If you live in Texas and you're not trying to con yourself into believing that the Republican Party and particularly the Republican Party of Texas is god's gift to political integrity, you have to follow the dirty little trail of money and influence between Washington and Austin created by Tom DeLay and his troops.
The latest issue of the Texas Observer covers much of this territory with a spiffy article by Lou Dubose on the Indian Casino business; Dan Mattola and Dave Mann write about corporate campaign money and the Republican Party of Texas; Media Matters for America takes note of the slamming of a crusading Texas District Attorney -- the one who may be indicting Mr. DeLay any day now -- and the role mainstream national media play in keeping the House Leader. Not to be missed is Josh Marshall's careful uncovering of who voted to change House rules to accomodate their Leader -- and who voted against, honorably. The votes were unrecorded. Marshall is recording them, vote by vote.
Grover Norquist and the rest of the boys
Lou Dubose, in an article in the Texas Observer, writes about those of DeLay's activities which have put him in the position of being investigated in the Senate. In "K Street Croupiers: How Two of Tom DeLay's Players Beat the House at the Grand Coushatta Casino," Dubose tell us:
In May 9, 2001, Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff did President George W. Bush a small favor by directing a modest sum of money to Grover Norquist. Norquist was bringing a group of Republican state legislators to the White House to sell them Bush’s proposed tax cuts. He decided to use the event to make a little money for his organization, Americans for Tax Reform. So he had Abramoff ask two of his American Indian clients for $25,000 each for the privilege of meeting the president. This money ATR raised at the White House three years ago is a small part of a big scandal involving Abramoff, his partner Mike Scanlon, six Indian tribes, $66 million in questionable lobbying fees, and millions of dollars in political contributions.
Also entangled in the scandal is House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, whose Washington “network” was offered to Indian casino clients by Abramoff and Scanlon, if the tribes would hire them. DeLay is the only member of Congress associated with Abramoff and Scanlon’s extensive casino tribe dealings. After DeLay used his leadership position to kill a bill that would have taxed Indian casinos, Abramoff and Scanlon used their access to “the Leader” to attract Indian casino clients. (Neither of the two men seemed to have any interest in Indian tribes that did not have casinos.) The Louisiana tribe that paid almost half of the lobbying fees collected by Abramoff and Scanlon contributed more to DeLay’s political action committee than they did to any other member of Congress in 2002. Because of his close ties with the two men, DeLay is the only member of Congress whose conduct has been questioned in an ongoing Senate committee investigation of the lobbying scandal. Other federal and state agencies are investigating the two men as well.
The Indian lobby fee story moved DeLay toward center stage in the Senate shortly after three of his fund-raisers were indicted in Austin and he himself was handed three separate admonishments by the House Ethics Committee for transgressions unrelated to Abramoff and Scanlon. So for DeLay, who is lawyered up and nervously watching a grand jury in Austin, Abramoff and Scanlon represent a third front in what now seems like an endless war over ethical and legal questions involving his fund-raising operations.
Dubose goes on to report on Norquist's continuing involvement with Abramoff and Scanlon and their relationship with DeLay -- and to Clinton's impeachment:
Abramoff was also close to DeLay’s staff. He hired Ed Buckham and built one of the most lucrative accounts on Preston Gates’ books: the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands. In this former American territory, women from the Philippines, Thailand, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and China worked 84-hour workweeks in fenced industrial parks sewing “Made in the U.S.A.” garments. Abramoff, Buckham, and Mike Scanlon (also lured away from DeLay’s staff) doggedly fought President Bill Clinton’s efforts to impose U.S. labor law, minimum-wages, and overtime standards on the commonwealth’s employers. They even ran a successful campaign to elect an anti-labor speaker of the house for the commonwealth, and enlisted DeLay to lead a U.S. House campaign to keep working conditions there unregulated.
The younger Scanlon had a shorter resume and an even faster track to power in Washington. Out of college and into the army of Republican kinder in khaki slacks and blue blazers, he quickly moved from the staff of a Republican House member to a field director’s job at the National Republican Congressional Committee. He stayed long enough to take over one failing House campaign at the request of Newt Gingrich. After five months, he joined DeLay’s staff as a press secretary and was quickly promoted to communications director.
By 1998, 28-year-old Mike Scanlon was at the top of his game. With DeLay’s assistant chief of staff Tony Rudy, he ran the impeachment “war room” in the whip’s office. Their e-mails, obtained by Washington Post reporter Peter Baker, embarrassed even rabidly anti-Clinton House Republicans. As Clinton testified on video before a grand jury and the House considered its constitutional duty to impeach, Scanlon sent Rudy an e-mail regarding the President:
God Bless you Tony Rudy. Are we the only ones with political instincts–This whole thing about not kicking someone when they are down is BS – Not only do you kick him – You kick him until he passes out – then beat him over the head with a baseball bat – then roll him up in an old rug – and throw him off a cliff into the pounding surf below!!!!!
Despite a promise from DeLay that there would be no “whipping” of the impeachment vote, Scanlon and Rudy ran a rogue whip operation and leaked the results of their vote count. On the eve of the impeachment vote, Scanlon warned New York Republican Peter King that if he didn’t vote to impeach, Delay would make “the next two years the toughest of your life.” Years later, King is still bitter, telling New York reporter Jack Newfield that Scanlon was “a punk staff kid telling me I would lose my committee assignment because I went against DeLay.” A former member of the House leadership was equally ungenerous: “Mike Scanlon was a juvenile delinquent.”
