Monday, February 19, 2007
One of the most savoury moments of the November vote was the election of Nick Lampson to Tom DeLay’s old seat in the 22nd District of Texas. Lampson—a school teacher who was formerly the Democratic congressman from Galveston—had been one of the principal victims of DeLay’s infamous 2003 redistricting of Texas: an unprecedented mid-decade gerrymander that was made possible by the massive and illegally laundered corporate donations that the House Majority Leader had deployed to elect a Republican majority in the Texas Legislature the year before. Thanks to the courage of a local grand jury and Travis County da Ronnie Earle, DeLay was indicted for perjury in September 2005, and soon afterward, under federal investigation for his close ties to corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff, he was forced to resign his majority leadership, then his congressional seat.
DeLay, of course, was the Robespierre of the 1994 ‘Republican Revolution’, perhaps the most ruthless crusader for one-party government in us history. As one of the co-founders of the so-called ‘K Street Project’, along with Rick Santorum and Grover Norquist, he was notorious for coercing huge campaign contributions from corporate lobbyists (as well as promises to hire only Republicans) in exchange for allowing them to directly write gop legislation. As Majority Leader (or ‘Hammer’ as he was known to Republicans as well as Democrats), he imposed unprecedented ideological discipline on the gop (even defying a White House attempt to give a small tax break to low-income families) while slashing at every vestige of bipartisanship and collegial civility. In partnership with the infamous Abramoff, he was also the advocate of the sleaziest causes in the Capitol, ranging from support for indentured labour in the sweatshop paradise of the Northern Marianas (a US territory without the protection of us labour laws) to under-the-table favours for a giant Russian corporation that in turn kicked back money to DeLay-related causes.
"Indentured labour", you say? Yes, DeLay famously declared that the government of the Northern Marianas was "a shining light for what is happening in the Republican Party, and you represent everything that is good about what we're trying to do in America in leading the world in the free-market system". He added that it was a "perfect Petri dish of capitalism". There, the boss can force you to have an abortion, because giving birth interrupts the labour process. You are effectively indentured since, although you are hired on a one-year contract, you have to pay a recruitment fee to the people who put you in contact with the company, and food and housing expenses to the company itself. They don't pay you enough per day, and there aren't enough work days in the year, to be able to pay it back in a year. And you're lucky if they bother to pay you at all. Their t-shirts say 'Made in the USA', and if GOP and financial lobbyists who work through people like DeLay had their way, there wouldn't be a single law to prevent it in the mainland.