Tom DeLay collected nearly $500,000 in campaign contributions even as he was weighing the idea of withdrawing from the race to retain his seat in the House of Representatives. Now that he's got the money but no race to run, he's free to use it how he needs it: to pay for lawyers to represent him in the Jack Abramoff case.
But before you go feeling sorry for any duped DeLay campaign contributors, check out the report on the fundraising in today's Houston Chronicle. The Chronicle didn't find all the people who sent campaign cash to DeLay even as he contemplated his withdrawal. But it found some of them, and they don't seem bothered a bit that DeLay may have collected their money under false pretenses.
While one man who gave $4,000 to DeLay's campaign said that he hopes he'll use it "for the purposes of advancing his agenda," others seem happy to have DeLay use their money to pay his lawyers. "That is perfectly OK with me," said Bob Jones, a Houston engineering firm executive who gave DeLay's campaign $4,200 at the end of March. "It is a travesty that the city of Houston is not going to have him in Congress." Another contributor, William Johnson of Farwell, Texas, said he hopes DeLay uses the money he contributed "for a good cause -- doing whatever he needs to do to get out of this jam he's in." Johnson's only regret: that DeLay won't remain in Congress "until we [have] the Democrats completely whittled down."
If DeLay ends up spending some of his campaign money on lawyers, he won't be the only one doing so. As the Sacramento Bee is reporting, Republican Rep. John Doolittle has hired a lawyer to advise him in connection with the Abramoff investigation. Doolittle has insisted in the past that he hasn't hired a lawyer to represent him in the case, and his spokesman says that's still technically true: "Because he wanted to be as up front and forthcoming as possible about the Abramoff investigation, the congressman retained a law firm to review public statements that he made to make sure that everything he said was not only accurate, but that it would in no way hinder the Justice Department's ongoing investigation," Doolittle aide Richard Robinson said in a statement released after the California congressman's campaign finance reports showed a $10,000 payment to a law firm in Virginia.
Robinson said that Doolittle has engaged attorney David G. Barger, who in a prior life was part of Kenneth Starr's Whitewater team.