Tom DeLay- Corporate Whore

DeLay Thanks Lobbyists With Vegas Trip
Golf Weekend, a Reward to Big Donors, Also Raises Funds

Based on information provided by aides to House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), a Sept. 22 article reported that DeLay had traveled to Las Vegas on a plane provided by Federal Express. DeLay flew on a Yona Aviation chartered flight.

By Juliet Eilperin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 22, 2000; Page A08

House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), legendary on Capitol Hill for his aggressive efforts to cultivate corporate interests, hit on a new way of rewarding his friends last weekend, flying more than 30 lobbyists to Las Vegas for a golf tournament and a round of partying.

The weekend, aimed at raising money for the whip's political action committee, was also described by DeLay aides as a reward to corporate donors who helped underwrite his activities at the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia this summer. DeLay raised roughly $1 million from corporations to help pay for chauffeur service for GOP lawmakers, a Blues Traveler rock concert and other activities.

The trip also offered a particularly pointed example of the freewheeling money culture that now dominates Capitol Hill, where DeLay and other lawmakers--of both parties--aggressively solicit large contributions from corporate interests and provide special access to those who pay the price.

United Parcel Service provided a chartered flight between Washington and Las Vegas for between 50 and 60 people--including lobbyists, top aides and political supporters--at DeLay's request, according to a company spokesman. DeLay flew separately on a Federal Express corporate jet. Lobbyists with the National Association of Manufacturers, the D.C. law firm Verner, Liipfert, Bernhard, McPherson and Hand, and the National Association of Convenience Stores were among those present for the weekend.

The weekend included a late-night party Saturday in DeLay's suite at the Rio Hotel and Casino, which featured a living room, bar and hot tub on the balcony. DeLay was not present, aides said; the event was hosted by his daughter, Dani Ferro, the campaign manager for DeLay's reelection campaign. After the party, Ferro told associates that a lobbyist poured champagne on her while she was in the hot tub.

Ferro did not return calls seeking comment yesterday, and aides said DeLay would not comment.

DeLay is by no means the only lawmaker who has entertained donors on a lavish scale; the congressional campaign committees of both parties have hosted events such as Colorado ski weekends or trips to Hyannisport, Mass. Still, the DeLay festivities, first reported yesterday in Roll Call newspaper, drew sharp criticism from public watchdog groups.

"It says what every American fears about how business is done in Washington," said Common Cause legislative director Meredith McGehee. "This kind of reciprocal favors, back-scratching and wining and dining sends a clear message. If you're not in the inner circle, your cares and concerns get left off the agenda."

DeLay aides said there was nothing wrong with the event. "It was an effort to thank those who had taken part in our convention activities," said DeLay deputy chief of staff Tony Rudy, who made the trip.

Jim Ellis, executive director of DeLay's PAC, Americans for a Republican Majority, said DeLay organized the trip to raise money and accommodate some donors to the GOP convention who had not been able to participate in the golf tournament there. Some participants paid $5,000 and the weekend netted $50,000, Ellis said, adding that it cost roughly $20,000 to sponsor.

UPS spokesman Ted Segal said the company donated the plane as an "in-kind" contribution to DeLay's PAC and was still tabulating the costs based on comparable commercial flights. He added that the contribution would likely range between $30,000 to $50,000.

"From time to time we do get requests from different members on both sides of the aisle. When it works out, we're happy to provide it," he added. He said the company has lent its 727 planes "a couple of times" to Democrats and Republicans alike.

Lindsay Hutter, spokeswoman for the National Association of Convenience Stores, said her group's director of political affairs, Dan Mulvaney, attended the event in recognition of the $50,000 contribution the association made to the convention package of DeLay and Chief Deputy Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.).

"It was a trip to say, 'Gosh, thanks. We're part of the political process and we want to share in the celebration of an event people were very proud of," Hutter said, adding that the association made similar contributions to the Democratic convention.

Several members of the group, including Blunt and some lobbyists, also attended a fundraiser on behalf of Nevada state Sen. Jon Porter, who is challenging Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley.

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