For the GOP It's the Powerful Leading the Powerful
There's nothing more terrifying than the sight of the nation's most powerful politician teaming up with the nation's richest and most powerful individuals to write the rules that govern our behavior. A few days after Newt Gingrich became the most influential Speaker of the House of Representatives since the late 1800s, Rupert Murdoch offered him a $4.5 million advance for a book. At the time, Murdoch was feverishly lobbying to gain a favorable decision from the feds on matters of great financial importance to him. The Code of Ethics for Government Service is quite clear. A member of Congress should not accept for himself or his family favors or benefits under circumstances which might be construed by reasonable persons as influencing the performance of his governmental duties. For Newt there was no conflict of interest. Nothing Murdoch could give him would influence the performance of his governmen tal duties because he firmly and publicly believes that his governmental duties consist of helping enrich people like Murdoch. And if Gingrich should get rich in the process, well heck, isn't America wonderful? Gingrich responded to the massive negative publicity his book deal generated by deciding to take the $4.5 million in install ments rather than upfront. A few months later Murdoch gained a favorable decision from the FCC reportedly worth more than 100 times the money given to Gingrich. A few days after that Murdoch announced he would invest a few million dollars in starting up a new conservative weekly news magazine in Washington, D.C. A few weeks later Gingrich delivered his manuscript, apparently having found enough time to write even while Congress was in session. In the new Republican Washington the relationship between the powerful and the government is a cosy one. Gingrich believes that the powerful should never be reluctant to exercise their power. When Representative Carrie Meek, a Democrat from Florida criticized Gingrich s deal with Murdoch on the floor of Congress, she was not only cut off; her words were stricken from the record. Lenin would have been proud. Republicans now demand that lobbyists show them their party affiliations and their resumes. Only the ideologically pure who also make a substantial financial contribution can gain access to the new majority in Congress. Gingrich encourages corporate leaders to excercise power the same way he does. He tells of the time he visited a major cable company that owns a daily newspaper and the newspaper's editorial page is attacking the very position of the cable company. Newt was dumbfounded by the owner's dumb and irresponsible behavior. In a closed-door Washington dinner speech the Speaker of the House told the heads of some of the nation's largest corporations, "If you are prepared to be tough minded about it, the major 20 advertisers in this country by themselves could impose a standard because among them they are such a dominant force in the market." Gingrich expects owners to ferret out the socialists on their editorial boards. When asked to clarify what he meant by social ist, Gingrich spokesperson Tony Blankley said it meant those who oppose cuts in the capital gains tax. Oh. Remember when Gingrich called Congress "a system of corruption in which money politics is defeating and driving out citizen politics ?" That was when Democrats controlled Congress. Now Republicans are in control and, surprise, money politics is no longer corrupting. Indeed, the Republican Party's insistence that "citizens pay for access is more open and brazen than any time before" notes the New York Times. The powerful are being shaken down. Most don't mind. After all, they're receiving real value for their money. The Contract With America would provide a paltry tax benefit of about $37 for someone earning $40,000. But those earning in excess of $200,000 could expect to receive some $16,000 in benefits. The Republican Contract With the Powerful allows industries to write legislation behind closed doors. No Democratic committee members are allowed to attend. The Chemical Manufacturers Associ ation, for example, all but wrote the new Clean Water Act, which among other things limits states from imposing standards stricter than those written in Washington. The Republicans would cut off all funds for public broadcasting. They say it's because public TV is too liberal. That argument is for the folks back home. Those in the know know that new communication technologies now allow broadcasters to transmit up to 8 channels where previously they could transmit only one. Private media moguls like Rupert Murdoch are eagerly waiting to gobble up public TV's remarkably valuable frequencies. Part of the Republicans' Contract With the Powerful would strip those without power of the tools needed to defend themselves. A key target is the Legal Services Corporation, the only federal agency whose function is to provide legal assistance to the weak. Meanwhile the Republican Congress' tort reform efforts would make it more difficult even for those victimized citizens who can afford lawyers to punish the powerful. When asked how they can justify this remarkable alliance of the powerful with the powerful, one Republican told the New York Times, "Some people don't understand the reality of the new majority." He's right. The question is, when the American people truly comprehend this new reality will they applaud? Or will they throw the bums out?