|Tom DeLay- Corporate Whore|
Texas-size gerrymander case heads to high court
By Naftali Bendavid
Published February 27, 2006
WASHINGTON -- It was among the more audacious political moves in memory: The state of Texas, prodded by Rep. Tom DeLay, redrew its political map in 2003 to send more Republicans to Congress, the first such "mid-decade" redistricting in the modern era.
The maneuver could hardly have been more successful. Six more Republicans were elected in 2004, making the Democrats' attempt to retake the House of Representatives this year all the more difficult. But there were negative consequences, too: DeLay has been indicted, admonished by the House ethics committee, forced to step down as majority leader and confronted with the prospect of losing his seat--all because of actions related to the redistricting.
Now the Supreme Court is preparing to deliver the final word on Texas' action. In a special two-hour session Wednesday, the court will consider whether Texas impermissibly redistricted for solely partisan reasons and whether it illegally dismantled black and Latino districts. A ruling is expected later this year.
The fight is unfolding against the backdrop of dramatically fewer competitive House races across the country. And the events in Texas seem to reflect a political culture that is becoming more partisan and polarized.
"The wrinkle in this is that there had not been a mid-decade redistricting in at least 100 years," said former Rep. Martin Frost, one of the Texas Democrats who lost his seat. "The Republicans were stretching the envelope. They were trying to do this on the theory that they could get away with it, and we'll find out if they can get away with it."
After a federal court drew Texas' congressional map following the 2000 census, 17 Democrats and 15 Republicans were sent to the U.S. House, even though the state's voters were close to 60 percent Republican. That frustrated DeLay, who used a well-funded political operation to help Republicans take over the Legislature, which set about drawing a more GOP-friendly map.
The result was a political circus. Democratic lawmakers fled the state to prevent a quorum, as Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, convened three special sessions to enact the plan. One Democrat finally relented, enabling the Legislature to push through the redistricting, and in 2004 Texas sent 21 Republicans and 11 Democrats to the U.S. House, a swing of six seats.
"This whole case from start to finish has about as many twists as the Harry Potter novels," said Tim Storey, a redistricting expert at the National Conference of State Legislatures. "It has wound through the courts. It has all these side stories to it. It's probably the most notorious or high-profile redistricting saga since Elbridge Gerry and the first gerrymander."
Democrats sued to get the map thrown out, saying it was improper to undertake a redistricting just to help one party.
In a 2004 case from Pennsylvania, the Supreme Court concluded it was impossible to determine when an ordinary post-census redistricting was "too" partisan. But in this case, Texas already had a court-drawn map, Democrats said, and redrew it solely to elect more Republicans.
"It's an outrage . . . in terms of an improper use of political power," said Matthew Angle, Frost's former chief of staff.
Texas officials responded that the court's map strongly favored Democrats and that their new map better reflects the will of the state's voters.
"The elected state Legislature in Texas acted to adopt a map that reflects the demonstrated preferences of Texas voters at the polls," said Texas Solicitor General R. Ted Cruz, who is to argue the case before the Supreme Court.
Minority activists also are seeking to block the new map. Some of them say Frost's old district, which was dismantled, was controlled by African-American voters, who made up 64 percent of Democratic primary voters. State officials say the district was anything but black-controlled, with African-Americans being just 21 percent of all voters in that district.
Hispanic activists, meanwhile, are angered by the fate of a district represented by Rep. Henry Bonilla, a Republican opposed by most Hispanics in his district. Bonilla was about to be defeated, the activists say, until the Legislature scooped about 100,000 Hispanic voters out of his district and replaced them with rural white voters.
"This is a straightforward case of vote dilution intended to thwart the political strength of minority voters as they were on the brink of electing their candidate of choice," said a brief filed by GI Forum of Texas, a Hispanic veterans' group.
Texas officials counter that because Bonilla was elected before and after the redistricting, it's hard to argue the district was altered in a significant way.
