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2005-04-07

DeLay Under Scrutiny Again for Ethics Violations

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Pressure mounts on House majority leader Tom DeLay to resign after several more scandals come to light. We’ll speak with Texas journalist Lou Dubose, author of "The Hammer: Tom DeLay: God, Money, and the Rise of the Republican Congress." [includes rush transcript]

On Wednesday, House Majority Leader Tom Delay was in the news once again. Both the New York Times and Washington Post had front-page exposes that could lead to new ethics investigations of the congressman.

The Washington Post reported that Delay took a six-day trip to Moscow in 1997 that may have been secretly funded by Russian businesses with ties to the Russian government. Officially the trip was paid for by a mysterious company registered in the Bahamas. House rules bar lawmakers from taking trips paid for by foreign agents.

And the New York Times reported that Tom Delay’s wife and daughter have been paid more than $500,000 since 2001 by Delay’s political action committee. Campaign finance experts say it is not uncommon for relatives to be paid but the sums paid to Delay’s family were unusually generous. These are the latest controversies that surround Delay who was admonished 3 times last year by the House ethics committee.

Meanwhile, 3 associates of the congressman are under indictment in Texas on state charges in connection with efforts to redraw the state’s congressional districts.

Yesterday afternoon, DeLay defended the payments to his family and his trip to Moscow and called the reports "just another seedy attempt by the liberal media to embarrass me." He said that the Republican party continues to back him. However, last week the conservative Wall Street Journal editorial page weighed in on the Delay controversies and chastised him for his ethical lapses. The paper stated that Delay has, "odor issues" and that his "fault lies in betraying the broader set of principles that brought him into office, and which, if he continues as before, sooner or later will sweep him out."

  • Lou Dubose, author of a political biography on Tom Delay called "The Hammer: Tom DeLay: God, Money, and the Rise of the Republican Congress."

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Joining us on the phone from Texas is Lou Dubose. He is the author of the political biography of Tom DeLay called, The Hammer: Tom DeLay, God, Money and the Rise of the Republican Congress. Welcome to Democracy Now!

LOU DUBOSE: Glad to be with you.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us. Well, why don’t we start here and work our way back? Can you talk about these two latest revelations?

LOU DUBOSE: Well, you know, we have known for a while that the DeLay family was being paid by — that his daughter Danni Ferro and his wife Christine were being paid by the PACs. I think the Times did a great job of putting it all together and just doing the numbers. This is the first sign, really, of what some critics of DeLay sense must be out there. That is, that there is some personal enrichment in this, that the guy doesn’t do this for ideology or love, but for money. You know, he lives in a pretty modest condo in Arlington. He, you know, has a house on the golf course probably worth $350,000 in Sugarland. By Congressional standards, he doesn’t seem to be a rich man, but he’s the most powerful man in Congress, and this is a payback. I think all of this — all of these trips, Amy are — the one is — there’s a thread that runs through all of them, and that thread is Jack Abramoff. In every one of these trips, except the Korean trip, I take that back, Abramoff, Jack Abramoff has been involved and other former DeLay staff members have been involved in a similar trip that he took to Korea three weeks ago, broke in the Washington Post. He took a trip to Korea that was funded by a — indirectly funded by a foreign agent. The thread is Abramoff, though. Abramoff was involved in the Washington —- in the trip to Moscow. Abramoff has been involved in a trip to England that Tom DeLay took. Abramoff went on that golfing trip to England. That was a trip that ran up a $70,000 tab, kind of expensive for a couple of days of golf in England. Is he dragging the pot there? Is some of the money actually going into Tom DeLay’s pocket? I mean, these are questions that ought to be asked by the House Ethics Committee, but won’t. Jack Abramoff is a long-time Tom DeLay associate who together with Mike Scanlon, a guy who was paying off his college debt when he left Tom DeLay’s employment four years ago, bilked $81—, $82-, could be as much as $100 million by the time that all of the numbers are run, from six Indian tribes for whom they were lobbying. This is an enormous lobby scandal involving two men with very close associations to Tom DeLay, and they’re the guys who have been arranging the trips, who have been getting on the phone and calling these American Indian tribes and saying, "We need $25,000 for DeLay from one tribe, we need $25,000 from another tribe, so we can go play golf in Scotland." Abramoff also did the same thing for Bob May with implied Democrat — Republican from Ohio with an implied promise that Bob May would carry a specific piece of legislation, attach it to a voting bill for an Indian tribe in Texas. So, there’s a pattern here, and the pattern is, you know, Jack Abramoff takes care of Tom DeLay, and Tom DeLay takes care of Jack Abramoff.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the response of the tribes, of the various nations that have — how much money have they given, and the significance of the recent hearing that exposed Abramoff and Scanlon, if you do think that, and are they done?

