Newsradio 850 KOA host Mike Rosen and former U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) spread numerous falsehoods and mischaracterized DeLay's record as House majority leader when DeLay appeared on Rosen's April 9 show to promote his new book. DeLay faced charges of House ethics violations and in 2005 was indicted on charges of money laundering and conspiracy to violate Texas campaign finance law.
During an April 9 appearance on Newsradio 850 KOA's The Mike Rosen Show to promote his book, No Retreat, No Surrender: One American's Fight (Penguin Group USA, March 2007), former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) and host Mike Rosen stated numerous falsehoods and provided dubious explanations regarding charges of ethics violations and criminal conduct that plagued DeLay during his career. Media Matters for America has documented many of these distortions.
1. "The Hammer"
DeLay claimed that his nickname as House Republican Whip, "the Hammer," misleadingly suggested that he coerced members of the Republican Conference to vote the way the Republican leadership wanted them to, saying, "it didn't happen that way on ... the Republican side."
From the April 9 broadcast of Newsradio 850 KOA's The Mike Rosen Show:
DELAY: I saw myself as the strategist, as -- we all had our talents, and each one of us -- Newt Gingrich, Dick Armey, and others -- brought their talents to the leadership table. I guess I think my talents are finding a way to get things done, and -- for instance, I developed a new way of counting noses when we were involved in getting the votes to pass legislation. I call it "grow the vote." I was given the nickname "Hammer" by The Washington Post as a disparaging nickname because they just knew that I -- if I were effective, I had to be breaking arms and threatening members to, to vote against their conscience or vote against their di -- district. That wasn't the case at all. What I did was, is grow the vote, which means when a, a major piece of legislation was introduced, I immediately went to all the members, found out what their problems were with the -- with the legislation and tried to work out those problems as it moved through the process, with the idea that, when it got to the floor for a vote, they would want to vote for it, because they had a part to play in it. That was a completely different way of doing things, and it turned out to be very effective. It held everybody together. U -- it unified the Republican Conference and it allowed us to accomplish some pretty amazing things during the Republican majority.
ROSEN: Are incoming legislators, freshmen members of the House, gathered together and dealt with like fraternity pledges? Does the leadership tell them, "You're gonna vote this way or there are going to be consequences. We want you to follow the leadership"? How does that take place?
DELAY: No, it doesn't happen -- it didn't happen that way on, on the Republican side. There are rumors and reports that it does happen that way on the Democrat side. They had a majority for 40 years, and through that majority they were able to use iron-fisted tactics. When we came in the majority we wanted to do something different, and that's -- that's what we did. We tried to work with our members.
As Media Matters has noted, a July 11, 2003, Congressional Quarterly article reported that during DeLay's tenure, if Republican House members defied their leadership, "punishment" or "threats" would follow, or committee memberships could be put in jeopardy. Congressional Quarterly cited the examples of Rep. Christopher Shays (CT), who was denied a committee chairmanship after using a procedural rule to advance campaign finance reform legislation the Republican leadership opposed, and Christopher H. Smith (NJ), who was threatened with the loss of a committee chairmanship if he advanced legislation to guarantee veterans' health spending.
2. District Attorney Ronnie Earle, who indicted DeLay, is a "very partisan Democrat"
Rosen asserted that Travis County, Texas, District Attorney Ronnie Earle, who in September 2005 indicted DeLay for alleged state campaign finance violations, is a "very partisan Democrat," implying that he prosecuted DeLay to benefit the Democratic Party.
ROSEN: Let's talk about Ronnie Earle, the very partisan Democrat district attorney from Travis County. Austin is in Travis County. Austin is also the state capital, and Austin is like -- Austin is to Texas as Boulder is to Colorado. It's a college town; it's very liberal.
