Monday, January 09, 2006

Delay & Delay, LLC, Have Ties To Memphis Through The Coalition To Build I-69

With expanding inquiries into the lobbying firms of former staff members and friends of former House Whip Tom DeLay, this post of September 26 seems even more relevant:

Another unfortunate feature of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita is that they have overshadowed the growing storm about the pattern of behavior by Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

While it seems that Rep. DeLay will be the ultimate destination in several parallel investigations, those who know the intricacies of Washington politics are unsurprised. He’s always been a man who demonstrated a keen sense of family values.

Those along the I-69 Corridor learned it firsthand. In lobbying for support for the so-called NAFTA Highway that stretches from Canada to Mexico, with Memphis as its linchpin, the I-69 Coalition annually traveled to Washington, D.C., to seek funding for their favorite public works project.

In 1995, in one of those meetings, the delegation - including members from Memphis - was elated to get a meeting with Texas Rep. Tom DeLay, who was becoming more and more powerful as the Gingrich Revolution unfolded. No state had more I-69 mileage than Texas, and his help was considered crucial, if not a deal-killer, for the approximately $15 billion project.

The I-69 Coalition was excited to have the opportunity to sell him on its project, because he had been coy in his position on the new interstate highway. His support was integral to the success of the lobbying plan drawn up by the I-69 Coalition’s powerful government relations firm, Patton & Boggs.

In the conversation with Rep. DeLay, the subject quickly turned to the finely-tuned lobbying efforts that would be needed to get the massive federal funding needed to move the highway project forward. They were pleased by DeLay’s level of interest and his advice on the importance of a well-coordinated, highly-effective lobbying effort, and he offered thoughtful advice born of his concern as a Texan who recognized the value of this economic artery through the American heartland.

His advice: hire his brother. As he explained it, because so much of the highway would run through Texas, the Coalition needed to hire someone with unique experience to handle just the Texas Congressional delegation, because its members’ approvals would be critical. One name came to his mind – Randy DeLay - because he understood Texas politics and knew Texas politicians, the group was told.

No one from the I-69 Coalition was slow on the up-take, and within weeks, the lobbying efforts of Patton & Boggs were supplemented with the talents of Randy DeLay. In the first year, he was paid about $120,000, and between 1995 and 2000, he was paid $400,000, with part of it from money (including public money) raised in Memphis by the Tennessee contingent of the I-69 Coalition. There was grumbling about the payments, because no one in the coalition could point to anything substantive that he did, except for setting up meetings with and arranging speeches by the majority leader, who became the leading champion in Congress for I-69. But in the end, there was little that the Coalition could do, if it wanted its interstate highway project.

In a case of déjà vu, Rep. DeLay encouraged a coalition of Texas border towns along the I-69 route to do the same thing, and they paid Randy DeLay $156,000 in his first year as their lobbyist. Like the I-69 Coalition, leaders of the towns grumbled, but they felt that they had little choice if the project was to move through Congress.

In the end, the I-69 Coalition probably got off cheap. As Tom DeLay rose through the ranks of his party to become majority leader, so did his brother’s lobbying fees. In the course of little more than one year, Randy DeLay went from being a bankrupt Houston lawyer and restaurateur to a Washington insider making $550,000.

In the ensuing years, when his brother was hired to represent a Mexican cement company, Rep. DeLay called for the Clinton Administration to reverse an anti-dumping order so the companies could sell their cement in the U.S. without paying a duty.
When Randy DeLay was hired to block the move of the Houston Oilers to Nashville, his brother actually sponsored an unsuccessful Congressional bill calling for the federal government to block the move of a football team. When Randy DeLay was hired by Union Pacific railroad in support of its merger with Southern Pacific, his older brother spoke out and worked in favor of it.

In scenarios strikingly similar to the experience of the I-69 Coalition, Randy DeLay was hired specifically to give special attention to the Texas Congressional delegation, a delegation controlled by his brother.

After ethics complaints were filed against what came to be viewed as DeLay & DeLay, LLC, Randy DeLay seemed to go underground for awhile, but recent revelations indicate that the behavior of his brother didn't stop. It just involved loyal friends like Jack Abramoff, Michael Scanlon and Ralph Reed in their shameless rip-off of Indian tribes with high-dollar lobbying contracts.

Sadly, all of this was the worst-kept secret in the Capital, and few eyebrows were raised about the Abramoff headlines, media reports about $500,000 in payments over four years to his wife and daughter from his campaign fund for undefined work and the indictments of his aides in Texas for campaign fund abuses.

And yet, Randy DeLay is back, working more quietly in Texas selling himself as his brother once sold him to the I-69 Coalition – as someone who is uniquely qualified to get things done with the Texas delegation. Once again, local officials are paying one brother to lobby the one they also pay to represent them in
Congress. Most public officials who hire Randy DeLay continue to treat his contract as an insurance policy to make sure they get their best chance at expensive pork projects from channel dredging, bridges, and prisons.

Those who’ve been given advice to hire a Washington lobbyist who knows how to get things with the Texas delegation know first hand that Rep. DeLay deserves his nickname, Hammer. It’s just looking increasingly likely that this time he’s the one about to be nailed.