HOUSTON – A complaint against Republican House Majority Leader Tom DeLay was filed on June 15 with the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct by Texas Democratic Rep. Chris Bell. The complaint centers on allegations that DeLay, nicknamed “the Hammer” for his heavy-handed ways, violated the rules of the U.S. House of Representatives and the federal bribery statute as well as Texas campaign finance laws. Penalties for such violations could include prison time.

According to the web site for Richard Morrison, who is opposing DeLay in the November elections, “The complaint charges that: (1) Rep. DeLay may have illegally solicited and accepted political contributions in return for official action, (2) Rep. DeLay’s Texans for a Republican Majority (TRMPAC) may have laundered illegal corporate contributions for the purpose of influencing Texas legislative races and failed to properly disclose its financial activity, (3) Rep. DeLay may have improperly used his office to urge federal agencies to assist in a partisan objective wholly unrelated to his official duties.”

The third charge is based on DeLay’s improper use of his office to contact and exhort federal agencies, including the Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Justice, to search for and interdict Texas Democratic state legislators last summer. DeLay’s efforts were aimed at ensuring the quorum needed to pass the racist redistricting plan that he had spearheaded. The Democratic legislators, the so-called “Killer Ds,” were ultimately unsuccessful in preventing a quorum.

A June 26 editorial in the Houston Chronicle highlights another component of the ethics charges against DeLay. The editorial points out that Bacardi USA was a substantial contributor to DeLay’s political action group, TRMPAC. Currently, there is trademark legislation (HB 4225 and SB 2373) before Congress which would give Bacardi U.S. rights to the world-famous Havana Club rum label at the expense of CubaExport, a subsidiary of the Cuban government, and its French partner Pernod Ricard. This is a serious charge with international implications.

The author can be reached at pww@pww.org.