Saturday, December 31, 2005

Inside the DeLay machine

It seems typical for an information dump on Friday afternoon during the holidays that this Washington Post article hasn't gotten more attention:

The U.S. Family Network, a public advocacy group that operated in the 1990s with close ties to Rep. Tom DeLay and claimed to be a nationwide grass-roots organization, was funded almost entirely by corporations linked to embattled lobbyist Jack Abramoff, according to tax records and former associates of the group.

During its five-year existence, the U.S. Family Network raised $2.5 million but kept its donor list secret. The list, obtained by The Washington Post, shows that $1 million of its revenue came in a single 1998 check from a now-defunct London law firm whose former partners would not identify the money's origins.

Two former associates of Edwin A. Buckham, the congressman's former chief of staff and the organizer of the U.S. Family Network, said Buckham told them the funds came from Russian oil and gas executives. Abramoff had been working closely with two such Russian energy executives on their Washington agenda, and the lobbyist and Buckham had helped organize a 1997 Moscow visit by DeLay (R-Tex.).

The former president of the U.S. Family Network said Buckham told him that Russians contributed $1 million to the group in 1998 specifically to influence DeLay's vote on legislation the International Monetary Fund needed to finance a bailout of the collapsing Russian economy.


Whatever the real motive for the contribution of $1 million -- a sum not prohibited by law but extraordinary for a small, nonprofit group -- the steady stream of corporate payments detailed on the donor list makes it clear that Abramoff's long-standing alliance with DeLay was sealed by a much more extensive web of financial ties than previously known.

And there's a whole lot more at the link, including how DeLay's wife went on the payroll, how the cabal purchased a townhouse and went into contortions to wriggle around the financial and disclosure rules, and so on and so on.

This is another example of Tom DeLay's personal hypocrisy, as demonstrated in his own words, and another reason why he's a dead man walking (politically speaking only, of course -- Hello, NSA).

Because if Ronnie Earle can't nail him, Jack Abramoff will.

Update: More details about the DeLay/Abramoff/Russian connection from MSNBC, here.

Update#2: Josh Marshall summarizes.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Ben Grant for Lt. Governor

This is a mild surprise. Via BOR and Kuff, directly from the Marshall News-Messenger (a newspaper I nearly went to work for, once upon a time):

Marshall resident and attorney Ben Z. Grant on Thursday announced he will be a candidate for Texas Lieutenant Governor in the March Democratic primary.

Grant, 65, a former state representative who also served 17 years as justice of the Sixth Court of Appeals in Texarkana, said he is looking forward to the statewide race.


Grant retired from the Sixth Court of Criminal Appeals when his term ended in 2002. He served as a state representative from 1971 until 1981.

Grant was also a district judge for the 71st Judicial District Court in Harrison County and was appointed to the court of appeals in 1985 by then-Gov. Mark White. He said he spent 37 years in government, starting his career as a school teacher.

Grant has also been a columnist for the M N-M, giving them the scoop here. If he gets some competition in the primary, we won't know about it until the end of the filing period, which is next Monday.

Handicapping 2005 for 2008's prospective candidates

Chris Cillezza has some pretty good takes here. For the Dems, the year just past grades out as a winner for Mark Warner, and he also gives Russ Feingold high marks for having broken into the top tier. John Edwards trails them slightly, managing to keep his profile elevated and positive. Hillary Clinton and John Kerry didn't help or hurt themselves during the year, which is a net negative for them both.

Another Virginian, George Allen, tops the Republican list with Haley Barbour (!?) and then John McCain in third, mostly on the basis of how he manages to alienate the base and burnish his independent credentials at the same time. Dr. Bill Frist had the worst year among all contenders, and the jury's still out on Chuck Hagel and Mitt Romney. Cillezza rates Arkansas Republican governor Mike Huckabee as a darkhorse on the order of New Mexico's Bill Richardson on the Democratic side.

He gives the chances of Condi Rice running for president the same odds he gives Al Gore, about zero. And makes no mention of Dick Cheney standing before the voters again.


Seriously, though, I think he's about right on all of these, and particularly if sad sacks like Allen and Barbour enter 2006 as the GOP pols with the most momentum, then all I can say is "heh."

Thursday, December 29, 2005

A great week for Texas progressives on Texas radio

Tuesday you had BAR, last night you got Bell, and tonight you can listen to Charles Kuffner of Off the Kuff from 7:30 until 8:00 pm, John Courage (Lamar Smith slayer) for the entire hour -- 8 to 9 pm -- and David Van Os from 9-9:30, all hosted by Sean-Paul Kelley.

Listen live if you're in San Antonio on KTSA AM 550 or stream it live by clicking here.