Morning Report 3/15/05The Shots Heard ‘Round the World


CAN’T WAIT FOR Thursday’s testimony by baseball czar Bud Selig before the House Government Reform Committee, whose GOP chair, Tom Davis, continually stifles probes of the Bush regime’s Iraq debacle.

Count on Selig to give us the scoop: In one of his side jobs, the former Milwaukee used-car salesman (his daddy’s business) is a board member of the biggest producer of kitty litter in the world, Oil-Dri.

Back when the Voice had sports pages, I would occasionally comb through SEC filings to find nasty clumps of Selig’s notorious conflicts of interests—he also was a baseball owner appointed by the other owners to be commissioner, but he denied that that was a conflict of interest. Selig is practically a poster boy for corporate America’s boardroom shenanigans. As I reported in May 2002:

In 1996, for instance, Selig’s car-leasing company got $80,608 from Oil-Dri while Bud was the chairman of Oil-Dri’s executive-compensation and stock-option committees. In the 2001 fiscal year, Selig got an “annual retainer” of $10,000 from Oil-Dri, not counting thousands in other fees for chairing the compensation and stock-option committees. He also received an option to purchase 10,000 shares of stock—while he helped decide which company officers also got stock options.

Oil-Dri makes out, too: As a result of a recent deal, it now furnishes the soil additives used to groom the diamonds of several MLB teams, including Selig’s Milwaukee Brewers. Conflict of interest? What’s that?

Meanwhile, who’s sifting through the foul excreta of our Iraq misadventure? One of the best is the ranking Democrat, Henry Waxman, on the very same committee that’s getting ready to hold the dog-and-pony D.C. show on steroids.

Waxman’s one of the few elected officials of either party on Capitol Hill who’s thoroughly probing the Bush regime. And that’s a tough job, given the administration’s penchant for keeping things secret. That secrecy itself was the subject of a Waxman report. As I noted last September:

The feisty Waxman’s Government Reform Committee Minority Office is one congressional operation that’s still functioning. Particularly handy, especially now, is Iraq on the Record, a March 2004 catalog of “a searchable collection of 237 specific misleading statements about the threat posed by Iraq” made by Bush, Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, and Condoleezza Rice.

Talking about another war, Martin Luther King Jr. told us in 1967: “We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now.”

And since Congress is still generally silent on the subject of the current war—that legislative branch done fell off that tree—”now” is still now. There’s still a fierce urgency, even though most D.C. pols are blind to it.

Except for a few who go out on limbs. Waxman is one of a handful of Democrats (and this doesn’t include the party’s lame designated hitters, Kerry and Edwards) who churn hard facts into investigative reports. I’ll take Waxman’s minority reports on the POTUS dickhead any day of the week over the CruiseSpielberg film version of the short story Minority Report, beloved by Dickheads like myself.

Just for one example, look at the Waxman crew’s Iraq Contracting investigations page.

The cruelest joke in this current Congressional obsession with the relatively unimportant steroid controversy is that Waxman and his posse also tried to bring to public attention the idiotic move last year by the House, which governs the politics of the nation’s poorest large city—our capital, D.C.—to allow assault weapons in D.C. Read the Waxman riff on that controversy.

On the other hand, what better group than Congress to “investigate” steroid use by baseball players? Only last year, baseball owners endeared themselves to the Run-D.C. crackas by moving a major-league team there. It was a monumental case of corporate welfare—milking D.C.’s poor (who are desperate for housing, food, and reasonable pay for cleaning up after rich people) to pay for a new stadium with luxury boxes that will be flooded with lobbyists and congressmen. Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post did a rip-roaring job on this scam. See my Bush Beat item “Playing Ball in D.C.” from last October for details.

On Thursday, Henry Waxman will go along with this p.r. “probe” of steroids; he’s a savvy congressman who picks his battles. But don’t get distracted. Go to his minority crew’s investigations page and fuel your rage the legal way.

You might want to acquaint yourself with the brewing oil-for-slush scandal. As Waxman notes, Congress has not held a single hearing on it.