"He was winning comfortably in the old lines, and he's winning comfortably in the new lines," said Jeff Fisher, executive director of the Texas Republican Party.
Overall, the two sides present not just colliding legal arguments but entirely different pictures of recent history. Democrats describe a naked, illegal power grab by DeLay and the Republicans, and Republicans say Democrats for too long blocked Texans from getting true representation.
The episode has become part of the larger national debate over politics and corruption, in which DeLay is a central figure. After the Texas redistricting, the House ethics committee chastised DeLay for using the Federal Aviation Administration to track down the Democratic lawmakers when they fled. Then DeLay was indicted for alleged campaign finance violations related to his push to elect more Republicans to the Legislature, which set the stage for the redistricting.
A lower court has upheld the new Texas map. Should the Supreme Court agree, it would encourage other legislatures to redistrict whenever a party seizes the upper hand, said Paul Smith of the Chicago-based law firm Jenner & Block, who is arguing the case for the Democrats.
"If we are to lose this case, we will have a profoundly anti-democratic result," Smith said.
Few are willing to predict which way the court will go.
"It's a big wild card," said Storey, of the National Conference of State Legislatures. "The wise answer is that it will be some kind of a close decision that can break either way and will be pretty narrowly tailored to deal with the Texas episode. I think you flip a coin."
GOP lawmakers turn out for DeLay
By WENDY BENJAMINSONThe Associated Press
HOUSTON -- U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay was likened to Stonewall Jackson, Lyndon Baines Johnson and a courageous World War I officer Thursday as members of the Texas Republican congressional delegation joined the former House majority leader to endorse his re-election.
The unusual display of GOP solidarity was remarkable for DeLay, who is aggressively campaigning for re-election to the seat he has held comfortably for 22 years. This year he faces a contested primary March 7, and if he wins, Democrat Nick Lampson in November.
"He's got a contested primary; that's why we're here," said U.S. Rep. Joe Barton, R-Ennis.
DeLay, R-Sugar Land, resigned his leadership post as he became embroiled in an ethics scandal involving lobbyist Jack Abramoff. He faces a trial this year on felony money-laundering charges.
The Republicans took turns singing DeLay's praises as a selfless leader who not only helped get them elected but also won Republican majorities in Congress and the Legislature, and brought home the bacon for NASA, the port of Houston and other local needs.
U.S. Rep. Henry Bonilla of San Antonio likened him to LBJ, the former Democratic president from Texas, for "altering the political axis in our state."
U.S. Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock, compared DeLay to a World War I lieutenant who led his men out of a trench into battle and is "willing to have a target on front and back saying, 'shoot me first.'"
And U.S. Rep. John Culberson of Houston said DeLay was like Stonewall Jackson, willing to take the shots on behalf of the GOP troops.
A Lampson spokesman recalled that Vice President Dick Cheney also headlined a fundraiser for DeLay last year.
"He's had the vice president bail him out, and now he's got to have the delegation prop him up. That's got to be humiliating," Mike Malaise said.
Tom Campbell, DeLay's primary opponent who set up an RV outside the GOP rally, said the event proved he was making inroads.
"I understand loyalty," he said. "But it's important for us as a party to move through this fog of scandal."
Abramoff Got Indicted, and All We Got Was This Lousy $20 Gift Ban?
Posted on Feb. 20, 2006
By Molly Ivins
AUSTIN, Texas—Cynics are fond of meditating on the evil done in the name of reform. I’m a great believer in perpetual reform myself, on the theory that political systems, like houses, are always in want of some fixing. However, I have seen some pluperfect doozies passed off as reform in recent years, starting with “Social Security reform.”
Conservatives used to oppose reform on principle, correctly regarding it as a vile plot by goo-goo good government forces to snatch away their perks. This once led to a colorful scene in the Texas legislature in which the letters R*E*F*O*R*M appeared on the rear ends of six female members of a baton drill team, who turned and perched their derrieres pertly on the brass rail of the House gallery.
