The Chron had a front-page story on Tony Rudy and his plea agreement yesterday, but before I get to that, check out this tidbit in the New York Daily News:
The latest plea deal in the GOP lobbying corruption scandal has moved the investigation to Rep. Tom DeLay's inner circle, congressional insiders said.
DeLay's ex-deputy chief of staff, Tony Rudy, 39, did not implicate him in any wrongdoing when he pleaded guilty Friday to conspiracy in the case involving convicted superlobbyist Jack Abramoff.
But Rudy did finger his ex-boss - DeLay's former chief of staff Ed Buckham - as playing a role in the congressional bribery scandal.
"They were Batman and Robin. Tony didn't do anything without Buckham's say-so. ... Buckham was Batman," said a knowledgable source.
[Batman dangles a mugger over the side of a building]
Nic: Don't kill me! Don't kill me, man! Don't kill me! Don't kill me, man!
Batman: I'm not going to kill you. I want you to do me a favor. I want you to tell all your friends about me.
Nic: What are you?
Batman: I'm Batman.
"It may just stop at Buckham," said an inside source who believes DeLay won't be charged. "Buckham may have made money off Tom DeLay's name, but Tom DeLay never made a penny."
Anyway. Here's that Chron story. Couple points to highlight:
The documents reviewed by the Houston Chronicle indicate Buckham traded on his close ties to both DeLay and his fundraising organization on at least two occasions to land clients who were trying to get personal time with DeLay.
One of Buckham's clients donated some of the corporate money that has played a key role in the Travis County indictments against DeLay. Another has been involved in a California bribery scandal and donated money to a DeLay-founded Texas political committee.
While there was nothing illegal about Buckham soliciting clients through DeLay fundraising activities, it shows the synergy between DeLay's political operations and the lobbyists closest to him. It also is the kind of practice that some congressional reformers are trying to shed more light on by requiring greater disclosure of lobbyist-lawmaker relationships.
The Buckham client most closely linked to DeLay's legal troubles in Austin was Questerra Corp. of Charlottesville, Va. The company's Web site indicated it hoped to persuade the federal government to use its mapping technology to track potential terrorists or pinpoint the source of a bioterrorist incident.
Questerra was officially launched in November 2001 when Timothy W. Milovich was named its president. Milovich, who lives near Tyler, is a nationally known computer expert who had worked with EDS and Perot Systems and served as a consultant with Informix, Xerox and Stamps.com.
Buckham officially became Questerra's lobbyist effective on May 7, 2002. Six days later, Questerra, on Milovich's order, issued a $25,000 check to TRMPAC.
A second $25,000 Questerra donation to TRMPAC in August 2002 was among the money listed as illegal corporate donations involved in the original conspiracy to violate the election code indictment against DeLay.
The other Buckham client linked to DeLay's fundraising operation fared better until it was implicated in a California bribery scandal late last year.
From 2002 through last year, Group W Advisers paid Buckham's company $630,000 to seek government contracts and earmarks in defense appropriations bills. Group W was owned by Brent Wilkes of San Diego and his family-owned group of defense contractors: ADCS Inc. and PerfectWave Technologies LLC., a company marketing speech recognition technology to the Department of Defense. Buckham became the lobbyist for Wilkes' interests effective on April 1, 2002.
Within two weeks, Wilkes, his executives and ADCS donated $45,000 to ARMPAC so one of their executives could play golf with DeLay, FEC records show.
Wilkes in December was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the bribery case against U.S. Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham, R-Calif. Cunningham pleaded guilty to taking $2.4 million in bribes from defense contractors and received an eight-year prison sentence.
Cunningham admitted he helped keep earmarks to pay for contracts with Wilkes' companies in defense appropriations bills, including one from PerfectWave Technologies.
PerfectWave received a $1 million earmark in a defense appropriations bill passed by the House on Oct. 10, 2002, according to research by the nonpartisan Taxpayers for Common Sense. The earmark was added to the bill during a conference committee that was appointed on Sept. 10, 2002.
In the midst of that conference committee, Wilkes' PerfectWave wrote a $15,000 check to TRMPAC. No public record has ever said how the California company came to donate to the Texas political fund.