Tom Delay: Public Financing of Campaigns, Lobbying Reform a Left Wing Plot

Charlie Burr


Opponents of Portland’s Voter Owned Elections may be raising & spending record amounts of cash from a pretty small group of folks for the repeal effort, but their supporter list just increased by at least one.

Add embattled Republican Congressman Tom Delay to the chorus of those arguing against the dangers of public financing.

When asked this week about lobbying reform efforts in Congress, Delay had this to say:

“This effort is being driven by the left wing groups like Common Cause, Democracy 21, the ACLU and others...their ultimate goal is public financing of campaigns …and they hate the fact that we – we being the Republicans – have built one of the largest coalitions to drive our agenda that history has ever seen.” (Rosenberg/Richmond Chamber of Congress, 1/28/06)

Hear the audio clip from Crooks and Liars here.

So, reducing the cost of elections …… the worst idea since “overboard” lobbying reform.


  • Ron Ledbury (unverified)

    We still need to be able to differentiate between the set of words that find their way onto the law books and the manner of their placement into those books and the motivations of those who put them there.

    It is all well and good that a laudable public good is the motivation behind any piece of legislation or official action. Yet, this public-good objective must be considered against the opposite end of the very same sort of examination . . . that of the search for "proof of an impermissible motive."

    "Proving the motivation behind official action is often a problematic undertaking. See Rogers v. Lodge, 458 U.S. 613 (1982)." HUNTER v. UNDERWOOD, 471 U.S. 222 (1985)

    Hunter cited U.S. v. O'Brien for these words:

    "It is entirely a different matter when we are asked to void a statute that is, under well-settled criteria, constitutional on its face, on the basis of what fewer than a handful of Congressmen said about it. What motivates one legislator to make a speech about a statute is not necessarily what motivates scores of others to enact it, and the stakes are sufficiently high for us to eschew guesswork."

    It is the reasoning that is important. In Oregon the courts have often escaped the consideration of the merits of a law that is clearly unconstitutional on its face so long as they can find any ad hoc valid public purpose at the time of litigation notwithstanding anything that had been argued in support of legislation or other official action. (At least as to economic legislation.) The desire not to disturb the legislator's policy choices has become an excuse, a judicially crafted excuse, to allow all sorts of legislation that is clearly and unequivocally unconstitutional on its face.

    Voter owned elections, in my opinion, cannot escape scrutiny for whether it is constitutional merely because there is some lawful and allowable public purpose. The purpose inquiry, good or bad, is not relevant unless the actual written words are, as a prerequisite inquiry, themselves constitutional on their face or as applied, depending upon the context of routine First Amendment inquiry.

    I can be an ardent egalitarian and firm believer in the First Amendment and still find ample reasons for an Oregon Court to void, in part or in total, the City of Portland plan to use public money to extract a contractual signature from participants of a waiver of inalienable First Amendment rights. I can sign anything that the City of Portland wants me to sign, as a condition of participation in voter owned election money, and it will not eliminate my right to insist upon the full and fair application of all my First Amendment rights. The fact that some folks have put big money into an effort to get rid of the public payment scheme would be quite irrelevant to my challenge. Is the existence of the opposition itself being used to validate that there exists a laudable public purpose for its initial enactment? If so then that is more likely to support a finding or unconstitutionality, not that it must be constitutional by reason of the clear identification of an opposition and the perceived evilness of such opposition.

    I have reasons quite independent of voter-owned elections to perhaps seek to challenge the blatant assertion of a right to arbitrary exercise of power by government that squarely conflicts with the state and federal constitution. The evil, as I see it, is the absence of the rule of law, inclusive of ignorance of timeless laws of reason.

    I, and the First Amendment, pose a greater threat to the voter owned election scheme than do the folks seeking to put a measure on the ballot to dispense with the public funding plan. That effort has the possibility of making any challenge I might pose moot, but only as to future elections. The present election cycle is fair game for challenge. I would assert a right to ask folks to reimburse the City for any costs they might incur by reason of my acceptance of public dollars so that I may fully eliminate the City's claim to have been financially harmed by the contract delivery of public dollars, as there could ultimately be no financial harm at all were I to fully get matching donations. I can do this gradually, rather than via a single call with one big dog and only via one big cash drop coincident with withdrawal from the contract conditions. I can and will insist upon the right to gradual reduction of the public outlay of cash. To ask me not to reduce, incrementally, the public outlay is unconstitutional on its face, as a condition for participation. It would surely not be criminal to test its validity.

    The irony of rubbing the face of the local chapter of the ACLU in individual liberties protected by the First Amendment might just be motivation in and of itself. The DA and the current Auditor would steer clear of all criminal action against me if I were to seek the Auditor's slot; I believe that they cannot be so stupid as to make it a criminal matter, as applied. Instead, they might prevent me from taking the first steps in the process or perhaps at the stage where I would deliver evidence of 1000 supporters.

  • LT (unverified)

    Here is my question: There are those who say "Money is speech". To me that says that the Abramoffs of the world (and anyone else with plenty of money) SHOUTS in politics, and the people barely making ends meet who might be able to afford one $10 contribution to a neighbor running for office only whisper.

