October 20, 2003
Bacardi update

Seems Tom DeLay is catching a little flak for his attempts to shoehorn an amendment favorable to Bacardi into an unrelated bill.

Watchdog groups and some business interests have already objected to the Texas Republican's efforts.

Last week, four House Judiciary Committee members protested after an article in the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call reported that DeLay planned to slip an amendment revising U.S. trademark statutes into the annual defense authorization bill.

The amendment had not been properly vetted by their panel, which is supposed to oversee trademark law, said the letter signed by the Judiciary Committee objectors.

Sure would be nice to know who those House Judiciary Committee members are, so we can at least tell if this is more than standard partisan griping, but I've been unable to find any earlier articles that mentions their names. Outside the House, at least, the criticism is bipartisan.

Several major corporations have joined in asking Congress to repeal Section 211 altogether to avoid possible retaliation by Cuba's President Fidel Castro against their own trademarks.

Citizens Against Government Waste, a conservative watchdog group, also opposes special treatment for Bacardi.

"We think it has an adverse influence on the taxpayers, on consumers and on the economy," said the group's president, Thomas Schatz.

Also objecting is a liberal group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, whose director Melanie Sloan links Bacardi's success in Congress to its donations. The company has spread more than $650,000 to political party committees since 1997, with a little more than half going to Republicans. Bacardi has also been one of DeLay's top benefactors, giving a total of $40,000 to political action committees that he founded.

Some of those "major corporations" are Dupont, Ford and General Motors, according to this account.

This is fun and all, but the most eyecatching part of the article is this quote from DeLay spokesman Jonathan Grella.

"It's wrong and unethical to link legislative activity to campaign contributions."

Wow. DeLay and his ilk have argued all along that campaign contributions never amount to quid pro quo even when legislation favorable to the donors gets passed. I suppose that's a reasonable position to take, though it depends entirely on a certain level of trust in the integrity of the beneficiaries as well as a certain level of naievete in the donors.

But "unethical"? I'm somehow "unethical" for thinking that maybe a politician who's been given a large check by Three Initial Corporation and coincidentally happens to sponsor legislation that directly benefits TIC's bottom line at the expense of everyone else was perhaps not doing so because he believes from the bottom of his heart that he was serving the greater public good? I'm somehow "unethical" for thinking that a rational profit-maximizing entity might give thousands if not millions of dollars to those who mold law and policy without considering it an investment on which they might hope to see a return? I'm somehow "unethical" for noticing a pattern and wondering what its underlying structure may be? Why stop there, Jonathan? Why not take it to the logical conclusion and call me stupid for ever daring to question your boss' motives? It's what you clearly believe.

(Thanks to the intrepid AJ Garcia for the tip.)

UPDATE: Also via AJ, Molly Ivins was as gobsmacked by Grella's comment as I was. How nice it would be if the so-called Liberal Media (SCLM) were to report this a bit more widely.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on October 20, 2003 to Scandalized! | TrackBack

More on Delay, with a link there to a site called the Tom Delay Watch.

Posted by: Linkmeister on October 20, 2003 3:58 PM

In DeLay's world, if a Democrat does it, it's corruption. If a Republican does it, it's "constituent service". Whatever....

Posted by: Jack Cluth on October 21, 2003 9:05 AM