Friday, March 31, 2006
Ralph Reed Employs "Chicken Republican Offensive"
What has Ralph Reed's response been? According to the Washington Post, Reed is using the same tactic Tom DeLay used:
On Feb. 6, Reed wrote Olasky to say he was " very disappointed that WORLD would repeat false and politically-motivated attacks by liberal groups in Texas."
Olasky's World Magazine raised serious issues that call into question Reed's judgment and values. Reed accuses WORLD of repeating liberal groups. DeLay has done the same thing. Ethics and character are reliably conservative virtues. I applaud conservatives like Olasky for holding political allies accountable to these virtures. When Reed attacks Olasky as a liberal for insisting on the highest levels of ethical behavior, it reminds me of DeLay's Chicken Republican Offensive.
Tom DeLay a-Calling
My recollection is that I was asked a question on national security. I support a strong America and want to win the War on Terror. I answered and was asked a follow-up question. After that answer, Tom DeLay's recording said something along the lines of, "Good, I agree with you."
I got asked a question on tax policy and a follow-up. I suspect my public policy preferences match DeLay's there, too. I got a question on right-to-life issues and a follow-up. After the answers, I got the same acknowledgement from the recording that DeLay agreed with me.
The only question that I probably disagreed with DeLay was on additional funding for NASA. I didn't get a follow-up question there.
Lastly, DeLay asked if I were a senior citizen or not. I'm not. DeLay said something about this poll helping him form public policy. Then he said for more information to go to his house.gov website. I conclude that my tax dollars paid for this call to me. Great. But I couldn't help but believe that this whole thing was in response Campbell's strong challenge in the primary.
When I created this blog, I had hoped to provide color regarding events within TX22. Specifically, I wanted to let people know how a typical, not politically connected, Republican voter saw and thought. The mail I received during the primary would have made for good blog material - particularly the eight page "handwritten" letter. After the primary, though, election related stuff has really dried up. I'm sure it will increase as November approaches. Keep tuned.
Former DeLay Aide Tony Rudy pleads Guilty
The most important thing to know about Rudy is that some of his wrongdoing occurred while employed by DeLay.
A top DeLay aide while the Texas lawmaker served as House Majority Leader, Rudy took payments from Abramoff in 2000, then helped stop an Internet gambling bill opposed by Abramoff's clients, papers filed in U.S. District Court in Washington said.
So even if you believe Robert Novak when he reports that Abramoff has not implicated DeLay, you must be concerned about what Tony Rudy has to say. Keep an eye out to see if Rudy is cooperating.
March 31, 2006
According to Bloomberg, Rudy has agreed to cooperate.
Rudy's agreement to cooperate may give investigators a new window into misdeeds on Capitol Hill.
We all had to believe this to be true. This is the first confirmation I've seen. Now let's look for confirmation that Rudy's cooperation is regarding DeLay's actions.
March 31, 2006
The Chronc adds some material:
But Rudy's plea brings DeLay into the federal case in two different ways.
First, Rudy pleaded to getting Representative 2 [DeLay] to sign a letter opposing a postal rate increase, as sought by Abramoff's magazine company clients.
Second, Rudy admitted to coordinating activities with the staff of Representative 2 [DeLay], after Rudy had left to become a lobbyist, that would have accomplished legislative goals of Abramoff's clients.
Over the next few months, I bet we'll learn more about the circumstances regarding Rudy's ability to get DeLay to sign the letter opposing the postal rate increase. Was DeLay like Lt. Colonel Blake on MASH, signing letters without question? Or did DeLay know more about them? Also, I bet we'll learn exactly what it means when Rudy admitted "coordinating activities" with DeLay's staff. Does that mean more staff members will become witnesses? What did DeLay know about this coordination?
Today can't be judged to be a good day for Team DeLay.
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
Edwin Buckham, Part III
Ryun defends his actions in part by suggesting that the US Family Network and he saved money by not paying brokerage commissions. Umm. That's not exculpatory in my eyes. Since the USFN and Ryun didn't meet through a broker it just adds to the suspicion that this was a sweetheart deal. I would actually think it was better if a broker widely marketed the property and Ryun just happened to be the highest bidder.
Edwin Buckham, Part II
Most of the piece expresses outrage over the depth of corruption surrounding Buckham. Orstein echoes my earlier sentiments that the Buckham story can cause physical discomfort. But he takes it a step beyond that – Orstein is able to document thoughts that I have had in a much more eloquent manner than I could ever hope to:
Read these stories, along with the tales of Michael Scanlon, the former DeLay communications director and Abramoff crony who negotiated a plea deal with prosecutors, and reflect on what they all tell us about Tom DeLay. There are two possible explanations. One is that he is the most naive man ever to serve in Congress or any political office: Right under his nose, his closest and most trusted employees were running schemes to enrich themselves, subvert his office and repeatedly abuse his trust over many years. The second is that he knew what was going on, and saw their efforts as a nice way to enrich his friends, employees and family while helping accomplish his political goals.
