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TODAY'S GOP: HOME OF CRONY CAPITALISM AND CORRUPTION

By       Message Randolph T. Holhut     Permalink
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DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- Few tears are being shed for House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who was deservedly indicted in Texas for money laundering and conspiring to violate campaign finance laws.
The arrogance of DeLay, who earned his nickname "The Hammer" for his aggressiveness in shaking down lobbyists and donors, is well known to those who follow politics. But he's not the only Republican looking at jail time right now.
The investigation into the outing of CIA agent Valerie Blame is starting to heat up. As we suspected all along, the trail is leading right up to the doorstep of the White House. President Bush and Vice President Cheney appear to have been involved in the whole affair, a crude payback mission against Plame 's husband Joseph Wilson, for daring to question the validity of the invasion of Iraq.
Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist faces an Securities and Exchange Commission investigation into charges that he profited from a stock sale based on insider information. The stock was HCA Inc., a company his family founded. The value of the stock dropped 9 percent after Frist sold his holdings.
Martha Stewart did prison time for a comparatively modest incident of insider trading. Frist may not see the inside of a prison cell, but he can probably forget his dream of running for president in 2008.
Then there's Jack Abramoff, a well-connected Republican lobbyist and fund-raiser. Abramoff has ties with DeLay and other top GOP operators such as Ralph Reed, Grover Norquist and Karl Rove. Abramoff is under congressional and FBI investigation and has been indicted on charges of wire fraud and conspiracy.
The White House's top procurement officer, David Safavian, was recently arrested for lying and obstructing the investigation of Abramoff. He resigned on the day he was arrested, sparing President Bush the sight of one of his top aides being handcuffed and frog-marched out of the White House.
Safavian was working on Hurricane Katrina relief efforts before he resigned. Here's where the real GOP corruption can be seen.
About 80 percent of the $1.5 billion contracts handed out by the federal government by the Federal Emergency Management Agency were handed with little or no competitive bidding. Much of the work has gone to companies with close ties to the Republican Party, such as Haliburton and Bechtel, companies that are currently under federal investigation for overbilling and shoddy work in Iraq.
What we are seeing now is crony capitalism, and what happens when one party uses its near-complete domination of the federal government to enrich its friends. The Bush administration and the Republican Party think that government exists as a spoils-distribution system. Ideology and party loyalty are more important than serving the American people.
This is how $300 billion budget surplus got turned into a $550 billion (and rising) budget deficit. This is how al-Qaida was ignored until two jets flew into the World Trade Center. This is how the invasion of Iraq turned into a disaster. This is how people died in the streets of New Orleans waiting for help that never arrived.
Corruption and incompetence are the values that the current Republican Party epitomizes. Budget deficits. Shoveling money at friends. Inaction on important problems. Wars based on lies and wishful thinking.
All this is why this nation is in deep trouble.
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Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for more than 25 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at randyholhut@yahoo.com.

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