver, but to expect the whole address to last an hour while Members of Congress and assorted dignitaries interrupt to applaud their favorite lines.

To help you enjoy the evening, we've prepared our first ever "State of the Union Drinking Game--DeLay Edition." Here are the rules (feel free to add your own):

1. Every time President Bush uses the word "lobbying reform," chug a beer.

2. Whenever the camera shows Tom DeLay, take a sip of Bacardi in honor of the $20,000 in corporate money that Bacardi USA illegally gave to his Texas PAC.

3. If DeLay is smiling, add some Russian vodka in honor of the $1million his U.S. Family Network charity received from Russian oil and gas tycoons, allegedly to buy his vote on an International Monetary Fund loan to Russia.

4. If DeLay coughs, take a swig of beer, in honor of his friend David Rehr, formally a lobbyist for the National Beer Wholesalers Association. Under Rehr’s influence, DeLay tried to block tougher drunk driving laws back in 2000.

5. If you see either Rep. Roy Blunt or Rep. John Boehner shaking hands with their colleagues, in their last-minute push for votes to succeed DeLay as Majority Leader, light up a smoke in honor of their work for Big Tobacco (Blunt attempted to slip tobacco-friendly language into the Homeland Security bill; Boehner once actually handed out campaign checks from tobacco interests on the House floor).

6. If the President actually mentions Jack Abramoff by name, try not to choke on a pretzel.

Remember, drink as responsibly as Members of Congress fundraise.

Just don't get drunk on power.

Inside Baseball

If you want an inside baseball account of leadership race campaigning check out this story in today's New York Times, which reports on Blunt, Boehner, and Shadegg stumping among conservative House members. There's talk--and denial--of any trading of favors for votes. The election, implies the paper of record, may come down to personality. Each candidate, apprently, has "stiles and perspectives that play to certain constituencies."

Nothing at all here about substance of the candidates involved, about how they each are pros at pay-to-play politics, how they are practitioners of DeLayism.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Rich Lowry is wrong ... and right

Over at National Review, Rich Lowry says John Shadegg is the reformer in the Majority Leader race:

Underdog Shadegg, a member of the historic class of 1994, has no inside advantages whatsoever. He has only a clean image, a serious commitment to reform, and a refreshing insistence that the GOP get back to its government-limiting basics. He offers a fresh start.

Wrong (flash).

But he is right about Roy Blunt ("Blunt has run the oldest possible old-style campaign. His appeal is partly based on the money and favors he’s given other members of Congress, and on pressure to be with the winner.") and John Boehner ("he is a practiced K Street player").

Blunt (flash)

Boehner (flash)

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Majority Leader election in the era of DeLay

Our partners at Public Campaign and allies at Campaign for America's Future have teamed up to release three online videos lampooning the leadership election in the House.

Watch them here.

There is a need in this Congress to address systemic reforms, not just do window-dressing. The GOP looks headed toward using a new leadership election to proclaim a break from the DeLay legacy. But they cannot wipe away DeLay-ism with a new election. They have to change the rules of the game to prevent those addicted to and drunk with power from repeating DeLay's disgraceful big money agenda.

I particularly enjoyed this USA Today editorial on the issue, which is best summed up by this passage:

The leadership race demonstrates how Congress' corrupt culture extends beyond DeLay and Abramoff. Those who rise to the top tend to be the smoothest practitioners of the system: corporate lobbyists provide money and perks to gain access and legislative favors, and lawmakers use the money to win campaigns and earn colleagues' fealty.

It's a seamy game Republicans certainly didn't invent, but one at which the two leading contenders for majority leader excel. Blunt and Boehner are both calling for changes, but it's hard to take them seriously when they're so much a part of the problem...


Blunt and Boehner have their chances to respond, but after being skewered by the editorial, it's hard to take them seriously, particularly Blunt. Just take a look at FiredUpMissouri to get a taste.

Photograph Company President that "scrubbed" Abramoff photo with Bush gave to Bush

Josh has a post in which he interviews the President of Reflections Photography on why their photos of Abramoff and Bush are no longer available. From his post:

But early this afternoon, I decided to take one more go at Reflections. I talked to company president Joanne Amos. We went back and forth over various questions about whether photographs at the site were available to the public and why some had been removed. When she, at length, asked me who it was in the picture with the president. I told her we believed it was Jack Abramoff.

Amos very straightforwardly told me that the photographs had been removed and that they had been removed because they showed Abramoff and the president in the same picture. The photos were, she told me, "not relevant."

When I asked her who had instructed her to remove the photos, she told me she was the president of the company. She did it. It was "her business decision" to remove the photographs. She told me she had done so within the last month.


Business decision. Yeah, I bet. Here's the real reason:

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, Amos gave $2,000 to Bush in 2003 and $2,000 to the RNC in 2004.

She's a Republican donor helping sweep this under the rug.

UPDATE: Yes, she's making a "business decision." But did anyone at the White House point out to Amos that it would be a good business decision to remove it?

UPDATE II: You know, normally it's the politicians doing the favors for the donors, not the other way around. But here's a donor who wants to keep her business with the White House, so she's doing them a favor. A big one. This certainly is a microcosm -- a mini one with the small money involved -- that speaks volumes about how this Abramoff scandal is a campaign finance one, not simply a lobbying one, and why Congress needs to take up serious real including Clean Elections-style public financing of elections.

UPDATE III: Okay, from commenter Earl below, courtesy of Fundrace.org, looks like a total of $4,000 to the RNC and $2,000 to the Bush campaign from Joanne Amos, and $4,150 to the RNC and $2,000 to the Bush campaign from Steven Amos, who I believe is Joanne's brother and business partner. (Earl had double counted some donations below, I think.) That's a total of $12,150 from the Amos/Reflections Photography family. Pretty soon, we'll be adding up to real money.

George Will on DeLay's Defiance

Tom DeLay is defiant in the face of criticism and scandal, writes George Will in today's Washington Post. We knew that, but it's still interesting to read just how defiant he is.

"I'm very proud of [the K Street Project]," he told Will, of the plan he fashioned after the GOP takeover in the mid-1990s to bully Washington trade associations and lobbying firms to hire Republicans and get rid of Democrats.

And he's not sorry about all those earmarks, either. Will points out that:

Congress under Republican control has increased earmarks 873 percent in a decade and validated the axiom that the more solicitous government becomes, the more servile it seems and the more scorn it receives. Congress has not been so unpopular since 1994, when Democrats lost their 40-year grip on the House.

But

To a visiting columnist who waxes censorious about earmarks for highway projects, DeLay responds with a notable lack of repentance: "You just drove out on one."

The world according to Tom DeLay: If I do it, it must be good.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

More subpoenas

Ronnie Earle has issued subpoenas surrounding donations to DeLay and former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA), who recently plead guilty to accepting bribes for government business and other favors, reports the AP.

The subpoenas center on a San Diego-based company called PerfectWave Technologies, run by Brent Wilkes, who has ties to both DeLay and Cunningham. According to the documents, PerfectWave received a check from another businessman. Two days later, it sent $15,000 to a Texas political group involved in DeLay's case. Another $25,000 went to a charity event for Cunningham.


Naked Pix of Abramoff and Bush Found :)

New photos showing President George W. Bush and disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff "totally naked" surfaced today according to the satirist Andy Borowitz.

The photos, published yesterday in Payboy, a magazine devoted to naked pictures of disgraced lobbyists, appeared to fly in the face of the President’s claims that he had never met Mr. Abramoff.

The five photos, which appear to have been taken on five different occasions, show the two naked men smiling and shaking hands.

“The fact that they are smiling and shaking hands proves that they know each other,” said Davis Logsdon, the magazine’s photo editor. ...

“These naked pictures of the president and Jack Abramoff are nothing out of the ordinary,” Mr. McClellan says. “In the course of his daily schedule, the President oses nude with dozens of dignitaries.”

Mr. McClellan said that the American people “would have no problem believing” that Mr. Bush posed naked with Mr. Abramoff on five different occasions without actually knowing who he was.

Which leads us to ask...does Mr. McClellan mean "know" in a biblical sense?

ba da bump.

Of course, we only read "Payboy" for the articles.

ba da bump again.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Adweek Covers Tom DeLay Ad

Adweek covers Houston TV stations' turnabout in deciding to air the DeLay ad.

