During a week when Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean tried to rally his party in a quixotic effort to block the confirmation of John Roberts, Republicans at all levels of government may have given him the keys to Congress. For Democrats, ending the epidemic of GOP corruption, patronage and cronyism has to be one sure fire theme for next year's mid-term elections. Memo to Dean: Clean Up the Mess in '06.
The Republican rap sheet for the past week alone is staggering. Senate Majority Leader and 2008 GOP presidential hopeful Bill Frist is now in deep trouble for likely insider trading. Only days earlier, the senior Bush administration procurement official at the Office of Management and Budget David Safavian was arrested for lying and obstructing the criminal investigation of Republican mega-lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Later in the week, the Bush administration continued revving up its patronage machine even in the post-Michael Brown era, nominating unqualified political hacks and industry stooges for a senior post at Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and leading investigations at the FTC.
With their notorious "K Street Project", Republicans have perfected the Iron Triangle that greases the skids between officials in federal agencies, the congressman and staff that have oversight for them, and the legions of lobbyists who ply them with connections, cash, and careers. It's long past time for the Republican purveyors of the Triangle of Iron to spend some time behind bars of iron.
The list of Republican miscreants below is by no means complete. But it should provide plenty of ammunition for Democrats running on platform of clean government and ethics reform in Washington, in the states, and on K Street:
In the White House
- Philip Cooney. The former chief of staff for President Bush's Council on Environmental Quality set the modern day record for running the iron triangle. Cooney, who prior to joining the Bush White House was a lawyer (and not a scientist) for the Petroleum Institute, doctored government reports in order to cast doubt on the consensus linkage between greenhouse gas emissions and global warming. In just five days in June, Cooney went from revelations to resignation to rehiring by oil industry leader Exxon.
- David Safavian. Safavian, the Bush administration's top procurement official at the Office of Management and Budget, was arrested for lying to federal agents and obstructing a criminal investigation. The investigation? The inquiry into his mentor and previous employer Jack Abramoff, from whom Safavian (like Tom Delay) accepted golf outings and for whom he arranged a sweetheart land deal for Abramoff's supposed Hebrew academy. With his other ties to Grover Norquist and Ralph Reed, Safavian may have just procured a lot of trouble for some of the leading lights ? and low lifes ? of the conservative movement.
- Dick Cheney. Following the ethical lapses of Vice President Cheney is only slightly less difficult than following his arteries. Cheney successfully fought off inquiries into the composition of the White House Energy Task force, which produced the bill signed by President Bush authorizing massive tax giveaway to industry cronies. Despite leaving Halliburton prior to becoming Vice President, Cheney continues to draw almost $200,000 a year from Halliburton through a blind trust. Halliburton has been investigated over fraud and mismanagement in the $7 billion of contracts it has received in Iraq. And of course, Halliburton subsidiaries were among the first to gobble up Katrina recovery contracts. Not surprisingly, Army whistleblower Bunnatine Greenhouse was demoted for questioning Halliburton's no-bid contracts.
- Karl Rove. The misdeeds of "the Architect" are legion, many having to do with Valerie Plame CIA outing scandal. But from the early days of the Bush administration, Rove too was involved in corruption and cronyism. In 2001, Rove met at the White House with Intel executives seeking government approval of a merger, despite his ownership of over $100,000 of Intel stock at the time.
- Bill Frist. The good doctor is big trouble over the growing insider trading scandal involving stock of health care giant HCA, stock which supposedly was being held in a blind trust. Despite his repeated public denials, AP reported that Frist has been regularly updated about the status of the HCA stock since 2002. In mid-July, Frist's trust joined a host of HCA insiders in selling off $112 million of stock just prior to a 15% drop in its value. This is not the first time the Frist family had been in trouble over HCA, which acquired the Columbia company founded by his father. In addition to past fines for Medicare fraud, the family business has also been at the center of a 1997 insider trading inquiry involving Bill's brother Thomas. As the record clearly shows, Frist lied twice. Terri Schiavo was blind. His blind trust was not.
- Tom Delay. The House Majority leader and man who promised to bring "biblical government" to Washington is facing ethical woes of biblical proportions. Delay and key aides have been indicted for accepting illegal corporate contributions to Delay's Texas for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee. His "dearest friend", golf buddy and influence peddler in the Mariana Islands Jack Abramoff has been arrested. And over the years, his wife and daughter have been over $500,000 in campaign funds. No wonder Delay says that he, like Jesus, is being persecuted for his message.
- Bob Ney. The Ohio Congressman is in hot water over his association with golfing partners Abramoff and Safavian. Ney received a lavish trip to Scotland on Abramoff's private jet, a trip worth over $100,000. Ney also received over $30,000 in contributions from Abramoff casino client, the Tigua tribe. As the American Prospect reported, these favors and perks are just the tip of the iceberg.
