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A review of *The Big Buy: Tom Delays Stolen Congress (NR)

click to enlarge Tom Delay: The Hammer has fallen.
  • Tom Delay: The Hammer has fallen.

*The Big Buy: Tom Delay's Stolen Congress (NR)
When former Republican majority leader Tom DeLay gave his farewell address to the U.S. House of Representatives last week, the familiar smash of The Hammer echoed throughout the nation's hallowed chamber.

Indicted for money-laundering in Texas, rebuffed no less than four times by the House Ethics Committee, exposed as a close friend of crooked lobbyist Jack Abramoff and implicated in numerous charges of bullying and unethical campaign practices, DeLay expressed nothing but contempt for all the charges aimed at him.

For a searing examination of why we should care about The Hammer's tactics or his hemorrhaging political career, look no further than Mark Birnbaum and Jim Schermbeck's documentary The Big Buy, due to be screened on Tuesday, June 27 in Colorado Springs.

Opening with black-and-white shots of familiar Washington monuments, the film proceeds with a voiceover narrative of DeLay's stunning 1994 interview in which he outlines his plan for America:

"We're going to completely redesign our government. Let's get rid of the Department of Education, HUD, OSHA. We'll zero out the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and we'll enjoy doing it. By the time we finish this poker game, there might not be a federal government left, which would suit me just fine."

The Big Buy outlines with precision and sober reflection exactly how DeLay proceeded to accomplish his goal by raising $1.6 million through his political action committee, buying the 2002 Texas elections, pushing through the redistricting of the Texas political map and gaining five dedicated Republican seats in Congress.

Local Texans from DeLay's district, just south of Houston, muse over their congressman's hypocrisy: "telling people at a Baptist church they should vote for Godly candidates" just before taking a junket to Las Vegas and getting in trouble for over-the-top public partying.

Political columnists Molly Ivins and Jim Hightower recount how DeLay jumped on the religious right bandwagon when it suited his needs and "perfected the dark art of raising corporate funds to push forward his own personal political agenda."

What DeLay apparently didn't count on was the velvet hammer of Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, a quiet, principled lawman who determined the Congressman's fundraising schemes were illegal and he had to be prosecuted.

Earle talks to the filmmakers as he drives through the streets of Austin, calmly explaining that according to long-held state statutes, donating corporate funds to political campaigns, as DeLay orchestrated through his PAC, is a felony in Texas.

Earle is the film's most appealing character, a plain-spoken man who believes that DeLay's actions are equivalent to theft and robbery, and that his lack of contrition will ultimately bring him down.

"These folks have come in and used big money to try and buy democracy," Earle observes, pointing out nearly a half-million dollars in corporate contributions that weren't reported to the state.

Among those ultimately indicted, along with DeLay and his aides, are Bacardi, Cracker Barrel and several other national corporations that paid as much as $25,000 for face time with DeLay in exchange for political favors.

The Big Buy outlines one of the nation's most egregious power grabs, and sadly illustrates a system of lobbying and corporate interests that has been fatally corrupted by the strident ambition of leaders like Tom DeLay.


The Big Buy: Tom DeLay's Stolen Congress

Screening sponsored by El Paso County Democratic Party

IBEW Local #113, 2150 Naegale Road

Tuesday, June 27, 6 p.m.$10 at tomdelaymovie.com, $12 at the door

Call 473-8713 or email dennis@peakdems.org for reservations.

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