Hard Rain Falls on GOP

It's been a rough couple weeks for the Republicans.

First, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay was indicted on a felony charge that he conspired to violate the Texas campaign finance law in 2002 by steering $190,000 in corporate money to Republican state legislative candidates, who then helped DeLay redistrict the state in favor of Republican congressional candidates. As Molly Ivins has said, it is hard to violate Texas campaign finance laws, but one of the few things that is illegal is corporations contributing to state candidates.

When DeLay's lawyers moved to dismiss the charge on a dubious technicality, Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle on Oct. 3 got another state grand jury to re-indict DeLay on more serious felony charges of money laundering and conspiracy to lauder money.

DeLay's lawyers squawked, but if, as the cliché goes, a DA can get a ham sandwich indicted, Tom "The Hammer" DeLay furnished plenty of pork for Ronnie Earle's buffet. It ought to be fascinating to see this story play out in the courtroom.

Meanwhile, federal investigators are looking into DeLay's relationship with Jack Abramoff, one of the top GOP lobbyists and DeLay's golfing buddy, who was indicted in August with fellow Republican Adam Kidan in a wire fraud case involving the 2000 purchase of SunCruz, a casino cruise ship company. David Safavian, a former lobbyist who was the chief procurement officer at the White House Office of Management and Budget, was arrested on charges of lying and obstructing justice in an Abramoff probe. Two men who worked for a company owned by Abramoff and Kidan were charged Sept. 27 with murdering Gus Boulis, the former owner of SunCruz. The FBI is looking into reports that a federal prosecutor was reassigned three years ago to shut down an earlier criminal investigation of Abramoff. And the Securities and Exchange Commission was investigating allegations of insider trading and stock dumping against Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, who sold shares in HCA Inc. in June, a month before the corporation announced that its earnings would fail to meet analysts' estimates.

As top Bush aide Karl Rove prepared for his fourth grand jury appearance in the federal probe into who leaked CIA operative Valerie Plame's identity to the media, a White House aide complained to Time magazine that special counsel Patrick "Fitzgerald's office, although very professional, has been very aggressive in pursuing people ... These guys are bullies, and they threaten you."

These are the same Republicans, mind you, that have extorted contibutions, threatened lobbying firms that hired Democrats and even kept alive an investigation of former housing secretary Henry Cisneros six years after he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of lying to the FBI about payments to his mistress. He paid a $10,000 fine and a $25 court assessment, returned to private life and was pardoned by President Clinton. Special prosecutor David Barrett has spent $21 million so far and is still raiding the treasury for $2 million a year to keep his inquisition going, for what purpose he cannot say. Some speculate that he is waiting to release his final report during Hillary Clinton's re-election campaign.

Trying to divert the narrative from GOP ethics problems, Republicans are using the Gulf Coast hurricane disasters to promote the right-wing agenda that had stalled in Congress. Bush suspended requirements that federal contractors pay locally prevailing wages and comply with affirmative action requirements. To pay for the estimated $200 billion costs of rebuilding the Gulf Coast, Bush and congressional Republicans are rejecting tax increases. Instead they are pushing for cuts in domestic spending programs, such as Medicaid, food stamps and soil conservation programs. Republicans proposed to cut agriculture spending by $3 billion, including cuts in the dairy price support program as well as other commodity supports and closing farm service offices. Democrats should stand up for farmers, working poor and small businesses.

Republicans are laying off their Social Security privatization efforts for the time being. House Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas no longer promises to move a "retirement security" bill this year, Senate Finance Republicans haven't discussed the topic openly together since July, when Bush had his last Social Security dog-and-pony show, and Rep. Tom Reynolds, R-N.Y., House Republicans' campaign chairman, is urging that the Social Security debate be postponed until after next year's election campaign, knowing that the issue is toxic to the GOP. But seniors should not be fooled and Democrats should not lay off their advantage. Wall Street still wants a piece of that Social Security pie. If Republicans maintain or add to their majorities in Congress, you can bet that they will revisit Social Security "reform" in 2007.

Any Democrats who fail to tie Social Security privatization to their Republican opponents' tails are making a mistake that Republicans would not make if the issue turned their way.

Bush's plan for health care, meanwhile, is to call out the Army to enforce quarantines in case of a pandemic, so that Republicans in gated communities are not infected. With health care costs rising for businesses and workers, Democrats should put the expansion of Medicare to cover all Americans at the top of their agenda.

Taking Care of Business on High Court

When George W. Bush announced the appointment of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, many fundamentalist Christians and other right-wing activists wondered if Bush lied to them in his proclaimed devotion to life and the war against liberal culture. The National Association of Manufacturers and the Chamber of Commerce have no such qualms.

Most of the commentary on the appointment of John Roberts and now Miers to the Supreme Court revolves around their supposed positions on abortion and other social issues that form a small, if important, part of the Supreme Court's docket. But Miers and Roberts represent predictable votes for Big Business against workers and consumers on the high court.

Miers and Roberts share a history as corporate lawyers, where they spent much of their professional careers arguing that statutory ambiguities should be resolved in favor of their corporate clients, Nathan Newman noted. "That likely business bias is far more relevant to 95% of their work as Supreme Court justices than whatever views they have on broader constitutional or social issues," Newman wrote.

Before she hitched her wagon to W's star, Miers worked to fend off class-action lawsuits by angry consumers claiming to be ripped off by Microsoft, the Texas Automobile Dealers Association and former mortgage industry giant Lomas & Nettleton, Dan Noyes reported at Salon.com. "Her past campaign contributions to both Democrats and Republicans (the lion's share to Republicans) may befuddle ideologues -- but they undoubtedly make sense to big business, which often likes to play both sides of the aisle."

Roberts, now the chief justice, not only represented various industries but also lobbied for agribusiness and the cosmetics industry, Noyes noted. In contrast, Bill Clinton's two Supreme Court nominees, Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, taught at universities and worked for the Senate Judiciary Committee and the American Civil Liberties Union, respectively, before becoming federal judges, and later top justices.

Both Roberts and Miers were sent to the Supreme Court to take care of business. At least it's encouraging that Miers' nomination gives right wingers heartburn. -- JMC

From The Progressive Populist, Nov. 1, 2005

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