Reform follows scandal as night the day, except in these sorry times when it appears we may not get a nickel’s worth of reform out of the entire Jack Abramoff saga. Sickening. A real waste of a splendid scandal. When else do politicians ever get around to fixing huge ethical holes in the roof except when they’re caught red-handed? Do not let this mess go to waste! Call now, and demand reform!
Sheesh. Tom DeLay gets indicted, and all the Republicans can think of is a $20 gift ban. Forget the people talking about “lobby reform.” The lobby does not need to be reformed, the Congress needs to be reformed. This is about congressional corruption, and it is not limited to the surface stuff like taking free meals, hotels and trips. This is about corruption that bites deep into the process of making laws in the public interest. The root of the rot is money (surprise!), and the only way to get control of the money is through public campaign financing.
As long as the special interests pay to elect the pols, we will have government of the special interests, by the special interests and for the special interests. Pols will always dance with them what brung them. We have to fix the system so that when they are elected, they got no one to dance with but us, the people—we don’t want them owing anyone but the public. So the most useful reform bill is being offered by Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., and Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass.—public campaign financing. We, the citizens, put up the money to elect the pols. This bill won’t cost us money, the savings will be staggering.
We’re also looking for a way to control the system of earmarks, which has gotten completely out of hand. “The rush to revise ethics laws in the wake of the Jack Abramoff political corruption scandal has turned into more of a saunter,” reports The Washington Post. The Republicans keep dicking around with the gift ban idea (opposed by those stalwarts who claim “you couldn’t accept a t-shirt from your local high school"). But the best anti-reformer is Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, the new House majority leader, elected as a “reformer” (puh-leeze), a man after Tom DeLay’s heart. Boehner argues that gift and travel bans would amount to members of Congress being “treated like children.” (Actually, children are seldom offered golfing vacations.)
The lobbyists, of course, have pulled together to work against efforts to control them. Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly. Tom Susman, chair of the ethics committee of the American League of Lobbyists (it is a concept), is reported in Legal Times as saying a gift ban would lead to “unnecessarily awkward dividing lines between lobbyists and members.” God forbid.
The House Democratic leadership has proposed reinforcing a gift and travel ban with an attempt to control earmarks by prohibiting “dead of night” provisions—inserting language into a law without a chance for review. Members would be given 24 hours to read bills (which they don’t, but their staffs can).
The cosmetic fixes—gift ban, travel ban, disclosure and slowing the revolving door between staff, Congress and the lobby—cannot stop the effects of the K Street Project. That’s the cozy arrangement whereby lobbyists are Republican activists and Republican activists are lobbyists, and they underwrite campaigns in return for special privileges under the law—tax exemptions, regulatory relief, tariff dispositions, etc.
One of the most dangerous things about this whole corrupt system is that people who are given special privileges inevitably come to regard them not as special but as natural and right, and will fight furiously if you try to take them away.
It is this endless series of earmarks—special little set-asides for one special interest, one home district after another—that is behind the hemorrhaging in the federal budget. Those who remember when conservatives called for fiscal restraint may get sour amusement from the situation. But what is truly not funny is the pathetic spectacle of the United States of America, a nation with the greatest political legacy the world has ever known, letting itself be gnawed to death by the greed in a corrupt system that can be so easily fixed.
John Boehner is just another Tom DeLay
by Doug Thompson
Rep. John Boehner came to Washington after the 1990 elections claiming to be a great reformer. In reality, he is just another politician on the take, out to milk the system for all he can.
I met Boehner at a reception for new members of Congress in December 1990. At the time, I was Vice President for Political Programs for the giant National Association of Realtors and controlled the largest political action committee (PAC) in town. Boehner had his hand out to every PAC, mine included, and made it clear he would vote the right way in exchange for maximum campaign contributions.
“I know your issues,” he said, “and I can support. I trust you can see your way clear to support me?”
