Fund-raisers for DeLay PAC linked solicitations to issuesBy Larry Margasak, Associated Press
April 12, 2005
WASHINGTON — Fund-raisers for a political-action committee founded by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay routinely solicited donations by identifying legislative actions that prospective givers wanted, from video gambling to lawsuit limits, memos show.
"What companies that you know of would be interested in tort reform in Texas with asbestos problems that might support TRMPAC?" one DeLay fund-raiser wrote in a memo prospecting for donors to the Texans for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee (TRMPAC).
That memo elicited an answer identifying several large companies and interest groups nationwide interested in lawsuit-limiting legislation in Congress and Texas, the documents show.
The fund-raisers also discussed using DeLay himself to make calls to round up some of the bigger donations, and referred to delivery of at least two checks they collected directly to the House majority leader.
"Create a top 10 list of givers and let me call them to ask for large contribution," DeLay fund-raiser Warren RoBold wrote in August 2002. "I would then decide from response who Tom DeLay ... should call."
Other TRMPAC fund-raising memos mention that Texas racetrack owners needed state permission for video gambling, that banks wanted new Texas home-lending rules and that energy firms wanted less regulation.
Federal law and congressional ethics rules prohibit government officials from connecting political donations to their official actions.
DeLay was admonished last year by the House Ethics Committee for creating the appearance of connecting energy-industry donations with federal legislation.
DeLay spokesman Dan Allen said yesterday, "The conclusions being reached are speculative and unsubstantiated."
DeLay has said that although he founded the Texas political-action committee and advised it, he is not involved in its day-to-day operations.
A Democratic Texas prosecutor has indicted three former DeLay aides on charges related to TRMPAC's receipt and use of corporate contributions.
The documents reviewed by The Associated Press were made public through a civil lawsuit and by the House Ethics Committee. They provide a window into how TRMPAC studied policy and legislative issues as it targeted possible donors.
A Sept. 9, 2002, TRMPAC trip listed donation-seeking visits for fund-raiser Susan Lilly and a state GOP representative, Beverly Woolley.
In an interview, Lilly said of the notations next to the names of prospective donors, "These were my personal notes. It was just my personal knowledge of what a person likes or dislikes. They were notes I took at the meeting."
A note next to the name of the top executive of Alabama-based Compass Bank read, "Want to clear up home equity lending." Another notation said "22 K direct."
Four days after the meeting, Compass Bank's political-action committee made $22,000 in contributions of $1,000 each to candidates in 22 Texas House races, according to an analysis by the Texas Observer newspaper.
Eight months after the fund-raising visit, the Texas Legislature approved a constitutional amendment to allow home-equity loans on lines of credit for the first time in the state. Voters ratified the amendment, and Compass quickly marketed the loans.
The House Ethics Committee, in admonishing DeLay last year, particularly objected to a May 30, 2002, memo written by Drew Maloney, a lobbyist and former DeLay aide. Maloney organized a DeLay fund-raising golf event and listed the specific goals of golf fund-raiser attendees, including Houston-based Reliant Energy.
About three months after the memo, Reliant contributed $25,000 to TRMPAC, according to a database compiled by a state watchdog group, Texans for Public Justice.
In Maloney's memo seeking contributors with asbestos problems, the ex-DeLay staff member wrote: "I finally have the 2 checks from Reliant. Will deliver to TD next week."