Published February 02, 2006
WASHINGTON – A European trip former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay took six years ago with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff is the new focus of a money laundering investigation in Texas, court documents filed Wednesday in Austin, Texas, show.
Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle wants DeLay's wife and several associates who joined him on the trip to turn over travel itineraries, expense reimbursement requests and other documents.
Earle is seeking the records on the late May-early June 2000 trip as part of his campaign funding investigation, which has led to money laundering charges against DeLay.
DeLay, R-Texas, is awaiting trial on those charges, but denies any wrongdoing in the case. He was forced by party rules to step down from his House leadership post after he was indicted. House members were scheduled to elect a replacement Thursday.
Questions have arisen about whether DeLay's airfare to London and Scotland was charged to an Abramoff credit card, and whether other expenses on the same trip were billed to a credit card used by Ed Buckham, a former DeLay aide who had become a lobbyist by that time and was on the trip.
Abramoff pleaded guilty last month to federal charges stemming from schemes to bribe public officials and defraud Indian tribes who were his lobbying clients. He has been cooperating with investigators, who have shifted their probe to members of Congress and some of their aides.
According to newspaper reports, much of the money for the junket — which included playing golf at an exclusive Scotland course — was paid for money by two of Abramoff's clients, the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indian and e-Lottery Inc. They sent checks to a third group, the National Center for Public Policy Research.
DeLay has said he did not know Abramoff or his clients paid for the travel and asked the House ethics committee to look into the trips, but the committee has yet to meet amid political wrangling over its organization.
The Mississippi tribe also contributed to DeLay's Texas political committee, which is at the center of Earle's investigation.