Bush and Abramoff Caught on Camera

It's been floating around the blogosphere these past few days and now the White House has finally confirmed it: photos exist of either President George W. Bush with Jack Abramoff or the president with Abramoff's children. The photos were taken at a White House Hannukah party. Why did the White House finally admit that the photos were out there? Says the New York Times:

The general assumption in Washington was that celebrity tabloids would eventually buy and publish the photographs as the unforgettable images of a scandal that Mr. Bush's aides have been anxious to keep outside the White House gates.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Earle Wants US Family Network Contribution Records

Today Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle subpoenaed Robert G. Mills, a former campaign manager for Rep. Tom DeLay, reports the AP. He's seeking information about a 1999 $500,000 political contribution from the National Republican Congressional Committee to the U.S. Family Network. Many of Jack Abramoff's clients were directed to contribute to the conservative group.

Here's Tom DeLay crowing to Pittsburgh Tribune Review columnist Salena Zito:

For all the hand-wringing people do about partisan politics, the fact of the matter is that the redistricting process pretty accurately reflects the will of the people. It can be nasty and partisan, but it works, just as the Founders imagined it would.

I can see it now: Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, George Washington, John Adams, the whole crew of 'em, in a huddle.

Tom: "Let's make illegal campaign contributions the cornerstone of redistricting!"

Ben: "Huzza huzza!"

Hmmph.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

No longer banned in Houston



After close to 50,000 emails from our members and members of Campaign for America's Future to four Houston TV stations, our ad is running in DeLay's congressional district. Read about it here and here.

The ad contains all the same information from the previous ad that TV stations rejected under pressure from Tom DeLay and his DC lawyers. But, in the end, we won, and the public in DeLay's district will know more about his corrupt pay-to-play politics.


Friday, January 20, 2006

Texas Prosecutors Digging Around California

Texas prosecutors who have charged DeLay with campaign finance law violations are digging deeper and trying to piece together a $15,000 contribution to TRMPAC from a California based defense contractor--the same contractor that bought disgraced former Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham. This is what the prosecutors are looking for:

"On Thursday, Travis County prosecutors dug deeper into the Southern California connections to DeLay and Texans for a Republican Majority political action committee, subpoenaing a second round of records of any 'negotiations or agreements' that prompted the donation. They also asked for any communications about pending federal legislation that would have affected the firm."

Read more at the Austin American-Statesman.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Prosecutors Seek to Revive DeLay Conspiracy Charge

Prosecutors are seeking to revive a criminal conspiracy charge against Rep. Tom DeLay, reports the AP. They want the 3rd Court of Appeals to reconsider the decision of State District Judge Pat Priest to dismiss a charge of conspiracy to violate state election law.

Nobody Wants to Talk About the Elephant in the Room

This week has been a big one for lobby reform, with Congressional Republicans releasing their draft plans for lobbying reform and the Democrats following suit yesterday. Notably absent from all these proposals is any mention of public financing of elections, or, frankly, any mention of campaign finance reform at all. It's as if nobody wants to talk about the proverbial elephant in the room. Instead the list of lobbying reforms includes things like prohibiting travel paid by outside groups, tigheteing the gift ban, extending the prohibition on lobbying for former lawmakers and aides to two years, etc., etc. Worthy goals all, although there is a big fat loophole in all the variants of the travel prohibitions, as Jeffrey Birbaum wrote in yesterday's Washington Post:

According to lobbyists and ethics experts, even if Hastert's proposal is enacted, members of Congress and their staffs could still travel the world on an interest group's expense and eat steak on a lobbyist's account at the priciest restaurants in Washington.

The only requirement would be that whenever a lobbyist pays the bill, he or she must also hand the lawmaker a campaign contribution. Then the transaction would be perfectly okay.

Hmmph. Birnbaum, in his wisdom, also points out the same glaring omission we do:

A third major area -- campaign finance laws -- would go untouched, an omission that amounts to a gaping loophole in efforts to distance lobbyists from the people they are paid to influence.

Another pundit clued into the myopia of the reform solutions being put forth is the New Republic's John Judis. In a piece titled, "Why Lobbying Reform Won't Work,"he writes:

Some of these [lobbying] measures certainly have merit, but, by themselves, they aren't going to prevent the kinds of problems that have engulfed Congress over the last 40 years. That's because the excesses of Abramoff and DeLay--like those of the Nixon administration in the early 1970s and House Democrats in the early 1990s--are an outgrowth of a flawed system of campaign finance.

and

The clean-money approach would fund primary candidates who meet a threshold by raising local contributions and would then fund the general-election candidates. Candidates accepting public funds in the general election could not accept private funds, but if an opponent relying on private funds threatens to outspend them, they can receive additional matching funds. They can also receive matching funds if they are targeted by issue ads from an outside group.

Hear, hear, Judis! He keeps going...(comments in brackets)
Publicly financed campaigns are, of course, a hard sell. They were adopted in Arizona and Connecticut in the wake of major scandals. [Excuse me, Mr. Judis, but surely the DeLay-Abramoff scandals are also major scandals?] And voters in Missouri and Oregon have voted down public financing proposals. [Although the Portland, Oregon City Council recently approved what it calls Voter Owned Elections.] But there isn't really another kind of reform that promises to break the connection between money and politics that has given us the K Street Project, Abramoff, and DeLay. Anyone who thinks that passing a gift or travel ban will do the trick is simply deluding himself. [Thank you, thank you, thank you!]

And if you want to read still more on the topic, check out the statement of Nick Nyhart's Public Campaign executive director here.

CNN: Will The Congressional Focus On Ethics Lead To Meaningful Reform?

CNN QuickVote results from 11:25 AM EST:

Will the congressional focus on ethics lead to meaningful reform?

Yes: 8% (5,481)
No: 92% (66,706)
Total: 72,187

This may not be a scientific poll but...ouch! The CNN crowd doesn't have much faith in Congress.

To vote click here and scroll down about half way and the poll is on the right.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Protest Video

Check out this video of this morning's protest from Move On.

Green Cash and Scam

Dan Tynan at the Witlist blog has boiled the Abramoff-DeLay scandal down to a level that even a pre-schooler could understand. He calls his piece "Tom DeLay Denies All Charges (As Told by Dr. Suess)." It starts:

That Abramoff!
That Abramoff!
I do not like that Abramoff!

"Would you like to play some golf?"

I do not want to play some golf.
I do not want to, Abramoff.

"We could fly you there for free.
Off to Scotland, by the sea."

I do not want to fly for free.
I don't like Scotland by the sea.
I do not want to play some golf.
I do not want to, Abramoff.

"Would you, could you, take this bribe?
Could you, would you, for the tribe?"

I would not, could not, take this bribe.
I could not, would not, for the tribe.

Read the whole thing.

MoveOn.org Protest Draws More Than 60 People

The anti-corruption protest this morning in front of the offices for the Americans for Tax Reform drew about 60 people (which is great considering it was a windy and rainy morning in Washington, DC). The protest lasted about 45 minutes and generated numerous media including a few news cameras. We'll keep you posted on any coverage that was generated.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Bob Ney steps down

For anybody who missed it, Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) over the weekend resigned his position as chairman of the House Administration Committee. Ney has come under fire for his close ties to Jack Abramoff, particularly after he was identified as "representative no. 1" in the court documents filed as part of Jack Abramoff's guildty plea.

Of course we've been on Ney's trail for awhile. Click here to read about the ads we ran on Ney last week.

The Real Scandal: Our Pay-to-Play Campaign Finance System

Check out Public Campaign's editorial memorandum on the need for comprehensive campaign finance reform in the wake of the scandals swirling around Reps. Tom DeLay, Bob Ney, Jack Abramoff, etc. and etc. From the memo:
With scandals swirling around disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX), likely to spread to dozens of members of Congress and aides, official Washington’s reply is to offer lobbying reform proposals. While lobbying reform is important, these proposals lack the crucial element needed to restore public confidence in our political system: addressing the pay-to-play campaign finance system that puts lobbyists and other special interests ahead of ordinary voters. In contrast, Connecticut, Arizona, Maine, and other states and localities are passing and implementing practical, proven full public financing systems that allow candidates to run for office without being in the pocket of well heeled donors.

