|Tom DeLay- Corporate Whore|
June 25, 2004
(The Nation) This story from The Nation was written by Katrina vanden Heuvel.
Is it any surprise that the publication of Clinton's memoir My Life has revived the vitriolic bleating from those on the right who just can't seem to stop salivating over blue dresses and beret-wearing interns?
But if these self-appointed morality police were truly committed to upholding ethics and promoting values in government, they would begin challenging the House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who is hands down one of the most corrupt politicians in the United States.
"The Hammer” -- DeLay got that nickname because he runs the U.S. House of Representatives with an iron fist -- has allegedly bribed his GOP colleagues to win their votes for legislation that he desperately wanted to pass in the House. He's engaged in quid pro quos with corporations seeking legislative favors, and violated campaign finance laws in Texas during the 2002 state house election contests. Now, after a seven-year truce in the U.S. House that discouraged members from filing ethics charges against one another, Rep. Chris Bell has gone to the ethics committee and filed a 187-page bombshell charging that DeLay engaged in extortion, money-laundering and other abuses of power.
Just this week, the ethics committee said that Bell had met the criteria for filing a complaint, and it will now spend at least the next forty-five days reviewing the charges that DeLay violated the house's ethics rules. Bell called the committee's decision "an important first step in the long journey to restore integrity and ethics to the people's House and to hold the House majority leader accountable for his actions." He received a riproaring (standing) ovation from the Democratic Caucus this week, winning a tacit endorsement from colleagues in his ongoing battle to hold DeLay accountable.
Bell, who lost his seat in Texas after DeLay rammed through his undemocratic statewide redistricting plan designed to help Republicans hold on to power there, has taken a bold stand. But kudos must also be given to the courageous folks at the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics (CREW) in Washington who have been filing complaints against DeLay and shining a spotlight on his transgressions for many months now. CREW bills itself as a non-partisan watchdog group established to use litigation to help ordinary people against unscrupulous government officials. "Of course, we should have high standards for government leaders," CREW's mission statement notes, "but the greatest danger to democracy is posed not by the personal peccadilloes of government leaders, but rather, public policy unduly influenced by special interests." Although it has adopted the model of legal advocacy developed by right-wing organizations like Judicial Watch and the Rutherford Institute, CREW has no political ideology, and in recent years it has stood alongside a bevy of brave souls, from columnist Paul Krugman to Democratic officials in the Texas legislature, who have opposed DeLay's brass-knuckles tactics and criticized the Majority Leader's illegal and undemocratic activities.
Thanks to Bell's complaint and CREW's persistence, Americans now have in their hands a vivid picture of corruption and ethical rule-breaking that belies the notion that this Administration and its Republican Congressional allies do anything more than simply pay lip service to upholding ethics and morality in the seats of federal power. For starters, the Democratic District Attorney in Travis County, Texas has convened a grand jury to investigate charges that "the Hammer" used his political action committee, Texans for a Republican Majority, to raise millions in corporate campaign contributions and then spent some of this money on polling, fundraising and get-out-the-vote activities in violation of Texas law, which says that corporate contributions can be used only for general administrative purposes.
DeLay is also charged in Bell's complaint with extracting campaign contributions from an electric utility in Kansas called Westar Energy. DeLay, it's alleged, agreed to insert provisions into an energy bill that would save Westar billions of dollars. One e-mail that has subsequently come to light reveals that Westar's executives thought that they were buying a "seat at the table" when they donated money to groups with links to the Majority Leader.
Then there's DeLay's role in corralling votes on behalf of the GOP's sham Medicare prescription drug legislation, a legislative low point that occurred in the long night of Republican arm-twisting last November. According to the Associated Press, Rep. Nick Smith, a Republican from Michigan, said that unnamed House Republican leaders threatened to work against Smith's son (who was running for Nick's seat) unless Smith voted for the legislation. Robert Novak reported in his column that Smith was also told that "business interests would give his son $100,000 in return for his father's vote." While Smith later recanted these allegations, his charges have the ring of truth, and they are in keeping with DeLay's thuggish tactics of forcing even his own Republican colleagues to submit to the Republican leadership's will on closely fought legislative matters.
DeLay's brazen attacks on democratic governance -- a tangled web of truly scandalous behavior -- are so outrageous that even conservative Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel has assailed the Republican leadership for fomenting an "anything goes" atmosphere: "I think we're on the edge of something dangerous if we don't turn it around ... It's like the Middle East. You just keep ratcheting up the intensity of the conflict." Real conservatives like Hagel believe that they should take responsibility for their actions. These conservatives actually value the rule of law, and they understand that the ends don't always justify the means in the pursuit of a radical right-wing ideology that serves corporate special interests above all.
Tom DeLay has never understood these things. He is committed to his take-no-prisoners agenda, and he sees ethics, morality and rules as nuisances that must be flouted, disdained and ignored. DeLay has racked up a record that demands investigation and action in the ethics committee and the courts of law. His scurrilous misdeeds demonstrate the yawning gap between a former President's private indiscretions and DeLay's dangerous violations of the public trust.
