Unless you’ve been beneath the same rock lobbyist Jack Abramoff crawled out from under, you’ve heard his name in conjunction with corruption in Washington D.C. Before he was busted, it seemed Abramoff was a man who could literally shit money, and the temptation proved too much for many Republicans in power, and to a lesser extent some Democrats. Never mind that it was dirty money; the stench didn’t bother these folks one bit.
If you want to accuse me of being crass, go ahead. The Abramoff scandal – what’s known and what’s yet to be uncovered – is far more revolting than any four-letter words I can drum up.
Who will go down when all is said and done isn’t yet clear, but one casualty has been U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay of Texas. DeLay, currently under indictment for a separate dirty-money scheme, recently stepped down as House Majority Leader because his ties to Abramoff looked kind of, well, bad. Now the race is on to replace him and Republicans are playing a game of “who-has-the-fewest-Abramoff-cooties” so they can claim an anti-corruption mandate.
Just how bad is the DeLay-Abramoff connection? The more that’s uncovered about this mess, the more it starts to sound like the plot for a new George Clooney movie: clandestine meetings with Russian oil executives, the bilking of Indian tribes, front organizations set up to launder “campaign contributions.”
But what does this have to do with, “gay,” you ask?
Well, DeLay is no friend to gays. But there’s also the connection between Abramoff and loony Lou Sheldon, head of the notoriously anti-gay Traditional Values Coalition, and Ralph Reed, former head of the Christian Coalition. As Doug Ireland reported in his terrific piece in the Gay City News Jan. 12, both Sheldon and Reed were feasting on money from a few of Abramoff’s clients. Those clients happened to be casinos and other pro-gambling entities. Last time I checked, gambling wasn’t a “Christian” or “family” value. So while Sheldon decried the “sin” of gambling out of one end he was taking gambling money in the other.
The biggest and most onerous piece of this puzzle is the so-called U.S. Family Network, a group set up primarily by DeLay in the 90s as a “grassroots” organization promoting conservative values. According to Ireland, the group “spent money on radio ads that targeted Democratic members of Congress for their alleged fealty to ‘the homosexual agenda.'” On Dec. 31, the Washington Post revealed that the group was mainly a front to conceal DeLay’s total corporate whoredom – a capitalist brothel, if you will.
The U.S. Family Network, the Post reported, “functioned mostly by collecting funds from domestic and foreign businesses whose interests coincided with DeLay’s activities while he was serving as House majority whip from 1995 to 2002, and as majority leader from 2002 until the end of September.”
What does this mean for gays? It’s evidence that right-wingers have bigger fish to fry. The attack on LGBTs is largely a diversion to keep people from looking behind the curtain where folks like Abramoff and DeLay are pulling the levers and taking money out of the pockets of the same Americans who’ve been tricked into fearing “the homosexual menace.” Let’s hope that curtain, and the public’s eyes, get ripped wide open.