Friday, May 06, 2005

WSJ Further Details DeLay Ethics Violations

Documents Detail DeLay Excursion

Scottish Leg of the Journey,
Organized by a Lobbyist,
May Appear Recreational

May 6, 2005; Page A6

Rep. Tom DeLay's now-controversial 2000 trip to Scotland was organized by a Washington lobbyist who hired an Arizona golf-tour company to make the arrangements and invited his clients and associates to interact with the House majority leader, newly available documents show.

House rules say such trips are acceptable only if they are principally designed for information gathering, and Mr. DeLay's visit to Scotland and London was billed as an effort to promote an exchange of ideas with British conservatives.

Still, lobbyist Jack Abramoff's heavy involvement and the recreational nature of much of the trip raise questions about the true purpose of the Scottish leg of the expensive outing, which Mr. Abramoff initially helped pay for, according to travel documents and billing records reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

[Tom Delay]

The new information suggests instead that recreation was the primary purpose of going to Scotland, and the excursion appears more a gift and contrary to House rules defining "necessary" travel expenses as not including "entertainment or recreational activities."

More broadly, Mr. DeLay's pattern of trips overseas with Washington lobbyists like Mr. Abramoff is an issue coming before the House Ethics Committee, and fellow Republicans are preparing themselves for an inquiry into their party leader's actions. After months of partisan debate, the panel just organized itself this week, and the new documents -- even listing his 14-stroke handicap -- add new detail and color to the controversy.

The documents show that Mr. Abramoff hired Classic Heritage Tours in March 2000, months before the trip, which gave Mr. DeLay the chance to play three British Open-quality courses over four days in late May and early June 2000. The travel party included a member of a Louisiana Indian tribe that the lobbyist represented in Washington and the general manager of a Russian energy company that had helped host Mr. DeLay in Moscow in 1997. A prominent garment maker in the Marianas Islands was listed in early documents, but it is unclear if he ultimately made the trip.



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