By GEBE MARTINEZ
Copyright 2004 Houston Chronicle Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON -- The House ethics committee decided Tuesday to proceed with its own investigation into allegations filed against House Majority Leader Tom DeLay by Rep. Chris Bell, D-Houston.
In a ruling that does not address the substance of Bell's charges that DeLay engaged in extortion, bribery and abuse of power, the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct said the complaint was filed properly and warrants a look.
The decision "in no way addresses, or constitutes a determination on the substance of any of the allegations," said Committee Chairman Joel Heffley, R-Colo., and ranking Democrat Alan B. Mollohan of West Virginia.
Their announcement sets in motion a series of steps that could take months before a decision on whether the Republican leader from Sugar Land violated House rules. The panel could have held off until a related criminal investigation in Texas runs its course, and may still do so.
Before the ethics panel's decision was announced, DeLay told reporters he would not try to influence the panel's work, though he has spoken to his GOP colleagues about the case. DeLay emphasized that he has never been named as a target of the Texas probe.
"I have every confidence the ethics committee will do the right thing," he added.
Bell called the committee's decision "an important first step in the long journey to restore integrity and ethics to the people's house and hold the House majority leader accountable for his actions." He expressed confidence the House panel "will ultimately decide to proceed with the long overdue investigation into Mr. DeLay's illegal activities."
However some Republicans, including Rep. John Culberson of Houston, will press ahead today with an effort to disqualify Bell's complaint, arguing that he should not have the right to file ethics charges because he is a lame-duck congressman and has no stake in the House's future.
Bell's complaint is an outgrowth of a Travis County grand jury probe into the use of corporate contributions in state legislative campaigns by the Texas Association of Business and Texans for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee (TRMPAC), a campaign group created by DeLay.
Those political activities led to DeLay's push for new congressional districts to increase the number of GOP seats in the House. Bell lost his campaign for a second term in the March primary as a result.
In addition to the TRMPAC activities, Bell alleges DeLay wrongly pressured federal officials to help Republicans in the redistricting battle, and solicited campaign contributions from Westar Energy Inc. in return for legislative assistance.
On Tuesday, DeLay called Bell's charges "frivolous complaints," and argued the ethics committee process is being used by Democrats for "political gains."
House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., privately has expressed his opposition to an effort by Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Ill., Culberson and others, to disqualify Bell from filing the ethics complaint. LaHood said he will propose today a ban on lame-duck lawmakers filing ethics complaints, and have it apply to Bell to bring a quick end to the DeLay case.
DeLay accused of abuses of power
By Sheryl Gay Stolberg
New York Times News Service
Published June 16, 2004
WASHINGTON -- A 7-year-old, unofficial truce discouraging House members from filing ethics complaints against one another disintegrated Tuesday when a freshman Democrat accused one of the most powerful members of Congress, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), of "bribery, extortion, fraud, money laundering and the abuse of power."
The Democrat, Rep. Chris Bell of Texas, who is leaving Congress because he lost a primary election, filed a 187-page complaint against DeLay with the House ethics committee. The complaint accuses DeLay of illegally soliciting campaign contributions, laundering campaign contributions to influence state legislative races and improperly using his office to influence federal agencies.
DeLay said "there is no substance" to the accusations.
The complaint is deeply intertwined with Texas politics. DeLay helped orchestrate redistricting of the state's congressional districts. Bell, who is white, was subsequently pushed into a district that is largely black and he lost to a black candidate. The accusations in Bell's complaint, which news organizations have raised, revolve in part around DeLay's actions in the redistricting.
The complaint makes three specific accusations: that DeLay traded contributions from the largest electric utility in Kansas, Westar Energy of Topeka, for help on measures that would save it billions of dollars; that DeLay funneled contributions from one of his political action committees to the Republican National Committee "in an apparent money-laundering scheme," and that DeLay improperly exhorted federal agencies, including the Justice Department, to search for Texas state legislators when they fled to block a vote on redistricting.
DeLay said the charges were "all based on press clippings."
Bell, who called DeLay "the most corrupt politician in America today," said he had been preparing the complaint for months and his defeat had nothing to do with it.
The complaint was drafted with the help of a watchdog group, the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. The ethics panel, formally called the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, has 14 calendar days or five legislative days to determine whether it meets the threshold for consideration. After that, the panel can dismiss the complaint, decide to investigate or consider it for an additional 45 days.
Since 1997, after politically charged ethics fights led to the resignation of one speaker, Jim Wright, another Texas Democrat, and a $300,000 fine against another speaker, Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), the House approved rules to bar outsiders from filing ethics complaints. Those rules prompted what has been called an unofficial truce on ethics inquiries.
Bell's action provoked a controversy between Democrats and Republicans over whether the truce should have been broken and questions about a possible retaliatory complaint against a Democrat.
Speaker Dennis Hastert, who rarely grants interviews, took a surprise walk through the Speaker's Lobby, the corridor that runs alongside the House chamber where reporters congregate to interview members.
"The worry I have," Hastert said, "is that you again politicize the process, and it denigrates what ethics is all about."