Monday, June 06, 2005


Delay tactics

The state from whence I came has produced much that we liberals find abominable, but it does indeed crank out a pretty fine magazine, Texas Monthly. Although perhaps a little right of center in its political views, Texas Monthly has never been shy about taking the Lone Star State's political scoundrels to task. And boy, are there plenty of scoundrels down in Texas!

This month, the magazine focuses on Tom Delay with a "quiz" on the House majority leader's ethics. I put that word quiz in quotes because all the multiple-choice questions can be answered "All of the above." All the true-false questions can be answered "true." In other words, expect the worst possible scenario, and there you have The Hammer's ethical worldview. With the news on Delay's problems leaked out bit by bit, the casual observer tends not to see the whole picture. Confronted with all of Delay's misdeeds at once, the casual observer's jaw tends to drop sharply.

Unfortunately, due to Texas Monthly's online stinginess, I can't just link to the quiz. So I shall steal liberally from their story with the disclaimer that I assume no responsibility for jaw-drop-related injuries. Consider the following:

*Delay sponsored two energy deregulation bills that would have given Enron a retroactive $254 million tax break to the disgraced Houston energy giant. Is it any coincidence that Enron raised $300,000 for two of Delay's PACs, $32,000 in direct campaign contributions to Delay, and a $750,000 consulting contract to two of his top aides?

*Delay took trips to Russia, Britain and South Korea, paid for either by lobbyists or registered foreign agents. Under federal law, that's a big no-no.

*Delay was admonished by the House ethics committee for, among other things, using the Department of Homeland Security to search for Democratic state legislators hiding from a vote in Austin over a highly shady redistricting bill. Delay also was admonished for shaking down an energy company for donations at the same time that legislation important to that company was before the House.

*The House ethics committee approved new rules that would effectively end the probe against Delay and essentially let him off the hook. Two Republicans with some backbone voted against the rules changes and were removed from the committee by House Speaker Dennis Hastert. The two were replaced by lackeys who promptly demonstrated a low ethical standard. The maneuverings were so transparently crooked that 10 former Republican Congressmen signed a letter that described the whole affair as "obvious action to protect Majority Leader Tom Delay."

*Three Delay associates are currently under indictment. One, a former Delay fund-raiser, for "making and accepting prohibited corporate contributions; the second, the director of a PAC closely associated with Delay, for money laundering and accepting illegal contributions; and the third, one of Delay's main men, also for money laundering.

*The above-mentioned PAC, Texans for a Republican Majority or TRMPAC, itself is under criminal investigation for alleged illegal campaign financing for Republicans running for the Texas Legislature.

*Delay's PACs and campaign committees have paid his wife and daughter $500,000 for "political work" since 2001.

*Delay personally interceded in an investigation of Charles Hurwitz, CEO of Houston conglomerate Maxxam, by federal bank investigators to determine whether Hurwitz defrauded a savings and loan. Hurwitz made the following contributions to Delay: $10,000 to The Hammer's legal defense fund; $24,000 to his campaign committee; $5,000 to TRMPAC.

*Delay is a big supporter of Big Tobacco, having sponsored a provision (oddly, on an anti-terrorism bill) to shield it from foreign lawsuits. Big Tobacco is a big supporter of Delay, having funneled $131,000 to another Delay-controlled PAC.

*The same quid-pro-quo seems to work with the airline industry. Airlines contributed $159,000 to one of Delay's committees. Delay tried to make anti-terrorism security training for flight attendants voluntary instead of mandatory and at far less cost to the airlines.

*Same goes for a liquor company, which gave $20,000 to one of his PACs. Delay later supported an amendment favorable to the company.

*For contributions ranging from $300 to $20,000, Delay has promised personal meetings with top Bush administration officials. For contributions of as much as $500,000 to one of his charities, Delay offered meetings with high-ranking Republicans at last year's GOP convention.

*Delay has done the following for his lobbyist brother Randy: He authored a newspaper op-ed piece arguing that dumping tariffs should not applied to Mexican companies, not mentioning that Randy represented a Mexican company. He lobbied for support of a railroad merger between Southern Pacific and Union Pacific, a company Randy represents. He worked his damndest to fund the Interstate 69 project, which would benefit Texas' Rio Grande Valley, where Randy represents several municipalities.

So there you have it. You may now pick your jaw up. According to Texas Monthly, a reporter asked Delay, "Have you ever crossed the line of ethical behavior in terms of dealing with lobbyists, your use of government authority or with fund raising?" Delay answered, "'Ever' is a very strong word."

So why are Republicans so loathe to own up to their own moral shortcomings? Remember the Republicans' Contract with America in 1994? We won't be like those Democrats, they said. We'll be the party of good, honest government. Apparently, partisan Republicans and conservatives are doing their usual expemplary job of maintaining two standards: above-board honesty and transparency for the likes of Bill Clinton (and deservedly so!), and deflection and obfuscation for the likes of Delay.

I mainly used the article in Texas Monthly to write this posting, but you can learn more about Delay by clicking on these links below.
Democratic National Committee's "Scandal Man":

The Center for Media and Democracy's SourceWatch:

Roberti returns to "help" us

If you live here in the Gateway City and read this morning's column by Bill McClellan, your jaw probably dropped for reasons having nothing to do with Tom Delay. Remember Bill Roberti, the big-talking New Yorker who was going to save us from our schools for the reasonable, one-time price of $5 million? I didn't think it was possible, but he left our city schools in worse shape than when he arrived. We're still mopping up Roberti's mess.

You were probably thinking he was gone for good. But you thought wrong. He has returned for a limited engagement, this time at the invitation of the city of St. Louis and the Missouri Department of Economic Develpment, and for the bargain basement cost of $50,000. His job this time is to advise in merger talks between our locally based May Department Stores and Federated Department Stores.

Why didn't anybody ask me? I'd tell them to lose the Red Apple sales and start stocking merchandise that someone under the age of 60 would actually choose to buy. And hell, I'd only charge a fraction of Roberti's fee.

Wow! Great post on Texas and Delay. Keep up the good work. You like to rant just like I do. It makes us all feel better to write and read a good rant.
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