January 06, 2006

The Boys and Their Project

As the LA Times writes about the frantic rush of the Republicans trying to distance themselves from Jack Abramoff, it seems like a good time to recall where the K Street Project got started. Jack Abramoff isn't just a greedy, corrupt bad apple, like Newt Gingrich wants to make out, he was one of the boys which came up with the scheme to have the business community tied lock stock and barrow with the Republicans (a recipe for corruption).

One of the boys who had plenty of skin in the game besides Abramoff, DeLay and Ney is that charming Grover Norquist who got his wish at seeing government drown in a bathtub when the government the business community paid for couldn't do anything right in New Orleans. As reported by Robert Dreyfuss in May 2001, Grover was proudly claiming that the K Street Project was his brainchild.

To guarantee that business marches in lockstep with Bush and the Congressional GOP not just on taxes but also on other issues important to the Administration, Norquist is touting what he calls his "K Street Project," aimed at ferreting out Democrats who work as lobbyists and replacing them with litmus-test Republicans. "Democrats in Congress retire to universities," he says. "K Street is where Republicans go to retire." Norquist plans to wave around town his list of untrustworthy Democratic lobbyists in the hope that corporate CEOs will feel compelled to revamp their K Street offices rather than risk the GOP's ire.

And it looks like he had some help in launching that project:

As widely reported, the three operatives [Abramoff, Reed and Norquist] go way back. They met during the 1980s as leaders of the College Republicans. Norquist was Abramoff's campaign manager in a successful election as chair of the national campus organization. Later, Reed led the group. Abramoff, a self-described ultraconservative Orthodox Jew, and Norquist began ascending with the 1994 Republican revolution in Congress. They launched what was called the K Street Project to persuade lobbying firms to increase their Republican connections; Abramoff lived across the street from a Preston Gates partner, who quickly hired him. Norquist, a close ally of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia, that year helped draw up the GOP's (ultimately voided) "Contract With America." Reed, meanwhile, became a Bush campaign official and private consultant after leaving the Christian Coalition in 1996, which had risen from the ashes of evangelical Pat Robertson's failed 1988 presidential bid.

DeLay also was a proud owner of the project and was known as the enforcer for keeping businesses in line.

The center of DeLay's operation was the K Street Project, the pay-for-play system by which businesses and lobbyists kicked back to the Republican Party in exchange for legislation. He kept a little black book noting which lobbyists were good and which were bad, who deserved favors and who punishment. One reporter, believing that the story about the black book was apocryphal, asked DeLay, who proudly showed it to him.

Sydney Blumenthal's report about the Republican hegemony is quite juicy, including this little tidbit about how Ralph Reed began his association with the religious right.

Norquist was the first to point out the political potential of evangelical churches to Reed, imagining that they could be turned into Republican clubhouses. During the week of George H.W. Bush's inauguration, Reed encountered Pat Robertson, the right-wing televangelist, who recruited him on the spot to run the Christian Coalition. "I want to be invisible," Reed explained. "I do guerrilla warfare. I paint my face and travel at night. You don't know it's over until you're in a body bag. You don't know until election night."

But Ralph was missing out on the get-really-rich fun while hiding out with the religious right. After he finally freed himself from the shackles of the Christian Coalition in order to make up for lost time, he sent Abramoff an email saying: "Hey, now that I'm done with the electoral politics, I need to start humping in corporate accounts! I'm counting on you to help me with some contacts."

Me thinks that it will take just a bit more than just getting rid of the money from Abramoff to keep the Republicans from experiencing a lot more pain when the K Street Project catches up with those boys who came up with the idea. And Gingrich, who started the bombthrowing back long ago, could find himself a lonely voice in the wilderness as the Republican party collapses under the weight of the scandal.

Posted by Mary at January 6, 2006 12:22 AM | Corruption & Graft | TrackBack(2) | Technorati links |