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The Most Corrupt Congress in History?
D emocrats call the GOP “a culture of corruption.” Hilary Clinton claims that the Bush administration is running Congress like a plantation. Charges of corruption are so rampant that it’s difficult to reach any other conclusion than that this Congress is, in fact, the most corrupt in history.
Where to begin? A shift in Washington’s culture began in 1995 with Newt Gingrich and his Contract For America. With Tom DeLay’s selection as majority whip, the GOP began the “K Street Project,” which pressured trade associations and lobbying firms to hire only Republicans and to contribute to GOP campaigns if they wanted access to Congress.
Lobbying has grown by leaps and bounds since then. According to the Washington Post , the number of federal lobbyists has more than doubled since 2000 to 34,750. In 1996 lobbyists spent $800 million. The Center for Public Integrity found that, since 1998, they had spent nearly $13 billion to influence Congress.
In the first study of its kind, the Center found that 1,300 registered lobbyists—representing 6,000 clients—had given $1.8 million to President George W. Bush since 2000. Fifty-two of these lobbyists served as fundraisers for Bush and raised another $6 million. Another 79 lobbyists served as treasurers for Congressional campaign committees. Of these lobbyists, some 250 are former members of Congress or agency heads and 2,000 of them formerly worked in senior government positions. Upon his election, Bush appointed 92 of them to advisory teams to effect regulatory decisions in every branch of government.
In February 2006 PoliticalMoneyLine revealed that lobbying groups broke all records, spending $1.165 billion in the first six months of 2005. This isn’t even the total as the law doesn’t require that many programs and other services paid for by lobbyists be disclosed.
Some claim business corrupts government. During the Bush administration business corruption produced the world’s largest bankruptcies: Enron and WorldCom. Corruption at Global Crossing, Adelphia, Tyco, ImClone, Merrill Lynch, Qwest, and Arthur Andersen resulted in additional problems. In February 2006 American International Group, one of the world’s largest insurance companies, was fined $1.64 billion for fraud, bidrigging, and improper accounting. The same month Nortel Networks paid a $2.4 billion settlement fee for an accounting scandal. News of insider deals, kickbacks, illegal fees, and other corrupt business practices fill the financial pages.
Former House Majority leader Tom DeLay, under indictment in Texas for illegal fundraising and stripped of his leadership post, was afterwards rewarded by party leaders with a seat on the Appropriations Committee as well as a seat on the subcommittee that oversees the Justice Department. DeLay, who owns an exterminator company in Texas, was fined three times by the IRS for failing to pay payroll and income taxes and paid court settlements three times for cheating business partners. (Delay announced his resignation from the House in April 2006.)
A few more of the recent stories about Republicans caught with their hands in the cookie jar include:
- Former Connecticut governor, John Rowland, served ten months in jail for accepting over $100,000 in gifts from people doing business with the state.
- In November California Republican Randy Cunningham resigned from the House after pleading guilty to accepting $2.4 million in bribes from defense contractors.
- In February it was revealed that Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) inserted $50 million into the defense budget for military contracts that would benefit all six clients of his Congressional aide’s husband. The husband worked for the defense department before becoming a lobbyist and his wife, the aide, formerly worked as a lobbyist for the military industry.
Such practices are not likely to stop. Newly elected House Majority Leader, Rep. John A. Boehner (R-OH), maintains the lobbyist-financed Freedom Project, with a lobbyist as treasurer and an all-lobbyist executive board. The project raised $5.94 million over 10 years and contributed $3.26 million to the GOP. Typical expenditures include $21,990 at Sam and Harry’s steakhouse, $16,189 in fees at Manassas’s Robert Trent Jones Golf Club, and $5,990 for lodging at La Quinta Resort & Club near Palm Springs.