If you accept the former explanation, you have to explain away the fact that DeLay was the most successful Whip in our lifetimes, thanks to his attention to detail, his keen understanding of people and his indefatigable energy and focus. I would like to hear how GOP Reps. Henry Bonilla (Texas), Jeb Hensarling (Texas), Eric Cantor (Va.) and all the other House Republicans who went out of their way to repeatedly laud DeLay and his standards now explain DeLay’s conduct, after having learned about the doings of Buckham, Rudy and Scanlon.
Read the whole thing.
Saturday, March 25, 2006
Who is Edwin Buckham?
Buckham is the latest DeLay staffer to be linked to Jack Abramoff and the funny money business. The WaPo initially describes Buckham as DeLay's former chief of staff and later as working for DeLay in the Whip's office. I suspect that Buckham was the Chief of Staff at the Whip's office (as opposed to DeLay's Congressional office), but his precise role is not immediately clear to me.
Prior to leaving DeLay's employ, Buckham founded a nonprofit called the US Family Network and Alexander Strategy Group, a lobbying firm. Most of the article recounts Abramoff-linked funds to these two groups. USFN and the Alexander Strategy Group are portrayed as entities with the sole function to enrich Buckham. Perhaps there was some legitimate lobbying services provided by Buckham's groups, but the WaPo doesn't mention it. And remember, Buckham and Abramoff could be two peas in a pod. It's a lot to digest. I actually feel that I understand Enron's Powers Report better than this article.
Here is the most puzzling quote in the article:
During this latter period, Buckham and his wife, Wendy, acting through their consulting firm, made monthly payments averaging $3,200-$3,400 apiece to DeLay's wife, Christine, for three of the years in which he collected money from the USFN and some other clients.
The WaPo doesn't articulate what, if any, services Christine DeLay provided the consulting firm. I believe "the consulting firm" is the Alexander Strategy Group. (The WaPo's writing leaves a lot to be desired - this is the first time the word "consulting" appears in the article.)
I'll ask the obvious question: Why in the world was Christine DeLay getting money from a consulting firm with links to Abramoff? Smells bad to me. Team DeLay needs to get in front of this.
There is no evidence DeLay received a direct financial benefit, but Buckham's firm employed DeLay's wife, Christine, and paid her a salary of at least $3,200 each month for three of the years the group existed. Richard Cullen, DeLay's attorney, has said that the pay was compensation for lists Christine DeLay supplied to Buckham of lawmakers' favorite charities, and that it was appropriate under House rules and election law.
So Christine supplied lists of Congressmen's favorite charities. Make what you will from that.
It looks like Edwin Buckham is the third former DeLay staffer under investigation in this scandal.
One last item from the WaPo. The paper tells us that Buckham is an evangelical minister and DeLay's spiritual adviser. I'm pretty confident that like Abramoff, DeLay also discussed the Bible with Buckham.
Wednesday, March 22, 2006
Does Team DeLay Get It?
The Washington Post has an article that covers today's court session in Austin. It has an interesting quote from DeLay lawyer Dick DeGuerin:
"Justice delayed is justice denied in this case," Houston lawyer Dick DeGuerin said in his opening remarks. "I ask you treat this case with dispatch and render decision forthwith."
DeGuerin later told reporters the criminal case against DeLay has clearly affected not only his reign as majority leader but also his quest to win a 12th term to Congress this year. DeLay was forced to step down from his leadership post upon being indicted in September on charges stemming from the 2002 election cycle.
First of all, I have no problem with speedy justice. DeLay deserves to have these charges dismissed in a timely manner.
But DeLay's problems in his reelection campaign have little to do with Ronnie Earle's political vendetta. DeLay lagged President Bush by 9% in TX22 in the 2004 election. While Earle was preening in Austin, few people back home cared. DeLay was indicted in late 2005. There was already something unique about DeLay before the indictment.
So what do ordinary Republican voters in TX22 think? Todd Schuh says Ronnie Earle's case is "trumped up". Yet he didn't vote for DeLay. Larry Deats thinks Earle is on a witch hunt. Yet he remained undecided until the last minute and I doubt we'll ever know how he eventually voted. And you already know what I think -- Earle's actions are an alarming episode of a prosecutor criminalizing his political opponents.
