The Envelope, please.....

The Envelope, Please…

ur nation has been blessed with leaders whose names are associated with the great crises they brought to resolution. Lincoln used his spirit and intellect to see the nation through the Civil War. FDR imposed his will on the economic forces that held the nation in the grip of a Great Depression. Ronald Reagan relied on his belief in the principle of freedom to bring down the Berlin Wall. Each of these men envisioned solutions not evident to their contemporaries. In 1994, that vision was lacking in a House of Representatives controlled by Democrats who had grown corrupt after four decades in power. Appalled by the fact that Democratic Speaker Jim Wright used his position of power to earn several thousand dollars selling copies of his autobiography to supporters, a cabal of Republicans who were clear of mind and pure of heart seized power and led the Congress out of its ethical wasteland. Today, the sole surviving leader of the great ethical crusade of 1994 is Majority Leader Tom DeLay. He is the logical first recipient for our ethics in government reward named in his honor: The Tommy. Tom DeLay is an ethical exemplar because he has stood before the House Ethics Committee more times than any other un-incarcerated member of Congress. On four occasions since 1998, when he was first investigated by the Ethics Committee, he has withstood the close scrutiny of his House colleagues. Never in the history of the House has a member endured four reprimands by the Ethics Committee and remained in a leadership position. As Majority Leader DeLay himself said when his lawyers settled a racketeering lawsuit filed against him in 1999, he is “the most investigated man in the history of this body.” Tom DeLay is an ethical exemplar because, in the words of his former press secretary Stuart Roy, he can accept the largesse of the corporate lobby, yet not be influenced by them. “He socialized and played golf with them,” Roy said, after a Kansas energy company wrote a $25,000 check to a foundation DeLay controlled — so that its executives and lobbyists could play golf with him. Roy said the money in no way influenced the special legislative measure DeLay promoted for the company. Listening to Stuart, those of us covering DeLay, while a series of potential scandals unfolded last year in Washington, began to understand that the Leader is possessed of an unusual ability to divorce personal gifts from political favoritism. It is, one reporter said after Stuart explained it, like the ancient Vedic concept of “enlightened detachment.” There is nothing wrong with the accumulation of great wealth—as long as you don’t get attached to it. So it was that DeLay could accept $70,000 from Jack Abramoff—for a golfing trip to England and Scotland. And $30,000 for a New Year’s holiday in American Saipan. And another $30,000 for his political action committee in Texas. With a detachment other members of Congress don’t understand, DeLay accepted the money with the clear understanding that nothing was expected in return. (With the same detachment, he accepted a $107,000 three-day golfing trip from a Korean lobbyist.) When he discovered that the money Abramoff gave him was stolen from six American Indian tribes, DeLay’s response was immediate and unequivocal: he publicly denounced Abramoff, his close friend and golfing companion, at a press conference in the Majority Leader’s Capitol dining room—twice, just in case some reporters didn’t hear him the first time. For these reasons, and many more, we are proud to recognize Tom DeLay as the man who cut the Gordian knot of congressional ethics.

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Published at 12:00 am CST