|Tom DeLay- Corporate Whore|
Exhibits from a civil trial reveal potential illegality and influence peddling
BY JAKE BERNSTEIN
Unlike other organizations, your corporate contributions to TRMPAC will be put to productive use,” reads the document subpoenaed from Texans for a Republican Majority Executive Director John Colyandro. It’s one of hundreds of exhibits offered into evidence for a recent civil trial—and presumedly, presented to the Travis County grand jury for its ongoing criminal investigation as well. The political brochure—paid for with corporate money—was aimed at donors to the Tom DeLay-founded PAC, and titled “TRMPAC GOALS.”
What, you may ask, made TRMPAC so “productive” that it could accomplish what “other” political organizations had been unable to do in a century of political campaigning?
It continues: “Rather than just paying for overhead, your support will fund a series of productive and innovative activities designed to increase our level of engagement in the political arena.”
Specifically, TRMPAC took corporate money in 2002 from companies with business before the Texas Legislature or the U.S. Congress and used it for fund-raising, phone banks, polling, and campaign support for individual state candidates. The interpretation of what constituted legal administrative expenses—up until now—consisted primarily of items such as rent, utilities, and clerical needs. Spending corporate or union money on candidates has been illegal in Texas since 1905, when farsighted legislators recognized that if the vast treasuries of corporations and unions were applied to elections, they could easily overwhelm our democratic system.
All told, TRMPAC spent $1.5 million, of which more than $600,000 was undeclared corporate money. (The PAC’s use of corporate cash went unreported to the Texas Ethics Commission.) TRMPAC documents, entered as exhibits during a week-long civil trial brought by losing Democratic candidates that ended March 4, refer to the historic opportunity that presented itself in 2002. (At press time, Senior District Judge Joe Hart, before whom the case was tried, had yet to reach a verdict.) Redistricting in 2001 had created new, solidly Republican House districts. And a number of corporate interests were bursting with pent-up desire for goodies past legislatures had failed to bestow.
And then there was Representative Tom Craddick (R-Midland). (See “Scandal in the Speaker’s Office,” Feb. 27, 2004.) Documents from the trial reveal that Craddick was intimately involved in TRMPAC activities: distributing checks, accepting corporate donations, attending fundraisers, reviewing prospective candidates, and talking with contributors. He did all of this while running for speaker of the Texas House, the crown on a 34-year legislative career. Craddick’s participation in the TRMPAC campaign may have violated a Texas statute designed to prevent outsiders from influencing a race to elect House speaker and a speaker candidate from trading favors for votes. Craddick’s attorney Roy Minton argues that no laws were broken and that all Craddick did was try to get Republicans elected, which he had been doing for 34 years.
An e-mail—one of several—from TRMPAC corporate fundraiser Warren Robold gives a glimpse of how the PAC saw Craddick’s involvement. Robold wrote Drew Maloney, a former DeLay legislative director turned lobbyist, on the eve of a Craddick visit to Washington, D.C. The e-mail hints that the selling point for corporate funders is Craddick as “the likely next Speaker.” Robold suggests that someone from the Kansas-based energy giant, Koch Industries, might be interested in meeting Craddick. (It’s not clear if the meeting ever happened.) The match would make sense. Charles Koch is a founding member of the Cato Institute and a big campaign donor. (The company’s PAC gave $3,000 to TRMPAC in 2002 and $913,359 in corporate money to federal Republican candidates, according to TPJ and the Center for Responsive Politics.) In recent years, Koch’s facilities in Texas have been fined millions of dollars for environmental and safety violations.
The thread that runs through the TRMPAC scandal is the appearance of influence peddling. Unlike other organizations, TRMPAC often spelled out exactly what corporate contributors might expect for their donations. (See “Rate of Exchange,” March 12, 2004.) In another e-mail exchange, Robold asks Maloney for the names of companies facing asbestos liability claims that might support TRMPAC. (Five months after the election, the Fort Worth Star Telegram reported that the state of Texas hired Maloney for a sizeable fee to lobby on its behalf in the nation’s Capitol. The Texas Office of State Federal Relations confirms that Maloney is still working with the agency.) Tort reformers, who wanted to liberate companies from civil lawsuit damages, were a major force in the TRMPAC coalition. Although Speaker Craddick and the TRMPAC majority in the House passed a mammoth tort reform measure in 2003, tort reformers couldn’t surmount opposition to asbestos “reform” in the Senate. They are trying again this session.
Maloney also relates in his e-mails that he will be delivering “2 checks from Reliant” to “TD” (Tom DeLay). The circumstances under which DeLay sealed the Reliant deal earned him a rebuke from the U.S. House ethics committee in 2004. In early June 2002, DeLay held a two-day golf tournament at the Homestead resort in Hot Springs, Virginia. The cost of attending the event was a corporate contribution of $25,000 to $50,000. Five energy companies were invited by Maloney to attend: El Paso Corp., Mirant, Reliant Energy, Westar Energy, and Williams Companies. (DeLay’s dealings with Westar would earn a separate rebuke from the committee.) The golfing took place just before a House-Senate conference on an omnibus energy bill. (It’s understandable why, four months later, Maloney would complain about Reliant’s tardiness.) The Homestead event was supposed to benefit equally TRMPAC and DeLay’s Americans for a Republican Majority (ARMPAC), according to an e-mail from an ARMPAC staffer to TRMPAC’s accountant.
The Majority Leader has insisted that there was no relationship between the solicited money and any actions to influence the legislative process in Congress. Furthermore, DeLay has claimed—while lashing out at Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle—that he had no more than an advisory role in TRMPAC. Still, it’s not hard to see why the Williams Company might be confused about where to send the check and who was in charge (see here ).
If Tom DeLay set the tone for TRMPAC, Mike Toomey may have been a key player in keeping the operation moving forward on the ground. (Toomey refused to comment for this article.) During the civil trial, political consultant Chuck McDonald testified about regular meetings between himself, Colyandro, Texas Association of Business (TAB) President Bill Hammond, and then-lobbyist Toomey. Together they coordinated aid to the 23 candidates that the corporate-backed campaign had decided to support. “If they [TRMPAC] were doing something in a race, then the TAB effort could be expended elsewhere,” testified McDonald.
Toomey, who would go on to be the governor’s chief of staff after the election, was a TAB board member during the campaign. It may not surprise his adversaries—he is known in some quarters of the Capitol as “the Knife”—that Toomey had a role in hiring a private investigator to dig for dirt on Democratic candidates in 2002. The total amount paid for this service was $4,412.53, according to the Houston Chronicle. It is not clear whether or not TRMPAC paid for the service with corporate “soft” dollars as an “administrative” expense. Less than a week later, Colyandro also sent an e-mail advising the TRMPAC accountant, Russell Anderson, to cut a check to Toomey for $444 in corporate “soft” money for “office copies.”
Hammering away at House ethics
A Times Editorial
Published March 28, 2005
Now that Republicans have stripped the U.S. House ethics committee of its chairman, its staff and its investigative punch, The Hammer is chewing nails again. Tom DeLay, the ethically challenged House majority leader from Texas, says he's eager to appear before the committee and address the "fiction and innuendo" about his latest travel capers.
One small problem. The committee, at this point, exists only on paper.
Though DeLay characterizes his problems as the "partisan politics of personal destruction," the three members who were unceremoniously removed from the committee were all Republicans. They had dared to vote last fall, along with Democrats on the committee, to admonish DeLay for three of his latest stunts: seeking campaign donations from a Kansas electric company while the House energy committee was considering a relevant bill; pressuring FAA officials to help track Texas Democratic lawmakers who left the state to prevent a vote on redistricting; and offering to endorse the congressional candidacy of U.S. Rep. Nick Smith's son if Smith would reverse his vote on Medicare prescription drugs. The committee further advised DeLay that it is "clearly necessary for you to temper your future action."
Temperance is not what earned DeLay the "Hammer" nickname, however. So the Washington Post recently added two more entries to his ethics ledger. DeLay, it seems, jetted off to South Korea on the dime of foreign agents - in direct violation of House rules. And an Indian tribe and gambling operation picked up the tab for a lavish trip to Britain in which DeLay managed to play the famed St. Andrews golf course in Scotland; two months later he voted to kill a bill that restricted Internet gambling.
These latest reports only add to the DeLay legend, and a Texas grand jury may trump them all. Three of DeLay's associates already have been indicted in what prosecutors claim was a political money laundering scheme that funneled corporate money into Texas campaigns, in direct violation of state law. How has DeLay responded? By collecting $1-million from special interest groups, and two new members of the House ethics committee, to seed his own legal defense fund.
DeLay, who is in his 11th term in office, responds to every new finding by blaming Democrats, as though they helped him tee up his ball at St. Andrews. Missed in his shrill partisan attacks is the fact that Republicans are now the ones who are suffering. To cover up his deeds, the House now has rendered its own ethics committee mute. No wonder he's thumping his chest again.
A Wall Street Journal editorial attacked Travis County, Texas, District Attorney Ronnie Earle as "a partisan Democrat" who "has a record of making suspect accusations." But as Media Matters for America has documented on numerous occasions, accusations of Earle's partisanship (which the Journal has made before) are not supported by his record of prosecutions, which consists of far more Democrats than Republicans.
In September 2004, Earle indicted three top fund-raisers and eight corporate contributors to the Texans for a Republican Majority political action committee -- which is run by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) -- for campaign finance violations. He has reportedly not sought an indictment against DeLay to date.
From the March 28 Journal editorial:
Mr. Earle, a partisan Democrat, has a record of making suspect accusations: In 1993, he indicted newly elected Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison [R-TX] on evidence so weak the case was never brought to trial. The indictments of Mr. DeLay's associates came just six weeks before November's elections; Mr. Earle's primary aim, it seemed, was to derail Mr. DeLay's ultimately successful efforts to achieve the first Republican majority in the Texas delegation to the U.S. House since Reconstruction.
