Saturday, January 21


Sidney Blumenthal has a great recount of the Congressional lobbying scandal. It's a must-read. It's especially enlightening on former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, who despite his own former disgrace is making a comeback in Republican circles -- he's even being mentioned as a possible Republican nominee for president in 2008.

Abramoff has been an integral part of the Republican political machine that has flourished since the 1994 takeover. He has created vast slush funds at the disposal of DeLay (for example, the US Family Network, financed by Russian oil tycoons), worked hand in glove with DeLay's political operatives, and supported the Republican congressional leadership with funds and favours.

Abramoff's lobbying and politics are inextricable, one and the same, allowing him to simultaneously serve as a valuable member of the Republican machine and be out for himself. He was not the most significant player; nor was his tens of millions more money than bigger figures made. (Haley Barbour, former chairman of the Republican National Committee and former senior partner of a major Washington law firm, and currently governor of Mississippi, comes to mind). But Abramoff, more than those with more influence or wealth, has the distinction of being the culmination of the recent history of the Republican Congress.
The Boston Globe, in a 2004 series on the influence of lobbyists, reported that "on the Medicare and energy bills, businesses and other groups who reported lobbying on the two measures spent a staggering $799,091,391 in efforts to influence lawmakers, frequently employing former members of Congress, former staff members, and relatives of lawmakers to lobby on the bills."
In the battle of succession to DeLay, DeLayism will triumph. The leading candidate for majority leader, Representative Roy Blunt of Missouri, is so close to lobbyists that he left his wife to marry the lobbyist for Altria, the company that owns Philip Morris. In 2002, he inserted a provision into a homeland security bill to increase the penalties for selling stolen cigarettes. Blunt's son happens to be a lobbyist; his other son is the Republican governor of Missouri. He stands for nothing but business as usual. His challenger, Representative John Boehner of Ohio, runs a group called the K Street Cabinet. In 1995, on the floor of the House, Boehner handed out checks from tobacco lobbyists to Republican members, something he says he regrets.
Historians in the future will examine the implications and nuances of the Abramoff affair, the K Street Project and the trajectory of the Republican Congress from the dawn of its "revolution" to its Thermidorian dusk. For now, however, the matter is in the hands of the prosecutors.

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