The Commonwealth Iconoclast

A site dedicated to covering issues relevant to the Commonwealth of Virginia, and nation at large, plus other interesting things too, as I see fit...

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Tom Dealy and the "Commonwealth Eight"


Over the past few years we've heard plenty about Tom Delay, the former Texas exterminator, turned ethically challenged republican leader of Congress. Delay's corruption would probably be more suitable in an impoverished one-party-controlled state where such behavior by politicians is accepted (because if you don't accept it you will be killed) and generally considered to be a perk of the job. But instead Delay prefers the lucrative and accommodating United States Congress.

The former bug squasher's unethical (and illegal) behavior is a cornucopia of influence peddling, vote swapping, and back room deals . Mr. Delay's "greatest hits" are so extensive, it's hard to single out just one incident. The one incident that I've always personally been fond of is the time Tom Delay used a childrens charity's tax exempt status as a cash conduit in order to circumvent a ban on raising soft money.

Tom Delay and the majority Congressional republicans didn't invent corruption in the United States Congress, they have just perfected it; In 1994 the democrats had their own prominent scandal prone member of Congress, Dan Rostenkowski, who eventually lost his congressional seat to a republican challenger due to his own "greatest hits" of unethical behavior. Also, you might recall that in 1994 republicans won back control of the Congress from democrats, and with their "Contract with America" promised to "restore accountability to Congress and end the cycle of scandal and disgrace" from the power hungry democrats. Does this sound relevant today?

Of course Mr. Delay's antics wouldn't be possible without a "little help from his friends" in Congress. Republican members of Congress have assisted Mr. Delay's corruption by voting to weaken, or gut Congressional ethics rules. The Commonwealth's eight republican members of Congress (aka the Commonwealth Eight), all voted in favor of weakening house ethics rules in order to protect Delay. The web-site House of Scandal, details each Congressional members compliance with Mr. Dealy's voting record, and the amount of money that each Congressional member has accepted from Delay's political action committee (ARMPAC).

The members of the Commonwealth Eight that have voted in accordance with Mr. Delay range from just 90 percent of the time by the independent minded Virgil Goode from the 5th Congressional District, to 97 percent of the time by Eric Cantor from the 7th Congressional District.

Delay's political action committee has rewarded Eric Cantor for his loyalty with $15,000 in campaign contributions. Whereas Goode's marginal support (90 percent compliance) was rewarded with just $5,000 from ARMPAC. It appears that Randy Forbes, from the 4th Congressional District, is one of ARMPAC's darlings. Forbes received $30,000 in contributions from ARMPAC, and thus complied with Delay 95 percent of the time on Congressional votes. Mr. Forbes' $30,000 puts him near the top of all donations doled out by ARMPAC during the 2004 election cycle.

I guess the question that I have is why would the eight republican members of Congress from the Commonwealth so openly associate with such a corrupt individual like Delay? Well I believe the answer to this question can be found in my last post "legalized bribery". Once again, these members of congress have no fear of political fallout due to their close association with Delay. As I mentioned before, an incumbent has a powerful advantage when it comes to reelection. I also want to stress that if congressional democrats openly supported and benefited from a corrupt democratic member of congress, I'd be equally as outraged.

So I guess you could say that the 1994 republican lead "Contract with America" has come full circle. Now it will be the duty of congressional democrats and the few untainted congressional republicans, who have not accepted funds from ARMPAC, to root out corruption and "restore accountability" to Congress. Unfortunately if Delay and his political action committee can continue to operate without fear of violating congressional ethics rules (because the rules can be changed), and dole out cash to loyalist, a corrupt majority will hold onto power for many years to come.

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