Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Keep An Eye On The Media As The Abramoff Scandal Hits Texas

In case you missed it last week it came out that the Republican leadership in Texas has gotten all tangled up in the Jack Abramoff/K Street Project scandal - even though the Speaker and Lt. Gov. have been doing their best Sgt. Schultz, "I know nothing". Today the Statesman takes them to task for it, Texas' connection to partisan lobbying:
Gov. Rick Perry's seven-figure contracts for Washington lobbyists to do what taxpayers already pay a governmental relations staff to do looks like nothing more than partisan back scratching.

At the direction of former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, the GOP made lobbying a partisan activity. Under the plan, known as the K Street project, lobbying firms had to hire Republican loyalists, including some congressional staff members, to gain access to the GOP leadership. It was a perfect loop.

Perry gained access to that loop by hiring firms closely connected to DeLay and paying them more than $1 million. Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Tom Craddick also signed off on the lobbying contracts, presented by the governor's staff.

[...]

DeLay's influence was so intense that he demanded the Texas Legislature redistrict the state in mid-census to increase GOP power in Washington. And on his whim, Texas Republicans complied.

In light of all that, Perry's lobbying contracts look like another sop to curry favor with the Republican power brokers. It's a shame that Texas taxpayers had to foot the bill for nothing more than tribute.
It's a great editorial and I recommend reading the whole thing. The unfortunate part in all of this is that like in the national media there appears to be an attempt to try and minimize this issue by saying both sides do it.

As an example I point to this commentary by Harvey Kronberg, Democrats can't have it both ways. And how are Democrats trying to "have it both ways" you ask? Well, because they are criticizing the Republican leadership in this state for being tangled up in what may be the biggest political scandal in our country's history, the "Democrats stepped on to a slippery slope" because they have not come out against schools and cities hiring lobbyists. Huh? I know they both have to do with spending "tax payer" money on lobbying but that's where the comparison ends. There has never been any hint of corruption or "tribute" on the part of cities or schools to either party. The Democratic leadership in Texas isn't responsible for the schools and cities hiring those lobbyists. Those lobbyists aren't just lobbying Democrats. As far as I know the only problem with the city and school lobbying has been Speaker Craddick throwing a temper tantrum because of their successful efforts in getting their voice heard. He perceived them to be the main reason his education plans didn't pass the house last year. I'm sure if those schools and cities would have been lobbying the legislature for tort reform Mr. Speaker wouldn't have had a problem.

As you can see my issue with Mr. Kronberg's commentary is that he's trying to compare a huge Republican scandal to an entirely separate issue that has no scandal tied to it whatsoever, involving either party. By comparing involvement in a huge scandal to something as minor as that makes it look like Mr. Kronberg is trying minimize the excesses that have occurred. Mr. Kronberg is one of, if not the preeminent, political analyst in the state. His Quorum Report is excellent and his analysis is usually spot on, but this time I think he's wrong. His site states they are non-partisan, and I'll accept that. But because of his status I felt this needed a response.

There was another part of his commentary that I took issue with as well. He goes on to describe why the lobbying the "Three Amigos" approved might be needed:
Elected officials have their own agendas. Sometimes they coincide with the governmental institutions they represent. Sometimes they don't.
Mr. Kronberg is a capitol insider and he knows a whole lot more about who our elected representatives represent than I do but I sure as hell thought they were elected to represent the people in their districts. Like I said his analysis is usually spot on but this time it seems like he just mailed it in.

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