In the Federal Bureaucracy
- Michael Brown. "Brownie", previously fired by the International Arabian Horse Association, resigned in disgrace from FEMA after his performance in the Katrina debacle and his faked resume came to light. Brown?s primary qualification to become FEMA head in the post-9/11 United States was his close relationship with the agency?s previous head, GOP fundraiser and Brown's own college roommate, Joe Allbaugh. (below). Brown's primary qualification for staying on the job? Delivering Florida for George W. Bush in 2004, of course.
- Joe Allbaugh. The head of FEMA responsible who recommended his college roommate Michael Brown as his successor at the disaster response agency, Allbaugh brought no relevant qualifications to the Bush administration. None, that is, except a proven track record of as a Republican fundraiser. Even moreso than fake Bush environmental watchdog Philip Cooney, Allbaugh quickly translated his government service into quick cash. His latest win? Katrina recovery contracts for his consulting firm from his past employer, FEMA.
- Julie Myers. Bush nominee Myers found her nomination to head the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency (ICE) in trouble in the wake of the Michael Brown fiasco. Even Republican Senator Mike Dewine (R-OH) questioned her credentials, which include stints as a federal prosecutor and time at the Commerce Department. Myers, who has no experience running a large bureaucracy, does have experience being the niece of outgoing Joint Chiefs head Richard Myers and being the wife of John Wood, chief of staff for DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff.
- Deborah Majoras. The Federal Trade Commission chairwoman is the FTC's point person on its gasoline price gauging inquiry in the wake of hurricane Katrina. Unfortunately, in her prior life at the Jones Day law firm she was also the point person for Chevron-Texaco and Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg Brown & Root. In 2004, Senator Ron Wyden opposed her nomination for her refusal to outline the steps she would take to investigate and fight gas price gauging.
In the States
- California Governor Arnold Schwarzegger. The Terminator was forced to terminate his $8 million contract with American Media Inc. signed just days before his inauguration. AMI, which also paid for the silence of Arnold teen paramour Gigi Goyette, was funneling $1.5 million a year to the Governor in exchange for his promotion of the syndicate?s muscle magazines. Not surprisingly, during this time Arnold blocked legislation proposing new regulations for dietary supplements.
- Ohio Governor Bob Taft. The Ohio Governor got caught up in the Ohio "Coingate" scandal, accepting gifts and golfing outings from Thomas Noe (below). Pleading no contest to four misdemeanor ethics violations, Taft showed that even more than his grandfather, he is "Mr. Republican."
- Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher. In a new low even for Republicans, Governor Fletcher granted a blanket pardon to nine current and former members of his administration who were charged with violations of state personnel laws. The governor of course claims the investigation into his nepotism and patronage in hiring practices, which led the Kentucky Attorney General to search his offices, is politically motivated. Right.
- Tom Noe. A prominent Republican fundraiser in Ohio, Noe was a major contributor for President Bush, Governor Taft and governor-want-to-be Secretary of State Kenneth Blackwell. Noe is also at the center of "Coingate", a scandal by which Noe received $50 million from the state?s workers compensation fund for investment in rare coins. So rare, in fact, that at least $13 million is unaccounted for.
On K Street
- Jack Abramoff. The crimes of Republican mega lobbyist Abramoff are so numerous as the prevent listing them all here. In addition to paying for trips and golf outings for Tom Delay and David Safavian, Abramoff swindled over $60 million from Indian tribes whose casino interests he represented. (Abramoff was indicted in August.) Together, Abramoff and Safavian could spell a lot of trouble for a lot of Republicans.
- Ralph Reed. The Safavian web also entangles Ralph Reed, formerly of the Christian Coalition and Bush's southeastern campaign chairman. Reed was on those golf outings with Safavian and Abramoff. Like Abramoff, Reed also feasted on native Americans to the tune of $1 million in fees for casino lobbying. Interestingly, Reed also worked for Bill Gates in 2000, lobbying then candidate and Reed ally George W. Bush regarding the Department of Justice against Microsoft.
The list goes on and on. The Republicans parasites in the White House, in Congress, in state houses and in the lobbying firms, are turning the United States into a sad parody of the stereotypical South American banana Republic. Better yet, the Bush White House has come to resemble the government of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos. Even down to Condi Rice's shoes.
UPDATE: Several readers have written to highlight more members of President Bush's ethically-challeged amen corner. The new web site BeyondDelay highlights the 13 most tainted members of Congress, including suspect Democrats. For those following the likes of Duke Cunningham (R-CA), Roy Blount (R-MO), Richard Pombo (R-CA) and Rick Santorum, BeyondDelay has the goods.