McCain Rails Against FEC & Earmarking

Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) says lobbying reform won't cure what ails Washington, as reported here in the Washington Times. McCain points his finger at a "corrupt" Federal Elections Commission and at the congressional practice of "earmarking" pork projects in federal legislation.

Protest Tomorrow Morning At Americans For Tax Reform

MoveOn.org, along with co-sponsors Public Campaign Action Fund and Campaign for America's future, will be holding a peaceful protest tomorrow morning at 9:45 AM in front of the offices of Americans for Tax Reform. We'll be protesting at the site of the weekly Grover Norquist, a major player in the DeLay/GOP "K Street Project," "Wednesday Group" meeting of inside the beltway operatives.

Come on down and protest pay-to-play politics! More details below:

Groups to Protest GOP Corruption; Norquist "Pay-to-Play" Scheme

Despite K Street Scandal, It's Business As Usual For Abramoff, DeLay, and Santorum Cronies

WHAT: "Stop Corruption" Protest this Wednesday at 9:45 a.m. EST
Outside K Street Project meeting

WHEN: 9:45 a.m. to 10:15 a.m., Wednesday, Jan. 18

WHERE: Sidewalk outside offices of Americans for Tax Reform, 1920 L Street, N.W. (20th & L Streets)

DETAILS: Members of MoveOn.org Political Action will launch their "Stop Corruption First" campaign Wednesday with a protest outside Grover Norquist's "Wednesday Group" meeting. The group will be joined by Campaign for America's Future and the Public Campaign Action Fund - leading anti-corruption groups. Norquist was a principal architect of the now infamous GOP K Street, "pay-to-play" project.

Norquist, with his allies DeLay, Santorum and Abramoff, were creators of a scheme to ensure lobbying firms, most of whose offices are located on K Street, would only hire Republicans and would make large contributions to GOP political action ommittees and candidates in order to secure passage of legislation for their clients.

Texas Hires DeLay-Linked Lobbyists

The State of Texas has a $330,000 contract with Todd Boulanger, who used to work closely with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, and who has close ties to Rep. Tom DeLay, reports the Houston Chronicle. Boulanger now works for the lobbying firm Cassidy & Associates. Texas hired the firm in January 2005 and then renewed the contract in November. DeLay's former chief of staff, Tony Rudy, introduced Boulanger to his wife, Jessica, who also worked for DeLay. Jessica Boulanger is now press secretary to Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO), who is campaigning to become majority leader following DeLay's resignation of the title.

Texas has already hired another lobbyist with connections to DeLay--Drew Maloney, his former chief of staff. Maloney "was a key figure in the 2002 fundraising that brought DeLay a reprimand from the House Ethics Committee."Together, the two contracts are worth $1.1 million through 2007, to be paid by Texas taxpayers.

(Check out more on this subject here.)

Monday, January 16, 2006

Barely One In Five

DeLay's support in his district is waning. According to a newspaper poll conducted this past weekend, only 22% of those polled said they would vote for him if the election were held now.

The response from the DeLay campaign:

"DeLay's spokeswoman Shannon Flaherty challenged the validity of the poll and said the result is 'contrary to the strong support we're seeing for Congressman DeLay throughout the district.'"

I'd bet if the DeLay campaign's poll numbers were different than those of the poll released this past weekend than they would have countered the assertion with something better than the "support" they're "seeing" in the district is "strong". More here.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Demand stations run our ad

FactCheck.org just released its analysis of our ad that is sitting gathering dust at Houston TV stations as station managers remain cowed by Tom DeLay's bullying.

Guess what? It's factual:

DeLay's primary complaint is that the ad refers to "one million dollars from Russian tycoons to allegedly influence his vote." In fact, The Washington Post has reported just such an allegation. It quoted the former president of an advocacy group as saying DeLay's former chief of staff told him that Russians contributed $1 million to the group in 1998 specifically to influence DeLay's vote on legislation.

We've faxed the FactCheck.org analysis to the stations, and we're urging that people email or call:

Jim Jossolyn, General Manager
KPRC-NBC
(713) 222-2222

Peter Diaz, General Manager
KHOU-CBS
(713) 526-1111

Henry Florsheim, General Manager
KTRK-ABC
(713) 666-0713

D’Artagnan Bebel, General Manager
KRIV-FOX
(713) 479-2600

You know what to do. Report what you hear on this thread.

Update: The Houston Chronicle's Samantha Levine, again, covers the controversy.




Tell Us What The Houston TV Stations Said

Use this open thread to tell us what the Houston TV stations told you about our ad!

For more information go to http://ga3.org/campaign/houstonstations.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Lots of News on our Ads

Today the Houston Chronicle runs a story saying that our DeLay ad is running on cable and on the Internet but that broadcast stations have caved into pressure. One key quote from the story:

Dallas attorney Joe Chumlea, who has handled several libel and defamation cases, said [DeLay attorney Don] McGahn likely would not have had a strong legal case against stations running the ad because the Supreme Court provides broadcasters with the highest level of protection when it comes to political ads. Broadcasters can only be liable for damages if they air something that they know is false or recklessly ignore the fact that it could be, he said, but someone such as McGahn telling a broadcaster that an ad is false doesn't meet the standard.


See the ad here: http://www.pcactionfund.org/accountability

Lots more covereage on the ad:

Houston Chronicle, Samantha Levine, - “Ads to focus on DeLay controversy” (1/9)

Roll Call, John Bresnahan, - “Texas Appeals Court Denies DeLay Request for Quick Trial” (1/9)

Washington Post, - “3 Houston TV Stations Refuse DeLay Ads” (1/11)

Reuters, Jeff Franks, - “Houston TV stations withhold ads attacking DeLay” (1/11)

KHOU, Jeremy Desel, “Some Houston TV stations will not air ad targeting Tom DeLay” (1/11)

KGBT 4, - “Houston TV stations refuse to air ads critical of DeLay, Ney” (1/11)

Houston Chronicle, Samantha Levine, - “Anti-DeLay ad surfaces on cable, liberal Web sites” (1/11)

Political Affairs, Joel Wendland, - “The Abramoff Scandal: Bringing Down the Republicans” (1/12)

Chillicothe Gazette, Malia Rulon, - “Groups target Ney in radio, billboard ads” (1/11)

KWTX 10, - “Ads Targeting DeLay Run Starting Wednesday” (1/11)

Capitol Hill Blue, - “Houston TV stations don't like ads that tell truth about DeLay” (1/12)

Broadcasting & Cable, John Eggerton, - “KHOU Pulls DeLay Ad” (1/11)

The Business of Television, John Eggerton, - “Broadcasters Benefit from Lobbygate” (1/9)

Houston Chronicle, Samantha Levine, - “Channel 13 pulls TV ad linking DeLay, lobbyist” (1/11)

Denton Record-Chronicle, - “Activist groups target DeLay, Ney with ads highlighting scandals” (1/10)

The Hotline, - “DELAY: A Tribal Connection” (1/11)

The New York Times, - “National Briefing” (1/11)


DeLay's Home Sweet Home

You gotta love it if you're Tom DeLay and a GOP precinct chairman from your home district gives you this ringing endorsement:

Wade Webster, a Republican precinct chairman in Clear Lake, said he thought the party would stand behind Mr. DeLay, for now.

"It's going to be tougher, yes, with all the bad publicity and the innuendos and what-not," he said. "Until something more definitive comes out, I'm supporting him. But I retain the option to change my mind."

This is from a front page NYT story today on the challenges DeLay faces in his reelection bid, thanks, in part, to his hard work on redistricting in Texas. Worth a read.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Another scandal

A former top aide to Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA) has pled guilty today to "aiding and abetting the bribery of a public official and conspiracy" according to AP.

This has no place in Congress. Rep. Jefferson ought to come clean.

David Donnelly On Houston Talk Radio Show At 3:15 PM EST

Public Campaign Action Fund's David Donnelly will be on the Deborah Duncan show on KTRH in Houston, Texas at 3:15 EST (2:15 CST) to 3:22 EST (2:22 CST). If you live in Houston please call in and ask David questions on the ads and the DeLay/Abramoff scandal!

