WASHINGTON (AP) – Tom DeLay deliberately raised more money than he needed to throw parties at the 2000 presidential convention, then diverted some of the excess to longtime ally Roy Blunt through a series of donations that benefited both men’s causes.
When the financial carousel stopped, DeLay’s private charity, the consulting firm that employed DeLay’s wife and the Missouri campaign of Blunt’s son all ended up with money, according to campaign documents reviewed by The Associated Press.
Jack Abramoff, a Washington lobbyist recently charged in an ongoing federal corruption and fraud investigation, and Jim Ellis, the DeLay fundraiser indicted with his boss last week in Texas, also came into the picture.
The complicated transactions are drawing scrutiny in legal and political circles after a grand jury indicted DeLay on charges of violating Texas law with a scheme to launder illegal corporate donations to state candidates.
The government’s former chief election enforcement lawyer said the Blunt and DeLay transactions are similar to the Texas case and raise questions that should be investigated regarding whether donors were deceived or the true destination of their money was concealed.
“These people clearly like using middlemen for their transactions,” said Lawrence Noble. “It seems to be a pattern with DeLay funneling money to different groups, at least to obscure, if not cover, the original source,” said Noble, who was the Federal Election Commission’s chief lawyer for 13 years, including in 2000 when the transactions occurred.
None of the hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations DeLay collected for the 2000 convention were ever disclosed to federal regulators because the type of group DeLay used wasn’t governed by federal law at the time.
DeLay has temporarily stepped aside as majority leader after being indicted by a Texas prosecutor. Blunt – who had been majority whip, the No. 3 Republican in the House – has taken over much of that role in DeLay’s absence.
Spokesmen for the two Republican leaders say they disclosed what was required by law at the time and believe all their transactions were legal, though donors might not always have know where their money was headed.