DeLay PAC fined for violating donor lawsGroup to disband over misusing, failing to report contributions
July 21, 2006
By WAYNE SLATER / The Dallas Morning News
AUSTIN – The fundraising committee that former Rep. Tom DeLay used to help catapult him into the Republican leadership and launch the GOP redistricting effort in Texas has been fined for violating campaign finance laws.
The action by the Federal Election Commission marks the latest in a series of ethics problems dogging Mr. DeLay, who quit Congress in June and faces felony money-laundering charges.
Under an agreement with the FEC announced Thursday, Americans for a Republican Majority was fined $115,000 and will go out of existence.
01/05/06: Bush, DeLay, others vow to donate cash tied to Abramoff
10/04/05: DeLay indicted on additional charges
09/29/05: Defiant DeLay indicted in election fund scheme
An FEC audit found that the DeLay committee failed to properly report contributions and illegally used unregulated corporate money for get-out-the-vote efforts in Texas and elsewhere in 2002.
"Nearly every Republican in Congress received money from ARMPAC, thus consolidating his power base," said Melanie Sloan of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, a Washington campaign-finance watchdog group.
"Now we find out, they brought him huge amounts of money, but did it illegally," she said.
Dani DeLay Ferro, Mr. DeLay's spokeswoman and his daughter, described the violations as mistakes in following "highly technical FEC reporting rules." She said the agency has subsequently clarified its rules.
At issue was the DeLay committee's improper use of more than $200,000 in soft money to help elect candidates in 2002 and failure to report nearly $325,000 in debts owed to campaign vendors.
In particular, ARMPAC spent $121,000 for voter drives, including $50,000 in Texas, and more than $100,000 for fundraising events that should have been covered by so-called "hard money" contributions.
Soft money is contributions from corporations and individuals that are largely unrestricted in amount and, as a result, can only be used for limited purposes such as administrative costs and generic party-building activities. Hard money contributions are sharply limited in amount and can be used to elect candidates.
Known by its acronym ARMPAC, the committee provided $50,000 in seed money and the assistance of political operatives to launch a Texas group at the heart of Mr. DeLay's plan to boost the GOP by redrawing congressional lines.
Texans for a Republican Majority used $190,000 in corporate money in 2002 to help elect Republican legislative candidates, who took control of the Texas House and drew new congressional lines that added five new GOP seats in Congress.
In May 2005, a judge hearing a civil lawsuit filed by Democrats in Texas ruled that TRMPAC had violated Texas election laws.
A Travis County grand jury indicted Mr. DeLay in September 2005 on money-laundering and conspiracy charges in connection with the redistricting effort. The indictment forced Mr. DeLay to relinquish the majority leader post.
Facing reelection in a race that polls indicted would be close, Mr. DeLay abandoned his Sugar Land-area seat in June and moved his official residence to Virginia, although a Democratic lawsuit has forced his name to remain on the November ballot. The Texas Republican Party is appealing that decision.
The FEC audit was of committee records from Jan. 1, 2001, to Dec. 31, 2002. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics had filed a complaint against the committee.
ARMPAC has raised more than $12 million since 1998 and was instrumental in Mr. DeLay's rise to majority leader by supporting the campaigns of his GOP congressional colleagues.
Officials of the committee told the FEC that, having already reimbursed the soft-money account with $111,913, they can't raise the remaining $91,570 ordered under the agreement with the FEC. In the interim, before the committee shuts down, it has agreed not to spend any money until the debt is paid.
TRMPAC has gone out of existence and two of its political operatives have been indicted along with Mr. DeLay by the Travis County grand jury.
No trial dates have been set.
The FEC audit found the DeLay committee:
•Failed to report $74,295 in financial activity in 2001 and $166,340 in 2002.
•Did not report nearly $325,000 in debts owed to 25 campaign vendors.
•Improperly used more than $200,000 in unregulated “soft money” from corporations and wealthy individuals to help elect candidates in 2002 in Texas and elsewhere.
SOURCE: Federal Election Commission