Like Todd Schuh, I'm more interested in DeLay's links to lobbyists, specifically Jack Abramoff. We don't hear much from DeLay regarding Abramoff, and when we do, even the conservative Weekly Standard call's DeLay's assertions "inaccurate" and a "gloss on the available evidence".
gloss n A purposefully misleading interpretation or explanation.
Mr. DeLay, we don't worry about Ronnie Earle's preening here in TX22. We worry about Jack Abramoff's cooperating. We need *accurate* answers with respect to your relationship with Abramoff. Fell free to pass this along to your spokesperson Shannon Flaherty. She probably understands this. Ms. Flaherty is on record as saying Texans "think Ronnie Earle is a joke". I bet she'll be able to explain all this to you, Mr. DeLay.
Oh, and Mr. DeGuerin, I'll forgive you for embellishing the importance of this case in the zealous defense of your client. That's what lawyers do, right?
***DISCLOSURE***: I do not know Todd Schuh or Larry Deats. For that matter, I don't know Tom Campbell and have never had any contact whatsoever with his campaign. Just in case anyone was wondering.
Lampson in Sugar Land Town Square
One day after President George W. Bush signed a bill raising the national debt ceiling to a record $8.965 trillion, Lampson appeared in Sugar Land Town Square, handing out “Payment Due” notices to passers-by.
Lampson’s hand-outs were styled like credit card bills, showing current charges of $781 billion, and a $27,724.97 “payment due” from every man, woman and child in the country.
OK, this stunt got the coverage it deserves . . . on the pages of a newspaper-type weblog. (I don't mean to denigrate Fort Bend Now. They are good at what they do. But it isn't Channel 13.) What is disappointing, however, is Team DeLay's response:
“This stunt would be funny if it weren’t so hypocritical,” said DeLay spokeswoman Shannon Flaherty. “If he really wanted to get his Democrat message across, he would have passed out IRS collection notices to highlight their real agenda – raising taxes to fund more liberal pet programs.”
Now Lampson probably would be a big spender. But his point Tuesday was entirely defensible. The national debt and deficit spending represent deferred taxes. We will eventually have to pay off the debt. How do DeLay's policy preferences impact the spending side of fiscal policy? Fort Bend Now identifies a big difference: Lampson wants to eliminate the use of earmarks in spending bills. A few weeks ago, DeLay bragged about his use of earmarks. How in the world did DeLay let Lampson run to the right of him on government spending?
That said, I'm sure that DeLay is better on the tax side of fiscal policy. DeLay would undoubtedly be more likely to support growth-oriented tax cuts than Lampson.
Monday, March 20, 2006
Who is Tony Rudy?
Here are the money graphs from the Chron article:
What Rudy has said or will say to prosecutors about DeLay could prove pivotal in whether the lawmaker is cleared or gets pulled more directly into the federal investigation, said lawyers close to the case.
In court documents released in January, Rudy was described as "Staffer A," who helped Abramoff stop legislation that would have hurt his clients. One bill opposed by Indian gaming interests would have banned Internet gambling; another, opposed by magazine publishers, would have raised postal rates.
Read what Kuff has to say and hope that the worst DeLay is guilty of is poor supervision of his employees.
I seem to recall that DeLay mentioned his staffers in an eight-page campaign letter during the primary. I read that letter in context with Scanlon. I wish I still had it so I could read it again with Rudy in mind.
March 21, 2006
This is the best I could do when searching for the text of DeLay's February campaign letter:
[Tom DeLay] said he expects his staff to "adhere to the highest legal and ethical standards." But he noted, "If they acted unethically or broke the law, they will face legal consequences."
It appears to me that DeLay is actually talking about Rudy here. I remember thinking that the verb tense was awkward if DeLay was referring to Scanlon.
DeLay seemed to be talking about a collapse of ethical standards by a person on his staff. Scanlon didn't fit that bill.
At any rate, I'd love to have a more complete quote. Does anyone still have the letter?
Joel Hefley (R-CO) Alleges Ethics Retaliation
A new piece of ethics reform legislation is Rep. Joel Hefley's strongest statement yet that he felt retaliation last year over his handling of a complaint against former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.
I don't know if there was actual retaliation or not. And if there was, the article only tells us that "Republican leaders" removed Hefley, other Republican committee members and their staff.
Let's for a moment assume that Hefley's assertions are true. Who would hammer through the removal of the Republican members of the Ethics Committee and their staff? Anyone?
March 21, 2006
Rep. Kenny Hulshof (R-MO) makes the same insinuation. Hulshof implies that the Republican leadership removed him from the Ethics Committee after he admonished DeLay.
Hulshof chided former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay when a money-laundering scandal involving DeLay erupted last year. Later, Hulshof and another Republican who criticized DeLay were removed from the House Ethics Committee.
