Monday, October 10, 2005

The Memphis Commercial Appeal Reports On The Republican Ring Of Corruption

Well folks, it looks as though this story now has legs.The Memphis Commercial Appeal has now ran with the story our blog did about Ed Bryant taking money from Tom Delay's PACs in the past.

This makes the second major article from a Tennessee newspaper that has stemmed from our initial post on the matter.

From the Memphis Commercial Appeal:

Two of the three Tennessee candidates seeking the 2006 Republican nomination for U.S. Senate received substantial campaign contributions from political action committees controlled by indicted former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

Former congressman and GOP gubernatorial candidate Van Hilleary received $17,020 from Americans for a Republican Majority or the Tom DeLay Congressional Committee since 1994. Former congressman and U.S. Senate candidate Ed Bryant took $11,506 from the same sources over the same period, records show.

Both campaigns said they plan to keep the DeLay-connected funds.

DeLay's alleged use of PAC money to influence several Texas state House races resulted in his recent indictment on state conspiracy and money laundering charges. Those indictments also forced him to resign as the Number 2 man in the GOP House leadership.

Bryant, who represented a district that included parts of Shelby County, said he has been very consistent in taking money from political action committees, and said he didn't expect to be tarred by his association with DeLay.

"Most likely, if it's Congressman (Harold) Ford (Jr.) in the general election, I'm pretty confident he takes PAC money," said Bryant. "These PACs that we accept money from are legal PACs. To my knowledge, there's absolutely nothing wrong, then or now, with these particular PACs I took money from."

Ford and State Sen. Rosalind Kurita are the Democratic candidates for the seat Sen. Bill Frist, R-Tenn., plans to vacate next year.

Jennifer Coxe, a spokesman for Hilleary, said the DeLay money won't be a factor in the campaign. "Americans for a Republican Majority supports conservative Republicans across the country. Van was a conservative leader in Congress... and as such has been supported by other conservative leaders who share a common belief in limited government, lower taxes and traditional family values."

Coxe said the real money issue in the campaign may be who is financing the campaign of the third candidate in the Republican race, Bob Corker, the former mayor of Chattanooga. She accused Corker of taking money from former Republican Gov. Don Sundquist and former Democratic Gov. Ned McWherter, adding, "and just last week, a prominent Nashville doctor who performs abortions had a fundraiser for Corker."

She was referring to Dr. Frank Boehm, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. The Vanderbilt clinic only performs abortions involving fetal abnormalities, according to news accounts.

Corker, who in the past has been critical of candidates, including Frist, who take PAC money, is receiving some in this election cycle. Regarding Coxe's comment, Corker's campaign manager, Ben Mitchell, said all three candidates are "pro-life" and have received help from "pro-choice" supporters.

Mitchell dismissed the DeLay money received by Corker's opponents as an issue. "We think Tennesseans deserve a Republican primary on the issues, not a gotcha game based on donors," he said.

John R. Vile, a political science professor at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro, said the connection to the Texas power broker might be more relevant to voters in the general election. It actually could help both Hilleary and Bryant establish their "conservative bonafides" with primary voters, he said.
Vile said that without proof that DeLay's operation was corrupt at the time the contributions were made, it made sense for them to take the cash.

"Somebody offers you money and they're a leading Republican — I doubt you're going to look a gift horse in the mouth," he said.

ARMPAC routinely gave money to conservative Republicans, and never to Democrats, Federal Election Commission records show.

Hilleary got a total of $7,020 for his congressional races from 1994-2000 and $10,000 when he ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2002. Bryant received $5,506 in 1994 and $1,000 in 2000 while running for Congress, and $5,000 when he ran for the U.S. Senate against Lamar Alexander in 2002.

Although Ford has not made an issue of the DeLay contributions to the Republicans, and declined comment when asked about it this week, a prolific blogger and Ford supporter, Chris D. Jackson of Loretto, Tenn., has been noting the DeLay connection.

Jackson, an 18-year-old freshman political science major at the University of North Alabama in Florence, is also the vice chairman of the Lawrence County Democratic Party.

"A lot of people are really disgusted with all the corruption," Jackson said Thursday. "A lot of people don't want any more people like that associated with Tom DeLay to get in office. It's the job of people like me, at the grassroots level, to try to expose it to the people."