There are two new stories about Tom DeLay, one in tomorrow's Washington Post and one in tomorrow's New York Times. Since I'll quote both stories at some length, I'll put the rest of it below the fold.
From the Post story:
"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.
DeLay reported that the trip was sponsored by a Washington-based nonprofit organization. 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.
It is unclear precisely how the money was transferred from the Bahamian-registered company to the nonprofit.
The expense-paid trip by DeLay and four of his staff members cost $57,238, according to records filed by his office. During his six days in Moscow, he played golf, met with Russian church leaders and talked to Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, a friend of Russian oil and gas executives associated with the lobbying effort.
DeLay also dined with the Russian executives and two Washington-based registered lobbyists for the Bahamian-registered company, sources say. One of those lobbyists was Jack Abramoff, who is now at the center of a federal influence-peddling and corruption probe related to his representation of Indian tribes.
House members bear some responsibility to ensure that the sponsors for their travel are not masquerading for registered lobbyists or foreign government interests, legal experts say. House ethics rules bar the acceptance of travel reimbursement from registered lobbyists and foreign agents.
In this case, travel funds did not come directly from lobbyists; the money came from a firm, Chelsea Commercial Enterprises Ltd., that funded the lobbying campaign, according to the sources. Chelsea was coordinating the effort with a Russian oil and gas company -- Naftasib -- that has business ties with Russian security institutions, the sources said. (...)
Untangling the origin of the Moscow trip's financing is complicated by questions about the ownership and origins of Chelsea, the obscure Bahamian-registered company that financed the lobbying effort in favor of the Russian government that targeted Republicans in Washington in 1997 and 1998. Those involved in this effort also prepared and coordinated the DeLay visit, individuals with direct knowledge about it said.
In that period, prominent Russian businessmen, as well as the Russian government, depended heavily on a flow of billions of dollars in annual Western aid and so had good reason to build bridges to Congress. House Republicans were becoming increasingly critical of U.S. and international lending institutions, such as the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) and the International Monetary Fund, which were then investing heavily in Russia's fragile economy.
Unlike some House conservatives who scorn such support as "corporate welfare," DeLay proved to be a "yes" vote for institutions bolstering Russia in this period. For example, DeLay voted for a bill that included the replenishment of billions of dollars in IMF funds used to bail out the Russian economy in 1998. (...)
The efforts by Naftasib's executives to curry favor among Republicans -- including DeLay -- sowed controversy at the time among conservatives. A journal published by a Washington think tank, the American Foreign Policy Council, claimed within a few days after DeLay's trip ended that it was actually "sponsored" by Naftasib. The journal -- the Russian Reform Monitor -- also highlighted what it characterized as Naftasib's tight connections to the Russian security establishment.
The journal quoted promotional literature for Naftasib that described the firm as a major shareholder in Gazprom, the state-controlled oil and gas giant. The literature also said Natfasib's largest clients were the ministries of defense and internal affairs. The literature also states that Nevskaya [Naftasib's deputy general manager] was an instructor at a school for Russian military intelligence officers. She declined to address those claims in response to questions from The Post.
Steve Biegun, who was then a senior Russia expert for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and later served as executive secretary to the National Security Council during President Bush's first term, said he deliberately blocked a meeting that Nevskaya sought with Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), then the committee chairman.
"They were a client of the lobbying firm Preston Gates," said Biegun, who is now a Ford Motor Co. vice president for international governmental affairs. "I made some calls . . . and got enough warning signs" to ensure that Helms avoided dealing with the firm. Biegun said the information he obtained from his sources was "nothing that would stand up in court" but he worried that in this period, "a lot of unsavory figures from Russia were buying their way into meetings and getting their pictures taken, to put on the wall back in Moscow." "
So: Tom DeLay's trip to Russia seems to have been paid for by a mystery company that was either working with or fronting for a Russian energy company that is alleged to have close ties to the Russian security establishment, and that was lobbying for large-scale federal assistance. Lovely. Add to this the revelations in the Times story:
"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, according to a detailed review of disclosure statements filed with the Federal Election Commission and separate fund-raising records in Mr. DeLay's home state, Texas.
Most of the payments to his wife, Christine A. DeLay, and his only child, Dani DeLay Ferro, were described in the disclosure forms as "fund-raising fees," "campaign management" or "payroll," with no additional details about how they earned the money. The payments appear to reflect what Mr. DeLay's aides say is the central role played by the majority leader's wife and daughter in his political career.
Mr. DeLay's national political action committee, Americans for a Republican Majority, or Armpac, said in a statement on Tuesday that the two women had provided valuable services to the committee in exchange for the payments: "Mrs. DeLay provides big picture, long-term strategic guidance and helps with personnel decisions. Ms. Ferro is a skilled and experienced professional event planner who assists Armpac in arranging and organizing individual events."
Mrs. Ferro has managed several of her father's re-election campaigns for his House seat. (...)
The payments to Mr. DeLay's family have continued into 2005; the latest monthly disclosure filed by Americans for a Republican Majority shows Mrs. DeLay was paid was paid $4,028 last month, while Mrs. Ferro received $3,681. Earlier statements show that the two women received similar monthly fees from the political action committee throughout 2003 and 2004.
Mrs. DeLay has been involved in her husband's political career and his fund-raising operations in Washington and Texas. In an interview in 2003 with Roll Call, a newspaper on Capitol Hill, a spokesman for Mr. DeLay explained Mrs. DeLay's role as "the final signoff of Tom's travel schedule, what events he attends and what his name appears on."
Mrs. Ferro has also helped manage Mr. DeLay's charity operations. Financial disclosure statements filed by Mr. DeLay's House campaign committees, which are separate from Americans for a Republican Majority, show that Mrs. Ferro and her political consulting firm, Coastal Consulting of Sugar Land, Tex., received $222,000 from 2001 through last year, reflecting her role in the re-election campaigns. (...)
"It's DeLay Inc. " said Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a research group that has closely monitored Mr. DeLay and his campaign fund-raising and expenditures. "If it's not illegal, it certainly is inappropriate for members of Congress to use their positions to enrich their families." "
I think it's too obvious to be worth belaboring that these stories, if true, constitute two more reasons to think that Tom DeLay is not fit to serve in government. (Why can't these people just live on their salaries? Tom DeLay has an answer: “I challenge anyone to live on my salary.” Reportedly, when he said that, his salary was $158,000 a year.) The business of accepting favors from people linked to the Russian defense establishment is particularly appalling. And, of course, these two latest stories come on the heels of ethics investigations and criminal indictments of DeLay's associates.
What's also interesting, however, is that I take the simultaneous appearance of these stories to mean that someone in the Republican party is trying to throw Tom DeLay overboard. Why do I say the Republican party? Two reasons. First, if the Democrats had had this kind of information, they would have used it a long time ago. Second, the Post piece in particular quotes a lot of people who would have to be Republicans -- a former staffer for Jesse Helms, people involved with planning the trip to Russia, and so forth.
But nothing about Tom DeLay suggests that he will go gently. He is, after all, the man who told a restaurant manager who told him that federal rules prohibited smoking: "I am the federal government". And he has amassed enough IOUs over the years that he will probably be able to put up a serious fight. All of which means: this could be very interesting.
And it couldn't happen to a more deserving guy.
Added note: I don't have a problem with DeLay paying his daughter out of his PAC. I assume he wouldn't hire her as his campaign manager just to be nice. It's his wife that I find problematic. I've never even been married to any of my boyfriends, and I always gave them "big picture, long-term strategic guidance" for free.