LOU DUBOSE: Are Abramoff and Scanlon done? Yeah, I think it’s almost certain they’re going to be indicted. There is a multi-agency task force looking into them. There are two grand juries in Washington. There’s a federal prosecutor in Washington. There are tribes filing suit to recover their money. I mean, what this was, you have to go — almost have to go back to 1995 when Tom DeLay domesticated K Street, when he told lobbyists that you are going to contribute money to the Republican Party or you are not going to have access. He changed the culture of lobbying. If it was bad then, it’s cancerous now. And there is a clear understanding among big lobbyists, such as Jack Abramoff and Mike Scanlon, that they’re going to have these big lobby jobs, but they’re going to max out in contributions to the Republican Party. Look at Scanlon, he was 31 years old when he made a $500,000 contribution in 2002 to the National Republican Governor’s Group. Well, that money came directly from American Indian tribes. You know, I’m down here in Louisiana looking at invoices for $1.5 million for the Coushatta tribe for lobbying, which they really never did. They never did much for them. And I’m looking for requests for $100,000 for a environmental group founded by Gayle Norton, before she was in Interior, Secretary of Interior. $25,000 that the Coushatta Indians in backwater swamp Louisiana, in Kinder Louisiana. They’re giving $25,000 to Grover Norquist. This is not just a lob — this is not just an individual scandal. It’s a scandal that involves, as Congressional scholar Norm Lundquist said, a Tammany Hall shakedown of lobbyists. These lobbyists get their jobs and in turn — we’re talking about jobs that pay a million a year, $1.5 million a year, they get these jobs and in turn they understand that they’re to funnel money to Republican campaign operations. And that’s why it’s so difficult for the Republicans in the House — one reason, to vote — to call — to have a "come to Jesus" call with Tom DeLay and say it’s time for you to go. Because he is the guy who set this up. He set up the K Street project along with Grover Norquist, you know, who’s now taking money from American Indian tribes. These guys have no interest in Americans for tax reform. Norquist is a "starve the base" lobby. But it’s a huge scandal that involves, you know, Tom DeLay and a number of lobbyists who pay what in southern Italy, in Sicily, is called "Tributo" to the Republican Party. And the Indians, they are going to court. They’re filing suit. You know, there’s too much litigation now for Tom DeLay — for the true story of Tom DeLay and Jack Abramoff not to be told, I think.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Lou Dubose, author of The Hammer: Tom DeLay, God, Money and the Rise of the Republican Congress. In these last few minutes, Lou, what do you think is going to happen next with Tom DeLay? He is blaming, saying this is a seedy attempt by liberal media to bring him down. What about the significance of the closed door meeting of Republicans that was held this week, apparently inside a number of Republicans raising concerns, The Wall Street Journal talking about the stench around DeLay.

LOU DUBOSE: Well, yeah, I mean in the end how much — Tom DeLay owns the House, and he owns it, because he bought it. He has contributed more money to Republicans — his PAC has contributed more money to Republican candidates than any other member of Congress. So, he has bought the loyalty of the House. And he got them five seats by — in six seats out of Texas in the new Congressional seats out off Texas in the last election by redrawing the state lines after he illegally raised and spent money here in Texas. I think the question they’re asking now is: "At what point is this guy a stone around our neck? Do we want to go into the next election behind Tom DeLay as the poster boy for corporate lobby corruption?" However, you know, they have re-rigged — they have rewritten the rules of the Ethics Committee so that there cannot be an investigation of any member of Congress.

AMY GOODMAN: And gotten rid of the Republican Ethics Committee chair who was raising questions?

LOU DUBOSE: They threw Joel Hefley off the top after he admonished him last time around and put in Doc Hastings, a Tom DeLay supporter, and they put in two members of — other members of the Committee who have contributed money to Tom DeLay’s legal defense fund.

AMY GOODMAN: Lou Dubose on that note, I want to thank you for being with us. Author of The Hammer: Tom DeLay, God, Money and the Rise of Republican Congress.

LOU DUBOSE: Thank you, Amy.

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