L.A. BRONCOS FAN
03-14-2005, 06:04 AM
By Mike Allen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 14, 2005
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) has dismissed questions about his ethics as partisan attacks, but revelations last week about his overseas travel and ties to lobbyists under investigation have emboldened Democrats and provoked worry among Republicans.
With some members increasingly concerned that DeLay had left himself vulnerable to attack, several Republican aides and lobbyists said for the first time that they are worried about whether he will survive and what the consequences could be for the party's image.
"If death comes from a thousand cuts, Tom DeLay is into a couple hundred, and it's getting up there," said a Republican political consultant close to key lawmakers. "The situation is negatively fluid right now for the guy. You start hitting arteries, it only takes a couple." The consultant, who at times has been a DeLay ally, spoke on the condition of anonymity, saying he could not be candid otherwise.
At least six Republicans expressed concern over the weekend about DeLay's situation. They said they do not think DeLay necessarily deserves the unwanted attention he is receiving. But they said that the volume of the revelations about his operation is becoming alarming and that they do not see how it will abate.
L.A. BRONCOS FAN
03-14-2005, 06:15 AM
L.A. BRONCOS FAN
03-14-2005, 07:11 PM
DeLay's Expensive Education
An Indian tribe and a gambling services company each paid $25,000 to finance an "educational" trip to Britain for House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, his wife, two aides and two lobbyists in mid-2000. The trip reportedly included a stay worth more than $13,000 at the Four Seasons in London and a visit to Scotland's legendary St. Andrews golf course. Two months later, in July 2000, DeLay helped kill the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act, which "would have made it a federal crime to place certain bets over the Internet and was opposed by eLottery and the Choctaws." DeLay's European vacation is just the latest of the House leader's activities to draw scrutiny – DeLay faces accusations concerning his travel, his fundraising practices and his connections to lobbyists. The Washington Post reports, "At least six Republicans expressed concern over the weekend about DeLay's situation ... they said that the volume of the revelations about his operation is becoming alarming and that they do not see how it will abate."
DELAY'S CORPORATE DEFENSE FUND: Since the indictment last fall of two his closest political operatives in Texas, DeLay has raised $250,000 for his legal defense fund, upping the total to nearly $1 million since 2000. But the New York Times reports the fund itself has become an object of scrutiny. The list of recent donors includes two lawmakers who were placed on the House Ethics Committee this year (they replaced conservatives who were purged for being critical of DeLay). Among the corporate donors to the defense fund are Bacardi U.S.A., the rum maker which has also been indicted in the Texas investigation, and Reliant Energy, "another major contributor to a Texas political action committee formed by Mr. DeLay that is the focus of the criminal inquiry." In December, DeLay was forced to return funds from registered lobbyists because those contributions violated House ethics rules.
UNETHICAL CONNECTIONS: In a particularly blatant example of conflict of interest, one of the Ethics Committee's new appointees, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), was "co-host of a 2002 fundraising breakfast to benefit the DeLay-founded political action committee that is now the subject of a grand jury investigation in Texas. The grand jury is looking into whether the PAC improperly used corporate funds to influence the outcome of state legislative races." Smith also donated $10,000 to DeLay's legal defense fund. Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) also gave the fund $5,000 before winning a seat on the Ethics Committee. The deck is apparently now well stacked.
VACATIONS FROM HOUSE RULES: DeLay "could face new legal bills over a swirl of allegations" made against him and other House members that they "accepted foreign trips from lobbyists and registered foreign agents." In addition to his European vacation, DeLay accepted an expense-paid trip to South Korea which, in direct violation of House rules, was paid for by a South Korean lobbying group. The cost to send DeLay, his wife and three of his lawmaker friends to Seoul for three days was $106,921. The group that funded the trip, Korea-U.S. Exchange Council, shares a Georgetown address with former DeLay aide and current lobbyist Ed Buckham.
