News and articles relating to the scandal surrounding Washington D.C. lobbyist Jack Abramoff

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Dallas Morning News | Cheney to help out DeLay

VP to headline Houston fundraiser for majority leader

12:00 AM CDT on Wednesday, August 24, 2005

By TODD J. GILLMAN / The Dallas Morning News

WASHINGTON – Battered by months of ethics allegations, Majority Leader Tom DeLay has turned for help to the White House, which is sending Vice President Dick Cheney next month to headline a fundraiser for him in Houston.

Mr. Cheney stumped for about 70 House candidates last year and another dozen so far this year – mostly newcomers or veterans locked in uphill fights. But with 14 months before Mr. DeLay, R-Sugar Land, faces voters in a district whose contours he personally approved, analysts see anxiety over the fate of a lawmaker widely seen as the most powerful majority leader in history.

"It would be such a disaster" for the GOP if Mr. DeLay loses, said Dr. Ross Baker, a congressional expert at Rutgers University, adding that the decision to send in Mr. Cheney looks like payback for Mr. DeLay, whose help was crucial on a number of close votes, including Medicare and a bankruptcy law overhaul. "I think what you see is a combination of gratitude and prudence."

The House ethics committee is expected to open an investigation soon into Mr. DeLay's travel and his ties with lobbyists. In Travis County, three lieutenants face charges of skirting state campaign law.

And this month, lobbyist Jack Abramoff – accused of bilking Indian casino clients and illicitly arranging lavish trips for Mr. DeLay and others – was charged in an unrelated scheme involving a Florida-based casino ship.

All deny wrongdoing.

Polls show Mr. DeLay's support in the district slipping, after his closest race in 22 years – a 55 percent win against an unknown, with little cash. This time, Democrats vow to spend at least $5 million against him.

At the National Republican Congressional Committee, spokesman Carl Forti said Mr. DeLay isn't in trouble but is planning for a costly fight.

"With Democrats getting ready to spend millions, he has to spend millions as well. The president and vice president are just huge draws," he said.

Democrat Nick Lampson, Mr. DeLay's likely opponent, took the visit as recognition of the traction he's getting in the campaign.

"This is awfully, awfully early," said Mr. Lampson, a former four-term House member who lost his Beaumont-based district last year after redistricting, and recently decided to challenge Mr. DeLay. "It's got to be a recognition that he is at serious risk of losing his seat."

Cheney aides declined to discuss the event, set for Sept. 16 at the Westin Galleria. Invitations have circulated among Houston-area Republicans.

Voters rarely oust a House leader.

In 1994, a year of huge Democratic setbacks, Tom Foley, D-Wash., became the first speaker defeated at the polls since 1860.

A year earlier, President Bill Clinton helped him raise $150,000, but by all accounts, he hadn't taken the threat too seriously.

Analysts said Mr. DeLay may be taking a lesson from Mr. Foley. At Washington State University, political scientist Lance Leloup, former director of the Foley Institute for Public Policy and Public Service, says it looks desperate for a House leader to lean so heavily on the White House.

"He is in trouble," Dr. Leloup said. "It's not one thing and you wait a week and it goes away. Month after month, there's some new ethical issue."


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