Charity Begins at Home

The libertarian Cato Institute, which has hosted DeLay as its guest on several occasions, is equally unhappy. "You want projects to stand or fall on their own merits," says Jerry Taylor, Cato's director of natural resource studies. "Once you get something like this designated for a stream of money, it's very hard to ever get rid of."

Taylor adds, "Every single section in the bill is corporate welfare. The unfortunate reality is that the Republican Party is not about free markets. It's about corporate welfare for people connected to the Republican Party."

DeLay shepherded the bill through the House. But it ran into trouble in the Senate, where a few conservatives joined with Democrats for a filibuster. Republicans were unhappy about the gratuitous pork. Democrats, meanwhile, loathed the provision that would protect oil companies from lawsuits over the gasoline additive MTBE, a carcinogen turning up in municipal water supplies. They indicated they would approve the bill only if the provision were dropped.

It was DeLay who pushed for the MTBE provision. When he refused to drop it, the entire bill stalled.

But while they lost the potential cash stream, Sugar Land leaders don't seem too upset. Plans are proceeding nicely, Wallace says. Howard sounds less confident, but he doesn't criticize DeLay. After all, it's never a good idea to mess with your district's sugar daddy.

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