Washington Babylon — December 11, 2008, 9:48 am

Eric Cantor: Friend of the little people

One of the more amusing story lines coming out of the elections is that the Republican Party, which previously had been committed to core beliefs like small government and protecting ordinary taxpayers, somehow lost its way in recent years and became beholden to special interest groups and big donors. This is mythology. The G.O.P. took control of congress in 1994 with the help of lavish funding from the business community and then sought to implement programs–deregulation, reducing taxes on the wealthiest Americans, and so forth–desired by its financial sponsors.

Yet there was the Washington Post today with a fawning profile of Congressman Eric Cantor, the incoming Republican House whip and “conservative bulwark”:

He’s the only Jewish Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives and his party has lost so many seats to the Democrats that he talks of life in the political “wilderness.” In those minority-party woods, Cantor searches for a way out, for a way to turn irrelevancy into relevancy. He talks about creating a new kind of Republican conservative, one less concerned with ideology and more focused on practical solutions, more tech-savvy and less reflexively combative with Democrats, intolerant of ethical lapses and tolerant of new ideas. And especially one who communicates better to the middle class.

Eric Cantor as change agent, reformer and champion of Jack and Jill Lunchbucket?

During the past decade, Cantor has raised about $12.6 million, of which roughly 93 percent came from business groups. The primary industries contributing to his campaigns are real estate, securities and investment, lawyers and health professionals. With his seat on the House Ways and Means Committee, Cantor had direct jurisdiction over issues like taxes and health care. Those donors didn’t dish out all that money because Cantor was regularly voting against their interests.

Cantor also routinely dipped into his political funds to subsidize his lifestyle. For example, in the fall of 2005, he charged his political funds more than $42,000 to sponsor a fundraiser for top donors at the Beverly Hills Hotel and Bungalows. His financial sponsors also got a tour of the Warner Bros.

Cantor has also enjoyed close relationships with a variety of lobbyists, including Jack Abramoff. At a January 2003 fundraiser held at Stacks, Abramoff’s restaurant, Abramoff introduced the Eric Cantor sandwich, “a tuna-based stacker.” At Cantor’s request, Abramoff subsequently changed the contents of his eponymous sandwich to roast beef on challah, “a deli special that exudes Jewish power,” reported The Hill. Guests at the fundraiser each contributed $500 to Cantor. This is the man who will return the G.O.P. to its roots?

On second thought, perhaps he is.

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I sat in a taxi with Emma and her son, Stak, all three bodies muscled into the rear seat, and the boy checked the driver’s I.D. and immediately began to speak to the man in an unrecognizable language.

I conferred quietly with Emma, who said he was studying Pashto, privately, in his spare time. Afghani, she said, to enlighten me further.

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