Tom Delay, Ethics Dunce Emeritus

I know, I know...it's mean to use the mug shot. Good.

I know, I know…it’s mean to use the mug shot. Good.

I am grateful to ex-Republican House Leader and former Texas Rep. Tom Delay for putting himself back in the news with a quote remarkable for its ignorance, hatefulness, and corrupting potential. There are many reasons:

1. It provides a little perspective for Republicans who are excessively smug about the unethical depths to which the Democratic leaders, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, will sink. Yes, they are ethically atrocious. DeLay, however, was as powerful as either of them for a very long time and was a major power in causing the Bush years to collapse in a smelly pile of corruption. The fact that the Republican Party would follow such a man is easily as damning as Democrats tolerating Reid and Pelosi.

2. It gives me the opportunity to name Tom Ethics Alarms’ second Ethics Dunce Emeritus. The first was Bill Clinton. Tom Delay makes Bill Clinton look like Atticus Finch. Think about that.

3. I miss pointing out how despicable Tom DeLay is. On Ethics Alarm’s predecessor, The Ethics Scoreboard, he was worth a post on a regular basis.

4. His statement is so ridiculous that it is bound to make thoughtful people wonder if they should be agreeing with the man, and reexamine their current anti-gay positions critically.

Here is what DeLay said, discussing the various religious rights protection measures and the controversy surrounding them, on an interview with Newsmax, with some restrained commentary by me in bold: Continue reading

Rangel’s Corruption Continues, Whatever He Calls It

“In all fairness, I was not found guilty of corruption, I did not go to bed with kids, I did not hurt the House speaker, I did not start a revolution against the United States of America, I did not steal any money, I did not take any bribes, and that is abundantly clear.”

—-Rep. Charles Rangel, less than a week following his historic censure by the House of Representatives for repeated violations of House ethics rules

Thus did Charlie Rangel embrace the Clinton Standard after proven unethical conduct, which can be loosely translated as “it’s not what I did that matters, it’s what I didn’t do that should have counted.” In Clinton’s case, the defense was that his lies and obstruction of justice were in the context of what he and his defenders dubbed “personal” misconduct, not the official “high crimes” required by the Constitution, and that his real offense was being a Democrat. Rangel’s adaptation: sure he broke rules, but that was not what the House has called “corrupt” in the past, and thus he can hold his head up high. Continue reading

GlaxonSmithKline Inspires a Fun Game For Your Holiday Party: “Forcast That Ethics Scandal!”

Almost all ethics scandals and examples of outrageous unethical conduct are thoroughly predictable, whether they involve individual, organizations or institutions. The most obvious proof of this is in politics. Once we consider past patterns, current conditions, institutional habits and what we know about human nature, the question when a new political party takes over isn’t whether there will be instances of bribery, influence peddling, self-enrichment, and conflict of interest, but only which elected leaders will be caught at it. Sometimes even that part is easy: everyone should have been able to guess, long before they occurred, that Tom DeLay’s ethics-free philosophy of politics as warfare would lead him to commit serious misdeeds, just as the odds against former Florida Rep. Alan Grayson running a fair or civil campaign for re-election were prohibitively high. Similarly, sports scandals can usually be seen coming a long way off. Once New England Patriots coach Bill Belichik was caught making surreptitious videos of his team’s opponents’ practices, it was easy to guess that he wasn’t the only one, and that since both he and his team were so successful, it would be only a matter of time before a similar incident came to light. And it did, last week.

As I look through various Ethics Alarms posts, it is striking how many of them could have been written in advance, in fill-in-the-blank format. All you need to do is identify an industry with a history of ethics problems, a weak ethics culture, a trusting, under-informed audience, the potential for increased profit, power or influence, and a large population of corruptible, lazy, incompetent, venal, ambitious or cowardly allies. I’m sure a computer program could be developed, but for this holiday season, why not forecast next year’s ethics scandals as a party game? Challenge your guests: Which TV reality show will be shown to have completely manipulated “reality”? Which revered sports figure will be disgraced in a sex or drug scandal? Which Wall Street firm will be caught violating the “sacred principles” posted on its website? Which school will suspend or expel a student for violating the letter of an overly broad and horribly-written rule without actually doing anything wrong? Which universally accepted scientific research will turn out to be the result of manipulated data? Which embarrassments of the Obama Administration will only be reported by Fox News, and which outrages committed by Republicans will the same network ignore?

And, of course, where will TSA employees put their hands next?

This occurred to me as I read about the recent Big Pharma-manipulating-medical-practice scandal, involving drug giant GlaxonSmithKline, while slapping my forehead and shouting, “Of course! This was the logical next step!” Continue reading

Allied Against Consumers and Ethics: Google and the Sociopathic Businessman

Today the New York Times extensively documents the unethical business strategy used by the owner of a web-based eyewear business.