Boehner made his name as a member of the “Gang of Seven,” a group of Congressional “reformers” who took on the House Bank that allowed members to overdraw their checking accounts at will and without penalty and helped expose Democratic powerhouse Dan Rostenkowski’s “cash for stamps” scam that cost him his seat in Congress and sent him to jail.
But while Boehner campaigned as the great reformer, he worked the system behind the scenes, scamming it for campaign cash and favors, cozying up to the same lobbyists and dealmakers as fellow Republican Tom DeLay. In 1992, he argued publicly for the elimination of PACs because they gave most of their money to the Democrats who controlled Congress. After Republicans took control in 1994, Boehner changed his tune and became a leading advocate of PACs and the money they could dump into the coffers of the new GOP leadership.
Boehner joined with DeLay and other Republican leaders in browbeating lobbying firms into hiring more Republicans and threatened PACs with exclusion from GOP briefings and events if they did not donate more to GOP candidates and causes.
His style was smoother than DeLay, the GOP pit bull who openly bullied and once told me “fuck the law. I don’t give a rat’s ass about the law.” Boehner would smile and talk in diplomatic terms but the smile masked a ruthlessness that said “play ball our way or you don’t play in our ballpark.”
“Make no mistake about it,” he told me in 1991. “We will remember those who helped us and those who did not will find themselves outside looking in. That’s the way the game is played.”
Boehner quickly learned how the game is played in Washington. Since 2000, he has allowed special interest groups to finance 41 trips for he and his family to Rome, Venice, Paris and Edinburgh, as well as domestic resort spots like Boca Raton, Fla., and Pebble Beach, Calif.
He often goes on the floor of the House of Representatives to praise the liquor industry for what he calls their “untiring efforts” to fight underage drinking and drunk driving. The industry bought these paid advertisements from Boehner with more than $200,000 in campaign contributions.
He is a big booster of Sallie Mae, the federal agency that provides government-backed student loans. His daughter works for Sallie Mae’s collection agency and employees of Sallie Mae have kicked in $120,000 to Boehner’s campaign PAC since 1989,
Boehner heads up efforts on the hill to limit lawsuits against the health care industry. In return, insurance companies for health care groups have contributed $2 million to Boehner.
And, yes, Boehner accepted $30,000 in campaign contributions from corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff’s tribal clients in the two election cycles. Unlike other members of Congress, Boehner has refused to return the tainted money.
Boehner rents his $1,600 a month Capitol Hill apartment from veteran lobbyist John Milne, who just happens to represent clients who have benefited from legislation Boehner sponsored as chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee.
And Boehner’s former chief of staff, now an aide to White House political guru Karl Rove, helped plan a congressional junket to the Mariana Islands with Abramoff.
With all this baggage, the GOP picked John Boehner to replace the corrupt Tom DeLay as the number two Republican in the House.
And they “punished” Tom DeLay by giving him a highly-coveted seat on the House Appropriations Committee along with a spot on the subcommittee that oversees the Justice Department – the same Justice Department currently investigating DeLay for his many wrongdoings.
Republicans call this “reform.” I call it business as usual.
DeLay distances self from Abramoff
Feb. 9, 2006, 9:21PM
WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay is trying to distance himself from disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff in letters to GOP voters.
DeLay sent a nine-page letter to voters saying "the notion that he was a close friend who wielded influence over me is absolutely untrue," according to a report today in Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper.
But numerous media reports have said DeLay once described Abramoff as "one of my closest and dearest friends."
"This letter simply puts in his writing what he's been saying all along to the people back here in the district," said campaign spokeswoman Shannon Flaherty. She said the letter is another way of DeLay openly and honestly countering "these manufactured Democrat attacks."
DeLay told voters in his letter that he and Abramoff were not close personal friends, he only met with Abramoff occasionally and did not give him preferential treatment, Roll Call reported.
"To be certain, I knew nothing about the crimes for which he has pled guilty," DeLay wrote.
