DeLay rebuked by House committee

Three times in a week, U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) received a rebuke from the House ethics committee.

In Washington, Oct. 6, the bipartisan ethics committee unanimously rebuked DeLay for appearing to solicit campaign contributions from corporations. According to the committee, companies interested in an energy bill pending before a conference committee were urged to contribute to DeLay’s political action committees and believed that their contribution would enable them to speak with DeLay about the bill during a golf tournament.

Reliant Energy of Houston, Williams Energy of Tulsa, Okla., Mirant Corp. of Georgia, and Westar of Kansas contributed between $25,000 and $50,000 to DeLay’s PACs and sent representatives to the tournament.

The committee also rebuked DeLay for ordering the Federal Aviation Administration to hunt for 51 Texas Democratic state representatives who in 2003 traveled to Oklahoma to prevent Republicans from redrawing the state’s congressional districts.

A week earlier the committee had issued DeLay another rebuke, its mildest form of punishment, for offering Rep. Nick Smith (R-Mich.) what appeared to be a bribe to change his vote for the Bush administration’s Medicare bill, a bill designed to profit pharmaceutical and insurance companies. According to Rep. Chris Bell (D-Texas), who filed the ethics complaint, DeLay promised to help Smith’s son’s campaign to replace his father, who is retiring, in return for Smith’s vote for the Medicare bill. Smith voted against the bill.

The committee deferred action on the most damaging of Bell’s ethics allegations: that DeLay collected and laundered illegal corporate campaign contributions for Republican candidates for the Texas House in 2002.

In September, three of DeLay’s lieutenants were indicted for receiving and disbursing these same corporate contributions to Republican candidates. The contributions were made to DeLay’s Texans for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee, but DeLay denies that he was involved. The Austin American Statesman, however, reports that TRMPAC letters to potential donors boast of DeLay’s close involvement with the committee’s fundraising efforts.

The committee’s actions have sparked calls for DeLay’s resignation. Common Cause, a government watchdog group, is circulating a nationwide petition calling on DeLay to resign from his leadership post. (See www.commoncause.org.)

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California introduced a resolution calling on the House to appoint an outside counsel to investigate DeLay. Republicans defeated Pelosi’s resolution, but the next day Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said that DeLay should resign his leadership post because of his “contempt for the ethics process.”

The author can be reached at pww@pww.org.