This accusation is similar to what the Journal wrote of Earle on September 24, 2004:
An openly partisan Democrat, Mr. Earle is the district attorney for Texas's Travis County, which encompasses Austin. In the past he has not hesitated to use his office to settle political scores. In 1993 he indicted Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison five days after she won her seat in a special election.
While the Journal editorial page has touted Earle's indictment of Sen. Hutchison as evidence of his partisanship, it has failed to note that Earle has prosecuted more Democrats than Republicans over the course of his career. A June 17, 2004, Houston Chronicle editorial stated: "During his long tenure, Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle has prosecuted many more Democratic officials than Republicans. The record does not support allegations that Earle is prone to partisan witch hunts." A March 6, 2004, article in the El Paso Times offered further detail: "Earle says local prosecution is fundamental and points out that 11 of the 15 politicians he has prosecuted over the years were Democrats."
Notably, the Wall Street Journal's editorial page editor, Paul A. Gigot, vocally defended former independent counsel Kenneth Starr -- a Republican -- from similar accusations that Starr's multi-year, multimillion-dollar investigation of former President Clinton was politically motivated.
By VIEWPOINT: Molly Ivins
AUSTIN, Texas — The John Wesley Hardin Died for You Society has a theme song that goes: “He wasn’t really bad. He was just a victim of his times.” I sometimes find this useful in trying to explain Texas political ethics to outsiders.
My theory is that few Texas pols are actual crooks, they just have an overdeveloped sense of the extenuating circumstance. Woodrow Wilson Bean once warned himself that he was skatin’ close to the thin edge of ethics. After a moment, he concluded, “Woodrow Wilson Bean, ethics is for young lawyers.”
We had a governor who was caught in a big, fat lie about a football scandal (serious stuff) and explained, “Well, there never was a Bible in the room.”
Some civilians believe the definition of an honest Texas pol is one who stays bought. But among pols of the old school, the saying was, “If you can’t take their money, drink their whiskey, screw their women and vote against ‘em anyway, you don’t belong in the Legislature.” Many of our pols have the ethical sensitivity of a walnut. All this has led many to conclude erroneously that Tom DeLay, an alumnus of the Texas Legislature, is somehow our fault.
I grant you a certain resemblance to some of our more notorious standards: “Everybody does it” and “They did it first” are actually considered excuses here. But I categorically reject cultural responsibility for Tom DeLay. Real Texas politicians are neither hypocritical nor sanctimonious. A pol does what he must — fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly — but no pol of the Old School, when DeLay served in the Lege, would add self-righteousness to shady dealing.
Nor was hyper-partisanship practiced. Under Bill Hobby, Bob Bullock and Pete Laney, Republicans were given their fair share of power. In fact, Republicans and liberals sometimes joined forces against conservative Democrats.
This was before the time when religion was regularly dragged into politics. The idea that you were immune from ethical lapses because you had found Jesus did not fly here. Sanctimony stinks in the nostrils of the Lord.
Doing favors for big campaign donors may indeed be an “everybody does it,” but when those favors take the form of laws that directly hurt your people, you’re supposed to draw the line. Over the line is where Texas pols would put using a children’s charity as a cover for collecting soft money from special interest groups and then spending it on dinners, a golf tournament, a rock concert, Broadway tickets and so forth. Because the money was supposedly for a charity, Celebrations for Children, Inc., special interests who wanted favors from DeLay were able to give him money without revealing themselves as campaign donors. Cute trick, Tom, but a really cruddy thing to do.
In another example of ethical rot, DeLay took a $100,000 check from the Corrections Corporation of America, a company that runs private prisons in Texas and has a 20-year history that includes mismanagement and abuse. CCA wants the Texas Lege, over which DeLay exercises considerable sway because he’s a money conduit, to privatize the prisons. And that check?
Made out to DeLay’s children’s charity, the DeLay Foundation for Kids. Barf.
Another quality that makes DeLay an un-Texas pol is that he’s mean. By and large, Texas pols are an agreeable set of less-than-perfect humans and quite often well-intentioned. As Carl Parker of Port Arthur used to observe, if you took all the fools out of the Lege, it would not be a representative body any longer. The old sense of collegiality was strong, and vindictive behavior — punishing pols for partisan reasons — was simply not done. But those are Tom DeLay’s specialties, his trademarks. The Hammer is not only genuinely feared in Washington, he is hated.
Some of the ethics charges against DeLay are just plain old-fashioned grubby — letting a lobbyist pay for a fancy hotel in London and a golf trip to St. Andrews (Delay claims he didn’t know it was lobby money, even though he was accompanied by the lobbyist). What sets DeLay apart is his response when his behavior is exposed.
He has been admonished three times by the House Ethics Committee, so did he clean up his act? Nope, he went after the chairman of the ethics committee, threw him out, got the rules changed and then stacked the committee with his close allies. “The ethics process in the House of Representatives is in total shambles,” said Fred Wertheimer, a longtime D.C. crusader on ethical issues.
I haven’t even mentioned DeLay’s apparent violation of Texas campaign finance law, quite a feat, since we only have the one. Or the whole nasty and absurd redistricting mess, or the dubious donations to his legal defense fund, or the Indian casino gambling saga, or, or, or.
The Houston Chronicle, DeLay’s home paper, has been vigilant about tracking his lapses. The paper recently summed up his m.o.: “When in danger of losing, simply rewrite the rules in the middle of the game to make it impossible for the other side to win.”
This guy smells like a slop jar. Get him out of there.
To find out more about Molly Ivins visit the Creators Syndicate web page at
A BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
Did you know that Tom DeLay won't talk to his own mother?
No, BuzzFlash is not making this up.
This is the mother -- spouse -- who went along with pulling the plug on Tom's dad -- along with Tom and the rest of his family -- which she confirmed to the Los Angeles Times this week:
"There was no point to even really talking about it," Maxine DeLay, the congressman's 81-year-old widowed mother, recalled in an interview last week. "There was no way [Charles] wanted to live like that. Tom knew — we all knew — his father wouldn't have wanted to live that way."
Doctors advised that he would "basically be a vegetable," said the congressman's aunt, JoAnne DeLay.
When his father's kidneys failed, the DeLay family decided against connecting him to a dialysis machine. "Extraordinary measures to prolong life were not initiated," said his medical report, citing "agreement with the family's wishes." His bedside chart carried the instruction: "Do not resuscitate."
On Dec. 14, 1988, the DeLay patriarch "expired with his family in attendance."
But by May 13, 2001, when the Washington Post did a feature story on the toxic exterminator from Texas, the headline was, "Absolute Truth; Tom DeLay is certain that Christian family values will solve America's problems. But he's uncertain how to face his own family."
The Post article goes on to report:
For all of Tom DeLay's public espousal of Christian values, particularly his deep commitment to family, he privately has nursed a terrible estrangement from his own mother and three siblings. After the 1988 death of his father and the rise of his career in Washington, DeLay cut off contact with all three siblings, and seven years ago he stopped attending DeLay family gatherings. He has not seen or talked to his mother, Maxine, in two years, even though she lives about 10 miles away from Sugar Land; nor did he invite any of them to his daughter's 1999 wedding or even mention his mother in the published wedding announcement.
All through his roomy home are many photographs of his wife, his daughter and his in-laws -- but not a single one of the DeLays. Throughout our conversations, this rift is the only subject that he adamantly will not discuss.
And we could go into the story about his paid-for lobbying junkets, including one that included his daughter indulging in a champagne bubble bath with Tom DeLay's Gucci-heeled groupies. He's already been the subject of investigations of three ethical violations in the House, and an indictment is allegedly nipping at this heels in Texas.
And then there's his failed cockroach killing business, as the Washington Post describes it:
In a more expansive moment, Tom DeLay once proclaimed himself "the best weasel killer in Houston" and described his pest-control company as "the Cadillac" of exterminators. DeLay no longer advertises that -- his official biographies describe him only as former owner of an unspecified small business.
Indeed, a closer examination of his company, Albo Pest Control, suggests it was at best a struggling operation, and the public record raises questions about DeLay's business ethics, truthfulness and the lengths to which he will go when someone crosses him.
His first job out of college was at a pesticide company, mixing, among other things, large batches of rat poison. He went solo in 1973 and purchased Albo, which quickly ran into problems in Houston's boom-bust economy, says Christine DeLay, who helped run it then. "He was borrowing money to make payroll, which was a stupid business decision. Tommy said his five technicians were loyal, honest men and should not be laid off, so he borrowed money to keep from layoffs," she says. "So he got behind on payroll taxes."
DeLay was hit with tax liens three times by the Internal Revenue Service, in 1979, 1980 and 1983, because he was not paying payroll and income taxes. In addition, he paid court settlements twice to business associates who claimed he'd cheated them.
DeLay, while still in the state legislature, had signed a deal to buy out a small exterminator, Robert Bartnett, for about $ 40,000, but only paid him an initial $ 8,000, Bartnett recalls. DeLay claimed he stopped paying because Bartnett sold him a failing business. "When I was able to go look at his records," Bartnett says, "I learned that a great number of customers had quit because they didn't feel they were being serviced properly." The court ordered DeLay to pay Bartnett the $ 32,000 he was owed.
Oh, we could go on and on about the DeLay hypocrisy. Anyone so hypocritical and so misleading, self-righteous, and hateful, could only be working for the OTHER side, and we don't mean God's.
As one of his aides wrote about Clinton during the impeachment, "This whole thing about not kicking someone when they are down is BS -- Not only do you kick him -- you kick him until he passes out -- then beat him over the head with a baseball bat -- then roll him up in an old rug -- and throw him off a cliff into the pounding; surf below!!!!!"
No, it's not something a faithful mother would approve of.
But then again, Tom DeLay, the great champion of the brain-dead Terry Schiavo, doesn't talk to his mother -- or his siblings, so all his mother can do is read about it from afar and wonder if she gave birth to the male version of Rosemary's baby.
A BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
THE TERRI SCHIAVO CASE(0) comments (0) comments
DeLay's Own Tragic Crossroads
Family of the lawmaker involved in the Schiavo case decided in '88 to let his comatose father die.
By Walter F. Roche Jr. and Sam Howe Verhovek
Times Staff Writers
March 27, 2005
CANYON LAKE, Texas — A family tragedy that unfolded in a Texas hospital during the fall of 1988 was a private ordeal — without judges, emergency sessions of Congress or the debate raging outside Terri Schiavo's Florida hospice.
The patient then was a 65-year-old drilling contractor, badly injured in a freak accident at his home. Among the family members keeping vigil at Brooke Army Medical Center was a grieving junior congressman — Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas).
More than 16 years ago, far from the political passions that have defined the Schiavo controversy, the DeLay family endured its own wrenching end-of-life crisis. The man in a coma, kept alive by intravenous lines and oxygen equipment, was DeLay's father, Charles Ray DeLay.
Then, freshly reelected to a third term in the House, the 41-year-old DeLay waited, all but helpless, for the verdict of doctors.
Today, as House Majority Leader, DeLay has teamed with his Senate counterpart, Bill Frist (R-Tenn.), to champion political intervention in the Schiavo case. They pushed emergency legislation through Congress to shift the legal case from Florida state courts to the federal judiciary.
And DeLay is among the strongest advocates of keeping the woman, who doctors say has been in a persistent vegetative state for 15 years, connected to her feeding tube. DeLay has denounced Schiavo's husband, as well as judges, for committing what he calls "an act of barbarism" in removing the tube.
In 1988, however, there was no such fiery rhetoric as the congressman quietly joined the sad family consensus to let his father die.
"There was no point to even really talking about it," Maxine DeLay, the congressman's 81-year-old widowed mother, recalled in an interview last week. "There was no way [Charles] wanted to live like that. Tom knew — we all knew — his father wouldn't have wanted to live that way."
Doctors advised that he would "basically be a vegetable," said the congressman's aunt, JoAnne DeLay.
When his father's kidneys failed, the DeLay family decided against connecting him to a dialysis machine. "Extraordinary measures to prolong life were not initiated," said his medical report, citing "agreement with the family's wishes." His bedside chart carried the instruction: "Do not resuscitate."
On Dec. 14, 1988, the DeLay patriarch "expired with his family in attendance."
"The situation faced by the congressman's family was entirely different than Terri Schiavo's," said a spokesman for the majority leader, who declined requests for an interview.
"The only thing keeping her alive is the food and water we all need to survive. His father was on a ventilator and other machines to sustain him," said Dan Allen, DeLay's press aide.
There were also these similarities: Both stricken patients were severely brain-damaged. Both were incapable of surviving without medical assistance. Both were said to have expressed a desire to be spared from being kept alive by artificial means. And neither of them had a living will.
This previously unpublished account of the majority leader's personal brush with life-ending decisions was assembled from court files, medical records and interviews with family members.
It was a pleasant late afternoon in the Hill Country of Texas on Nov. 17, 1988.
At Charles and Maxine DeLay's home, set on a limestone bluff of cedars and live oaks, it also was a moment of triumph. Charles and his brother, Jerry DeLay, two avid tinkerers, had just finished work on a new backyard tram — an elevator-like device that would carry family and friends down a 200-foot slope to the blue-green waters of Canyon Lake.
The two men called for their wives to hop aboard. Charles pushed the button and the maiden run began. Within seconds, a horrific screeching noise echoed across the still lake — "a sickening sound," said a neighbor. The tram was in trouble.
Maxine, seated up front in the four-passenger trolley, said her husband repeatedly tried to engage the emergency brake, but the rail car kept picking up speed. Halfway down the bank, it was free-wheeling, according to accident investigators.
Moments later, it jumped the track and slammed into a tree, scattering passengers and debris in all directions.
"It was awful, just awful," recalled Karl Braddick, now 86, the DeLays' neighbor at the time. "I came running over, and it was a terrible sight."
He called for emergency help. Rescue workers had trouble bringing the injured victims up the steep terrain. Jerry's wife, JoAnne, suffered broken bones and a shattered elbow. Charles, who had been thrown head-first into a tree, was in grave condition.
"He was all but gone," said Braddick, gesturing at the spot of the accident as he offered a visitor a ride down to the lake in his own tram. "He would have been better off if he'd died right there and then."
But Charles DeLay hung on. In the ambulance on his way to a hospital in New Braunfels 15 miles away, he tried to speak.
"He wasn't making any sense; it was mainly just cuss words," recalled Maxine with a faint, fond smile.
Four hours later, he was airlifted by helicopter to the Brooke Army Medical Center at Ft. Sam Houston. Admission records show he arrived with multiple injuries, including broken ribs and a brain hemorrhage.
Tom DeLay flew to his father's bedside, where, along with his two brothers and a sister, they joined their mother. In the weeks that followed, the congressman made repeated trips back from Washington, his family said. Maxine seldom left her husband's side.
"Mama stayed at the hospital with him all the time. Oh, it was terrible for everyone," said Alvina "Vi" Skogen, a former sister-in-law of the congressman. Neighbor Braddick visited the hospital and said it seemed very clear to everyone that there was little prospect of recovery.
"He had no consciousness that I could see," Braddick said. "He did a bit of moaning and groaning, I guess, but you could see there was no way he was coming back."
Maxine DeLay agreed that she was never aware of any consciousness on her husband's part during the long days of her bedside vigil — with one possible exception.
"Whenever Randy walked into the room, his heart, his pulse rate, would go up a little bit," she said of their son, Randall, the congressman's younger brother, who lives near Houston.
Doctors conducted a series of tests, including scans of his head, face, neck and abdomen. They checked for lung damage and performed a tracheostomy to assist his breathing. But they could not prevent steady deterioration.
Then, infections complicated the senior DeLay's fight for life. Finally, his organs began to fail. His family and physicians confronted the dreaded choice so many other Americans have faced: to make heroic efforts or to let the end come.
"Daddy did not want to be a vegetable," said Skogen, one of his daughters-in-law at the time. "There was no decision for the family to make. He made it for them."
The preliminary decision to withhold dialysis and other treatments fell to Maxine along with Randall and her daughter Tena — and "Tom went along." He raised no objection, said the congressman's mother.
Family members said they prayed.
Jerry DeLay "felt terribly about the accident" that injured his brother, said his wife, JoAnne. "He prayed that, if [Charles] couldn't have quality of life, that God would take him — and that is exactly what he did."
Charles Ray DeLay died at 3:17 a.m., according to his death certificate, 27 days after plummeting down the hillside.
The family then turned to lawyers.
In 1990, the DeLays filed suit against Midcap Bearing Corp. of San Antonio and Lovejoy Inc. of Illinois, the distributor and maker of a coupling that the family said had failed and caused the tram to hurtle out of control.
The family's wrongful death lawsuit accused the companies of negligence and sought actual and punitive damages. Lawyers for the companies denied the allegations and countersued the surviving designer of the tram system, Jerry DeLay.
The case thrust Rep. DeLay into unfamiliar territory — the front page of a civil complaint as a plaintiff. He is an outspoken defender of business against what he calls the crippling effects of "predatory, self-serving litigation."
The DeLay family litigation sought unspecified compensation for, among other things, the dead father's "physical pain and suffering, mental anguish and trauma," and the mother's grief, sorrow and loss of companionship.
Their lawsuit also alleged violations of the Texas product liability law.
The DeLay case moved slowly through the Texas judicial system, accumulating more than 500 pages of motions, affidavits and disclosures over nearly three years. Among the affidavits was one filed by the congressman, but family members said he had little direct involvement in the lawsuit, leaving that to his brother Randall, an attorney.
Rep. DeLay, who since has taken a leading role promoting tort reform, wants to rein in trial lawyers to protect American businesses from what he calls "frivolous, parasitic lawsuits" that raise insurance premiums and "kill jobs."
Last September, he expressed less than warm sentiment for attorneys when he took the floor of the House to condemn trial lawyers who, he said, "get fat off the pain" of plaintiffs and off "the hard work" of defendants.
Aides for DeLay defended his role as a plaintiff in the family lawsuit, saying he did not follow the legal case and was not aware of its final outcome.
The case was resolved in 1993 with payment of an undisclosed sum, said to be about $250,000, according to sources familiar with the out-of-court settlement. DeLay signed over his share of any proceeds to his mother, said his aides.
Three years later, DeLay cosponsored a bill specifically designed to override state laws on product liability such as the one cited in his family's lawsuit. The legislation provided sweeping exemptions for product sellers.
The 1996 bill was vetoed by President Clinton, who said he objected to the DeLay-backed measure because it "tilts against American families and would deprive them of the ability to recover fully when they are injured by a defective product."
After her husband's death, Maxine DeLay scrapped the mangled tram at the bottom of the hill and sold the family's lake house.
Today, she lives alone in a Houston senior citizen residence. Like much of the country, she is following news developments in the Schiavo case and her son's prominent role.
She acknowledged questions comparing her family's decision in 1988 to the Schiavo conflict with a slight smile. "It's certainly interesting, isn't it?"
She had a new hairdo for Easter and puffed on a cigarette outside her assisted-living residence as she sat back comparing the cases.
Like her son, she believed there might be hope for Terri Schiavo's recovery. That's what made her family's experience different, she said. Charles had no hope.
"There was no chance he was ever coming back," she said.
