More angry-looking political storm clouds are gathering House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.
Now the question is: are new negative reports about DeLay the fruits of hard journalistic work or does their timing (coming out the same day) suggest that perhaps some GOP bigwigs have decided, to quote the usually unquotable Al Gore, that “it’s time for him to go?”
Think of this name TRENT LOTT. When bloggers jumped all over him there was a point where the White House let nature take its course and, some say, helped nudge nature on message a bit. Lott twisted and convulsed in the political wind for a while, and was then dumped and replaced by Bill Frist, a Bush ally. And Frist — even though liberals may disagree with him — provided the GOP Senate majority with a much better overall image.
The same may be happening here…because DeLay yesterday got slammed with two highly reports yesterday.
Yes, editors and journalists do leap all over ongoing stories so it isn’t entirely impossible that its coincidental that this stuff is all breaking at the same time. But it’s unlikely. Because if Karl Rove & Co do a plus/minus sheet on DeLay it’s coming up with too many minuses:
- DeLay’s recent comments about the men responsible for Terry Schiavo’s death paying a price did not fit the image the party is trying to project.
- Polls show across-the-boards backlash at the Bush/DeLay stance on getting Congress involved with Schiavo. The strategy was unwise. Even if that did not matter, the drop in polls shows that the strategy was not executed in a way to minimize political damage.
- Ongoing investigations of DeLay are being constantly pitchforked into the headlines, with GOP Congressional members having to do a political version of the limbo dance to rig to House machinery to protect DeLay’s increasingly bruised political butt.
- DeLay and Bush have never been close but tolerated and used each other to their advantage. Bosom buddies, they reportedly aren’t. Bush would do better to get someone in who’s on the same wavelength in terms of short and long term strategies.
- Bush’s new poll numbers show he has the lowest polls for any second term President since World War II. He has more tough battles ahead and can’t afford to have his party sandbagged even more by DeLay.
- Vice President Dick Cheney’s recent comments distanced himself from DeLay’s comments on the judiciary, indicating Cheney has the traditional attitude: if you lose court case you accept it but you don’t go after the judges. Cheney made it clear he supports the idea of an independent judiciary (which is not to say he’d not rather have judges more to his liking but that’s different than what DeLay is suggesting).
- Bill Frist has now come out with a statement basically repudiating DeLays hard-line on the courts — another indication thbat DeLay may soon be political toast:
U.S. Senate Republican leader Bill Frist said on Tuesday that courts had acted fairly in the Terri Schiavo “right-to-die” case, differing sharply from a vow of retribution by his House of Representatives counterpart, Tom DeLay.
“I believe we have a fair and independent judiciary today,” said Frist, now trying to resolve a battle with Democrats over judicial nominations that threatens to tie his chamber into knots. “I respect that.”
And the new damaging news reports? They’re are not necessarily earthquake-producing reports — but represent more highly negative stuff adding to the impression that there is an ineffable air of political corruption and rules-bending surrounding Mr. Delay.
First, there’s the New York Times report that Mr. DeLay is so firmly believes in family values that his political action committee dished out big bucks to his wife and daughter:
The wife and daughter of Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, have been paid more than $500,000 since 2001 by Mr. DeLay’s political action and campaign committees, according to a detailed review of disclosure statements filed with the Federal Election Commission and separate fund-raising records in Mr. DeLay’s home state, Texas.
Most of the payments to his wife, Christine A. DeLay, and his only child, Dani DeLay Ferro, were described in the disclosure forms as “fund-raising fees,” “campaign management” or “payroll,” with no additional details about how they earned the money. The payments appear to reflect what Mr. DeLay’s aides say is the central role played by the majority leader’s wife and daughter in his political career.
Mr. DeLay’s national political action committee, Americans for a Republican Majority, or Armpac, said in a statement on Tuesday that the two women had provided valuable services to the committee in exchange for the payments: “Mrs. DeLay provides big picture, long-term strategic guidance and helps with personnel decisions. Ms. Ferro is a skilled and experienced professional event planner who assists Armpac in arranging and organizing individual events.”
Mrs. Ferro has managed several of her father’s re-election campaigns for his House seat.
His spokesman said that Mr. DeLay had no additional comment. Although several members of Congress employ family members as campaign managers or on their political action committees, advocacy groups seeking an overhaul of federal campaign-finance and ethics laws say that the payments to Mr. DeLay’s family members were unusually generous, and should be the focus of new scrutiny of the Texas congressman.
