Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Donors Underwrite DeLay's Deluxe Lifestyle

Former House Majority Leader, Rep. Tom Delay, R-Texas, left, prepares to tee off as President Bush swings in the background during a morning golf outing with three House Republicans at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland in this July 27, 2002 file photo. As DeLay became a king of political fundraising, he lived like one too. Over the past six years, the Republican and his aides have visited cliff-top Caribbean resorts, golf courses designed by PGA champions and four-star restaurants - all courtesy of donors who bankrolled his political money empire. (AP Photo/Kenneth Lambert, Files)

Time to take a break from the NSA spying and enjoy The Tom DeLay Comedy Hour! This is from the Washington Post:

WASHINGTON -- As Tom DeLay became a king of campaign fundraising, he lived like one too. He visited cliff-top Caribbean resorts, golf courses designed by PGA champions and four-star restaurants _ all courtesy of donors who bankrolled his political money empire.

Over the past six years, the former House majority leader and his associates have visited places of luxury most Americans have never seen, often getting there aboard corporate jets arranged by lobbyists and other special interests.

Public documents reviewed by The Associated Press tell the story: at least 48 visits to golf clubs and resorts; 100 flights aboard company planes; 200 stays at hotels, many world-class; and 500 meals at restaurants, some averaging nearly $200 for a dinner for two.

Instead of his personal expense, the meals and trips for DeLay and his associates were paid with donations collected by the campaign committees, political action committees and children's charity the Texas Republican created during his rise to the top of Congress. His lawyer says the expenses are part of DeLay's effort to raise money from Republicans and to spread the GOP message.

Put them together and a lifestyle emerges.

"A life to enjoy. The excuse to escape," Palmas del Mar, an oceanside Puerto Rican resort visited by DeLay, promised in a summer ad on its Web site as a golf ball bounced into a hole and an image of a sunset appeared.

And our congressmen are suppose to represent us? The will of the people? I certainly can't afford a $200 dinner for two, or golfing in Puerto Rico. Then again, I guess if you're working real hard to represent the interests of indian casinos, Big Pharma, Big Oil, Big Any-Business, it takes a lot out of you. So you have to relax in Big Luxury. Continuing on:

The Caribbean vacation spot has casino gambling, horseback riding, snorkeling, deep-sea fishing and private beaches.

"He was very friendly. We always see the relaxed side of politicians," said Daniel Vassi, owner of the French bistro Chez Daniel at Palmas del Mar. Vassi said DeLay has eaten at his restaurant every year for the last three, and was last there in April with about 20 other people, including the resort's owners.

The restaurant is a cozy and popular place on the yacht-lined marina at Palmas del Mar. Dishes include bouillabaisse for about $35.50, Dover sole for $37.50 and filet mignon for $28.50. Palmas del Mar is also a DeLay donor, giving $5,000 to DeLay's Americans for a Republican Majority PAC in 2000.

Since he joined the House leadership as majority whip in 1995, DeLay has raised at least $35 million for his campaign, PACs, foundation and legal defense fund. He hasn't faced a serious re-election threat in recent years, giving him more leeway than candidates in close races to spend campaign money.

AP's review found DeLay's various organizations spent at least $1 million over the last six years on hotels, restaurants, golf resorts and corporate jet flights for their boss and his associates.

While it's illegal for a lawmaker to tap political donations for a family vacation, it is perfectly legal to spend it in luxury if the stated purpose is raising more money or talking politics.


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