Wednesday, September 28, 2005

DeLay Hammered With Indictment; House GOP Chooses Ethically-Challenged Blunt Over Gay Dreier

As predicted last month on Advance Indiana, a Travis County, Texas grand jury indicted House Majority Leader Tom "The Hammer" DeLay on conspiracy charges for violating Texas' ban on corporate contributions to state candidates; however, these charges are unrelated to an ongoing federal investigation cited at that time by Advance Indiana involving DeLay's lobbyist friend, Jack Abramoff, which still threatens to ensnare DeLay and several other top-ranking Republicans in Washington. As a consequence of the indictment, House rules forced DeLay to relinquish, at least temporarily, his leadership position. This set off an interesting series of events this afternoon.

As soon as speculation began this week that the Texas grand jury might indict DeLay, word quickly circulated that DeLay did not want House Majority Whip Roy Blunt, a Missouri congressman, to succeed him. Blunt climbed to his coveted leadership position after serving just three terms in the House, and DeLay reportedly feared that the ambitious Blunt would not want to relinquish the House Majority Leader's position upon assuming it, if DeLay is ultimately acquitted of the charges in Texas. Not surprisingly, when the announcement of the indictment came down at mid-day today, the Associated Press and other major media outlets reported that, according to "GOP congressional officials" House Speaker Dennis Hastert would recommend that House Rules Committee Chairman, David Dreier of California, would be tapped to take DeLay's leadership position.

When word came that Dreier would become House Majority Leader, several D.C.-based blogsites, including blogactive.com, americablog.blogspot.com and rawstory.com began posting stories that Republicans were naming a gay man to its top leadership position. All three of these blogsites had previously participated in the outing of Dreier as a gay man earlier this summer. One of the sites ran a headline "Gay U.S. Rep. David Dreier is Speaker Hastert's Pick for Majority Leader As DeLay Is Forced To Step Aside Over Indictment." According to the reports, Dreier has had a long-term relationship with his male chief of staff, Brad Smith, one of the hightest paid staffers on Capitol Hill.

Perhaps in reaction to the bloggers, but no doubt a rebuff of Hastert's and DeLay's choice, the House GOP members instead chose Roy Blunt for the leadership spot. Oddly, according to a Reuters report, Blunt will be required to share the leadership positions responsibilities with Dreier. "It was not immediately clear how Blunt, who had had been the third ranking Republican member of the House, would share duties with Dreier, the chairman of the House Rules Committee," Reuters said.

Dreier, who remains closeted, has voted against virtually every gay rights-related measure since he's been in Congress, notwithstanding the reports of his being gay. Dreier did oppose the constitutional amendment to ban same sex marriages though. His fellow colleagues only had to think the rumors were true to choose Blunt over him. Americablog.blogspot.com reported that "the gay issue is what influenced the decision." Now that Dreier knows first-hand what it is like to be discriminated against because of perceived sexual orientation, maybe he won't vote against every gay civil rights measure which comes before the House.

While Blunt was the next-highest ranking Republican behind DeLay and may appear to be a logical successor to DeLay, he himself has been the center of several ethical controversies during his short tenure at House Majority Whip, which one would think would give pause to members of the GOP caucus. Just three days ago, the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics named Blunt as one of the "13 most corrupt members of Congress," a list which also included DeLay and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, who now stands accused of insider trading ala Martha Stewart. Just two years ago within hours of assuming his position as Majority Whip, Blunt attempted a highly questionable legislative amendment to the homeland security legislation aimed at benefitting tobacco giant, Philip Morris according to the Washington Post. The Post reported: "The provision would have made it harder to sell tobacco products over the Internet and would have cracked down on the sale of contraband cigarettes, two practices that cut into Philip Morris' profits. Blunt has received large campaign donations from Philip Morris, his son works for the company in Missouri and the House member has a close personal relationship with a Washington lobbyist for the firm."

