WASHINGTON – House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (search), R-Texas, accepted more than $400,000 in donations last year to help fight the various ethical allegations against him, but still owes three law firms at least $125,000 for his ongoing legal expenses.
Financial disclosure forms released Wednesday show that the Texas Republican took in $439,300 in contributions to his legal expense fund in 2004, when questions first arose about his ties to a lobbyist under federal criminal investigation, Jack Abramoff (search). Other reports show that $254,250 of those contributions came to DeLay's legal defense fund during the last three months of 2004.
He still owes three law firms between $125,003 and $315,000 combined for his legal expenses, and three major companies who have in the past given to his fund — American Airlines, Verizon and Nissan North America Inc. — have said they will no longer contribute.
Critics have been calling for closer scrutiny of some of DeLay's overseas travel, including trips that included Abramoff, and other ties to Abramoff. One of those trips included South Korea in 2001, but officials have said he did not realize the organization that paid for the journey had registered as a foreign agent two days before the traveling party left the United States.
DeLay has strenuously denied any wrongdoing and said he wants to appear before the House ethics committee to clear himself.
DeLay reported no overseas trips in 2004, but noted several trips around the country including a trip to Palm Springs, Calif., paid for by the Barbara Sinatra Children's Center and one to Miami paid for by his own nonprofit Foundation for Kids.
Other lawmakers have become sensitive on the issue.
House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., reported three sponsor-paid trips, including one to India paid for by the Confederation of Indian Industry.
Hoyer also is among a group of House lawmakers who amended their financial disclosure forms to disclose previously undeclared trips after questions were raised about DeLay's trips. Hoyer's disclosure of nine previously unreported trips date to November 1997, when Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government paid to send him to London.
Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., ranking Democrat on House Appropriations Committee, also went on two trips sponsored by the Aspen Institute, one to Puerto Rico and the Bahamas, the other to Venice and Paris. He included a disclaimer in his forms that said, in part, "no lobbyists or anyone they represent are either allowed to attend or to finance in any way the conferences involved."
The annual financial disclosure records show Americans what their lawmakers owned and owed, the investments they bought and sold, the accounts they established for their children and the income they earned from noncongressional endeavors.
Pay for rank-and-file lawmakers in 2004 was $158,100, with floor leaders' salaries set at $175,700, and the speaker's compensation fixed at $203,000.
They also show gifts that lawmakers get. One of the more unusual ones was received by Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., who got a three-foot-long replica of King Arthur's sword "Excaliber" from billionaire and former GOP presidential candidate Ross Perot (search).
The sword, which hangs in Shays' Capitol Hill office, was a token of Perot's appreciation for a long investigation Shays' Government Reform subcommittee did into the effects of and treatment for the Gulf War illnesses (search).
House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., listed assets including a Washington rental townhouse worth $250,001 to $500,000 with a mortgage of $50,001 to $100,000; a mutual fund worth $50,001 to $100,000; and a one-quarter share of a 69-acre property in Plano, Ill., worth $250,001 to $500,000 and a mortgage to match.
The form also shows Hastert receiving no royalties for last year's publication of his book, `Speaker: Lessons from Forty Years of Coaching and Politics.' An aide said he will receive income this year.
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi (search), D-Calif., ranks as one of the richest House members with assets including a vineyard in St. Helena, Calif. worth $5 million to $25 million; a townhouse in Norden, Calif., worth $1 million to $5 million; an option on San Francisco property worth $1 million to $5 million and rental income from the vineyard bringing in $50,001 to $100,000.
Pelosi, the daughter of a former mayor and congressman from Baltimore, holds her assets jointly with her husband, Paul, a San Francisco businessman who has a long list of stock holdings, many in high-tech firms.