|Tom DeLay- Corporate Whore|
Micah L. Sifry is a senior analyst with Public Campaign. Most recently, he co-edited The Iraq War Reader: History, Documents, Opinions (Touchstone, 2003). The views expressed here are his alone.
A few days ago, The Washington Post front-paged a story linking House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.) and Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) to $56,500 in campaign contributions made in 2002 from a Kansas-based energy company, Westar. One executive of Westar e-mailed his colleagues that "we have a plan for participation to get a seat at the table" of the House-Senate conference committee on the Bush administration’s energy plan. "The total of the package will be $31,500 in hard money (individual) and $25,000 in soft money (corporate)," and included "$11,500 in immediate needs for a group of candidates associated with Tom DeLay, Billy Tauzin, Joe Barton and Sen. Richard Shelby."
Given that the Bush-backed bill was doling out more than $27 billion in targeted tax breaks to energy companies, this was not an unusual investment. Westar was seeking relief from regulatory oversight that would have allowed it to transfer $3 billion in debt off its balance sheets and, potentially, onto the monthly bills of consumers through rate hikes. The Westar exec’s e-mail went on to say that Rep. DeLay’s "agreement is necessary before the House Conferees can push the language we have in place in the House bill." And so 13 Westar officials paid $31,500 to the candidates they were told to support and the company gave $25,000 to Texans for a Republican Majority PAC, a committee closely tied to DeLay. Rep. Barton put the company’s exemption into the law, with Reps. DeLay, Tauzin and Barton all voting to keep it there when Democrats tried to strip it out. Later it was withdrawn after a grand jury started investigating the company for securities fraud.
Rep. DeLay’s office has insisted that there was no quid pro quo between Westar’s donations and the exemption. "When people contribute to Delay or causes he supports, they are supporting his agenda, we are not supporting theirs," a spokesman insists. He admits that DeLay met with Westar officials last year, but asserts, "We have no control over any fantasies they might have about what they might get for a campaign contribution."
Hmmm. Let’s see. America’s businessmen are the smartest in the world, DeLay no doubt believes, but they’re dupes when it comes to investing $56,500 of their hard-earned dollars on some leading Congressmen?
It might be possible to believe DeLay’s denials if this weren’t part of a pattern of behavior. But consider this history:
On Apr. 3, 2001, the Associated Press reported that DeLay was making recorded calls to small business owners, promising them meetings with top Bush officials where they could voice their opinions on issues like tax reform in exchange for a $20,000 contribution to join his Business Advisory Council. It is against the law for elected officials to promise favors for political donations.
DeLay is no stranger to the other side of the game, either. On May 14, 1996, Edwin Lupberger, then the CEO of Entergy Corp., wrote DeLay a letter to thank him for meeting with him during a dinner for Republican Team 100 donors -- people who gave or raised over $100,000 for the Republican Party -- and discussing pending legislation. "There is an issue before Congress of significant importance to our company and industry -- repeal of the Public Utility Holding Act of 1935," Lupberger wrote. He urged DeLay to push the relevant committee chairmen to act on repealing the act. Over the summer, Entergy gave $20,000 in soft money to the National Republican Congressional Committee, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. In September, DeLay went to the floor of the House to push the law's repeal.
In October 2001, DeLay added a provision to anti-terrorism legislation that would have prevented foreign governments from recouping billions from tobacco companies in lost revenues and damages. Public Citizen reports that a political committee he controls (known as a "527" organization) took in $131,500 from tobacco interests in the year prior to that.
In the fall of 2002, Congress passed legislation creating the Department of Homeland Security that included several special interest provisions roundly attacked by many lawmakers. These included limits on legal liabilities for companies that produce vaccines (a sop to pharmaceutical maker Eli Lilly), a boondoggle for Texas A&M University, and a provision undoing an amendment sponsored by the late Sen. Paul Wellstone (D-Minn.) that would have barred companies using offshore tax havens from getting homeland security contracts. The leaders of the Senate promised to take up corrective legislation removing these provisions, but DeLay only said he would "consider" allowing the House to vote on such changes. This January, Congress removed the Lilly provision. But DeLay's tough line worked. Congress eviscerated the Wellstone rule, and special liability protections for airport screening companies have been retained as well.
DeLay's rise in politics was fueled by Enron. The rogue company hosted the first fundraiser for his leadership PAC, raising $280,000 for him at the event. And DeLay fought hard for the company's agenda of regulatory relief. Not only did Enron reward Delay with $32,700 over his years in Congress (making him its number eight top beneficiary overall), it gave two of his top aides a $750,000 consulting contract and paid his wife Christine $40,000 for a no-show job.
"If you want to play in our revolution, you have to live by our rules," DeLay tells lobbyists. He has two lists of the 400 largest PACs, those who he deems friendly and those he deems unfriendly. "We’re just following the old adage of punish your enemies and reward your friends," DeLay says. He once told Congress Daily, "Money is not the root of all evil in politics. In fact, money is the lifeblood of politics." Clearly, money is Tom DeLay’s lifeblood. Maybe, if the Justice Department can be moved to investigate this latest Delay scandal, it could be his downfall as well.
