|Tom DeLay- Corporate Whore|
In any other year, Rep. Tom DeLay's (R-TX) performance on "Meet the Press" this Sunday might have seemed strange. But 2003 was filled with such bitter rhetoric and misleading half-truths from the right wing that DeLay's nutty rantings actually provide fitting closure to the year. Let's take a look at some of his comments, as well as a recap of the year that was 2003.
Rep. Tom DeLay appeared on "Meet the Press" yesterday determined to end the year with a bang, not a whimper. He called the war in Iraq "exciting," and compared Democrats to morons, hippies and (gasp!) the French.
And then he started saying really ridiculous things. Check out this exchange between DeLay and host Tim Russert:
MR. RUSSERT: [President Clinton's] first budget submission which passed without one Republican vote, you'll give him no credit for that?
REP. DeLAY: None at all because it raised taxes and made it even more difficult for us to come back in 1995 and change his economic policies and get us back to balance.
MR. RUSSERT: As long as we have these $500 billion deficits, will you not introduce any more tax-cut legislation?
REP. DeLAY: Tax cuts will lower the deficit and bring us back to balance.
This represents by far the most ludicrous exchange during the interview. First DeLay attempted to take credit for the record economic expansion under the Clinton administration, and then he attempted to once again sell the idea that reduced revenue will actually lower the budget deficit. Besides being mathematically challenged, DeLay's faith-based economic theories are contrary to all the actual experience we've had with supply-side economics. After three successive years of massive tax cuts, the federal budget deficit stands at roughly $500 billion, the largest it's ever been - are we missing something here?
But DeLay wasn't finished. Watching him spew hateful rhetoric is like watching Picasso go to work on a blank canvas. Except instead of using oil on canvas, DeLay's preferred medium is verbal garbage on the public record. Which leads us to this bombshell:
REP. DeLAY: You know, the Democrats want to balance the budget by raising spending and raising taxes. The Soviet Union had a balanced budget.
Apparently sensing he hadn't gone far enough with his comparisons to morons, hippies and the French, DeLay kicked his rhetoric into a higher gear later in the show and compared Democrats to communists because they're pushing for a balanced budget. This statement is the "Guernica" of hateful political diatribes. What better way to cap off a command performance than some good old-fashioned red-baiting? This must constitute getting into the Christmas spirit for DeLay: calling Democrats dirty Greens and treacherous Reds. There is no word whether or not he spent the rest of his Sunday terrorizing the Whoos down in Whooville.
But employing false economic logic and engaging in bitter name-calling has been a hallmark of 2003. President Bush promised in his inaugural address to "change the tone in Washington," and he has - under the Bush administration, things have transformed from typical partisan bickering to outright political garbage-throwing.
Anyone who opposed the president's ill-planned rush to war was labeled a traitor.
Anyone who dared question the president's overstatements of intelligence information was labeled a traitor and a wimp.
Anyone who opposed tax cuts was labeled a tax-and-spend liberal. And a traitor.
And the list goes on.
Democrats in Congress were the most frequent recipients of such attacks, but by far the worst retaliation was administered against Valerie Plame, wife of former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who dared speak out against the president's bogus yellowcake claim.
President Bush and other administration officials frequently overstated Iraq's WMD capability before the war, from the president's ominous State of the Union address, to Secretary of State Colin Powell's visit to the UN shortly thereafter. And let's not forget about Vice President Dick Cheney's quote on "Meet the Press" that Iraq had "reconstituted nuclear weapons."
When Wilson finally called the administration on their elaborate charade, the Bush political team responded with a political whack job - they outted the identity of his wife, a CIA operative, by leaking it to conservative columnist Robert Novak. In the political non-surprise of the year, an investigation that is being conducted by Attorney General John Ashcroft's FBI has not found the source of the leak.
The Plame story stands out as a particularly savage tale, although it would stand out even more if there wasn't a near-constant barrage of political invective and misleading statements generated by the Bush White House. Quick bullet points cannot hope to summarize the president's atrocious record, but they will give an idea of how many ways the administration has failed the American people.
