March 10, 2005
DeLay admits actual involvement with TRMPAC

I believe they call this revising and extending one's original remarks.

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay said Wednesday he served as a creator, adviser and fund-raiser to a Texas-based political action committee now under state criminal investigation, but he was not involved in its day-to-day operations.

DeLay, R-Sugar Land, elaborated on his role as an advisory board member of Texans for a Republican Majority, or TRMPAC, after news stories about the ongoing state grand jury probe of the political committee.


"Yes, I raised money for them," DeLay said in an interview with the Houston Chronicle, brushing aside any implication that his activities might have been illegal. He has never been named as a target in the criminal investigation.

"Everything that TRMPAC did, they did under the advice of lawyers," he said. "When you have lawyers advising you every step of the way in writing, it's very hard to make a case stick."

The organizers of TRMPAC set up two bank accounts, one for corporate contributions and another for noncorporate donations, DeLay said.

Asked if he was involved in the transfer or disbursement of TRMPAC funds, he replied, "Absolutely not. The only thing I knew about that was, they created, which I agreed with in my advisory capacity ... two separate funds, two separate bank accounts."

So he was involved after all. Big surprise. And I love that bot about "lawyers advising you at every step". It's never too early to lay the groundwork for a malpractice suit, you know. The Daily DeLay weighs in as well.

Meanwhile, the WaPo reports on some more questionable travel by The Hammer.

A delegation of Republican House members including Majority Leader Tom DeLay accepted an expense-paid trip to South Korea in 2001 from a registered foreign agent despite House rules that bar the acceptance of travel expenses from foreign agents, according to government documents and travel reports filed by the House members.

Justice Department documents show that the Korea-U.S. Exchange Council, a business-financed entity created with help from a lobbying firm headed by DeLay's former chief of staff, registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act on Aug. 22, 2001. DeLay; his wife, Christine; and two other Republican lawmakers departed on a trip financed by the group on Aug. 25 of that year.

The exchange group in late 2003 hosted three Democratic House members and another Republican on a similar trip. It spent at least $106,921 to finance the three-day trip in 2001 from Washington to Seoul by the Republicans, which DeLay (Tex.) and accompanying staff assistants described at the time as having an "educational" purpose.

DeLay's aides said yesterday that the congressman did not learn of the group's registration until this week. "There's no way we could have known, and they didn't inform us of the fact that their status changed," said DeLay's communications director, Dan Allen.

The Rules of the U.S. House of Representatives on Gifts and Travel state that "a Member, officer or employee may not accept travel expenses from 'a registered lobbyist or agent of a foreign principal.' "

Jan W. Baran, a former general counsel for the Republican National Committee, said that although he was uncertain whether this trip violated the rules, "it's a problem" likely to trigger an investigation by the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, known as the ethics committee. DeLay was admonished three times last year by the ethics committee.

An aide to DeLay who asked not to be named said DeLay staff members had general discussions about the trip with the ethics committee before leaving and received verbal approval.

A veteran House official familiar with the case, who declined to be named because of DeLay's involvement, said verbal approval is not granted by the committee on such matters.

Committee staff workers provide advice to lawmakers and their aides, but it does not go beyond what could be read in a manual, the official said. "The only way you can get, quote, approval from the ethics committee that is good for anything other than your own comfort level is to write a letter asking for approval, and to get a letter back," the official said. "If you do that, you're home free. If you don't, you're always running the risk you'll end up in a bind."

No letter was sent by DeLay to the committee, DeLay's aides said.

All I'm gonna say at this point is that the dude seems to do an awful lot of travelling without knowing the details about who's paying for what. And as noted yesterday, he's got company in that regard.

The conservative policy group that two Republican congressmen from Ohio and Florida reported as the sponsor of their golf outings to Scotland said it didn't pay for their excursions with a lobbyist.

Members of Congress are required to report trips that are paid for by outside groups. They are prohibited from accepting trips or gifts from lobbyists.

Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, said in an interview Wednesday that he had been misled by lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who at the time was a board member for the National Center for Public Policy Research, a conservative think tank based in Washington.

Rep. Tom Feeney, R-Fla., sent a letter Wednesday to the House ethics committee, alerting them to the discrepancy in his travel disclosure forms.


Feeney told the ethics committee in his letter about the trip, "My staff completed all required documentation based on the information provided by the trip sponsors, but it appears that in some instances, they were misled."

"This is ridiculous. I was told point blank that they paid for the trip," said Ney, who chairs the House Administration Committee. "Why would we want to make something up? We would not benefit. We are not insane."

Ney's financial disclosure report said the center had paid for his 2002 trip, which included a visit to the famed St. Andrews golf course. Feeney also reported that the center paid for his 2003 trip to Scotland, where he golfed and attended the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, an annual parade of soldiers and bands at the Edinburgh Castle.

The center's lawyer, Mackenzie Canter, said the group didn't sponsor either trip.

"That is a mistake that somehow occurred in the congressmen's reporting," Cantor said. "We don't know why or how they thought the center was a sponsor ... we had nothing to do with it."

Oversight. That's what these guys need. Oversight. Stay tuned.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 10, 2005 to Scandalized! | TrackBack