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Public Citizen Analysis Shows Lobbyists Have Contributed $1.2 Million to DeLay and Will Give More Tonight in Unprecedented Fundraiser

Nov. 17, 2005

Public Citizen Analysis Shows Lobbyists Have Contributed $1.2 Million to DeLay and Will Give More Tonight in Unprecedented Fundraiser 

Group Also Proposes Major Reforms to Prevent Lobbyists from Using Campaign Cash to Feed at the Public Trough

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As the biggest influence-peddlers in Washington prepare to “host” a fundraiser tonight to raise campaign cash for embattled Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas), Public Citizen released a new analysis showing that DeLay has raised more than $1.2 million in hard money from lobbyists, their spouses and lobbying firms’ PACs since the 1998 election cycle.

Of the event’s 67 sponsors, at least 60 have registered as lobbyists since 2004, including 44 who work at K Street lobbying firms. Seven other sponsors are in-house lobbyists who work for the energy industry, which recently received billions in subsidies, tax breaks and regulatory rollbacks from DeLay’s successful passage of major energy legislation this past summer.

“Tonight’s event underscores the need for Congress to enact reforms that prohibit lobbyists from making campaign contributions to lawmakers whom they lobby,” said Joan Claybrook, president of Public Citizen. “Too many legislative favors flow from campaign contributions, allowing lobbyists and their corporate sponsors to feed at the public trough.”

Public Citizen is calling for a prohibition on lobbyists making contributions to or organizing fundraisers for the lawmakers they woo. DeLay is expected to face a strong re-election challenge due to his past ethical lapses, his close connections to former indicted super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff, and his recent indictment on charges of corporate money-laundering in Texas state elections. Tonight’s fundraiser is an unprecedented gathering of some of Washington’s biggest influence-peddlers on behalf of a single member of Congress.

Findings from Public Citizen’s analysis of DeLay’s contributions from nearly 400 lobbyists, 12 spouses and 44 PACs, which is based on data from the Center for Responsive Politics, include:

  • DeLay’s campaign committee and his leadership PAC have received a total of $1.2 million in hard money from lobbyists since the 1998 election cycle, the earliest period for which federal lobbying registration data is available online. This amount includes $850,056 in contributions from registered lobbyists and their spouses from Washington, D.C., Maryland or Virginia, and $392,393 in contributions from the PACs of lobbying firms and law firms that maintain lobbying practices.
  • Lobbyists have stepped up their giving during the current election cycle, during which DeLay has been indicted on money laundering charges. Barely halfway through the cycle, Washington-area lobbyists and their spouses have already given DeLay $216,200.
  • The total contributed since 1998 is surely much higher when one counts the substantial bounty DeLay has likely reaped from all PACs controlled by lobbyists, from corporate executives and other non-lobbyists at lobbyist-coordinated fundraisers, and from soft-money contributions made by lobbyists to his leadership PAC (such contributions were banned after 2002).
  • Abramoff and his wife, Pam, have given $40,000, more than any husband-wife duo. Among individual givers, Abramoff’s $23,000 in contributions was second to Gary J. Andres, of Dutko Worldwide, who gave $27,254.
  • DeLay’s own office staff has proved a fertile ground for developing future lobbyist-donors. Tonight’s event was organized by 10 former DeLay staffers, eight of whom are registered lobbyists: Amy Jensen Cuniffee, of Quinn Gillespie & Associates; Geof Gradler, of Capitol Ideas; Ralph Hellman, of the Information Technology Industry Council; Susan Hirschmann, of Williams and Jensen; Kathryn Lehman, of Holland & Knight; Glenn LeMunyon, of the LeMunyon Group; Drew Maloney, of the Federalist Group; and Thomas J. Pyle, of Koch Industries. They also include at least two former DeLay staffers who are not registered to lobby but work for lobbying firms: Stuart Roy of DCI Group and Juli Sullivan of Akin Gump.

For a list of the DeLay fundraiser’s “hosts,” click here.

“Tom DeLay and his lobbyist friends appear to be tone deaf to how the American people perceive this display of money and power tonight,” said Frank Clemente, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch. “Rather than raising boatloads of special interest cash, Rep. DeLay should be promoting reforms to drain the swamp in Washington.”

