Rep. Tom DeLay has notified House officials that he failed to disclose all contributions to his legal defense fund as required by congressional rules.
The fund is currently paying DeLay’s legal bills in a campaign finance investigation in Texas, where DeLay has been indicted, and in a federal investigation of Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
The lobbyist arranged foreign travel for DeLay and had his clients pay some of the cost.
DeLay, R-Texas, has denied wrongdoing in both cases.
DeLay wrote House officials that he started an audit and it found that $20,850 contributed in 2000 and 2001 to the defense fund was not reported anywhere.
An additional $17,300 was included in the defense fund’s quarterly report but not in DeLay’s 2000 annual financial disclosure report — a separate requirement. Other donations were understated as totaling $2,800 when the figure should have been $4,450.
Quarterly reports required
House rules require quarterly reports of donations and expenditures by a lawmaker’s legal defense fund. Donations exceeding $250 also must be disclosed on annual financial disclosure reports.
The Texas Republican, who has stepped down as majority leader due to felony indictments in the Texas probe, disclosed and corrected the past reporting mistakes.
The defense fund will report to the House in a few days that it received $318,000 in the third quarter of this year — the best fundraising quarter since it was started in June 2000, according to the trustee, Houston attorney Brent Perry.
On Oct. 13 DeLay wrote the clerk of the House, Jeff Trandahl, that the first inkling of inconsistencies in his disclosures came last February.
“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 said in his letter.
“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.”
Apology from trustee
Perry, trustee of the Tom DeLay Legal Expense Trust, corrected the record in an Oct. 6 letter to the House ethics committee.
"I sincerely apologize for the oversights that made these amendments necessary," Perry wrote. “Congressman DeLay was not involved in these omissions. No mistakes were found after 2001.”
In an interview, Perry said, “It was not an ethical lapse, it was a bookkeeping lapse. I did not review the reports thoroughly enough. The reports were filed under his signature but he relies on me for the reports.”
In the third-quarter report that soon will be submitted to the House, Perry said $177,000 was donated by individuals in the quarter and an additional $141,000 by political committees, corporations and other entities.
In past years, the fund has paid legal bills in several ethics investigations of DeLay and in a racketeering suit filed by a House Democratic campaign organization. DeLay was admonished by the ethics panel on three occasions last year and the racketeering suit was closed in 2001.
Perry said $250,000 has been paid to lawyers so far in the Texas investigation, but he did not have a total for the Abramoff probe.
DeLay is charged in Texas with money laundering and conspiracy to violate Texas election laws.
Two grand juries have charged that DeLay and two political associates funneled corporate money to Texas legislative candidates -- using the national Republican Party as a middleman — in violation of a a state law prohibiting use of corporate funds in state campaigns.
House Republican rules require leaders indicted on felony counts to step aside from their leadership posts.