Economy: Treasury Secretary John Snow estimated that the president's plans would create a few hundred thousand dollars of jobs each month. It has not. Meanwhile, the deficit is at record levels, spending is up, and the administration still has not ruled out even more tax cuts.
Environment: President Bush backtracked on earlier promises to create strict mercury restrictions. The so-called "Clear Skies Initiative" significantly undermines the Clean Air Act, and national forests have been opened up to commercial logging interests. And Vice President Cheney's Energy Task Force continues to stonewall investigators searching for transparency in the nation's policies.
Foreign Affairs: Osama bin Laden is at large. Troops are stretched thin in Iraq and Afghanistan, and many are lacking basic provisions like bulletproof vests and fresh water. Meanwhile Halliburton's contracts have netted the company some $2.26 billion.
Medicare: President Bush and Congressional Republicans have touted the new Medicare bill as a significant step forward, and it is - for drug companies and the health industry that get over 61% of the money added directly to their profit margins. But our nation's seniors have been betrayed.
And there's more, much more. It's been a long year, and simply switching the calendar over to 2004 certainly won't be a panacea - after all, it's not like a huge tax cut or anything. But each new year does bring hope: after all, you never know what 2004 will bring. Happy holidays - we'll be back on January 5.
This morning on Meet the Press, when asked about Clark's criticism of the Bush administration's failure to capture those responsible for 9/11 and his stance that the threat in Iraq was not imminent, Tom Delay said, "unfortunately Wesley Clark must live in a different world."
Clark Campaign Strategist Reid Cherlin responded to Tom 'Chicken-hawk' Delay's latest cowardly comments, "The closest to real combat that Tom 'Chicken-Hawk' Delay has ever come was when he got himself a student deferment from Vietnam and instead suited up in his exterminator outfit and defended the people of Texas against invading cockroaches, marauding red ants and hostile moths. Wes Clark has seen real combat, given his blood for our country, and commanded troops in battle, which is why he believes we need to win the war on terrorism instead of declaring victory when we all know that the terrorists directly responsible for 9/11 are still out there at large. General Clark lives in a world where he believes that America will be stronger, safer and more secure if we are focused on winning the war against the terrorists, getting Osama bin Laden and working with our Allies."
Just to remind people of the Chicken-hawk's views on military service, here is what he has said about his lack of military experience, in an excerpt from the/ Houston Press/:
"He and Quayle, DeLay explained to the assembled media in New Orleans, were victims of an unusual phenomenon back in the days of the undeclared Southeast Asian war. 'So many minority youths had volunteered for the well-paying military positions to escape poverty and the ghetto that there was literally no room for patriotic folks like himself.' Satisfied with the pronouncement, which dumbfounded more than a few of his listeners who had lived the sixties, DeLay marched off to the convention." [/Houston Press/, 1/7/99]
Prosecutors are looking at how corporate money was spent
Texas Ethics Commission's opinions interpreting portions of state law that restricts how corporate money can be used during elections
By Laylan Copelin
Wednesday, December 10, 2003
When U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay attends a fund-raiser in Austin today, the invitations to donate to his re-election campaign will warn, "No Corporate Money."
It's a timely reminder.
Just a few blocks from the event at the Inter-Continental Stephen F. Austin Hotel, a Travis County grand jury is investigating whether Texans for a Republican Majority violated state law by using corporate money to help elect state lawmakers during last year's election.
At DeLay's direction, one of his top associates set up the political action committee. DeLay was among the group's advisers and marquee names that drew $1.5 million in donations, including about $600,000 from corporations.
State law prohibits corporations or labor unions from making political expenditures, but their money may be used to establish a political action committee and to pay its administrative costs.
At issue before the grand jury is whether some of the activities that DeLay's group used corporate money to pay for — polling, screening candidates and fund raising — were part of the committee's administrative costs or political expenditures for candidates.
DeLay, the second most powerful member in the U.S. House, is not commenting on the inquiry. But two key associates at Texans for a Republican Majority are confident that what the group did was legal. They outlined their roles in helping to elect the GOP majority in the state Legislature that, in turn, gave DeLay the new congressional map needed to elect more Republicans to Congress.