DeLay threatens TV stations about our ads

One station reported it, and then played our ad as part of the newscast.

We're working to get the ads ack on the air, and considering next steps. We can't let the bully censure TV stations -- he's intimidated Washington for too long -- we won't let him prevent the public from knowing the truth.

Editorial today in Atlanta Journal Constitution

The Atlanta Journal Constitution writes that the only way to change the culture of corruption and enact meaningful reforms in Washington will be by sheer force via grass roots pressure.

"Given that reality, congressional Republicans can't put this scandal behind them merely by jettisoning DeLay. If their newly professed fondness for ethics is to have any meaning, they also have to jettison the system that DeLay created and the ethical mind-set he embodied. And without a prod from voters, it's unlikely they'll take that step."

Help us grow our numbers! Tell your friends about the Without DeLay campaign!

DeLay Tried To Shut Down Indian Casino

The lead paragraph from the CNN posted story says it all:

"Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay tried to pressure the Bush administration into shutting down an Indian-owned casino that lobbyist Jack Abramoff wanted closed -- shortly after a tribal client of Abramoff's donated to a DeLay political action committee, The Associated Press has learned."

The full story here.

Alexander Strategy Group Shuts Its Doors

The Alexander Strategy Group, a DC based lobbying firm that was peppered with former DeLay staff and a product of a recent DailyDeLay blog post, has permanently shut its doors. The Group's owner Edwin Buckham told the Washington Post, "reports in the press have made it difficult to continue as a lobbying/political entity."

Looks like not all publicity is good publicity. More at The Washington Post.

Side note: According to a January 10 Bloomberg News article, both Blunt and Boehner's PAC's have employed the Alexander Strategy Group.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Radio Report

"To the Point" with Warren Olney was tons of fun. I went on right after Rep. Dreier. He had just sweet-talked his way through ten minutes of how he was taking his task very seriously, getting input from all sorts of people, including John McCain and Democrat Steny Hoyer, and while he wouldn't give details of the Republican reform proposal, he promised "bold changes," and mooted such proposals as a ban on campaign contributions from lobbyists, a ban on all gifts to Members of Congress and all privately-paid travel (all of which are supported by a majority of the public, according to a new Washington Post poll).

Yeah, right, I thought. Waiting to go live on the radio, I instant-messaged Josh Marshall and asked him if he remembered where Dreier stood on the vote on the DeLay Rule. That was back in late 2004, when the Republican majority in the House moved to protect then-Majority Leader Tom DeLay from being forced to step down from his leadership post if he was indicted. Sure enough, Dreier had written a constituent, explaining why he had backed DeLay in that secret vote. His rationale was that "a local political operative could remove a Congressional leader at a key or sensitive time by bringing an indictment against him or her for political purposes," a reference to Texas prosecutor Ronnie Earle, who the Republicans were then trying to demonize as being on a partisan witch-hunt against DeLay.

Well, now DeLay is no longer Majority Leader (though he has placed himself in Duke Cunningham's old seat on the House Appropriations Committee, a power seat to have), prosecutors in the Justice Department, who no one can accuse of partisanship, are on his tail, and who does Speaker Hastert put in to draft the Republican reform package? A DeLay loyalist, Dreier.

Don't forget, Speaker Hastert, who somehow still has this grandfatherly image, was behind the removal this past February of three relatively independent Republicans on the House Ethics Committee, punishing them for their mild rebuke of DeLay's ethics.

The fish rots from the head down, someone once said.

Tom DeLay: "Conviction politician"

Rich Lowry, editor of the National Review, makes an amusing Freudian slip in his column today on the Abramoff scandal. He writes:
There are two deeply rooted sources of corruption in Washington. One is that many members of Congress believe that they would be making much more than their $160,000-a-year salaries if they were in some other line of work. This sense is compounded when they watch their former 30-year-old aides go to work on K Street for $300,000 a year. This is how someone like Tom DeLay — otherwise a conviction politician — justifies playing the best golf courses in the world on someone else's dime and getting special interests to funnel easy money to his wife. [Emphasis added.]

I know Lowry is using the Right's vernacular for someone who is supposedly motivated by conviction. But given DeLay's self-induced legal problems, it's fun to think that soon he actually will be a politician of conviction. Possibly several convictions, in fact! [Thanks, Matt!]

New Ads to Run in Tom DeLay's and Bob Ney's districts

Today Public Campaign Action Fund joined Campaign for America's Future announced a new ad campaign targeting Tom DeLay and Bob Ney in their districts. See the ads here.

Here is our press release:


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEJanuary 9, 2006

TOM DELAY, BOB NEY TARGETS OF MAJOR NEW AD CAMPAIGN LINKING BOTH TO MONEY SCANDALS ROILING WASHINGTON

Public Campaign Action Fund And Campaign For America’s Future Kickoff Joint Campaign To Clean Up Congress

WASHINGTON – Two public interest groups joined forces today to unveil $115,000 in new television, radio and billboard ads targeting Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, and Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, for their central roles in one of the worst congressional corruption scandals ever. The television and radio ads will begin airing Wednesday in Reps. DeLay and Ney’s districts and the billboard looms above Rep. Ney’s hometown exit on Rte. I-70 in Heath, Ohio.

The groups, Campaign for America’s Future and Public Campaign Action Fund, announced that the advertising campaign kicks off a yearlong combined effort to educate the public about congressional scandals, to hold corrupt public officials accountable, and to mobilize support for comprehensive solutions to address campaign finance, lobbying and ethics reform in Congress. The joint effort will focus on at least a dozen lawmakers across the country.

The television ad asks Rep. DeLay to “resign from Congress” and is scheduled to run throughout the Houston media market on broadcast and cable stations KHOU-CBS, KRIV-FOX, KPRC-NBC, KTRK-ABC, CNN, FOX, CNBC and CNN Headline News.

“Tom DeLay. Indicted for criminal money laundering. Pocketed tens of thousands in campaign contributions from indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff,” says the announcer in the television spot. “Forty-eight trips to golf resorts, 100 flights aboard company jets, 200 nights at world-class resorts and hotels. One million dollars from Russian tycoons to allegedly influence his vote.”

The radio spot asks Rep. Ney to “come clean” with the bribery investigation that connects him to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and is set to run throughout his southeastern Ohio district on WWVA-AM, WHBC-FM, WKOV-FM, WHTH-AM and WNKO-FM.

“A lavish trip to Scotland to play golf on world-famous courses. Free tickets to sporting events. Meals at upscale restaurants. Tens of thousands of dollars. Sounds like a game show jackpot, doesn’t it?” says the radio spot. “Unfortunately, it’s what Ohio Congressman Bob Ney got from convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff in exchange for political favors.”

The billboard is above the east bound lanes of Rte. I-70 at exit 126, one mile west of State Rte. 37 in Heath, Ohio where Rep. Ney lives and simply says, “Rep. Bob Ney. Under Investigation for Taking Bribes.”

David Donnelly, the national campaign director of Public Campaign Action Fund, will run day-to-day operations of the joint campaign. Donnelly said the campaign is designed to push bold reforms to clean up the most corrupt Congress ever.

“There should be no place in Congress for the corrupt pay-to-play politics of Tom DeLay and Bob Ney,” said Donnelly. “These politicians will be held accountable and Congress should enact a comprehensive and serious set of political reforms, which must include draining the money swamp of Washington by passing public financing of elections.”

Campaign for America’s Future co-director Roger Hickey said the yearlong campaign is designed to fight for the priorities of the American people against the special interests. The American people are paying the price for giving special interests access to Congress, with higher prescription drug prices and higher gas and home heating costs.

“Americans know the Republican Congress has been making life worse for families on everything from health care to energy policy, retirement insecurity to jobs. Now they understand that the money machine Tom DeLay and Bob Ney have built is designed to make sure that the GOP majority will only respond to wealthy lobbyists, big donors and well-connected corporations,” said Hickey. “These scandals in Washington shine a light on members of Congress and lobbyists they’re willing to sell the public interest for private gain. Enough is enough.”

Campaign for America’s Future is a national public interest group that brings together coalitions around “kitchen table” issues to make the economy work for working people again. The group played a leading role in rallying opposition to the president’s plan to privatize Social Security and the organization’s Apollo Alliance for Jobs and Energy has outlined a 10-step national agenda to create energy independence by the year 2015 and represents a coalition of national security, labor, environmental, civil rights and business leaders.

