Regarding the March 10 front-page story "S. Korean Group Sponsored DeLay Trip"; the March 12 front-page story "Gambling Interests Funded DeLay Trip"; and the March 14 front-page story "DeLay Ethics Allegations Now Cause of GOP Concern":
First, these articles discuss trips that occurred four and five years ago, respectively, and contain no real news. Second, House ethics rules allow educational organizations such as the National Center for Public Policy Research to sponsor congressional travel. Both the trip to Britain and the one to South Korea were reported to the relevant House office. Both before and after the stories appeared, staff members in the majority leader's office denied any implications that Tom DeLay's votes were improperly affected by the travel or that he had violated any House rule.
Third, regarding the trip to Britain: The majority leader believes that the National Center for Public Policy Research receives contributions from an array of individuals and entities. The president of the center said the center paid for the trip and would have paid for the trip with or without the contributions from the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and eLottery Inc., and representatives of both donors said that they were unaware their donations would be used for the trip. Yet the March 12 headline misleadingly proclaims: "Gambling Interests Funded DeLay Trip."
Similarly, as both Republican and Democratic ethics experts eventually made clear, the trip to South Korea in 2001 "may have" broken House rules (as proclaimed by the March 10 headline) only if Mr. DeLay knew the Korea-U.S. Exchange Council was a registered foreign agent at the time he took the trip. Yet nothing in the article or elsewhere supports that suggestion.
Fourth, the majority leader's opposition to gambling is widely known. The implication that his trip to Britain was related to his vote against the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act is rebutted by contemporary media accounts. As The Post reported, the majority leader was but one of 44 Republicans, including most of the House Republican leadership, voting against the bill. Indeed, according to President Clinton's White House, "This bill appears to be designed to protect certain forms of [illegal] gambling."
On behalf of the majority leader, I urge your reporters and especially your headline writers to eschew innuendo and to strive to report the facts in a fair and objective manner.
BOBBY R. BURCHFIELD
The writer is outside counsel to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.).