The largest current corruption scandal involves Jack Abramoff, a $100,000-plus fundraiser for Bush, accused of vote buying and influence peddling on Capital Hill. A number of legislators are being investigated, including Tom DeLay, whose former press secretary was an Abramoff business partner. Abramoff, who contributed to 19 Republicans and 6 Democrats from 1999 to 2005, has close ties to Grover Norquist, president of the right-wing Americans for Tax Reform, Ralph Reed, former director of the Christian Coalition, and Karl Rove, Bush’s political strategist. President Bush has escaped indictment, but records indicate that during Bush’s first ten months in office, Abramoff and his team met more than 200 times with top leaders, including some 15 to 20 congresspeople and Bush officials such as Attorney General Ashcroft and Cheney’s advisors.
Campaign contributions also pay off. By supporting Bush in the election, defense contractors benefited hugely. In 2000 the top six military contractors spent $6.5 million in campaign contributions and $60 million on lobbying. Bush’s invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq pushed the stocks of the leading military contractors up 400 percent and profits increased by 37 percent for Boeing, 44 percent for Lockheed Martin, and 293 percent for Halliburton.
Several years ago, 60 corporations, including Pfizer, HewlettPackard, and Altria, decided to spend $1.6 million to lobby Congress to escape taxes by creating a special low tax rate on foreign profits brought back into the U.S. Stymied at first, the corporations were finally successful when Bush signed a bill in 2004 to reduce taxes on foreign profits from 35 percent to 5 percent. Last year these companies returned around $300 billion in foreign earnings to the U.S., providing the corporations with more than $100 billion in tax savings.
By “influencing” Congress with gifts, trips, campaign funding, jobs for relatives, and other inducements, lobbyists are a major reason why legislators slip pet projects—called “earmarks”—into the federal budget to benefit clients. In 1998, when the GOP took control of Congress, there were 4,219 earmarks a year, but under GOP tutelage earmarks have almost quadrupled to 15,877 last year, worth $27 billion. These earmarks escape oversight and scrutiny because they are inserted into the budget behind closed doors and not included in the actual text of the legislation. According to Congressional rules, this is perfectly legal; everyone does it.
Taxpayers expect little from Congressional ethics committees. In 2005, faced with GOP Majority Leader Tom DeLay’s indictment for illegal campaign fundraising, the GOP weakened ethics rules in place since 1968. The GOP changed the rules because DeLay had been admonished several times for unethical conduct. Public Citizen, a Congressional watchdog group, found that “Neither ethics committee (House or Senate) has much of a track record for ethics enforcement.”
How long will the corruption last and how deep will it go? While the American people appear unhappy with Bush’s war in Iraq and his handling of Hurricane Katrina, they seem to accept his national policies. The GOP is in firm control of the Supreme Court, the White House, the House and the Senate, and voting districts have been gerrymandered so few seats are expected to change hands in elections.
Without a major change in voting behavior, the Republican Party is likely to remain in charge and government corruption will continue to break records.
Don Monkerud is an Aptos, Californiabased writer covering politics.
Z Magazine Archive
AnnouncementsLABOR - May 1 is May Day. Workers of the world will celebrate the 124th anniversary of International Worker’s Day. Born out of a call for an 8-hour workday in the United States, this day is an opportunity for all workers to show their solidarity with one another, as well as to renew the call for labor rights.
FARM CONFERENCE - The Farm Conference on Community and Sustainability will be held May 24-26 in Summertown, TN, in partnership with the Fellowship of Intentional Communities. Tour green homes, see sustainable food production, learn about solar installations, alternative education, midwifery, and more.
Contact: Douglas@thefarmcommunity.com; http://www.thefarmcommunity.com/.
PALESTINE - The Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North American will be held June 3-5 in Vancouver. The conference will examine the future of the Palestinian liberation movement.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.palestinianconference.org/.
LABOR - The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association’s 45th annual conference will be held May 3-5, in Portland, OR. This year’s theme is Labor Under Attack: Learning from the Past and Preparing for the Future. A call for presentations, workshops and papers is currently underway.