Public Campaign Action Fund is a national nonprofit watchdog organization that works to hold politicians accountable for special favors they give to wealthy donors, and supports comprehensive political reform to level the playing field and put power in the hands of the people.

###

Public Campaign Action Fund1320 19th Street, NW, Suite M-1, Washington, DC 20036Ph. 202-293-0222 FAX 202-293-0202 Email: info@pcactionfund.org

The Orlando Sentinel's Mike Thomas rips into Tom Feeney and gives us a nod:

The liberal Public Campaign Action Fund once ranked Feeney as the nation's lawmaker most in the "pocket" of DeLay.

It was a proud day for the Oviedo Republican."Bottom line is, I'm a big Tom DeLay supporter," Feeney said.

He was more than that. He was Tom DeLay Lite. As speaker of the Florida House, he once ran that body with the same tight fist as DeLay when he ran the U.S. House. Like DeLay, he was an ideological warrior for the right.


(Thank you, Meghan!)

Radio Alert!

I'm going on NPR's "To the Point" show, hosted by Warren Olney, today. The topic is lobbying reform. The guests include Rep. David Dreier (the House Rules Chairman who has been tapped by Speaker Hastert to manage the House Republican leadership's reform proposal), Jan Baran (former counsel to the RNC), and Larry Noble (executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, and former counsel to the FEC). The show airs live from 2-3pm eastern (we're on from about 2:20-2:45); check your stations for local listings.

One thing you should know about Rep. Dreier, if he does appear on the program. (The producers weren't 100% sure). He makes it a condition of his appearance that he will NOT interact with other guests, only with the host. God forbid he should have to answer a question from a plain old citizen of the USA!

Blunt = Boehner = DeLay

A report in today's Bloomberg news makes the same point we have here, that House majority leader contenders Reps. Roy Blunt of Missouri and John Boehner of Ohio are both awfully close to Tom DeLay and K Street:
  • Both Blunt and Boehner have political action committees that employ Jim Ellis, who was indicted along with DeLay. Both PACs have retained Alexander Strategy Group, whose partners include former Abramoff and DeLay associates.
  • Blunt =has served as the Republicans' official liaison to K Street.
  • In 1995, Boehner handed out campaign checks from the tobacco industry to members on the House floor at a time when lawmakers were considering eliminating a tobacco subsidy. (We all know about that, but always worth repeating.)
  • DeLay relied on Blunt as an "ambassador" to the lobbyist community.
  • In 2003, Blunt wrote a letter to Interior Secretary Gale Norton opposing a casino for an Indian tribe that would have competed with one of Abramoff's clients. The same year, Blunt signed a similar letter along with DeLay, House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Chief Deputy Whip Eric Cantor.
  • In 2002, Blunt tried to insert language into a bill that would have helped Philipo Morris, now Altria Group Inc., by making it harder to sell cigarettes over the Internet. Blunt later married an Altria lobbyist.

We've said it before, we'll say it again: "Meet the old boss, same as the new boss."

Stop That Train!

Three cheers for the Washington Post's Ruth Marcus, who definitely understands what's going on. In "Derail These Fundraisers," she puts her finger precisely on what is so corrupt about Washington's pay-to-play culture, and why real reform is needed, and could make a big difference. She describes an invitation to "Joe Barton's 2006 Texas Train Ride" (tickets, $2,000 per individual, $5,000 per PAC) not so much to single out the Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, but to illustrate Washington's "culture of coziness," where powerful legislators sell access to wealthy interests on a daily basis, and no one blinks an eyelash. She writes:


It's this latter problem that ought to be foremost in lawmakers' minds as they scramble to write new rules to govern their dealings with lobbyists.

Even the strongest rules can't stop a lobbyist or lawmaker bent on corruption; see, e.g., not only Abramoff but also former California congressman Randy Cunningham, who pleaded guilty to taking $2.4 million in bribes from defense contractors. Certainly, the more disclosure that is required, the fewer temptations that a lobbyist can legally dangle in front of a lawmaker and the less the opportunity for criminal mischief. But where lobbying reform could have its most cleansing effect is not with the crooks in Congress or the private sector but with those who play, more or less, by the rules of a fundamentally flawed system.

The world-weary Washington-insider take on lobbying reform is that it will be adopted and change nothing. That's wrong. True, the capital won't magically be transformed from Mr. Abramoff's Neighborhood to Mr. Rogers'. Reform also needs to be wholesale, addressing the array of systemic abuses, to be effective: Like fixing a leaky basement, patching just one or two damp spots won't keep undue influence from seeping in. And even the most effective rules, like the most careful repairs, tend to be eroded over time.

But that doesn't mean reform isn't worth doing. [Emphases added.]


This is dead on. We can't settle for half-measures.

Monday, January 09, 2006

The LA Time's Ronald Brownstein got it partly right when he wrote about the rush to return Indian gaming contributions in his column yesterday:

Sending back the tribes' money isn't only silly, it's destructive to the cause of reforming Washington. It perpetuates the fiction that "bad" contributions can be segregated from "good" contributions in some orderly fashion that allows politicians to raise millions without compromising their independence. ...

[T]he vast majority of contributions legislators in both parties received from Abramoff's Indian clients looks no different, legally or even morally, than the money they collect from all other interests jostling on Capitol Hill. That's why the rush to refund the money is so misguided. By returning the Indian money, the recipients are trying to claim vigilance against suspect contributions.

But political money doesn't sort itself into black and white categories of appropriate and inappropriate; much of it, like the money from the tribes, is gray. It usually comes not with explicit demands but with implied expectations that every legislator must weigh. Is the Indian money really more suspect than the massive pharmaceutical contributions that influenced a prescription drug law that barred Medicare from bargaining for lower drug prices? In practice, the choices are not as clear-cut as legislators imply by returning the Indian dollars while keeping so many other donations that could provoke similar ethics questions.


Ok, we're with you so far, Mr. Brownstein. But then you fall into the trap that Micah wrote about earlier today, arguing that no reform will work. Yes, it is important to vote the rascals out, as you state, "the surest way for Americans to discourage elected officials from providing undue favors to special interests is to vote out some of those who do." We're with you there. But we also need to replace our current system with one that doesn't put special interest donors in a more important position than voters. We need some structural reform in addition to Brownstein's version of "electoral reform."

No to the Nattering Nabobs of Negativism

Watch out! While federal investigators are steadily pulling the lid off the sewer that is Washington politics, exposing every sleazy and slimy practice you can imagine, a strange coalition of battle-weary journalists, slick DC operators and ethically-challenged ex-Congressmen are starting to hit the media with a dangerous message. They want to quell rising public demand for real change, which is the natural response to the corruption we're seeing as the full workings of DeLay Inc. are laid bare. To wit, look at Todd Purdum in yesterday's New York Times Week in Review, DC uber-lawyer Jan Baran in yesterday's Washington Post, investigative reporter Jeffrey Birnbaum in today's Post, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich just about anywhere, including NPR's Morning Edition today.

I wrote about Purdum's piece at greater length yesterday on my personal blog, but here's what they all are saying in common:
1. Don't get so upset, it's not like corruption in Washington is a new problem.
2. Big government is the real problem; if it weren't for all those pesky government regulators threatening to interfere in someone's livelihood, there wouldn't be so much lobbying.
3. Oh, and lobbying is actually a good thing that educates Members of Congress on complicated issues and helps all kinds of Americans get heard.
4. Don't expect any big changes, or for them to make a big difference.

A few quick responses. First of all, we have every right to be upset. The DeLay-Abramoff scandals are just the tip of the iceberg, the culmination of more than a decade or two of Washington policy being sold off to the highest bidders. Cast your mind back over the bulk of legislation passed by Congress in the past two decades of Big Money running Washington and you'll see what I mean: bankruptcy "reform" written by credit card companies to screw poor debtors; deregulation of the banking, securities and insurance sectors that led to rampant corporate malfeasance and greed and the destruction of the retirement plans of millions of small investors; deregulation of the telecom sector producing media conglomeration and cable industry price gouging; rampant overpricing of pharmaceutical drugs and the creation of false scarcity (i.e. no reimports from Canada) to keep those prices high; blocking of any increase in the minimum wage (except for one larded with billions in subsidies to big business), etcetera, etcetera.

