House Majority Leader Tom DeLay traveled to Britain with his wife, several aides and lobbyists on a $70,000 junket mostly paid for with money from an Indian tribe and a gambling services company, The Washington Post reported Saturday.
Not long after the outing, Rep. DeLay, the second most powerful Republican in the House of Representatives, played a key role in killing gaming-related legislation opposed by the company and tribe.
DeLay, R-Texas, reported in House financial disclosures that the weeklong May 2000 trip was paid for by the National Center for Public Policy Research, a nonprofit organization. However, the Post reported, lobbyist Jack Abramoff suggested the trip and arranged for two of his clients, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians and eLottery Inc., to send checks to the center to cover the travel.
A lawyer for the tribe and an eLottery official said they were unaware the checks were meant to pay for the DeLay trip, which included golf at Scotland's legendary St. Andrews course.
Edwin J. McGuinn, the president of eLot Inc., parent of eLottery, told the Post, "It certainly was our impression that any and all moneys were being positioned to get the attention and focus of our cause."
The newspaper's review of documents related to the trip found the dates on the two checks coincided with the day DeLay's party left on their trip. The Choctaw and eLottery each sent a $25,000 check, the Post found.
The president of the research center, Amy Ridenour, told the Post that lobbyist Abramoff made a commitment to secure funding for the DeLay trip. She said the trip was intended to give DeLay and his aides a chance to meet conservative British politicians and that her organization would have picked up the tab in any event.
Under House rules, lawmakers and their staffs are permitted to have travel expenses paid only for officially connected travel and only by organizations directly connected to the trip. Also, the rules require lawmakers to accurately report who is paying for the trips. Payments by registered lobbyists are not allowed.
A spokesman for DeLay, Dan Allen, told the Post: "The trip was sponsored, organized and paid for by the National Centers for Public Policy Research, as our travel disclosures accurately reflect and what the National Centers has publicly said."
A lawyer for Abramoff, Abbe David Lowell, had no comment.
Two months after the trip, DeLay joined 43 other Republicans and 114 Democrats in killing the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act, which would have made it a crime to bet over the Internet. The Choctaws and eLottery opposed the bill.
The tribe runs a profitable casino near Philadelphia, Miss. ELottery, a Connecticut company, provides Internet services to state lotteries.