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A House of Straw

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It sometimes takes the devil to see the devil's work. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich was forced to resign in disgrace over questions about his ethics regarding his acceptance of a $4.5 million book advance and other transgressions

How badly corrupted is the House of Representatives under the Republican leadership of DeLay and Hastert? Well, Gingrich, who paid a $300,000 penalty for his own violation of House ethics rules (Republicans used to have rules of ethics) said the following after GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff copped his first guilty plea:

"There are a series of behaviors, "of attitudes"of crony-like activities that are not defensible, and no Republican should try to defend them" this is not one person doing one bad thing"This was a team effort"The Abramoff scandal has to be seen as part of a much larger and deeper problem"a system of corruption"I see no prospect that DeLay will in any sense be cleared in any reasonable time."

When asked what happened to Republicans in Congress, Gingrich retorted,
"You have to go ask them."

This wasn't Teddy Kennedy or John Kerry speaking; this was the former GOP Speaker of the House. With the DeLay scandal exploding on every front, Republican politicians, including President Bush, are scurrying around like rats leaving a sinking ship.

Mr. Bush hastily portrayed Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff as an "equal money dispenser"giving money to people in both political parties," in a desperate attempt to involve Democrats in this mess. Our Deceiver-In-Chief, "was not friends with the lobbyist and does not recall ever meeting him," according to Scott McClellan. Seems odd for a president who named Abramoff to his 2001 Presidential Transition Team, and received over $120,000 from the lobbyist for his 2004 campaign, "before I even started making phone calls," according to Abramoff.

Remember Bush's attempt to deny his friendship with Enron's CEO Kenneth Lay five years ago, claiming he first became aware of Lay when the Enron executive "contributed to my opponent's (former Texas Governor Ann Richards) campaign fund?" It's odd that Bush would call a guy he barely knew "Kenny Boy." He neglected to mention that Lay donated four times as much to Bush as he donated to Richards in the 1994 governor's campaign.

Federal records show that Abramoff gave over $127,000 directly to Republican candidates and committees, and nada to the Dems. Larry Noble, former Federal Election Commission attorney and current Director of the Center for Responsive Politics, said, "It is somewhat unusual in that most lobbyists try to work with both Republicans and Democrats, but we're already seeing that Abramoff doesn't seem to be a usual lobbyist"Abramoff's big connections were with the Republicans."
As much as the GOP would like to paint this as an "equal opportunity" scandal, Abramoff and his pals were all about illegally diverting funds to GOP pols. Democrats did receive donations from Abramoff-connected Indian tribes, from whom he bilked $80,000,000 for direct intervention in matters of tribal gambling. Even at that, Republicans received about 66% of the total.

If you are wondering how this differs from what happened with the Democrats, look at these numbers: Between 1997 and 2002, the Republican-controlled House Government Reform Committee issued 1,052 subpoenas to probe alleged misconduct by Democrats. In the past five years that committee has subpoenaed six Republicans.

Want to see how corrupt these folks are? DeLay arrived at his first court hearing in Texas aboard a corporate jet owned by R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. Not enough for you? How about the fact that Bush said on December 16th that he believed DeLay to be innocent of money laundering and conspiracy charges? Of course, this president has long disdained the concept of courts, juries, trials, etc.

Still not enough? In early December, the vice-president of the United States appeared at a fund-raiser for DeLay. Cheney influenced the transfer of hundreds of millions of dollars from the American people to the ethically-challenged Halliburton, which he used to run. When it comes to self-respect, I suppose the DeLay fundraiser is small change to Cheney.

Under pressure from Republican congressmen scared for their own hides, DeLay was forced to abandon plans to resume his duties as House Majority Leader. Now the question is, is there a Republican anywhere in the House with an appetite to end the corruption, and restore some semblance of ethics?

If Speaker Hastert has his way, look for more of the same from either Roy Blunt (R.MO) or John Boehner (R. OH), the two most likely to replace DeLay. Blunt has been the Republican House's official liason to K Street, the D.C lobbying organization set up by DeLay. Boehner accepted over $65,000 from Sallie Mae, while the House Education Committee, which he chairs, was writing new legislation regarding student loans. Boehner also handed out checks from the tobacco industry on the floor of the House in 1995, as our representatives were considering the elimination of a tobacco subsidy.

There's even something for the church crowd in this scandal. Ralph Reed, Christian right superstar and founder of the Christian Coalition, initially denied having taken $4 million from Abramoff to run phony anti-gambling campaigns in the south, in order to retain gambling monopolies for specific Abramoff tribal clients. As Robert Scheer noted, observing Reed's and Abramoff's machinations, "is to glimpse moral corruption of biblical proportion."

Respected conservative columnist George Will, in the January 10th edition of the Wall Street Journal, had this to say:

"House Republicans, after 40 years in the minority, have since 1994, wallowed in the pleasures of power"They have practiced DeLayism, or "K Street conservatism"(which) compounds unseemliness with hypocrisy"Until the Bush administration, with its incontinent spending"conservatives pretended to believe in limited government"The last five years"the number of registered lobbyists more than doubled."

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Thomas L. Walsh graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a Communications/Journalism degree in 1962. Following a successful business career, he retired to Idaho's Teton Valley in 1999, where he works as a free-lance writer. Walsh and his (more...)
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