Second, there's no real correlation between the growth of government and the explosion of favor-seeking by lobbyists and favor-selling by Members. Government didn't double in size between 1992 and 2004, either in budget terms or regulatory terms, but campaign spending has more than doubled (from $1.6 billion to $3.9 billion). The number of registered lobbyists quadrupled in the first half of the 1980s, Purdum points out in his article--not actually a time of overall government growth, but actually a time when the lobbyists got to feast at Gucci Gulch (a metaphor for all the tassled loafers padding the halls of Congress) and got themselves all kinds of special tax benefits, boondoggles, and the first wave of government deregulation (that among other things led to the savings and loan scandals).

Third, while lobbying is indeed rightfully protected by the First Amendment, that's not what the problem. It's that there's absolutely no balance in whose up there hobnobbing with our public representatives. Baran has this amusing paragraph in his defense of lobbying:
While officials may prefer to legislate without being importuned by those affected or by their representatives, that is not the way laws should be made in an open democratic society. The founders sought to ensure the public interest by promoting pluralism and protecting the participation of all. How then can it be surprising that there are now more than 27,000 registered lobbyists petitioning on behalf of business, labor, the environment, education, abortion rights, the elderly, the poor, ethnic groups and more?

Isn't it nice how he makes it sound as if business is just one small interest alongside all those more wholesome groups and issues? We all know this intuitively makes no sense. For example, advocates for people who use public transportation, public housing, and public hospitals are hardly lining the halls of Congress alongside their counterparts representing the auto companies, the airlines, the real estate industry, health care providers, for-profit hospitals, big insurance companies, and pharmaceuticals.

The last part of their Big Lie is the notion that there isn't much we can do to change this situation. Go for small steps, says Gingrich (who amazingly has been rehabilitated by the media as a champion of ethics after his paying a $300,000 fine for misleading Congress about his own abuse of tax-exempt charities!). We have to change the culture first, says Baran. Lobbyists will find their way around every new law, says Purdum. Public financing as a solution? Noble but impractical, says Birnbaum.

Collectively, what this adds up to is a lot of negativism about the possibility for positive change, precisely when the evidence showing the need for fundamental changes is most obvious. Do you buy it? We don't, and we're going to keep hammering on these nattering nabobs of negativism because, as Jon Stewart once said in a semi-related context, they're hurting America

Did the Court inform DeLay of their decision on Friday?

Nancy just wrote up the decision by the (all-Republican) court of appeals in Texas to reject's DeLay request for a speedy trial below.

This begs the question, as a colleague just suggested to me: Did the Court tell DeLay on Friday of its decision, thereby pushing DeLay to issue his statement on Saturday that he wouldn't seek to return to his leadership position?

It's not unheard of for courts to inform parties of an impending decision shortly before they issue it. Did DeLay know? Did the Republican court give DeLay a face-saving way out?

TX High Court Denied DeLay Request to Drop Money Laundering Charges

This just in from the AP:

The [Texas] highest criminal court on Monday denied Rep. Tom DeLay's request that the money laundering charges against him be dismissed or be sent back to a lower court for an immediate trial...

DeLay and his attorneys had been trying to rush to trial in Texas in hopes of clearing his name and allowing him to regain the position. That changed Saturday, though, when DeLay announced he would not attempt to reclaim the job.

keep in mind

Both Boehner and Blunt have voted alongside DeLay 96 % of the time. According to opensecrets.org, since 1999 Boehner received a total of $32,500 from Jack Abramoff, his Indian gaming clients, and SunCruz casinos; Blunt, $8,500. Also at opensecrets.org, lifetime campaign finance profiles of the two show Boehner in the pocket of insurance, banking, and securities firms; and Blunt in the pocket, of, well, insurance, banking, and securities firms. Is an election between these two guys really an election?

ready, set, go

Much of the DeLay news today centers around the leadership race, which so far is pitting Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio against Rep. Roy Blunt, R-Mo. Here's the NYT on the subject; according to this report, Rep. Boehner "expressed reservatins about the need for more [lobbying] regulations." And here's our own David Donnelly, a few days ago, on the two of them.

on the lighter side...

Chatmag reports that a "profile" of Tom DeLay has mysteriously appeared on an online dating site, listing his "interests" as: "politics, laundering, conspiracy, dominance, hammering."

where to start?

How about with this interview on Fox News yesterday? (Thank you, Judd Legum of the Center for American Progress.)
DELAY: And because of that rule, the Democrats used this runaway District Attorney here in Austin, Texas to abuse that rule. Eight grand juries indicted me, and the only reason to indict me is to get me to step aside.

(BREAK)

ANCHOR: You said just a moment ago you suspect that this was the real reason you were indicted because the Democrats wanted you out of the role of Majority Leader.

DELAY: It’s the only reason, Brian.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

DeLay considers resigning from Congress

From the Houston Chronicle story:

DeLay told the Chronicle Saturday that in recent days he discussed his situation with GOP leaders, including Hastert, and considered several options, including resigning from Congress.

In the end he decided against quitting Congress because "I still have a lot to contribute to the Houston-Galveston area."

(emphasis added)


Separating from DeLay

It'll be messy:

229 Members of the 109th Congress took $2,381,328 from Tom DeLay’s ARMPAC.

65 Members of the 109th Congress took $99,500 from Tom DeLay’s campaign.

77 Members of the 109th Congress contributed $321,500 to Tom DeLay’s Legal Defense Fund.

175 Members of the 109th Congress have voted with Tom DeLay more than 90% of the time.

When you look at these numbers, and take into account that the GOP has 232 members total (right?), you can understand how difficult it will be for the Republicans to set a fresh course...

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Defiant DeLay refuses to acknowledge reality

Crooks and Liars has the video -- watch it here.

He refused to take one iota of responsibility. He also claimed he'll win re-election in November.

Strangest re-election kick-off speech I've ever heard.

Boehner's statement on DeLay's decision

From his website:

U.S. Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) today issued the following statement regarding the announcement by former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX):

“Tom DeLay and I have had our differences over the years, but I can say without hesitation he is one of the most effective and gifted leaders the Republican Party has ever known. My heart goes out to Tom, Christine, and the DeLay family for all the pain they have endured. My belief is that Tom will eventually be cleared and exonerated, and my hope is that our Conference will one day again benefit from Tom’s rare commitment to the principles of smaller government and freedom for which all Republicans fight.”

Here's a profile of Boehner and Blunt, from AP.

DeLay to Appropriations Committee?

Mark Schmitt catches the key phrase from DeLay's separate letter to Hastert:

I will also be reclaiming my seat on the Appropriations Committee when the second session of the 109th Congress convenes later this month.


If you don't want that, tell your member of Congress you think DeLay ought to resign from Congress, entirely.

Meanwhile, back at the scandal...

Louisiana Republican Rep. Jim McCrery says it's likely Bob Ney will be indicted.

It's news when someone states the obvious?!?

DeLay's Letter to Colleagues

Here it is:

Dear Colleague:

Today, I have asked Speaker Hastert to convene our conference for the purpose of electing a new majority leader, the position I have been honored to fill these past three years through the trust and confidence of our colleagues.

During my time in Congress, I have always acted in an ethical manner within the rules of our body and the laws of our land. I am fully confident time will bear this out.

However, we live in serious times and the United States House of Representatives must be focused on the job of protecting our nation and meeting the daily challenges facing the American people. History has proven that when House Republicans are united and focused, success follows.

While we wage these important battles, I cannot allow our adversaries to divide and distract our attention. I will continue to stand up for the issues I care so deeply about and work with you all on these priorities. I am constantly thankful for the support of my constituents in recent days as well as over the years they have allowed me to serve them. I will continue to work every day to fulfill their trust, and yours.

Regards,

Tom DeLay

Mini-Me's Statement

I think I'll just paste it below:

House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (Mo.) today released the following statement regarding House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's (Texas) announcement:

"My good friend Tom DeLay has made a very difficult decision. In keeping with his long commitment to our majority and the ideas we represent, he has chosen to step aside from his leadership position. It is my firm belief that he will beat these baseless charges and will continue to be a strong, effective and committed leader in our efforts to protect our country, limit the scope of government, and win the battle of ideas.

