The DeLay family received nearly half a million dollars from lobbyist Ed Buckham.
A registered lobbyist opened a retirement account in the late 1990s for the wife of then-House Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) and contributed thousands of dollars to it while also paying her a salary to work for him from her home in Texas, according to sources, documents and DeLay’s attorney, Richard Cullen.
The account represents a small portion of the income that DeLay’s family received from entities at least partly controlled by lobbyist Edwin A. Buckham. But the disclosure of its origin adds to what was previously known about the benefits DeLay’s family received from its association with Buckham, and it brings the total over the past seven years to about half a million dollars.
Buckham was DeLay’s chief of staff before he became a lobbyist at the end of 1998, shortly before the account was opened and the flow of funds began. He has come under scrutiny from federal investigators because his lobbying firm received hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue from clients of indicted Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
Buckham’s financial ties to DeLay’s family — and the retirement account in particular — have recently attracted the interest of FBI agents and others in the federal task force probing public corruption by lawmakers and lobbyists, according to a source who was questioned in the course of the government’s investigation.
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Cullen said the retirement account was required for Buckham’s employees under Internal Revenue Service rules. But investigators are looking at Buckham’s role in establishing the account and at whether the lawmaker may have performed official acts in return for any of the income arranged by Buckham, according to the source. DeLay denies any wrongdoing.
Another lawmaker, Rep. John T. Doolittle (R-Calif.), has similarly come under Justice Department scrutiny in the past year because of fees paid to his wife’s consulting firm — in that instance as compensation for soliciting corporate campaign contributions.
Abramoff, who was friendly with both DeLay and Doolittle, put Julie Doolittle’s firm on his lobbying firm’s payroll to plan a fundraising event for a nonprofit group he created. A nonprofit organization that Buckham created also hired her firm to keep its books; the organization subsidized a $28,000 trip to South Korea by DeLay and his wife.
From 1998 until recently, Buckham, an evangelical minister, met regularly with DeLay, occasionally attended staff meetings in his office, made scheduling recommendations or decisions for the office, and served as DeLay’s chief political and spiritual adviser, even though he was not formally employed by him. At the time, Buckham’s clients included a host of companies with regulatory and legislative business before Congress, and whose interests DeLay supported.
Besides financing the retirement account, Buckham played a role in two other streams of income that indirectly benefited DeLay.
One involved payments to DeLay’s family by his principal political action committee, Americans for a Republican Majority (ARMPAC), which drew its largest donations from corporations. Three former DeLay staffers with firsthand knowledge of Buckham’s activities have described him as a decision maker for the group, even though it was formally run by its executive director.
An arm of the group paid Buckham a monthly consulting fee, and Buckham in turn employed its executive director as a consultant to his lobbying firm. The two of them shared a single office on the top floor of a townhouse owned by a nonprofit organization that Buckham created and directed. Buckham’s role is relevant because from 2001 to Jan. 31, 2006, ARMPAC paid Christine DeLay; DeLay’s daughter, Dani DeLay Ferro; and Ferro’s Texas firm a total of $350,304 in political consulting fees and expenses, according to public records.
The Washington Post previously disclosed that from 1998 to 2002, Buckham’s lobbying firm, Alexander Strategy Group, paid Christine DeLay a monthly salary averaging between $3,200 and $3,400.
Together with the retirement account worth about $25,000, this means the family’s total financial benefits from entities at least partly controlled by Buckham exceeded $490,300.