After making the discovery that Google does not distinguish between positive and negative mentions of a business on the Internet, he resolved to treat complaining customers as badly as possible to encourage complaints about his company on consumer sites. I do mean “as badly as possible”: the Times relates the accounts of customers who received insulting phone calls, threatening mail, and other harassing and bullying communications from the entrepreneur, who uses multiple aliases. The method works well: since on-line diatribes, complaints and bad reviews have piled up over his poor service, outrageous conduct and often shoddy merchandise, the man’s business is booming. Its name consistently nears the top of Google’s search results when a potential customer types the name of his or her favorite eyewear designer and “eyeglasses,” sometimes placing higher than the designer itself. Continue reading

Be Thankful Tom DeLay Is Going To Jail

“As for DeLay, his time will probably come. He has ethical blind spots galore, and is only getting bolder with time. The more the Republicans move to protect “The Hammer,” the more damaging DeLay’s inevitable fall will be to the party. As the old newspaper columnists used to say, “You read it here first!”

I posted that almost exactly six years ago. In the years I have been doing ethics commentary, no figure inspired (or perhaps depressed) me more than Tom DeLay when he was G.O.P. Majority leader in the House. Now he has finally been convicted of the legal violations that his contempt for ethics virtually guaranteed.  From “Too Dumb to be Ethics Dunces,” posted in 2005: Continue reading

Ethics Quote of the Week: Rep. Greg Walden

“Our focus on the transition is looking at other things that are much more important. And that is how the House operates, how to open it up. We’re not focused in on the ethics side of things at all. We’re not working on that issue at all.”

— Rep. Greg Walden (R-Or.), who is heading up the transition to a Republican-led Congress, to ABC News, when asked if the new majority is going to change the process of House ethics oversight.

This statement is the epitome of res ipsa loquitur (“The thing speaks for itself”), don’t you think?

Anyone who expects the new G.O.P Congress to improve on the wretched level of corruption of Nancy Pelosi’s Democratic majority  House, or the even more extensive corruption of the last Republican House under Dennis Hastert and Tom DeLay, raise your hand…and slap yourself in the face with it.

At least Pelosi had the sense to say that ethics were important.

Summer Rerun: “Ending the Bi-Partisan Effort to Destroy Trust in America”

[TV is full of reruns these days, and sometimes I am grateful for them, for it gives me a chance to see episodes of favorite shows I had missed for some reason or another. Back in early March, I posted the following essay about the origins of America’s current crisis of trust in our government, and how it might be cured by our elected leaders. Since then, the crisis has deepened, and as I was doing some routine site maintenance, I reread the post. It is still very timely (unfortunately), and since far fewer people were visiting Ethics Alarms in March, I decided to re-post it today, with just a few minor edits. I promise not to make this a habit. Still, trust is the reason why ethics is so important in America: if there is a single post of the more than 700 I have written here since October 2009  that I would like people to read, this is it.] Continue reading

DeLay and Blagojevich: Not Vindicated, Not Innocent, and Not Ethical

Both Rod Blagojevich and Tom DeLay were taking victory laps this week, Blago because a jury failed to come to an agreement on his trial for selling political favors, DeLay because the Justice Department dropped its prosecution of  him. In the minds of both of these corrupt and shameless politicians, they were indeed vindicated, because both operate under the delusion that if one’s conduct manages to avoid breaking laws to the point where one could be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, then that conduct is “ethical.” This same delusion has been shared by many other human blights on American society and ethical corrupters in business and politics, including Presidents Richard Nixon, and Bill Clinton, Ken Lay, the executives at Goldman Sachs and AIG, Marion Barry, Maxine Waters, and too many others to mention. It is still a delusion. Continue reading

Ethics Dunce Deux: Rand Paul Whiffs on Accountability

G.O.P Kentucky Senate nominee Rand Paul has pulled off a record-worthy achievement: he has earned Ethics Dunce status twice in a week’s time, something no one else, even serial Ethics Dunces like Sen. John Kerry and Tom DeLay, were able to do in the nearly seven years the designation has been in existence. He did not earn it the old fashioned way, however, as the old Smith-Barney ads used to say. Most Ethics Dunces do something, but in both cases Paul has proven himself worthy by what he says he believes.  This makes him kind of a classic Ethics Dunce. He literally doesn’t understand basic ethical values, or if he does, can’t articulate them. Continue reading

Shameless

There is apparently is little that a politician can do today that is so uncivil, embarrassing or undignified that partisans won’t cheer it, and that fundraisers and marketers unencumbered by things such as values, responsibility, and shame won’t try to use to raise money. Call the President a liar during his State of the Union Address? Fundraising gold!  Shout “Baby killer!” on the floor of the House? Great!! Use it to get those checks flowing!

Now, not to be outdone by the shameless venality of the GOP, Democrats are using Joe Biden’s resort to gutter-speech, to the President, during a formal ceremony, on national television, as part of a new fundraising pitch.  CNN reports that Democrat donors who give at least $25 to the cause will receive “a limited edition ‘Health Reform is a BFD’ T-shirt in a super-soft, fine jersey (men’s) or baby rib (women’s) cotton fabric,” according to a new fundraising page posted on the website of Organizing For America, the White House political group housed in the National Democratic Committee. Continue reading