"My thoughts are with Tom and Christine and their excellent staff. I know Tom's legacy as one of the most effective Republican leaders in history is assured."


UPDATE: I couldn't resist -- need to show this:

Statement On New Congressional Leadership Elections

Statement of David Donnelly, National Campaigns Director of Public Campaign Action Fund, On New Congressional Leadership Elections

"It will take more than new leadership elections to remove the stench of scandal from the Republican Congress. Those running to replace Tom DeLay represent the money swamp in Washington. Roy Blunt is nothing but Mini-Me to DeLay's Dr. Evil. John Boehner is infamous for getting caught red-handed delivering Big Tobacco's campaign contributions on the floor of Congress.

"The era of Tom DeLay is over. But his legacy will still continue unless Congress takes up a big, bold reform agenda, which must include public financing of elections, in order to take power away from the big money drowning Washington. Neither the Democrats nor the Republicans have yet proposed a comprehensive reform package which puts voters in control."

Public Campaign Action Fund is a nonprofit watchdog group working to hold elected officials accountable and to enact far-reaching political reforms which level the playing field and puts power in the hands of the people.

###

DeLay Quits Leadership Post

Here's the AP story.

Embattled Rep. Tom DeLay decided Saturday to give up his post as House majority leader, clearing the way for new leadership elections among House Republicans eager to shed the taint of scandal, two officials said.

[...]

His about-face came amid growing pressure from fellow Republicans who were concerned about their own political futures in the wake of this week's guilty pleas by lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Missouri Rep. Roy Blunt (news, bio, voting record), the party whip who temporarily has filled in for DeLay, was expected to run for majority leader.

Rep. John Boehner (news, bio, voting record) of Ohio, a former member of the leadership, is also likely to run.


Great.

Blunt is Mini-Me to DeLay's Dr. Evil.

Boehner is infamous for handing out tobacco campaign contributions on the FLOOR OF CONGRESS.

Way to clean up your image, GOP.

But, really now. DeLay ought to resign from Congress, not just leadership.

Friday, January 06, 2006

New Congressional (Dis)Approval Poll

AP poll:

Overall, do you approve, disapprove or have mixed feelings about the way Congress is handling its job?

Approve, 34 percent (31)
Disapprove, 63 percent (65)
Mixed feelings, 2 percent (3)
Not sure, 1 percent (2)

And if the election for Congress were held today, would you want to see the Republicans or Democrats win control of Congress?

Republicans, 36 percent
Democrats, 49 percent
Neither (VOLUNTEERED), 12 percent
Not sure, 3 percent

Now, most will focus on the 49-36 advantage Democrats have over Republicans. But 12 percent volunteering "Neither"? Is that high? Seems high to me... Anyone with historical context?

Look out Duncan Hunter

From a few days after the Duke's plea, the Contra Costa Times ran this AP story, which has this little precious nugget:

Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-El Cajon, called Cunningham a friend and colleague in a statement Tuesday that emphasized his accomplishments as a fighter pilot.

"We, his remaining friends, have spent the last day with Duke praying and talking about a new chapter in Duke's life, a chapter of service to God," Hunter said.

Cunningham, who was in his eighth term, is free as he awaits sentencing Feb. 27. He faces up to 10 years in prison for tax evasion and conspiracy, having admitted taking $2.4 million in bribes in exchange for steering government contracts to coconspirators.


(Emphasis added.)

Now Rep. Hunter is probably just how good a friend Cunningham was...

Cunningham won't be sentenced to February 27 -- that means we have a little while to wait until hearing exactly what reduction in sentence he might have gotten...

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

More Breaking News: Bass and Flake circulating letter for new leadership election

It's crisis time in the Republican House.

Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and Charlie Bass (R-NH) are circulating a letter calling for new leadership elections. They need 50 to force an election.

I'll give more details when I get them.

UDPATE: Roll Call has the story, courtesy of FiredUpAmerica.

UPDATE 2: There's an easier way: DeLay ought to resign.

Earth-shattering news for Washington

How many members of Congress will go down now?

Former Rep. Duke Cunningham, according to TIME, wore a wire.

Think Progress had it right.

Friday Borowitz Report Humor

Friday humor from the BorowitzReport.com:

RETURNED ABRAMOFF DONATIONS ERASE NATIONAL DEBT
Lawmakers Scramble To Shed Trillions in Tainted Cash

Politicians in Washington hurried today to dump trillions of dollars worth of campaign donations from disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, giving the money to the Treasury Department and all but wiping out the national debt.

Congressmen, senators, and other politicians lined up around the block outside the Treasury building to give back their Abramoff riches, many of them carting piles of hundred-dollar bills in wheelbarrows. More...



Things Happening In Threes

A Bloomberg.com article links Alexander Strategy Group (AKA "DeLay, Inc."), a Washington based lobbying firm who's pay roll, past and present, is a who's who of former DeLay staff and family members, is linked to "no fewer than" three current ethic/lobbying/campaign finance scandals:

Former DeLay aide Tony Rudy who is a focus of a federal investigation of lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

The Alexander Strategy Group's founder is former DeLay chief of staff Ed Buckham and is the person who set up the South Korea junket that was in violation of ethics rules.

The firm represented the company whose owner, prosecutors allege, bribed former representative Randy "Duke" Cunningham.

These close ties to DeLay have paid off in more ways than the free PR they've been getting lately. Here is how much revenue per lobbyist they're getting compared to DC's biggest firm:

"The company, whose offices are along the Potomac River in Washington's fashionable Georgetown district, brought in $7.8 million in 2004, an average of $650,000 for each of its 12 registered lobbyists, according to disclosures filed with Congress. That compares with an average of about $250,000 per registered lobbyist last year at Patton Boggs LLP, Washington's biggest lobbying firm by revenue. Patton Boggs had revenue of $30.6 million in 2004."

50 Jack Abramoffs

From today's E.J Dionne column:

"What the Republicans need is 50 Jack Abramoffs," his friend Grover Norquist told National Journal in 1995.

So do you think Grover got his wish?

Stampede

DeLay can't even count on his friends anymore.

"If Tom's Texas situation is not resolved by early February, then I believe the House should hold new elections. If things remain unsettled, it will cause the Republican majority real trouble," said Paul M. Weyrich, the Free Congress Foundation chairman and chief executive officer who gave what many considered the most moving testimonial at a May tribute dinner held to rally conservatives to support Mr. DeLay in the face of legal troubles.


Why would Weyrich even feel compelled to say this? Because to remain silent is not credible.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Doolittle earns his name

Can you spell T-O-N-E D-E-A-F?

Rep. John T. Doolittle, a Republican with ties to corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff, announced Thursday he will not return any of the $50,000 in political donations he received from the lobbyist or the Indian tribes Abramoff once represented.

Doolittle, of Rocklin, "has no intention of returning any contribution from anyone that was made in an ethical and legal matter, regardless of how many of his colleagues do so out of political expediency or how much the media tries to irresponsibly distort the propriety of Mr. Doolittle's actions," spokeswoman Laura Blackann said.

"He has done absolutely nothing wrong," Blackann added.

[...]

Doolittle's campaign received $4,000 from Abramoff, and his political committees banked another $46,000 from tribes linked to the lobbyist, including the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, the Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana and the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group that analyzed political contributions from 1999 to 2005.

Kevin Ring, a former legislative director for Doolittle, later worked as a lobbyist with Abramoff. The Sacramento Bee reported last month that Sierra Dominion Financial Solutions, a company run by Doolittle's wife, Julie Doolittle, worked for Abramoff between 2002 and 2004.


Early round-up

The New York Times writes up the leadership fight brewing, with members scattered around the globe. The short version: DeLay aint coming back as Maority Leader.

AP reports on DeLay donating Abramoff's donations to charity. I have two questions on this:

1) Why do we let these politicians make lemonade out of lemons by supporting charities with dirty money? The tranaction is done. What was bought has already been bought. Let's not make a big deal about some altruistic gesture. It's like a cook finding a big fat rat in the soup who takes it out and gives it to your cat. We're supposed to feel good about that?

