Dozens of Republicans who have received sizable campaign donations from Representative Tom DeLay's political action committee have also donated to his legal defense fund, in a few cases making the contributions within months of receiving their campaign checks.
..."I think the House ethics committee would frown on the practice, if in fact it was earmarked for the legal fund," said Jan Baran, a prominent Republican elections lawyer.
The Texas contributor-recipients included: Representative Michael Burgess, who received $15,000 in 2002 and 2003 from the DeLay political fund-raising operation and gave $5,000 to the DeLay legal fund in 2004; Representative Kenny E. Marchant, who received $10,000 in April 2004 and gave $5,000 in the first quarter of 2005; Representative John Carter, who received $20,000 in 2002 and 2003 and gave $5,000 in 2004; and Representative Henry Bonilla, who got $10,000 in 2002 and gave $10,000 in 2004, in addition to the $5,000 he gave in 2001.
"Congressman Carter was a judge in central Texas for over 20 years and has a long history and knowledge of Ronnie Earle," said Gretchen Hamel, the communications director for Mr. Carter. She said the congressman believes Mr. DeLay "was wrongfully accused, and felt compelled to give to Tom DeLay's defense fund." About 260 House candidates have received a total of about $2.7 million from Mr. DeLay's political action committee from 2000 to 2004, according to PoliticalMoneyLine, which tracks campaign finance. A separate advocacy group, Public Citizen, did an analysis of the defense fund, which showed that about 20 percent of those also gave to the Mr. DeLay's legal fund. The defense fund reaped about $200,000 from that smaller group of Republican House members, who had received almost $700,000 for their campaigns.
...But Melanie Sloan, director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said that if money were donated from the political action committee to candidates with the expectation that some portion would be skimmed off and returned to the DeLay legal fund, "that would not be okay."
"You're not allowed to make a conduit contribution," she said.
Representative Tom Cole, Republican of Oklahoma, received $15,000 in the last two election cycles and gave $5,000 to the DeLay fund in late summer of 2004.
Perhaps more notably, Mr. Cole sits on the House Ethics Committee, one of five Republicans on the panel, all of whom have either received or given money to Mr. DeLay. The panel members' donations to his defense were reported in USA Today on Wednesday.End slice:
This last paragraph fits officially right into the Holy Shit Category. As in, Holy Shit, can these guys get away with this? Zoiks...I suppose they are doing it right now.
Does anyone else see the tragic irony of the Republicans on the ethics committee not, or refusing to recuse themselves after having pitched in cash money to defend the man they are supposed to be investigating?
By the way, how many ordinary citizens get their legal fees covered by benevolent, wealthy friends like these? The public defenders office is open to DeLay, or he could choose to open his own wallet, but no.
No doubt, he is working to wrangle his way out so some serious legal problems. Why else would he need a legal defense fund?