Friday, October 07, 2005

The Chattanooga Free Times Press Reports On Ed Bryant's Connections To Tom Delay

In today's Chattanooga Times Free Press there is a full lenght article detailing the connections between indicted Republican leader Tom Delay and many local politicians, including current GOP U.S. Senate candidate Ed Bryant.

Now you might remember that just a handful of days ago it was our blog that first reported that Ed Bryant has strong connections to Tom Delay.

Looks like people are listening. Expect to hear more about this issue as the 2006 campaign progresses.

From today's Chattanooga Times Free Press:

Several Tennessee and Georgia politicians accepted campaign donations from indicted former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay’s national political action committee, whose executive director is under Texas state indictments for an alleged scheme involving another DeLay PAC.

Records show Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., and GOP Senate candidate Ed Bryant of Tennessee, along with U.S. Reps. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., and Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., received money from the Americans for a Republican Majority PAC.

The PAC’s executive director, Jim Ellis, was indicted in September on charges he and two others, including Rep. DeLay, R-Texas, made political contributions to Texas state legislative candidates in violation of Texas law outlawing corporate campaign contributions. The state PAC under investigation, Texans for a Republican Majority, is not the same PAC from which the Tennessee and Georgia legislators received money, officials said.

The indictment alleges the Texans for a Republican Majority accepted donations totaling $155,000 from various companies. The PAC then wrote a $190,000 check designated for several Texas state House candidates during the 2002 elections, according to the indictment.

Defense attorneys asked that the charges against Rep. DeLay be dropped, arguing they were based on a law that didn’t go into effect until 2003. Rep. DeLay was indicted Monday on a new Texas state charge of money laundering.

Campaign finance records show Sen. Chambliss accepted $10,000 in 2002 from Americans for a Republican Majority, while Mr. Bryant received a total of $6,000 of the PAC’s money from 2000 to 2002. Rep. Blackburn accepted donations totaling $15,000 but returned $5,000 from 2004, and Rep. Gingrey took in $25,000 starting in 2002. "The PAC that Senator Chambliss accepted campaign contributions from has not been indicted," said Annie Laurie Walters, spokeswoman for Sen. Chambliss.

Rep. DeLay and Mr. Ellis started the Texans for a Republican Majority state PAC in 2001 using $75,000 from the Americans for a Republican Majority PAC, the source of the contributions to Tennessee and Georgia politicians, according to published reports.

Bob Tuke, Tennessee Democratic Party chairman, said lawmakers should return the contributions since money moved around between the two PACs. "That is the only way to remove a cloud of inappropriate or improper involvement," he said.

Tennessee and Georgia lawmakers are under no legal obligation to return the money, said Larry Noble, the executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks political campaign spending.

"It is a political issue not a legal issue," Mr. Noble said. "It is a question of whether or not they want to be seen taking money from To m DeLay." Rep. Gingrey said he has no plans to return the money. He said the contributions were crucial to his ability to win elections in 2002 and 2004. "It would almost be an insult to an honorable man who has not yet had a chance to defend himself in a court of law," Rep. Gingrey said. "Tom DeLay has been a great leader. He is guilty of conspiring to defeat Democrats."

Rep. Blackburn said campaign finance reform laws have created a mess with overly technical regulations. "America" isA payingm e r i ca is paying the price for that bad legislationlegislation withwith out-of-controlout - of - control outof-control litigation and partisan sniping," she said. "People support me because they believe in my political philosophy."

Rep. Blackburn returned the $5,000 contribution for the 2004 elections because the funds were given for debt retirement, and Rep. Blackburn’s campaign had no debt at the time, spokesman Ryan Loskarn said.

Mr. Bryant is a Republican candidate for the seat being vacated in 2006 by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn. Records show he has not accepted donations from Rep. DeLay’s national PAC for the 2006 election.

"By all accounts it is a legal PAC, conforming with the law," Mr. Bryant said.

Mr. Noble, of the Center for Responsive Politics, said the questioned contributions from the Texas PAC went to state candidates there, not to candidates for federal office.

Chris Devaney with the Tennessee Republican Party said it is a common practice in politics to take funds from outside one’s home state. "The Democrats have done the same thing," he said.

Republican challenger Janice Bowling accepted $5,000 from Rep. DeLay’s national PAC for her losing race against U.S. Rep. Lincoln Davis, D-Tenn., in 2002, records show.


Americans for a Republican Majority PAC contributions:

2000 — $816,391 to GOP U.S. House candidates and $31,000 to GOP U.S. Senate candidates

2002 — $952,355 to House candidates and $72,000 to Senate candidates

2004 — $914,000 to House candidates and $59,000 to Senate candidates

2006 — $250,701 to House candidates and nothing to Senate candidates.

Source: Center for Responsive Politics