DeLay's Dirty Dozen
By , Think Progress
Posted on March 16, 2005, Printed on March 27, 2005
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay has been a busy man these last few years. Whether bribing congressmen, threatening political opponents, vacationing with lobbyists, or gutting House ethics rules, it's been hard to keep up with all the Hammer's activities. Here are 12 recent highlights from DeLay's illustrious career:
Delay Raises Corporate Cash for TRMPAC: DeLay is embroiled in a scandal in Texas for his active participation in illegally funneling corporate funds to assist state political campaigns. DeLay's political action committee, Texans for a Republican Majority (TRMPAC), is under criminal investigation for using corporate money to finance Texas campaigns. DeLay has tried to distance himself from the group, but documents show DeLay "personally forwarded at least one large check" to the group and was "in direct contact with lobbyists for some of the nation's largest companies" on TRMPAC's behalf. [Source: NYT, 3/10/05; Salon, 10/04/04]
Delay Bribes Congressman to Vote for Medicare: DeLay has admitted offering to endorse Sen. Nick Smith's (R-Mich.) son Brad, who was running for Congress at the time, in exchange for Smith's "yea" vote on the Medicare bill. His actions violated House rules and earned DeLay a "public admonishment" from the Ethics Committee. Smith originally alleged – and then retracted after pressure from House leaders – that DeLay also offered a $100,000 bribe for his vote. DeLay extended the role call on the Medicare bill for nearly three hours in order "to avoid an embarrassing loss." [Slate, 10/1/04; WP, 10/1/04]
Delay Uses Taxpayer Money for Partisan Stunt: The House ethics panel rebuked DeLay for using government resources to help locate a private plane he thought was carrying Texas Democratic legislators. DeLay was trying to force the legislators back to the capitol so he could push through his "bitterly disputed congressional redistricting." The ethics report cited House rules that bar members from taking "any official action on the basis of the partisan affiliation...of the individuals involved" and said DeLay's behavior raised "serious concerns under such "standards of conduct." [WP, 10/7/04]
Delay Pays for Golf Tournaments with Cash Meant for Kids: DeLay used a children's charity, Celebrations for Children Inc., as cover for collecting soft money from anonymous interest groups, some of which was used for "dinners, a golf tournament, a rock concert, Broadway tickets and other fundraising events" at the Republican convention in New York. Because the money was supposedly for charity, companies wishing to curry favor with DeLay were able to do so without revealing themselves as campaign donors. Federal laws governing tax-exempt charities allow no more than an insubstantial portion of a group's revenue to be spent on activities other than the charity's main stated purpose. [CBS, 11/14/03; WP, 3/24/04]
Delay Promises 'Seat At Table' for Donor: In one of its three public rebukes, the House Ethics Committee cited the belief on the part of executives at an energy company, Westar Energy Inc., that a $56,500 contribution to a political action committee associated with DeLay would get them a "seat at the table" where key energy legislation was being drafted. DeLay also participated in Westar's golf fundraiser at The Homestead resort in the summer of 2002, " just as the House-Senate conference on major energy legislation ... was about to get underway." [WP, 10/7/04]
Delay Takes Money from Texas Prison Company with Legislation Pending: DeLay "took a $100,000 check from a private prison company" – the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) – at a fundraiser for his children's charity, the DeLay Foundation for Kids. CCA – whose 20-year history has been "fraught with malfeasance, mismanagement, and abuse" – was part of an ongoing lobby for a bill that would privatize up to half of Texas's jails. DeLay is known for wielding major influence over the Republican-led legislature that will decide on the matter. [Knight Ridder, 11/30/04; Texas Observer, 6/6/03]
Delay Blocks Legislation for Partisan Vendetta: In 1999, DeLay received a "private rebuke" for threatening retaliation against the Electronic Industries Association when the trade group named a Democrat to head its Washington operation. To punish the group, DeLay stopped two uncontroversial trade bills that would have benefited the EIA and told the association it would lose all GOP access unless it hired a Republican instead. The group still hired the Democrat, but a little later, the EIA quietly hired a former House Republican staff member who promptly showed up at a fundraiser for DeLay's ARMPAC. [Texas Observer, 2/4/00; Slate, 12/5/98]
Delay Takes Shady Donations for Legal Defense Fund: The list of recent donors to DeLay's legal defense fund includes two lawmakers placed on the House Ethics Committee this year (they replaced conservatives who were purged for being critical of DeLay), and corporations implicated in DeLay's alleged fundraising violations. Corporate donors include Bacardi U.S.A., the rum maker that has also been indicted in the Texas investigation, and Reliant Energy, "another major contributor to a Texas political action committee formed by Mr. DeLay that is the focus of the criminal inquiry." In December, DeLay was forced to return funds from registered lobbyists because those contributions violated House ethics rules. [NYT, 3/13/05; Time, 3/13/05]
Delay Leaves Ethics Behind On European Vacation: DeLay enjoyed a luxurious vacation at the Four Seasons Hotel in London in mid-2000, paid for by an Indian tribe and a gambling services company, both of which opposed gambling legislation DeLay voted against two months later. The payment was funneled through lobbyist Jack Abramoff, best known for teaming up with right-wing religious fundamentalist Ralph Reed to close down a Texas casino operated by the Tigua Indians in 2002, then persuading the tribe to pay the two of them $4.2 million to lobby Washington lawmakers, including DeLay, to reopen it. According to expense accounts obtained by the Journal, Abramoff financed DeLay and DeLay's staff's stay at the Four Seasons hotel to the tune of $4,285.35. The total reimbursement for expenses in London was $13,318.50. [WP, 3/12/05; Raw Story, 2/25/05; WP, 9/29/04]
Delay Leaves House Rules Behind on Asian Vacation: DeLay accepted an expense-paid trip to South Korea which, in direct violation of House rules, was paid for by a South Korean lobbying group. The Korea-U.S. Exchange Council, a group registered with the Foreign Agents Registration Act, was created with help from DeLay's former chief of staff. The cost to send DeLay, his wife and three of his lawmaker friends to Seoul for three days was $106,921, the fourth largest cost for any single trip taken by lawmakers between January 2000 and September 2004. [WP, 3/10/05]
Delay Kicks Ethics out of House: DeLay and his allies in the House have sought to cripple the House Ethics Committee. The committee, which rebuked DeLay three times last year, was purged of its most "responsible" members last month and is currently "paralyzed" by a proposed rules change that "would prevent the committee from launching any investigation without the support of at least one Republican-a restriction designed to protect the majority leader." [WP, 2/5/05; WP, 10/7/04; Time, 3/13/05]
Delay Tries to Change Rules to Protect Power: DeLay was the driving force behind the decision by House leaders to abandon an 11-year-old party rule that "required leaders to step aside temporarily if indicted." The idea was dropped only after rank-and-file lawmakers complained "the party was sending the wrong message." [NYT, 11/18/04; WP, 3/11/05]
By John Byrne | RAW STORY Editor
As attention grows on campaign fundraising and the relationship between top Republicans and a lobbyist under multiple federal investigations, the Republican National Congressional Committee has erased all online records of fundraising events for the last three years, RAW STORY has learned.
Previously, the website listed all NRCC fundraisers dating from late 2002 to the present. Now only an error message appears, though several months are available in cache files (here, here and here).
The scrubbing appears to have occurred shortly after RAW STORY placed now-Sen. Vitter (R-LA) at a $1000-a-plate fundraiser hosted by the fallen lobbyist Jack Abramoff during the same time Vitter was meeting with Abramoff's staff to arrange a provision favorable to the lobbyist's tribal client. The last cache files date to Mar. 12, four days before RAW STORY revealed the event.
Also in attendance at the dinner was House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's (R-TX) deputy Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), who had signed a letter with DeLay encouraging the Interior Department to rule favorably to Abramoff earlier that summer.
In the following days, the Capitol Hill daily Roll Call and Louisiana newspapers reported on the fundraiser.
DeLay–and other leading Republicans in Congress–have come under scrutiny for their dealings with Abramoff. DeLay took an expensive junket to London paid for by Abramoff's clients and has consistently favored the lobbyist’s agenda.
Focus has also turned to Abramoff's pricey Pennsylvania Avenue restaurant, Signatures, where he regularly entertained politicians and billed his tribal clients for hundreds of thousands of dollars in meals, according to the Washington Post.
If the cached files on NRCC fundraisers are any example, Signatures was a popular hotspot for Republican congressional fundraisers.
In just those three cached months in 2004, ten events were held at Signaturesâ€“five in May, three in October and two in May.
Abramoff's tribal client gave tens of millions of dollars to Abramoff and Michael Scanlon, former press secretary to Rep. DeLay, to quash a rival tribe's bid to set up a casino outside their historic tribal lands. Abramoff was a prolific fundraiser for the Republican Party, gave generously to DeLay and his deputies in Congress, and was a Pioneer for the Bush reelection campaign.
Published: March 25, 2005
Here is some badly needed comic relief from Congress: The House ethics committee, now that it has been rendered impotent by the Republican leadership, is plumping for a 50 percent increase in financing to see to such vital needs as writing a new ethics manual to educate lawmakers. ("J is for Junket, so naughty and nice.")
The money would also pay for the hiring of an unusual new Capitol worker - specialists authorized to explain House rules to innocent representatives. Political grief counselors, let's call them. One of their first assignments should be succoring the majority leader, Tom DeLay, who issued a plaint before a gathering of power conservatives last week that lumped his own festering ethical troubles (attacks "against me") with all criticism of conservative causes, including the sorry attempt to exploit the troubles of Terri Schiavo ("a huge nationwide concerted effort to destroy everything we believe in").
Mr. DeLay's solipsistic wailing should be a further caution to the Republican majority who went along with the replacement of the ethics panel chairman and the neutering of its rules after the committee issued three cautions to Mr. DeLay. He was told to temper his autocratic behavior in dealing with members, lobbyists and federal agencies.
The panel purge, a favor by Speaker Dennis Hastert, was aimed at protecting Mr. DeLay from more investigation of complaints about such lapses as his reported junketeering on lobbyists' money. Beyond the House, Texas prosecutors have filed money-laundering charges against DeLay political operatives. Mr. DeLay denounces all these matters as vicious assaults. For a while, he even had House rules crimped last year to let him remain in power if he were indicted. That scandalous touch of homage was reversed after Republicans felt constituent heat that they were following the leader too far.
It is time for more such second thoughts. Any new money for the ethics panel will be wasted unless Republican members, wary of being yoked to Mr. DeLay, demand that the rules be stiffened to gain some ethical credibility in the House.
