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post #1 of 6 (permalink) Old 09-29-2005, 09:18 AM Thread Starter
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End of the Republican Money Machine?

The Hammer falls
It isn't just Tom DeLay. The vast corrupt money machine that funded the Republican Revolution is exploding before our eyes.

By Michael Scherer

Sept. 29, 2005 | At its height, the first great political machine of the 21st century worked like this: In Congress, Texas Rep. Tom DeLay controlled the votes like a modern-day Boss Tweed. He called himself "the Hammer." His domain included a vast network of former aides and foot soldiers he installed in key positions at law firms and trade groups, a network that came to be called the "K Street Project." He gathered tithes in the form of campaign cash, hard and soft, and spread it out among the loyal. He legislated for favored donors. He punished those who disobeyed, and bought off those who could be paid.

Conservative activists, who had grown up in the heady days of Reagan's America, patrolled the badlands of American politics for new opportunities. None did it better than Jack Abramoff, a former president of the College Republicans, who had a taste for expensive suits. Abramoff opened a restaurant, Signatures, where the powerful came to be seen and, in many cases, treated to free meals from a menu that included $74 steaks. He pulled in tens of millions of dollars from Indian tribes and the Northern Marianas Islands to help fund other operations -- skyboxes at the MCI Center where DeLay could hold his fundraisers and all-expense trips to Scotland where DeLay and friends could play golf.

Others were drawn into the web as well. Abramoff kicked down money to his old college buddy Grover Norquist, an anti-tax crusader whose role was to keep the right-wing ideologues in line. He hired Ralph Reed, a former advisor to the Christian Coalition, who helped keep the religious right on good terms with the Republican leadership. He hired Michael Scanlon, a former aide to DeLay, as his assistant. He leaned on former lobbying colleagues, like David Safavian, who was working in the Bush administration and could do favors for his clients. Susan Ralston, Abramoff's former gatekeeper and executive assistant, went to work for Karl Rove in the White House.

For a while, the whole operation seemed unstoppable. DeLay, Abramoff, Norquist, Reed and Rove vanquished their Democratic opponents, winning election after election. The loyalty that ensued allowed for a historic cohesion in Congress. Tax breaks passed like clockwork, as did subsidies for favored industries and cuts to long-standing Democratic initiatives. The Democratic Party, which had ruled Capitol Hill for half a century, imploded in confusion.

But the machine may now be coming to an end. The prosecutors have arrived, and they are handing out indictments at a blistering rate. "It's a house of cards," says Norman Ornstein, a congressional scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. "Jack Abramoff has been the ace of spades, but Tom DeLay has been linked arm in arm with him." Now the house is on the brink of collapse, he added. "Everything that surrounded the K Street Project and what flowed from it ... all of that is under intense pressure."

On Wednesday, DeLay was indicted with two aides by a Texas grand jury, accused of flouting campaign finance laws by illegally sending corporate funds to GOP candidates in the state. Two months ago, Abramoff was arrested and charged with fraud in connection with a casino deal in Florida. On Tuesday, two employees of a company owned by Abramoff were charged with murdering the casino's former owner. Last week, the feds arrested David Safavian, who has been working in the White House, on charges of lying to investigators about a trip to Scotland with DeLay and Abramoff. Scanlon, the former DeLay aide who worked with Abramoff, is said to be cooperating with investigators, who are likely to file even more charges.

For those who have followed the machine from its inception, these developments are striking. "It represents the beginning of the end of an era," said Vic Fazio, a Democratic lobbyist at the law firm Akin, Gump and a former California congressman. "A powerful group of people who had consolidated their power in the mid- to late 1990s is now vulnerable to legal attack."

Even some conservatives have begun to distance themselves. "The Tom DeLay machine that he built, there were corruptive elements to it," said Stephen Moore, a longtime conservative activist who sat at the head table at a recent dinner celebrating DeLay's career. Moore, who founded the Free Enterprise Fund, still describes himself as a "Tom DeLay fan," who considers the congressman a "conservative hero." But he has misgivings as well. "All of these guys getting rich off this process rubs some conservatives the wrong way," Moore said. "It's going to be difficult for Tom to recover from this no matter what happens."