In past elections, Texas Republicans had political action committees similar to Texans for a Republican Majority. The groups raised money and backed candidates they thought had the best chance at overtaking Democrats' majority in the House. Since 1998, the state Senate and all 27 statewide offices have been in GOP hands.
In 2002, with new state House districts drawn to favor Republicans, the GOP had the inside track to conquer the last Democratic stronghold in state government. Unlike previous elections, DeLay brought his influence and Washington-style fund raising to bear.
"With the opportunity there in the elections in Texas, it was a good chance to emulate what we had done on the federal level," said Jim Ellis, who runs DeLay's Americans for a Republican Majority. The group, commonly referred to as ARM-PAC, is one of the nation's largest "leadership PACs." It donated $1.2 million to U.S. House candidates and the national GOP in 2002.
While Ellis set up the Texas group with DeLay's consent — and helped staff it with DeLay associates — he and others said the majority leader remained at arm's length. "He didn't raise a nickel personally," said John Colyandro, a Texas political veteran whom Ellis recruited as the group's executive director. "But he gave us instant credibility" with prospective donors.
Soon after the Texas committee was formed, Warren Robold, who already was raising corporate money for Americans for a Republican Majority and for DeLay's charity for abused and neglected children, began raising corporate dollars for the Texas effort. In effect, he offered corporations one-stop shopping for giving money to DeLay's three fund-raising efforts.
Ellis said Robold focused on Washington lobbyists who worked for corporations with Texas ties, although not all the companies that contributed to the Texas committee did business in Texas.
In Texas, DeLay's daughter, Dani Ferro, was paid to organize fund-raisers, including an Austin event headlined by Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, who oversaw that state's Bush-Gore recount.
Former state Rep. Bill Ceverha, who works for Louis Beecherl, a Dallas investor and big Republican donor, came aboard as the committee's treasurer. His primary role, Colyandro said, was as the pipeline to big-dollar donors among Texas Republicans.
The efforts worked.
Of the $1.5 million raised, 10 perennial Republican donors in Texas gave a total of more than $600,000. Under Texas law at the time, only money raised from individuals had to be reported to the Texas Ethics Commission.
Another $600,000 came from 33 corporations. Fifteen corporations accounted for more than $500,000 of that money, including $100,000 from an alliance of 14 nursing home companies.
The Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care has focused on the congressional debate over Medicare funding, running television and print advertising in Washington to influence members of Congress.
Steve Guillard, the Boston-based chairman of the alliance, said the group sent $100,000 to Texas almost three weeks before the election at the request of two Texas-based nursing homes that are members of the group. He said they were interested in what then was a pending legislative debate over limiting the legal liability of companies, including nursing homes.
Former Texas House Speaker Billy Clayton is chairman of the board for Campaigns for People, an Austin group that lobbies for more disclosure in campaign finance. He questions the size of such corporate donations that went unreported in Texas until now.
"Anybody who gives $100,000 would expect to have some influence," Clayton said.
But it was two smaller donations that landed DeLay in a Washington brouhaha.
Westar Energy in Kansas and Bacardi & Co., the liquor company based in Florida, gave $25,000 and $20,000, respectively, to Texans for a Republican Majority.
DeLay's detractors say those two companies gave money to the Texas PAC only to seek favors from DeLay. Bacardi wanted congressional help in a dispute over a rum trademark. Westar sought exemption from specific federal regulations.
One Westar executive questioned in an e-mail why the Kansas company was supporting a campaign effort in Texas, where the utility had no business. The answer, from another executive, was that DeLay's support was crucial in Congress.
"The corporations that gave, based on the Westar memo, thought they were doing what Tom DeLay wanted," said Craig McDonald, executive director of Texans for Public Justice. "They had an interest in pleasing Tom DeLay because they have a congressional agenda to pursue."
McDonald filed the complaint that instigated the grand jury investigation into Texans for a Republican Majority.
In Congress, attempts to help both companies were dropped after opponents objected to the special treatment.
Ellis said Bacardi is a longtime supporter of DeLay's, but Ellis wasn't even sure who Westar was when the story broke: "I had to look them up."
