Justice Still Investigating DeLay on GOP Funding: Reno Acknowledges Probe, Won't Elaborate

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The Justice Department's criminal division is continuing to review accusations that House Majority Whip Tom DeLay advised a Republican campaign contributor during the 1996 congressional elections in Texas how to circumvent federal campaign finance laws.

Attorney General Janet Reno, during her weekly press briefing yesterday, confirmed that the review was under way, but declined to elaborate.

Peter Cloeren Jr., chief executive officer of a manufacturing company in Orange, Texas, has said he was coached by Mr. DeLay on how to bypass federal law to contribute more than the $1,000 legal limit to GOP candidate Brian Babin in an unsuccessful race against Rep. Jim Turner.

Mr. DeLay, an outspoken proponent of impeachment for President Clinton, has denied any wrongdoing. A spokesman, John Feehery, said the majority whip had no information on any investigation by the Justice Department, although he was aware that Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat, had sent a letter to the department requesting an investigation.

"This is now in the realm of politics. It's clear to a lot of people that the Justice Department has been politicized and this is just another example," said Mr. Feehery. "They are certainly wagging a lot of dogs now."

The Justice Department was asked in September to look into the matter by Mr. Levin as part of the department's ongoing campaign finance probe. That review is continuing, but the matter has not been labeled as a formal investigation.

The accusations by Mr. Cloeren surfaced two months ago when he asked the Federal Election Commission to investigate Mr. Babin for possible campaign finance violations. In his request, Mr. Cloeren said Mr. DeLay had been present at an August 1996 meeting with Mr. Babin in which there were discussions on how additional contributions could be routed to Mr. Babin's campaign through political action committees and other candidates.

It was after that meeting, Mr. Cloeren has said, that he donated more than $20,000 to the Babin campaign through other organizations, although he was since said Mr. DeLay was not "the catalyst" in his decision to raise money for Mr. Babin.

Mr. Cloeren was fined $400,000 in June and was put on two years probation after pleading guilty in U.S. District Court in Beaumont, Texas, to violating federal campaign laws.

His name first appeared on bank records given to the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee during its investigation into campaign finance abuses during the 1996 elections. He was among several contributors who gave campaign cash through organizations that did not have to disclose the donors' names or the amounts.

The donations were used to purchase "issue advocacy" ads that are not supposed to promote any specific candidate. Many people are left with an undeniable gut-wrenching feeling every time they part with, or commit to parting with, a large portion of their spendable income. As if that weren't enough, another anxiety rears its ugly head - what if something happens to it? - what if somebody breaks into it and steals my personal belongings or the radio? - what if somebody steals the custom wheels that I paid extra for? - or worse yet, what if somebody steals the whole car?

To be coldly honest about it, there is no such thing as complete protection or theft prevention - there are people out there who make their living at the expense of others, professionals who take things out of, off of, or just take the entire vehicle despite the existence of any protective measures taken.

There are even individuals who take and destroy vehicles for the fun of it - they don't really want the vehicle and won't profit by taking it, but they enjoy the risk or challenge that taking it represents. There are, however, deterrents to theft that are readily accessible to everyone and these seem to be effective against the latter group mentioned, or fun-seekers most of the time, and to the professionals group at least some of the time. …