The roof collapses on Tom DeLay

Articles in the Washington Post and New York Times raise yet more ethical questions about the Hammer.

Published April 6, 2005 1:13PM (EDT)

If Tom DeLay can survive this, they'll have to change his nickname from "the Hammer" to "Houdini." This morning, the already besieged House majority leader, facing scores of allegations about unethical behavior and abuse of power, and grumbling among his nervous GOP troops, gets hit with a one-two punch, courtesy of the Washington Post and the New York Times. Their exposés only add more detail to a portrait of a politician who rarely let the rules get in the way of his own personal enrichment.

First, the Post: "A six-day trip to Moscow in 1997 by then-House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) was underwritten by business interests lobbying in support of the Russian government, according to four people with firsthand knowledge of the trip arrangements." It is against the law for a member of Congress to accept travel reimbursements from registered lobbyists and foreign agents.

At the time, DeLay reported that the $57,000 Moscow trip was paid for by a Beltway nonprofit outfit. "But interviews with those involved in planning DeLay's trip say the expenses were covered by a mysterious company registered in the Bahamas that also paid for an intensive $440,000 lobbying campaign," the Post reports.

This is now the third overseas trip taken by DeLay that appears to have been paid for by foreign agents. Making matters worse, the lobbyist at the center of DeLay's Moscow trip was the notorious Jack Abramoff, who is now at the center of a federal influence-peddling and corruption probe investigation.

Then there's the Times: "The wife and daughter of Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, have been paid more than $500,000 since 2001 by Mr. DeLay's political action and campaign committees." The paper notes the women's duties "were described in the disclosure forms as 'fund-raising fees,' 'campaign management' or 'payroll,' with no additional details about how they earned the money."

Over the last three years DeLay's wife and daughter have received, on average, monthly paychecks worth $4,000.

DeLay's political action and campaign committee, Americans for a Republican Majority, is already the target of a criminal investigation, with its executive director "indicted in Texas last year on charges of illegal fund-raising, and prosecutors there have refused to rule out the possibility of charges against Mr. DeLay in the continuing inquiry," notes the Times.

By Eric Boehlert

Eric Boehlert, a former senior writer for Salon, is the author of "Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush."

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