November 05, 2003
Rum punched

Tom DeLay continues to catch heat for his shameless shilling of Bacardi's corporate interests at the potential expense of every other company in America that would like some day to do business in Cuba. It's so bad that some House Republicans may do the unthinkable and actually defy his authority.

To the dismay of Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and some large corporations, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) is seeking to insert a controversial Cuba trademark measure into the defense authorization bill, which is now in conference.

DeLay’s bill — as well as alternative approach crafted by Flake and Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) — were both crafted so that the U.S. trademark laws would be in compliance with a World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling. The WTO has held that parts of a law passed in 1999 violate the agreement on trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights and has given the United States until the end of this year to change it.

Critics of DeLay’s bill say the measure would only benefit rum maker Bacardi-Martini Inc. and harm other businesses that have a significant financial interest in a post-Fidel Castro Cuba.

The majority leader has repeatedly criticized Castro and has vigorously fought legislative efforts to normalize relations with the communist regime. DeLay believes his legislative fix, which has not been formally introduced, would protect U.S. interests and hurt Castro.

Flake calls DeLay’s arguments "baloney," adding, "He's wrong. … [His] bill would only help one company."

The Arizona legislator says businesses "are incensed" about the possibility of DeLay’s bill being signed into law, adding that he is planning to talk directly with [House Speaker Dennis] Hastert on the issue. That conversation is expected to take place within the next week.

You go, Jeff. Who's with you?

Companies that support Flake’s bill include DaimlerChrysler, DuPont, Ford Motor Co., General Motors, Halliburton, Eastman Kodak, and the Grocery Manufacturers of America.

These companies point out that there are more than 5,000 trademarks registered in Cuba that are vulnerable to counterfeiting and infringement.

Industry lobbyists say they have to tread lightly, acknowledging the awkwardness of taking on DeLay.

Um, not to put too fine a point on it, guys, but if Tom DeLay is too powerful then you industry lobbyists bear a large part of the blame. DeLay's influence is directly tied to money. He raises a ton of it, and he demands it from those who wish to have access to him, and on the other side he spreads it around among fellow Republicans, who worship and cower at his feet in return. If industry lobbyists were to turn off that spigot, how long do you think DeLay would last as Majority Leader? Remember Ann Landers' famous dictum: No one can take advantage of you without your permission.

Flake and three House Democrats last month notified the House and Senate committees on armed services of the DeLay bill. The Oct. 14 letter stated, “It is important to note that the [DeLay language] did not go through the committee process. … It would be unfortunate if the purported ‘fix’ language also was not properly reviewed in the Judiciary Committee.”

A House Armed Services aide declined to comment on the fate of the DeLay language, saying only that a vote on the defense authorization conference report is expected soon.

John Ullyot, a spokesman for the Senate Armed Services Committee, declined to comment but pointed out the DeLay language was not included in either the House or Senate bills.

Lobbyists who support Flake’s measure say they expect DeLay to attach his language to any vehicle that is moving through Congress this year.

You did notice that DeLay is sticking in an amendment about trademark infringement into a defense bill, right? And that if he's thwarted this time, he'll be back again, like mold on a shower curtain, right? That says all you need to know about Tom DeLay.

(On a side note, we now know one of the House Judiciary Committee members who were complaining anonymously in the previous installment of this saga. The others are all Democrats, so they don't count as far as DeLay is concerned.)

Thanks as always to AJ Garcia for the tip.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on November 05, 2003 to Scandalized! | TrackBack