One of Rep. Tom DeLay's first maneuvers as majority leader was to engineer a change of House ethics rules so charities now may pay for lawmakers' travel and meals whenever they participate in charitable fund-raising events.
The change came as DeLay is organizing a Florida golf tournament that will benefit a project in his district south of Houston.
Particularly upset by the change was Rep. Joel Hefley, R-Colo., chair of the House ethics committee, who said he was "blindsided." He told the Washington Post that his committee's job "is to keep people out of trouble. We don't want to have the impression, nor the reality, that we're trying to weasel around ways to live high at someone else's expense."
Citizen watchdog groups, including Common Cause and Democracy 21, are trying to find a Republican willing to reverse the rule change by introducing a measure to repeal it. But few lawmakers, Democrats included, are willing to take on the powerful majority leader -- known for punishing his adversaries by killing funds for projects in their hometowns.
Meanwhile, philanthropists worry the rule change will turn back the clocks to a time when charities were used as fronts for political activity.
"Charities used as fronts for political activities" — if that doesn't describe the redneck-religious-Republican cabal right here, right now, I don't know what does.
"You want to play on a good golf course on a sunny day, and it's helpful to have a few VIPs to attract support for this great cause," DeLay spokesman Jonathan Grella said of the new rules change that will apply to DeLay's golf tournament, as well as other charitable fund-raisers.
DeLay's comfort at his "charitable" golf tournament is now even more tax deductible by the lobbyists and favor-curriers who grease the already slimy wheels of American corruption.