Monday, February 06, 2006

New Republican Majority Leader Just As Corrupt As All The Rest of the House Republicans and their Culture of Corruption

The new Republican Party Majority Leader has a cozy relationship with special interests and their money. Rep. John Boehner from Ohio seems particularly fond of expensive vacations to places like Pebble Beach, Venice, Paris, etc.

Although many people thought the Republicans would try to find an honest member to be their next leader because it would be a good sign that the Republicans and their Culture of Corruption could be under a little pressure to reform.

However, apparently there are not any honest Republican's in the House and so they just picked another guy with what they would consider to be an "average" level of dishonesty and corruption.

According to Tim Russert on Meet the Press (02/05/06),

From 535 members of Congress, John Boehner ranked number 10 according to PoliticalMoneyLine, which did analysis of this. Over the last five years they say John Boehner received trips which would equal $157,000, privately funded. And they point out where you went, which is—and here’s, here’s a list,. Congressmen Boehner: White Sulpher Springs, West Virginia, where the Green Briar Resort is, eight times; Boca Raton, Florida, six times; Scottsdale, Arizona, four times; Monterey/Pebble Beach, California twice; Edinburgh, Scotland, home of St. Andrew’s Golf Course, twice. Foreign travel: Rome, Venice, Brussels, Paris, Barcelona.

Boehner first responded by stating that his speeches were in great demand. Listening to him reminded me of Al Franken’s “Stuart Smalley” character who started the catchphrase: I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and dog-gone it, people like me.

Then his response got quite bizarre. He said he had a lot of brothers and sisters and his father owned a bar. How does that equate to accepting $157,000 in luxurious trips from lobbyists???

He continued with a very convoluted statement:

And I’ve got a very open relationship with lobbyists in town, with my colleagues, with the press, and with my constituents. And, and as a result, you know, people invite me to go give speeches, and I go give them. And you also learn a lot about these industries. It’s easy to point out where I’ve gone around the world, but when you start to look at the people that I’ve worked with—you know, going to, to Scotland with the Transatlantic Policy Network. Now, understanding the relationship between members of the European Union and members of Congress, and trying to build closer ties, this is something that’s very beneficial for members of Congress. And I believe that—that—that privately funded travel ought to be pre-cleared. There ought to be a good public purpose in members going on a trip, and if there isn’t, then they shouldn’t go.

To which Russert merely asked “Congressman, rather than going to a plush resort, why don’t you just meet these guys in your office?” Boehner said “. . . if you get invited, you got to decide whether you can go or not go. . .”.

Apparently making non-responsive statements about the obvious makes one qualified to be a leader in the Republican party. I was surprised that he didn’t answer the next question by saying: “Because Tim, as you know, the earth revolves around the Sun.”

Then Russert asked him about his “cozy” relationship with lobbyists. Russert then quoted the Washington Post “‘Yes, I’m cozy with lobbyists,’ Boehner told lawmakers—lawmakers concerned about his K Street lobbyist connections, ‘but I have never done anything unethical.’”

Then Russert asked him if that was the standard – that as long as he didn’t do anything unethical, it was alright.

Boehner responded:

Tim, everything I’ve ever done in my entire political career has been to the benefit of my constituents and the American people. They’re the ones who dictate what I do every day. I know who I am, and I know why I’m here, not because I wanted to be a Congressman, but because I wanted to do things on behalf of my constituents and the American people. And I—there’s nothing in my entire political career, no decision I’ve ever made, where they weren’t the winners.

Wow. This is actually a lot like saying “because Tim, the earth revolves around the sun.” Or how about, “because Tim, like my constituents, I like baseball and apple pie.”

Boehner likes these free trips so much, he is refuses to implement any House rules that would prohibit them. He is fighting to keep these perks for himself and his colleagues.

Given that their salaries exceed $160,000/yr, doesn’t it seem that members of Congress should be able to afford their own vacations?

Apparently he likes the lobbyists to organize fancy parties for him as well. Russert asked about the apparently well known “Boehner Party” given at all the Republican conventions. They are extravagant and paid for entirely by lobbyists.

Perhaps the most shocking evidence of Boehner being a puppet to powerful special interest groups was back in 1995 when Boehner strutted around the House floor, while the House was in session, and handed out checks from tobacco lobbyists to his fellow Republicans. On Meet the Press, Russert read a portion of the May 10, 1996 New York Times article that exposed Boehner’s arrogant display of the extent that dirty money had entered into the political arena:

There was a big episode in your life back in 1995 when there was—Bob Herbert in The New York Times wrote a column about something you did. . . . Here’s how Herbert wrote it. “One day last summer, 1995 Representative John Boehner of Ohio, chairman of the House Republican Conference, decided to play Santa Claus. He took it upon himself to begin handing out money from tobacco lobbyists to certain of his colleagues in the House floor. He was not deterred by the fact that the House was in session, and that he was supposed to be attending to the nation’s business. He was not constrained by any sense that passing money around the floor of the House of Representatives was a sacrilege.” (emphasis added)

Although the article was published in 1996, Boehner had handed out these checks in June 1995. Recall that this was a particularly sensitive time for the tobacco industry.

A little more than a year earlier, on April 14, 1994, seven tobacco company executives testified to Congress that nicotine was not addictive. By July of 1994, the Justice Department had opened a criminal investigation regarding whether the seven executives had perjured themselves in front of Congress. By December 1994, Congressman Meehan sent a request to the Justice Department to open a formal investigation into the tobacco industry, their law firms, and industry organizations.

So it is not too hard to imagine that these same tobacco company executives were deeply concerned about their own legal liabilities. Fortunately they all had Boehner on their side and he was able to help them win friends and influence people throughout the Republican Party.

Russert then moved on to ask about Boehner’s relationship with Jack Abramoff. Republican talking point #1 on the Abramoff issue must be “I don’t know Jack Abramoff. I never met Jack Abramoff. I’ve never heard of Jack Abramoff. But, in the event photos of the two of us sailing, golfing, or having a laugh at a barbeque are either doctored photos or pictures of Abramoff with my evil twin.”

First Russert stated that Abramoff’s tribal clients gave generous donations to Boehner (over $25,000). Then Russert asked if those same tribes had given him money before Abramoff represented them. Boehner said he didn’t know. Russert knew. Those tribes had not contributed a penny to Boehner until they were represented by Abramoff.

Russert then pointed out that Abramoff had 17 contacts with Boehner’s staff and at least one meeting with Boehner himself. Perhaps Boehner should change his statement from “I never met him” to “I never met him except for all those times I met with him.”

I wouldn't be surprised if the Republican's started a new caucus -- the Culture of Corruption caucus. It might help them keep better track of all their lies and bribes.

Is there an honest Republican in the House????

I have not been able to identify one.