Monday, February 16, 2004

Delay's Texas Fundraising Under Investigation
US House Majority Leader Tom Delay may have illegally used corporate contributions to help candidates win races in the Texas state house. Delay comes from Texas, so he naturally cares about his home state. But, more importantly, when his allies took control of the statehouse, Delay's right hand man Tom Craddick became Speaker. Craddick then moved to redraw the congressional district lines to give Delay's party a big advantage in Congress -- thus securing his position as Majority Leader.

It's illegal to use corporate and labor money in Texas elections, as with federal elections. But, the New York Times reports here that Delay used money from corporations (without asking the corporations shareholders) to pay for fundraising, polling, and other expenses that helped his favored candidates. The results were quite impressive. A whopping 18 of the 21 candidates backed by Delay and his corporate money won.

The one company mentioned in the article, Union Pacific Railroads, says that they gave the money without any explicit agreement that if the candidates won those candidates would vote for Delay's right hand man to be speaker of the Texas House, or that Craddick would then try to rig congressional districts to help Delay. I have no reason to doubt what the Union Pacific spokesperson says. But, regardless, the railroad gave big bucks to influence elections and in return has people they like controlling both the Texas state house and the US House of Representatives. Seems like that's an opportunity the rest of us should have as well, and one we'll only get with tougher campaign finance laws.

Bush and the Daytona 500
I tuned in to the Daytona 500 just after President Bush's opening remarks, but I gather he said some nice things before the traditional "gentlemen, start your engines." Politicians these days seem to be going out of their way to buddy up to the NASCAR crowd. Democrats like John Edwards and Bob Graham, like the President, have spent time at the track. I'm sure it cost the taxpayer a pretty penny to fly the President in Air Force one to the race, but I have no problem with that. The President should be able to get out of town every now and then, and these days we need to be sure that his security is top rate. Indeed, I think its a good thing that candidates campaign by going out and speaking to people, rather than just relying on TV ads. The Republican Party was on hand registering voters, which is always a good thing to do. Indeed, if there was less big money in politics, candidates would be forced to do even more of this kind of thing. Getting out there, shaking hands, and looking for photo ops with the likes of Richard Petty. Details can be found here at the NASCAR site.

Here's the one thing I don't get. The president took off in Air Force One with something like 80 laps to go. I don't know about you, but if I had tickets to the Daytona 500, I don't think I'd leave till the race was over.

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