WASHINGTON -- February 1 -- House Majority Leader Tom DeLays legal defense fund has raised more than $999,000 since it was founded in 2000. Current and former members of Congress and their political action committees (PACs) contributed $174,500 in the last quarter of 2004, representing 69 percent of the $254,250 collected by the fund during the period, according to a Public Citizen analysis. The same group contributed almost as much to DeLays legal fund in the last three months of 2004 as it did in the previous four years. Contributions less than $250 do not need to be publicly disclosed.
Many of the fourth quarter contributions to the legal defense fund were made while House members were awaiting word on the committee assignments they would receive in the new 109th Congress, which began in early January. As majority leader, DeLay wields de facto control over Republican committee assignments.
Since the DeLay legal defense fund was formed in 2000, former members of Congress and their PACs have contributed $352,500 or 35 percent, of the $999,221 collected by the fund.
All but a handful of the House committee and subcommittee chairmanships announced so far by the Republican leadership are the same as they were in the last Congress. Two of the new chairmen each made a maximum allowable $5,000 contribution to DeLays legal defense fund in late 2004. Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) was named as chairman of the National Parks Subcommittee and Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) became the new chairman of the Appropriations Committee. A third congressional contributor to the legal defense fund, Rep. Rich Pombo (R-Calif.), continued his leadership of the Resources Committee.
The congressional contributors who have given the most to DeLays legal defense fund over the past four years are: Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), $20,000; former Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.), $15,000; and Rep. Henry Bonilla (R-Texas), $15,000.
Tom DeLay is the most rebuked member of the current Congress, yet his fellow Republican members continue to flood his legal defense fund with cash, said Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook.
The latest contributions to DeLays legal defense fund occurred while he was under fire for receiving money from lobbyists, a violation of House rules. Documents just released by the fund show that the DeLay legal defense fund has since returned $3,500 in lobbyist contributions. They include:
- $2,500 from the lobbyist-law firm Locke Lidell & Sapp of Houston, Texas. In 2001, Locke, Lidell & Sapp were registered to lobby for clients included Burlington
- $1,000 from Vin Weber of Clark & Weinstock, contributed between July 1, 2001, and Sept. 30, 2001. During that period, Weber was registered as a lobbyist, and his clients included the Greek government, Microsoft and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), Senate records show.
Under House rules, donors may contribute a maximum of $5,000 per year to a legal defense fund, and contributions can be made by individuals, PACs, and corporate and union treasuries.
Three top DeLay aides, John Colyandro, Jim Ellis and Warren Robold, already have been indicted in a Texas case involving allegations that a PAC founded by DeLay received illegal corporate contributions. It has been speculated that DeLay himself may be the next target of the Texas grand jury.
Other findings of the analysis of contributions to DeLays legal defense fund since its inception in July 2000 through December 2004 include:
- DeLays legal defense fund raised $439,550 in 2004, 44 percent of the total it has raised since its inception in 2000.
- A state-by-state breakdown shows that the largest amounts were contributed by donors from ($265,700), Kentucky ($113,800), California ($93,850) and the District of Columbia ($93,000).
- Fifty-eight percent of the contributions ($581,496) came from corporations and their employees. Leading industry contributors were energy and natural resources ($127,300); construction ($80,800); communications and electronics ($60,250); agriculture ($53,250) finance, insurance and real estate ($47,290); and lawyers and lobbyists ($36,500).
- Corporations have contributed $355,650 to the fund, or 36 percent of all contributions.
Corporate contributions to a congressional members legal defense fund should be prohibited, period, said Frank Clemente, director of Public Citizens Congress Watch.
A complete analysis of DeLays legal defense fund and background on his previous violations of House Rules is posted on Public Citizens Web site, http://www.DethroneDeLay.org.