Home / The UMass Connection: Conservative Tragic Heroes Tony Rudy and Brian Darling, and On the Other Side, Me

The UMass Connection: Conservative Tragic Heroes Tony Rudy and Brian Darling, and On the Other Side, Me

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The Alexander Strategy Group, a firm with “links to no fewer than three of the scandals” hitting Washington, will shut its doors at month’s end.

The lobbying firm had thrived since its founding in 1998 thanks largely to its close connections to former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX). Edwin A. Buckham, the former top DeLay aide who owns the company, confirmed the firm’s future with the Washington Post.

Buckham’s firm employed DeLay’s wife, Christine, for four years. It also benefited by working closely with Abramoff. Abramoff’s plea agreement mentioned his close ties to Tony Rudy, one of Buckham’s colleagues at ASG, identified in the court papers as “Staffer A.”

Rudy, a former DeLay aide, worked for Abramoff before joining ASG. According to the plea document, a political consulting firm run by Rudy’s wife allegedly received $50,000 in exchange for official actions Rudy took while working for DeLay.

A senior ASG employee, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, estimated that up to 50 percent of the firm’s clients probably would have abandoned the firm soon because of adverse publicity about the continuing investigations involving Rudy and Buckham.

The 12 lobbyists who now work at ASG — other than Rudy and Buckham — apparently intend to start a successor firm, to serve former ASG clients.

A little side note: I know Tony Rudy. He — along with Brian Darling, an aide to Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL), who was outed as the author of the memo suggesting that Republicans use the Terri Schiavo tragedy for political gain — were one-half of a quartet that led the conservatives in the University of Massachusetts student government in the late 1980s.

Things might have been more innocent in those days. I remember arguing with Tony, Brian and their colleagues about all things Reagan. But basically, I remember them as being fun, smart guys who happily wasted time in the campus center arcade, and weren’t against getting a beer.

Even then, we were rivals. In addition to their work in student government, Tony and Brian helped launch a conservative rag, The Minuteman, which had a not-always-friendly rivalry with the newspaper I helped edit, The Daily Collegian.

Now, some 17 years later, Tony Rudy and Brian Darling have become tragic heroes for the conservative noise machine. And I continue to fight it.

This item first appeared at Journalists Against Bush’s B.S.

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About David R. Mark

  • Wow I was just reading an article on the Tom Delay resignation and came across the name Tony Rudy. The name sounded so familiar that I googled it and came to your sigt. In 1985, I worked as a Campus Organizer for the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group (MassPirg). We actually shared office space with the Young Republicacns. Interesting that back then when MassPirg had to run a reaffirmation referendum on campus, Tony Rudy led the opposition campaign. I have no problem with opposition politics, it’s what this country is built on, but Tony Rudy and co. where found using less than honest campaign tactics ie. ripping down posters, feeding misinformation to the student body. I guess somethings, and some people, never change. Just think what might have happened if such an effective, motivated young man had used his powers for good.

  • Chris Alibrandi

    Same here. I saw the name “Tony Rudy”, googled it to see if he was the same one who went to UMass when I did and he was. I worked at SCERA (the Student Center for Educational Research and Advocacy)and remembered him well from his frequent attacks on progressive groups on campus. Looking back, many of us were were less critical and more emotional about our political views back then, but I didn’t know anyone on “the left” who was unprincipled. Unfortunately, I can’t say I’m surprised at the news of his unethical behaviors since the Young Republicans, of which he was a part, exhibited a willingness to do anything to win. I also found that bunch just personally obnoxious, very unlike other conservative students I knew whose views I disagreed with, but who I nonetheless respected.

  • Unlike the two, previous posters I actually knew Tony well at UMass/Amherst and remained in touch with him for a couple of years after we finished school. Also, I remain in semi-regular contact still, with Brian Darling. And I was quite an active participant in many of the antics and activities that made our small group simultaneously popular and notorious on campus. I don’t hesitate calling them both friends.

    This said, it is hardly surprising that I take exception to the piling on and rushing to judgment in which so many in the media are engaged, as if there aren’t multiple, plausible alternative scenarios other than those which appear in the Plea Agreement Tony entered into with the government. For example, was the government placing Tony’s wife in the balance, as a means to gain leverage on him? Would the gov. have been able to prove one necessary element in every conspiracy, Tony’s intent, had he elected to reject the government’s offer? Did Tony possibly enter his guilty plea having negotiated the terms of his Plea Agreement with the government to ensure for himself and his family (he has 3 young children) some measure of certainty re his sentence which, IF he were convicted would have been at least 5 years in prison (if not more had the government prosecuted him under the draconian edict spelled out in the infamous “Ashcroft Memo?”)?

    Any automatic assumption that one is actually guilty of charges to which he pleads guilty is an absurdity that is tragically lost on the public-at-large; a similarly absurd assumption is that our government does not charge, indict, prosecute and ultimately convict innocent people. Is the skeptical prism through which we should all look upon our government’s actions — especially when it comes to matters of crime and punishment — reserved only for cases in which the poor and those who are identified as members of victim staus groups are targeted for prosecution?

    Finally, while Tony and several of his colleagues are today’s hot story, rest assured that there are multiple other dozens in elected office (on both sides of the aisle) and on K Street whose business practices are consistent with those that are revealed in Tony’s Plea Agreement. And while this fact does not defend these practices as being legal or ethical — perhaps ironically in most cases they are legal and many they are unethical…go figure — it should, but doubtful will, send a wake-up call that our democracy is an illusion we prefer to the work required to restore it.

  • I met Tony, Brian and Gregg at UMass. They were interested in politics and energetic guys. They introduced me to the conservative movement and it was fun. UMass is liberal and it was good times debating the liberals….. I hope he’s innocent but time will tell.

    I enjoyed your article and I wish you the best.

    And yes, I support GW. Take care

  • Alan

    There is a very fine line between “lobbying” – influencing policy makers to favor your clients side of an issue, and being unethical or in Tony’s case possibly doing something illegal. It sounds bad because of the news attention and because the courts got involved, but it is not much different than what occurs everyday both in business and in gov’t.

    As a lobbyist you forge personal relationships, develop ties and then try and influence law makers. There is a lot of entertaining, inviting and “gifting” whether subtle or not. You could run half of Washington through the coals depending on how you decide to apply the law and to whom.

    Take what the first 2 posters wrote with a grain of salt — I mean who at an already completely liberal school who go and be an activist at the campus MassPIRG and SCERA but complete left-wing nuts. Remember at the time (late 80’s UMass) the leader of the student council was a self-proclaimed Comunist and member of the Amercian Communist Party. (disclaimer–Tony, Greg, Brian, Steve Lutz, Doug, etc. are some of my best friends).

  • Massasoit

    Tragic heroes? That’s giving these guys far too much credit. Tragic heroes are noble and are not responsible for the flaw that leads to their fall. These guys were (and are) gleefully unethical ideologues.

  • stoney

    Yes I remember Tony Very well at Umass, Often a Prankster, He would invite several of us to play golf, hed set the meeting place as the PGA office in the campus center, with our golf bags. Only to find out when we’d arrived that PGA was an acronym for “The Peoples Gay Alliance”. I must admit it was quite comical.. I introduced Tony, Brian Darling, Matt Whiting, Aram Hamparian, Tonys Brother and Dave Shafkowitz to my world “the Saturday night meetings of the Conservative Wing at Smith College”. Where any man in a suit and tie could get wined and dined all night…Those were the days.. Tony I bid you good fortune and I know deep down inside you are just being used as was I as a pawn in their game.