Away with DeLay

From the Public Campaign Action Fund, top 10 reasons Tom DeLay should be kicked out of Congress:

1. Tom DeLay violates ethics rules at will, making him a national embarrassment. Indeed, he has earned four formal ethics violations, a truly rare achievement, as only five Members of Congress have been chastised by the committee in the last six years..

• In May 1999, the House Ethics Committee issued a rare private rebuke to DeLay, for “badgering a lobbying organization over its hiring of a Democrat as its president.” DeLay had complained to the Electronic Industries Alliance and the GOP House leadership the October before about its hiring of a former Democratic congressman from Oklahoma, Dave McCurdy. After DeLay voiced his complaint, House leaders showed their displeasure with the group by postponing votes on an international treaty that the association wanted. (The New York Times, 5/14/99)

• In October 2004, the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct admonished DeLay, saying he had gone too far, and violated rules on three separate occasions: “The promise of political support for a relative of a member goes beyond the boundaries of maintaining party discipline, and should not be used as the basis of a bargain for members to achieve their respective goals,” the House Ethics committee wrote in its report. The Committee also admonished him for using federal resources, the FAA, for political purposes and for the appearance of conflict of interest by raising money at a golf tournament from Westar while considering legislation that would impact the energy company. (House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct; The New York Times, 10/1/04)

2. Tom DeLay embodies the worst of pay-to-play politics – he puts big donors like Enron ahead of the rest of us.

• DeLay’s rise in politics was fueled by Enron. The rogue company hosted the first fundraiser for his leadership PAC, raising $280,000 for him at the event. And DeLay fought hard for the company’s agenda of regulatory relief. Not only did Enron reward Delay with $32,700 over his years in Congress (making him its #8 top beneficiary overall), it gave two of his top aides a $750,000 consulting contract to do a “grassroots” campaign for the deregulation of energy markets, and paid his wife Christine $40,000 for a no-show job.

In 1998, DeLay sponsored a far reaching energy deregulation bill, earning him a letter from Enron CEO Ken Lay lauding him “for his vision.” The Fort Worth Star Telegram wrote that “DeLay and a cadre of close political advisers operated at the center of an Enron-backed crusade for energy deregulation in the late 1990s.” That particular bill died but DeLay’s service to Enron continued even into the months after the company scandal broke open, when he pushed the House to pass a retroactive tax break that would have delivered $254 million to the failing company. Unlike most members of Congress, DeLay did not return his Enron campaign contributions after the company’s collapse; nor did he donate them to help assist its many devastated ex-employees and pensioners. (Stephen Pizzo, Alternet, 5/10/02)

• A January 1996 bill introduced by DeLay at behest of Enron, would have completely deregulated the electricity industry. It was known on the Hill as the Enron bill. Ken Lay and other Enron executives personally consulted with DeLay as the bill was drafted. In exchange, he got $51,550 to his campaign committee and PAC. (Charles Lewis, The Buying of the Congress, Avon Books, 1998, p. 51)

• In October 2001, DeLay added a provision to anti-terrorism legislation that would have prevented foreign governments from recouping billions from tobacco companies in lost revenues and damages. Public Citizen reports that a political committee he controls (known as a “527” organization) took in $131,500 from tobacco interests (one-fifth of its total haul) in the year prior to that, more than any candidate for Congress received in hard money from tobacco interests in the whole prior 1999-2000 election cycle. Only a last-minute move by Senate Democrats, who were then in the majority, removed the provision from the bill. (Public Citizen, February 2002 report)

• Peter Cloeren, a conservative Republican and Texas businessman, charged that DeLay orchestrated a campaign contribution conduit scheme in which money was funneled through a variety of candidates and organizations to support the candidacy of Brian Babin, who was running for a Texas House seat. As Cloeren told a congressional investigator:

“Congressman DeLay told me that the Democratic candidate was receiving a lot of money from liberal interest groups like labor unions and trial lawyers. I told Congressman DeLay that I could not help Mr. Babin raise more money because I had run out of vehicles. Congressman DeLay specifically told me that it would not be a problem for him to find, in his words, ‘additional vehicles,’ since he knew some organizations and campaigns which could serve as these vehicles. Mr. DeLay turned to his aide, Mr. Robert Mills and stated that money could be funneled to the Babin campaign through both Triad a corporation that ran two nonprofit foundations and other congressional campaigns. Congressman DeLay then specifically told me that Mr. Mills would follow up with me on the details of how to funnel additional monies to Mr. Babin’s campaign.”

