Thursday, January 05, 2006

The Cardinal of the Cloakroom?


It's served as plot fodder for a hundred "suspense" and "techno-thriller" novels, usually but not always dating from the Soviet era: A Russian mole is planted at the highest levels of government, bending American interests to Russian ends ... and he must be stopped before it's too late! In at least one case (I'm pretty, but not completely, sure it's Daniel Da Cruz's science-fictiony The Ayes of Texas, which features a Ross Perot-like Texas billionaire who leads the state into secession -- fun stuff), the mole is the Vice President of the United States.

But what if truth is stranger (although slightly more pedestrian) than fiction? Or, to be more precise, what if recently -- and possibly temporarily -- dethroned House Majority Tom DeLay (R-TX) is a Russian agent, or at least was in the late 1990s?

Yeah. I know what you're thinking. But ... but ...

Russ Baker lays it all out all nice, smooth and flat over at TomPaine.Com [hat tip to my compatriot Steve at RRND]. For all that the story flew way under the MSM radar in general, it did make the Washington Post's front page last Saturday.

Excerpted highlights:

The U.S. Family Network, a public advocacy group that operated in the 1990s with close ties to Rep. Tom DeLay and claimed to be a nationwide grass-roots organization, was funded almost entirely by corporations linked to embattled lobbyist Jack Abramoff .... Two former associates of Edwin A. Buckham, the congressman's former chief of staff and the organizer of the U.S. Family Network, said Buckham told them [$1 million funneled through a London law firm] came from Russian oil and gas executives. ... the lobbyist and Buckham had helped organize a 1997 Moscow visit by DeLay (R-Tex.). ... The former president of the U.S. Family Network said Buckham told him that Russians contributed $1 million to the group in 1998 specifically to influence DeLay's vote on legislation the International Monetary Fund needed to finance a bailout of the collapsing Russian economy. ... Buckham and DeLay were the dinner guests in Moscow of Marina Nevskaya and Alexander Koulakovsky of the oil firm Naftasib, which in promotional literature counted as its principal clients the Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of Interior. ... other dining companions were Abramoff and Washington lawyer Julius "Jay" Kaplan, whose lobbying firms collected $440,000 in 1997 and 1998 from an obscure Bahamian firm that helped organize and indirectly pay for the DeLay trip, in conjunction with the Russians. In disclosure forms, the stated purpose of the lobbying was to promote the policies of the Russian government. ... a Frederick, Md., pastor named Christopher Geeslin who served as the U.S. Family Network's director or president from 1998 to 2001, said Buckham further told him in 1999 that the payment was meant to influence DeLay's vote in 1998 on legislation that helped make it possible for the IMF to bail out the faltering Russian economy and the wealthy investors there.

A mouthful, and I left a lot out (fair use, you know). Some more factoids paraphrased from the Post story:

- Yes, DeLay lobbied hard for the Russia bailout.

- DeLay's wife "worked" for a connected firm to the tune of $3K+ per month for three years -- said "work" consisting of providing the firm with "lists of lawmakers' favorite charities."

- Part of the Russian money went into running ads against congressional Democrats in 1999.

- And some of it went into buying a townhouse to provide office space for, among others, Dick Armey's PAC, Americans for a Republican Majority.

Whodathunk? Weren't the Republicans the guys who spent the better part of the last decade lecturing us on the need to "restore honor and integrity" in Washington? And all but accusing Bill Clinton of holding down a part-time espionage gig for the Chinese when he wasn't busy holding down naked interns or, you know, being president and stuff?

Tom Clancy, your editor is on line one. Have at.

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