PISH POSH. “He did nothing wrong. This is all politics.”..we can hear some ethically-challenged and partisan-obsessed folks screech. But this would be a story if DeLay was a Democrat and House Majority leader as well. The story isn’t the party; it’s the potential sleaze.
Then there’s this Washington Post report that yet another one of DeLay’s Big Trips overseas was bankrolled by lobbyists and DeLay — supposedly a take charge guy who even enjoys the nickname The Hammer — is claiming he didn’t know. What was the phrase they used to use? “Plausible deniability.” Details:
A six-day trip to Moscow in 1997 by then-House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) was underwritten by business interests lobbying in support of the Russian government, according to four people with firsthand knowledge of the trip arrangements.
DeLay reported that the trip was sponsored by a Washington-based nonprofit organization. But interviews with those involved in planning DeLay’s trip say the expenses were covered by a mysterious company registered in the Bahamas that also paid for an intensive $440,000 lobbying campaign.
It is unclear precisely how the money was transferred from the Bahamian-registered company to the nonprofit.
The expense-paid trip by DeLay and four of his staff members cost $57,238, according to records filed by his office. During his six days in Moscow, he played golf, met with Russian church leaders and talked to Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, a friend of Russian oil and gas executives associated with the lobbying effort.
DeLay also dined with the Russian executives and two Washington-based registered lobbyists for the Bahamian-registered company, sources say. One of those lobbyists was Jack Abramoff, who is now at the center of a federal influence-peddling and corruption probe related to his representation of Indian tribes.
House members bear some responsibility to ensure that the sponsors for their travel are not masquerading for registered lobbyists or foreign government interests, legal experts say. House ethics rules bar the acceptance of travel reimbursement from registered lobbyists and foreign agents.
Rules, shmules – this is Tom DeLay they’re talking about. To adapt a quote from The Godfather:”Do you know who you’re talking to? I’m Tom DeLay!”
FOOTNOTE: It’s truly entertaining to read on some websites folks suggesting that reports about DeLay’s problems are due to insidious reporters writing them for partisan political motives. That allegation is Hebrew National Baloney — but it’s more politically “sexy” and nice sounding to throw unproven allegations of “partisan bias” around then to be confused with the facts about how editors and reporter actually work on a story like this. Here’s how it actually works (and reporters and editors will confirm this, if you bother to ask rather than take the lazy way out and demonize them):
Editors see that there are allegations out there. They see there is an ongoing controversy. They wonder if there’s more there. They see an ongoing story that has not been resolved (definitely found innocent or guilty) yet. They sent out their reporters to see if there is more there, particularly since there are allegations that Congress has now been quietly fixed it so ethics allegations effectively can’t even be brought against anyone in the House.
DeLay has claimed all of this is due to his political enemies — so editors normally wonder: is that truly the case?
If they assign reporters and find it is, they move on. But if they pick up other instances and see there is some substance there they think: “Aha!” And since it is the function of a newspaper to independently report — and not constrained by rules changes put into place by to protect a powerful politico — the story goes on. It’s sort of like fishing. And it’s akin to Gary Hart telling reporters to follow him and they’d see he’s not doing anything wrong.
DeLay is now under the journalistic looking glass. And top GOP operatives who may feel he is dragging their party down most assuredly know it. Are they sitting back and reading the stories or helping facilitate the stories?
The GOP can decide to stick with him no matter what or realize that it’s a party with LOTS of political talent — enough talent to EASILY replace DeLay with someone equally as forceful in terms of public message and party discipline…and perhaps with realistic higher office ambitions that need resume padding.
But if it becomes a power struggle and the party attitude is: “Hey, you can’t tell US who to have lead our party!” then the Democrats will have a field day and raise lots of money for the 2006 races with mailers and commercials containing DeLay’s puss all over them.
BOTTOM LINE: Tom DeLay is carrying so much political baggage that TSA wants to strip search him…
UPDATE: BULL MOOSE notes:
The Moose suggests that rodents in Sugar Land should beware – the Bug Man may soon be returning.
This piece in today’s Washington Post reporting on a DeLay trip to Russia, that was paid for by a shadowy group, buries the lead in the final few paragraphs. What is interesting in this story is that a prominent member of the Republican Washington establishment speaks on the record divulging information that can be harmful to the once dreaded House Majority Leader…
For you Kremlinologists, what is fascinating about the quote is that it is from a highly respected denizen of K Street and a former prominent staffer in both the Bush Administration and Capitol Hill. The Rove fix likely is in. Tom DeLay should consult with Trent Lott, immediately.