WASHINGTON – The fundraising organization that helped vault former Rep. Tom DeLay to Republican leadership ranks in the House and distributed election money to numerous Republicans has been fined for campaign finance violations and is shutting down.
Under an agreement with the Federal Election Commission, Americans for a Republican Majority's political action committee agreed to pay a $115,000 fine and close. The agreement, reached July 7, was made public late Wednesday.
The agreement resulted from an audit by the FEC of the committee's records for Jan. 1, 2001 to Dec. 31, 2002. The audit found DeLay's committee had not properly reported contributions, disbursements and cash on hand.
It also found the committee failed to properly report outstanding debts and obligations and did not follow federal rules for paying for shared federal and nonfederal activities.
The audit was conducted last August. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group, had filed a complaint calling for enforcement action against the committee.
"The reason DeLay became so powerful was all about the money, the amounts of money he could pull in and could distribute to his colleagues," said Melanie Sloan, the watchdog group's executive director. "Nearly every Republican in Congress received money from ARMPAC, thus consolidating his power base. They loved him because he kept them flush. Now we find out, they brought in huge amounts of money, but they did it illegally."
An attorney for ARMPAC and its former executive director, Jim Ellis, could not immediately be reached for comment.
The FEC said ARMPAC corrected financial errors in its fundraising reports and refunded $111,913.19 to its nonfederal account. ARMPAC officials told the FEC that some of the mistakes were the result of misinterpretation or failure to understand the agency's regulations and disagreed with transactions the FEC was counting as debts and obligations.
The political committee, known by its acronym ARMPAC, provided seed money for DeLay to launch Texans for a Republican Majority, the fundraising committee at the center of a Texas election fundraising investigation. DeLay was charged with money laundering in connection with that investigation, triggering Republican House rules that forced him to relinquish the majority leader post while the charges were pending.
DeLay resigned from Congress June 9 after more than two decades in the House. He had planned to withdraw from the race for his District 22 House seat, but a Democratic lawsuit has forced him to remain on the Texas ballot. He is appealing that decision.