|Tom DeLay- Corporate Whore|
Big Money Congress Doesn't Deserve a Pay Raise
by David Donnelly
Earlier his month, the U.S. House of Representatives voted itself a $3,100 pay raise. Didn't hear about it? That's no surprise. It was challenged by just one lawmaker, Jim Matheson, D-Utah, who "debated" for two minutes. Few people noticed.
How things have changed. In the early-1990s, Republicans used a broad critique of entrenched Democratic leadership, including opposition to pay raises, to gain control of Congress. Then, Republicans rejected pay raises in three of the first four years after they gained control of Congress. But those days are over. As a silent and sad punctuation to Congress's pay raise, the Democrats joined the Republicans in agreeing to keep the issue out of the 2006 elections.
It might have slipped by even more quietly if not for this comment from scandal-plagued House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas:
"It's not a pay raise," claimed DeLay, who will now make $183,500 a year. "It's an adjustment so that [we're] not losing [our] purchasing power."
Tell that to families trying to live on the minimum wage, which Congress hasn't raised since 1997. A full-time minimum wage worker earns $10,712 annually.
No one opposes pay raises when they are warranted. But Congress doesn't deserve a raise. Not this year. They're working for big money contributors, not us:
Instead of lowering gasoline prices as Americans head out on summer vacations, members of Congress abuse their power by taking free overseas golf junkets funded by lobbyists.
Instead of addressing the health care crisis, Congress sides with big drug company donors by prohibiting the federal government from negotiating lower prescription drug costs.
Instead of addressing the causes of bankruptcy filings - like soaring medical costs and massive layoffs, politicians in Washington pass a bankruptcy bill of, by and for contributors in the banking and credit card industry.
Does Tom DeLay really deserve a $3,100 "adjustment"? He has been rebuked by the House Ethics Committee four times. Yet his GOP colleagues return him to leadership. A Texas political committee he founded violated campaign finance laws in an effort to add more Republicans to Congress. His overseas travel on the dime of disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff allegedly violates House rules.
This activity should be investigated, but Republican leadership fired the independent-minded chairman, and installed a "yes" man, Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Washington. All five Republicans on the Ethics Committee have received campaign contributions from DeLay's political action committee. No wonder Hastings is refusing to appoint an outside counsel to investigate DeLay.
For that matter, does Chairman Hastings deserve a raise? He took a 2000 trip financed by a company that he then helped get a contract to clean up waste at the local Hanford facility. When that company was fired, Hastings jumped to back Washington Group International's successful bid to replace them. WGI was Hastings' top source of campaign cash in 2004.
How about Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio? Embroiled in numerous scandals, Ney has been accused of assisting lobbyists in the bilking Native American tribal casinos of $82 million, influencing the purchase of a casino cruise-ship company in Florida to mob-related interests, and taking a trip to London financed by a corporation which was seeking his help in securing government contracts.
Few could argue that Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-California, deserves a raise. Cunningham sold his house in San Diego to Mitchell Wade, CEO of defense contractor MZM, for $1.675 million. Wade then sold the house for a $700,000 loss a few months later. Rep. Cunningham sits on the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. MZM received more than $100 million in contracts from the Pentagon. The circumstances have sparked a FBI investigation, and Rep. Cunningham to announce he's leaving Congress.
The Democrats' response was to cede a potent political issue - and with it sent a message that they have a ways to go before becoming a "party of accountability."
These examples depict a majority party in Congress that abuses its power for personal gain and to reward wealthy donors. To make matters worse, Congress has failed to deliver on pressing needs like lower gas prices and accessible health care because they're in the deep pockets of lobbyists and big donors.
They don't deserve a pay raise.
District 22 before the illegal gerrymander
District 22 after the illegal gerrymander
New Justice May Play Role in Gerrymander Case
Tuesday, July 26, 2005
By Martin Frost
Some time early this fall, the U.S. Supreme Court will make a monumental decision, which could dramatically affect congressional politics. The court will decide whether or not to take a serious, detailed look at Tom DeLay’s 2003 gerrymander (search) of the Texas congressional delegation.
The threshold issue being determined involves whether the court will accept the case and set it down for oral argument during its 2005-06 term. If the court agrees to hear the case and if the court ultimately throws out DeLay’s plan-- which netted House Republicans six seats during the 2004 elections-- the ripple effect will be far-reaching indeed.
Plaintiffs from Texas are challenging the plan as being an illegal political gerrymander. The court during its last term took a look at the case and sent it back to a three-judge constitutional court in Texas for further review. That three-judge court (two Republicans and one Democrat) had initially approved the plan but the Supreme Court asked the lower court to take a second look in light of a recent Supreme Court case from Pennsylvania on the same subject. The three judge court held additional hearings on the matter and then rubber stamped its earlier decision.
The case from Pennsylvania dealt with a similar dramatic change in Congressional districts, which netted Republicans additional seats in the 2002 elections. In that case, the court split 4-4-1 and upheld the Republican plan. Four justices said the court should not even consider political gerrymandering cases, four judges said the court should, and one justice (Kennedy) said it was theoretically possible for the court to consider such a challenge if the proper standard could be determined but that the Pennsylvania case was not an appropriate one for action by the court.
