|Tom DeLay- Corporate Whore|
Lobbyist friends pass hat for DeLay's 2006 campaign
Backers seek to raise $200,000 and moral support
By SAMANTHA LEVINE
Houston Chronicle Washington Bureau
Nov. 17, 2005, 12:01AM
WASHINGTON - High-profile lobbyists and Republican operatives will gather for cocktails and hors d'oeuvres tonight in hopes of raising more than $200,000 for embattled U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay's re-election campaign and proving that he still has powerful friends in high places.
They are hardly strangers. In fact, many are former DeLay aides.
"We thought it would be good to have an outpouring of support for Tom, and not just moral support, but to have an effect on his re-election" bid next year, said DeLay's former communications director, Stuart Roy, now a GOP consultant and a host of the fundraiser.
DeLay, a Sugar Land Republican, has been indicted in Travis County on charges related to campaign financing. The indictments forced him to step down as House majority leader, and now he faces possibly his most difficult re-election campaign.
Roy and the nearly 70 others on the organizing committee were required to either donate $2,000 themselves or raise $5,000 for DeLay. The 100-plus people invited were asked to contribute between $500 and $2,100, the maximum individuals can give to a candidate in each primary and general election.
Roy said the intent is to "get new money in the door that you wouldn't have otherwise raised," from people who often just donate to political action committees rather than candidates.
If the two-hour event rakes in more than $200,000, it would be among the most lucrative fundraisers Washington has seen aside from those that feature the president or vice president, said GOP strategist Charlie Black.
He regularly contributes to DeLay and cut a $1,000 check for the fundraiser, which he will be unable to attend.
Nonprofit group Public Citizen, which wants to end the practice of lobbyists contributing to the lawmakers they seek to influence, plans a protest outside the event.
Lampson plans challenge
The fundraiser began to take shape after DeLay was indicted six weeks ago on conspiracy and money-laundering charges. A grand jury issued the indictments after hearing evidence presented by District Attorney Ronnie Earle, a Democrat.
DeLay has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and has said the case is politically motivated.
GOP strategists estimate DeLay will need at least $5 million for the 2006 general election.
Former Rep. Nick Lampson, who lost his seat after Texas' congressional district lines were redrawn under a plan orchestrated by DeLay, is seeking the Democratic nomination against DeLay in the 22nd Congressional District.
The DeLay campaign took in more than $2 million between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30, the latest figures available, according to PoliticalMoneyLine, which tracks contributions. Lampson raised about $690,000.
The host committee for tonight's soiree is a veritable directory of former DeLay employees, well-connected Washington lobbyists, including several for the energy industry, and former staffers for leading Republican lawmakers and presidents.
"Most of these people have done well because of their connection with DeLay, and DeLay has actively tried to place them in key positions knowing that it would help him and the Republicans in Congress, and it has," said University of Virginia congressional expert Larry Sabato.
Two other names surface
Among the organizers are two former DeLay chiefs of staff who are now lobbyists and whose names have been linked to ethical issues surrounding the former majority leader.
Tim Berry, who left DeLay's staff in October, went to the 2001 Super Bowl in Tampa and spent an evening aboard a gambling cruise ship there, all courtesy of lobbyist Jack Abramoff, whose dealings with DeLay are under investigation.
Berry did not report the trip on disclosure forms, an error DeLay's office called an honest mistake, saying Berry thought the trip was a GOP fundraiser allowed by House rules.
Susan Hirschmann, now at the politically active law firm of Williams & Jensen, accompanied DeLay and others on a $70,000 trip to Britain in 2000 that is being scrutinized for possibly violating House regulations governing the influence of interest groups on lawmakers.
DeLay has said it was a legitimate fact-finding tour sponsored by a nonprofit organization as allowed by House rules.
Chronicle reporters Grant Schulte and Michael Hedges contributed to this report.
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