By R. Jeffrey Smith
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, January 6, 2006
The Texas prosecutor who secured an indictment of Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) on money-laundering charges broadened the scope of his inquiry into election spending yesterday, demanding documents related to funds that passed through a nonprofit organization, the U.S. Family Network.
The group, which was founded in 1996 by DeLay's then-chief of staff, Edwin A. Buckham, received $500,000 in 1999 from the National Republican Congressional Committee and used some of the money to finance radio ads attacking Democrats. The Federal Election Commission fined the party in 2004 for its role in the funding.
The prosecutor, Ronnie Earle, sent subpoenas yesterday to Buckham; the group's former president, Christopher Geeslin; the NRCC; and the treasurer of DeLay's leadership political action committee, Americans for a Republican Majority.
The subpoenas asked for all documents related to the $500,000 contribution, including any correspondence involving DeLay or Jack Abramoff, the lobbyist who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to bribe public officials and other crimes this week. The Washington Post reported Saturday that the largest donors to the U.S. Family Network were all associated with Abramoff. They contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to the group before it folded in 2001.
Earle, an elected district attorney in Travis County, Tex., did not reveal in the subpoenas why he believes he has jurisdiction over the campaign spending. Carl Forti, a spokesman for the NRCC, told the Associated Press, "I'm going to call Roswell and warn them that Ronnie Earle is on the witch hunt for the Martians they have there," referring to the New Mexico city famous for an alleged UFO landing.
DeLay is awaiting trial in Texas for allegedly conspiring to launder corporate donations sent to a group he organized, Texans for a Republican Majority, for use in the 2002 state legislative elections. He has denied any wrongdoing.