GOP's DeLay Using Kids To Get $$$?

Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas leaves a meeting with other Republican leaders on Capitol Hill, Nov. 14, 2001. Soon to take over the House majority leader's office, DeLay is moving up to a position where his hard-nosed, play-to-win persona that earned him the moniker "The Hammer" may not fit the job title. AP

For $50,000, a donor will get luxury box seats at the 2004 Republican convention, tickets to Broadway shows and spots in an upscale golf tournament.

A half-million dollars will buy all of that, plus a New York cruise and two dinners with House Majority Leader Tom Delay of Texas.

That's the pitch DeLay is making in a new charity brochure that is advertising "Donor Packages" for next summer's New York convention, reports CBS News Correspondent Bob Orr.

DeLay's "Celebrations for Children" brochure says the money raised will go to charities. A spokesman for DeLay concedes part of the proceeds will be used to pay for the donors' entertainment, but says in the end it's all about helping children.

"We are using the opportunity to throw parties, which happen anyway, but to give money back to abused and neglected children," said Craig Richardson, a DeLay adviser involved with the charity.

Richardson points out that DeLay has long supported abused children through the Houston-based DeLay Foundation for Kids, which reported contributions of $789,000 in the 2001 tax year.

But Campaign finance reformer Fred Wertheimer isn't buying it.

"It's a scam, it's a cynical scheme to evade the new law banning soft money and pay for a week long party in New York during the convention by corporations, lobbyists, and federal office holders, including Rep. DeLay," says Wertheimer, president of the advocacy group Democracy 21.

There is a question whether Delay's plans actually violate the soft money ban since the millions raised will not go directly to a candidate or an issue but to charity.

And DeLay is not the only Republican with convention fundraising plans. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist plans to host a New York concert and reception to raise money for AIDS programs.

The New York Times reports that Celebrations for Children Inc., was set up in September and that DeLay is not a formal official of the charity. Its managers are Richardson; DeLay's daughter, Dani DeLay Ferro; and Rob Jennings, a GOP fund-raiser.

Richardson said the charity intended to give 75 percent of the funds it raised to children's charities, including some in New York.

The charity has a built-in incentive for potential donors since contributions to non-profit organizations are tax deductible. And DeLay won't have to reveal the names of the donors, which campaign finance experts say insulates anyone who may be trying to curry favor with one of Washington's most powerful politicians.
  • Dan Collins

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