TV news ignored prohibited lobbyist contributions to DeLay defense fund


In apparent violation of House of Representatives rules, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) accepted contributions from three registered lobbyists to his legal defense fund, according to a December 6 report PDF from watchdog group Public Citizen. Although the disclosure has already resulted in DeLay's fund returning several thousand dollars to various lobbyists, and a trustee of the fund acknowledging violation of the House rules, network and cable news have ignored the report.

Print publications have paid substantial attention to Public Citizen's findings. On December 6, National Journal's CongressDaily reported of Public Citizen's investigation into the DeLay contributions: "DeLay may have violated House rules by accepting donations from three lobbyists to bolster his legal defense fund." And in the "Periscope" section of Newsweek's December 13 issue (currently available online), reporters Michael Isikoff and Holly Bailey specifically noted that the questionable contributions included "a $1,000 check in 2001 from superlobbyist Vin Weber, whose clients included Microsoft and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers; and $2,500 that same year from Locke Liddell & Sapp, the Texas law firm formerly headed by Harriet Miers (who was recently named White House counsel)."

On December 7, the Associated Press reported that Weber's check was returned following the Public Citizen report and that "A trustee for DeLay's defense fund, Brent Perry, described the acceptance of Weber's check as 'an inadvertent mistake.'" On December 8, The New York Times noted that the check to Locke Liddell & Sapp was also returned, and the Houston Chronicle reported: "Asked why it took the fund so long to return the checks, Perry said 'no one realized they were a mistake' until Public Citizen raised the alarm."

Yet 48 hours after the release of the Public Citizen report -- and 36 hours after the first newspaper reported that the Public Citizen investigation had prompted Perry to admit impropriety and return a contribution -- network and cable news have yet to cover the story. A Media Matters for America search of transcripts available on Nexis, as well as searches of the transcript archives of cable news channels and reviews of network news broadcasts, did not find a single mention of the controversy surrounding DeLay's legal defense fund.

Media Matters previously noted that the three major TV networks failed to cover the September 21 indictments of three top DeLay aides, who were indicted on charges of illegally raising political funds from corporations in 2002.

Posted In
Government, Ethics
Tom DeLay Scandal
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