By Jill Zuckman
Published March 15, 2005
WASHINGTON -- A groundswell of criticism generated by alleged ethical lapses concerning House Majority Leader Tom Delay is forcing the Texas lawmaker to seek support from GOP colleagues and is threatening to harm the Republican legislative agenda on Capitol Hill.
DeLay plans to start talking to fellow Republicans in his own defense this week, a senior aide said, as Democrats intensify their attacks on him in an effort to neutralize their longtime foe.
While DeLay defends himself against questions about his fundraising activities and travels, as well as the dealings of lobbyists closely aligned with his office, Democrats and their supporters are sensing a rare opportunity and have launched a multipronged effort to publicize the allegations against him.
The Democratic National Committee on Tuesday is launching "DeLay's Dastardly Doings" on its Web site, a daily digest of charges against the Republican leader.
For the GOP, a question is whether DeLay's ethics troubles will soon outweigh the benefits of his leadership. Complex tangles of politics and finances have brought down powerful lawmakers before--from former House Speakers Jim Wright (D-Texas) and Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) to former Rep. Dan Rostenkowski (D-Ill.).
At a minimum, DeLay's troubles threaten to distract from the Republican agenda as lawmakers struggle to address complicated budget and Social Security legislation. The feelings among House Republicans range from ill at ease to uncomfortable.
"I do think this is going to be a problem for the party. There's no question about it," said one Republican House member who asked to remain anonymous.
"One reason we came into the majority is that the other party was ethically challenged, and if we don't learn a lesson from that, we're pretty dumb," the congressman said.
Democrats on the House ethics committee are protesting Republican-imposed rule changes and Speaker Dennis Hastert's decision to remove several lawmakers who previously criticized DeLay.
Eight outside public watchdog groups are planning a news conference Tuesday to denounce House Republican leaders for those actions, which have led to a standoff on the ethics panel, officially known as the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, leaving it unformed and inoperative.
Last year, the hard-charging DeLay was rebuked three times by the ethics committee.
A Texas grand jury indicted three of DeLay's top political aides on charges of illegally raising money from corporations in 2002 and sending the money to Republican candidates for the Texas Legislature.
DeLay, whose nickname is "The Hammer," has long been reviled by Democrats as a ruthless ideologue willing to break the rules to force through his conservative agenda.
Republicans, however, admire him for increasing their House majority. And they often refer to him as "the concierge of Capitol Hill," appreciative that he takes care of their needs, be it money for their campaigns, a car at the national convention or barbecue dinners in his office during late-night sessions.
Aides to Hastert (R-Ill.) and DeLay argue that DeLay is on the receiving end of a coordinated partisan campaign by Democrats to dirty his reputation and drive him out of Congress.
"Speaker Hastert believes that Majority Leader DeLay is an extremely valuable and integral member of the team," Hastert spokesman Ron Bonjean said in defense of the chamber's second-in-command. "Despite Democrat partisan attacks, he remains focused on helping us pass a fiscally responsible budget and is deeply dedicated towards implementing the Republican agenda."
Still, DeLay faces an onslaught of criticism--both for his activities and for the breakdown of the ethics committee.
"I think we find ourselves in an unprecedented situation where the ethics enforcement process has been really crippled," said Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, a non-profit, non-partisan group focused on ethics in government and eliminating big money in politics.
In Texas, five Democrats who lost their elections for the state Legislature have filed suit against the treasurer of DeLay's political action committee, Texans for a Republican Majority. The civil trial has examined the House majority leader's involvement in the fundraising group.
Among his troubles are investigations by the Justice Department and the Senate Indian Affairs Committee into possible fraud and public corruption involving Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff and public relations executive Michael Scanlon, both of whom have close ties to DeLay.
Still pending before the House ethics committee are questions about a trip DeLay took with his wife and a delegation of House Republicans to South Korea in 2001 sponsored by the Korea-U.S. Exchange Council, a registered foreign agent.
House rules prohibit accepting travel expenses from foreign agents or registered lobbyists, but aides to DeLay said he did not know that the group was a registered foreign agent and had trusted his former chief of staff, Ed Buckham, a lobbyist who helped create the council, that its role as the trip's sponsor was legitimate.
March 21 issue - The FBI is trying to trace what happened to $2.5 million in payments to a conservative Washington think tank that were routed to accounts controlled by two lobbyists with close ties to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, NEWSWEEK has learned.
The payments to the National Center for Public Policy Research were meant for a PR campaign promoting Indian gaming, center officials said. But internal e-mails obtained by NEWSWEEK show the lobbyists, Jack Abramoff and Michael Scanlon, DeLay's former press secretary, never documented any work performed or explained what they did with the money despite repeated requests. "We're disappointed and frustrated," said Amy Ridenour, the center's president.
The group's records have been subpoenaed by a federal grand jury. One focus of the FBI probe, legal sources say, is whether the payments, as well as tens of millions of dollars in other fees collected by the two lobbyists from Indian tribes, were used for political contributions or to pay for trips and gifts to members of Congress.
The widening probe in D.C. may prove more troubling for DeLay than the separate investigation into his fund-raising in Texas. DeLay has had a longstanding relationship with the center; the group, for which he has signed a fund-raising letter, paid for two of his overseas trips—including a $70,000 excursion in 2000 during which he and Abramoff (a member of the center's board) played golf in Scotland. The Washington Post reported last week the trip was mostly paid for by two $25,000 checks from two Abramoff lobbying clients that were sent to the center the day the trip began.
In 2002, the center received a $1 million contribution from one of those Abramoff clients, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. The funds were intended to finance "educational" efforts promoting the idea that casinos like the one operated by the Choctaws helped Native Americans, Ridenour said. At Abramoff's urging, the center allotted $500,000 to a public-relations firm owned by Scanlon, and an additional $450,000 was paid to a foundation controlled by Abramoff.
The next year, the center received its largest donation, $1.5 million, from another Abramoff client, an Internet gambling group in Gibraltar. This time, Abramoff suggested most of the grant, $1.28 million, be given to a firm called "KayGold LLC." Unbeknownst to Ridenour, KayGold was owned by Abramoff.
Ridenour said she and the center's lawyers became concerned in 2003 about the absence of any work product and began pressing Abramoff for documentation. By March 2004, worried about a possible audit, she sent an e-mail saying it would be "extremely helpful" if he could supply any polls or even "leftover printed materials" in order to "reassure anyone, such as the IRS, who might wonder if the effort really took place." But, she said, nothing was ever turned over; Abramoff later resigned from the center's board. The group is now cooperating with the Feds and may sue Abramoff.
Asked about the payments, Abramoff's lawyer, Abbe Lowell, said, "No comment." Scanlon's lawyer said suggestions the work was not completed "are totally inaccurate," but declined to elaborate.
DeLay, whose spokesman said the congressman knew nothing of the payments, is distancing himself from his former golfing partner. "I go about my job," he told reporters. "Jack Abramoff has his own problems. Any other questions?"
The G.O.P. leader's troubles mount, with new questions about his dealings with the former aide who helped build his political machine
By KAREN TUMULTY
Ed Buckham's name was one you didn't hear much outside the secluded corridor where he worked on the first floor of the Capitol. But in that suite, which houses the majority whip's offices, Buckham was far more than an ordinary congressional aide in the three heady years following the Republican takeover of the House in 1994. Thanks to an unusually close and trusting relationship with his boss, Tom DeLay's chief of staff quietly became one of the most powerful people in Washington. "He was the guy DeLay turned to when he made a final decision," recalls a former aide to a member of the House Republican leadership, "and even after he made the final decision, the guy who could talk him out of it." What even fewer people outside that office knew was that the two shared a bond that transcended power and politics: Buckham, a licensed nondenominational minister, was also DeLay's pastor. For a while, in DeLay's early days as whip, they organized daily voluntary prayer sessions for the staff—until it began making some aides uncomfortable. After that, according to two sources who worked in the office at the time, the two of them frequently prayed together privately, joining hands in DeLay's office.
Buckham shared not only DeLay's religious faith but also his audacious vision for harnessing the financial and political clout of business and conservative interests to carry out the G.O.P. agenda and increase its majority in Congress. DeLay offered lobbyists the best seats they had ever had at the table, a say in legislative and political strategy, on the understanding that they in return would pour millions into DeLay's favored causes and candidates. In addition, he threatened to shut out lobbying shops that employed Democrats. In Washington that seamless coordination between his office and the lobbying corridor of K Street has become known as DeLay Inc. It developed the muscle to push or block pretty much everything DeLay asked for, from protecting tax breaks for low-wage garment manufacturers on the Northern Mariana Islands (where DeLay spent New Year's Day 1998 with his wife and Buckham) to creating a Medicare prescription-drug plan that critics say is a better deal for pharmaceutical companies than it is for seniors.
Now the machinery that DeLay and his pastor built threatens to derail DeLay. He was slapped three times last year by the House ethics committee for violations of House rules, and finds himself potentially facing more serious trouble on multiple fronts. Each day seems to bring another embarrassing headline and more lawmakers' being caught up in allegations of impropriety that surround the lobbyists—many, like Buckham, former DeLay staff members—who have traded on their access to him. The Washington Post reported last week that DeLay (as well as six other Representatives from both parties and several congressional aides) had over the past four years accepted trips to South Korea, paid for by a registered foreign agent—a violation of House rules.
As it happens, the foreign agent in question—a group called the Korea- U.S. Exchange Council, funded largely by the Korean holding company Hanwha Group—lists its address as the same waterfront Georgetown office suite as Buckham's lobbying business. Edward Stewart, who not only manages international business for Buckham's Alexander Strategy Group but also is the Korean group's Washington representative, declined to comment on the controversy. Buckham, 46, did not return telephone calls and e-mails seeking an interview. The lawmakers named by the Post, including DeLay, say they were not aware that the group was a foreign agent. Indeed, it didn't register as one until three days before DeLay left for his trip to South Korea in August 2001.
