Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Our Burning Rage at Congressional Democrats Just Got New Fuel

What do the following events have in common?

• A Texas grand jury began investigating a political action committee set up by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) -- Texans for a Republican Majority, or TRMPAC. An Austin-based grand jury is looking into allegations that TRMPAC illegally used corporate funds to help Texas GOP candidates in 2002. Among those subpoenaed is Danielle Ferro, DeLay's daughter, who was paid by TRMPAC to organize events. Prosecutors are asking whether TRMPAC laundered $190,000 in corporate donations through the Republican National Committee. Prosecutors have also cited documents showing that TRMPAC spent about $400,000 in corporate contributions on political consultants, whose work they say was prohibited.

• Several newspapers described how officers of Kansas-based Westar Energy wrote memos about steering $56,500 to GOP campaigns in return for legislative help from DeLay and Reps. W. J. "Billy" Tauzin (R-La.) and Joe Barton (R-Tex.). Barton later sponsored a legislative exemption sought by Westar, but it eventually was dropped.

• The Washington Post reported that Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), the House's third-ranking Republican, tried to slip a last-minute provision into a bill to help a tobacco company for which his son lobbied. Blunt said the measure was meant to combat cigarette smuggling, but an aide of House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) removed it.

• Common Cause, the public watchdog group that helped topple Speaker Jim Wright (D-Tex.) in the 1980s, called for an ethics probe after the Post reported that aides to Rep. Michael G. Oxley (R-Ohio), who chairs the House Financial Services Committee, told a trade group that a congressional probe might ease if the group replaced its Democratic lobbyist with a Republican.

• The Campaign Legal Center and, public interest groups, charged DeLay's charitable children's organization is improperly soliciting large donations from special interests to finance lavish parties at this summer's Republican National Convention.

What these developments have in common is NOT just that it's all Republican ethical lapses. It's that all these shady dealings are being winked at by the watchdog group supposedly in charge of keeping Congressmen and -women honest, the House Ethics Committee, and the winking is being done by complacent Democrats as well as by complicit Republicans. These things are going on, these charges are being made, and no one's investigating, all with the tacit approval of the Democratic leadership in Congress, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

More of the "go along to get along" crap that we're all terrifically tired of. According to a long article in today's Washington Post (click here, but the Post requires free registration), a (wink-wink) "ethics truce" has existed between the two parties in the House ever since Newt Gingrinch was brought down by his own money-grubbing (followed closely by the resignation of Newt's replacement as speaker, Bob Livingston, over a sex scandal, until the Republicans could identify a member who had never had sex with anyone his whole life, Dennis Hastert).

Part of the inherent problem, according to the Post, is that the meetings and investigations of the Ethics Committee, which includes slightly fewer Democrats than it does Republicans, are totally secret. So secret, in fact, as to be invisible ... so invisible, in fact, as to prompt the Post reporters to ask the obvious question: does the Ethics Committee even meet anymore? No one can say. The committee is totally silent on the ethical lapses and charges detailed above, among others.

So what does this mean? That the Republicans have some really bad dirt on Nancy Pelosi, who is going along with not investigating Republican corruption to keep her own Democratic corruption uninvestigated? That's the impression one gets, and the fact that there is even that impression is a huge problem.

We'll say it again ... we're sick and tired of Democrats acting like Republicans.

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