News & Politics

The GOP's Culture of Corruption

Only now is the general public starting to learn how corruption swept through the GOP after the party's rise to majority status in the '90s. But it didn't happen suddenly.
The old saying goes that even a broken clock is right twice a day. So when Democrats accuse Republicans of fostering a culture of corruption, it proves the old saying true. (That's once; the other time they've been right lately is in calling for an early withdrawal from Iraq.)

We saw further evidence of the GOP's culture of corruption yesterday when California Republican Rep. Randy Cunningham resigned from Congress after admitting to taking $2 million in bribes from a defense contractor.

But Randy is a small fry; his take is chump change. Further up the GOP food chain, the crimes and corruption are so enormous they would have left even Carl Sagan at a loss for superlatives. (Billions upon billions upon billions…)

Only now is the general public starting to learn just how corruption swept through the GOP ranks after the party's rise to majority status in the 1990s.  But it didn't happen all at once. And it didn't begin yesterday. It began over eleven years ago.

I stumbled across evidence of the GOP's spreading cancer of corruption back in early 2002 while picking through the still-smoldering ashes of Enron. In fact, it may be proven some day that Tom DeLay was a creation of Enron -- but more on that later.

While prosecutors are only now beginning to peel back the layers of corruption involving the GOP's top gun, Tom DeLay and his gang, it was clear long ago to any reporter willing to take the time to look that these guys were up to no good. (Read my March 2002 expose here.)

So, you may ask, why did it take so long to stop them? Why didn't someone blow the whistle sooner? As you learn just how much evidence was laying around out there for the media to pick up, you'll shake your head in disbelief. And I'm talking steaming-hot hints, too -- like the mob hit involving DeLay's former top aide, Scanlon, and DeLay's chief money- raiser, Abramoff. The media covered that story as though it were just another "Miami Vice" crime plot. Now we know differently -- it was part of much bigger things.

It would be one thing if the media could argue that there was no way for them to know, because we now know that's not true. As with the lead-up to the Iraq war, there was no shortage of weapons experts willing to explain to reporters why it was highly unlikely that Iraq had anything even close to a functioning nuclear weapons program. Or that Iraq could deliver chemical or biological weapons beyond their own borders. But instead they parroted administration claims to the contrary.

The same goes for the DeLay gang. All it took was a few days and virtually no budget for me to find plenty of clues that something big was afoot involving the GOP's rising star. No one could have read my list of particulars without concluding that something very ugly was afoot within the DeLay operation.

Still nothing was done. Nothing was written. No one was investigated. Nothing, until American Indian tribes discovered the DeLay gang had stolen $80 million from them, and a Texas District Attorney indicted DeLay this year for campaign money laundering.

But the recent indictments of DeLay and Abramoff, and the charges Mike Scanlon pleaded guilty to last week, represent the mere tip of an iceberg of fraud, corruption and official malfeasance. If the mainstream media wants to redeem itself, here are more rocks in DeLay's garden that require a thorough look-under. (Each is detailed in that old 2002 report, as quoted below.)

  • Exactly what was DeLay's full relationship with Enron -- and visa versa? (Yes, it's "old news," but it remains unreported old news. The question worth exploring is this: Was Tom DeLay Enron's bastard child?)
    "Enron hosted Tom Delay's PAC -- ARMPAC's -- first fundraiser. It was held in Enron's hometown of Houston, Texas and raised $280,000 for DeLay's new leadership PAC. Subsequent disclosures show that Enron and its executives gave early and often. Ken Lay contributed $50,000 to ARMPAC, Enron Vice Chairman, Joseph Sutton, contributed another $25,000. The full extent of Enron's financial support for DeLay's PAC may never be known since reporting such contributions became mandatory only in 2000."


