Feds keep circling around Tom DeLay

Poor Tom DeLay. He’s just a little ol’ citizen-journalist now, but those nasty ol’ Feds won’t leave him alone.

DeLay said he has given the FBI documents exonerating his wife, but an associate of the former lawmaker said that agents have followed up with a fresh round of subpoenas.

The inquiry appears to be focused on determining whether DeLay’s wife, Christine, earned her pay from two organizations controlled by Ed Buckham, a lobbyist once closely affiliated with the former Republican leader, according to sources interviewed by federal investigators. Several former employees of the groups have received subpoenas for documents, some in the past few weeks.

DeLay told The Hill that he gave the FBI documents and computer records proving his wife was a legitimate employee of ARMPAC, a fundraising committee, and Alexander Strategy Group, a lobbying firm once controlled by Buckham.

The Justice Department’s persistence shows it has run amok, DeLay says, echoing a charge leveled last week by Rep. Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.) in response to reports that he is under federal investigation.

“They’re not going after me,” DeLay said of the FBI. “They’re going after other people and they’re questioning the other people about whether they know anything I may have done. And we’ve given them all the records and that’s the problem they’re having.”

DeLay said the evidence shows that his wife did not accept improper payments: “She did her work and she was underpaid for the work she did and they can’t make the case. It’s a Justice Department that is running amok. Fish or cut bait. Do something.”

Fine by me. You heard the man – do something!

DeLay said neither he nor his wife is the target of the investigation. But sources contacted by the FBI or familiar with the probe say Christine seems very much in the agency’s sights. The FBI has asked former ARMPAC and Alexander Strategy Group employees what work Christine DeLay did.

“They were really focused on Christine DeLay and whether she was doing anything that would warrant her salary,” said one person contacted by agents.

The Washington Post reported that Buckham’s lobbying firm, Alexander Strategy Group, paid Christine DeLay a monthly salary of about $3,300 between 1998 and 2002.

ARMPAC, DeLay’s leadership political action committee (PAC), which was also tied to Buckham, paid her and her daughter, Dani DeLay Ferro, about $350,000 in consulting fees and expenses between 2001 and 2006, according to the Post.

Buckham employed ARMPAC’s executive director, Jim Ellis, as a consultant at Alexander, and staff of the two organizations shared an office building in Georgetown. Former DeLay associates described Buckham as a leader at ARMPAC.

The FBI has subpoenaed Ferro and investigators have questioned former DeLay associates about her work for ARMPAC. But the focus is mostly on Christine, sources say. Ferro refused to comment.

One source familiar with the investigation said federal officials have given immunity to at least one senior member of DeLay’s political circle who may now be cooperating with investigators. Former associates of the majority leader say investigators are apparently attempting to indict DeLay for corruption by proving that Buckham sought to influence him with unearned payments to his wife.

Greg in TX22 has more on this, including some solid speculation about who that “senior member of DeLay’s inner political circle may be. As always, stay tuned, and keep your popcorn bins amply supplied.

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