DELAY: You got it exactly right. It's a great -- that's a great analogy. And this is different than the way you started the show, Mike. It's no longer the politics of personal destruction. It is now a different level of electoral politics. It's, it's criminalization of politics. It's no longer good enough to defeat somebody politically or, or vilify them publicly. You have to carpet-bomb them and disgrace them. Bankrupt them. Ruin their families and send them to jail in order to gain power. And that's what I've been going through for 11 years now. Just a whole series of frivolous ethics charges, all dismissed.
Although he was elected as a Democrat, Earle reportedly prosecuted more Democratic officials than Republican officials, as Media Matters has pointed out. The Houston Chronicle wrote in a March 17, 2004, editorial that "[t]he record does not support allegations that Earle is prone to partisan witch hunts."
3. Republicans favor stringent ethics rules
In connection with House ethics charges leveled against DeLay, Rosen misleadingly stated that "when they came into majority status in the House" in 1995, "the Republicans passed a rule whereby they agreed to remove from a leadership position ... any member of the House who was indicted for a criminal offense."
ROSEN: Let's be clear, too, that the Republicans passed a rule when they came into majority status in the House -- and this was in the context of being hypersensitive to ethics charges -- the Republicans passed a rule whereby they agreed to remove from a leadership position -- not removing him from the House of Representatives, but from a leadership position any member of the House who was indicted for a criminal offense.
DELAY: That's correct.
ROSEN: Not convicted -- indicted.
DELAY: That's correct, and the Democrats have no such rule. In fact, a year -- almost two years ago now, they promised they would put the same rule in their caucus and they, they -- typically -- did not fulfill that promise. But they used this rule against us to pick our leadership. They knew that if they could get this rogue district attorney to indict me, I would have to step aside. And that's their, their real target.
In fact, as Media Matters noted, the Republicans adopted a rule regarding the eligibility of a GOP member to serve in the party's leadership not upon achieving majority status in 1995 but in 1993 when former Rep. Dan Rostenkowski (D-IL) was under criminal investigation. Neither Rosen nor DeLay noted that in November 2004, while DeLay was under criminal investigation but not yet indicted, the Republicans rescinded this same rule. According to a Washington Post article, "House GOP leaders and aides said many rank-and-file Republicans" were "eager to change the rule to help DeLay." Additionally, as The Boston Globe (accessed through the Nexis database) reported on April 28, 2005, House Republicans -- after intense criticism -- reversed themselves on an Ethics Committee rule that had blocked investigation of DeLay. As the Globe reported:
In January, House Republicans voted to change the rules, requiring a majority vote on the committee before an investigation could continue, allowing either party to stop an inquiry into the conduct of a fellow party member and effectively protecting DeLay. The decision to change the rules back is a retreat by the Republicans, who have used House procedures to control the legislative agenda.
4. Private conservative organization paid for DeLay's 2000 trip to Great Britain
Rosen suggested that a 2000 trip DeLay took to Great Britain -- which included a golf outing in Scotland -- "saved the taxpayers money by taking some of these trips paid for by private organizations, in this case by the National Center for Public Policy Research [NCPPR]."
ROSEN: Our guest, former Congressman Tom DeLay of Texas' book, No Retreat, No Surrender: One American's Fight. You've got a chapter, Tom, under the title "Ten liberal lies you've heard about me." Let's talk about the Scotland trip, for example.
DELAY: Well, Mike, I, I -- as a leader for 12 years, I traveled around the count -- around the world, not, not very often. In fact, probably not anywhere near what other members travel. I always thought that it would be better for me to travel paid, paid for by conservative foundations -- all legally raised money to pay for conservatives to travel. I've been involved in Taiwan in supporting that government. I've been involved in free-market issues in the Marianas Islands in Southeast Asia. I was involved with getting persecuted Jews out of the Soviet Union, helping drive a conservative movement worldwide in many different areas, particularly in, in Europe. And in this particular instance, I went to Europe principally to meet with Margaret Thatcher to talk about helping her ge -- regain the government for the Conservative Party over there. I met for, like, seven days -- five or seven days -- with conservative groups, with government officials, and so forth. And yes, I play golf. I love golf. It's the only thing I do for myself. And if I get an extra afternoon, I try to go play golf wherever I am.