Though DeLay may not recover, his machine has not yet collapsed entirely. Late Wednesday, House Speaker Dennis Hastert appointed Rep. Roy Blunt, the Republican whip from Missouri and a disciple of DeLay, as the new majority leader. Republicans, meanwhile, began working to portray the torrent of indictments as politically motivated charges against one individual. "Tom DeLay is a tremendous public servant," said Ken Mehlman, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, in a statement. "It is our sincere hope that justice will remain blind to politics." DeLay also lashed out, as is his fashion, saying he was a victim of "one of the most baseless indictments in American history."

Perhaps the best news for Republicans is the relative disorganization of the Democratic Party, which remains weakened after the 2004 elections and lacks a unified message. Democratic politicians, like Rep. William Jefferson, of Louisiana, and Rep. Maxine Waters, of California, also face their own ethical scandals. As one congressional Republican, Arizona's Rep. Jeff Flake, boasted in the Wall Street Journal Wednesday, "endemic Democratic ineptitude makes Republicans more attractive when graded on a curve."

But even if the collapse of Abramoff and the weakening of DeLay does not end the Republican reign, it will at least expose its workings. For years now, Republicans across Washington have been scratching each other's backs as they march in lockstep with a unified message. With each release of a subpoenaed e-mail, and every new indictment, more information about the workings of the machine -- and the money that was its lifeblood -- comes to light.

In recent weeks, for instance, Timothy Flanigan, a former attorney in the Bush White House, has been answering questions from Congress about his relationship to Abramoff. Flanigan, who has been nominated as deputy attorney general, went to work for the Bermuda-based corporation Tyco after he left the White House. Once there, he hired Abramoff as a lobbyist to reach out to Karl Rove on a tax issue. According to a report in the Washington Post, Abramoff boasted to Flanigan that "he had contact with Mr. Karl Rove" and that Rove could help fight a legislative proposal that would penalize U.S. companies that had moved offshore. Flanigan oversaw a $2 million payment to Abramoff for a related letter-writing campaign that never materialized. Flanigan says the money was diverted into other "entities controlled by Mr. Abramoff."

The charges surrounding DeLay also concern the misuse of money. The former majority leader is charged with raising $190,000 in 2002 from several major corporations, including Sears Roebuck, the Williams Companies and Bacardi USA. The indictment alleges that DeLay conspired to funnel that money through the Republican National Committee into seven Texas state campaign accounts, where he was helping Republican candidates as part of his effort to redraw Texas voting districts. If the charge is proven, DeLay and his associates would have violated a Texas campaign finance law that prohibits corporate donations to local races.

The ability of DeLay and Abramoff to collect and distribute enormous sums of money was always a key to their success. They used the money to buy friends and crush enemies. They used the money to fund the Republican revolution. As Abramoff told the New York Times in March, "Eventually, money wins in politics."

Those words form a perfect epitaph for a political machine gone awry.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

-President Barack Obama, 1st Inaugural address
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post #2 of 6 (permalink) Old 09-29-2005, 02:07 PM
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RE: End of the Republican Money Machine?

Gee, a critical report from salon.com. Wow ! I am impressed!
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post #3 of 6 (permalink) Old 09-29-2005, 02:47 PM
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RE: End of the Republican Money Machine?

Please post an equally biased report from the opposite side of the camp for our perusal. After careful review most of us will still cheer his ousting.

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post #4 of 6 (permalink) Old 09-29-2005, 03:16 PM
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RE: End of the Republican Money Machine?

Maybe Rush has done a well researched rebuttal of the salon piece? Remember, he claims the truth, and he delivered the stunning news that we are winning in Iraq and the anti-war protest this past weekend in DC was only 30 people.

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post #5 of 6 (permalink) Old 10-01-2005, 05:36 PM
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RE: End of the Republican Money Machine?

October 2, 2005

The War Against Tom DeLay



TO hear Tom DeLay tell it, his indictment last week by a Texas grand jury resulted from a vast left-wing conspiracy - the culmination of years of relentless pursuit by Democrats who, in Mr. DeLay's words, "drug my name through the mud."

Democrats, of course, brushed the accusation aside, saying Mr. Delay, a Texas Republican, had only himself to blame for the conspiracy charge that forced him to step aside as the House majority leader.