  • Just how many under-the-table cash streams did DeLay have flowing into his various stashes? For example:
    "When Enron lobbyists asked how best to proceed, DeLay noted that Enron could begin by giving his Chief of Staff, Ed Buckham (who at that very moment was forming his own consulting company, the Alexander Strategy Group) and Karl Gallant, a consultant to DeLay's ARMPAC, the contract to manage the campaign….Gallant had recently worked on a propaganda campaign for the tobacco industry…Alexander Strategy Group put DeLay's wife, Christine on its payroll. She reportedly pocketed a net "salary" of $40,000. Christine DeLay is a retired schoolteacher. What she did for her salary is unclear. According to Alexander Strategy Group, she neither lobbied for the company nor did she show up for work there. Why then were they paying her? The company says Alexander Strategies wrote the checks to Christine DeLay as a "bookkeeping convenience" for ARMPAC.


  • How much of Jack Abramoff's Indian gaming loot found its way into DeLay-related campaigns and PACs, or were used to fund overseas junkets for DeLay and other Republicans?


  • Isn't it time for a complete audit of DeLay and Abramoff's relationships with sweatshop operators in the US protectorate in the Mariana Islands? You might begin by asking the former Mariana lobbyist for Jack Abramoff: Patrick Pizzella. You'll find him over at the Department of Labor, where he now serves as assistant secretary of labor. It was Pizzella's job to organize Abramoff's political junkets to the islands.


  • Might it not be useful for us to know the full extent of Tom DeLay's dealings with the largest operator of Mariana sweatshops, Chinese national Willie Tan?
    "The Marianas account has paid off handsomely for both DeLay and Abramoff, whose lobbying efforts resulted in more than $8 million in fees over the past five years, some of which inevitably ended up in DeLay's leadership PAC and as personal contributions from Abramoff over the years to DeLay's campaign war chests. DeLay was also able to distribute some of that money to those in Congress friendly to his cause -- a fact Abramoff was quick to point out to his client: "Thanks to past trips the Commonwealth of Northern Marianas has many friends on the Appropriations Committees in Congress," Abramoff wrote to Hong Kong sweatshop mogul Willie Tan. The Tan-controlled newspaper, Saipan Tribune, responded with an article lauding Abramoff.


  • What was Delay's relationship with Mariana conservative political strongman Bin Fidel?
    When the Marianas put out a call for bids for a new $120 million power plant, a Japanese company was awarded the contract. Enron, attracted by the island's lack of environmental rules, wanted in and complained to DeLay that they had not been given a fair shot at the contract for the power plant.
    DeLay responded by calling in some chits from his friends in the Mariana administration -- in particular Ben Fital, a conservative politician whom DeLay's former aides, Ed Buckham and Mike Scanlon, helped get elected as the island's representative in Congress.  Buckham's lobbying firm, Alexander Strategies Group's representation of Enron's interests in the Marianas also bagged him $50,000 in fees.
    There were all kinds of political pushes from the top and the side and every way," Vincent Mesa, the island's former manger of the its power utilities, recalled later. "There were all kinds of political interference. They said, 'Just do it! Give Enron the contract."


Surprise, surprise, Enron won the re-bidding… and the citizens of the Marianas are still paying the bill for their unfinished power plant.

Then there was this 2001 editorial in the Willie Tan-owned Saipan Tribune:
"If [Abramoff's] past success in defending our interests is not enough reason to lock him into a long-term deal, the fact that George W. Bush is now the new President is yet another reason. [Abramoff] was able to defend us by educating powerful Members of Congress and arranging a trip to these islands by the most powerful member, Congressman Tom DeLay. Mr. Abramoff and his team have racked up win after win for these islands."
Considering all we know now about just how sleazy these two guys -- DeLay and Abramoff -- are, wouldn't it be nice to also know the full extent of their ties with Enron, plus their activities in the U.S.-controlled Mariana Islands?

Inquiring minds would like to know. Better late than never, huh?
Stephen Pizzo is the author of numerous books, including "Inside Job: The Looting of America's Savings and Loans," which was nominated for a Pulitzer.
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