Forget “frothy”, Slimy is a better adjectivePosted: January 6, 2012
I really never thought we’d have to front page Rick Santorum. He’s a two term senator from Pennsylvania with more corruption and crazy problems than Newt Gingrich and Michelle Bachmann combined. Yesterday, TV news was full of reporters following the man around New Hampshire. I spent a bit of time on twitter trying to get them to ask relevant questions like “Do you regret your association with Jack Abramhoff?” It took a group of college students to get “man on dog”, sex-obsessed Santorum to get his freak on. He was heartily booed for suggesting gay marriage would lead to polygamy. Yes, Santorum’s culture war is probably his hallmark. That and his battle with Google and the man on dog sex attribution. Cannonfire has a piece up today on Santorum’s really weird brand of Catholicism. (Think Mel Gibson.) However, what really has me jumping up and down is the level of corruption that characterized Santorum’s years in the senate.
Santorum’s tenure includes a fake charity, a fake leadership PAC and a level of man on lobbyist coziness that would make Tom Delay blush. It actually makes me wonder why Santorum isn’t sharing a jail cell with Delay or wasn’t taken down during the Abramhoff scandal. When you Google Santorum, the results should read a slimy mixture of corruption and sanctimonious blather. Philly News Writer Will Bunch has a laundry list of Santorum’s shocking abuse of public office. It’s enough to make me mourn for the loss of Michelle Bachmann. She was just plain crazy. Santorum takes corruption to a whole ‘nother level. These are only Bunch’s top 5.
1. This compassionate Christian conservative founded a charity that was actually a bit of a scam. In 2001, following up on a faith-based urban charity initiative around the 2000 GOP convention in Philadelphia, Santorum launched a charitable foundation called the Operation Good Neighbor Foundation. While in its first few years the charity cut checks to community groups for $474,000, Operation Good Neighbor Foundation had actually raised more than $1 million, from donors who overlapped with Santorum’s political fund raising. Where did the majority of the charity’s money go? In salary and consulting fees to a network of politically connected lobbyists, aides and fundraisers, including rent and office payments to Santorum’s finance director Rob Bickhart, later finance chair of the Republican National Committee. When I reported on Santorum’s charity for The American Prospect in 2006, experts told me a responsible charity doles out at least 75 percent of its income in grants, and they were shocked to learn the figure for Operation Good Neighbor Fund was less than 36 percent. The charity – which didn’t register with the state of Pennsylvania as required under the law — was finally disbanded in 2007.
2. Likewise, a so-called “leadership PAC” created by Santorum that was supposed to fund other Republicans instead seemed to mostly pay for the lifestyle of Santorum and those around him. My investigation of the America’s Foundation PAC showed that only 18 percent of its money went to fund political candidates, less — and typically far less — than any other “leadership PACs.” What America’s Foundation did spend a lot on with what looked like everyday expenses, including 66 trips to the Starbucks in Santorum’s then hometown of Leesburg, Va., multiple fast-food outings and expenditures at Wal-Mart, Target and Giant supermarkets. Campaign finance experts said the PAC’s expenses – paid for by donations from wealthy businessmen and lobbyists – were “unconventional,” at best and arguably not legal. Santorum also funded his large Leesburg “McMansion” with a $500,000 mortgage from a private bank run by a major campaign donor, in a program that was only supposed to be open to high-wealth investment clients in the trust, which Santorum was not, and closed to the general public.
3. Santorum was never above mingling his cultural crusades with the everyday work of raising political cash. In 2005, Santorum made headlines – not all positive – for visiting the deathbed of Terri Schiavo, the woman at the center of a national right-to-die controversy.What my Philadelphia Daily News colleague John Baer later exposed was that the real reason he was in the Tampa, Fla., area was to collect money at a $250,000 fundraiser organized by executives of Outback Steakhouses, a company that shared Santorum’s passion for a low minimum wage for waitresses and other rank-and-file workers. Santorum’s efforts were also aided by his unusual mode of travel: Wal-Mart’s corporate jet. And he canceled a public meeting on Social Security reform “out of respect for the Schiavo family” even as the closed fundraisers went on.
4. Santorum didn’t seem to be against government waste when it came to his family. During his years in the Senate, Santorum raised his family in northern Virginia and rarely if ever seemed to use the small house that he claimed as his legal residence, in a blue-collar Pittsburgh suburb called Penn Hills. So Pennsylvania voters were shocked when they found out the Penn Hills School District had paid out $72,000 for the home cyberschooling of five of Santorum’s kids, hundreds of miles away in a different state. The cash=strapped district was unsuccessful in its efforts to get any of its money back from Santorum.