Sponsors of DeLay’s Lobbyist-Hosted Fundraiser Have Been Recipients of DeLay’s Largess in Energy Legislation

  • The American Petroleum Institute, whose president, Red Cavaney, is a “host” of tonight’s event, is the industry association for oil and natural gas corporations, which received a total of $4 billion in new subsidies under the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (EPACT) pushed through Congress under DeLay’s leadership last summer. Subsidies in the law include $1.5 billion in direct payments to oil companies to be handed out by a new private-public consortium based in DeLay’s home district, as well as $974 million in new oil drilling tax breaks, $406 million in tax breaks to owners of oil refineries and $1 billion in breaks on royalty payments made by oil companies drilling on public land. EPACT also exempts some oil drillers from the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Federal Water Pollution Control Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.
  • The National Petrochemical and Refiners Association, whose president, Bob Slaughter, is a “host” of tonight’s event,   is the industry association for oil refining companies. Its members include fellow fundraiser “hosts” Valero Energy and Koch Industries. These corporations will reap $406 million in new refinery tax breaks from EPACT. They would also benefit from a separate refinery bill (H.R. 3893) passed by the House in October that imposes strict limits on environmental protection efforts by federal, state and local governments and forces governments and environmental groups to pay the corporations’ legal bills if they lose a case against them. The bill was passed with a heavy push from DeLay, who, despite resigning his leadership post a week earlier due to his indictment, “was very much a presence, working members at Mr. Hastert’s side as if nothing had changed from last week,” according to The Wall Street Journal (October 8, 2005).
  • The American Gas Association, whose senior vice president, Rick Shelby, is a “host” of tonight’s event, is the industry association for natural gas corporations. Those companies will receive $1 billion in natural gas pipeline tax breaks from EPACT.
  • The Edison Electric Institute, whose president, Tom Kuhn, is a “host” of tonight’s event,   is the industry association for electric utility corporations. Those companies will receive $1.2 billion in tax breaks on electric transmission lines under EPACT.
  • Lyondell Chemical Company, whose director of government affairs, Edlu Thom, is a “host” of tonight’s event, is a major producer of the gasoline additive MTBE, which has been found to pollute groundwater. In 2003, the energy bill was stalled – and ultimately died – because of Senate objections to DeLay’s provision in the House version that provided MTBE manufacturers like Lyondell with immunity from lawsuits seeking payment for the clean-up of MTBE-contaminated water supplies. In November 2003, President Bush called then-House Majority Leader DeLay to ask him to break the impasse by removing the MTBE provision. DeLay refused.

Other industry associations and corporations whose lobbyist’s are serving as “hosts” include: the American Trucking Associations, Independent Insurance Agents of America, Information Technology Industry Council, National Association of Manufacturers, National Mining Association, United Parcel Service, R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. and UST Inc.

Public Citizen Is Calling on Congress to Enact Reforms that Curb the Influence of Lobbyists

1. Prohibit lobbyists from making, soliciting or arranging for campaign contributions to those whom they lobby. As a matter of course in Washington, lobbyists are expected to make extensive campaign contributions from their own pockets, solicit even more contributions from their clients and arrange lavish fundraising events, all to get special access to members of Congress.

2. Members of Congress who become lobbyists should forfeit their special privileges and should not be allowed to carry over their campaign funds to benefit their lobbying activities. Such former  members should no longer have access to the floor of Congress during votes and use of the congressional gym and dining hall. They should also be required to terminate their campaign accounts upon leaving office, and to donate the remaining amount to charity. These funds were given to them for election purposes, not for influence-peddling with special interests.

3. Ban all gifts from lobbyists to members of Congress. The current limit of up to $100 in gifts each year is watered down by a general lack of monitoring and enforcement of gift-giving by the ethics committees. Congress should enact legislation similar to that in Massachusetts and Wisconsin, which ban all gifts from lobbyists to government officials – known as the “no-cup-of-coffee” rule.

4. Prohibit lobbyists from serving as campaign treasurers and PAC-men for members of Congress. According to the Center for Public Integrity, more than 80 members of Congress have used corporate lobbyists to head their fundraising committees or leadership PACs since 1998. A lobbyist controlling a candidate’s purse strings is an obscenely powerful position that reeks of improper influence-peddling.

5. Put all lobbyist financial reports, lobbying contacts and congressional travel records on the Internet for public access. This information should be filed electronically in a timely fashion and made widely available to the public on the Internet in a searchable, sortable and downloabale format.