Abramoff pleaded guilty in January to federal charges in an investigation stemming from his schemes to bribe public officials and defraud Indian tribes. He has been cooperating with investigators, who shifted their probe to members of Congress and some of their aides.
DeLay is awaiting trial on money laundering charges in a separate campaign finance case in Texas.
DeLay faces a four-way primary on March 7 for re-election to his suburban Houston congressional seat. The victor will face former Rep. Nick Lampson, a Democrat.
The campaign of Sugar Land attorney Tom Campbell, a DeLay primary challenger, said DeLay's description of his relationship with Abramoff is a "flip-flop." DeLay told Christian Broadcast Network in an recent interview that Abramoff was his friend, the campaign said.
"Why, now, is DeLay running from the truth and his unequivocal declaration about Abramoff?" said Michael Stanley, Campbell's spokesman.
DeLay Lands Coveted Appropriations Spot
Feb 8, 5:39 PM (ET)
By ANDREW TAYLOR
WASHINGTON (AP) - Indicted Rep. Tom DeLay, forced to step down as the No. 2 Republican in the House, scored a soft landing Wednesday as GOP leaders rewarded him with a coveted seat on the Appropriations Committee.
DeLay, R-Texas, also claimed a seat on the subcommittee overseeing the Justice Department, which is currently investigating an influence-peddling scandal involving disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his dealings with lawmakers. The subcommittee also has responsibility over NASA - a top priority for DeLay, since the Johnson Space Center is located in his Houston-area district.
"Allowing Tom DeLay to sit on a committee in charge of giving out money is like putting Michael Brown back in charge of FEMA - Republicans in Congress just can't seem to resist standing by their man," said Bill Burton, spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
GOP leaders also named California Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon as chairman of the Education and the Workforce Committee. Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, vacated that post after winning a campaign to replace DeLay.
McKeon is a seven-term conservative who has a generally good relationship with educators. He authored a 2001 law to remove disincentives for workers who would have lost part of their Social Security benefits when switching jobs to become public school teachers.
DeLay was able to rejoin the powerful Appropriations panel - he was a member until becoming majority leader in 2003 - because of a vacancy created after the resignation of Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-Calif. Cunningham pleaded guilty in November to charges relating to accepting $2.4 million in bribes for government business and other favors.
Boehner's Empire Resembles DeLay's
- By LARRY MARGASAK and SHARON THEIMER, Associated Press Writers
Friday, February 3, 2006
Over the years, new House Majority Leader John Boehner has built a political empire with similarities to the fundraising machine of the man he's replacing, Rep. Tom DeLay.
The Ohio congressman, who won an upset victory for the House GOP's No. 2 post, has distributed roughly $2.9 million to Republicans from his political action committee since 1996, according to the campaign finance Web site Political Money Line. Some of the recipients this week returned the favor in voting for him.
Boehner (pronounced BAY-nur) is an avid golfer with a perpetual tan, and, like DeLay, he has played host at many fundraising golf outings. Some of his staff members, following the career path of those who worked for DeLay, have become Washington lobbyists.
Boehner, 56, was characterized as an agent for change by Republican supporters who elected him over Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri. But like DeLay and Blunt, Boehner has connections to indicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
He accepted at least $30,000 in political donations from Abramoff's tribal clients between the 2000 election cycle and 2004.
In addition, billing records from the Northern Mariana Islands, a former Abramoff client, show at least 17 contacts between members of Abramoff's Marianas lobbying team and Boehner's office — one with Boehner himself.
The contacts took place between February 1996 and August 2001. One of the lobbyists was David Safavian, who later became the Bush administration's chief procurement official and recently was indicted on charges of obstructing investigations of his ties to Abramoff. Safavian was the first administration official indicted in the Abramoff scandal.
Boehner spokesman Don Seymour Jr. said his boss had no relationship with Abramoff, never took money from him, and recalled meeting him only once — a "brief, incidental conversation at a widely attended event" about five years ago.