Where the controversy goes from here is difficult to say. DeLay's increasingly precarious situation has paralyzed the House ethics committee. Democrats on the committee, one of the few in Congress in which they have as many votes as Republicans do, have shut it down.
The Democrats refuse to accept a new rule that would prevent the committee from launching any investigation without the support of at least one Republican—a restriction designed to protect the majority leader. The strain is showing on DeLay, who was treated in a hospital last week for fatigue and an irregular heartbeat. And for the first time, a significant number of Republicans have begun to question DeLay's political survival. Frets a senior G.O.P. Congressman about the odor surrounding DeLay: "It just isn't going away."
The political operation that DeLay and Buckham built pushed hard against the boundaries of campaign-finance laws—and on occasion overstepped them. The National Republican Congressional Committee agreed last year to pay a $280,000 fine for improperly transferring $500,000 in 1999 to an outside organization to run radio ads against Democrats. Buckham had convinced the Republican Party to make the donation to the group. Although he maintained that he was merely a fund raiser for the organization, his wife was on its payroll (earning $59,000 in 1997), its truck was registered at his residence, and his lobbying business operated at the time from a town house the group owned. Democrats, howling that the whole operation was a front for DeLay's political machine, filed a racketeering lawsuit against the whip. They later settled, after DeLay spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees.
DeLay has been neither apologetic nor subtle about his coziness with the corporate and ideological groups that have business before Congress. "It's in their interest to keep a Republican majority, and it's a way to keep a Republican majority and get our job done," he told the Washington Post in 1999. "It's sort of, 'Scratch my back, and I'll scratch yours.'" DeLay was so effective at getting his way that he became known as "the Hammer," and as he rose a notch in ranks to majority leader, the question everyone asked was not whether but when he would achieve his dream of becoming Speaker of the House.
Buckham, originally from Nashville, Tenn., had come a long way from his first job on Capitol Hill, as an intern in the early 1980s, clipping newspapers and fetching coffee for the staff of the Senate Republican policy committee. He got to know DeLay during a seven-year hitch as executive director of the House Republican study committee, which was something of an idea factory for the G.O.P. during its wilderness days of what then seemed like perpetual minority status in the House. Together DeLay and Buckham worked to push their party to the right on issues like taxes, welfare and federal regulatory policy. When the Republicans took control of the House, Buckham moved over to DeLay's whip's office, staying three years before he announced he needed to spend more time with his wife and four children.
But even at an official distance, while Buckham built his own operation, he became more deeply involved than ever with DeLay.
"[Buckham] was always there, ever present," recalls a former aide to then Speaker Newt Gingrich, whose office never completely trusted DeLay's. Buckham put DeLay's wife Christine on the payroll of his thriving Alexander Strategy Group from 1998 to 2002, according to DeLay's financial-disclosure forms. Buckham also hired Tony Rudy—who had been DeLay's press secretary, policy director, deputy chief of staff and general counsel—as well as Karl Gallant, who had served as executive director of DeLay's political-action committee. Buckham's firm has a long and lucrative client list, which, according to its website, includes the American Bankers Association, BellSouth, Eli Lilly, Fannie Mae, R.J. Reynolds and Time Warner (parent of this magazine).
For most Republicans, the occasional controversy used to seem a small price to pay for the prodigious amounts that DeLay was raising and contributing to their campaigns. Had it not been for the six additional seats that Texas picked up in the House last year, thanks to a redistricting plan engineered by DeLay, George W. Bush would not have been the first re-elected President since F.D.R. to gain seats in Congress. And DeLay has always been solicitous of G.O.P.
Representatives as individuals—adjusting the House schedule to accommodate a daughter's recital, knowing who needs a place to smoke and who is having a family crisis, making sure there is pizza in his office to tide members over during late-night votes. Given the majority leader's high profile in the intensely partisan atmosphere of the House, many Republicans agree with DeLay spokesman Dan Allen that attacks to some extent "come with the territory."
But much of the goodwill toward DeLay has begun to evaporate over the past year, as controversies have piled up like bricks in a wall around him. A Texas grand jury is examining allegations that one of his committees sent illegal corporate contributions to Republican candidates in 2002 legislative races there. In September it handed up indictments for three people, including the head of DeLay's political-action committee, and Travis County district attorney Ronnie Earle has not ruled out the possibility of charges against DeLay.
Then there is the spreading scandal around high-flying lobbyist Jack Abramoff, a former producer of low-budget movies whose most marketable asset was access to DeLay. Here, too, Buckham appears to have played a key role. "How did Jack Abramoff get into Tom DeLay's office?" asks a source close to the majority leader. "Ed Buckham."
Abramoff and former DeLay spokesman Michael Scanlon are being investigated by the Senate and Justice Department for allegedly defrauding Indian tribes that had hired them as lobbyists. Abramoff and Scanlon refused to comment at Senate hearings last year and have denied wrongdoing. The two are suspected of convincing the tribes to spend vast amounts on such extravagances as basketball-arena skyboxes for parties for members of Congress and their staffs. The pair may have violated tax or criminal laws in their lobbying efforts and have also involved members of Congress, including California Representative John Doolittle and Arizona Representative J.D. Hayworth, who used the skyboxes but did not report their use as campaign donations, as required by law. DeLay and a number of other lawmakers are in hot water as well for accepting Abramoff-arranged foreign golfing junkets, including one to Scotland's fabled St. Andrews course.
The Washington Post reported Saturday that DeLay's trip was indirectly financed by Indian tribes and gambling interests through payments to a nonprofit policy group that was sponsoring the trip. House rules would have prohibited direct payment. Most of the politicians who took trips organized by Abramoff claim they thought the junkets were paid for by charities or policy groups.
Even DeLay's efforts to defend himself have become tangled up in controversy. In December his legal-defense fund—which over the past four years has raised nearly $1 million in donations from corporations ranging from tobacco giant R.J. Reynolds and Reliant Energy to Domino's Pizza, as well as more than $300,000 from fellow members of Congress—was forced to return funds from registered lobbyists because those contributions violate House ethics rules.
But what has most angered Representatives about DeLay was a vote he engineered in December in the House Republican conference to change its rules so that G.O.P. congressional leaders could keep their posts even if they were indicted for a crime—a move that was clearly designed to protect his power if the Texas case took a bad turn. The move blindsided even Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert. The conference withdrew the change in the ensuing political firestorm but left in place the proposal, now being opposed by Democrats, that would make it impossible for the ethics committee to launch an investigation against any Representatives without a majority vote.
So, will DeLay survive? Capitol Hill has seen a fair share of its leaders fall to scandal over the past 15 years or so, and insiders will tell you there are signs to watch for. While a sense of foreboding is undeniably in the air, Republicans still seem fairly solidly behind the leader to whom they owe so much. "With Tom, it's going to have to be more than just allegations. Tom has done so much fund raising," says Indiana Representative Mark Souder. But he acknowledges, "There's a general feeling from all of us that Tom could be more careful. The accumulation of Mariana Islands, Korea, the stuff in Texas has some people wringing their hands more than others."
After the debacle over the ethics rules, more than a few House members say they can ill afford to put their necks out much farther for DeLay. And their support could erode further—and quickly—if they start hearing complaints about DeLay from their constituents at home. "As members head home, they'll review the various media reports," says Arizona's Hayworth, who has been burned by revelations that he used a skybox supplied by Abramoff for fund raising. "I'm sure that it's in the best interest of the majority leader and the majority to have an accounting of what transpired."
A more ominous sign for DeLay: those who might succeed him have begun quietly positioning themselves to make a move if the opportunity arises, sources say. Among the possible successors most frequently mentioned are majority whip Roy Blount of Missouri, National Republican Congressional Committee chairman Tom Reynolds of New York, House Education Committee chairman John Boehner and leadership chairman Rob Portman of Ohio. Not so long ago, it looked as though the speakership would be DeLay's for the taking after Hastert left the post, probably after the next election. But if DeLay is doing any praying in his office these days, it's probably to hold on to the job he has.
New York Times News Service
Published March 13, 2005
WASHINGTON -- A legal defense fund established by Tom DeLay, the Texas Republican who is House majority leader, has dramatically expanded its fundraising effort, taking in more than $250,000 since the indictment last fall of two of his closest political operatives in Texas, according to DeLay's latest financial disclosure statements.
The list of recent donors includes dozens of DeLay's House Republican colleagues and several of the nation's largest corporations and their executives.
Among the corporate donors to the defense fund is Bacardi USA, the Florida-based rum-maker, which also has been indicted in the Texas investigation, and Reliant Energy, another major contributor to a Texas political action committee formed by DeLay that is the focus of the criminal inquiry.
DeLay is facing scrutiny by a grand jury in Austin over his role in the creation and management of Texans for a Republican Majority, the political action committee that he helped establish in 2001. The committee has been accused of funneling illegal corporate donations to state Republican candidates in the 2002 elections.
A grand jury in the case issued indictments last September against James Ellis, the director of DeLay's national political action committee; a major Washington-based fundraiser for DeLay, Warren RoBold; and eight companies that donated to the committee.
A spokesman for DeLay, Dan Allen, said the contributions "were an acknowledgment that Congressman DeLay is a fixture within the conservative movement and has been a very effective leader."
By PHILIP SHENON
March, 9 2005
WASHINGTON, March 8 - Documents subpoenaed from an indicted fund-raiser for Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, suggest that Mr. DeLay was more actively involved than previously known in gathering corporate donations for a political committee that is the focus of a grand-jury investigation in Texas, his home state.
The documents, which were entered into evidence last week in a related civil trial in Austin, the state capital, suggest that Mr. DeLay personally forwarded at least one large corporate check to the committee, Texans for a Republican Majority, and that he was in direct contact with lobbyists for some of the nation's largest companies on the committee's behalf.
In an August 2002 document subpoenaed from the files of the indicted fund-raiser, Warren M. RoBold, Mr. RoBold asked for a list of 10 major donors to the committee, saying that "I would then decide from response who Tom DeLay" and others should call to help the committee in seeking a "large contribution."
