DeLay Brother Lobbies Again

Posted June 4, 2004 at 6:34pm

Randolph DeLay — the estranged brother of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) — is negotiating a million-dollar-plus contract to help prevent the Pentagon from shutting down a handful of military bases in the Texas county where he and his brother were raised.

Officials in Nueces County have authorized $1.2 million to hire DeLay’s lobbying firm, Public/Private Strategies, to lobby Congress and the Bush administration for as long as two years on behalf of the county’s four military bases.

DeLay’s return to Washington comes a decade after his lobbying activities landed him and his brother at the center of an ethics investigation.

Though the details of DeLay’s contract will not be finalized for several weeks, the lobbyist has already won praise from some unexpected allies.

“He is a good guy — he is very effective,” said Rep. Solomon Ortiz (D-Texas), who represents Corpus Christi and its military bases on Capitol Hill.

Ortiz, who supports the county’s decision to hire a lobbying force in Washington, has known DeLay since the days when Ortiz was sheriff and DeLay was a lawyer in the county.

“As far as I know, he is good,” Ortiz said. “Randy is very effective because he works both sides of the aisle.”

Oscar Ortiz, the Congressman’s brother and one of the three members of the Nueces County Commission that approved the funds for the lobbying contract, added: “We all know Randy DeLay through his reputation. He has the ability to put a good team together. He is a good lobbyist.”

The county also is looking to hire other heavyweight Republican lobbyists, including Joe Allbaugh, a close ally of President Bush and a former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Rep. Ortiz is pressing the county to hire some Democratic lobbyists also.

DeLay is “very aggressive, but things could change in November,” Ortiz cautioned. “I would say [that they should] hire a couple of Republicans and some Democrats.”

The lobbying contract with DeLay, first reported in the Corpus Christi Caller-Times, comes nine years after Randy DeLay helped ensnare Tom DeLay in an ethics investigation on Capitol Hill.

The House ethics committee investigated — and later cleared — Tom DeLay for rallying House Republicans to oppose a Clinton administration anti-dumping order in 1995 against Mexican cement companies.

One of the companies that would benefit from DeLay’s effort was Cemex, a firm represented by Randy DeLay.

Rep. DeLay urged House Members to send letters to the administration on the matter. He also wrote an op-ed piece for the Houston Chronicle.

Two years later, the ethics panel cleared the DeLays of any wrongdoing, but it tarnished DeLay’s image just as the Republicans began their tenure in control of the House.

The incident hurt Randy DeLay professionally and personally, as well. After the ethics panel issued its decision, he lowered his profile in Washington and reduced the amount of time he spent lobbying on Capitol Hill.

DeLay, who has a Houston-based lobbying and law practice, has not been a registered lobbyist in Washington for years, though he has continued consulting relationships with a number of clients, including Reliant Energy.

More significantly, the ethics investigation drove a personal wedge between the two DeLay brothers.

In a May 2001 article in The Washington Post Magazine, Randy DeLay recalled: “Tom said, ‘I can’t afford you as a brother right now. You chose lobbying over me.’” The two have not spoken since.

Even so, officials in Nueces County hope that Randy DeLay’s ties to the House Republican leadership will help their cause. “Everybody is looking for a better hand,” said Commissioner Ortiz.

The county hopes that DeLay can influence the makeup of the federal panel that will select which bases will be targeted in the latest round of military base closings.

Nueces County officials decided to hire a lobbying team in Washington after Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told Members of Congress in March that he plans a further round of base closings.

Nueces County is home to four bases that could be targeted, including the nation’s only helicopter-repair facility — based at the Corpus Christi Army Depot — and the Naval air station that gave President Bush his wings.

“People are very scared around here about base closure,” said Tyner Little, an aide to the Nueces County judge who is negotiating the details of the lobbying contract.

In response to Rumsfeld’s announcement, Rep. Ortiz introduced legislation to postpone the base closings for two years.

Back home, Ortiz rallied county officials to set aside the money for a well-heeled lobbying effort on Capitol Hill. “We all need to be singing from the same song sheet,” he said.