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Kris
June 13th, 2003, 06:01 AM
June 13, 2003

'Some Crazy Guy'

By PAUL KRUGMAN

Last year I tried to illustrate just how far to the right America's ruling party has moved by quoting some of Representative Tom DeLay's past remarks. I got some puzzling responses. "Who cares what some crazy guy in Congress says?" wrote one liberal economist, chiding me for being alarmist.

Some crazy guy? Public images are funny things. Newt Gingrich became a famous symbol of Republican radicalism. By contrast, most people know little about Mr. DeLay, the House majority leader. Yet Mr. DeLay is more radical and more powerful than Mr. Gingrich ever was.

Maybe Mr. DeLay's public profile will be raised by his success yesterday in sabotaging tax credits for 12 million children. Those tax credits would cost only $3.5 billion. But Mr. DeLay has embedded the credits in an $82 billion tax cut package. That is, he wants to extort $22 in tax cuts (in the face of record budget deficits) for every dollar given to poor children.

But the really important stories about Mr. DeLay, a central figure in the impeachment of Bill Clinton, involve his continuing drive to give his party a permanent lock on power.

Consider the case of Westar Energy, whose chief executive was indicted for fraud. The subsequent investigation turned up e-mail in which executives described being solicited by Republican politicians for donations to groups linked to Mr. DeLay, in return for a legislative "seat at the table." The provision Westar wanted was duly inserted into an energy bill. (Republican leaders deny that there was any quid pro quo.)

There's every reason to believe that the Westar case is unusual only in the fact that the transaction came to light. Under Mr. DeLay's leadership, Republicans have established a huge fund-raising advantage, based not just on promises special interests have always been able to buy favorable policies, but never so brazenly but also on threats. Mr. DeLay pioneered the "K Street strategy," which in a radical break with tradition punishes lobbying firms that try to maintain good relations with both parties.

Then there's the Texas redistricting story.

Normally states redraw Congressional districts once a decade: Texas redistricted after the 2000 census. But under Mr. DeLay's leadership, Texas Republicans are trying to increase their advantage in seats with a second redistricting. This in itself is an unprecedented power grab.

But it gets worse. Texas Democrats responded with a parliamentary maneuver, walking out to deprive the state Legislature of a quorum. In response, hundreds of state law enforcement officers were diverted from crime-fighting to search for the missing Democrats assisted, yes, by the Department of Homeland Security.

A telling anecdote: When an employee tried to stop Mr. DeLay from smoking a cigar on government property, the majority leader shouted, "I am the federal government." Not quite, not yet, but he's getting there.

So what will Mr. DeLay and his associates do with their lock on power, once it is firmly established? They will push through a radical right-wing agenda. For example, expect to see much less environmental protection: Mr. DeLay has described the Environmental Protection Agency as "the Gestapo."

Above all, expect to see the wall between church and state come tumbling down. Mr. DeLay has said that he went into politics to promote a "biblical worldview," and that he pursued President Clinton because he didn't share that view. Where would this worldview be put into effect? How about the schools: after the Columbine school shootings, Mr. DeLay called a press conference in which he attributed the tragedy to the fact that students are taught the theory of evolution.

There's no point in getting mad at Mr. DeLay and his clique: they are what they are. I do, however, get angry at moderates, liberals and traditional conservatives who avert their eyes, pretending that current disputes are just politics as usual. They aren't what we're looking at here is a radical power play, which if it succeeds will transform our country. Yet it's considered uncool to point that out.

Many of those who minimize the threat the radical right now poses to America as we know it would hate to live in the country Mr. DeLay wants to create. Yet by playing down the seriousness of the challenge, they help bring his vision closer to reality. *


Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

Kris
July 17th, 2003, 11:41 PM
July 17, 2003

Tom DeLay's Down-Home Muscle

We're happy to note that Tom DeLay's lunge for more political power is running into trouble in his home state of Texas. The special session of the State Legislature, which he prompted in order to redraw the political map to favor more Congressional Republicans, is foundering. A lone G.O.P. state senator is holding out against the House majority leader's plan to redistrict Democratic incumbents out of their seats, thwarting Mr. DeLay's hubristic plotting.