Campaign for America's Future writes, "In his first substantive act as House majority leader, Mr. DeLay introduced new rules for the 108th Congress that were voted into law with the support of every Republican member. What were the rule changes the DeLay Republicans made? To open the House up to public scrutiny? To enforce term limits? To limit the access of lobbyists to the back rooms. Not exactly. The rules of Tom DeLay's House are clear: pay to feast. So the DeLay Republicans acted immediately to: Gut House ethics rules to enable lobbyists to cater fine meals for members' offices... End embarrassing votes to raise the national debt... Mandate voodoo economic analysis of budget bills so tax cuts appear cost-free... It only took 2 hours for Tom DeLay to put these deceptive rules on the books - with the support of every single Republican. Imagine what they'll do with 2 years to work. 'Welcome to DeLay's Special Interest Buffet: would you like some tax cuts with that?'"
[Washington, D.C.] House Majority Leader Tom DeLay today said that the House would not consider moving legislation to expand child tax credits for the families of 12 million left out of the Republican tax bill passed last month.
Rep. DeLay said that Republicans are moving on to other tax cuts, like repealing the estate tax, Congressional Quarterly reported today. He said that the child tax credit could be re-opened as part of that broader legislation. "I think it's pretty shameable that they now are crying for [the child tax credit]..." said Rep. DeLay (CQ, 06/03/03)
"It is shameful for Tom DeLay to use the child tax credits of low-income families' as a bargaining chip to win bigger tax cuts for his rich friends," said Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Robert T. Matsui. "House Republicans will have a hard time explaining why they spent hundreds of billions in tax breaks for the wealthy and left out 12 million children whose families need tax relief most."
The $350 billion tax bill the President signed into law last week provides roughly $90 billion in tax cuts to approximately 200,000 households that make over $1 million. In contrast, the bill will provide no benefit to 8 million children and will only provide limited benefits to an additional 4 million. Additionally, it will provide $100,000 (up from $25,000) dollars in tax-breaks to businesses.
To provide benefits to low-income children, House Republicans could have reduced the top income tax rate to 35.3 percent from 2003 to 2005, and 35 percent thereafter, resulting in a savings of $3.9 billion. This small reduction would have resulted in $400 million more than needed to provide a tax-credit for America's low-income children. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, May 29, 2003]
WASHINGTON, DC -- House Democratic Caucus Chairman Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Democratic Caucus Vice Chairman James E. Clyburn (D-SC), Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-MD), and Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairman Ciro Rodriguez (D-TX) today sent the following letter to House Republican Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) demanding an apology for his recent remarks attacking African-Americans and Hispanics opposed to his re-districting plans for Texas:
April 25, 2003
The Honorable Tom DeLay (R-TX)
U.S. House of Representatives
H-107, The Capitol
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Congressman DeLay:
We are writing to express our outrage over your recent comments accusing minority State Legislators and community organizations in Texas of not representing their constituents. Such accusations are preposterous, and on behalf of those very constituents, we demand an apology for your reckless and partisan jabs at minority representatives.
Such arrogance is offensive not only to us, but also to the Hispanic and African-American constituents we represent across this country. What makes you think that you know better than we do what’s in the best interest of our constituents? On issues of great importance to our communities – civil rights, health care, education, economic opportunity – your voting record suggests quite the opposite. According to the National Hispanic Leadership Agenda vote ratings, you supported Hispanics on their issues only 7% of the time; and according to the NAACP vote ratings, you supported African-Americans on their issues only 21% of the time. Compare those numbers to the 80% and 82% ratings of Democratic Members of the Texas Delegation, and it becomes very clear who is really fighting for the best interests of Hispanics and African-Americans.
Furthermore, you have criticized African-American and Hispanic leaders in the Texas State Legislature for failing to support a proposal that they have not even seen, much less been consulted on. We have worked too long to earn fundamental rights and respect to have you come to the Texas legislature and say the Chairmen of the Legislative Black Caucus and Mexican American Legislative Caucus are not representing “their people”. We don’t appreciate this paternalism. It seems to us that if you are truly interested in doing what’s best for minority communities in Texas, you would at least consult with minority leaders in the body responsible for considering such a proposal.
Your efforts to disguise your own highly partisan land grab as a new-found concern for minority representation is completely transparent, and makes your accusations against minority organizations and elected representatives even more outrageous. It is clear that your goal in reopening redistricting in Texas is to reduce the number of voices advocating the interests of minority constituencies, not expand them. This partisan assault on minority voters should stop, and we demand an apology for your insensitive comments and accusations. Minorities in the State of Texas, and indeed, throughout the United States, deserve nothing less.
Chairman, House Democratic Caucus
James E. Clyburn
Vice Chair, House Democratic Caucus
Chairman, Congressional Hispanic Caucus
Chairman, Congressional Black Caucus