Hulshof is pushing an ethics reform bill. One aspect of the bill would stop House leaders from removing Ethics Committee members for political reasons.
"It is imperative that members and staff be insulated from political retaliation for their work on the committee," Hulshof said in a news release.
Now none of this is dispositive of anything. And of course it won't be an issue in the election because 99% of TX22 voters know nothing about the hints of retaliation. But it reinforces my belief that fault lines are forming on the GOP base over ethics.
Sunday, March 19, 2006
DeLay Attacks his own Base
What Kuff missed, however, inspired me to create this blog. Noone is paying attention to why the GOP base is cracked. The reason for the fracture is that Tom DeLay is attacking his own base. And that fact is right there in black in white in the article from The Hill:
Some political observers believe the lack of unity among Texas Republicans could hamper DeLay’s effort to retain his seat and question DeLay’s decision to lambaste his primary opponents soon after beating them earlier this month.
Tom Campbell, DeLay's most serious primary opponent, says that DeLay has a "problem with his base." Since I agree with him, I'll let Campbell do more talking:
“I think Mr. DeLay is engaging in a counterproductive but characteristic pattern of conduct. He’s attacking the messenger. … Ten thousand Republicans, many of which were conservative Republicans, voted against the incumbent, and they voted for another conservative as an alternative. Mr. DeLay should think about that, rather than simply attacking me as being a liberal Democrat, which simply the facts don’t support.”
Many conservative Republicans will be turned off by DeLay's repeated attacks. Does he really want our votes? I first observed this in the primary. DeLay attacked the Republican credentials of anyone who has missed a GOP primary (I have) or doesn't belong to a local GOP group (I don't). Conclusion: In DeLay's eyes, I'm less of a Republican.
DeLay accused those of us who voted against him of mimicking Democratic talking points. Darn. For all these years, I thought the Republican party was the party of integrity, ethics and character. DeLay tells me these are Democratic values? I don't believe it. I think DeLay is just wrong.
Sarcasm aside, Tom Campbell never attacked DeLay over the Ronnie Earle indictment. Campbell calls it political. I believe it's political. Democrats don't believe that way. Redistricting? I was all for it. It created a Congressional delegation that reflected the voting patterns in Texas. Any criticism DeLay gets from that is political sour grapes from Democrats. DeLay's attacks on those who voted against him in the primary fall short.
That said, DeLay has serious ethical problems that can't be explained away. I discussed some in my very first post.
DeLay has called those Republicans who believe in ethics, integrity and character "Chicken Republicans". [Sorry for the link. The article is no longer available on the NY Times.]
From now on, I will refer to DeLay's attacks on his base as the "Chicken Republican Offensive". Needless to say, I think it is unwise for DeLay to attack his base.
You see, I am one of the 30% of Republicans in TX22 that voted for Tom Campbell. Tom Campbell is a true conservative Republican. In fact, the only two policy differences between Campbell and DeLay that I could detect were (1) Campbell favors Congressional term limits and DeLay doesn't; and (2) Campbell ran on a platform of integrity in public office whereas DeLay doesn't seem to care about integrity. Now, I hold public officials to the highest standards of integrity, ethics and character. In 1998, I was horrified to see how little these principles mattered to the Democrat Party during the impeachment of President Clinton. In 2006, I am likewise disappointed at how little these principles matter to Republicans when it comes to Tom DeLay.
Not that I believe all the accusations against my Congressman have merit. The outrage over mid-decade redistricting is entirely political. The antics of Travis County DA Ronnie Earle are entirely political. (In fact, the acts of Ronnie Earle are quite disturbing because he is trying to criminalize political differences.)
However, there are matters that call into question Tom DeLay's ethics, character and integrity. DeLay has been admonished by the House Ethics Committee no fewer than four times. DeLay supporters either deny this has happened or claim that these admonishments don't matter. DeLay has been accused of several less visible breaches of ethical behavior such as his deceitful conduct in the 1996 GOP primary during Milton Wright's first run for Fort Bend County Sheriff and his mutually exclusive testimony under oath regarding his status at Albo Pest Control in 1994.
There is one big unresolved matter hanging over DeLay during this time. I believe it is too early to tell whether/how the Jack Abramoff scandal will touch Tom DeLay.
The decisions of the 30-38% of the Republican voters in TX22 who believe in integrity will determine the outcome of this race. This diary is intended to help observers both inside and outside of TX22 follow the decision making process of one of those crucial voters.
Given the candidates who have already qualified for the ballot, I'd say I have a 90% of being an intentional undervote, 10% DeLay vote and 0% Lampson vote.