Cloeren pled guilty to violating campaign finance laws and ended up paying $400,000 in fines, as well as serving a two-year probated sentence and hundreds of hours of community service. DeLay walked away unscathed. (Lou Dobose and Jan Reid, The Hammer: Tom DeLay, God, Money, and the Rise of the Republican Congress, Public Affairs, 2004)

• In June 2002, Tom DeLay attended an exclusive energy company golf fundraiser for his leadership PAC at The Homestead resort in the Allegheny mountains, just as a House and Senate committee was preparing to meet to reconcile the chambers’ different versions of major energy legislation.

Attendees at the event included executives from the company Westar, which paid at least $25,000 to attend the event. According to Westar officials, DeLay asked them what their concerns about the bill were. After a round of golf, a company executive gave a DeLay aide a briefing book detailing the company’s stand about a particular provision in the bill. (House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct; Houston Chronicle, 10/8/04)

• On May 14, 1996, Edwin Lupberger, then the CEO of Entergy Corp., wrote DeLay a letter to thank him for meeting with him during a dinner for Republican “Team 100” donors—people who gave or raised over $100,000 for the Republican Party—and discussing pending legislation. “There is an issue before Congress of significant importance to our company and industry—repeal of the Public Utility Holding Act of 1935,” Lupberger wrote.

He urged DeLay to push the relevant committee chairmen to act on repealing the act. Over the summer, Entergy gave $20,000 in soft money to the National Republican Congressional Committee, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. In September, DeLay went to the floor of the House to push the law’s repeal. (Micah L. Sifry and Nancy Watzman, Is That a Politician in Your Pocket?)

• In 2003, Congress debated and passed the Federal Aviation Administration Reauthorization Act. President George W. Bush signed it into law on Dec. 12, 2003.

The initial version of the legislation, as passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, included language mandating flight attendants to obtain security training in the post-9/11 environment. The measure was supported by the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA) and it direct the federal officials to establish minimum guidelines for security training that all flight attendants would be required to complete.

But, according to the AFA, as the compromise was hammered out between the House and the Senate, a provision that weakened the security training — by making it voluntary, not mandatory — was “ordered to be inserted” by DeLay.

Airlines had opposed the requirement, complaining about its cost, and they apparently found an ally in the Majority Leader. “Found” may be the wrong word. The airline industry has contributed $159,000 since 1997 to Tom DeLay’s congressional candidate committee.

In a post-9/11 world, flight attendants said at the time that for some of them, the only option is to pay for the security training out of their own pockets. (Campaign Money Watch)

• He has used his legal defense fund as another avenue to raise significant special interest money and contributions from elected officials, creating the appearance that members and corporations alike curry favor with DeLay through giving to his legal defense. To date, he has raised $1 million. (Public Citizen report)

3. Tom DeLay abuses his position as House Majority Leader to trample on the legislative process and stretches the rules of campaign fundraising far as he can.

•In 2003, as the House was down-to-the-wire on the vote over the GOP’s Medicare prescription drug legislation, DeLay offered to endorse Rep. Nick Smith’s (R-MI) son in his bid for a congressional seat in exchange for his support for the bill. The incident was made public when Smith, who was about to retire, wrote a newspaper column charging that Republican leaders had offered him “bribes” in the form of campaign help for his son.

In October 2004, the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct admonished DeLay, saying he had gone too far: ”The promise of political support for a relative of a member goes beyond the boundaries of maintaining party discipline, and should not be used as the basis of a bargain for members to achieve their respective goals.” (House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct; The New York Times, 10/1/04)

• In 1995 DeLay, who was then the House Republican Whip, joined conservative activist Grover Norquist in creating the “K Street Project.” Following up on the GOP take over of the House of Representatives in 1994, the two hoped to do a similar conquest of the capital city’s lobbying corps. They circulated lists of lobbyists along with information on their ties and contributions to Democrats. DeLay was eventually rebuked by the House Ethics Committee for using strong arm tactics to show his disapproval of the Electronics Industries Alliance for hiring a former Democratic congressman to be the group’s president. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2/15/04; Christian Science Monitor, 8/29/03)