John McCain will be overseeing the investigation in the Senate:
The Senate Indian Affairs Committee is beginning what looks like a year of investigation, with the committee’s second Washington hearing scheduled for November 17.... McCain is going forward with the Indian Affairs hearing because “he hates Bush and DeLay,” Norquist told the National Journal in March. He’s probably half right; even if hate isn’t the word the Arizona senator would choose. McCain worked hard to get Bush elected. DeLay, however, was an implacable opponent to the single legislative initiative in which McCain has invested most of his political capital and energy: campaign finance reform.
On one occasion, DeLay killed campaign finance reform for a session by ordering Speaker Hastert to break the bill into fourteen separate sections before bringing it to the floor, making it impossible to debate and vote. Norquist, a longtime friend and colleague of Abramoff, is not a big John McCain fan. Neither Norquist nor his office responded to inquiries about the Indian money they raised at the White House three years ago. Perhaps he’ll return it.
Campaign malfeasance in Texas
Dan Mattola and Dave Man, in their piece in the same Texas Observer, "How the state Republican Party spent $5 million in corporate campaign money in 2002," ask:
Will the Republican Party of Texas join Tom DeLay’s Texans for a Republican Majority (TRMPAC) as shorthand for campaign malfeasance? As most Observer readers know, TRMPAC is under investigation by a Travis County grand jury for its use of corporate money in the 2002 election. But the amount of corporate cash TRMPAC marshaled is dwarfed by what the Republican Party of Texas spent in 2002. The state party raised and spent more than $5 million in corporate money in 2002. It was an effort that was unprecedented in size and complexity for a state political party. And it may have violated the law. Meanwhile, Ronnie Earle, the intrepid Travis County, Texas, District Attorney who has indicted associates of Tom DeLay's in connection with the redistricting mess last year is under attack by Republicans.
Fairness in reporting
Media Matters for America reports that the "media [is] complicit in spreading false GOP smear of district attorney investigating DeLay:
As justification for altering party rules in the House of Representatives in order to allow Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) to retain his leadership position if indicted by a Texas grand jury on political corruption charges, Republicans have claimed that Travis County, Texas, District Attorney Ronnie Earle, who is investigating DeLay, is doing so for purely partisan reasons. This charge was dutifully echoed on FOX News Channel, and most other news outlets have reported it -- without noting that Earle has, in fact, prosecuted more Democratic politicians than Republican politicians.
While Earle is an elected Democrat, as Media Matters for America has previously noted, a June 17 editorial in the Houston Chronicle commended his work: "During his long tenure, Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle has prosecuted many more Democratic officials than Republicans. The record does not support allegations that Earle is prone to partisan witch hunts."
But the GOP has labelled Earle, a DA respected in his home state, "a partisan crackpot district attorney," whose possible indictment of DeLay would necessarily be "politically motivated.
And these phrases have been picked up and repeated
by Fox (of course),
and CNN, ABC, CBS and NBC,
the Baltimore Sun, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Dallas Morning News.
Here is something we can be doing. There is virtually no doubt that DeLay is as corrupt and shameless as they come -- an embarrassment to Texas and to Congress. The very least we can do is exert pressure on mainstream media -- and the media in Texas -- to report the ongoing story about DeLay's involvement in illegal moves during the redistricting mess, TRMPAC and campaign funding, and his suspect arm-twisting -- in full and fairly.
Don't let the ongoing reports on DeLay &Co. wind up below the fold on a back page. Insist on full reporting of the investigations into DeLay's activities, and insist that this ongoing story be carried in its entirety. We can only have influence over the fairness and timeliness of reporting if we pressure the media to print all -- all -- the news.
....Wait, there's more...
The New York Times Op-Ed page has a piece by the Times' own pocket fluff, David Brooks, in which he catches on to the fact that Tom DeLay may be in trouble. Brooks! In the Times! Acknowledging DeLay may be a...
This week, House Republicans bent their accountability rules to protect their majority leader from what they feel is a partisan Texas prosecutor. But they hated the whole exercise. They sat in a conference room hour after hour wringing their hands. Only a few members were brave enough to stand up and say they shouldn't bend the rule. But afterward, many House Republicans came up to those members and said that secretly they agreed with them.
Somewhere in the psychology of the caucus something shifted. That ineffable thing called political capital began seeping away from DeLay. Someday people will look back and say this could be the moment when his power begins to ebb.
It's shifted because many House Republicans know that DeLay has been playing close to the ethical edge for years. They've noticed the number of scandals - the latest involving lobbying fees for some Indian casinos - that trace back to DeLay cronies. They still remember that delicious feeling of possibility when they arrived in Washington and vowed they would not turn into the corrupt old majority they had come to replace. They know Delay symbolizes their descent from that reformist ideal.
Why didn't more members get up and say something against DeLay?
There are several reasons. The most obvious is self-interest. DeLay and the leadership can take away your hopes of getting a chairmanship or a vote on your bill.
...Acknowledging that Tom DeLay may really be a serious liability for the GO...
But wait! Brooks turns around in mid-column and asserts that DeLay is really nice when you get to know him, not that corrupt, mean, bullying bastard all those Texans and others say he is:
But there's also the fact that most House Republicans like DeLay. It's always important to remember that most of the mythology that surrounds the Hammer is total nonsense....
Aw GEE....! We were so wrong about the guy! He's a real sweetheart:
In fact, DeLay has been a thoughtful majority leader. He rarely keeps the House in session beyond its scheduled hours. That means members, especially those with young families or marginal seats, can spend more time in their districts. That is deeply appreciated.
What a honey.
Marginal family values, or something. In line with GOP policy.
Extra! Extra! Josh Marshall has posted a link at his site which gives us a a glance into Tom DeLay's little black book -- who his friends are... and who aren't... and who may feel obligated and "loyal."