2) What about those Enron donations, Tommy? Now that money could have been donated to people who lost everything because of your pals at Enron.

Former Rep. Steve Stockman is entering the fray in TX-22 as an independent, reports the Houston Chronicle. Interesting development. Charles Kuffner has more to say.

And the LA Times has the political implications for Republicans. It's a good read.

More later. (Probably.)

Who said this?

"The election process has turned into an incumbency protection process in which lobbyists attend PAC fundraisers to raise money for incumbents so they can drown potential opponents, thus creating war chests that convince candidates not to run and freeing up incumbents to spend more time in Washington PAC fundraisers. So, in effect, this city is building a wall of money to protect itself from America."


Answer.

Wonkette Does Abramoff, in the Times

This is funny.

Ana Marie Cox, aka Wonkette, writes up the Abramoff guilty pleas in entertaining fashion.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

NRO: DeLay Should Not Return

The conservative National Review's website posted an editorial from its editors this afternoon arguing that DeLay ought not seek a return to the Majority Leader posting he was forced to give up and that "Republicans underestimate the potential impact of the Abramoff scandal at their peril."

Here's an interesting insight:

First, assuming that DeLay is cleared in Texas, it would be a substantial political risk for Republicans to bring DeLay back to the leadership while the Abramoff cloud is hanging over him, as it appears it will for some time to come. Why would they want to carry on under a formerly former majority leader, only to face the possibility of having to remove him from leadership yet again should he be further implicated in the Abramoff mess?


The NRO editors also point to the political fallout, and urge martyrdom for the conservative cause:

One top Republican strategist told us, "There are two types of House Republicans: Those who are in trouble, and those who don't know it yet." Republicans have to do more, rather than less, to control the damage.

DeLay can do his part by forswearing any ambition to return to the leadership until this matter is resolved. It may be necessary for the House Republican Conference to discipline other of its members — we have Rep. Bob Ney (R., Ohio) in particular in mind — as evidence of their involvement with Abramoff dictates.


Do his part to control the damage? Most Americans are not worried about how much damage this does to the Republicans, or for that matter, the Democrats. They're pretty sure the damage has already been done to the public trust DeLay, Ney, and Co. were given by voters.

Abramoff Scandal Coming Home To Roost

This past weekend a Washington Post article exposed the relationship between DeLay, Abramoff, and the non-profit U.S. Family Network--an angle that is still to be explored further.

And now, as a result of the Abramoff plea yesterday, yet another DeLay/Abramoff relationship has emerged (and I'm going to guess that this won't be the last one either). From the AP:

"Court papers in the case refer to an aide to then-House Majority Whip Tom DeLay who helped stop anti-gambling legislation regarding the Internet.The papers say Abramoff paid the staffer's wife $50,000 from clients that benefited from the staffer's actions."

Abramoff Round Up

From the National Journal Early Bird News:

Courts: Abramoff Cuts Deal; Subpoenas Issued In DeLay Case

Lobbyist Jack Abramoff Tuesday "pleaded guilty to conspiracy, fraud, and tax evasion charges in one of the biggest corruption cases in recent Washington history, agreeing to cooperate with prosecutors who are investigating whether members of Congress took bribes from him in exchange for favors," the Boston Globe reports. "Abramoff admitted that he told Indian tribes to give money to a lobbying firm while hiding his own $20 million take and that he also tried to bribe public officials."

"The plea deal carries up to 30 years in prison, but prosecutors will recommend a sentence of 9 1/2 to 11 years, providing Abramoff cooperates with federal prosecutors," Fox News reports. "Restitution to his clients could be at least $25 million."

AP has a timeline, the New York Times has the text of the charges [PDF] and FindLaw has the plea agreement [PDF].

And "the Travis County district attorney issued four subpoenas Tuesday in an attempt to find any links between" Abramoff and Rep. Tom DeLay's (R) "2002 Texas fundraising," the Houston Chronicle reports. The subpoenas "seek records from two law firms at which Abramoff worked, a Mississippi Indian tribe he represented and a California tribe."

From The Editorial Boards...

Amid the bribery scandals involving Abramoff and members of Congress, "one player remains notable for its absence: the House ethics committee, which has been silent and, for most of the past year, dysfunctional," the Washington Post criticizes.

"The Abramoff scandal is likely to make 2006 the year a seamy underside of Congress comes into full public view," USA Today adds, claiming that "the institution has fallen into one of its most tawdry periods ever, with members actively seeking favors in exchange for legislation that sells out the public interest for personal or partisan
gain."

The Boston Globe notes that "the culture in Washington is so fouled with special-interest money that even legal contributions often undermine public confidence, and this case appears far worse."

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Thousands of emails from Abramoff

CNN:

Sources told CNN's Ed Henry that Abramoff may have thousands of e-mails in which he describes influence-peddling and explains what lawmakers were doing in exchange for the money he was putting into their campaign coffers.

Sources said Abramoff has been cooperating with the Justice Department for months without any kind of plea deal. He will not be sentenced until his cooperation is complete, the source added.

That ought to send chills down a few spines in DC...

(from reader BK)

Abramoff Plea Agreement

Click here to read the Abramoff plea agreement.

Keeping the Characters Straight

Think Progress has a handy guide to all characters implicated in the ever expanding Abramoff scandal here.

Staffer A is Tony Rudy

The Department of Justice's document outlining the charges (pdf) against Jack Aramoff include this:

20. On or about June 6, 2002, defendant ABRAMOFF and a lobbying colleague, who was also a former congressional staffer ("Staffer A") successfully solicited one of Firm B's clients, a distilled beverages company, for a $25,000 payment to CAF. Instead of using the money for CAF and contrary to CAF's tax exempt purpose, defendant ABRAMOFF used this money for his personal and professional benefit to partially pay for a golfing trip to Scotland for public officials, members of his staff and others.


Staffer A is Tony Rudy, DeLay's former chief of staff.

Rudy was registered to lobby for SPI Spirits in 2002 when he was at Greenberg Traurig, Abramoff's former firm. Roll Call previously reported that SPI Spirits gave Capitol Athletic Foundation (CAF) $25,000.

But the kicker: Last November, he New York Times reported about a certain email exchange on November 4, 2005.

"Did you get the message from the guys that Tom wants us to raise some bucks from Capital Athletic Foundation?" Mr. Abramoff asked a colleague in a message on June 6, 2002, referring to the charity. "I have six clients in for $25K. I recommend we hit everyone who cares about Tom's requests. I have another few to hit still."

The e-mail was addressed to Tony Rudy, who had been Mr. DeLay's chief of staff in the House before joining Mr. Abramoff's lobbying firm. Mr. Abramoff said it would be good "if we can do $200K" for Mr. DeLay.


Busted.

Money Continues To Be Sent Back To Abramoff and Clients

Dozens of lawmakers are sending contributions back to Abramoff and his clients in hopes of removing any links between the two.

Two of the latest to give money back are from the Big Sky State: Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) returned $18,892 for using an Abramoff skybox and Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT) sent back $150,000 in contributions just before Christmas.

Read more at www.boston.com.

Abramoff Pleads Guilty, Guilty, Guilty

This just in...Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty today to federal charges of conspiracy, tax evasion, and mail fraud. According to the AP, the papers filed today:

detailed lavish gifts and contributions that it said Abramoff gave an unnamed House member, identified elsewhere as Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, chairman of the House Administration Committee, in return for Ney's agreement to use his office to aid Abramoff clients.

Abramoff agreed with the judge when she said that he had engaged in a conspiracy involving "corruption of public officials."The lobbyist also agreed when she said he and others had engaged in a scheme to provide campaign contributions, trips and other items "in exchange for certain official acts." ...

Court papers said Abramoff corruptly gave "money, meals,trips and entertainment to public officials and their relatives with the intent to influence and in return for agreements to perform official acts" benefiting Abramoff, Scanlon and their clients. The papers said Abramoff caused former congressional aides to lobby their former bosses within a one-year window of employment, during which they are barred from such activities.

At least as reported by the AP, Abramoff's guilty plea doesn't give us any new information. We knew all about Bob Ney, didn't we? But what will be big news in the weeks to come and Abramoff cooperates with federal investigators is how many other lawmakers and aides this scandal will encompass. Stay tuned...