House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) yesterday launched a defense of his travel arrangements and relationships with lobbyists, offering to appear before the ethics committee to answer questions and charging that his critics were relying on "fiction and innuendo."
DeLay's efforts at political damage control followed a recent spate of news reports raising ethical questions about his fundraising and overseas travel paid for by special interests.
A larger-than-life Rep. Tom DeLay is projected on a screen at a national Republican tax summit that the House majority leader addressed as he worked to shore up support among conservatives.
(Jason Reed -- Reuters)
_____Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Tex.)_____
DeLay Ethics Allegations Now Cause of GOP Concern (The Washington Post, Mar 14, 2005)
Gambling Interests Funded DeLay Trip (The Washington Post, Mar 12, 2005)
DeLay Treated for Irregular Heartbeat (The Washington Post, Mar 11, 2005)
House Ethics Panel in Gridlock (The Washington Post, Mar 11, 2005)
S. Korean Group Sponsored DeLay Trip (The Washington Post, Mar 10, 2005)
Prosecutor Balks When Asked If DeLay Is Target of Tex. Probe (The Washington Post, Mar 6, 2005)
DeLay Moves To Protect His Political Base Back in Texas (The Washington Post, Mar 3, 2005)
Texas Trial Begins Against Treasurer of DeLay Group (The Washington Post, Mar 1, 2005)
An Educational Trip to Britain
DeLay also moved to shore up his support with conservatives, one of his most important constituencies, with an afternoon speech to a tax summit of the National Republican Congressional Committee and an evening appearance at an $8 million fundraiser featuring President Bush. DeLay also told leaders that he wants Congress to find a way to help Terri Schiavo, the brain-damaged Floridian whose feeding tube is scheduled to be removed Friday.
Speaking at a weekly session with reporters, DeLay alternated between attacks on the news media and attacks on Democrats. "With all the partisan politics of personal destruction that the Democrats have announced and have carried through on, I have yet to be found breaking any House rules," he said. "It is very unfortunate that the Democrats have no agenda. All they can do is try to tear down the House and burn it down in order to gain power."
The Washington Post reported last weekend that an Indian tribe and a gambling services company made donations to a policy group that covered most of the cost of a $70,000 trip to Britain by DeLay, his wife, two aides and two lobbyists in mid-2000, two months before DeLay voted against legislation opposed by the tribe and the company. The group said it paid for the trip, and the group and DeLay said he did not know about the gambling money.
The Post also recently reported that an organization that had registered as a foreign agent picked up the cost of DeLay's trip to South Korea. DeLay and the policy group have said that he did not know of the registration. House ethics rules bar the acceptance of travel funds from registered lobbyists. They also require lawmakers to report the original source of funds and prohibit them from taking gifts of any kind from foreign agents.
Last year, the House ethics committee admonished DeLay three times for official conduct, including asking federal aviation officials to track an airplane involved in a Texas political spat and for conduct that suggested political donations might influence legislative action. The committee found that DeLay had not violated a specific House rule. Nonetheless, the committee told him in one of the rebukes that it was "clearly necessary for you to temper your future action."
DeLay's offer to appear before the committee comes after House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) in February replaced three of the Republican members who had voted with the Democrats to admonish DeLay.
Since then, the committee has been stalemated by a partisan feud over a series of rules changes that the Republican leadership forced through earlier this year.
DeLay, 57, an 11-term veteran, helped orchestrate the 1994 GOP takeover of the House and became renowned for his tough tactics as majority whip and later majority leader and an unrivaled fundraiser.
With more than 60 reporters crowded around a huge table in his conference room at the Capitol, DeLay defended his 2000 vote that took the side of some gambling interests, an apparent break from his usual opposition to gambling.
"As Paul Harvey likes to say, here's the rest of the story," DeLay said.
The vote came two months after the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians that runs casinos and the gambling services company eLottery Inc. had written checks to a nonprofit group -- the National Center for Public Policy Research -- that covered the same amount as the cost of DeLay's London trip.
The dates on the $25,000 checks to the public policy group coincided with the day DeLay left on the trip, May 25, 2000, according to grants documents reviewed by The Washington Post.