Thursday, January 12, 2006

Sweeney retreats - calls for half measures

Republican Rep. John Sweeney of New York's 20th Congressional District retreated today from his earlier call for wholesale change in Republican House leadership.

Sweeney who had called for a confidence vote on Speaker Dennis Hastert as well as the rest of the Republican leadership retreated by saying that he would put forth a petition calling for new elections of all seven positions under Hastert.

"There ought to be a full review and commitment by those who present themselves as leaders to a new agenda so we can re-instill the confidence of the American people," said Sweeney.


But Sweeney's actions fell short of his words leaving Hastert, a crony of the indicted former Republican majority leader Tom DeLay, in power. Hastert, whose actions are in question in the Jack Abramoff-Tom DeLay-Grover Norquist bribery and corruption scandal, owes his position as Speaker of the House to Tom DeLay and has long been seen as a puppet whose strings DeLay pulls. John Sweeney, a leading defender of DeLay, appears to be calling for the DeLay regime to remain in power even in the wake of this growing scandal that threatens to engulf several more Congressmen before it is over.

Sweeney has donated $2,000 received from the Tigua and Coushatta tribes to charity but has taken no action regarding several thousand dollars more received from firms Abramoff and his suspected co-conspirators, former DeLay aides Tony Rudy and Ed Buckham, used as a front for their operation. Alexander Strategy Group, which announced it's closure in the wake of the scandal, contributed $6,050 to Sweeney during the current campaign cycle while Greenberg Traurig contributed another $4,750. Sweeney is known to have also received money from another of Abramoff's former firms Preston, Gates, Ellis et al.

For his part, Dennis Hastert has refused to declare how much of the at least $63,500 he has received from Abramoff and his clients he is divesting himself of. Hastert appears to have been the third largest recipient of Abramoff's largesse.

In a belated effort to get ahead of the bribery and corruption storm that some unnamed Republican criticize him for letting get away, Hastert has signaled his intent to reform House travel rules. Unfortunately this part of the scandal only scratches the surface and reaches nowhere near the tumor that has metastasized inside the Republican Party in Washington. The travel issue only admits the clear problems Rep. Bob Ney will have staying out of jail but does not touch on the wider issue of purposeful selling of congressional votes and favors through the DeLay-Abramoff-Norquist K Street Project.

The Center for Public Integrity and Public Citizen's Lobbyinginfo.Org have some mind boggling numbers on the staggering growth of lobbying and influence peddling in Republican Washington.

Despite being obviously implicated in the corruption Hastert appears to be getting a pass... for the moment. But if Republicans have any hope of regaining credibility with the American people and any hope of maintaining control of Washington they are going to need to do it with a new set of leaders. Sweeney was right the first time around when he called for a complete change of leadership. His hasty retreat from this position has cost him any chance of gaining credibility on the subject with his constituents back home.

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