DeLay PAC took Enron fundsRecords show $50,000 used to set up Texas redistricting panel
By R.G. Ratcliffe, Houston Chronicle
July 14, 2004
AUSTIN - As Enron Corp. teetered on the brink of financial collapse in 2001, the company apparently provided $50,000 in seed money for U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's controversial Texas congressional redistricting effort.
Records for DeLay's Americans for a Republican Majority show it received the money from Enron sometime during the second half of 2001. Enron filed for bankruptcy in December 2001.
ARMPAC, in turn, gave $50,000 to DeLay's Texans for a Republican Majority, or TRMPAC. The money was used to set up the committee, which helped win a GOP majority in the Texas House in 2002 and set the stage for DeLay's successful push for congressional redistricting in Texas.
Other contributions were made to ARMPAC during the same time period, but an Enron e-mail indicates that it was the Enron money that was transferred to TRMPAC.
The significance of DeLay raising money from Enron is that it potentially links DeLay directly to raising corporate money for the Texas committee. DeLay was a featured speaker at some TRMPAC meetings that raised corporate money, but he has distanced himself from being directly involved in the contributions.
Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle is investigating whether TRMPAC violated state campaign laws by using corporate money in direct support of Republican candidates. DeLay has called the investigation politically motivated, and Republicans said the use of corporate money was legal.
Under state law, political committees can use corporate money for administrative expenses such as rent and utilities.
Democrats contend that TRMPAC violated the law by using corporate money to pay for candidate polling and issue development, but Republicans say the law only prohibits corporate contributions directly to a candidate.
DeLay spokesman Jonathan Grella said there was nothing wrong or illegal about raising money from Enron for ARMPAC. He said the money was raised before Enron's finances began unraveling in fall 2001.
"Enron was a well-respected member of the community before these revelations came to light," he said. "Hindsight is 20/20 when it comes to things like Enron."
Grella said it is unfair to criticize DeLay for raising money from Enron when U.S. Rep. Martin Frost, D-Dallas, leader of the state's Democratic congressional delegation, raised $10,000 from Enron for his leadership committee in March 2001.
"Martin Frost and the Democrats had a very aggressive political operation. We needed to combat them if we were going to be competitive," Grella said.
DeLay's link to the Enron donation is established in a company e-mail made public in a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission investigation of the firm's western energy trading practices.
The May 31, 2001, e-mail from lobbyists Rick Shapiro and Linda Robertson to then-Enron Chairman Ken Lay focused primarily on $50,000 that Enron planned to give to a a joint House and Senate fund-raiser.
The e-mail said Enron would be credited with donating $250,000 because of earlier corporate donations.
The e-mail then turned to a new request: "In addition, Congressman Tom DeLay has asked Enron to contribute $100,000 to his leadership committee, ARMPAC, through a combination of corporate and personal money from Enron executives."
"ARMPAC funds will be used to assist other House Members as well as the redistricting effort in Texas. We will be meeting this request over the course of this calendar year."
Federal IRS filings for ARMPAC show it received $50,000 from Enron between July 1 and Dec. 31, 2001, and a transfer of $50,000 to the newly formed TRMPAC during that same period. TRMPAC was created in September 2001.
U.S. Rep. Chris Bell, D-Houston, has filed an ethics complaint against DeLay in the House claiming DeLay improperly raised corporate money to influence redistricting in Texas.
Bell spokesman Eric Burns said the Enron e-mails will be given to House ethics committee members today.