Naked City

Tomstown: Follow the Money

Tom DeLay
Tom DeLay

The Bug Man of Sugar Land has reacted characteristically to the possibility he might face indictment in the ongoing Travis Co. grand jury investigation of corporate campaign money, aka the Tomstown Scandal: U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay says he needs to raise more money. Last week the D.C. politics newspaper Roll Call reported that under Republican rules, DeLay would have to step down from his role as majority leader should he be indicted for a felony. The Houston Chronicle followed with a report that early last month, DeLay told a group of Houston supporters that he may have to solicit money for a defense fund because, as someone at the meeting recalled, "I fully expect to be indicted."

DeLay spokesman Jonathan Grella told the Houston Chronicle's R.G. Ratcliffe, "It is quite clear that [Travis Co. District Attorney Ronnie] Earle is on a political mission. So we fully expect that to achieve his political agenda, he will soon empanel a new grand jury, and around September or October, he may try to improperly indict – on very tenuous grounds – as many Republicans as he possibly can."

Earle is indeed expected to continue the unfinished investigation – focusing on the campaign finances of two political action committees overseen by DeLay, Texans for a Republican Majority and Americans for a Republican Majority, and of the Texas Association of Business – when a new grand jury begins work this month. DeLay has not yet been subpoenaed by the grand jury, although several dozen others connected to TRMPAC, ARMPAC, and TAB have either testified or are expected to do so in the next few weeks. Last week Terry Nelson – formerly of the Republican National Committee, currently of the Bush-Cheney campaign – made an appearance before the grand jury.

Meanwhile, Texans for Public Justice, the watchdog group that filed the initial complaint with the DA over TRMPAC funding, issued a report analyzing the overlap between Bush campaign donors and donors to TRMPAC and other funds connected to DeLay and Texas House Speaker Tom Craddick. TPJ found that "[t]aken together with money contributed by their employers, 25 [Bush] 'Pioneer' volunteers gave a total of $242,500 to TRMPAC in 2002. This Bush Pioneer money – including possibly illegal corporate funds – accounts for a hefty 16 percent of the $1.5 million that TRMPAC raised. ... At least 17 of Bush's other Pioneer volunteers are players in the scandal or have close ties to such players."

The TPJ report goes on to analyze the financial and corporate interconnections between the TRMPAC and Bush bankrollers, and also offers interesting detail on the legislative returns GOP donors expected for their largesse. The whole report is available at www.tpj.org, in the latest edition of "Lobby Watch."

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