But in fact an extensive network of forces has been aligned against Mr. DeLay - a kaleidoscope of activists and liberals, clean-government advocates and legal experts, even a smattering of resentful conservatives and Republican moderates, all bound by their desire to see him stopped.

Some have launched daily blogs devoted to the House leader, rented billboard ads denouncing him and mobilized phone banks to spread the word. Others have staged protests and written opinion pieces. A few have invoked his name to recruit Democratic candidates - one, predictably, in his Texas district, but many more in other parts of the country, where the DeLay name has slowly become Democratic code for Republican corruption after many months of a public relations campaign with that very goal in mind.

Whether the roaring anti-DeLay machine deserves even partial credit - or blame - for his tumble last week is up for debate. Mr. DeLay has painted the veteran Democratic prosecutor in the case, Ronnie Earle, as a partisan fanatic, while Mr. Earle's defenders claim he is an evenhanded seeker of justice. The grand jury Mr. Earle convened brought a count of conspiracy against Mr. DeLay alleging that he funneled illegal corporate contributions to Republican candidates for the Texas Legislature in 2002.

Regardless of how the criminal case unfolds, it is clear that Mr. Delay's persona has produced a cottage industry of forces that trace his every step and draw negative public attention to it.

"I think it's entirely his own undoing, but the good-government groups definitely decided to focus on him," said Tom Matzzie, the Washington director of the liberal organization MoveOn, which spent hundreds of thousands of dollars running advertisements against Mr. DeLay and for his current Democratic opponent.

Or from a different perspective: "The anti-DeLay groups are sore losers - or 'Soros losers' as we call them," said Barbara Comstock, a former spokeswoman at the Justice Department under President Bush who has been active in Mr. Delay's defense, referring to the billionaire George Soros, who contributes heavily to Democratic causes, including MoveOn.

Exactly how much money has been spent by partisan donors to drive Mr. DeLay from power is difficult to determine. Even the Republican National Committee and prominent Republican opposition researchers do not put a precise figure on it, although House Republicans did launch a drive earlier this year to link anti-DeLay groups to prominent Democratic donors.

According to the Washington newspaper The Hill, the Republican National Committee issued talking points in March that accused four independent watchdog groups, including Democracy 21 and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, known as CREW, of having "close ties to left-wing leaders like George Soros."

Proving the extent of collaboration among Democrats, watchdog groups and their intermediaries is no simple task: Nonprofit groups have fewer campaign-finance disclosure requirements, making it harder to connect the dots, if any.

At the same time, the line between genuinely nonpartisan advocacy groups, which monitor the fund-raising of Democrats and Republicans, and partisan entities, which seek to unravel the Republicans' success, has grown blurry. Their strategies have overlapped - much the way those of Newt Gingrich and the watchdog group Common Cause did in 1988 when they highlighted ethics violations by Speaker Jim Wright, a Democrat.

Perhaps the most famously zealous Ahab in pursuit of Mr. DeLay's resignation is David Donnelly, the national campaign director for the Public Campaign Action Fund, a nonprofit organization with an adjoining political committee that has devoted its efforts to tracking the House leader. Its heavily trafficked Web log, the "Daily DeLay" compiles negative articles about Mr. DeLay's activities. It spent some $200,000 in his district in the 2004 campaign, according to Mr. Donnelly, and has circulated an online petition demanding that Mr. DeLay quit.

"There's no question that a lot of people have been out after DeLay for a long time," said Norman Ornstein, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. Still, Mr. Ornstein said, "They wouldn't have gotten anywhere if there weren't a lot of grist for that mill."

Although the often-attacked Mr. Soros has not donated money directly to the Public Campaign Action Fund (his financing went to an affiliated but separate organization, the Public Campaign), other reliably Democratic entities have made such donations, including the MoveOn.org Voter Fund, which gave $150,000 in 2004, according to the Web site of the Center for Responsive Politics.

Over all, Mr. Soros's Open Society Institute has given at least $12,274,388 toward campaign-finance reform efforts in the last eight years, according to the same site. That money has contributed to his status as a favored culprit for Republicans seeking to identify the source of the anti-DeLay effort.

Another popular Republican target is CREW, which has doggedly monitored the ethics allegations against Mr. DeLay. Although CREW says it is nonpartisan, its director, Melanie Sloan, was once a lawyer for House Democrats.