Another document is a printout of a July 2002 e-mail message to Mr. RoBold from a political ally of Mr. Delay, requesting a list of corporate lobbyists who would attend a fund-raising event for the committee, adding that "DeLay will want to see a list of attendees" and that the list should be available "on the ground in Austin for T.D. upon his arrival."
Under Texas law, corporations are barred from donating money to state political candidates. The Texas committee acknowledged receiving large corporate donations during the 2002 campaign but always insisted that the money was used for administrative costs, which is legal.
A spokesman for Mr. DeLay, Dan Allen, said that there was nothing in the documents to suggest any impropriety by the majority leader, and that Mr. DeLay's role as an adviser and fund-raiser for Texans for a Republican Majority was well known.
"His being on the advisory board is a well-established fact," Mr. Allen said.
"There are partisans out there who are trying to stretch the role of what he did with Trmpac," he added, using an acronym for the political action committee.
Mr. DeLay, who as majority leader is the second-most-powerful Republican in the House and who is considered his party's most aggressive fund-raiser in Congress, has said that he is not concerned about the grand jury investigation in Travis County, Tex., which includes most of Austin, and has told friends that he had no involvement in the day-to-day fund-raising operations of Texans for a Republican Majority.
Last September, the grand jury indicted two men close to Mr. DeLay: Mr. RoBold, a major fund-raiser for the Texas committee and for Mr. DeLay's national political action committee, Americans for a Republican Majority; and James W. Ellis, the national committee's director and one of Mr. DeLay's closest political operatives. The Texas committee's executive director, John Colyandro, was also indicted.
Prosecutors accused them of being part of a scheme at the committee to funnel large corporate donations illegally to state Republican candidates in the months before the 2002 elections in Texas, in which Republicans took control of the State Legislature.
The 2002 elections in Texas had national significance, since they allowed Republicans to redraw the state's Congressional districts, benefiting Mr. DeLay by solidifying Republican control of the House.
In an interview last week, Ronnie Earle, the Travis County district attorney, would not rule out the possibility of criminal charges against Mr. DeLay, who was a founder of Texans for a Republican Majority and was a member of its advisory board. In recent months, Mr. DeLay has gathered donations for a fund to pay for lawyers to deal with the grand jury investigation and has accused Mr. Earle, a Democrat, of engaging in a partisan effort to "criminalize politics" in Texas.
A lawyer for Mr. RoBold, Rusty Hardin of Houston, said that the documents offered no evidence to suggest any wrongdoing by Mr. RoBold or Mr. DeLay, and that Mr. RoBold continued to believe that Mr. DeLay had only a limited advisory role on Texans for a Republican Majority.
"Warren was just having no contact with DeLay about this," Mr. Hardin said in an interview. "DeLay wasn't directing him."
In one of his more detailed references to Mr. DeLay in the documents, Mr. RoBold seemed to suggest in an e-mailed message on Aug. 19, 2002, that Mr. DeLay would follow the committee's direction in fund-raising, not direct the fund-raising himself.
"John," he wrote, referring to Mr. Colyandro, the committee's executive director. "Create a top 10 list of givers and let me call them to ask for large contribution. I would then decide from response who Tom DeLay others should call. If this is successful than I will do more of them."
Many of the records provided by Mr. RoBold are printouts of e-mailed messages that have spelling and grammatical errors.
Cris Feldman, a lawyer for the Democratic candidates, said he believed that the newly revealed documents from Mr. RoBold were eye-opening.
"We always knew Tom DeLay was involved," Mr. Feldman said, "but we never realized the extent to which he was involved in fund-raising directly with corporations."
One of the most intriguing documents, he said, was a printout of a September 2002 e-mail exchange between Mr. RoBold and Drew Maloney, a Washington lobbyist who is Mr. DeLay's former legislative director and administrative assistant in the House.
Mr. Maloney, who has lobbied on behalf of Reliant Energy, the Houston-based energy company that was a major contributor to Texans for a Republican Majority, offered Mr. RoBold a list of possible corporate donors to the Texas committee, adding: "I finally have the two checks from Reliant. Will deliver to T.D. next week."
The Texas committee's donation records show that it received a check for $25,000 from Reliant that month. The existence of some of the documents in Mr. RoBold's files was first reported last month by The Austin American-Statesman.
In a telephone interview on Tuesday, Mr. Maloney said he could not recall many of the details of the Reliant donations or whether checks from Reliant were ever transferred to the Texas committee through Mr. DeLay's office in Washington.
"I don't think it was necessarily meant that he'd get them himself," he said. "I don't know how that all flowed."
Mr. Allen, Mr. DeLay's spokesman, said he had no knowledge about whether Mr. DeLay or anyone in his office had actually received a check from Reliant in 2002 or whether one might have been forwarded to the Texas committee. "That was three years ago," he said.
Mr. Allen also said he saw no significance in the July 2002 e-mail message suggesting that Mr. DeLay wanted a list of lobbyists who would be attending a fund-raising event for the committee. "Only The New York Times would find it odd that any member would want to know who was going to be in a room before they walked into it," Mr. Allen said.
Asked if he had been contacted by prosecutors in Austin or by the grand jury, Mr. Maloney would not comment, saying instead: "I'm not going to get into these witch-hunt allegations. I think there's been enough written on all this stuff."
A spokeswoman for Reliant had no immediate comment on issues raised by the e-mail message.
DeLay accuser says staff firings resemble a purge
The Denver Post
WASHINGTON - When Republican leaders ousted him as House ethics committee chairman, Rep. Joel Hefley, R-Colo., put on a smile and said it wasn't retaliation for rebuking the formidable House majority leader, Tom DeLay.
But when his replacement fired the top staffers who ran the DeLay investigation, Hefley's tone changed.
"That looks very much like a purge," said Hefley. "It seems to me like it was."
To Hefley, it was a telling end to a miserably handled chapter in his party's leadership of the House. Hefley said he was ready to leave as ethics chairman, an unpopular job.
But House Republican leaders, he said, turned his departure into a fiasco.
"They put me in a spot where I wasn't going to quit under fire," Hefley said Thursday, reflecting on the wild ride he's taken for three months.
As the House's top ethics cop, Hefley admonished DeLay, R-Sugar Land, for financial and political transgressions. When DeLay and House leaders then tried to weaken ethics rules, Hefley protested. And when House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., said it was time for a new ethics chairman, Hefley made clear he was being pushed.
The soft-spoken lawmaker, once dubbed one of the 10 "most obscure members of Congress," suddenly found his utterances triggering banner headlines as editorialists dubbed him a "profile in courage."
The hard-line conservative, who has represented one of the most Republican districts in the nation for 18 years, got his staunchest support from the other party. And ethics watchdog groups such as Common Cause, which for years rapped Hefley as soft on ethics, lobbied to save his job.
"That's strange," Hefley said. "Some of those groups, I have often felt, made their living off of criticizing the ethics committee. Then all of a sudden, they're fighting for me to stay on. But we don't pay any attention to any of that."
March 6, 2005
D.A. Takes On Tom DeLay
Ronnie Earle is the local district attorney in Austin, Texas. During his 28 years in office, he’s prosecuted his share of robberies, rapes and murders.
But what he cares about most is rooting out public corruption. Over the years, he’s indicted more than a dozen politicians, including a U.S. senator, the state’s attorney general, and a sitting Texas Supreme Court justice.
District Attorney Ronnie Earle is investigating a political action committee linked to Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. (Photo: CBS)
But none of his cases ever created much of a stir outside of the Lone Star State until recently, when he launched a criminal investigation that seems to be honing in on one of the most powerful politicians in the country -- Congressman Tom DeLay of Texas, the Republican House Majority Leader. Correspondent Lesley Stahl reports.
Congressman Tom DeLay of Texas, the Republican House Majority Leader. (Photo: CBS)
Known as “The Hammer” among his colleagues, Rep. DeLay recently came out swinging after Ronnie Earle indicted three of his associates.
"The facts are, I have not been indicted in Austin, Texas, and the facts are, the indictments that have been brought by this partisan D.A. in Austin, Texas, against three of my associates, are frivolous," said DeLay.
DeLay accuses Earle, a Democrat, of playing politics. But Earle says politics has nothing to do with this case. "This is not about Democrats and Republicans," says Earle. "This is about cops and robbers. This is about the abuse of power."
What does Earle have to say about being called "vindictive and partisan" by DeLay?
"Being called vindictive and partisan by Tom DeLay is like being called ugly by a frog," says Earle. "It sort of comes with the territory. But that’s my job. That’s what I’m supposed to do."
This case involves a political action committee called “Texans for a Republican Majority” or TRMPAC, chaired by Tom DeLay and run by some of his closest associates. Earle contends that TRMPAC raised money illegally from corporations during the 2002 state elections in Texas.
"It's an ancient equation: money for power, power for money," says Earle.
So far, Earle has obtained indictments against eight corporations, in addition to the three people close to DeLay. The charges include multiple counts of money laundering and the illegal use of corporate contributions.
What about DeLay? Is Earle looking at him?
"We're following the truth. And wherever that leads, that's where we'll go," says Earle.
The corporate fundraising, says Earle, was done to elect Republicans to the Texas legislature so they could redistrict the state and ensure that more Republicans would be elected to the house in Washington.
DeLay turned down many requests by 60 Minutes for an interview, so Stahl caught up with him at a news conference in Washington to ask him about the case. DeLay wouldn't answer Stahl's questions, but he has said in the past that he doesn't expect to be indicted – and yet he has hired a team of lawyers while his legal defense fund has reached a million dollars.
"The fact is he is worried. Republicans in the house are worried that this could be a huge flameout for Tom DeLay," says Norm Ornstein, a scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute and a recent critic of Tom DeLay.
Ornstein says the Republicans are worried because DeLay has already been admonished by the House Ethics Committee for questionable conduct.
