Thursday, October 27, 2005

WAITING FOR THE HAMMER TO FALL

Texas Congressman Tom Delay has faced so many legal problems over the past few years that he actually set up a legal defense fund to take contributions for his legal bills. Like many politicians, Delay loves contributions - and that's what's gotten him inso much trouble...again.

Already facing two indictments for violating Texas campaign laws, Delay has now acknowledged that he failed to comply with House rules which require him to disclose all contributions to his defense fund . According to Delay, $20,850 contributed in 2000 and 2001 was not reported.

The "Hammer", as he is known, did remember to include another $17,300 in the defense fund's quarterly report, but he forgot to list it in his 2000 annual financial disclosure report -- a separate requirement. Other donations were understated as totaling $2,800, when the figure should have been $4,450.

All of this occurred during a period when DeLay was the subject of several House ethics investigations. During such a period, one would expect a government official to be squeaky clean while avoiding all legal and ethical troubles or any potential conflicts of interest.

But not Delay. His sense of entitlement and grandiosity are remarkable even in the world of American politics. Now facing two felony charges, Delay's current legal woes forced him to step down from his position as the powerful House Majority Leader.

And those aren't all of of Delay's problems.

The House Ethics Committee is also reviewing allegations that Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff, a man Delay once described as "one of my closest and dearest friends," may have paid, or arranged payment for, some of DeLay's overseas travel expenses - a violation of House rules. Abramoff raised more than $100,000 for President Bush's 2004 re-election campaign, and thousands more for DeLay and other Republican members of Congress. One hand washes the other.

Delay's "close and dear friend" Abramoff is also facing bank fraud charges alleging that he and his business partner, New York businessman Adam Kidan, 36, used a fake wire transfer to defraud two lenders out of some $60 million. The money was to be used to finance the purchase of a fleet of gambling ships from entrepreneur Konstantinos "Gus" Boulis in September 2000. But the deal soon fell apart when the parties became involved in a bitter legal battle over the sale.

Five months later, Boulis was shot to death in what police described as a hit. Last month, three men were charged with his gangland-style murder. Court papers allege that, for unspecified reasons, Kidan - Abramoff's partner - paid $240K to two of the accused killers. That doesn't sound good, but maybe there's a perfectly good explanation. I'm sure Kidan is working on one right now, and I wonder if it involves Congressman Delay's dear old pal.

But that's not all. Abramoff is also under federal investigation by a Washington grand jury looking into whether he and a lobbying partner overcharged Indian tribes by millions of dollars for their work.

Abramoff's extraordinary access to Washington power brokers, like Delay, earned him millions for his work on behalf of groups as disparate as Indian Tribes, Fortune 500 companies, and foreign governments. Power and money always seem to go together like hand and glove, and Delay was the hand doing much of the back room dealmaking and manipulating that allowed Abramoff to operate so freely and smoothly in Washington.

Like a moth to a flame Delay seems to be drawn to scandal.

Last year, Delay was rebuked by his House colleagues three times in one week for ethical reasons. And in 1999 he was rebuked by the same House panel for threatening a Washington trade association that planned to hire a Democratic lobbyist. Delay is widely viewed as a bully, hence his nickname - the "Hammer."

It was just a year ago that Delay's colleagues chastised him for facilitating and participating in an energy company golf fundraiser that benefited his political action committees. Delay had the audacity to hold the event as House and Senate negotiators were about to meet in conference on major energy legislation in June of 2002. Say what you will, but the man's got balls.

Delay is so megalomaniacal that he apparently believes he's beyond reproach, and that he's untouchable. But like many who came before him, Delay may soon find out that he is indeed accountable to the people, his colleagues, and the legal system. He's made a mockery of his office and his duties as a lawmaker because he sees himself as being above the law. He hasn't chosen his friends very wisely either, and all of this may soon come back to haunt him - in spades.

Copyright © 2005 The Independent Report. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.

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