|Tom DeLay- Corporate Whore|
By Mike AllenWashington Post Staff WriterWednesday, December 29, 2004; Page A04
House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert is leaning toward removing the House ethics committee chairman, who admonished House Majority Leader Tom DeLay this fall and has said he will treat DeLay like any other member, several Republican aides said yesterday.
Although Hastert (Ill.) has not made a decision, the expectation among leadership aides is that the chairman, Rep. Joel Hefley (R-Colo.), long at odds with party leaders because of his independence, will be replaced when Congress convenes next week.
The aides said a likely replacement is Rep. Lamar S. Smith, one of DeLay's fellow Texans, who held the job from 1999 to 2001. Smith wrote a check this year to DeLay's defense fund. An aide said Smith was favored for his knowledge of committee procedure.
Republicans are bracing for the possibility that DeLay, who is the chamber's second-ranking Republican and holds enormous sway over lawmakers, could be indicted by a Texas grand jury conducting a campaign finance investigation that the party contends is politically motivated.
The effort by DeLay and his allies to preserve his leadership post, even if he faces criminal charges, is one of the most sensitive issues facing Republicans as the new Congress begins. If Hefley is replaced by Smith, it is another signal by House leaders that they will stand by DeLay. "It certainly seems they're circling the wagons," said a GOP staff member who declined to be identified.
The aides said the stated reason for Hefley's removal is likely to be that it is time for him to rotate off the committee after serving as chairman since January 2001. An aide to Hefley declined to comment.
Hefley, a conservative, was co-author of an October letter saying that certain DeLay actions "went beyond the bounds of acceptable conduct." A committee report said DeLay broke no House rules.
The chairman told the Denver Post in July and reported in October that he would handle charges against the leader "in the ethics committee like I would handle anything else."
Hefley took the job reluctantly, and the post is considered undesirable among lawmakers. Hefley represents Colorado Springs, home to more than 20 evangelical organizations, including Focus on the Family, the large Christian enterprise run by James Dobson.
Also yesterday, the House ethics committee announced an investigation into a Democrat's release of the transcript of a secretly recorded 1997 telephone conversation among GOP leaders concerning then-Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.). It is the committee's first new inquiry in nine months. House officials said the committee is likely to seek a deposition of the member, Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.). In October, he lost a federal court ruling that could force him to pay $600,000 to Rep. John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), who sued McDermott for releasing the call.
On another matter, the watchdog group Democracy 21 called on the committee to investigate whether House members had received improper gifts from lobbyist Jack Abramoff. The request cited a Washington Post report Monday that Abramoff made luxury skyboxes available to lawmakers, including Rep. John T. Doolittle (R-Calif.).
“ I don't think there is enough money in the system today.”
“It never ceases to amaze me that people are so cynical they want to tie money to issues, money to bills, money to amendments.”
“The EPA, the Gestapo of government pure and simple, has been one of major claw hooks that the government maintains on the backs of our constituents.”
WHAT TEXAS NEWPAPERS ARE SAYING ABOUT TOM DELAY
Headline: “DeLay seems to think the rules don't apply to him” Houston Chronicle, 10/9/04
“Like many powerful congressional figures before him, DeLay has overreached. He has used his power for self-aggrandizement and ruthless partisanship. And he has scoffed at the law, House rules and simple propriety. DeLay has abused his position and embarrassed the House.” Austin American-Statesman, 10/10/04
“When you add those rulings to the two warnings Mr. DeLay drew during the 1990s for retaliating against a lobbyist and soliciting contributions on federal property, the man's got a problem. …It smacks of a pattern of abuse. Worse, it reveals a contempt for how the House should work.” Dallas Morning News, 10/12/04
WHAT NATIONAL MEDIA ARE SAYING ABOUT TOM DELAY
“The day after the ethics ruling, DeLay was back on the fund-raising trail…” Newsweek, 10/18/04
“Rep. DeLay must step down from his position as House Majority Leader. He has shown that he is incapable of upholding the high standards necessary for House leadership.” Allentown (PA) Morning Call, October 11, 2004
“If he had any ethics, he would step down.” Wilmington (NC) Morning Star, 10/11/04
“[DeLay’s] angry reaction to being admonished by his peers shows that DeLay is too arrogant to mend his ways.” Chicago Tribune, 10/11/04
“House Majority Leader Tom DeLay is a national embarrassment and should resign his leadership position, if not his office.” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 10/10/04
“Instead of bristling and sputtering, House Republicans should be asking themselves whether House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas, rebuked twice in seven days by his chamber's ethics committee, has become an unaffordable liability for them.” Denver Post, 10/11/04
“[It] shows a dismaying pattern of abusing official authority in pursuit of personal interests and purely partisan concerns.” Louisville Courier-Journal, 10/9/04
“The bipartisan rebuke is extraordinary, but it hardly puts to rest Mr. DeLay's use of power as a partisan cudgel.” New York Times, 10/8/04
“It’s taken too long, but House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's shady ethics may finally be catching up to him.” Washington Post, 10/8/04
Public Citizen Urges DeLay to Return the Funds and for the House Ethics Committee to Investigate This Alleged Violation
WASHINGTON -- December 6 -- House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) may have once again violated the rules of the House of Representatives, this time by accepting contributions to his legal defense fund from three registered lobbyists, according to an investigation by Public Citizen.
