Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Congress' Most Corrupt Republicans Demanding Their Share Of The Spoils


Not all the most embarrassing congressional Republicans are freshmen teabaggers like Florida sociopaths Allen West, Daniel Webster, Steve Southerland and Sandy Adams. Some have been in the House for decades-- like Big Oil's favorite shill Joe Barton, first elected to represent the Dallas suburbs in 1984, and Jerry Lewis, the prototype of congressional corruption who has been the congressman from the Inland Empire since 1978. And each of these two is seeking demanding exemptions from the rule that term limits chairmen of House committees.

Miraculously, Lewis has managed to avoid the same fate as his partner in crime Duke Cunningham, primarily due to the intervention of Karl Rove, who engineered the removal of two consecutive U.S. Attorneys investigating Lewis' myriad bribery scandals. It is widely known Inside-the-Beltway that Cunningham was just sloppy small potatoes compared to the systematically corrupt Lewis. But Cunningham is rotting in prison and Lewis... is demanding his position back as head of the House Appropriations Committee, the fount of incredible opportunities for congressmen with larceny foremost on their minds. Tea Party activists-- or at least organizations claiming that mantle-- are growling at Boehner to not grant Lewis (or Barton) the waivers they'd need to take up their old chairmanships.
“Term limits exist to prevent individual members from centralizing power and undermining the principles of republican government and the Republican Party,” said Club for Growth President Chris Chocola. “Waiving the limits and breaking their own rules before the new Congress is even sworn in will send a clear and depressing signal that House Republicans still don’t ‘get it.’”

Lewis is seeking a waiver to serve another term atop the spending panel but faces stiff competition not only from GOPs leadership-- which has sent signals that it is averse to circumventing term limits-- but also other lawmakers seeking the gavel.

Favorite among those lawmakers is Kentucky Rep. Hal Rogers, a 29-year veteran of Congress. He has reached out to freshmen and incumbents, promising reform and to keep in place the earmark moratorium. Rogers is also making clear that it’s not smart for the conference to reverse its rules on term limits. Georgia Rep. Jack Kingston is also being floated as a contender who favors an earmark ban.

Needless to say, Lewis has been one of Congress' most egregious earmark abusers and one of the most hysterical defenders of the practice. In fact, in most Republican lawmakers' minds, Lewis is the personification of the earmark scandals. On the other hand, he's a close Boehner ally and someone who knows how to squeeze a great deal of campaign cash out of Big Business for the Republican Party-- as well as for himself.

But the "campaign" to run the House Energy and Commerce Committee is even more explosive! Barton made a national spectacle of himself when, as ranking Republican on Energy Commerce, he apologized to BP after they agreed to pay for the cost of the oil spill. (A basic tenet of Republican "freedom" is the freedom of Big Business to exploit and pollute in the quest for profits-- a portion of which is reserved for supporting GOP politicians, of course-- while the taxpayers are expected to clean up the mess. Barton was just too obvious about it and embarrassed the party.) Barton has gotten bigger bribes from Big Oil than any member of the House-- ever-- $1,480,630. The only members of Congress who have gotten more from Big Oil directly are four especially corrupt senators: John McCain, Kay Bailey Hutchison, Phil Gramm and John Cornyn. And that has been the source of power for Barton. He represents a comfortably gerrymandered district and has no need to actively campaign for reelection. A dead pig in a red t-shirt would beat any Democrat in Texas' 6th congressional district. This year Barton took 107,104 votes (66%) to 50,683 (31%) for his Democratic opponent, In 2008 he won 62% and in 2006 he won 61%. Democrats rarely win a third of the vote there. Instead he uses the vast sums of money he scoops up from grateful corporate supporters-- $2,121,169 this year, for example-- to buy power inside the caucus. Since 1989 he's taken in $17,696,568, his biggest contributors being Anadarko Petroleum, Lockheed martin, RRI Energy, AT&T, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corp. and the National Association of Realtors. Other big donors include Exxon Mobil, Comcast and Valero Oil.

Where this gets interesting is that the next in line for the chairmanship isn't a die hard reactionary like Barton, but a mainstream conservative with a reputation for being as honest as Barton is corrupt, Fred Upton (R-MI). But Barton has mobilized his supporters-- including Hate Talk Radio hosts-- to attack and smear Upton as though he were a Democrat!
Rush Limbaugh last week criticized Upton for teaming up with Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) on a measure to phase out the incandescent light bulb that was folded into the 2007 energy law.

“Now this would be a tone-deaf disaster if the Republican leadership lets Fred Upton ascend to the chairmanship of the House energy committee,” Limbaugh said last Thursday on his radio show. “This is exactly the kind of nannyism, statism, what have you, that was voted against and was defeated last week. No Republican complicit in nannyism, statism, can be rewarded this way. But seniority may rule the day.”

Beck wasn’t as subtle, calling Upton a “socialist,” according to WKZO radio in Kalamazoo, which is in Upton’s 6th District.

For his part, Barton has denied that he’s the source of an unsigned 22-page analysis of Upton’s voting record on everything from taxes to industry regulations, social issues, health care, defense, energy, environment and telecommunications. There’s also a separate three-page summary with the title “Fred Upton: Part-Time Republican?” Americans United for Life, a conservative anti-abortion group, is expressing concern about Upton’s potential chairmanship.

The attacks on Upton could open the door for Reps. John Shimkus of Illinois and Cliff Stearns of Florida, a House GOP staffer said. Shimkus voted for the final 2007 energy law, as well.

“It’s a problem for Mr. Upton,” the aide said. While Upton has been publishing op-eds in conservative websites and newspapers, “it might be a little too late. Maybe he should have been doing it for the last two years.”

Shimkus, best known for tweeting daily prayers, like the one he did above this morning, and for his shameful role as the guardian of the House pages who was unable or unwilling to stop sex predator Mark Foley from exploiting the teenage boys he was supposed to be protecting, has made a fool out of himself in recent days by explaining his energy policies based on the story of Noah's Ark.

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