    Explain to me how that is 1st Amendment "free speech". It sounds more to me like the joke that "they who have the gold make the rules".

    Sure worked out well with Medicare Part D, didn't it?

    Or is that not an issue of the public good as long as drug company lobbyists and insurance lobbyists are happy?

  • Ron Ledbury (unverified)


    Medicare Part D is not about enabling competition but about a one time kind of choice but thereafter a restriction on making a new choice. It is not compatible with capitalism, it is antithetical to competition. It has the same problem as that of any effort to use the power of government to make monopoly lawful, private or public, notwithstanding the known and certain absence of aggregate good. It is happy sounding extraction of monopolistic rent.

    I have a debt to the government by reason of the feds voluntary choice to cut a check to a banker so that that banker need never be exposed to the inherent risk of capitalism. I am a slave but I have to fight the folks that believe that student loans are a good, rather than a bad. The bargaining power of bankers and the rich that have attained their position via improper use and abuse of power is not the same thing as acknowledging that two garage-based furniture makers (as proxy for any craftsman) might not be identically productive. The richer garage-craftsman can spend as freely as they wish, even if it might involve speech on public matters that they believe to be important.

    Knowledge is power. I could offer as a proof that no amount of tripe on the TV adds can convince those who are educated to abandon reason. The problem is the decreasing number of educated folks and their lack of ability to overcome the tripe. Current discussion of student loans look to me as identical to American enterprises going to Europe in the search for labor in the form of involuntary servants that must pay their debt to their employer so as to regain their freedom.

    One example -- I am running against the stream to call the democrats idiots for demanding bigger student loans in lieu of direct taxation and appropriations. Such democrats are themselves demanding that bigger checks be written to bankers. It is psychotic, because it flies in the face of the claimed desire for the best interest of the poor. It also converts education into a commercial-only purpose rather than a quality of life thing and enhancement of an informed citizenry. Some Democrats might hide behind the notion of merely being pragmatic but I would call it taking the other sides interest as their own.

  • (Show?)

    At least we've found something that deep pocket contributors to both political parties can agree on: None of them want a system of elections that will reduce their influence in City Hall.

    By my count, they've paid out slightly less than $60,000 of the $140,000 they've spent to Ginny Burdick's employer, Gard & Gerber. If she were voting on this as a bill in the legislature, instead of campaigning on it as an issue, she'd have to excuse herself from the vote due to a conflict of interest.

    Would anyone care to guess what the over/under will be on the congruence between contributors to this ballot initiative and contributors to her campaign?

  • Brad Eleven (unverified)

    I live in Tom DeLay's congressional district (Richmond, TX, 77469-2040). I found this article b/c I watch for any news on the man. Aside from my personal experience with him (broken promises and subsequent avoidance, including at church), I don't know a lot about him. It seems apparent that he is of the "money is speech" camp. I notice this idea showing up in the form of taunts that those who do not agree with elected officials' decisions should try winning an election in order to have a voice in the way things are run.

    Of course public funding is preferred by the majority of American citizens. Unfortunately, without an even bigger scandal than those already active, the chances for this level of reform are very low. I personally think that it's more probably for the Congress to vote for their own pay and benefits to be cut.

    I heartily encourage the people of Oregon to take your elections back--before some high-minded, low-morals political hack redistricts your state. Even if DeLay is convicted, the redistricting of Texas stands. There's no mulligan available; the only cure is re-re-districting, mandated as eight years away. The only solace we take in DeLay's newly gerrymandered district (how'd he get the fastest growing area in the US and NASA? They're 50 miles apart!!!) is that he has fewer "registered Republicans". There's no such thing in Texas, BTW--the "affilation" merely indicates which party's primary the voter last voted in.

    It is nothing less than high irony for a Congressman--indicted for improper political fundraising--to speak on how important it is to preserve corporate donations over public funds... to the local Chamber of Commerce! Recall that Mr. DeLay is also known for asserting, "I am the government".

    Quite a fundamental misunderstanding of democracy, by the people, of the people, and for the people. While I'm quite curious to know where Mr. DeLay's distorted view comes from, I'd be quite satisfied with the end of his political career--whether as an elected servant or as a paid lobbyist.

    Delusion is not just a river in Egypt.

  • (Show?)

    Brad Eleven:

    Thanks for stopping by and much luck doing the Lord's work down in Sugarland. Portlanders had a fundraiser for Nick Lampson about a month ago and are really hoping for a big win against the Hammer. There is no better example of the corrosive effects of special interest money in the county today than the effect Delay/Abramoff have had not just this Congress, but on the way our system of government works.

    There's no magic, silver bullet to fix all of our problems, but voter owned elections are a meaningful step in reducing the costs of elections and making the process more open and competitive.

    Ron Ledbury: Spending limits, not public financing, have been overturned by the Oregon Supreme Court. Even deep-pocketed opponents of voter owned elections aren't arguing that this is un-Constitutional, just that they don't want to try this reform for a variety of reasons....


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