5. Washington’s lobbyist culture — Santorum was soaking in it. The ex-Pennsylvania senator spent much of his final years in government trying to downplay and defend his involvement in the so-called “K Street Project,” an effort created by GOP uber-lobbyist and tax-cutting fanatic Grover Norquist and future felon and House majority whip Tom DeLay. By all accounts, Santorum was the Senate’s “point man” on the K Street Project and he met with Norquist — at least occasionally and perhaps frequently — to discuss the effort to sure that Republicans were landing well-paying jobs in lobbying firms that were seeking to then access and influence other Republicans.
Marcus Stern and Kristina Cooke at Reuters remind us that Santorum was knee deep in the excesses of the K Street Project. What I wonder is if this information will come out soon enough to stop Santorum’s momentum? Santorum has so many questionable ties to lobbyists that it’s hard to come away from any reading of articles about him not feeling the need for a shower. It’s not just his senatorial past that is in question, however. This particular item is from his current antics as a lobbyist. Santorum has made his millions in the last few years on deals like this.
For example, his million-dollar-plus 2010 income included payments from a lobbying firm, an energy company engaged in controversial “hydrofracking” and a hospital conglomerate that was sued for allegedly defrauding the federal government.
Again, his past is even more fraught with behavior that looks a lot like being a senator for hire. So much for hyper-morality.
But the rubric “K Street Project” came to encompass the entire climate of cozy cooperation between Republicans and lobbyists.
When Republicans won control of the House in 1994, House Majority Leader Tom Delay and others organized regular meetings with lobbyists that reviewed K Street job openings with an eye toward filling them with party loyalists, who would in turn steer support and donations to the members.
By 2001, Sen. Santorum was also holding one-hour breakfast meetings with lobbyists on alternating Tuesday mornings at 8:30 a.m.
In 2004 he denied being involved with Norquist’s effort to staff K Street. But Santorum convened Senate Republicans to discuss the appointment of Democrat Dan Glickman as head the Motion Picture Association, according to Roll Call, a newspaper covering Capitol Hill.
“Yeah, we had a meeting, and yeah, we talked about making sure that we have fair representation on K Street. I admit that I pay attention to who is hiring, and I think it’s important for leadership to pay attention,” he told the paper at the time.
In 2006, as the influence-peddling scandal that sent lobbyist Jack Abramoff to jail unfolded, Santorum said he was ending the breakfasts in his conference room. However, his staff confirmed to Washington newspapers that they resumed almost immediately, on the same day and at the same time, at a location off the Capitol grounds.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington named Santorum among three “most corrupt” senators in 2005 and 2006. The 2006 report accuses Santorum of “using his position as a member of Congress to financially benefit those who have made contributions to his campaign committee and political action committee.”
Despite a number of denials, there is evidence that Santorum and Abramhoff had met on the infamous Marianas Islands scam. I wrote about this last March. It is a horrifying example of modern slavery. The story includes all kinds of immoralities like forced prostitution and abortions of young girls that were supposedly hired to work in garment factories in this US commonwealth territory that is not covered by US labor laws. The Delay Republicans held the associate companies up as beacons of capitalism. Abramhoff says that he didn’t have any associations with Santorum but Roll Call and other sources show quite the opposite story.
Within months of leaving the Senate, Mr. Santorum joined the board of Universal Health Services, where he collected $395,000 in director’s fees and stock options before resigning last year. He also became a consultant to Consol Energy, after years of advocating drilling and extraction policies helpful to the company, a Pennsylvania gas and coal producer. And he consulted for the American Continental Group, a lobbying firm whose clients won earmarks he sponsored.
Its hard to reconcile this level of prostitution with a morality crusader, isn’t it? But, there it is and if you goggle Santorum’s name and add lobbyist, corruption, K Street or any other number of combinations that go beyond the frothy mix definition, you’ll see the vast documentation. It’s hard to imagine the tea party diehards getting behind a man with this kind of background. Even Bill O’Reilly took issue with Santorum’s views on the rights of states to outlaw contraception with Santorum’s odd explanation that contraception put things out of the proper ‘order’. Every thing about Santorum screams odd and narcissistic.
There’s been a reason that this man has been scraping along the bottom of the Republican presidential wannabe heap for some time. My only hope is that when he is sent packing, that nearly every politician will want to avoid the stench and that will put an end to Santorum’s lucrative lobbying career as well. In the mean time, get ready for a few weeks of the puppy dog press following Santorum around New Hampshire and South Carolina asking banal questions when they should be shouting “show us your ill-got money”. This guy may have had a coal miner grandfather, but he’s a total gold digger now. What’s worse? One man and one dog or one Senator and an army of lobbyists? Evangelical Republicans, you’ve been Rick-Rolled!
I apologize to any earth worms I may have unintentionally insulted by the title of this thread.