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Contributions to Rep. Tom DeLay’s Legal Defense Fund Slow to a Trickle

April 26, 2005

Contributions to Rep. Tom DeLay’s Legal Defense Fund Slow to a Trickle

Contributions from Members of Congress Drop by 83 Percent

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The recent spate of unfavorable media disclosures surrounding House Majority Leader Tom DeLay’s ethical lapses may be hurting more than just his image; his ability to raise money also appears to have been severely affected. Contributions to DeLay’s legal defense fund have fallen off sharply according to figures just released by the U.S. House of Representatives’ Legislative Resource Center.

In the first quarter of 2005, DeLay’s legal defense fund raised only $47,750.   That is less than one-fifth of the amount raised in the last quarter of 2004, when the fund collected $254,250. 

An analysis by Public Citizen reveals that contributions to the fund from DeLay’s congressional colleagues also slowed considerably during the first three months of 2005. Only nine members of Congress contributed a total of $30,000, which is an 83 percent drop from the last three months of 2004 when 36 of DeLay’s fellow representatives contributed a total of $174,500.

Under House rules, donors may contribute a maximum of $5,000 per calendar year to a legal defense fund, and contributions can be made by individuals, political action committees (PACs), and corporate and union treasuries.

But Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.) found a way to circumvent the House rules, according to the Public Citizen analysis. He made one $5,000 contribution through his leadership PAC and a second from his campaign fund.  That $10,000 total contribution makes Bachus the largest congressional contributor to DeLay’s legal defense in the last three months.

The congressional contributors who have given the most to DeLay’s legal defense fund over the four-year life of the fund are: Rep. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), $20,000; former Rep. “Billy” Tauzin (R-La.), $15,000; and Rep. Henry Bonilla (R-Texas), $15,000.

While none of those representatives made contributions in the first quarter of 2005, five staffers to House Majority Whip Roy Blunt and the executive director of his PAC contributed a total of $2,750. 

“It looks like most members of Congress are trying to distance themselves from Tom DeLay’s ethics problems by closing their wallets,” said Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook. “If money truly speaks louder than words, then the absence of it is sending a loud message that this ethically challenged majority leader’s greatest asset to his colleagues – the ability to raise large bundles of cash – is waning.”

Other findings of the analysis of contributions to DeLay’s legal defense fund since its inception in July 2000 through March 2005 include:

  • Since it was formed in 2000, DeLay’s legal defense fund has raised a total of $1,046,971.
  • Corporations and their employees have contributed $593,996 to the fund, or 57 percent of all contributions.
  • Leading industry contributors (including their employees) have been energy and natural resources ($127,300); construction ($80,800); communications and electronics ($65,250); agriculture ($53,250); finance, insurance and real estate ($49,790); and lawyers and lobbyists ($36,500).

“It’s noteworthy that the energy and natural resources industry led in contributions to his legal defense,” said Frank Clemente, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch. “Of course, if you consider DeLay’s leadership on the recently passed energy bill, with its massive industry tax breaks and incentives, it would appear that energy companies got a big return on their investment.”

A complete analysis of DeLay’s legal defense fund and background on his previous violations of House Rules is available by clicking here.