Contact: PNLHA, 27920 68th Ave. East, Graham, WA 98338; 206-406-2604; PNLHA1@aol.com; http://www3.telus.net.
MARIJUANA - On the first Saturday of May marijuana legalization activists will hold informational and educational events, rallies and marches in over 300 cities around the world.
ECONOMICS - The Union For Radical Political Economics will hold its 39th annual conference May 9-11 in New York City.
RECLAIM THE DREAM - The 2013 Poor People’s Campaign & March from Baltimore to Washington D.C. will be May 11. Communities, schools and unions interested in participating are encouraged to contact the Baltimore People’s Assembly.
Contact: 410-500-2168; 410-218-4835; BaltimorePeoplesAssembly@gmail.com; Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Baltimore and the Baltimore Peoples Power Assembly, 2011 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21218.
MOTHER’S DAY - The 17th Annual Mother’s Day Walk For Peace will be May 12th, in Dorchester, MA. The walk began in 1996 for families who had lost children to violence. The day has become a way for thousands of people to financially support the work of the Louis Brown Peace Institute.
Contact: http://www.ldbpeaceinstitute.org/; http://mothersdaywalk4peace.org/.
NATO 5 - An International Week of Solidarity with the NATO 5 has been called for May 16-21. Supports call on supporters to raise awareness of the NATO 5 and support funds for the defendants on the one-year anniversary of their preemptive arrests.
Contact: email@example.com; https://nato5support.wordpress.com.
MOUNTAINTOP - The 2013 Mountain Justice Summer Activist Training Camp will be held May 19-27 in Damascus, VA. It will be a week of workshops, field trips to view Mountain Top Removal coal mines, direct actions, and service project.
FEMINIST SCI-FI - The feminist science fiction convention WisCon 37 is scheduled for May 24-27 in Madison, WI.
Contact: WisCon, ? SF3, PO Box 1624, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.wiscon.info/.
ANARCHY FEST - A month-long Festival of Anarchy is scheduled for May in Montreal. The festival includes The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 19-20).
Contact: http://www.anarchistbookfair.ca/; http://www.radicalmontreal.com/.
LABOR - The International Labor Rights Forum will present: Down the Supply Chain, Driving Corporate Accountability, on May 22 in Washington, DC. The Labor Rights Awards Ceremony and Reception will honor pioneers in supply chain worker organizing, working solidarity and international labor rights policy.
MULTICULTURE - The 26th annual National Conference on Race & Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) will take place May 28-June 1, in New Orleans.
Contact: SWCHRS, 3200 Marshall Avenue, Suite 290, Norman, OK 73072; 405-325-3694; email@example.com; www.ncore.ou.edu.
MEDIA - The 2013 Alliance for Community Media Annual Conference will be held May 29-31, in San Francisco, CA. Participants will include educators, community leaders, media professionals, journalists, nonprofit leaders, policymakers and students.
RADIO - The 38th Annual Community Radio Conference is schedule for May 29-June 1, in San Francisco, CA, with discussions and workshops.
Contact: 1101 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20004; 202-756-2268; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.nfcb.org/.
BRADLEY MANNING - On June 1, a rally will be held at Fort Meade in support of Bradley Manning.
BIKES - Bikes Not Bombs is holding its 24th annual Bike-A-Thon and Green Roots Festival in Boston, MA on June 3, with several bike rides scheduled, music, exhibitors and more.
Contact: Bikes Not Bombs, 284 Amory St., Jamaica Plain, MA 02130; 617-522-0222; email@example.com; www.bikesnotbombs.org.
LEFT FORUM - The 2013 Left Forum will be held June 7-9, at Pace University in New York City.
Contact: 365 Fifth Avenue, CUNY Graduated Center, ? Sociology Dept., New York, NY 10016; http://www.leftforum.org/.
VEGAN FEST - Mad City Vegan Fest will be held in Madison, WI, June 8. The annual event features food, speakers, and exhibitors.
