Is DeLay Headed the Way of Gingrich?
read about House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's expensive junkets
-- bankrolled by a lobby-enriched nonprofit and a registered foreign
agent -- you wonder why DeLay didn't learn the lessons to be gleaned
from the very big fall of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
resigned his speakership in 1998 after he became more of a liability
than an asset for the House GOP. Alas, it is clear DeLay did learn
a lesson from Gingrich's downfall, but the wrong lesson: If you're
going to travel like royalty while serving as a GOP biggie, rig
the ethics committee.
last year, the House ethics committee admonished DeLay.
Joel Hefley, the committee chastised DeLay for offering a political
favor to a lawmaker in exchange for his support on the Medicare
prescription drug bill, for asking federal aviation workers to
track a plane during a partisan squabble and for appearing at
a 2002 energy-company fund-raiser that "at a minimum, created
the appearance that donors were being provided with special access"
to DeLay concerning pending energy legislation.
To add to
his woes, a Texas grand jury indicted three of his associates
for illegal fund-raising and there is speculation that DeLay is
under investigation, as well.
-- known inside the Beltway as "The Hammer" -- has been working
to fix things so that the ethics committee won't give him trouble
with House Speaker Dennis Hastert, the GOP leadership ousted Hefley
and replaced him with Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash. Then, GOP heavies
purged two Republican members and replaced them with two toadies,
both of whom, The Washington Post reported, "contributed generously"
to DeLay's much-needed legal-defense fund.
Oh, and the
House changed the rules.
GOP leaders pushed through a new rule: After 45 days, the ethics
committee would throw out a complaint, even without an investigation,
unless the GOP chairman and ranking Democrat agree to let it proceed.
Another new rule allows members to be represented by the same
Hefley complained that this would make it easier for members to
coordinate their stories.
In a statement,
Hefley complained that these new rules threaten to undermine the
committee, "not to mention the integrity of the House." Or as
they say, a fish rots from the head down.
began to falter when he decided he was so big that he could do
no wrong. He traveled to London to make a speech for Atlantic
Richfield -- allowing the company to spend some $40,000 flying
Gingrich and his wife (first class) and two aides (coach) to London
and plunking down $12,000 for the Gingrich hotel tab. Then there
was the Newter's stint as an academic lecturer -- for which he
raised $300,000 to $450,000 per semester -- for his inappropriately
named course "Renewing American Civilization." Now it appears
DeLay has adopted The Gingrich Way. In 2001, he went to South
Korea on a three-day trip. His transportation, The Washington
Post reported, cost $13,000, and $330 went toward his lodging.
Ditto Mrs. DeLay.
and a Republican took a similar trip in 2003.
Kingdom trip in 2000 cost $70,000 for DeLay and his entourage.
followed the money and found that the nonprofit National Center
for Public Policy Research received donations of $25,000 each
from two gambling interests. DeLay voted against an anti-gambling
bill those interests didn't like, even though DeLay says he is
prohibit a member from traveling on the dime of a lobbyist or
a foreign agent. Although there may be no problem if DeLay --
and the other members -- did not know the Korea-U.S. Exchange
Council was a registered foreign agent, or if DeLay was unaware
(as he says he was) of any lobbyist funding for the U.K. trip.
(The National Center says there was no nexus between the gambling
money and the U.K. trip.)
about "the partisan politics of personal destruction." He, like
Gingrich, doesn't see his role in his own self-destruction. It
seems clear that DeLay thinks he is too big to care how his trips
look to voters. The GOP leadership apparently feels that it can
adulterate the ethics committee and its rules -- and get away
Rep. Chris Shays are two Republicans who support a measure to
return to the old rules, while the ethics committee's five Democrats
have said they won't participate in committee doings until the
old rules are restored.
the committee inactive.
House convenes in April, the ethics committee might as well have
a sign out front that says, "Gone fishing."
2005 Creators Syndicate
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