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The Hammer: How Tom Delay is Taking Secret Corporate Donations to Ensure Republican Control

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Leading Republican Congressman Tom Delay sought donations to his political action committee from Enron and other corporations to help bankroll the redistricting of Texas to ensure that Republicans gain more state House seats. We speak with Lou Dubose, author of a new political biography on Tom Delay that will come out in September called The Hammer: Tom Delay, God, Money and the United States Congress. [includes rush transcript]

In a major 3,000 word article yesterday, the Washington Post revealed that leading Republican Congressman Tom Delay sought $100,000 in donations to his political action committee from Enron’s top lobbyists in May 2001 so he could help bankroll the redistricting of Texas to ensure the Republicans gain more House seats in Texas. That is in addition to the $250,000 the company had already pledged to the Republican Party that year. An investigation reportedly is under way into the legality of corporate political donations to the Republican Party in Texas by Enron officials.

With help from Delay, Republicans in Texas took control of the Texas House for the first time in 130 years and then redrew the state’s congressional map. The redistricting will likely force five Democrats to lose their House seats to Republicans in November. According to the Post, Delay solicited hundreds of thousands of dollars from several corporations including Enron. They money would be sent to either Delay’s Political Action Committee, Texans for a Republican Majority, or directly to the Republican Party. The money would then be sent to individual Republicans running for a seat in the Texas House legislature under the guise of non-corporate money. There are now accusations that Delay may have broken a Texas law that bars corporate financing of state legislature campaigns.

  • Lou Dubose, author of a new political biography on Tom Delay that will come out in September called The Hammer: Tom Delay, God, Money and the United States Congress. He is also co-author, with Molly Ivins, of two books about George W. Bush.

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

AMY GOODMAN: We go now to Lou Dubose, author of a new political biography on Tom Delay that will come out in September called “The Hammer: Tom DeLay, God, Money and the United States Congress.” He’s also co-author with Molly Ivins on two books about George W. Bush. We will go to her in just a little while. But Lou Dubose, welcome to “Democracy Now!” it’s good to have you with us. Can you talk about these latest allegations? <

LOU DUBOSE: Well, the latest allegations could be best described by that old Watergate journalistic cliché: 'smoking gun'. Tom Delay was raising corporate money clearly called on Enron to provide him, he had a long, long relationship with Enron. Goes back to '94 when they provided $250,000 when he first started his Trim PAC, — I'm sorry — his Arm PAC, his national version of the PAC and, you know, you can’t — the law’s very clear, you cannot spend corporate money directly in Texas elections and it’s very clear that Trim PAC did it. I’m not the judge and jury here, but it sounds like Mr. Delay is guilty, which we have long suspected.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about Congressman Chris Bell going to the Ethics Committee to raise issues about Tom Delay.

LOU DUBOSE: Yeah, I mean the Ethics Committee is dead. For the past seven years, it’s done nothing. And Chris Bell, you know, what these guys set out to do was, in order to comply with minority voting rights laws, they created African American districts but essentially they created a couple of Bantustans in which they would pack all the Black and Hispanic voters, leaving the rest of the state wide open for, wide open for white voters. Chris Bell will be replaced by a Democrat. He’ll be replaced by an African-American Democrat. Interestingly enough, Chris for Molly who will be on the show, Chris Bell was inspired to file his complaint when he read the whole story of how this was done in the “Texas Observer” where Molly and I both worked in the past. The complaint is essentially that it’s the same, it’s the same line of argument that District Attorney Ronnie Earl is using in Travis County and that is that Tom Delay knowingly spent corporate money, raised a PAC that spent corporate money, and in doing so stole an election — a big election, because what’s important about this is that in order to do what he did to Chris Bell, and Chris Bell probably has a cause of action in another suit, should he file one, because in order to do what they did to Chris Bell, they had to first elect a Democratic House — a Republican House in Texas. And that was a critical election that they had to pull off and did pull off in order to redraw the state district lines.

AMY GOODMAN: Lou Dubose, how powerful is Tom Delay?

