HOUSTON — As the scandals mount against Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas), a key legislative ally of President Bush, many people are wondering when the congressman will be indicted. At this point, it appears the Teflon coating provided by big money, which shielded Ronald Reagan and others during that administration, is providing immunity from prosecution just as effectively for DeLay.

But it’s reasonable to ask, “What will it take for the notorious House majority leader to be held accountable to the law of the land?”

Common Cause reports that Peter Stone of the National Journal uncovered a new DeLay fundraising scandal. The report sheds light on DeLay’s close ties with Jack Abramoff, a GOP-connected lobbyist. Abramoff and his wife personally contributed $40,000 to DeLay’s campaigns and political action committee, ARMPAC. Abramoff reportedly raised money for DeLay’s projects and, in turn, was granted extensive access to others and was allowed to “trade on DeLay’s name.”

Since 1997, Abramoff “accompanied DeLay on foreign excursions to such places as London, Moscow, and the Northern Mariana Islands. In at least one instance, on a trip to England and Scotland in mid-2000, congressional gift rules may have been violated; Abramoff apparently filed a report with his law firm showing he picked up some of DeLay’s expenses.”

The National Center for Public Policy Research, a conservative think tank on whose board Abramoff served until recently, sponsored the trip. Total expenses for DeLay, his wife and staff were close to $70,000.

“It’s clear from House rules that while a member may accept reimbursement for travel from certain sources, they may not receive travel expenses from a registered lobbyist, agent of a foreign principal, or a lobbying firm,” said Stan Brand, a former House counsel and a partner at the law firm Brand & Frulla, who was quoted on a Common Cause web site.

According to a report in the Washington Post, DeLay accepted an expense-paid trip to South Korea in 2001 from a registered foreign agent. If true, this would be a blatant violation of House rules as outlined above.

At least $106,921 was spent on DeLay and a delegation of Republicans for what DeLay and his cronies described as having an “educational” purpose. It is likely that this finding will trigger yet another investigation by the House ethics committee, where he has already been censured twice.

Back home in Texas, documents are coming to light that indicate DeLay “personally forwarded at least one large corporate check to the [political action] committee, Texans for a Republican Majority (TRMPC), and that he was in direct contact with lobbyists for some of the nation’s largest companies on the committee’s behalf,” according to an article in the New York Times. Texas law prohibits corporations from donating money to state political candidates.

Ronnie Earle, the Travis County district attorney, would not rule out the possibility of criminal charges against DeLay, who was a founder of TRMPAC and was a member of its advisory board.

According to the Houston Chronicle, DeLay acknowledges his role in the creation, advising and fund-raising for TRMPAC, but denies involvement in its day-to-day operations. He maintains that his activities were not illegal. Such distancing maneuvers are similar to those employed by Richard Nixon when he denied knowledge of the Watergate break-in.

In stark contrast to the government’s handling of DeLay, U.S. labor unions have come under increasing harassment by federal authorities. Many union locals are being audited in what some union leaders charge is payback for opposing President Bush’s re-election.

Where are the government audits of Tom DeLay?

phill2 @ houston.rr.com

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