Seymour said the actions that led to the indictment of Safavian took place years after his reported contacts with Boehner's staff.
The spokesman added that if the contacts in the billing records took place, they "were most likely mundane conversations that took place between midlevel Boehner staff members and junior members of Abramoff's lobbying team."
The Mariana records are at odds with the assertion that the contacts were all with midlevel staff members. Two contacts in 1996, according to the records, were with Barry Jackson — a top Boehner aide who served as the congressman's chief of staff.
The congressman told reporters Friday that he has good relations with lobbyists and that there's nothing wrong with that.
"I can tell you that everything I've ever done is aboveboard, ethical, and every action I've taken during my entire political career has been in the best interest of my constituents and the American people," he said.
"We first need to remember that those involved in the Abramoff scandal — several members on both sides of the aisle that have been involved in problems — violated federal law and House rules. And I think we've got to focus in on punishing those that violate the rules," he said.
Boehner, elected to the House in 1990, began his career as a reformer. Taking office amid a House banking scandal, he joined six other freshmen in demanding the identities of the more than 300 House members who intentionally wrote penalty-free overdrafts at the now-defunct House members' bank. Democratic leaders, then in the majority, wanted to identify only the worst abusers of the system.
Only a few years later, Boehner was caught handing out tobacco industry money on the House floor. He apologized, then went on building his political empire.
It is fueled in part by special interests, some of them benefiting from his legislative clout as chairman of the Committee on Education and the Workforce. Among the beneficiaries: private student lenders and for-profit colleges.
Boehner took in about $630,000 in contributions to his campaign and $850,000 to his PAC last year. His campaign received much of its PAC money from financial institutions, insurers and retail businesses, all of them in sync with Boehner's legislative goals.
Boehner has traveled extensively courtesy of special interests. He has taken more than three dozen privately financed trips since 2000 to overseas destinations such as Rome, Venice, Paris and Edinburgh, and to domestic resort spots including Boca Raton, Fla., and Pebble Beach, Calif., the latter known for its championship golf and spectacular Pacific Ocean views.
Each year in Ohio, he sponsors the Boehner Birdie Hunt, which has incorporated as many as four different golf courses on the same day.
"As John's playing partner or whatever you choose ... you become an integral part of the 'driving' force behind John's campaign and political efforts," a past fundraising appeal on his campaign Web site says.
Business groups that have assisted Boehner's fundraising praise his legislative work.
"I want to commend you for your leadership," a National Federation of Independent Business official wrote Boehner in 2004, thanking him for his support of legislation to revise the nation's workplace safety law and aid small businesses in fighting what they called burdensome regulations.
NFIB's PAC gave $10,000 to Boehner's campaign last year.
The student lender Sallie Mae's employees together are the top overall donors to Boehner's PAC since 1989, giving at least $120,000, an analysis by the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics campaign finance watchdog group found.
Boehner's daughter, Tricia, works for General Revenue Corp., a loan-collection company owned by Sallie Mae. She was there for two years before Sallie Mae purchased the company.
The liquor industry has given Boehner's campaign and PAC at least $200,000 since 1989. The lawmaker, in House floor remarks, has praised the industry's efforts to fight underage drinking and drunken driving.
Boehner's support for the insurance industry included a staple of the GOP platform: limiting lawsuits against the health care industry.
"We don't need a trial lawyers' bill of rights," Boehner has said.
Insurers have given Boehner's campaign and PAC close to $1 million since 1989.
CNN's Henry covered Boehner ascension without noting controversy over PAC check distribution on House floor
Summary: Reporting that new House Majority Leader John Boehner could satisfy "a lot of Republican rank-and-file [who] want change because of the lobbying scandals," CNN's Ed Henry ignored Boehner's history of ethics concerns, including the criticism he received for passing out checks from a tobacco industry group on the House floor moments before a key tobacco vote.