• In February 2005, House GOP leaders removed Rep. Joel Hefley (R-CO) from the chairmanship of the House Ethics Committee. Hefley had presided over several investigations of DeLay’s actions that resulted in formal rebukes by the committee. Also ousted were two top career staffers on the committee who had worked on the investigations. At the same time, House GOP leaders put two new members on the committee, both of whom had donated a to a DeLay legal defense fund: Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), who had given $10,000, and Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), who had contributed $5,000. (The Washington Post, 2/3/05)

* DeLay has taken radical steps, at the expense of democracy, to centralize power in the House. He has used the arcane rules process to prevent legislation from getting a full hearing. Often the House leadership will make drastic revisions to a bill late in the evening. Although in such circumstances House rules require 48 hours to go by before the House takes action, in many cases the rules declare these bills to be “emergency” measures, eliminating this requirement. Sometimes bills are considered with as little as 30 minutes notice. According to American Prospect editor Robert Kuttner, “On several measures, members literally did not know what they were voting for.” Under DeLay’s leadership, there has been a huge increase in the number of bills that come up for consideration with rules prohibiting House members from offering amendments during floor debate. DeLay has also worked to exclude Democrats from conference committees, whose job it is to reconcile differing versions of House- and Senate-approved bill. While new issues are not supposed to be added in conference committee, according to Kuttner, under DeLay major provisions, such as the Medicare bill, have been added without any prior debate or Congressional Review. (Source: Robert Kuttner, “America as a One-Party State,” The American Prospect, February 1, 2004)

4. Tom DeLay accepted travel expenses from a registered foreign agent, in apparent violation of House rules.

• On March 10, 2005, news broke that in 2001 DeLay accepted an expense-paid trip to South Korea from the Korea-U.S. Exchange Council, a registered foreign agent. House ethics rules prohibit lawmakers from accepting travel expenses from foreign agents. The trip may trigger another investigation by the House Ethics Committee. (The Washington Post, 3/10/05)

5. Tom DeLay used illegal corporate contributions to disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of Texas voters with his anti-democratic re-districting scheme.

• A DeLay-created state political action committee raised $600,000 in corporate contributions to illegally influence the 2002 state legislative elections in Texas. DeLay has admitted to raising funds for the committee, called Texans for a Republican Majority PAC, or TRMPAC. In February, subpoenaed emails indicate that DeLay was very involved in the fundraising operation. (Associated Press, 3/9/05, CBS News’ 60 Minutes, 3/6/05; see also Texans for Public Justice website,

6. Tom DeLay uses tax dollars and government resources for partisan political gain.

• In May 2003, in the middle of a fracas between Republicans and Democrats about redistricting in Texas, DeLay’s staff contacted an official at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The official was asked for information on the whereabouts of Democratic members of the Texas State Legislature, who had taken a plane out of the capital city of Austin as a way to prevent a quorum in the House. He relayed this information to the Texas House Speaker.

“I figured out why they were calling. . . I just felt like I had been used. . . I don’t do anything for political purposes . . . and I just did not like. . . somebody calling me for political reasons. . . I would never use my office to help somebody politically, for any political reasons, period,” the FAA official later told the agency’s inspector general.

On October 6, 2004, , the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct officially admonished DeLay for his “intervention in a partisan conflict in the Texas House of Representatives using the resources of a Federal agency, the Federal Aviation Administration. This action raises serious concerns under House standards of conduct that preclude use of governmental resources for a political undertaking.” (House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct.)

7. Tom DeLay opposes any reasonable campaign finance laws, even disclosure of donations.

• Every time that the House has taken an important vote on campaign finance reform, DeLay has either lodged his opposition or been absent.

• In a floor debate over the Shays-Meehan campaign finance reform bill in the summer of 1998, Tom Campbell (R-CA) and DeLay had an exchange about disclosure of donors for campaign advertisements:

Campbell: Let me understand the gentleman. He does not believe the citizens of this country have the right to know who pays for an advertisement in a campaign of that nature?

