Joe Conason's Journal

For the Republican Party, Tom DeLay's daily venality and sleaze serves a higher purpose.

By Salon Staff
June 23, 2003 5:56PM (UTC)
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Rove, DeLay, and democracy Texas-style The only way to understand how our system of government actually functions in the Bush era is to read the better Texas newspapers. Over the weekend, the Houston Chronicle published two articles that explained, with admirable clarity and depth, how Tom DeLay's quotidian sleaze is helping to cement Republican control of Congress.

Westar, the most substantial campaign financing scandal in many years, is connected directly to the gerrymander of Texas congressional districts being overseen by DeLay and Karl Rove. In this story by R.G. Ratcliffe, probably the best investigative reporter in the Lone Star state, the money behind a DeLay front group called Texans for a Republican Majority turns out to include at least $25,000 from Westar. (For those still unfamiliar with the Westar saga, the officials of that crooked Kansas utility -- known as the "Enron of the Midwest" -- were apparently buying legislative favors from the House Republican leadership.)


As Ratcliffe points out, most of the corporate donors to Texans for a Republican Majority "weren't Texans at all but out-of-state businesses trying to win favor with House Majority Leader Tom DeLay." Other big donors to DeLay's Texas group include the Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care ($100,000); would-be homeland security contractor Questerra Corp. ($50,000); Bacardi USA ($20,000); and lobbyists Preston Gates Ellis & Rouvellas Meed ($25,000).

As for the purpose of that influence-generated financial influx: "For DeLay, the Westar donation to Texans for a Republican Majority was part of a $1.5 million campaign to help the GOP gain a majority in the Texas House of Representatives. DeLay's ultimate plan, still unfolding, is for that new Republican state House to draw Texas congressional districts that would solidify the GOP hold on the U.S. House.

"At DeLay's urging, Gov. Rick Perry has called a June 30 special legislative session on congressional redistricting, a session that could cost Texas taxpayers as much as $1.7 million."


After digesting the unwholesome details of DeLay's money grab, Chronicle readers could turn to Clay Robison's analysis of the redistricting battle in the Texas state Legislature. Robison points to Rove as the true manipulator behind the scenes. According to the Chronicle columnist, Rove contacted a moderate GOP state senator named Bill Ratliff last week to lobby him on behalf of the redistricting bill.

"Until now," Robison writes, "DeLay had been given most of the credit -- or blame -- for pushing Texas Republicans to replace a constitutional redistricting plan drawn by a federal court. Now DeLay, one of the most partisan people of either party in Washington, can share the blame with Bush, the onetime champion (when it suited his purposes) of bipartisanship."

Finally, here's my favorite DeLay quote from the Ratcliffe story, picked up when the House boss talked to reporters last week: "It never ceases to amaze me that people are so cynical they want to tie money to issues, money to bills, money to amendments."
[01:30 p.m. PDT, June 23, 2003


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