He said Americans for a Republican Majority tries to insulate itself from allegations of donors seeking favors from DeLay by taking money from a broad spectrum of contributors.
"Tom DeLay," Ellis said, "does not make decisions based on who contributes money."
DeLay did not comment for this story, but he discounted the Westar allegations to the Houston Chronicle earlier this year: "It never ceases to amaze me that people are so cynical that they want to tie money to issues, money to bills, money to amendments."
Ellis and Colyandro say prosecutors will find that Texans for a Republican Majority didn't do anything other Texas political action committees haven't done. But in a printed pitch to corporate donors, DeLay's committee promised corporations more bang for their bucks.
"Unlike other organizations, your corporate contribution to (Texans for a Republican Majority) will be put to productive use," the pamphlet read. "Rather than just paying for overhead, your support will fund a series of productive and innovative activities designed to increase our level of engagement in the political arena."
The committee promised to use the corporate donations for "active candidate evaluation and recruitment, monitoring of campaign progress, message development and communications, market research, and issue development."
Not all the corporate money that Robold sent from Washington stayed in Texas.
Texans for a Republican Majority sent $190,000 to an arm of the National Republican Committee in September 2002. Two weeks later, the national committee sent a total of the same amount on a single day to seven Texas legislative candidates; contributions to the seven ranged from $20,000 to $40,000.
Colyandro said the Texas committee sent the corporate money for party-building activities. He said the organization did not coordinate a swap of corporate money, which candidates could not legally accept, for legal donations from the national committee. He called it a coincidence.
In addition to other uses, the corporate donations paid for a small circle of DeLay associates to assist the Texas committee.
Ellis and Robold maintained offices at a lobbying firm founded by Ed Buckham, DeLay's former chief of staff.
In Texas, Kevin Brannon, a staffer with former U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm, screened candidates the committee might support and later advised some of the candidates. Austin consultant Susan Lilly was hired to organize breakfasts and luncheons to raise money in Texas.
Colyandro, who ran the committee's day-to-day operations, said corporate cash was kept in a separate account from other donations. He said he tried to be sure the corporate money did not directly benefit a candidate.
"The Legislature did not want corporate or labor money to be used as a campaign contribution," he said. "That is unassailable."
To avoid that, Colyandro said he would pay Brannon, for example, from the corporate account when he was screening candidates for the committee to endorse. When Brannon later advised those candidates, Colyandro said he paid him with money donated by individuals.
Likewise, Colyandro said the account from which a pollster was paid depended upon whether the poll was for a candidate or for the committee's strategy purposes.
One firm was used to make phone calls looking for committee members and to make get-out-the-vote calls. Colyandro said the firm, paid from separate accounts depending on the job, called different people to avoid overlap.
The fund-raisers — Robold, Lilly and Ferro — were paid with corporate dollars whether they were soliciting money from corporations or individuals.
Lilly organized events in Texas, which DeLay often headlined. While the events targeted donations from individuals, some of the invitations also solicited corporate money.
They either said, "Corporate checks are acceptable," or gave Robold's phone number for corporate donors to call. Colyandro defended the corporate-financed fund raising because donors did not give money directly to candidates.
"(Lilly) wasn't raising money for a candidate," Colyandro said. "The money eventually went to candidates, but she raised it for Texans for a Republican Majority."
McDonald said that is not what the Legislature intended when it banned corporate and union money as political expenditures: "Just because people like a company's widgets doesn't mean the CEO can take their money and change the political landscape."
BY JIM HIGHTOWER
Do you love children? Of course you do. Does your heart break for abused and neglected children? Of course it does. Does your heart yearn so strongly to help such children that you'd be willing to make a tax-deductible contribution of $500,000 to (get ready to sob with the joy of charitable giving): Tom DeLay?
Yes, DeLay, the notorious Boss of the Congress, who is nicknamed the Hammer for his heavy-handed raising of corporate political money in exchange for legislative favors. And now, proving that no low is too low for Tom, he has created a charity named Celebrations for Children using abused and neglected kids as a draw for more corporate money.