DeLay: No, because we have experience—if we believe in the Constitution and the right of people to petition their government, whether it be by writing a petition or talking about my voting record or however they do it, the point is that if we believe in the Constitution and the people having a right to petition their government, then we do not want the government to be able to go and punish these people…

Campbell: If the gentleman will continue to yield. As I understand the logic of the gentleman’s position, then, he would never require the disclosure of who is behind funding campaigns?

DeLay: Not at all.

Campbell: Not at all?

DeLay: Absolutely not. Not at all.

(Congressional Record, July 14, 1998, p. H5465.)

• “I think we can drag this out all summer,” DeLay reportedly told Mitch McConnell at a late April 1998 meeting in his office, about pending campaign finance reform legislation. After the House passed the legislation in question, over the opposition of Republican leaders, DeLay told a Wall Street Journal reporter, “the timing kills ‘em. The DeLay strategy worked. Delay, delay, delay.” (Elizabeth Drew, The Corruption of American Politics, p. 194 and p. 204)

8. Tom DeLay shakes down small business owners for campaign contributions.

• In 2001, the Associated Press reported that DeLay was making recorded calls to small business owners, promising them meetings with top Bush officials where they could voice their opinions on issues like tax reform in exchange a $20,000 contribution to join his “Business Advisory Council.” (Associated Press, 4/3/01)

9. Tom DeLay received all expenses-paid junket from a lobbyist accused of bilking tens of millions of dollars from six Native American tribes.

• Lobbyist Jack Abramoff arranged for an Indian tribe and a gambling services company to contribute to the Washington-based National Center for Public Policy Research, which in turn covered most of the cost of a $70,000 trip to Britain by DeLay, his wife, and several others in mid-2000. DeLay listed the purpose of the trip as “educational”—he spent time networking with conservative British politicians and playing golf at the famous St. Andrews golf course in Scotland. “To the casual observer, it was a pretty simple deal,” a former House leadership aide told the Journal, after being shown details of the London transaction. “Jack raised money for the pet projects of DeLay and took care of his top staff. In turn, they granted him tremendous access and allowed him to freely trade on DeLay’s name.” Two months after the trip, DeLay helped kill the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act, which would have made it illegal to use the Internet to place certain bets. Abramoff is under investigation for taking huge fees from six Indian tribes and delivering little in return. Emails between a former DeLay aide and Abramoff refer to their Indian clients as “monkeys,” “morons,” and “troglodytes.”(Raw Story, 2/28/05; National Journal, 2/26/05; The Washington Post, 03/12/05; USA Today,11/30/04)

10. Tom DeLay believes he is above the law.

• When reminded by a waiter about the laws against smoking in a federal building, Tom DeLay famously told the waiter, “I AM the federal government.” (Houston Chronicle, 06/22/03)

Celebrations for Children Inc., a “charity” set up by longtime associates of Tom DeLay and his daughter, ostensibly to help foster children, sought to raise big contributions from corporate donors in exchange for access to elected officials during the 2004 Republican National Convention. A contribution of $500,000 bought attendance on a yacht cruise with DeLay, along with dinner before and after the convention with the Congressman and his wife. Other goodies for donors included Broadway tickets and a rock concert. Because the group was a nonprofit organization, donors also got a tax break—plus anonymity, as such organizations are not required to disclose contributors. Campaign finance watchdogs asked for an ethics investigation, charging that DeLay was using the organization as a new way to collect the “soft money” he had for the 2000 convention but was newly illegal under the McCain-Feingold Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002. Under pressure, DeLay canceled the New York events. (SOURCES: The New York Times, 11/14/03, The Washington Post, 03/24/04)

In August 2004, DeLay took a $100,000 check from Corrections Corporation of America (CCA) CEO John Ferguson for his nonprofit group, DeLay Foundation for Kids. The for-profit prison company lobbies for legislation in states to privatize prisons, including a bill in Texas that would put up to half that state’s prisons under private control. A company spokesman said that CCA picked the DeLay Foundation for Kids, for the first time, because of the company’s presence in Texas. Ferguson delivered the check at a fundraiser for DeLay’s legal defense fund, which yielded at least $113,000 for the beleaguered Congressman. DeLay Foundation for Kids took in nearly $5 million over four years and spent nearly $600,000, most of that on fundraising and administration costs. DeLay refuses to release information about donors to the charity. (Associated Press, 12/2/04; Texas Observer, 6/6/03)


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