Thursday, January 12, 2006

In bed with Big Tobacco

Tom Delay is out of the leadership but he left some dirty underwear behind in the person of his protegé, Roy Blunt (R-MO), now Acting Majority leader and a leading candidate to succeed him. To say that Mr. Blunt is in bed with the tobacco industry would not be an exaggeration. It would be literally true. Now some people misuse "literally" in the sense of "figuratively," and occasionally the malapropism is hilarious, as in, "I was literally burned up." But in this case "literally" is correct. In 2003 Roy Blunt dumped his wife of over 30 years and married Abigail Perlman, a Philip Morris lobbyist.

Perlman came to Big Tobacco from (where else) the National Republican Congressional Committee where she was finance director. While she was there, the NRCC plopped a half million dollars into one of Delay's front groups, the US Family Network. In 2004 the NRCC was fined $280,000 by the Federal Election Commission for this. As soon as Blunt was named Majority Whip (number three in the Republican House leadership after Delay) he tried to insert provisions benefitting Philip Morris into the 475-page bill that created the Department of Homeland Security. By that time Ms. Perlman was a lobbyist for Philip Morris, and the Washington Post reported other Republicans suspected this was a favor stemming from "a personal relationship" with her, implying perhaps it wasn't the only thing he was inserting. Indeed. Shortly afterward he made his personal relationship "legal" (nice to hear he does some things legally). But the subversion of the Homeland Security bill was so outrageous even Delay and Dennis Hastert objected, and it was flushed down the toilet. One interpretation of this might be that Blunt is even more corrupt than Delay.

Blunt not only is a turkey, he also pimped for Turkey, or at least for a group called the American Turkish Council:
According to a May 17, 2005 Washington Post story, Altria, the parent company of Phillip Morris, and the company that employs Ms. Perlman, is Mr. Blunt's largest contributor. In recent years, Altria has given Mr. Blunt more than $270,000.

Mr. Blunt's son, Andy, a lobbyist in Missouri, also represents Altria.

Phillip Morris, the company that employs Ms. Perlman, has a seat on the board of a group called the American Turkish Council (ATC). Mr. Blunt has taken significant official actions that have benefitted the interests of the ATC .

But the ATC has also been very good to Mr. Blunt's staff. At least three staffers of Mr. Blunt have made junkets to Turkey, courtesy of the ATC. On some occasions, aside from its role on the board of the ATC, Phillip Morris additionally directly sponsored the trips.

Mr. Gregg Hartley--Mr. Blunt's then Chief of Staff, Ms. Amy Field--Mr. Blunt's current Chief of Staff, and Mr. Jared Craighead--a then-Blunt staffer who is now Executive Director of the Missouri Republican Party all took such trips . . .

Mr. Hartley is now a lobbyist with Cassidy and Associates. Mr. Hartley hired Jack Abramoff at Cassidy, after a February 2004 Washington Post story about Mr. Abramoff's bilking of Indian gaming clients forced his departure from Greenberg Traurig. (via FiredUpAmerica)
One of the other things Blunt did recently as the acting Majority Leader was to Deep Six Bush's proposal for full funding of pandemic flu preparations (post here). One savors the great irony if Blunt or his conspirators contracted bird flu on one of their junkets to Turkey.

But lightning never strikes in the right place.