Mr. DeLay, who has a 10-gallon thirst for power, thinks he deserves six more Republican House members from Texas than the voters chose to send last election. He insists that Congressional maps deserve an unusual redrawing outside the normal census season, and he is moving heaven and earth to have his way. In fact, the Federal Aviation Administration just had to tighten its rules to prevent a repetition of last May's debacle, when a dozen agents were put on search alert in airport towers at Mr. DeLay's behest, tracking Democratic lawmakers who fled Austin for Oklahoma to deny a statehouse quorum on the remapping plan. In the service of Mr. DeLay's political ambitions, carloads of Texas narcotics officers were dispatched to find the lawmakers, as if they were potheads. The majority leader, ever the federalist, even had the new Department of Homeland Security keeping its eyes peeled.

Mr. DeLay's office succeeded in tracing the Democrats, suggesting that he might better serve Republicans in the search for Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein rather than opposition truants.

Despite such Keystone Kops embarrassment and the current resistance in Austin, Gov. Rick Perry, a DeLay loyalist who spawned the term Perrymandering, is indicating that he may call another 30-day session when the current one expires. Providing, of course, that Mr. DeLay dictates a further act of political farce in the heart of Texas.


Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

ZippyTheChimp
January 5th, 2006, 03:11 PM
January 5, 2006

Lobbyist's Guilty Plea Seen as Threat to DeLay Return

By CARL HULSE and ADAM NAGOURNEY

WASHINGTON, Jan. 4 - House Republicans arranged an unusual monthlong January recess to give Representative Tom DeLay ample time to escape legal troubles in Texas and retake his post as majority leader. But a triumphant return was dashed this week when his longtime associate, Jack Abramoff, pleaded guilty to public corruption.

The decision by Mr. Abramoff to cooperate in a broadening federal inquiry reaching deep into Mr. DeLay's inner circle led some influential Republicans on Wednesday to issue new calls for Mr. DeLay to abandon his goal of regaining his post. The scandal also emerged as a serious new distraction to the White House and Congressional Republicans as they seek to right themselves after a rocky 2005.

Leading Republicans warned in interviews that the scandal could threaten party dominance of the capital that extends from the White House to Congress to K Street unless Republicans move quickly to embrace ethics reform and show they will not tolerate criminal abuse of the substantial power they have been handed by American voters.

"The House and Senate leadership has to decide that they have got to aggressively deal with what I think is a much broader problem than just Abramoff: the lobbying process, the election process, the way this city has spun out of control," said Newt Gingrich, the former Republican House speaker. "I think the party will be in an uproar if they don't do something about it."

Mr. Gingrich was joined by others in publicly calling for House Republicans to permanently replace Mr. DeLay after the House reconvenes Jan. 31.

"They have got to hold new leadership elections," said Joe Gaylord, a veteran party insider who also urged a comprehensive overhaul of lobbying rules "from free meals to foreign money."

He added: "And if they're not tough enough on this to clean up what's going on, they are going to pay a price at the polls."

National Review, an influential conservative publication that has defended Mr. DeLay in his Texas court fight, on Wednesday encouraged him to step aside, drawing a distinction between what it saw as a partisan state-level prosecution and the inquiry by the Justice Department. It noted that not only have Mr. Abramoff and a former DeLay press secretary, Michael Scanlon, pleaded guilty but that other former senior DeLay aides are under scrutiny.

"Assuming that DeLay is cleared in Texas, it would be a substantial political risk for Republicans to bring DeLay back to the leadership while the Abramoff cloud is hanging over him, as it appears it will for some time to come," the publication said in an online editorial. "Why would they want to carry on under a formerly former majority leader, only to face the possibility of having to remove him from leadership yet again should he be further implicated in the Abramoff mess?"

