Saturday, April 08, 2006

The Passion of Pious Pimp Tom

Molly Ivins nails it (as usual):

Tom DeLay and Newt Gingrich turned the U.S. House of Representatives, "the people's House," into a pay- for-play machine for corporations. Put in enough money, get your special tax exemption, get your earmarked government contract, get your trade legislation and your environmental exemption, get rid of safety regulation.

The Northern Marianas Islands are a U.S. protectorate (so it can label goods "Made in the USA") in the Pacific being used as a sort of labor gulag, with workers imported from China and elsewhere and paid pitiful wages.

Jack Abramoff had a contract with the government of the Marianas to lobby against stopping the flow of immigrant labor to the islands and to prevent a minimum wage bill (mandating a level higher than the island's standard $3.05 per hour) from getting to the floor of the House.

The islands are home to classic sweatshops. In 1996 and 1997, Abramoff billed the Marianas for 187 contacts with DeLay's office, including 16 meetings with DeLay. In December 1997, DeLay, his wife and their daughter went on an Abramoff-arranged jaunt to the Marianas. DeLay brunched with the Marianas' largest private employer, textile magnate Willie Tan.
Tan had to settle a U.S. Labor Department lawsuit alleging workplace violations. According to the book "The Hammer" by Lou Dubose and Jan Reid, among the violations common on the islands is forbidding women to work when they are pregnant, thus leading to a high abortion rate.

Evidently, DeLay didn't have time to look into such allegations, since he was busy playing golf and attending a dinner in his honor, sponsored by Tan's holding company. According to The Washington Post, it was at this dinner that DeLay called Abramoff "one of my closest and dearest friends." He also reminded those present of his promise that no minimum wage or immigration legislation affecting the Marianas would be passed.

"Stand firm," he added. "Resist evil. Remember that all truth and blessings emanate from our Creator." He then went with Tan to see a cockfight.

This is why DeLay's professions of Christianity make me sick. He was there. He could have talked to the workers. Instead, he chose to walk with the powerful and do real harm to the very people Jesus mandated we especially care for.

Read more in the Molly Ivins archive .
Molly Ivins is the former editor of the liberal monthly The Texas Observer.
She is the bestselling author of several books including Who Let the Dogs In?


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