In his first several reports on Rep. John A. Boehner's (R-OH) election as new House majority leader, CNN congressional correspondent Ed Henry omitted any specific reference to Boehner's history of ethics concerns, even while emphasizing those of the man Boehner defeated, Rep. Roy Blunt (R-MO). Unlike MSNBC did in their coverage, for example, Henry did not mention that Boehner drew broad criticism for distributing checks from a tobacco industry group on the House floor moments before a key tobacco vote. Instead, during his reports on the February 2 edition of CNN's Live From ..., Henry suggested that Boehner could satisfy "a lot of Republican rank-and-file [who] want change because of the lobbying scandals." Later, CNN.com issued a headline announcing the result of the leadership vote, labeling Boehner the "reform candidate," although it was subsequently replaced with an alternative headline.
Before Boehner's victory was announced, Henry described Blunt as "the status quo candidate, because he was so close" to indicted former Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX). Henry then purported to identify why Boehner might win: "As you know, there's a shakeup going on here, a lot of Republican rank-and-file want change because of the lobbying scandals, so they might just get that."
After announcing the results of the vote, Henry reiterated that Blunt was the "status quo" candidate at a time when there is "a lot of nervousness" among Republicans as the scandal involving disgraced Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff has "kept breaking and breaking." Abramoff pleaded guilty on January 3 to charges of conspiracy, mail fraud, and tax evasion. On January 4, he pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy and wire fraud in a second, unrelated case. Later, noting that Boehner's "relationships with lobbyists" will be a "source of controversy," Henry nonetheless repeated Boehner's contention that "he has not been in the sort of ethical hot water that we have seen Tom DeLay and others get into."
Later that day, a headline on the front page of CNN.com -- later changed -- labeled Boehner the "reform candidate," linking to an article that similarly depicted Boehner as a clean break from the ethics concerns plaguing DeLay and Blunt:
He [Boehner] had offered himself as a reform candidate to succeed Tom DeLay, who faces money-laundering charges in his home state of Texas.
Boehner's ascension comes as other Republicans have raised concerns about an extensive influence-peddling probe involving lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who pleaded guilty to corruption charges in January and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.
DeLay announced January 7 that he would not try to reclaim the House majority leader post, although he said he will seek re-election in his Houston area district in November. DeLay also has ties to Abramoff.
The race for majority leader appeared to turn on the desire for members to present a fresh face to the public and distance themselves from Washington's K Street, or lobbyist, community.
Blunt was a part of DeLay's leadership team and has ties to K Street.
But like Blunt, Boehner has faced several significant ethics issues, among them:
As The Hill reported on July 25, 2003, Boehner drew criticism in 1995 for "distribut[ing] checks from a tobacco political action committee on the House floor before a key vote on a tobacco issue." In contrast to CNN, reporter Mike Viqueira noted Boehner's efforts on behalf of the tobacco industry during MSNBC's coverage of the February 2 result:
VIQUEIRA: It's really a question of how much of a reform candidate Boehner really is. That's how he was portrayed in early days here in Congress. He was seen as a reformer. Then he did get into some problems, passing out checks from lobbyists on the House floor. He since apologized for that.
The Washington Post reported on January 29 that Boehner has been "an outspoken advocate" for the two major industries that supported his bid for Majority Leader, and he "has used his chairmanship to push legislation that would boost profits by millions of dollars."
From the February 2 edition of CNN's Live From ... :
HENRY: The problem for Roy Blunt is he thought he had this in the bag. He clearly did not. He may be seen as the status quo candidate because he was so close to Tom DeLay. As you know, there's a shake-up going on here, a lot of Republican rank-and-file want change because of the lobbying scandals, so they might just get that.
HENRY: This is a clear sign that Republican rank-and-file members were very concerned, in this midterm election year, that Roy Blunt was going to be too close to Tom DeLay, too close to the status quo. He was the acting majority leader after DeLay stepped aside after being indicted twice down in Texas. This is a very interesting sign, John Boehner of Ohio, not Roy Blunt, the new majority leader.
