WASHINGTON -- April 26 -- The recent spate of unfavorable media disclosures surrounding House Majority Leader Tom DeLays ethical lapses may be hurting more than just his image; his ability to raise money also appears to have been severely affected. Contributions to DeLays legal defense fund have fallen off sharply according to figures just released by the U.S. House of Representatives Legislative Resource Center.
In the first quarter of 2005, DeLays legal defense fund raised only $47,750. That is less than one-fifth of the amount raised in the last quarter of 2004, when the fund collected $254,250.
An analysis by Public Citizen reveals that contributions to the fund from DeLays congressional colleagues also slowed considerably during the first three months of 2005. Only nine members of Congress contributed a total of $30,000, which is an 83 percent drop from the last three months of 2004 when 36 of DeLays fellow representatives contributed a total of $174,500.
Under House rules, donors may contribute a maximum of $5,000 per calendar year to a legal defense fund, and contributions can be made by individuals, political action committees (PACs), and corporate and union treasuries.
But Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) found a way to circumvent the House rules, according to the Public Citizen analysis. He made one $5,000 contribution through his leadership PAC and a second from his campaign fund. That $10,000 total contribution makes Bachus the largest congressional contributor to DeLays legal defense in the last three months.
The congressional contributors who have given the most to DeLays legal defense fund over the four-year life of the fund are: Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), $20,000; former Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.), $15,000; and Rep. Henry Bonilla (R-Texas), $15,000.
While none of those representatives made contributions in the first quarter of 2005, five staffers to House Majority Whip Roy Blunt and the executive director of his PAC contributed a total of $2,750.
It looks like most members of Congress are trying to distance themselves from Tom DeLays ethics problems by closing their wallets, said Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook. If money truly speaks louder than words, then the absence of it is sending a loud message that this ethically challenged majority leaders greatest asset to his colleagues the ability to raise large bundles of cash is waning.
Other findings of the analysis of contributions to DeLays legal defense fund since its inception in July 2000 through March 2005 include:
- Since it was formed in 2000, DeLays legal defense fund has raised a total of $1,046,971.
- Corporations and their employees have contributed $593,996 to the fund, or 57 percent of all contributions.
- Leading industry contributors (including their employees) have been energy and natural resources ($127,300); construction ($80,800); communications and electronics ($65,250); agriculture ($53,250); finance, insurance and real estate ($49,790); and lawyers and lobbyists ($36,500).
Its noteworthy that the energy and natural resources industry led in contributions to his legal defense, said Frank Clemente, director of Public Citizens Congress Watch. Of course, if you consider DeLays leadership on the recently passed energy bill, with its massive industry tax breaks and incentives, it would appear that energy companies got a big return on their investment.
A complete analysis of DeLays legal defense fund and background on his previous violations of House Rules is available by clicking here.