As for Mr. DeLay, his aides and allies say his intention is still to win the Texas case and regain his leadership post and that he has done nothing wrong in his dealings with Mr. Abramoff.

"Mr. DeLay believes his support in the conference is strong," said a spokesman, Kevin Madden, referring to his House colleagues. "He doesn't back down when there are stories manufactured that attack him politically with charges that have no basis in fact."

Representative Thomas M. Reynolds of New York, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said Wednesday that Mr. DeLay is entitled to return to his post if he can dispose of the Texas money-laundering indictment that forced him to relinquish the leadership slot under House Republican rules. And as they left in December after a series of legislative wins, House Republicans seemed willing to give Mr. DeLay a chance to return.

But senior House Republicans, who would only speak privately about internal party affairs, said they sensed a shift against Mr. DeLay in light of the Abramoff plea and other disclosures. And they noted that Mr. DeLay could encounter new resistance in his effort to regain his position, particularly with important party voices joining the call. But they said there appeared to be no organized effort to act quickly given that House members are scattered across the globe during the recess and some are caught up in first clearing up their own links to Mr. Abramoff.

Lawmakers say Mr. DeLay owns one advantage in holding on to his post. Fifty House Republicans would have to publicly buck the powerful figure and sign a petition requesting a meeting to hold a new election. A secret ballot would then be held to vacate the post. The senior Republicans said they believed that the furor surrounding the Abramoff case could spur lawmakers to act and circulate a petition if Mr. DeLay does not decide on his own to relinquish the position.

Lawmakers and party strategists said that his absence could have serious ramifications for the Republican agenda heading into 2006 as exhibited by the struggles Republicans have encountered in advancing their priorities as 2005 came to a close. And they said that he would probably no longer have the same amount of residual clout he wielded in the immediate aftermath of the Texas indictment, when he retained an office off the Capitol floor and was closely consulted by the leadership and the chairmen of House committees.

The Abramoff scandal could also deprive House Republicans of the fund-raising power of Mr. DeLay, previously a celebrity draw on the campaign circuit, as they head into a year when they will face a stiff Democratic challenge to their thin majority.

"Tom has carried his load in helping the committee, but I think in this instance most of us recognize the challenges he has with a race at home and having to raise money for a defense fund," said Mr. Reynolds, who said Speaker J. Dennis Hastert was the House leader in attracting campaign aid.

Congressional Democrats plan an aggressive effort to make ethics a main backdrop of the election year, beginning with a series of events leading up to President Bush's State of the Union address later this month. They say they intend to make Mr. Abramoff a symbol of the dangers of one-party rule and Mr. DeLay's effort over the years to build strong ties between Republican lawmakers and the lobbying community through what became known as the K Street project.

"He's not an aberration," said Representative Rahm Emanuel of Illinois, head of the House Democratic campaign effort, referring to Mr. Abramoff. "He's a super-sized version of what you get when you put the K Street project on steroids."

Mr. Reynolds and others disputed the notion that the scandal would hurt Republicans substantially in the mid-term elections, saying past experience shows such troubles seldom spill over into other races.

"It all gets down to what is happening in that district and how that member is doing their job," Mr. Reynolds said.

* Copyright 2006The New York Times Company

BrooklynRider
January 6th, 2006, 10:47 AM
That's really too bad. I was so hoping that Tom would get his leadership post back after all these partisan charges against him were dropped. There is no corruption in Congress and certainly not in the Republican Party. It is just some "liberal" rumor mill churning out lies. Abramoff wasn't guilty. He was entagled in trumped up charges.

No, really.

ZippyTheChimp
January 6th, 2006, 10:59 AM
Abramoff should have consulted a fashion specialist for his court appearance. Then again, maybe he did.

The message I got is, "I'm not going down alone." This is a windfall for charitable organizations, as politicians try to separate themselves from the money.

Although I am glad this is happening to Republicans, Democrats do the same thing. The last time this occurred, Democrats controlled both Houses, and they took the hit.