Texans for Public Justice

U.S. House majority leader says he agreed that corporate money should be kept seperate
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BY Laylan Copelin, Thursday, March 10, 2005

U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Sugar Land, said Wednesday that it was his idea to create Texans for a Republican Majority and said he agreed that the political action committee should keep its corporate donations separate from money intended for candidates.

It was the first time he acknowledged, at least broadly, how Texans for a Republican Majority intended to operate.

But he continued to deny being involved in the day-to-day operations of the committee, and a DeLay staffer told The New York Times in a story published Wednesday that he had no knowledge of corporate checks being routed through DeLay to the committee.

Texas law prohibits corporations or unions from spending money on campaigns. During the 2002 state legislative campaigns, the GOP committee spent about $600,000 in corporate money, mostly from Washington lobbyists, on fund-raisers, consultants to monitor candidates and a phone bank to identify likely voters.

Lawyers for the committee argue that the corporate money was spent legally because it was not used to advocate the election or defeat of any candidate.

A Travis County grand jury last fall indicted three of DeLay's associates who did work for the committee, and testimony ended last week in a civil trial against the committee's treasurer. The judge's decision is pending.

On Wednesday, DeLay was responding to questions from reporters about evidence from last week's trial, including an e-mail from Washington lobbyist Drew Maloney, a former chief of staff for DeLay.

In an e-mail to Warren Robold, Maloney suggested companies that might donate money to Texans for a Republican Majority. Robold is a professional fund-raiser for DeLay's national political committee and his charity, as well as for Texans for a Republican Majority.

Maloney added, "I finally have the 2 checks from Reliant (Energy Inc.). Will deliver to TD next week probably."

Asked about the Times story that referred to the e-mail, DeLay said: "I have no idea what you are talking about. I don't read The New York Times."

The Times story was based on information obtained last month by the Austin American-Statesman.

The three indicted DeLay associates, facing charges ranging from violating state election laws to money laundering, are Robold; Jim Ellis, who runs DeLay's Washington-based Americans for a Republican Majority; and John Colyandro, the Austin-based executive director of Texans for a Republican Majority.

In his comments Wednesday, DeLay seemed to confirm what Ellis and Colyandro told the American-Statesman months ago about the creation of Texans for a Republican Majority. Ellis said he and DeLay came up with the idea, and Colyandro said decisions about how the committee would handle its money were made early on.

"Yes, it was my idea," DeLay said. "Or it was our idea -- those of us who wanted to enhance the Republicans who serve in the House of Representatives and the Texas Legislature -- to come up with this idea."

He said he agreed that corporate money should be kept separate from individuals' donations earmarked for candidates.

DeLay said the indictments against his three associates were "a joke" and predicted that the men would not be convicted. And he said Texans for a Republican Majority operated with the advice of lawyers.

"When you have lawyers advising you every step of the way in writing, it's very hard to make a case stick," he said.