DeLay Legal Trust Failed to Report $22K

Posted October 26, 2005 at 6:32pm

The legal expense trust fund for Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) failed to report more than $22,500 in contributions in late 2000 and 2001, DeLay reported to House officials after an audit of the five-year-old committee’s operations. DeLay must also file revised personal financial-disclosure statements for those two years to reflect the additional donations.

This is the second time in recent months that accounting problems have been discovered at DeLay’s defense fund. Earlier this summer, DeLay was forced to return several thousand dollars in contributions from registered lobbyists to the fund. Lobbyists are prohibited from making such donations.

According to an Oct. 13 letter from DeLay to Jeff Trandahl, Clerk of the House, the Texas Republican said he discovered the error and notified Trandahl’s office, as well as the House ethics committee. Member’s defense fund reports are filed with the House Legislative Resources Center, which comes under purview of the Clerk’s office, while the ethics committee must approve their creation.

“I brought this matter — which I discovered on my own — to the attention of the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct to alert the Chairman and Ranking Member,” DeLay wrote to Trandahl. “Upon learning of these accounting irregularities, I immediately requested that the Trust undergo a full and complete audit from its June 2000 inception through 2004 to determine if any additional accountancy problems existed with the Trust.”

DeLay said procedures have been put in place to prevent such omissions from occurring again.

Brent Perry, a Texas lawyer and the fund’s overseer, said problems were first noticed when the fund’s reports failed to match up with DeLay’s financial-disclosure statement from 2000.

“Someone brought to our attention discrepancies between the Congressman’s 2000 financial disclosure report and gifts made to the trust,” Perry said on Wednesday.

The accounting firm William Batdorf & Co. of Washington, D.C., conducted the trust-fund audit, which found $22,500 in errors. DeLay’s financial disclosure statements from 2001 and 2002 also had to revised.

Of that total, $10,000 that was not reported came from John and Katherine McGovern, which was donated to the DeLay legal defense fund in the last quarter of 2001. Dr. McGovern founded an allergy clinic in Houston and has been a big financial supporter of DeLay, donating tens of thousands of dollars in hard and soft money to committees controlled by DeLay.

Another $10,000 was donated by Douglas and Richard DeVos in the final quarter of 2001. The DeVos are the owners of Amway Corp. and other firms.

An additional $2,250 came from a half-dozen other sources.

DeLay’s legal defense fund has taken in more than $1.4 million since its inception. It was originally created to allow DeLay to help defray the legal costs from a civil racketeering lawsuit bought by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2000, but the ethics committee agreed last year to allow DeLay to use the fund to pay for lawyers in the campaign funding investigation arising out of the Texas’ 2001-02 state legislative races. DeLay was indicted earlier this month on state felony money laundering and conspiracy charges stemming from that probe.

With all of the media attention DeLay is receiving, the Texas Republican has also had to undergo financial scrutiny of his political organizations. An audit of his leadership political action committee, Americans for a Republican Majority, by the Federal Election Committee found that ARMPAC improperly used more than $200,000 in soft money to pay for fundraising, administrative and get-out-the-vote expenses that should have been paid for in hard money. ARMPAC, a federal, hard-money entity, may be forced to reimburse the soft-money arm for those funds, although the soft-money operation has been shut down now that such funds are banned for use in federal campaigns.