Tom's charity was set up specifically to be used as a fundraising funnel at the 2004 Republican National Convention, and it has mailed a slick 13-page booklet to corporate donors that appeals less to their charitable instincts than to their greed. The booklet asks for donations ranging from $10,000 to half a million bucks, promising that the CEOs and lobbyists who give will get exclusive face time with DeLay and other key GOP lawmakers during the convention week. Top donors, for example, are to enjoy a quiet spin on a yacht with Tom, plus play golf with him, and get two private dinners with him and his wife, among other special chances to schmooze with power.
To add to the allure, the corporations are to get a tax deduction for their donations, meaning the rest of us taxpayers will get to subsidize their corrupt powerfest. Also, since it's technically a charity rather than a political fund, Tom doesn't even have to tell us which corporations buy into this scheme, much less what favors they'll get in return.
DeLay indignantly says that his charity is not about politics, yet it's being run by his political team, including his daughter and one of his longtime campaign fundraisers. He professes innocence with the same sincerity of a cat with feathers on its whiskers.
Wednesday, December 3, 2003; Page A05
NEW YORK, Dec. 2 -- Faced with increasing pressure from New York City officials, industry associations and labor leaders, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) decided Tuesday to cancel plans to house guests for the 2004 Republican National Convention on a cruise ship off Manhattan, his spokesman said.
"Where we hold events for the Republican convention is not something he cares about; it's not worth spending energy on," said DeLay's communications director, Stuart Roy. "He'll go to the mat on things that matter, but this does not."
Also, Norwegian Cruise Line, which owns the ship DeLay planned to charter, said in a statement that it was pulling out of the deal because it determined the use of the ship for the convention would not be commercially viable.
The turnaround came hours after the city's hotel association, labor leaders and Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.) urged Republican Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Gov. George E. Pataki (R) to pressure GOP leaders to scuttle the plan, saying the river retreat would draw more than $3 million away from city businesses during the Aug. 30-Sept. 2 convention.
"I'm glad Congressman DeLay has decided to sink this idea once and for all," Maloney said. "It's good for New York and good for the Republican convention."
The plan was to house visiting convention-goers on the Norwegian Dawn, which is usually used to take vacationers from New York to Florida and the Bahamas. The ship features 10 restaurants, 14 bars, several swimming pools, basketball courts, movie theaters and a spa, and it could have accommodated more than 2,200 conventioneers, who critics said would otherwise spend their money in city hotels, restaurants and theaters.
DeLay had argued that a ship docked on the Hudson River, a few blocks from convention headquarters at Madison Square Garden, would allow increased privacy and security for the members of Congress, lobbyists and others who stay aboard.
JIM VERTUNO, Associated Press Writer Monday, December 1, 2003
A three-judge federal panel on Monday rejected attempts to force House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and Rep. Joe Barton to testify in a lawsuit over Texas' new congressional districts.
The two Republicans had been issued subpoenas for deposition testimony, letters, e-mails and other materials in a lawsuit that seeks to block the new congressional maps.
The federal panel agreed with the lawmakers' attorney that only under exceptional circumstances, such as having unique information in a case, could they be subject to a subpoena.
The panel left open the possibility of reconsidering its decision during trial, which is to begin on Dec. 11.
"We had hoped we'd be able to take the testimony from both members," said Gerry Hebert, a lawyer for congressional Democrats who want to learn more about the role DeLay and Barton played in the redistricting process.
"The court at least recognized that it may be necessary to do so," he said.
DeLay's office was pleased with the ruling.
"The court recognized that allowing political operatives to question their opponents under oath about their political game plan is too ripe for abuse," said DeLay spokesman Stuart Roy.
Republicans redrew Texas congressional districts this year after a lengthy legislative battle. The changes could give Republicans seven more congressional seats. Democrats control the delegation now, 17-15.
Also Monday, the Colorado Supreme Court struck down that state's new congressional districts as unconstitutional. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott's office said that decision is particular to Colorado law.
In the Colorado case, the issue was whether the redistricting map pushed through by Republicans there this year was illegal. The General Assembly is required to redraw the maps only after each census and before the ensuing general election -- not at any other time.