If the court agrees to a full hearing in the Texas case and then throws out the Texas plan, it will make new law by establishing a standard for judging political gerrymanders. Interestingly enough, Justice O’Connor was among the four justices who didn’t think the court should even consider this type case, so her replacement (if confirmed in time to be involved in the threshold decision on whether or not to take the case), will not alter the balance on this particular issue. It’s really all up to the swing justice – Kennedy.
Political gerrymandering is as old as the Republic; however, Tom DeLay and Texas Republicans took it to new extremes in 2003. Not only did they draw new districts with the clear intent to radically change the balance in the Texas delegation, they did it in mid-decade after a constitutional plan (approved by the Supreme Court) had been put in place and used for the 2002 elections. By tradition, districts are drawn once every 10 years and not just because one party gains control of a legislature as the Republicans did in Texas in 2002.
There is nothing in the U.S. constitution that prevents districts from being redrawn every two years, but the clear tradition in our country has been that once every 10 years is enough. However, that particular issue will not be decided by the court if it takes the case.
The stakes are enormous. Republicans in the U.S. House actually lost seats nationwide in 2004 when you factor out Texas. Only after you consider the results of the Texas gerrymander, did Republicans eek out a narrow gain in seats in 2004.
If the court throws out the Republican Texas gerrymander, elections in either 2006 or 2008 (depending on what the court would decide) would be held under a different plan – perhaps the plan used in 2002 that elected 17 Democrats rather than 11. Republicans could hold onto some of these seats (incumbent Republicans would be running for re-election) but they wouldn’t keep all of them.
Also, any decision throwing out DeLay’s plan could have other far-reaching effects. A number of states (some controlled by Democrats and some controlled by Republicans) are currently considering mid-decade redistricting plans. Though the Court would not necessarily prohibit this practice, any such decision might dampen legislatures' enthusiasm for reopening plans now.
Additionally, there is a growing movement nationwide to turn Congressional redistricting over to bi-partisan commissions during the next regular round of line drawing (2011-12). Putting limits on partisan gerrymandering by legislatures might be just what is needed to put this movement over the top.
Keep an eye on the Supreme Court. Big changes might be in store for the way Congressional and legislative lines are drawn.
Martin Frost served in Congress from 1979 to 2005, representing a diverse district in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. He served two terms as chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, the third-ranking leadership position for House Democrats, and two terms as chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Frost serves as a regular contributor to FOX News Channel. He holds a Bachelor of Journalism degree from the University of Missouri and a law degree from the Georgetown Law Center.
DeLay Gets By With Less Help From Hill Friends
By Brian Faler
Friday, July 22, 2005; Page A07
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) is getting less help from his colleagues when it comes to paying his legal bills.
The liberal advocacy group Public Citizen, which analyzed DeLay's disclosure reports, said yesterday that just two other House members gave money to the Republican leader's defense fund during the past quarter. Reps. Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex.) and Paul E. Gillmor (R-Ohio) gave $7,000 to the fund, which raised $42,000 in that quarter.
In the previous quarter, nine of DeLay's colleagues contributed $30,000 to the account -- about two-thirds of the money it raised during that period. The quarter before, 36 lawmakers kicked in $174,000 of the $254,000 the fund reported receiving. Public Citizen said the fund has raised more than $1 million since it was formed in 2000, but the group did not calculate its current balance.
Lawmakers are allowed to contribute as much as $5,000 per year to such accounts, which are created to pay for legal fights related to the legislators' official duties. Much of DeLay's money is going to lawyers preparing for a possible investigation by the House ethics committee.
Public Citizen, which has been highly critical of DeLay, interpreted the numbers as a sign of declining support. "Clearly, the contributions to DeLay's legal defense fund are dropping at the same rate as his stock on Capitol Hill," said the group's president, Joan Claybrook.
"Blah, blah, blah," said Brent Perry, the trustee for the fund. "The level of contributions signifies that we haven't been focusing on fundraising for the legal expense trust -- and that's all it signifies."
Lawmakers Stick Close to Home
Are members of Congress becoming a bunch of homebodies?
The number of lawmakers who took privately funded trips plunged after news reports this spring documenting Tom DeLay's travels on other people's dimes.
PoliticalMoneyLine, which tracks money in politics, said that the number of such trips plummeted around May -- just as the controversy was peaking in the news. The group, which analyzed the disclosure forms lawmakers are required to file within 30 days of such trips, found that they took between 134 and 163 trips -- valued at between $380,000 and $500,000 -- during each of the first four months of this year.
Then, in May, the number of trips dropped by almost half, from 134 to 70. Their estimated value dropped even further, from about $490,000 in April to less than $91,000 the following month. The numbers began to climb in June, according to the group, which has counted, so far, 47 trips at $228,000. That figure may be misleading as more than half of the cost stemmed from a trip by several members to a conference in Turkey on Islam that was sponsored by the nonprofit Aspen Institute.