NO ETHICS IN HOUSE: Don't expect an investigation into DeLay's transgressions any time soon. Rather than coming clean about his various ethical violations, DeLay and his allies in the House have sought to cripple the House Ethics Committee. The committee, which rebuked DeLay three times last year, was purged of its most "responsible" members last month and is currently "paralyzed" by a proposed rule change that "would prevent the committee from launching any investigation without the support of at least one Republican—a restriction designed to protect the majority leader." House leaders proposed the change only after abandoning their proposal to repeal a rule forcing the House Majority leader to retire from his post if indicted. The measure was dropped after rank-and-file lawmakers complained "the party was sending the wrong message."
The White House Fakes It
Continued violence in Iraq, a struggling economy, an unpopular plan to privatize Social Security, homeland security left underfunded while the rich get giant tax cuts … what's a White House to do when the news about its policies isn't favorable? Fake it. An explosive, front-page New York Times story this weekend exposes President Bush's vast manipulation of the media and White House attempts to manipulate public opinion. Over the past four years, it turns out at least 20 different federal agencies have been involved in producing hundreds – yes, hundreds – of fake TV news segments, many of which were "subsequently broadcast on local stations across the country without any acknowledgement of the government's role in their production." In fact, since President Bush took office, the White House has spent at least $254 million on these fake segments and other public relations ploys to spread positive propaganda about his policies. President Bush has paid lip service to the concept of a free press, saying in January 2005, "there needs to be a nice, independent relationship between the White House and the press, the administration and the press." He also claimed "our agenda ought to be able to stand on its own two feet." Here's what happens when it can't:
LOSE YOUR IDENTITY: One of the largest concerns about these fake news segments is that they obscure the fact that they are paid for using taxpayer money and contain a one-sided, purely positive take on administration policy. In a now-infamous segment by the Department of Health and Human Services, a PR official named Karen Ryan posed as a reporter interviewing then-Secretary Tommy Thompson. (Her role in the well-rehearsed spot was to give Thompson "better, snappier answers" to her pre-approved questions.) The Government Accountability Office found the agency "designed and executed" her segments "to be indistinguishable from news stories produced by private sector television news organizations."
OFFICE OF B.S.: The Office of Broadcasting Services is a branch of the State Department which traditionally has acted as a clearinghouse for video from news conferences. That all changed three years ago. In 2002, "with close editorial direction from the White House," the unit started producing fake news segments to back up President Bush's rationale for going to war in Afghanistan and Iraq. As one senior official told Congress, the phony segments were "powerful strategic tools" used to influence public opinion. In all, the office produced nearly 60 segments, which were then distributed around the world for local stations to use as actual news footage. Although the White House has claimed ignorance about the use of fake news, it was well aware this was happening. A White House memo in January 2003 actually said segments the State Department disseminated about the liberation of Afghan women were "a prime example" of how "White-House led efforts could facilitate strategic, proactive communications in the war on terror."
IGNORE THE GAO: The Government Accountability Office (GAO) is a nonpartisan branch of Congress that investigates government fraud. The GAO criticized the administration's role in creating phony news three separate times in the past year, saying unless viewers are aware that what they're watching is government produced, it constitutes "covert propaganda." The GAO also forbade federal agencies from creating prepackaged news reports "that conceal or do not clearly identify for the television viewing audience that the agency was the source of those materials." The administration's response? The New York Times reports that on Friday, "the Justice Department and the Office of Management and Budget circulated a memorandum instructing all executive branch agencies to ignore the GAO findings."
IGNORE FEDERAL LAW: These fake news spots are produced with taxpayer money by outside public relations firms. Federal law warns federal agencies away from doing exactly that; the U.S. Code states "appropriated funds may not be used to pay a publicity expert unless specifically appropriated for that purpose." However, the GAO, which monitors the law, has no enforcement power. That responsibility lies with Congress and the White House. U.S. federal law also contains the Smith Mundt Act of 1948, which prohibits the spread of government propaganda in the United States (although it allows groups like Voice of America to broadcast it to foreign audiences.) According to the NY Times, State Department officials claim that provision doesn't apply to them.