What do you give the man who has everything? A contribution to his top secret legal defense trust fund, of course.
Since last year's indictments, [Jim Ellis, who runs DeLay's Americans for a Republican Majority, and John Colyandro, the executive director of Texans for a Republican Majority] have had their legal bills paid for by a trust that does not disclose the names of donors.
The capitol newspaper The Hill reported this week that Washington lobbyist Mark Valente III has organized an Aug. 24 event to raise money for the defense fund at the Springfield Golf and Country Club in Virginia. Valente told the newspaper he set the event up because he is friends with Ellis.
"I think the world of him," Valente said. "He's a friend who I think is getting a raw deal."
Valente did not return calls from the Houston Chronicle.
The defense fund is administered as a trust by former Bexar County GOP Chairman Roy Barrera Jr.
Barrera said any questions about why the trust is set up to keep donations secret need to be addressed to Ellis and Colyandro. Barrera said he just administers the account.
"It is a trust that basically permits people who care to contribute to their defense to have their checks deposited into an account for their (Ellis' and Colyandro's) benefit," Barrera said. "The attorneys who represent them submit their legal bills to me."
This bit is intriguing:
Professional fundraiser Warren RoBold of Maryland was indicted at the same time as Ellis and Colyandro. RoBold is accused of raising illegal corporate cash for TRMPAC. He says he violated no laws.
RoBold lawyer Rusty Hardin of Houston said RoBold was not invited to participate in the legal defense fund. Ellis and Colyandro are mounting a joint defense, but RoBold is handling his case separately.
"When we checked into it (the defense fund) we were told there were no more funds," Hardin said.
Elsewhere on the Friends of Tom DeLay front, Kansas public utility Westar was fined by the FEC for making illegal campaign contributions to DeLay and other Republicans in Congress. The folks at CREW have a gripe about this punishment.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is pleased that late yesterday, the Federal Election Commission (FEC) released its findings that Westar Energy Company made illegal corporate contributions to numerous federal candidates. Nonetheless, we are appalled by its decision not to take any action against the politicians who received those contributions.
Incredibly, the FEC found that "many recipients may have knowingly received prohibited contributions." Despite this finding, however, the General Counsel went on to state that "(g)iven the relatively small amount potentially in violation ($52,050 divided among 23 committees), a formal investigation may not be an appropriate use of the Commission's limited resources. Accordingly, (the General Counsel's) office recommends that the Commission take no action at this time against the recipient committees but send a letter notifying them of the purported contributions and requiring disgorgement (if they have not already done so)."
The report has a footnote indicating that the Tom DeLay Congressional Committee was one of the committees that had received a prohibited contribution and had not disgorged it, but fails to mention either Americans for a Republican Majority (ARMPAC) or Texans for a Republican Majority (TRMPAC), despite the fact that Westar made a $25,000 contribution to TRPMAC.
Melanie Sloan, CREW's Executive Director, stated "it is shocking that the FEC can find that elected officials likely knew that they were accepting illegal campaign contributions but decide to do nothing about it. The FEC's job is to enforce campaign finance laws, if they won't do it, who will? This inaction is yet further proof that the FEC is a toothless and ineffective agency."