Contact: 122 State Street, Suite 405 B, Madison, WI 53701; firstname.lastname@example.org; http://veganfest.org/.
ADC CONFERENCE - The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) holds its annual conference June 13-16, in Washington, DC, with panel discussions and workshops on civil rights, media and other topics.
Contact: 1990 M Street, Suite 610, Washington, DC, 20036; 202-244-2990; email@example.com http://convention.adc.org/.
CUBA/SOCIALISM - A Cuban-North American Dialog on Socialist Renewal and Global Capitalist Crisis will be held in Havana, Cuba, June 16-30. There will be a 5 day Seminar at University of Havana, plus visits to a cooperative, urban garden, community development project, social research centers, and educational & medical institutions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.globaljusticecenter.org/.
NETROOTS - The 8th Annual Netroots Nation conference will take place June 20-23 in San Jose, CA. The event features panels, trainings, networking, screenings, and keynotes.
Contact: 164 Robles Way, #276, Vallejo, CA 94591; email@example.com; http://www.netrootsnation.org/.
MEDIA - The 15th annual Allied Media Conference will be held June 20-23, in Detroit.
Contact: 4126 Third Street, Detroit, MI 48201; http://alliedmedia.org/.
GRASSROOTS - The United We Stand Festival will be hosted by Free & Equal, June 22 in Little Rock, Arkansas. The festival aims to reform the electoral process throughout the U.S.
SOCIALISM - The Socialism 2013 Conference is scheduled for June 27-30 in Chicago, featuring talks and panel discussions.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.socialismconference.org.
LITERACY - The National Association for Media Literacy Education (NAMLE) will hold its conference July 12-13 in Los Angeles under the heading, Intersections: Teaching and Learning Across Media.
Contact: 10 Laurel Hill Drive, Cherry Hill, NJ 08003; http://namle.net/conference/.
IWW - The North American Work People’s College will take place July 12-16 at Mesaba Co-op Park in northern Minnesota. The event will bring together Wobblies from branches across the continent to learn new skills and build One Big Union.
PEACESTOCK - On July 13th, the 11th Annual Peacestock: A Gathering for Peace, will take place at Windbeam Farm in Hager City, WI. The event is a mixture of music, speakers and community for peace. Sponsored by Veterans for Peace.
Contact: Bill Habedank, 1913 Grandview Ave., Red Wing, MN 55066; 651-388-7733; email@example.com; http://www.peacestockvfp.org.
CHILDREN’S DEFENSE - July 15-19, join clergy, seminarians, Christian educators, young adult leaders and other faith-based advocates for children at CDF Haley Farm in Clinton, Tennessee, for five days of spiritual renewal, networking, movement building workshops, and continuing education about the urgent needs of children at the 19th annual Proctor Institute for Child Advocacy Ministry.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://www.childrensdefense.org.
ACTIVIST CAMP - Youth Empowered Action (YEA) Camp will have sessions in July and August in Ben Lomond, CA; Portland, OR; Charlton, MA. YEA Camp is designed for activists 12-17 years old who want to make a difference in the world.
Contact: email@example.com; http://yeacamp.org/.
LA RAZA - The annual National Council of La Raza (NCLR) Conference is scheduled for July 18-19 in New Orleans, with workshops, presentations and panel discussions.
Contact: NCLR Headquarters Office, Raul Yzaguirre Building, 1126 16th Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036; 202-785-1670; www.nclr.org.
LABOR - The Eastern Conference For Workplace Democracy: Growing Our Cooperatives, Growing Our Communities, will be held at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, July 26-28.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://east.usworker.coop/.
WOMEN/LYNNE STEWART- Radical Women is asking for support letters and cards to be sent to Lynne Stewart. Stewart is a civil rights attorney and political prisoner who is currently in jail. She has breast cancer and authorities have denied her request for transfer from her Texas prison to the New York City hospital where she received medical attention during a prior bout of breast cancer. Send messages and cards to: Lynne Stewart 53504-054, Federal Medical Center Carswell, P.O. Box 27137, Fort Worth, TX 76127.