LOU DUBOSE: Immensely powerful. He is — I’m not just flogging a book. I’m telling the truth. He is the most powerful member of Congress. His Senators guard their power jealously and there are only 100 of them. So the power is not so easy to co — it’s not so necessary to concentrate it to make the Senate work as it is the House. Bear in mind that Tom Delay is the Majority Leader. He, in the crisis of succession in 1998 when Larry Flynt revealed that Speaker designate Livingston was — had a number of extramarital affairs, Delay picked the next speaker Denny Hastert. But Delay had already picked — he had already selected Livingston to run and when he found out about the allegations, he cut Livingston loose despite the tearful speech on the House floor about this good man, he cut Livingston loose and went to Hastert and told him he had to run. Hastert turned white as a sheet according to Delay. Hastert was a former Deputy Whip of Tom Delay. Worked in his office. And Delay’s Whip operation. The current Whip is Roy Blunt, the House Whip. He was Delay’s Deputy Whip. So sandwiched between his boss and his first subordinate is a man who is really running the U.S. House of Representatives, Tom Delay. His PAC is the largest in — it’s larger than Hastert’s and size matters with PACs. Delay got where he did, he got elected because he funded, as he did in Texas, where they funded 17 State House races, to the tune of $1.5 million. His central PAC has elected many, many, many Congressmen. Much of the radical class of 1994 that elected Newt. And bear in mind that Delay is the only leader in that position who survived Newt Gingrich. When he thought Newt was done, a little bit prematurely, Delay led a coup to try to overthrow Newt Gingrich in 1997. Finally Newt fell in 1998. He’s tremendously powerful. We don’t have an energy bill, bad one though it would be, because Tom didn’t like one provision.

AMY GOODMAN: So Delay chose Hastert. Did he choose Frist, the Senate Majority Leader?

LOU DUBOSE: No, he didn’t. But you know Tom Delay has famously said: “screw the Senate.” I mean he doesn’t — he doesn’t believe in working collaboratively with Democrats nor with the Republican Senate. His m.o. in the House is to pass a bill that is as right wing a bill as can be passed, get that bill to conference and then to begin to negotiate with the Senate in conference committee. Democrats in Delay’s house, and he has said this, are irrelevant. The decisions are made within the Republican Party Conference exclusively. The entire Medicare bill was written by Republicans and I, by accident, walked into the Republican Party Conference the day they were whipping the bill. It was put together by Republicans and it was put — it was passed by Republicans. Remember this though, Amy. 6:00 in the morning after three hours, they passed a bill. The House votes run 15 minutes. By what is almost extra-constitutional rule. Yet they kept the vote open for three hours. There was a bribe offered to Nick Smith. This is the way business done in Washington and it’s Tom Delay’s business.

AMY GOODMAN: We are talking to Lou Dubose who has written a new biography of Tom Delay called “The Hammer”. It will be out in September. In terms of redistricting, we were just broadcasting out of Denver, Colorado yesterday where the Attorney General who is running for Senator, Ken Salazar, defeated his own Republican legislature — took them to court over this kind of redistricting in Colorado. How significant for the country is what Tom Delay has been doing?

LOU DUBOSE: Oh, I think immensely. It has huge significance. Redistricting is done almost by constitutional decree every 10 years after the census. In the first legislative session after the census, and we did that in Texas. We did it and we failed because the hard right Republicans refused to go along with the redistricting plan that the House had passed. The Senate wanted something better for Republicans. So what Delay did was come back in an off year, after going out and electing a legislature that would — illegally electing a legislature, that would do his bidding, putting in place a House Speaker that would do his bidding, in an off year, he redrew the lines, the state district lines to the favor of Republicans, of his Party. You know Jim Ellis, his political director at Trim PAC, the Texas PAC that is under investigation, and there will undoubtedly be indictments, whether Delay’s indicted, I don’t know. Whether he will be indicted in the first round or later, I don’t know. But there will be indictments because the Prosecutor in Texas as the law and the facts on his side. But Jim Ellis said: “We’re gonna try this in Florida next.” So consider this. Every time a legislature changes hands, are we now going to redraw the state lines every two years in every state to political advantage? It’s the sort of political warfare that makes most people really uneasy but doesn’t bother Tom Delay because he said blatantly, I am the Majority Leader. I want more seats for my Party. That’s why I am doing it. So this type of spending and circumstance, this type of investing big money in state elections to circumvent the McCain-Feingold law portends what’s going to happen in the future.

AMY GOODMAN: We are talking to Lou Dubose. Thank you very much for being with us. Author of a new political biography on Tom Delay called “The Hammer: Tom Delay, God, Money and the United States Congress”. He also coauthored two books with Molly Ivins about George W. Bush. She joins us next. Thank you very much for being with us.

LOU DUBOSE: Great to be with you. Thank you.

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