Monday, January 26, 2004

Me and Tom DeLay

In my last article, I tried to use an HTML table to format the article, picture, and caption the way I wanted. I couldn't get it to turn out properly, so I posted it knowing you would have to use the horizontal scroll bar to read it all. Tacky, I know, but it wasn't worth staying up late over it. If anyone knows a good, free, WYSIWYG HTML editor, please mention it in a comment. I use OpenOffice to draft the articles, because it has a spell checker (and is free); I use Netscape Composer for layout, because it is easy to insert pictures (and is free), then I cut and past the source into Blogger. It's cumbersome, but, hey, it's all free.

I have decide again to forgo all the heavy stuff; it's time for some light reading (for you) and light writing (for me). I was reminded the other day of an incident between me and Tom DeLay's office. I had gotten into the habit of saying (silently, if alone) 'he's a crook' whenever I hear Tom DeLay's name. That happened the other day, and I stopped to ask myself how I got into that habit; or, why do I think he's a crook?

In the interest of being fair and balanced (and avoiding a libel suit), I must say that I have no evidence that he is a crook, really. Crook is perhaps too strong of a word. Tacky is too mild, though. It's not just that he can't format an HTML page. It's not just that he has more home pages (1 2 3 4) than Imelda Marcos has shoes.  No, what bugs me about him is that he isn't exactly forthright in the way he collects campaign contributions. At least he wasn't, in 2001 and 2002. He didn't try me in 2003, nor yet in 2004.

In 2001, I think in the springtime, I got a message that I should call Washington DC because I had been nominated for a leadership award. I've never been a big fan of hanging pieces of paper on my wall; I already have lots of paper. So I didn't call back. The following year, I got the exact same message again. This time, I wasn't busy, and I was curious. After all, I generally am not recognized for my leadership qualities. Although I am a leader of sorts, I do it by trying to set a good example, quietly, and let others follow along if they choose. It's quite effective in my everyday life, but it doesn't attract attention. So, I was suspicious, vaguely; not of anything in particular, it 's just that it seemed weird.

So I call the number, and I do not get a person. I get a long tape recorded message (with bad sound quality) that goes on and on and on about this struggle and that struggle and how we need to change things. I don't remember the specifics, but it had something to do with getting government off the backs of businesses or something like that. Although the sound quality was bad, I did manage to discern the phrase “majority whip” somewhere amidst the bleatings. Remember, the message did not say who had called, just that I had been nominated for this award. So, I entered the phrase “majority whip” into Google. We had just gotten a fast network connection at the office, so I quickly got to one of Mr. DeLay's home pages. I was greeted by a page in which the proud face of Tom DeLay took up most of the screen, with an American flag in the background. At least that is the way my hippocampus remembers it. The Wayback Machine shows a much less garish, though hardly understated, design. Anyway, at least I knew who was behind all of this.

After a few minutes, a real human comes on the line. He congratulated me heartily for being such an important pillar of the community. He stated that I had won this award, and I could display it proudly on my office wall next to my other awards. He did not know that all of my awards were sitting in the back of my dressing room closet. [Since then, my wife got them framed --  just before my last birthday; she needed the closet space for shoes, so now they (the awards, not the shoes) actually are on the wall of my office.]

Some guy, whose name I don't remember, let's call him Mr. Enthusiasm, went on to say that I also had the opportunity to get my name on a full-page ad that they were planning to run in the Wall Street Journal.  All it would take would be a $300 campaign contribution. I didn't say anything. To fill the awkward silence, Mr. Enthusiasm piped up, “of course the money has nothing to do with the award.” They “needed” my support for this and that. I would be an honorary co-chair of the Business Advisory Council.  Odd, since my only business experience is that I had a paper route when I was in elementary school.

By then, I had gone to a few of the other Google hits, so I had an idea of the political position of Mr. DeLay. I told Mr. Enthusiasm that I did not agree with Mr. DeLay on anything. I offered to pay $300 to NOT have my name on the same page as Mr. DeLay's, especially if they promised to never call me again. Funny thing, I haven't heard from them since.

After I recalled this, I remembered also that there is an investigation regarding his fundraising practices, or at least an investigation that relates peripherally to him. It's hard to tell from the article:

AUSTIN, Texas — Authorities are conducting a criminal investigation into whether corporate money, including hundreds of thousands of dollars linked to U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, improperly financed the Republican Party's takeover of the Texas Capitol...

DeLay, whose office did not respond to requests for interviews, long has been viewed as one of the most innovative and prodigious fundraisers in politics. He has not been accused personally of any campaign finance violations.

I decided to run a search to see if others have blogged about this. In fact, there are many references. Try “Tom DeLay Wall Street Journal leadership award” in your favorite search engine. One of my favorites is here (courtesy of Aggressive Voice.) Another, (Computer Bob). Rob Kall, another blogger, did some nice research into this and has some pertinent links to news articles, etc.   In my own research, I found an article showing me what illustrious company I had been nominated to join:

So just who gets to be a member of the Council?

Take the case of Mark A. Gethren.

In early February, the NRCC rescinded Gethren's invitation to its March luncheon and revoked his honors as Virginia Republican of the Year when they learned that Gethren had been sentenced to 26 years in prison. He had been convicted of six sex crimes the previous year...

Chris Hill, a Sarasota, Fla., businessman and honorary member of the Business Advisory Council, was a candidate for the NRCC's 2001 Businessman of the Year. But then he was charged by federal prosecutors in Iowa with distributing drug paraphernalia and, if convicted, faces up to 20 years in prison.

Sorry, gotta run.  You know how busy us business leaders can be...