|Tom DeLay- Corporate Whore|
DeLay Gets By With Less Help From Hill Friends
By Brian Faler
Friday, July 22, 2005; Page A07
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) is getting less help from his colleagues when it comes to paying his legal bills.
The liberal advocacy group Public Citizen, which analyzed DeLay's disclosure reports, said yesterday that just two other House members gave money to the Republican leader's defense fund during the past quarter. Reps. Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex.) and Paul E. Gillmor (R-Ohio) gave $7,000 to the fund, which raised $42,000 in that quarter.
In the previous quarter, nine of DeLay's colleagues contributed $30,000 to the account -- about two-thirds of the money it raised during that period. The quarter before, 36 lawmakers kicked in $174,000 of the $254,000 the fund reported receiving. Public Citizen said the fund has raised more than $1 million since it was formed in 2000, but the group did not calculate its current balance.
Lawmakers are allowed to contribute as much as $5,000 per year to such accounts, which are created to pay for legal fights related to the legislators' official duties. Much of DeLay's money is going to lawyers preparing for a possible investigation by the House ethics committee.
Public Citizen, which has been highly critical of DeLay, interpreted the numbers as a sign of declining support. "Clearly, the contributions to DeLay's legal defense fund are dropping at the same rate as his stock on Capitol Hill," said the group's president, Joan Claybrook.
"Blah, blah, blah," said Brent Perry, the trustee for the fund. "The level of contributions signifies that we haven't been focusing on fundraising for the legal expense trust -- and that's all it signifies."
Lawmakers Stick Close to Home
Are members of Congress becoming a bunch of homebodies?
The number of lawmakers who took privately funded trips plunged after news reports this spring documenting Tom DeLay's travels on other people's dimes.
PoliticalMoneyLine, which tracks money in politics, said that the number of such trips plummeted around May -- just as the controversy was peaking in the news. The group, which analyzed the disclosure forms lawmakers are required to file within 30 days of such trips, found that they took between 134 and 163 trips -- valued at between $380,000 and $500,000 -- during each of the first four months of this year.
Then, in May, the number of trips dropped by almost half, from 134 to 70. Their estimated value dropped even further, from about $490,000 in April to less than $91,000 the following month. The numbers began to climb in June, according to the group, which has counted, so far, 47 trips at $228,000. That figure may be misleading as more than half of the cost stemmed from a trip by several members to a conference in Turkey on Islam that was sponsored by the nonprofit Aspen Institute.
"We're now able to see the drop-off that existed in May," said the group's co-founder, Kent Cooper, who added that the number of travel forms filed in July has been "minuscule."
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