Contact: 747 Polk Street, San Francisco, CA 94109; 415-864-1278; RadicalWomenUS@gmail.com; http://lynnestewart.org/; http://www.radicalwomen.org/.
HAITI/WOMEN - Haiti’s government is considering a legal reform measure that would prohibit and punish all sexual assault, including marital rape. MADRE and the International Campaign to Stop Rape & Gender Violence in Conflict are launching a petition to raise international support for this push to address violence against women in Haiti.
Contact: 121 West 27th Street, #301, New York, NY 10001; 212-627-0444; email@example.com; http://www.madre.org.
SYRIA/MIDDLE EAST - The Middle East Children’s Alliance (MECA) is currently seeking funds to assist more than 200,000 refugees fleeing violence in Syria.
FOLK FESTIVAL - The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival will be held August 2-4, in the Berkshires, NY.
Contact: http://www.falconridgefolk.com/; firstname.lastname@example.org.
WAR RESISTERS - The War Resisters League will hold its 90th anniversary conference, Revolutionary Nonviolence: Building Bridges Across Generations and Communities, August 1-4, at Georgetown University. The event will focus on the U.S.’ long history of antimilitarism.
Contact: 339 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10012; 212-228-0450; email@example.com; http://www.warresisters.org.
POPULAR ECONOMICS - The Center for Popular Economics is holding its 2013 Summer Institute August 4-9 at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA. No background in economics is needed for this intensive training. This year’s theme is, The Care Economy: Building a Just Economy with a Heart.
Contact: Center for Popular Economics, PO Box 785 Amherst, MA 01004; 413-545-0743; firstname.lastname@example.org; www.populareconomics.org.
VETERANS - Veterans for Peace is holding the 28th annual convention August 6-11 in Madison, WI. This year’s theme is, Power To The Peaceful.
DEMOCRACY - The Democracy Convention will take place August 7-11 in Madison, WI. The convention brings together nine conferences including topics such as media, education, defense, race, environment and others.
MEN - The 38th National Conference on Men & Masculinity: Forging Justice: Creating Safe, Equal and Accountable Communities, presented in partnership with HAVEN, will be held in Detroit, MI, August 8-10.
Contact: email@example.com; http://www.nomas.org/.
OCCUPY - An Occupy National Gathering will be held in Kalamazoo, MI, August 21-25.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; http://occupynationalgathering.net/.
COMMUNITIES - The Communities Conference is a networking and learning opportunity for co-operative or communal lifestyles, with workshops, events and entertainment; scheduled for August 30-September 2 at the Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia.
LABOR DAY - The 29th annual Bread and Roses Festival, a celebration of the ethnic diversity and labor history of Lawrence, MA, will be held September 2, in honor of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike. There will be music, dance, poetry, drama, ethnic food, historical demonstrations, walking & trolley tours.
Contact: PO Box 1137, Lawrence, MA 01842; 978-794-1655; http://www.breadandrosesheritage.org/.
OCCUPY WALL STREET - September 17 is the two-year anniversary of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Events are planned in New York City and worldwide.
TEACHERS - The 13th Annual Conference, “Teaching for Social Justice: The Politics of Pedagogy,” will be held October 12 in San Francisco, CA. The free event features workshops, resources, and free childcare.
Contact: 415-676-7844; email@example.com; http://www.t4sj.org/.
HAITI - International Action, which brings clean water and chlorinators to Haiti, seeks office space capable of housing up to six people and their office equipment.
Contact: Zach Bremer, Zbrehmer@haitiwater.org; 202-488-0735; http://www.haitiwater.org/.
MEDIA - The Union for Democratic Communications and Project Censored are sponsoring a joint conference on media democracy, media activism and social justice to be held November 1-3 at the University of San Francisco. Proposals for presentations, workshops and panels from activists and critical scholars are invited.