Sunday, January 08, 2006

Officials Focus on a 2nd Firm Tied to DeLay

Folks, it is time for another fun-filled episode of The Tom DeLay Comedy Hour! This is from The New York Times:

WASHINGTON, Jan. 7 - Having secured a guilty plea from the lobbyist Jack Abramoff, prosecutors are entering a new phase of the corruption investigation in Washington and are focusing on a lobbying firm that has even closer ties to Tom DeLay, the former House majority leader who is under scrutiny in the scandal.

The firm, Alexander Strategy Group, is of particular interest to investigators because it was founded by Edwin A. Buckham, a close friend of Mr. DeLay's and his former chief of staff, and has been a lucrative landing spot for several former members of the DeLay staff, people who are directly involved in the case have said.

Edwin A. Buckham formed a lobbying firm promoting access to Tom DeLay, his former boss. John Eisele NY Times

Although the firm's name has circulated in connection with the case for many months, prosecutors' questions about Mr. Buckham and Alexander Strategy - which did not respond to requests for comment - have intensified recently, participants in the case said.

The firm openly promoted the idea that it could deliver access to Mr. DeLay, who has denied any wrongdoing but abruptly announced Saturday that he would not try to regain his leadership post. Now the very connections with Mr. DeLay that formed the backbone of Alexander Strategy, put together with Mr. Abramoff's help, have put the future of the firm in doubt.

While doing business with lobbyists is routine for most lawmakers, investigators are looking at the extent to which Mr. DeLay and other lawmakers may have accepted trips, campaign donations and other favors from Alexander Strategy, and in turn tried to help the business.

Tom DeLay. AP File Photo

Now there have been plenty of details coming out, showing a close linking between DeLay, Abramoff, and the Alexander Strategy Group. But so far, I'd say that federal investigators have been looking into the other dealings between DeLay and Abramoff, and have not really focused their attention on the Alexander Strategy Group--at least not yet. Yet this troika worked closely together for their own self-interests. There is a link between these three in this entire corruption scandal, and the details that have emerged is simply the beginnings of this close relationship between DeLay, Abramoff, and the Alexander Strategy Group. They all scratched each other's backs for political and monetary favors. Consider these details:

Alexander Strategy paid Mr. DeLay's wife $115,000 in consulting fees while conducting business with Mr. Abramoff's firm. Mr. Abramoff also referred clients to Mr. Buckham.

Mr. Buckham and the firm also shared clients - among them an entity in Malaysia and the Choctaw Indian tribe in Mississippi - with Mr. Abramoff, who in his plea agreement admitted to using corrupting tactics with lawmakers on behalf of his clients. Mr. Abramoff also admitted to having defrauded his Indian clients of millions of dollars.

Jack Abramoff. AP File Photo

Mr. Buckham and at least one member of his firm worked with domestic and overseas clients who prosecutors suspect helped funnel money and perks to Mr. DeLay, his fund-raising operations and other lawmakers in ways intended to curry favor with the Republican leadership.

And at one time, Americans for a Republican Majority, or Armpac, the leadership committee that raised money for Mr. DeLay, was run out of the offices of Alexander Strategy.

The firm's name surfaced at the periphery of the corruption investigation into Representative Randy Cunningham, Republican of California. Mr. Cunningham resigned after pleading guilty to accepting bribes from a defense contractor that did business with Alexander Strategy.

For years, Alexander Strategy was one of the crown jewels of the so-called K Street project, an effort Republicans began after taking control of Congress in 1994 to dominate the lobbying industry. The hope, exemplified by Mr. Buckham's company, was for Republican lobbyists to harness the power of their corporate clients to help keep the party in power for years to come.

Remember, DeLay was responsible for developing this K-Street Project, forcing lobbyists to work only with the Republican congressmen, while shutting out the Democrats. As the lobbyists realized that the Republicans were the only game in town, this relationship grew even closer--where the lobbyists would give more money to the Republican congressmen for more legislative favors that benefited the lobbyist's clientele. It became a simple matter of power corrupts between the lobbying firms and the Republican-controlled Congress. The Alexander Strategy Group rose in prominence as Tom DeLay rose in power. Both helped each other. Consider this:

As Mr. DeLay grew more powerful in Congress, the lobbying firm rose in prominence on K Street, building an impressive roster of clients for such a young company and earning, according to records, about $8.8 million lobbying in 2004. That ranked it in the middle of the pack among Washington's largest lobbying firms, but its client list - including Microsoft, United Parcel Service, Time Warner, Freddie Mac and Eli Lilly & Company - suggests what was, at least at one time, a powerful and well-connected operation.

And Mr. DeLay, so intertwined with the lobbying world that his extensive network of allies and former aides scattered throughout town is nicknamed "DeLay Inc.," responded more quickly to calls from Alexander Strategy than he did for any other firm, former aides of his said.

One element prosecutors are trying to understand is what role Mr. DeLay played in sending business to the company. There is evidence, one participant in the case said, that it was "you hire these guys because Tom DeLay tells you to."

Tom DeLay controlled the lobbying groups through his K-Street project. This is the heart of the entire scandal--the network of lobbying firms, lobbyists, Abramoff, former Republican staff members who went to work in lobbying firms, and Republican congressmen. The "DeLay Inc." network provided the incentives--and rewards--to everyone involved in pushing for more power and more money. The "DeLay Inc." network invited both the Republican congressmen, and the lobbying firms to become both greedy, and arrogant in believing they wouldn't be caught involved in this corruption.

Power corrupts.

But now let's consider some of the other details regarding the Alexander Strategy Group. Consider this:

Mr. Buckham also ran the U.S. Family Network, a self-styled grassroots organization tied to Mr. DeLay that, according to The Washington Post, was financed almost entirely by clients and associates of Mr. Abramoff. People involved in the case said they expected investigators to examine whether Mr. DeLay cast a vote in Congress in exchange for donations to the network.

Another critical component of the investigation is the activities of Tony C. Rudy, a former DeLay deputy chief of staff who went to work with Mr. Abramoff as a lobbyist before joining Mr. Buckham at Alexander Strategy, where he still works. Mr. Rudy is mentioned - named only as "Staffer A" - in Mr. Abramoff's plea agreement, and investigators are looking into whether he helped secure legislative favors for Mr. Abramoff's clients in exchange for gifts and the promise of a future job while he was still on the DeLay staff.

In other words, Tony Rudy is a connection between Tom DeLay, Jack Abramoff, and Alexander Strategy. What did Rudy do, while working within this troika? What deals did he make between DeLay and Abramoff, of even between DeLay and Alexander Strategy Group? Rudy is the key middleman between these groups, and any illegal actions that he took will look bad for for all three parties involved. Even more damaging is that if Rudy is indicted by federal prosecutors, and makes a plea deal with the feds for his cooperation, we're going to see even more ugly details coming out of this scandal.

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