Saturday, November 20, 2004

De Lay O' De Land 

Sorry for the length here but the Austin paper is registration and this is just all too good to have anyone miss. Make note of the whores, corporate, elective and otherwise, that their names may be besmirched and their products languish unsold.

(via Austin Statesman-American)
WASHINGTON -- House Republican leader Tom DeLay has re-energized his legal defense fund, raising at least $310,300 since summer to combat a Democrat's ethics charges and to monitor a Travis County grand jury investigation that led to indictments against three DeLay aides in September.

Two Austin-area Republican House members got the ball rolling, with U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith of San Antonio writing the fund's first check of the year June 24, followed by Rep. John Carter of Round Rock. Until then, the legal fund had collected no money since last year.

Smith and Carter each donated $5,000, the annual limit, from their campaign funds. They were joined by 29 additional Republicans in Congress, including six others from Texas, providing almost half of DeLay's haul. The rest of the donations came from political action committees, corporations and individuals.

Carter said he was motivated by Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle's investigation into allegations of campaign finance irregularities in the 2002 Texas elections. Grand jury indictments sought by Earle, a Democrat, allege that corporate money was illegally used to help elect a Republican majority to the Texas House.

"I think we're involved in a political witch hunt here, and I also think Mr. DeLay is innocent," Carter said.

Carter said nobody solicited his contribution.

"I volunteered to give the money," he said. "I think we should show that we are grateful for all the hard work (DeLay) does for the state of Texas."

According to documents that must be filed quarterly with the House ethics committee, DeLay's legal defense fund accepted $185,300 in contributions in July, August and September.

However, the filing does not include $125,000 in checks written or received after the Sept. 30 filing deadline, said Brent Perry, a Houston lawyer and trustee for DeLay's legal fund. Those checks, disclosed in separate filings with the Federal Election Commission, will appear in the fourth-quarter report, Perry said.

In the meantime, the legal fund continues to receive donations, he said.

Legal expense funds are regulated by the House ethics committee, which limits spending to a broad range of issues, including legal expenses connected to a campaign, criminal prosecution of a lawmaker or civil matters "bearing on an individual's reputation or fitness for office." Legal funds also may pay fund-raising costs, if the money is for the legal fund.

The ethics committee requires legal funds to file quarterly reports detailing donations and expenses above $250, though any contribution from a corporation or labor union must be listed. Copies of the reports are available in a basement room of a House office building, difficult to get for most Americans.

"In a world where many things are posted on the Internet . . . these are basically held out of the way and require you to come down to Washington to look them up, so there is really not good disclosure," said Larry Noble, executive director of Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan watchdog group.

Disclosure is important because contributions provide another avenue for access to leaders in Congress, Noble said.

"The legal expense funds are strange animals to begin with since they're not part of campaign finance laws, yet they can be used to buy access as much as campaign contributions can be," he said. "They really are just another pocket to put money into and for contributors to fill."

According to DeLay's third-quarter report:

* Kentucky businesses and residents donated almost $113,000, thanks to a summer fund-raiser by Republican Rep. Hal Rogers. Rogers is one of three Republicans vying to become chairman of the high-profile Appropriations Committee, and DeLay holds three votes on the Republican Steering Committee, which will make that decision in the coming weeks.

* $60,000 was paid to Austin defense attorney Bill White, who has monitored the Travis County investigation on DeLay's behalf. The fund also paid $50,000 to Dallas law firm Bracewell & Patterson, whose lawyer Ed Bethune represented DeLay before the House ethics committee.

* Rep. Henry Bonilla, R-San Antonio, donated $5,000 from his campaign fund and $5,000 from his political action committee. Other Texans giving $5,000 were Reps. Kay Granger of Fort Worth, John Culberson of Houston, Sam Johnson of Dallas, Jeb Hensarling of Dallas and Michael Burgess of Irving.

* About $100,000 was donated to DeLay's legal fund after the Sept. 21 indictments of his associates, which was followed by two rebukes of DeLay from the House ethics committee. One rebuke resulted from DeLay's offer to exchange political help for a yes vote on the House floor; the other faulted DeLay for misusing the Federal Aviation Administration and for accepting a contribution that appeared tied to legislative favors.

DeLay's legal fund was established in 2000 after Democrats filed a racketeering lawsuit, which they later dropped, alleging shady practices by DeLay-related fund-raising groups.

By the end of September, the legal fund had spent almost $973,000. Its biggest contributors have been Reliant Energy of Houston, $20,000, and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., $17,000.

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