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3 Years For The Hammer In The Slammer

Ah, one of my favorite Republicans – Tom DeLay of Texas. He was just sentenced to 3 years in prison for fraud, and anyone familiar with his career should realize that he is getting off lucky. That is, considering how he used his position as Speaker to sentence middle America to a lifetime of inequity and corporate serfdom. Worse yet, he subjected millions to his performance on television’s Dancing With The Stars; do you think that was about political credibility, Christian values, or limelight?

There is neither time nor space enough for me to list all of his sins, but I did reprint the small portion I wrote about in my list of Top 10 Republican Scandals:

Tom DeLay was the speaker of the House for the Bush II “Rubber Stamp Congress”. Nicknamed “The Hammer”, DeLay put the hammer down on Middle America, all the while telling voters how he had their best interests at heart. The Hammer resigned in June ’06 after a grand jury in his home state of Texass indicted him for violating state laws – specifically, he financed state Republican candidates’ campaigns with corporate money. In ’01, DeLay set up Texans for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee with the stated goal of helping the state GOP win control of the Texas legislature. Part 2 of that objective was using that state GOP majority to force the gerrymandering of Texas’s congressional districts to increase Republicans in Washington. He did succeed in sending 5 more Republicans to Congress, but broke the law while doing so.

DeLay was also admonished on three occasions by the House Ethics Committee for 1. Soliciting funds from Westar Energy at “coincidentally” the exact same time Congress was considering a bill that had direct and major impact on the company; 2. Offering a bribe to Republican Rep. Nick Smith in exchange for his vote on the deficit-skyrocketing Medicare reform bill that DeLay’s congress “shoved down the American peoples’ throat” by means of reconciliation; and 3. Using the Federal Aviation Administration to help him track down Democratic members of the Texas Legislature who had left the state in an attempt to delay the vote forcing the aforementioned gerrymandering of that state’s congressional districts.

DeLay, as you might recall from Part 1, was mentioned a few times as I discussed Jack Abramoff. While the Hammer himself was not indicted, two of his staffers did plead guilty to crimes in relation to Abramoff. And, DeLay himself was the recipient of several “free” trips paid for by the notorious lobbyist. One such trip was to the US territory of the Northern Mariana Islands. DeLay and his family enjoyed some golf and some diving, while immigrant workers, predominately from Asia, slaved away in squalid conditions on the island to make clothes bearing the “Made in USA” label for companies like Gap and Liz Claiborne for about half of US minimum wage. Workers there enjoy living behind barbed wire in shacks without running water, 12 hour work days 7 days a week and forced abortions.

After the trip, the Hammer declared the working conditions in the Marianas “A shining light for what is happening to the Republican Party,” and “everything that is good about what we are trying to do in America and leading the world in the free-market system,” “a perfect petri dish of capitalism. It’s like my Galapagos Island.” I don’t think he was lying. I believe he thought it was grand. So grand in fact, that in 2000, as Republican House Whip, born again Christian DeLay blocked consideration of a bill written by über conservative Frank Murkowski (father of Lisa) of Alaska that would have offered the same protection and rights enjoyed by workers on the US mainland to workers in the Marianas. The bill passed the Senate unanimously, but DeLay put “the hammer” to it before the House could even consider it.

Maybe it was the huge and unavoidable red light district in Saipan that had DeLay so distracted on his trip that he did not notice the atrocities being committed in the name of the free market. Many of the immigrants are forced to turn to the sex trade to pay off the contracts they believed were getting them good jobs in “America”, so that they can finally go home. An estimated 90% of Marianas’ prostitutes are former garment workers. Even if the prostitutes so caught his eye, surely he couldn’t miss the Department of Interior’s documentation of “forced abortions” on the island paradise.

The 30,000 or so immigrant workers were working to the tune of about $2 billion in retail sales at one time. It is, therefore, no surprise that the local Mariana government and the influential garment industry were opposed to any proposed changes to their “perfect petri dish of capitalism.” They hired Abramoff for about $11 million, who, you know, sent good religious-right Christians like DeLay on cushy trips and garnered their support. Who says you can’t buy love? Or loyalty – to this day, DeLay stands by the “things he has said in the past and he stands by the votes he’s made (or blocked) that pertain to the islands,” said his spokesman to Ms. Magazine.

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