HENRY: But then the Abramoff scandal kept breaking and breaking, and that one could be a more wide-ranging, widespread investigation, obviously, for Republicans than this narrow investigation [of DeLay] down in Texas. And so, you're right to point to that, Kyra [Phillips, Live From... host]. That really, as Jack Abramoff cut that plea deal, just became more and more apparent. Tom DeLay has not gotten a sign that he is in any legal jeopardy there, but there is a lot of political jeopardy for him in the wake of the Abramoff scandal. Some of his former staffers -- some of his former staffers have been implicated in that scandal, so it became clear DeLay had to step aside permanently. A lot of nervousness. We're hearing that the results are about 122-109, as I understand, John Boehner over Roy Blunt. And again, Roy Blunt just was seen as someone who was status quo. He was already a member of this leadership team.
DeLay's golf trip scrutinized
Travis County DA wants records of Scotland outing Abramoff arranged
Feb. 2, 2006, 5:03AM
By R.G. RATCLIFFE
AUSTIN - Travis County prosecutors on Wednesday subpoenaed records related to a 2000 golf trip to Scotland that was arranged for U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay by now-disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
The subpoenas appear to have little direct relationship to the political money laundering case that Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle has brought against DeLay, R-Sugar Land.
His office declined to comment on the new subpoenas.
Last month, Abramoff pleaded guilty in federal court to charges of defrauding his Indian tribal clients, tax evasion and conspiracy to bribe a public official.
Court papers referred only to one congressman, U.S. Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio. Abramoff was a longtime friend of DeLay's, but DeLay has said he is not a target of that investigation.
Clients paid for trip
Earle, meanwhile, has issued a series of subpoenas that DeLay's criminal defense lawyer, Dick DeGuerin of Houston, has said are not relevant to the case against the former U.S. House majority leader.
Earle's latest round of subpoenas seeks records related to how Abramoff paid for a May 2000 trip to Scotland for DeLay and his wife, Christine, on his personal credit card and then received reimbursement from the National Center for Public Policy Research.
The trip ultimately was financed by two of Abramoff's clients, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and eLottery. At the time, they were trying to kill a bill prohibiting the expansion of Internet gambling.
DeLay's personal financial disclosures listed the trip as educational and put the tab at $28,106.
DeLay's lawyers have maintained that he never knew Abramoff had paid for part of the trip initially or that his clients really funded the trip.
His spokesmen have said he opposed the gambling bill because it contained loopholes that actually would have led to the expansion of Internet gambling.
Others on the Scotland trip included lobbyist Ed Buckham, a former DeLay chief of staff. At the time, DeLay's wife was employed by Buckham's Alexander Strategy Group.
DeLay legislative aides Tony Rudy and Susan Hirschmann also were on the trip.
The subpoenas seek records on the trip from Christine DeLay, Buckham, Rudy and Hirschmann. Other subpoenas were issued to eLottery, Amy Ridenour of the National Center for Public Policy Research, and to Preston Gates Ellis & Rouvelas Meeds LLP, the law firm that employed Abramoff at the time.
Subpoenas also were issued to Continental Airlines and British Airways for records of the trip.
Earle has previously subpoenaed records from Preston Gates and the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians relating to donations they made to the DeLay-founded Texans for a Republican Majority, TRMPAC.
The Choctaw band gave TRMPAC $1,000 in 2001, and Preston Gates donated $25,000 in 2002.
Neither the Indians nor the law firm are among those organizations accused of making illegal donations to TRMPAC.
Earle obtained an indictment against DeLay and two associates accusing them of participating in a scheme to convert illegal corporate donations to TRMPAC into money that could be used by seven Texas House candidates in 2002 by running the money through the Republican National Committee.
Delay has denied the charges and accused Earle, a Democrat, of running a politically motivated investigation against him.