[Ed. note: I didn't notice that I was making a second post on this... since I've added some additional content from today's coverage, read down...]
Jeffrey Smith of the Washington Post blows open another damning element of Tom DeLay's wining and dining on the tab (LITERALLY) of disgraced lobbyists Jack Abramoff and Ed Buckham, a former staffer. The story is syndicated all over the place, and other major newspapers have picked it up to run their own version.
The story is basically this:
DeLay's travel expenses, according to receipts and those with knowledge of Abramoff's credit card number (who are these sources?!? what reporting!), were charged to Abramoff's credit card. He's a lobbyist. DeLay is a member of Congress (at least of this writing). Members of Congress can't received gifts or travel expenses from lobbyists. It's against the rules.
Then Smith adds this nugget:
DeLay's expenses during the same trip for food, phone calls and other items at a golf course hotel in Scotland were billed to a different credit card also used on the trip by a second registered Washington lobbyist, Edwin A. Buckham, according to receipts documenting that portion of the trip.
This is yet another piece of evidence in a long pattern of blatantly disregarding the rules. Rules are for someone else, according to DeLay and lobbyist friends.
Here's some more from the story, including DeLay's "I knew nothing" defense:
Yesterday, DeLay's lawyer, Bobby R. Burchfield, said that DeLay's staff was aware that Preston Gates was trying to arrange meetings and hotels for the trip but that DeLay was unaware of the "logistics" of bill payments, and that DeLay "continues to understand his expenses" were properly paid by the nonprofit organization, the National Center for Public Policy Research.
In 2000, Abramoff was a board member of the group. In a telephone interview yesterday, Hirschmann said the contacts between DeLay's office and persons at Preston Gates occurred because Abramoff "was a board member of the sponsoring organization." Hirschmann added: "We were assured that the National Center paid for the trip."
House rules do not exempt such nonprofit organization board members from the prohibition on lobbyist payments for travel. They also state that this prohibition "applies even where the lobbyist . . . will later be reimbursed for those expenses by a non-lobbyist client."
Burchfield did not dispute that Abramoff used his credit card to pay for DeLay's plane fare, but said in a statement that "the majority leader has always believed and continues to believe that all appropriate expenses for the U.K. trip were paid by the National Center for Public Policy Research." He said that "to the extent that Mr. Abramoff put the charges on his personal credit card, Mr. DeLay has no knowledge of this. But that would be consistent with Mr. Abramoff obtaining full reimbursement from the National Center."
Ethics Chair Doc Hastings might want to rethink that offer to investigate DeLay, in part because Carl Hulse and Philip Shenon of the New York Times is previewing what is likely to be the next round of deeper investigations into other trips:
Other trips by Mr. DeLay that have received attention are a 1997 visit to Russia that he reported was paid for by the research center but that public interest groups assert may have been financed by a business in the Bahamas and a visit to South Korea in 2001 that was paid for by a lobbying group set up by South Korean businessmen.
A trip Mr. DeLay took to Malaysia in 2001 also raised questions because he listed the Heritage Foundation as the trip's sponsor on disclosure forms. But several reports indicated that the trip might have been partly paid for by Belle Haven Consultants, a for-profit firm linked to the Malaysian government and based in Hong Kong.
When Mr. DeLay, his wife and other lawmakers took the four-day trip to South Korea, the Korea-U.S. Exchange Council picked up the $28,000 bill, travel records show. The trip has come under scrutiny because the Exchange Council was registered with the Justice Department as a "foreign agent," meaning it represents organizations outside the country. Mr. DeLay has said he was unaware of the foreign-agent designation.
Let's have at receipts of these trips...