As soon as Speaker Hastert learned of Blunt's amendment, he had it pulled from the bill. The Post cited a high-ranking GOP member as saying "some GOP members worried at the time that it would be 'embarrassing' to the party and its new whip if details of the effort were made public." When asked by the Post why he offered such a contentious amendment that had never gone through committee or been previously voted on in the House, the tin-eared Blunt said, "It's good policy." The Post, again citing Republican sources, suggested Blunt pushed the amendment "because of his personal relationship with Philip Morris lobbyist Abigail Perlman" with whom Blunt spends considerable time.

The fact that House GOP members would ignore their own elected Speaker Dennis Hastert and choose over Dreier the badly tarnished Blunt to take the indicted DeLay's spot demonstrates just how anti-gay the House Republican caucus is. They would clearly rather endure potentially more damaging disclosures of political corruption from the newly installed Blunt than have to deal with the possible disclosure that their leader is a gay man. That kind of thinking will only further insure electoral defeat in next year's mid-term elections, which is already taking shape because of growing public disapproval over the party's perceived mishandling of the war in Iraq, the federal budget deficit and domestic matters in general.

Prior to the indictment, DeLay had already been reprimanded by the House Ethics Committee no fewer than three times while serving as Majority Leader. Numerous other high ranking members of Congress are under ethical clouds as well with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist becoming the latest. Republicans in D.C. are seemingly turning a complete blind eye towards behavior they so vociferously condemned when the Democrats were in the majority, such as that of former Democratic House Majority Leader Jim Wright, also a Texan, who Republicans helped pressure into resigning for his ethical lapses. Republicans in Washington had better start cleaning house soon, or the voters are certain to sweep them out of control just as they did the Democrats in 1994.

3 comments:

Kay said...

Your post is another good analysis of ethically challenged Republicans, thank you.

However, your last sentence seems to make a faulty comparison between the current wave of GOP indictments/investigations and the 1994 congressional elections which bought defeat to the slim margin of control the Democrats held at that time. For clarity sake, non-partisan analysis identified that the Democrats lost control as a result of two major missteps: “The failure in 1994 to offer any theme or message around which to rally and the failure over a 25-year period to fashion an approach uniting the middle and underclass wings of the party.” http://www.fairvote.org/reports/1995/chp3/gans.html

Fortunately,Democrats even at the most elementary level (that would be me) are beginning to speak up and unite the gap—knowing that all Americans deserve a government representative of its founding principles, diversity and interests.

Advance Indiana said...

Kay,

A culture of corruption was a central theme of Newt Gingrich and his band of conservatives during the 1994 election--this was evidenced in the Contract With America which focused, in part, on congressional reforms, such as term limits for members of congress, limiting terms members could serve as committee chairmen, applying laws to Congress that previously only applied to all the rest of us, etc. Every day during special orders, Gingrich and his supporters would take to the floor to denounce the majority's abuse of power, ethical lapses and general corruptness (e.g., Dan Rostenkowski, Tony Coelho, Jim and Jim Wright to name just a few). They attributed this culture of corruptness to the Democrats' near-uninterrupted control of the House for nearly a half century. I would note that Gingrich did this without the support of the House Minority Leader Bob Michel, who was part of the good ole boys network on Capitol Hill. My point is that the Republicans have become drunk with power exactly the same way as the Democrats had in the early 1990s. I think any objective analysis of the cause of the 1994 realignment election would have to include near the top of the list--the voters' desire to clean up the corruption in Washington.

Kay said...

Gary,

Of course no social phenomenon is so simple as to be explicable with demographics alone, but it is a good start. Isn’t this the meaning of oft quoted claim that "demographics explain about two-thirds of everything".

As for the remaining and more subjective opinion explanting the bottom third—the voters’ desire to clean up corruption—I’m only in slight agreement. Just because Democratic swing voters in the southern states were convinced of a Republican cultural promise (Contract With America) they could unite behind.

Also interesting to note, given the Advance America battle here, that Gingrich ultimately withdrew from politics after being fined and censured for using tax-exempt foundations for political purposes and subsequently lying to the House ethics committee.