|Tom DeLay- Corporate Whore|
Top Washington lobbyists plan fundraiser for DeLay
Backers say it shows his strength; critics cite 'pay-to-play' attitude
12:00 AM CST on Tuesday, November 15, 2005
By TODD J. GILLMAN / The Dallas Morning News
WASHINGTON – An A-list of Washington lobbyists will throw a fundraiser Thursday for Rep. Tom DeLay, a sure sign the Sugar Land Republican still has friends despite an indictment that forced him to step down as House majority leader.
"Most of the groups and people in D.C. realize the contribution that Mr. DeLay has made to the party and the influence that he still has," said Carl Forti, spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee.
Seven weeks ago, a grand jury in Austin charged Mr. DeLay with violating state campaign law, triggering a House GOP rule requiring him to leave the leadership. He calls the charges politically motivated and denies wrongdoing. But they have energized Democrats hoping to unseat him next November.
Mr. DeLay holds a wide financial lead over his likely opponent, former Rep. Nick Lampson. The Democrat, ousted a year ago after redistricting that Mr. DeLay helped engineer, has raised $826,000 so far to Mr. DeLay's $2.2 million. Mr. DeLay has also been busy raising money for his legal defense, bringing in $318,000 in the last three months.
Critics say the fundraiser reflects the favors Mr. DeLay has dispensed, along with his continued clout.
"Tom DeLay has been sitting atop the pay-to-play culture in Washington ever since he got here, and if there's even an inkling of a chance that he comes back, they want to be sure they're in a position to reap the rewards that he's been known to so freely give," said Bill Burton, spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Lampson spokesman Mike Malaise said he wasn't surprised that lobbyists would turn out for Mr. DeLay. "These lobbyists are not supporting Tom DeLay because they think he's a statesman. They are supporting him precisely because he is willing to skirt the law and rules of ethics to deliver for them at the expense of his own district," he said.
DeLay campaign spokeswoman Shannon Flaherty declined to comment.
Hosts for Thursday's reception include executives from many of the capital's best-connected trade groups.
John Engler, former Michigan governor and head of the National Association of Manufacturers, is a host. "DeLay is a friend, and [Engler] intends to help his friends," said spokesman Pat Cleary.
Public Citizen, one of the liberal watchdog groups that have accused Mr. DeLay of ethical lapses, may try to stage a protest outside the event.
Said the group's campaign finance lobbyist, Craig Holman: "Here he is, the most scandal-driven officeholder on Capitol Hill, mostly centered around his relationship with lobbyists. Then he sets up the largest fundraiser of the year with K Street lobbyists. That's chutzpah."
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