ROSEN: And in Scotland you played at Saint Andrews, and it would be a crime to be in Scotland and not play at Saint Andrews if you had the opportunity. I should also note that the alternative to a privately funded trip, which you were inclined to take, is what's called a CODEL trip. Which means what?
DELAY: Which means the taxpayers paid for those.
ROSEN: Right, a congressional delegation trip.
ROSEN: So you saved the taxpayers money by taking some of these trips paid for by private organizations, in this case by the National Center for Public Policy Research, which is an admittedly conservative public policy think tank.
DELAY: And, and a think tank and foundation that for, like, 15 years had been paying for conservatives to travel. All legal. There, there's -- there's been no ethics charge filed against me because of these trips, and it's, it's totally legal and ethical.
In fact, since-convicted Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff -- not the NCPPR -- bought the airline tickets for DeLay and several associates, using his private credit card, as Media Matters has noted. Another registered Washington lobbyist, Edwin A. Buckham, reportedly paid for DeLay's food, phone, and some other expenses during his golf outing. House ethics rules prohibited House members from accepting travel expenses from lobbyists.
5. The "K Street Project" merely encouraged lobbying firms to "get some clients that want to influence legislators in a conservative direction"
Rosen and DeLay both sought to portray the "K Street Project" benignly as a means of encouraging national lobbying firms -- typically headquartered on K Street in downtown Washington, D.C. -- to solicit clients that favor conservative causes.
ROSEN: How about the -- the K Street Project?
DELAY: Well, the K Street Project, frankly, I'm very proud of. When we took over in 1995 for the first time in 40 years, there was a culture in Washington, D.C., that I wanted to change. And that was K Street, where the lobbyists all off -- office. Over 40 years, K Street was loaded pretty much totally by Democrat lobbyists. If you were a, a, a chairman of a board of an association, or a company, or even a union, you, you, you would hire as your lobbyist people that had access, or that had relationships with the people that were in power. That's the way things are done. And over time they were all Democrats, because the Democrats dominated the legislative body for 40 years.
ROSEN: And political scientist Theodore White described this as two sides of the iron triangle.
ROSEN: Influential legislators and lobbyists. And in -- in this case, for 40 years the Democrats were the only game in town. Certainly in the House of Representatives. And the lobbyists, of course, were in tight with the Democrats who were in power.
DELAY: That's right. And, and they wanted to keep their people in power, and we ha -- we came, came to power as Republicans in the majority and we wanted to deal with our friends, people that were supporting us. And we also knew that these Democrats on K Street owe their, their jobs and their money -- their pay to Democrats. So they, they would work to get us out of power in order to put their friends in power. So, if you're meeting with somebody and they come to you with an issue that's important to them, why would you meet with somebody that their whole -- their whole existence is to get you out and put their friends in?
ROSEN: So, what did you tell these K Street lobbying companies or operations?
DELAY: You ought -- you ought to look for friends of ours and, and Republicans to hire to represent your interests, because those are the people that we would like to work with.
ROSEN: Yeah. And these are, these are outfits that are in the business of influencing legislators, and in essence what you were saying is, "Why don't you get some clients that want to influence legislators in a conservative direction, then come talk to us?"
DELAY: Exactly the point.
The K Street Project is an initiative to track the political affiliations of lobbyists and pressure lobbying firms to reward Republicans while shutting out Democrats, as Media Matters has noted. Conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks in a January 5, 2006, column (subscription required) described Republican manipulation of Washington lobbyists as "DeLayism," a term he coined:
But Republicans need to do more than bump DeLay. They need to put the entire leadership team up for a re-vote. That's because the real problem wasn't DeLay, it was DeLayism, the whole culture that merged K Street with the Hill, and held that raising money is the most important way to contribute to the team.