my pissant two cents

Friday, March 17, 2006

The usual suspects

It’s hard not to laugh about former White House policy advisor
Claude Allen, busted for ripping off a Maryland Target store in
a nickel-and-dime scam. Allen is accused of buying goods,
putting them to his car, then taking identical items off the
shelf and returning them for refunds. This from a guy Bush
nominated to a federal appeals court in 2003.
Allen is about to learn a lesson that Hunter S. Thompson wrote
about many years ago: “In a closed society where everybody’s
guilty, the only crime is getting caught.”
The Republican machine is about as closed a society as you can
get; Jeff Foxworthy couldn’t come up with relationships that
unnaturally close. You’d drive yourself batty trying to unravel
who’s greasing whose palm, who’s scratching whose back, and who
paid whom for what.
And man-oh-man, are these guys guilty. Lately, the GOP roll call
reads more like a rap sheet. Here’s a short list of notable
Republicans convicted, indicted, or under investigation recently:
•Rep. Tom DeLay, House Majority Leader– “The Hammer” is indicted
for money laundering in connection with the redistricting of Texas.
DeLay is accused of funneling corporate donations to his PAC
through the Republican National Committee to fund state
legislative candidates. It’s quite a feat to get nailed for
corruption in Texas, where they say an ethical politician is one
who stays bought. DeLay’s constituents in southeast Texas
recently gave him an overwhelming victory in a primary race.
•Sen. Bill Frist, Majority Leader– Dr. Frist is under investigation
by the Securities and Exchange Commission for possible insider
trading. Frist owned a big chunk of stock in his family’s business,
Hospital Corporation of America (HCA). Frist wasn’t supposed to
know that, because he sometimes has to vote on healthcare issues
that can affect the stock’s performance, clearly a conflict of
interest. Years ago it was put into a blind trust, where Frist
said it would not influence his vote. But somehow, Frist directed
the trustee of his blind trust to sell the stock Frist didn’t know he
owned just before its value took a 9-percent nosedive that Frist
didn’t know was coming.
•Rep. Randall “Duke” Cunningham (CA)– Duke pleaded guilty and got
100 months in prison for accepting bribes for defense contracts.
The first Navy fighter ace of the Vietnam war took millions of
dollars from a contractor named Mitchell Wade, and another named
Brent Wilkes (also linked to DeLay), to push for equipment and
services the military didn’t want or need. Wade bought Cunningham’s
home for $700,000 over market value, gave Cunningham a yacht to
live in rent-free (registered to Wade, but named “Duke-Stir”), and
showered him with cash and loans that Wade repaid.
•Rep. Katherine Harris (FL)– The former Florida Secretary of State
whose obstruction and delay helped the Supreme Court to hand the
2000 election to Bush is now under Cunningham’s cloud. She
reportedly accepted illegal contributions from Wade, then lobbied
on his behalf for a $10 million contract. Harris went into hiding
and may abandon a Senate run after the scandal broke.
•Lewis “Scooter” Libby, former V.P. Chief of Staff– Libby is
indicted for perjury and obstruction of justice in the investigation
into the leaking of the covert status of Valerie Plame, a CIA agent
and wife of former ambassador Joseph Wilson. The leak is believed to
be payback for Wilson’s exposing the Bush Administration’s lie that
Iraq sought to buy uranium from Niger. Wilson knew it was a lie
because the Bush White House sent him to Niger to check it out. So
to punish Wilson for outing Bush as a liar, Bush’s people responded
by outing Wilson's wife as a spy.
•Jack Abramoff, Republican lobbyist/fundraiser– Where to start?
“Casino Jack” bilked Indian tribes out of millions by working with one
group to shut down rival casinos, then took the rivals’ money to open
them up again. He also established a rent-a-legislator operation that
took corporate contributions to buy lobbyists who used to work for
legislators who voted on laws that allowed corporations to avoid
regulations that were developed by lobbyists who used to work for
legislators to whom corporations gave campaign contributions. And
Abramoff got paid at every step. No high-tech computer scams, no
James Bond schemes. Just good, old fashioned corruption.
The list could go on: Rep. Bob Ney of Ohio, implicated in Abramoff’s
bribery scandal; Ralph Reed, former head of the Christian Coalition
and candidate for Lt. Governor in Georgia linked to Abramoff’s Indian
casino scam; Focus on the Family moralist James Dobson, also linked
to the Indian casino scandal. And let’s not forget Dick Cheney, a man
so scary that he shot a guy, and the victim apologized. “I’m terribly
sorry you shot me in the face.”
These folks make La Cosa Nostra look like a kid selling quarter slugs
in a video arcade. And that’s before you get to the big-ticket items
like Iraq, Katrina, and illegal wiretaps.
Sometimes the wheels of justice grind very slowly, but they grind
very fine. So be patient. Waiting for the Republicans to finally get
their just desserts is like watching a bull get devoured by a
caterpillar. It takes an awful lot of bites, but eventually the bull
will fall.