The alignment of clean-campaign organizations and Democratic partisans "is something that's been very consistently done over the years, and these are groups that certainly cross-pollinate," said Ms. Comstock, now a principal at the Blank Rome government relations firm. "There's certainly a very strong over-arching theme here - to go after Tom."

On the contrary, the watchdog groups say. When the Democrats were in power, they faced similar scrutiny. "It just happens to be that the Republicans are in power in Washington now," Mr. Donnelly said. "We find ourselves being critical of those who are in power because money flows to them."

Mr. DeLay's claim of a witch hunt is also muddied by his conservative critics. The editorial board of The Wall Street Journal has not been a fan, nor has the editor of National Review, Rich Lowry, who said Mr. DeLay had become "too comfortable with the perks of power."

Yet, neither The Journal nor Mr. Lowry seem to enjoy themselves as much as the anti-DeLay groups, which have launched lively campaigns that ridicule Mr. DeLay in his own district, in Washington and nationally. Democracy for America, a New England group run by Howard Dean's brother Jim, posted billboards in Texas mocking Mr. DeLay's golf trip with Jack Abramoff, the Republican lobbyist.

Campaign for America's Future, a progressive group best known for its work on the mustier subject of Social Security, ran a $75,000 advertising campaign after Mr. DeLay's controversial involvement in the case of Terri Schiavo, the Florida woman taken off life support earlier this year.

Last week, the group posted a picture of Mr. DeLay on its Web site under the red-lettered headline, "Indicted."

Now, having accomplished at least one of its goals, the anti-DeLay movement seems to have diverted some of its focus from the Texas Republican and turned it toward unearthing the records of Roy Blunt, the Republican Congressman from Missouri who was elected as temporary majority leader.

Nevertheless, Mr. DeLay seems likely to keep his foes in the spotlight - much as Hillary Rodham Clinton turned the tables on what she called the "right-wing conspiracy" when her husband was under fire.

Mr. DeLay referred to his firing squad as a "left-wing syndicate" in interviews last April. "These people are all hooked up," he said on Fox News. "The same people that went after George W. Bush have just changed their focus onto me."

Following his indictment last week, he suggested that Democratic critics, specifically Rahm Emanuel, a leading House member, are directly in cahoots with Mr. Earle, the Texas district attorney.

That level of coordination has yet to be backed up with evidence. And Democrats argue that they would benefit from keeping Mr. DeLay on the national stage at least through the 2006 midterm elections. He could serve as a reminder of Republican misdeeds. "I think it's a ridiculous claim that there would be a coordinated effort," Mr. Matzzie of MoveOn said. "Nobody I know has talked to Ronnie Earle."

At the same time, he acknowledged, "In the crassest sense, having Tom DeLay as a punching bag plays to the advantage of his political opponents."
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post #6 of 6 (permalink) Old 10-02-2005, 03:33 PM
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Why the major parties are about power

