Monday, March 27, 2006

Abramoff Funneled $1M to DeLay Aide Through Sham Nonprofit; DeLay's Wife Gets $100,000

As Jeffrey Smith reports in the Washington Post, at the same time he was aide and consultant to Congressman Tom DeLay, Ed Buckham (and his wife) received more than a third of the money his nonprofit group the U.S. Family Network received from donors, most of whom were clients of Jack Abramoff.

The U.S. Family Network, ostensibly set up by Buckham in the mid-90's to promote a "pro-family" agenda in Congress, received more than $3 million from donors, although maintained only a skeletal staff and had a negligible presence on Capitol Hill. Of that $3 million, Buckham and his wife Wendy received $1,022,000 in salaries and consulting fees.

And when Buckham and his wife opened up their own consulting biz, who did they put on the payroll but Christine DeLay, at $3,300/month for three years - some $100,000.

The resulting schematic of the money flow looks like a grotesque Beltway version of a concert setlist:

Abramoff (via Clients) > U.S. Family Network > Buckhams > DeLays > Abramoff Clients > Abramoff

Not exactly John Phillips Souza. While this flowchart does not indicate whether sufficient agreement took place between the parties to constitute bribery, the revenue stream mirrors the exchange of money for policy that bribery entails.

The U.S. Family Network (using the revenue from Abramoff clients) also bought a townhouse out of which the USFN and Tom DeLay's PAC operated, and ran attack ads in Congressional elections against vulnerable Democrats.

The problem here is not so much that there are ways to evade campaign laws, but rather that campaign finance law puts people into office who are more interested in serving Mammon than the rest of us. And as long as those folks are in office, the laws that are on the books to investigate and prevent these sorts of schemes are underenforced.

In other words, the way to stop future Abramoffs is to cure not just lobbying disclosure, but campaign finance laws as well.

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