"We're now able to see the drop-off that existed in May," said the group's co-founder, Kent Cooper, who added that the number of travel forms filed in July has been "minuscule."
Tom DeLay's Moral Relativism and GOP Army of Ethical Corruption
A BUZZFLASH GUEST CONTRIBUTION
by Melanie Sloan, Executive Director, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW)
Open up a national daily or watch a cable talk show and you'd think that House Democrats have been committing ethics violations just as serious and as frequently as those committed by House Republicans. Of course, that's what's House Republicans want you to think, but the truth is that it's a comparison between apples and oranges.
While House Republicans and their colleagues are under federal investigation for breaking federal laws, their Democratic counterparts are being skewered in the press for trip reporting lapses. Hardly the same category of offense. But that doesn't stop Members of Congress like Representative Jack Kingston (R-NY) from claiming that "Democrats have just as many substantive questions."
Simply put, this is not true.
Let's look at the news this morning. Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham has decided not to run for re-election. He is now the subject of a grand jury investigation into whether he took bribes from Mitchell Wade and Wade's defense contracting firm. MZM, Inc. Cunningham sold his San Diego home to Wade for approximately $700,000 over market value and in Washington, Cunningham has been living rent-free aboard Wade's yacht, the Duke Stir. In exchange for Wade's largesse, Cunningham has assisted MZM in securing tens of millions of dollars in defense contracts.
Unlike Rep. Cunningham, Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) has barely acknowledged his egregious violations.
In 2002 after scandal-plagued Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff worked with Christian activist Ralph Reed to close the casino of the El Paso, Texas, Tigua Indian tribe, Abramoff persuaded the tribe to hire him to lobby Congress to reopen the casino. Shortly after Abramoff met with Ney to ask him to push the legislation, the Tigua - by overnight mail - sent three checks to Ney's political committees, totaling $32,000. The apparent exchange of campaign contributions in return for Ney's support of an amendment to reopen the Tigua's casino could constitute bribery.
In addition, e-mail exchanges between Abramoff and the Tigua's political consultant show that Ney solicited the Tigua to pay for part of a 2002 golf trip to Scotland, although solicitation of travel is specifically prohibited by House rules. Shortly after Ney returned from Scotland, he was scheduled to meet with members of the Tigua tribal council. Prior to that meeting, Abramoff reminded the Tigua that "for obvious reasons" the golf trip would not be mentioned at the meeting, but that Ney show his appreciation "in other ways," which was, Abramoff pointed out, just what the tribe wanted. Although the tribe never ended up paying for the golf trip, Ney's attempt to tie the gift of the trip to the legislative assistance the tribe was seeking likely violates federal criminal law.
Compare those abuses with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi's (D-CA) ethics rules violations. Earlier this month, Rep. Pelosi filed delinquent reports for three trips valued at a total of $8,580 (one for $8040, one for $200 and one for $350) and which occurred as long as seven years ago. Congresswoman Pelosi is one of a large number of House members to amend travel reports as a result of the recent increased scrutiny of lawmaker travel.
Pelosi's lapsed reporting. A violation? Yes. One that merits a comparison to Republican actions? Not really.
Similarly, last May, as reported by Media Matters for America, MSNBC's Joe Scarborough and Fox News' Brit Hume both accused Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-OH) of going on a trip to Puerto Rico they claimed was funded by lobbyists, thereby flouting the same ethics rule that House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) has been accused of violating. Scarborough also criticized House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) for participating in the same trip. But the April 20, 2005 Washington Times article that both Hume and Scarborough cited as the basis for their allegations provides strong evidence that lobbyists did not in fact pay for the 2001 trip to Puerto Rico.
The Washington Times article noted that a Jones spokeswoman stated that the listing of the lobbying firm Smith Dawson & Andrews on disclosure forms was the result of "human error."
The spokeswoman for Jones added that the advocacy organization Todo Puerto Rico con Vieques (TPRV) sponsored the trip and hired Smith Dawson to handle logistics. That claim is supported by James P. Smith, a managing partner at Smith Dawson & Andrews; according to the Times, Smith "denied that his firm paid for Mrs. Jones' travel. He offered to place his hand on the Bible." Furthermore, the Times noted that other House members who attended the trip, including Pelosi, listed TPRV -- not Smith Dawson -- as the trip's sponsor. Unlike lobbying firms, "private groups, such as Todo Puerto Rico con Vieques ... are allowed to fund trips," the Times noted.
So, Rep. Tubbs-Jones made an error in filling out her travel forms. Tom DeLay's travel, on the other hand, actually was paid for by a lobbyist - Jack Abramoff.
This is not to say that Democrats are squeaky clean. They are not. For example, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) should be investigated for the over million dollars her family has made in the last eight years by doing business with companies, candidates and causes that Waters has helped.
When members of either party break violate ethics rules and laws they need to be held accountable. It is irresponsible, however, to compare serious violations to minor transgressions or even simple clerical mistakes. Comparing wrongs rather than addressing them does not forward the democratic process. We hope for a change - or in the meantime - some reporting and analysis that actually reflects reality.