WASHINGTON – Rep. Chris Bell (search), D-Texas, who filed an ethics complaint against House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (search), says e-mails between Enron officials bolster his charges that DeLay illegally solicited and accepted political contributions and should be investigated.
Bell said he will ask House ethics committee members to review the e-mails before deciding whether to launch a formal investigation of the Texas Republican based on the complaint Bell filed last month.
DeLay has repeatedly dismissed Bell's charges, saying Bell is bitter because he lost his re-election bid in March. Republicans have said Democrats are behind the complaint.
"The last sign of a defeated and intellectually bankrupt party is a hate-filled strategy of caricature assassination," said Jonathan Grella, a DeLay spokesman.
In a May 31, 2001 e-mail to former Enron chief executive Kenneth Lay, Enron (search) lobbyists Rick Shapiro and Linda Robertson wrote that "DeLay has asked Enron to contribute $100,000 to his leadership committee ARMPAC through a combination of corporate and personal money from Enron executives. ARMPAC funds will be used to assist other House members as well as the redistricting effort in Texas."
ARMPAC is an abbreviation for Americans for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee, established by DeLay.
A Texas district attorney is investigating Republican fund-raising for Texas' 2002 House races, which seated the first Republican majority in the state House since Reconstruction. The majority was necessary for Republican legislators, pressed by DeLay, to redraw Texas' congressional districts.
Texas law prohibits corporations from contributing to state legislative races.
Bell said the e-mail to Lay, and another sent July 24, 2000 to another senior Enron official, "point to Mr. DeLay's very hands-on involvement" in raising corporate money for his effort to redraw Texas' congressional district boundaries so more Republicans could be elected to the U.S. House.
DeLay has not been accused of wrongdoing by prosecutors nor has he been subpoenaed. The Texas prosecutor leading the investigation has said DeLay is not its target, but he also has said no corporation or individual has been cleared.
Grella said the reference to redistricting in the 2001 e-mail is about Texas redistricting that year, not the 2002 round that led the state's Democratic legislators to flee to neighboring states. Five incumbent Democrats from Texas are facing competitive congressional races because of the 2002 redistricting. A sixth decided not to run for re-election.
Bell's district was redrawn and he lost his seat in the Democratic primary. He'll leave Congress when this session ends.
The e-mails were first reported last year by Salon.com, but resurfaced in a Washington Post article Monday. They are available through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission Web site.