Sunday, January 8. 2006
The Wichita Eagle's mild-mannered editorial cartoonist Richard Crowson hit paydirt today with his cartoon on Kansas Senator Sam Brownback's cozy relationship with super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff:
The hard-to-read words by the little dog in the lower right corner read: "Brownie, you're doing a heckuva job."
I've read reports that Kansas congressmen Todd Tiahrt and Jim Ryun have also been beneficiaries of Abramoff's largesse. Tiahrt is also notable as having been one of Tom DeLay's last ditch defenders. One interesting thing about the Abramoff scandal is that it has neatly divided Kansas' congressional Republicans into two groups: Abramoff's Republicans are the Jesus freaks, whereas those not implicated (Sen. Pat Roberts, Rep. Jerry Moran) are relatively sane conservatives -- deep in hock to agribusiness, but not likely to get caught up in schemes to train Jewish snipers in Israel's West Bank settlements, as Abramoff has done.
As far as I know, there's still no one working on running against Tiahrt in 2006. Tiahrt defeated longtime Democratic congressman Dan Glickman in 1994, benefitting from Newt Gingrich's "Contract with America" anti-Clinton groundswell and the anti-abortion organizing that followed Operation Rescue's "Summer of Mercy" campaign here in Wichita. He's been able to hold on since then by exploiting the usual advantages of incumbency, dominating the press, raising huge amounts of money, scaring off serious challengers. He got a particularly free ride in 2004, following the suicide of his teenage son, and probably has something like a million dollars on tap, to which he could easily add another million if need be. On the other hand, he's so far out on the right-wing fringe that he's out of step even here, and he's got a lot of dirty laundry piling up. DeLay and Abromoff, obviously, but he was point man on Boeing's $23 billion tanker scam, which has resulted in one Boeing executive doing jail time and others forced to resign. Meanwhile, Boeing sold off 80% of their Wichita business after sticking Kansas for $500 million in bonds. So he smells pretty ripe to me, but someone's going to have to run against him. Otherwise, our only hope is that the prosecutors nail him first.
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