Part V: DeLay's Miscellaneous Machinations
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In previous pages, we have detailed what we believe were the most telling relationships and positions of Rep. Tom DeLay. But over his years in Congress, there were lesser instances that deserve brief mention.
All in the Family
After the GOP's 1994 seizure of power in Congress, DeLay launched his "Project Relief" -- a coalition of 350 corporations, including Enron, that drafted a bill to gut regulations affecting industry.
No lobbyist benefited more during this time than DeLay's brother, Randy DeLay. Randy DeLay's previous ventures in life had not gone terribly well. No fewer than four business ventures in which he had been involved -- a restaurant, two oil projects and beach property investments -- had gone belly up. Randy filed for bankruptcy in 1992.
His salvation came in early 1995, when his brother was elected Majority Whip. A number of big firms and trade associations promptly began to hire Randy as a lobbyist, even though he had no previous experience. A Houston Press report indicates that between 1995 and mid-1997, Randy DeLay earned $750,000 in fees and expenses.
Press accounts of Randy DeLay's sudden good fortune came at the very time that his brother was pontificating on alleged Clinton family conflicts of interest. When it came to a choice of supporting his brother or losing the Clinton issue, DeLay did not miss a beat. He banned his brother from his office and the two have since reportedly become estranged.
DeLay's decision to turn on his brother -- even though there had been no allegations of wrong doing -- was characteristic of a man who has consistently put politics ahead of family. His rejection of his brother was part of a pattern of acrimonious relationships with other family members that goes back decades and was superbly documented by in a May 13, 2001 Washington Post Magazine article written by Peter Perl.
While Tom DeLay preaches family values, he has appears to value his own family very little.
DeLay's Albo Pest Control "Perjury"
During Congressional deliberations over the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, Rep. Tom Delay was vociferous in his condemnation of Clinton's alleged perjury in the Paul Jones case.
At the same time that DeLay was demanding Clinton either resign or be impeached for lying under oath, court records in Texas show that in 1994, the same allegations were being made against DeLay.
The case involved DeLay's Texas company, Albo Pest Control. Albo Pest Control had been sued by a former business associate whose competing company had been purchased by Albo. DeLay had fallen behind in his payments to the seller. When the seller insisted on being paid, DeLay sued him, claiming the seller had misrepresented the condition of his company's equipment.
The details of the civil case would have been of little political consequence had it not been for the fact that DeLay was deposed under oath -- and apparently lied. After being elected to the House of Representatives in 1984 DeLay did not disclose any relationship or income from his old company. But testimony in the civil case indicated that company money may have been loaned to the DeLay campaign. If so, it would have violated federal campaign rules. DeLay's campaign records did not reveal any debts to Albo.
Also among the evidence presented in the case were Albo Pest Control advertisements trumpeting the company's relationship with "Congressman Tom DeLay" who at the time was listed as Albo's "Chairman of the Board."
DeLay's troubles began on February 5, 1994, when he was deposed in Houston. His brother Randy represented him. According to the court transcript, the plaintiff's attorney chastised Delay for not taking the deposition seriously.
"It's funny to me," DeLay said. "It is ridiculous and stupid."
DeLay maintained that he had no involvement with Albo and no source of income outside his congressional salary.
- "You received no moneys from Albo Pest Control Inc
." he was asked.
"No," DeLay replied.
"For services either," he was asked.
"No, Delay responded. "I have received no money services." (1994 court transcript)
DeLay's trademark smirk disappeared when presented with his House financial disclosure forms, filed just a few months earlier, where he admitted to receiving between $5,000 and $15,000 for his services to Albo. His disclosure statement for the previous year showed the same payments.
The case was quickly settled out of court and the files sealed by the court at DeLay's request. The judge in the case was a personal friend of DeLay's and active member of the Houston Republican Party apparatus.
When asked about the case later, DeLay's spokesman, Michael Scanlon brushed the matter aside as a business matter "dating back over a decade." When pushed he responded with more bluster.
"Our political enemies have been digging into Mr. DeLay's past for years," Scanlon said. "It is not fair to limit our response time to a matter of hours. I choose to sacrifice the short term public relations war for the eventual truth."
(Michael Scanlon would soon be acting as spokesperson for Jack Abramoff's abortive SunCruz floating casino venture.)
With court records still under seal, the truth remains out of reach. But the contradiction between his federal disclosure statements and his testimony mean DeLay lied either on his disclosures or under oath.
Playing Fast and Loose with Campaign Finance Laws
As mentioned earlier in this report, much of Tom DeLay's political clout flows from his control of PAC money. The National Republican Congressional Committee and, in particular, DeLay's mother-of-all-PACs, the Americans for a Republican Majority (ARMPAC), have raked in millions of dollars that DeLay parcels out to Republican politicians who vote his way.
In 2000 Democrats, led by Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) filed suit in federal court alleging that DeLay's PACs were little more than a "massive illegal" ruse covering a political "money laundering and extortion" operation designed to buy political loyalty on The Hill.
Statements from a number of Washington lobbyists supported the allegation that DeLay has warned lobbyists about doing business with Democrats. He told them that now that Republicans were in control of the House, lobbyists who try to play both sides of the aisle by donating to both Republicans and Democrats would be punished.
DeLay insiders, such as Ed Buckham and Karl Gallant, were mentioned in the suit although they were not named as defendants. But Ed Buckham, DeLay's former chief of staff and the CEO of Alexander Strategy Group, headed one of the groups named in the suit, U.S. Family Network, which was described as "central to an interlocking network of non-profit, political activities."
- "DeLay has repeatedly told PAC representatives that they have to reverse their long record of favoring Democrats over Republicans if they want to be heard and have an impact with the New GOP leadership." (The National Journal 1996)
"Mr. DeLay is unfortunately conducting these activities under the color of his office as he seeks through the use of systematic extortion to coerce the contribution of millions of dollars to Republicans and to intimidate those inclined to support Democrats," Kennedy said.
The court dismissed the suit, which even many Democrats felt employed the wrong tactic by using draconian federal RICO laws .
But the questions raised by the suit remain to be addressed, something the Republican controlled House refuses to do. Like a neighborhood crack merchant, DeLay has his customers hooked on his product and they show no indication they are interested in kicking the habit.
Tom Delay's rise to power and influence have been nothing less than extraordinary. He is the classic Mr. Smith who, wronged one time too many by government bureaucrats, left his private life behind to clean house in Washington. Along the way he became one of the most powerful conservative radicals in decades. DeLay's politics make Newt Gingrich look like a liberal. He is so out of the mainstream he has even become a thorn in the side of Republican President and fellow Texan, George Bush, recently telling reporters during sensitive Middle East negotiations that Palestinians should be chased out of the West Bank and sent off to live in Jordan.
Soon House Republicans will have to decide if they really want someone so radical as their Majority Leader. DeLay's vision of government, business and the world have in no way moderated over his years in Congress. If anything, they have hardened. So, his past can only preview his future. Unflagging support for Enron, his defense of medieval working conditions in the Marianas, his attempted coup against the entire Judicial Branch of government, and his own alleged perjury under oath - all argue against his elevation to this important office.
It's one thing for voters back home to send a character like Tom DeLay to Congress that's their right. But it's quite another thing to invite him to the bridge of the Ship of State and let him steer.
- Want more of Tom DeLay in his own words? Like this gem: "Guns have little or nothing to do with juvenile violence. The causes of youth violence are working parents who put their kids into daycare, the teaching of evolution in the schools, and working mothers who take birth control pills." Read more!
Investigative journalist Stephen Pizzo's bestselling book, "Inside Job: The Looting of America's Savings and Loans," is now available as an ebook.