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Reports Question DeLay's Veracity Under Oath

Tom DeLay House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) talks with reporters on Capitol Hill. (Ray Lustig — Post file photo)

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  • By Charles R. Babcock
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Thursday, February 4, 1999; Page A3

    Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), who helped lead the charge for impeachment with challenges of President Clinton's truthfulness, has become embroiled in a dispute about his own veracity in a sworn statement.

    Robert Blankenship, a former DeLay business partner, and his attorney, Gerald P. DeNisco, said in interviews yesterday that it is hypocritical for the House majority whip to attack Clinton's integrity given what they said were the congressman's own evasions and misstatements in a civil deposition five years ago.

    DeLay denied under oath in a 1994 deposition for a lawsuit brought by Blankenship that he was head of Albo Pest Control Co. He reported to Congress at the same time that he was chairman of the firm, according to a recent report in the New Republic.

    The Hill newspaper reported yesterday that an examination of other documents in the court case indicate that DeLay made other misstatements about the amount of money he was receiving from the company and also about the amount of speaking fees he collected in the late 1980s.

    DeLay declined to address the reported discrepancies. His spokesman, Michael Scanlon, said: "It's pretty obvious that there are people who are doing everything they can to make Tom DeLay look bad. There's more to this story than meets the eye. And it will become apparent in the future. In the meanwhile, we choose to sacrifice the public relations aspect for the eventual truth."

    DeLay has long been one of the president's most vocal critics and has spoken of the need for truthfulness from public officials. For instance, he praised Rep. Bob Livingston (R-La.) when he resigned as House speaker-designate in December after admitting he was unfaithful to his wife.

    "He understood what this debate is all about," DeLay said. "It was about honor and decency and integrity and the truth. It was also a debate about relativism versus absolute truth."

    The argument over DeLay's statements arises from a business dispute from his days in the pest extermination business in Texas. Blankenship went into business with DeLay in 1986 but filed a fraud suit against DeLay, another partner and Albo Pest Control Co. in 1994, after being terminated. DeLay reached a confidential, out-of-court settlement with Blankenship in 1995.

    Blankenship and DeNisco said that at the time of DeLay's Feb. 5, 1994, deposition they had not seen financial disclosure statements in which DeLay reported he was chairman of the company and was receiving sizable payments from it.

    When asked in the deposition if he was an officer of the company, DeLay said, "I don't think so. No." He said, "I haven't had much to do with the company since I got elected to Congress." Later he backtracked and said he wasn't sure if he had resigned.

    DeNisco called the statements "a blatant attempt to avoid personal liability."

    He added, "It's ironic he's espousing the theory the president should step down because he lied in a civil deposition because, frankly, it appears he's done the same thing."

    At another point in the deposition, DeLay said he had no source of income other than as a member of Congress. At another, he recalled that Darrell Hutto, another partner, had paid him $7,000 of $50,000 Hutto owed him for the other third of the stock in the company.

    But on his congressional disclosure statements, Delay reported receiving between $5,000 to $15,000 in "capital gains" from Albo in 1992 and in 1993.

    The Hill also said that in answers to a series of written questions in the case, DeLay reported accepting more speaking fees from interest groups than was permitted under House rules at the time.

    Staff writer Juliet Eilperin and staff researcher Alice Crites contributed to this report.

    © Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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