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Allies to keep DeLay’s money

By M.J. Ellington
DAILY Staff Writer · (334) 262-1104

MONTGOMERY — Alabama congressmen who took campaign money from indicted former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's political action committee say they do not plan to return the money.

DeLay, R-Texas, stepped down as majority leader Sept. 28 after the first of two indictments for campaign fund irregularities in his home state. As Democrats in Washington who felt the brunt of similar Republican investigations in the past gloated, Republicans charged that the indictments were politically motivated.

Political experts credit DeLay with organizing the focus of the modern Republican Party and raising millions of dollars through political action committees to help elect Republicans across the country.

Alabama's congressmen received contributions from Americans for a Republican Majority, also known as ArmPAC. The PAC contributed to at least one campaign for each of the five Alabama Republicans now in the House.

While the lawmakers postponed a campaign fund-raiser scheduled for DeLay in Birmingham on Monday, none said they planned to return contributions from his PAC. Political observers say for now that may be the best approach.

Brad Buck, spokesman for Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Haleyville, said Aderholt "sees no need to make a plan" to return the money at this point "because Tom DeLay is still an innocent man." ArmPAC contributions to past Aderholt campaigns total about $20,000.

Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Birmingham, called the indictments "a politically inspired shenanigan." Bachus said to return any contributions "would be to assume that he's guilty, and I don't assume that at all." ArmPAC's Bachus campaign contributions total less than $1,200.

Rep. Jo Bonner, R-Mobile, had a one-word response: "No." In past campaigns, ArmPAC gave Bonner's campaigns about $10,000.

Rep. Terry Everett, R-Rehobeth, said he continues to support DeLay and believes the Texas leader was "targeted by an overzealous prosecutor out for political gain." ArmPAC donations to Everett total about $6,000.

Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Saks, called DeLay a friend, a leader and a strong proponent of policies that help families and senior citizens. Rogers said that DeLay is innocent unless proven guilty and he does not plan to return the money "while the judicial process runs its course." ArmPAC donated $20,000 to Rogers' past campaigns and $10,000 to his 2006 campaign.

Political experts point out that an indictment is not a conviction and that contributions do not necessarily taint their recipients.

"Does it affect the political future of anyone in Alabama who took the money? The likelihood is maybe, but it probably won't," said Southern politics expert Patrick R. Cotter, a political science professor at The University of Alabama.

Cotter said elected officials care what people back home think of such situations, but they also must work with colleagues in Washington. Cotter believes the Alabama delegation will wait and see what happens next with DeLay.

"What happens if they give the money back and the charges get dropped?" Cotter asked.

Cotter said Democrats might want to put heat on Republicans because of DeLay's troubles. "It fits nicely into a bigger picture that Democrats want to sell: that Republicans are out of touch," Cotter said.

"It may matter later," Cotter said. "Or it may not."

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