Under House rule XXV (5)(c)(3), registered lobbyists are prohibited from making contributions to a member’s legal defense fund. Yet Public Citizen’s investigation of the contributions made to DeLay’s Legal Expense Trust found three such contributions totaling $4,000:
Jeffrey Fedorchak of Impact Strategies, who donated $2,000 between April 1 and June 30, 2003. During that period, Fedorchak was registered as a lobbyist and his clients included Servicemaster Co. and Tuolumne Utilities District, according to U.S. Senate lobbying disclosure records.
Robert Odle Jr. of Weil Gotshal & Manges, who donated $1,000 between July 1 and Sept. 30, 2001. During that period, Odle was registered as a lobbyist for Nomura International, according to Senate records.
Vin Weber of Clark & Weinstock, who contributed $1,000 between July 1 and Sept. 30, 2001. During that period, Weber was registered as a lobbyist and his clients included the Greek government, Microsoft and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), Senate records show.
“Representative DeLay should promptly return these funds, and the House ethics committee should evaluate whether this was an intentional breach of House rules,” said Joan Claybrook, Public Citizen president. “Given the majority leader’s enormous power, Congress must ensure that other lobbyists with business before the House aren’t trying to curry favor by contributing to DeLay’s legal defense.”
Public Citizen also found three additional checks totaling $4,500 from Locke Liddell & Sapp and two of its lawyers. Locke Liddell & Sapp was a registered lobbying firm when those contributions were made in 2001. The firm of Becker & Poliakoff also made a $1,000 contribution in 2002, when it was a registered lobbying firm. However, it is unclear if House rules apply to firms and their non-registered employees in addition to individual, registered lobbyists.
Under House rules, donors may contribute a maximum of $5,000 per year to a legal defense fund, and contributions can be made by individuals, political action committees (PACs), and corporate and union treasuries.
Public Citizen’s probe also found that two corporations involved in an ongoing Texas district attorney’s investigation of alleged illegal campaign contributions into Texas state elections by PACs formed by DeLay also have contributed to DeLay’s legal defense fund.
Reliant Energy Inc. and Bacardi USA are alleged to have made the illegal contributions at the heart of the Texas prosecutor’s investigation. Bacardi has also been charged with making an unlawful political contribution. Public Citizen found that the two companies have contributed a total of $23,000 to help DeLay defray his legal costs.
“It’s ironic that the corporations financing the majority leader’s defense are the very same ones whose relationships with Mr. DeLay are being investigated,” said Frank Clemente, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch.
Three top DeLay aides, John Colyandro, Jim Ellis and Warren Robold, already have been indicted in the case. It has been speculated that DeLay himself may be the next target of the Texas grand jury.
DeLay’s legal fund was formed in 2000, soon after he was sued by Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.), the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. The lawsuit alleged that DeLay had violated the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) by engaging in money laundering and threatening legislative consequences to those who did not back Republican candidates or causes.
The Democrats dropped the lawsuit the following year. But the death of the legal action did not mean the demise of DeLay’s legal fund, which has continued to survive and even prosper. A complete analysis of DeLay’s Legal Expense Trust and background on his previous violations of House Rules is posted on Public Citizen’s Web site, http://www.DethroneDeLay.org.
Major findings of an analysis of the more than $748,471 contributed to DeLay’s legal fund since 2001 include:
A state-by-state breakdown shows that the largest amounts were contributed by donors from ($233,200), Kentucky ($112,800), Virginia ($47,500), the District of Columbia ($46,000), Florida ($39,500), California ($35,850) and Missouri ($22,750). The sizable amount from Kentucky came from a fundraiser organized by Rep. Harold Rogers (R-Ky.), who is seeking DeLay’s support in his bid to become the new Appropriations Committee chairman.
Sixty-eight percent of the contributions ($507,496) came from corporations and their employees. Leading industry contributors were energy and natural resources ($107,300); construction ($80,800); finance, insurance and real estate ($45,290); communications and electronics ($44,250); and lawyers and lobbyists ($39,000).
Current and former members of Congress and their PACs contributed $178,000, or 24 percent, to DeLay’s legal fund. Leading the pack are Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), who contributed $20,000, Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.), who contributed $15,000, and Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R-Kan.), who contributed $10,000.
December 2, 2004
Reports yesterday confirmed House Majority Leader Tom DeLay took $100,000 from the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA)—a private prison company—at an August fund-raiser for his children's charity, the DeLay Foundation for Kids. CCA has a 20-year history of mismanagement and malfeasance and continues to lobby for a bill that would privatize up to half of the jails in the state of Texas. As one of Texas's leading politicians, and the chief architect of the behind-the-scenes campaign to redraw congressional boundaries in Texas that is now under grand jury investigation, DeLay's involvement with CCA is no accident.
DeLay's shady dealings with CCA are part of an ongoing pattern of unethical behavior in Washington and Texas. DeLay has been rebuked three separate times by the House Ethics Committee for improper fundraising methods and was caught last year using his children's charity as cover for collecting soft money for events at the Republican National Convention.
DeLay has no problem taking money from corporations in return for favorable access to the legislative process. CCA's "contribution" to DeLay was not by chance. In November 2003, Texas awarded the company a lucrative contract for the management of more than 8,300 beds in seven state prisons. Its lobbying effort to expand the share of state prison beds that can be privatized was thwarted last year only because of aggressive last-minute opposition from Texas's prison guards, who stood to absorb pay cuts of up to 40 percent.
Americans deserve to know all of DeLay's "charitable" donors and their legislative interests. Voters have a right to know whether their leaders are taking money from lobbyists, corporations, and other groups who have significant interests before Congress and state legislatures. Given DeLay's troubling ethical patterns, he should release the full list of donors to his charity for public review.
Daily Talking Points is a product of the American Progress Action Fund.