The bigger picture
By Mark Steyn
September 26, 2005
American politics seems to have dwindled down to a choice between a big government party and a big permanently-out-of-government party. The Senate Democrats had two months to cook up a reason to vote against John Roberts and the best California Sen. Dianne Feinstein could manage come the big day was that she had wanted to hear him "talking to me as a son, a husband and a father."
In that case, get off the Judiciary Committee and go audition for "Return To Bridges Of Madison County," or "What Women Want 2" ("Mel Gibson is nominated to the Supreme Court but, despite being sensitive and a good listener, is accused of being a conservative theocrat").
That slab of meaningless emotive exhibitionism would make a good epitaph for the Democratic Party. The reality of life as a big-shot Dem is that what John Roberts is like "as a father" is less important than what George Soros is like as a sugar daddy.
The more money shoveled at the party by moveon.org, Hollywood, the National Organization for Women and other unrepresentative fringes, the less able it is to see over the big pile of green to the electorate beyond. A party as thoroughly Sorosized as the Democrats is perforce downsized.
To be sure, they have many institutional advantages: If you watch the TV news, you would still think Cindy Sheehan an emblematic bereaved army mom, rather than a pitiful crackpot calling for President Bush to pull his troops out of "occupied New Orleans." Her Million-Moan March washed up in Washington Thursday to besiege the White House. As the Associated Press put it, "Sheehan, supporters descend on the capital." There were 29 supporters. Can 2? dozen people "descend" on any capital city bigger than the South Sandwich Islands'?
Surely her media boosters were cringing with embarrassment at their own impotence. Since its star columnist Maureen Dowd became focused on Mrs. Sheehan's "moral authority," the New York Times has run some 70 stories on Cindy -- and every story attracted another 0.4142857 of a supporter to her march on the capital.
Nonetheless, Hillary Rodham Clinton has yielded to "pressure" from all those 0.41428s and agreed to meet with Mrs. Sheehan to "explain" her vote for the Iraq war. The dwindling stars of today's Democratic Party expend most of their energy jumping through the ever-smaller hoops of an ever-kookier fringe.
These days one party raises a ton of money from George Soros and the other raises a ton of money from you. George Bush has made a commitment to spend $200 billion on Gulf Coast "hurricane relief." Stephen Moore in the Wall Street Journal provided this perspective: Katrina supposedly displaced a half-million families. For $200 billion, every family could be given $400,000, and they could build their own beach-front home anywhere in America except next door to Barbra Streisand.
For 400 grand, they could all move into the Plaza Hotel -- with a view of Central Park, not the cheap rooms looking out on 58th -- and live off the $30 Snickers from the mini-bar.
Oh, sure, some might blow the $400,000 on beer and strippers, as several hurricane "victims" have already done with their complimentary Fedit-credit cards at the Baby Dolls Club in Houston. "You lost your whole house," said Abby, one of the eponymous dolls, "you might want some beer in a strip club."
But even Abby, skilled as she no doubt is, would have a hard job taking as much off as the "public servants" of Louisiana will once that $200 billion starts sluicing through the sewers of its kleptocrat bureaucracy. Even taking the gloomiest view of human nature's partiality to beer in a strip club, giving every displaced Gulf Coast family a 401(k) with an instant $400,000 would unlikely be as economically wasteful as a $200 billion government program -- unless, that is, it's going straight to the Army Corps of Engineers to build the world's highest seawall out of unused Sacagawea dollar coins.
Big-time Republicans tell me Mr. Bush's profligacy is doing a great job of neutralizing the Democratic advantage in the spending-is-caring stakes. This may have been true initially -- in the same sense as undercover cops neutralize a massive heroin-smuggling operation by infiltrating it. But, if they're still running the heroin operation five years later, it looks less like neutralization and more like a change of management.
Savvier Republican types say, ah, well, Mr. Bush is the war president, his priority is the war, and he doesn't want a lot of domestic nickel-and-diming to distract from his prosecuting it.
I like that argument even less. One lesson of September 11, 2001, is that a government that tries to do everything is likely to do most of it badly. You could make the case that the government simply doesn't have the resources even to read the immigration applications of young single men from hotbeds of terrorism -- but not if that same government apparently has no problem finding the resources to fund Rep. Don Young's now famous "bridge to nowhere" in Alaska. If a thousandth of the care lavished on the Don Young Bridge had been lavished by U.S. Immigration on the September 11 killers' visa paperwork, things might have gone very differently.
More to the point, domestic policy isn't a distraction from the war, it's a key front in it. Alaskan oil is part of the war on terror, so is increased refinery capacity. One reason half of Americans have tuned out Iraq, Afghanistan and all the rest is because they can't see any connection between Bush foreign policy and their own lives. Way back in summer 2002, I wrote: "September 11 is not just an event, hermetically sealed from everything before and after, but a context. Everything that's wrong with the environmental movement, with the teachers' unions, with the big-government bureaucracies can be seen through the prism of their responses to that day."
Ambitious presidents seize on extreme events to change the culture, as Franklin D. Roosevelt did, using the Depression to transform the nature of the federal government. In allowing the eco-crazies to get away with giving priority to the world's biggest mosquito herd over Alaskan oil, and the teaching establishment with insisting there's nothing wrong with the most world's overfunded public-education system that can't be fixed with even more wasted dollars, and the bureaucracy with creating an instantly sclerotic jobs-for-life federalized airport security (that just walked off the job in Houston), the Republicans missed their post-September 11 opportunity.
Instead of changing the nature of the federal government, the Republican majority in Washington seems to be changing the nature of the Republican Party. The Democrats' approach to government has been Sorosized, the GOP's has been supersized. Some choice.
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