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Pot, kettle, … same old story

Posted by Richard on April 19, 2005

I’m not a fan of Tom DeLay. I’ve disliked him since the outrageous arm-twisting that got the Medicare drug benefit passed. Besides, he just looks like a pugnacious, pusillanimous thug. That’s unfair, I know, but…

Then there’s my firm conviction that at least nine out of ten congresscritters, DeLay included, ought to be horsewhipped for a multiplicity of good reasons.

Nevertheless, the orchestrated moral outrage of the Dems and their media mouthpieces regarding DeLay is getting a bit hard to take. Let’s look at the critics’ charges.

DeLay was admonished three times last year by the House Ethics Committee, all by unanimous vote. The first was over the aforementioned dirty tactics on the drug benefit bill, and I heartily concur in that criticism. In fact, I’d have favored something stronger than an admonishment (the committee’s lightest "penalty," if it can be called that) — at the least, a reprimand, and more likely, a formal censure.

The second and third were less clear-cut — asking for FAA help in tracking Texas Dems who fled to avoid a redistricting vote, and participating in a golfing fundraiser that created the "appearance that donors were being provided special access" to him. The committee said, in effect, "we can’t find proof that you’ve broken any rules or laws, but it looks like you’re getting close." I don’t know — that sounds like a cop pulling you over and saying "Technically, you may have been within the legal speed limit, but you were getting close to speeding, so I’m warning you." How would that sit with you?

Next, the critics charge that Colo. Rep. Joel Hefley was "ousted" as Ethics Committee chairman because he supported the above admonishments. Nope, not "ousted" or "bounced" or "purged" (as Nancy Pelosi said) — the GOP has term limits for committee chairs, and Hefley was term-limited out. Critics say that the term limit rule could have been waived on Hefley’s behalf. Umm, yeah, OK — but how is not waiving the rule an ouster or purge?

Hefley was replaced by Rep. Doc Hastings, the second-ranking Republican, moving up to the chairmanship just as one would expect in a system that’s mostly seniority-based. Critics calling Hastings a "party loyalist" are ignoring the fact that he also voted to admonish DeLay three times, just like Hefley. Critics point to two other Republican "critics of DeLay" who were replaced on the committee. But all the DeLay votes were unanimous, so the Republicans who weren’t replaced were just as much "critics of DeLay." I don’t know what the normal turnover rate for committees is, but I’m less than persuaded that this is some nefarious scheme.

Critics note that the PACs of two new committee appointees (Smith and Cole) had donated to DeLay’s legal defense fund in 2001 and 2004. OK, maybe you’re wondering if they’ve been rewarded for their support. But does it look anything like the congressional vote-buying that Nancy Pelosi appears to have indulged in? From an April 14 Roll Call story (emphasis added):

A controversial fundraising committee run by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was slapped with a $21,000 fine by the Federal Election Commission for enabling Pelosi to funnel more than $100,000 in illegal contributions to Democratic candidates in late 2002 as she was vying to become Democratic leader.

Of course, there are the indictments in Texas of three people involved in a DeLay PAC. I don’t know much about those charges, but the Wall Street Journal described the indicting DA this way (link — registration required):

Mr. Earle, a partisan Democrat, has a record of making suspect accusations: In 1993, he indicted newly elected Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison on evidence so weak the case was never brought to trial. The indictments of Mr. DeLay’s associates came just six weeks before November’s elections; Mr. Earle’s primary aim, it seemed, was to derail Mr. DeLay’s ultimately successful efforts to achieve the first Republican majority in the Texas delegation to the U.S. House since Reconstruction.

Again, I’m not ready to put the needle in DeLay’s arm just yet.

Junkets? Paid for, indirectly, by private interests who might want to curry favor with politicians? Yeah, I’ve got a problem with that. But am I supposed to believe that DeLay’s junkets are somehow unique or something? I can’t find it right now, but I know I’ve seen a recent analysis showing just how prevalent these privately-funded congressional junkets are (with Dems in the lead). "Everyone does it" isn’t much of a defense, but I look askance when the same everyones who are doing it themselves feign outrage that their opponents are doing it.

I’m not at all bothered by Delay’s hiring of family members for his campaign staff. The salaries came to around $50-60k/yr., so he isn’t exactly throwing huge gobs of money at them. I don’t see an ethical issue with hiring qualified, trusted family members to work on the campaign (if you do, don’t contribute to those campaigns). Apparently, a lot of congresscritters share my view. From an April 14 LA Times story:

WASHINGTON — At least 39 members of Congress have engaged in the controversial practice of paying their spouses, children or other relatives out of campaign funds, or have hired companies in which a family member had a financial interest, records and interviews show.

House campaign funds have paid more than $3 million to lawmakers’ relatives over the last two election cycles, records show.

The real ethical problem, IMHO, isn’t when congresscritters hire their relatives, it’s when lobbying groups hire congresscritters’ relatives. And there are plenty of instances of that, Republican and Democrat. Take a look at the table at the bottom of this 2003 CNBC report. The all-time champ seems to be one of the most self-righteous critics of DeLay and of Republican ethics in general, Sen. Harry Reid. From a 2003 LA Times story (emphases added):

Nevada’s senior U.S. senator, Democrat Harry Reid, assured colleagues that his bill was a bipartisan measure to protect the environment and help the economy in America’s fastest-growing state.

What Reid did not explain was that the bill promised a cavalcade of benefits to real estate developers, corporations and local institutions that were paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in lobbying fees to his sons’ and son-in-law’s firms, federal lobbyist reports show.

At least 17 senators and 11 members of the House have children, spouses or other close relatives who lobby or work as consultants, most in Washington, according to lobbyist reports, financial-disclosure forms and other state and federal records. Many are paid by clients who count on the related lawmaker for support.

But Harry Reid is in a class by himself. One of his sons and his son-in-law lobby in Washington for companies, trade groups and municipalities seeking Reid’s help in the Senate. A second son has lobbied in Nevada for some of those same interests, and a third has represented a couple of them as a litigator.

In the last four years alone, their firms have collected more than $2 million in lobbying fees from special interests that were represented by the kids and helped by the senator in Washington.

So pervasive are the ties among Reid, members of his family and Nevada’s leading industries and institutions that it’s difficult to find a significant field in which such a relationship does not exist.

Another leading critic of Republican ethics is Sen. Boxer. From a 2003 Weekly Standard story:

Three years ago, Sen. Barbara Boxer pushed through Congress a bill providing federal recognition for Northern California’s Coast Miwok tribe. Boxer circumvented the Bureau of Indian Affairs after receiving assurances from the Miwoks that they would not open a casino. But this past April the tribe hired a team of influential political advisers, which included Boxer’s son Doug, and announced plans for a massive casino and resort operated by Nevada financiers.

So the tribe represented by Boxer’s son is working with Nevada financiers, who are no doubt represented by Reid’s son.

I could go on with additional examples, but why bother? The point is that most politicians are more or less ethically challenged, and Tom Delay no more or less so than most. All the clamor aimed at him has less to do with any honest outrage or concern than with the Dems’ desire to damage a Republican leader who’s been particularly effective in shepherding the Bush agenda through Congress.

Toppling DeLay, blocking Bolton, continuing to block Bush’s appeals court nominees — these are all part of an organized and orchestrated campaign involving the DNC, their many friends in the MSM, various "non-partisan public interest" groups, and bags full of money from Soros, Heinz, et al. Expect to see lots more of these tactics as the mid-term election approaches. From the party that taught us that everything’s relative, everyone lies, and it all depends on what the meaning of "is" is.

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