Sunday, May 21, 2006

Ryun's sweet deal, redux

132 D StreetA while back we were tracking a fascinating story about Congressman Jim Ryun and the house he bought at below market value from a lobbying group tied to Jack Abramoff and Tom Delay. He bought the house for $100,000 less than it would have been worth had it been listed on the market, and got that special deal from Ed Buckham, Tom Delay's former chief of staff and the head of several Abramoff linked groups, all of which operated out of the townhouse. While the DC housing market boomed, the townhouse sold for less than Buckham paid for it two years earlier.
At last, the Capital Journal got Ryun to comment on the issue:
Despite a decade of Washington under his belt, Ryun struggled to explain how a seasoned lawmaker could innocently find himself mentioned in the same breath as Abramoff, Buckham and DeLay.

"I never met with (Abramoff) in my office," Ryun said. "I know (Buckham's) group. I mean, I knew who he was. I never met with him here."
The key words are "innocently." "in my office," and "here." It's easy to explain all of this if you don't need an innocent explanation and it's hardly credible to claim that he never met with the Majority Leader's chief of staff. He met with him, and presumably Abramoff, in restaurants, in other people's offices, at social events, and perhaps, a la Deep Throat, in parking garages.

This evasiveness only intensifies speculation about the possibility of quid pro quo. After this sweet deal, Ryun had a number of opportunities to join his colleagues in holding Tom Delay and Jack Abramoff up for public scrutiny, and he consistently backed Delay, rather than honest government.

Nancy Boyda is right to say that she "can't spend the time talking about this nonsense," there are bigger issues at hand. But corruption like this, like Duke Cunningham's or like Delay's money laundering, or his K Street Project are part of the pattern Boyda is fighting against. The problem is that the Congress is bought and paid for by industry and by insiders. It's Billy Tauzin protecting Big Pharma against the government negotiating prices on drugs, and turning around to work as a lobbyist for PhRMA, the industry's lobbyist. The problem is visible in a Congress that spends more time dealing with the language of the national anthem and raising taxes on teenagers than in finding ways to pay for an unnecessary war, institutional poverty and impending catastrophes like climate change or radicalism in the Muslim world.

As Nancy says, nothing will change until we change Congress.