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Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Distressingly Earnest Post in Defense of Tom DeLay

While today's Washington Post catches Tom DeLay in some apparently fishy stuff--trips to Russia paid for by foreign lobbyists--the New York Times off-leads with DeLay hiring his relatives:
WASHINGTON, April 5 - The wife and daughter of Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, have been paid more than $500,000 since 2001 by Mr. DeLay's political action and campaign committees, according to a detailed review of disclosure statements filed with the Federal Election Commission and separate fund-raising records in Mr. DeLay's home state, Texas.
They were paid by DeLay's campaign and by his political action committee, ARMPAC. They weren't hired as House staff, and they got no taxpayer money.

Is there anything wrong with that?

Tom DeLay is a malevolent reptile, but he's allowed to spend his campaign and PAC money on whomever he wants (within the law, naturally). If you are stupid enough to give money to DeLay, you may want to take a look at where it's going, though chances are you're already too stupid to care.

But is it illegal? No. The Times trots out the usual outraged suspects: "Larry Noble, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics and a former general counsel of the Federal Election Commission, said that 'questions are raised anytime a politician puts close family members on the payroll.'"

Indeed, questions ought to be raised any time a politician puts family members on any taxpayer funded payroll. That's public money, hiring decisions ought to be based on merit, etc. But if it is a misuse of funds to hire your wife and daughter out of PAC and campaign funds--which is not necessarily the case here, as DeLay aides describe his wife as a key strategist and his daughter as a professional event planner who has "managed a number of her father's re-election campaigns"--at least the harm is limited to people foolish enough to trust DeLay with their money.

But if it's not illegal, is it even wrong? The story cites a few other politicians, including Barbara Boxer, who've hired relatives out of campaign funds. Assuming DeLay's wife and daughter actually did work for the campaign--and the Times presents no evidence that they didn't--I don't see how compensating them for it is even remotely fishy. The big number in the subhed--"Over $500,000 since 2001"--isn't even that extravagant. It works out to about $62,000 a year each. If that's larded on top of other income, then perhaps the payments are, as the Times claims, "unusually generous." But aside from mentioning that DeLay's daughter runs a political consulting firm, there's no indication of how much if any income these women get from other sources. It could be that DeLay is his daughter's only client. If so, it's unclear how $62,000 per annum is unusually generous.

Call me when DeLay wants his brother to be Attorney General or something.