The Hightower Report

Congressional DeLay Tactics; and System of Checks and Imbalances

Congressional DeLay Tactics

This new Republican-run House of Representatives is looking a lot like the old, ethics-be-damned House run just a few years ago by the convicted money-launderer Tom DeLay – only more so.

Back when DeLay was the GOP's corrupt majority leader, he got caught hustling campaign funds from an energy corporation whose legislation he then helped pass. This flagrant cash-for-legislation exchange was so stinky that even DeLay's pals on the ethics committee had to slap his wrist, ruling in 2004 that a Congress critter should not engage in fundraising that gives "even an appearance that donors are being provided with special access to a Member in his or her official capacity."

Now, fast-forward to last year, when the independent investigative arm of the House ethics committee charged two Republicans and one Democrat with DeLay-style money hustles. The investigators found compelling proof that these powerful members collected checks from Wall Street lobbyists just before voting their way on regulatory reforms. E-mails and other incriminating documents show that one of the eager check collectors even left the Capitol while the House was debating the reforms so he could attend a fundraiser being thrown for him at a lobbyist's home. He then returned to the floor to vote against the reforms, exactly as his grinning Wall Street donors wanted.

The punishment for these miscreants? None. In one of its first acts this year, the "new" ethics committee members merrily dropped all charges against their delighted colleagues. In an Alice in Wonderland moment, the committee declared on Jan. 26 that there was no connection between the votes and the cash, adding that no "reasonable" person would see even an appearance of impropriety in the exchange.

Excuse me for being unreasonable, but it appears obvious that what the committee has done is set an ethical standard for this Congress that's even darker than the dark days of Tom DeLay.

System of Checks and Imbalances

Whenever corporate executives have needed a political favor, they've always gone running to Congress. But now they can also run to the courthouse.

Over the years, corporate chieftains and their political henchmen have steadily ensconced reliable laissez-faire ideologues in hundreds of federal judgeships, quietly creating a corporate-friendly path for moving their litigation all the way from the district level through the Supremes. For example, in its effort to scuttle Obama's health care reform, the right-wing has gone court-shopping, filing its cases in the courts of judges who are known to be ideologically hostile to government regulation of health care corporations.

Take U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson in Virginia. On Dec. 13, 2010, he ruled that a key provision of the new law is unconstitutional, a ruling at odds with 14 other federal judges who'd dismissed similar challenges. He had to resort to twisted reasoning to reach his decision and keep the right wing's flawed case moving. But, hey – you can't let legal niceties get in the way of ideology.

Peek under Hudson's judicial robe, and you'll find a naked partisan with a long career in hard-right Republican politics. A protégé of Ronald Reagan and his detestable attorney general, Ed Meese, Hudson ran unsuccessfully for a Virginia congressional seat in 1991, then was given two GOP political appointments in the state before George W. Bush lifted him onto the federal bench in 2002.

Even today, as he sits in judgment of politically motivated cases, Hudson continues to draw annual income as an owner of a Republican political consulting firm. One of the firm's successful clients in 2009 was Ken Cuccinelli, who was elected to be Virginia's attorney general. Cuccinelli just happens to be the official who filed the right wing's case against Obama's health care reform in Hudson's court.

For more information on Jim Hightower's work – and to subscribe to his award-winning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown – visit You can hear his radio commentaries on KOOP Radio, 91.7FM, weekdays at 10:58am and 12:58pm.

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Tom DeLay, Henry Hudson, lobbyists, Wall Street, health care reform, Ken Cuccinelli

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