"Tom DeLay was rebuked on three separate matters by the House Ethics Committee in the last Congress, an extraordinary slap at the leader," says Ornstein. "But they left open pending a fourth issue, which was the Ronnie Earle case in Texas. So what did the House Republicans do? They fire the chairman of the Ethics Committee. They removed two members."
And two of the replacements had contributed to DeLay’s legal defense fund.
Adds Ornstein: "They want a group of people on the House Ethics Committee who are going to go to extraordinary lengths to keep Tom DeLay from going down or being embarrassed yet again, which embarrasses them all, they believe, with what’s been going on down in Texas."
What's been going on down in Texas revolves around a state law that is 102 years old. It bans the use of corporate money in state campaigns. Craig McDonald, who runs a liberal political watchdog group in Austin, discovered $600,000 in corporate contributions to DeLay’s PAC in public records filed with the IRS.
"We had to date never seen such cheating, such an influx of corporate money into our state elections process," says McDonald.
But lawyers for TRMPAC say the law is murky because it allows corporate money to be spent in campaigns for “administrative” functions.
"Well, that's the spin they’re using," says McDonald.
"What do you mean by that," asks Stahl. "They say the money went to administrative functions. They say the law says they can use the money for that reason. What’s wrong? Where’s the hole in that?"
"No, the law is very clear in Texas on how you can use corporate funds: paying your rent, paying your telephone bills, paying your accountant," says McDonald. "Very, very specific limited administrative expenses."
Does he know how they spent that money? "It's in black and white in the IRS reports," says McDonald. "They spent it for political activities, prohibited activities under the Texas law."
He says TRMPAC was anything but secretive about what it was up to. He read from a TRMPAC brochure that went out to corporate executives.
"Rather than just paying for overhead, which is all that is allowable under Texas law, overhead, 'Your support will fund a series of productive and innovative activities,'" says McDonald. "And they go on to list four activities, all of which are really defined as political activities under Texas laws."
And these activities, he says, are "spelled out."
"Candidate evaluation recruitment. Message development and communication," says McDonald. "These activities cannot be paid for with corporate dollars under Texas law."
But that very point is being challenged.
DeLay’s fellow Texan, Republican Rep. John Carter, says whether the law was broken depends on what your definition of “administrative” is.
"No court has actually defined clearly what administrative purposes is," says Carter.
60 Minutes showed him TRMPAC's brochure with the statement of how the corporate funds would be spent.
"Active candidate evaluation and recruitment. Message development. Market research and issue development," says Stahl. "I mean, how is that administrative?"
"Active candidate evaluation and recruitment, that’s a party of administrative procedure," says Carter. "That’s a party function."
"I thought administration was the running of the office. The Xerox machine. Paying bills," says Stahl.
"This is what the court has to rule on," says Carter. "If they find all these things are administrative, there’ll be no convictions in this case."
Would this be considered a technicality – a way to revolve around a definition of administrative?
"We're not talking about Mother Teresa here who gets caught for turning right on a red light in a state that doesn’t allow such a thing," says Ornstein. "The history of Tom DeLay in Congress is that he's pushed every envelope. It is often the case that powerful people get their comeuppance because of something that a lot of people would see as a technicality."
Case in point is what happened to another Texan, Democrat Jim Wright, who was forced to resign as Speaker of the House and from Congress in 1989.
"When you look back at what brought down the most powerful member of Congress, Jim Wright, which was publishing a book, and having a bunch of copies go on bulk sales to people who then gave him royalties through some kind of subterranean process, wasn't even a violation of a law or a specific ethics rule," says Ornstein. "It was just the general sense that this is not how a member of Congress behaves. It was murkier than what we have now."
Does he think that the Republicans are taking better steps to make sure that what happened to Wright won't happen here?
"Do you think this is in the back of the Republicans' minds now that it happened to Jim Wright, 'Oh oh, we better take steps to make sure that doesn't happen here,'" asks Stahl.
"It's not in the backs of their minds about Jim Wright, it's in the front of their minds," says Ornstein. "They see the parallel here and they want to be sure this doesn't happen."
Meanwhile in Texas, three of the indicted companies have agreed to cooperate with the investigation, and lawyers following the case say the prosecutor may try and “flip” the two DeLay associates indicted in the case -- offering Jim Ellis and TRMPAC Executive Director John Colliandro a deal in exchange for evidence against DeLay.
"It feels as though you’re circling Tom DeLay, just making a big circle right around him, with him in the bull’s eye," Stahl says to Earle.
"Well, this is an ongoing investigation, and I really can’t comment in any more detail about any place that the investigation might go," says Earle.
"A good district attorney can indict a ham sandwich if he wants to, and Mr. Earle understands that," says Carter. "The accusations harm as much as the convictions. … Because all you have right now is accusations, and we're having an interview on a national television show about accusations. So they're obviously harmful or it wouldn't be news."
Is he saying that Earle is deliberately doing this? "I don't know whether he's doing – if he does it or not. I just know," says Carter. "I just know that you've seen a history that seems that way."
Carter is alluding to the charge made by DeLay and other Republicans that Earle’s motives are partisan, and he points to Earle’s unsuccessful attempt to prosecute Republican Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison on ethics charges.
Hutchinson said: "I know he prosecutes for political purposes. He did it to me."
"I'm not surprised that she would say that," says Earle. "That's pretty much what other politicians that I've prosecuted have said."
But does he believe that example casts a shadow over this case, and these indictments?
"That was one case. There have been somewhere around 15 cases involving elected officials, that my office has prosecuted," says Earle. "Of the 15, 12 were Democrats; three were Republican. But now, he’s dealing with one of the most powerful politicians in the country."
DeLay has said that "Ronnie Earle is trying to criminalize politics. That’s a charge that Stahl tried to ask the congressman about at a news conference in Washington that he had called to talk about something else, children left stranded by the tsunami.
Stahl: Can I ask you about Ronnie Earle? What is your real charge here? You’re, you seem to be suggesting he’s doing a whole investigation just to get Republicans. Is that really what your charge is?
DeLay: I know CBS likes to create news. But we’re here to talk about children…
DeLay ignored Stahl's question, and Rep. Mark Foley of Florida stepped in: "We'll ask those questions and answer them later. … We're not talking about Mr. DeLay today."
Stahl said: "Well, we are. I'd like to know when you're going to answer the questions?"
"Thank you very much," said DeLay. "You ought to be ashamed of yourself."
Earle has been attacked as a self-promoter and a “crackpot,” hard sells in Texas, where he has a reputation as a "Mr. Clean."
"I'm just doing my job," says Earle. "The law says that it’s a felony for corporations to contribute money to political campaigns. My job is to prosecute felonies."
"And now, some people might say, 'You know, all these Republicans did was try to get elected. And, you know, politics ain't bean bag, as we've heard many times. They just played hard,'" says Stahl.
"You bet. I think that's great," says Earle. "The problem here is we believe that the law was broken in the process. That's the point. The law was broken."
2/28/2005 @ 6:41 pm EST
Former congressman who filed DeLay ethics charge says Congress must investigate
By John Byrne | RAW STORY Editor
The former Democratic congressman who filed an ethics complaint against House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) told RAW STORY Monday he wasn’t surprised about new revelations that DeLay enjoyed $134,000 in travel at the expense of a group which uses scare letters targeted at senior citizens to raise money.
“I can’t say I'm terribly surprised,” Bell said.
Bell's complaint filed against DeLay in 2004–which accused DeLay of illegally soliciting and accepting campaign funds and abusing his office to redistrict Texas–resulted in the House leader being admonished by his Republican colleagues. The Texas Democrat was subsequently criticized by the GOP-controlled Ethics Committee for including “innuendo, speculative assertions or conclusory statements” in his complaint.
Bell was forced out of Congress last year due to a DeLay-engineered redistricting plan.
The former congressman said DeLay's use of a dubious conservative nonprofit to fund trips to Europe and Asia were perfect examples of why a full-scale investigation of DeLay's activities was warranted.
“Such an investigation would reveal other matters that probably had not come to light such as this,” Bell said. “My feeling for quite some time has been that Tom DeLay is individual who is willing to thumb his nose at rules and the law to get what he wants. This is just another example of that kind of conduct.”
Bell asserted that DeLay’s travel arrangements were part of a larger pattern of unethical behavior, and that a key lobbyists relationship with DeLay must be examined.
“If you look at Mr Delay’s course of conduct over the last ten to fiteen years you see certain pattern,” he said. “When Jack Abramoff started getting in trouble, Tom immediately began distancing himself from him, acting like there was no real relationship there.”
“I think that what [RAW STORY] brings to light is a very clear relationship,” he added. DeLay “certainly didn't mind sharing in the spoils.”
Abramoff, a powerful conservative lobbyist who is under investigation for excessive fees and casino deals, paid $13,000 for a trip DeLay took to London. A group he served as a director for, the National Council for Public Policy Research, also footed the bill for $134,000 in other DeLay travel expenses.
Melanie Sloan, Executive Director for the watchdog group Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington that wrote Bell’s complaint, said Abramoff had used the group as “basically [his] private funding source.”
“When lobbyists can funnel campaign contributions through nonprofits,” Sloan added, “it’s basically money laundering.”
DeLay has been admonished several times by the House Ethics Committee. In 1997, the Committee issued a statement advising DeLay to avoid creating the appearance of giving favors to his brother, a registered lobbyist. In 2004, DeLay was admonished for suggesting he would only support a member's son's congressional campaign if the member voted a particular way on a Medicare bill.
Bell called on members of Congress to fully investigate DeLay and set a higher
standard of ethics.
“Members of the House have a clear opening here for them to talk about [DeLay] and focus on the larger question regarding to overall ehtical climate,” he said. These “allegations deserve a full scale investigation. You can only sweep so much under the carpet.
“Members of Congress are only fooling themselves if they think the American people are being fooled,” he added.
DeLay and the Office of the Majority Leader have declined repeated calls for comment. The group that paid for DeLay’s trips defended their fundraising practices as necessary to stand out in an era where direct mail solicitations are commonplace.