Hours after Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, was indicted by a Texas grand jury, he went on national television to refute the charges and to tell viewers that he was not alone: other members of Congress had made transactions similar to those that led to his prosecution.
"The Democrats do it. The Republicans did it," he told a commentator for Fox News, adding that such transactions are not only common but "very legal."DeLay was indicted by a Texas grand jury in late September on charges of conspiracy to violate state campaign finance laws, which prohibit the use of corporate money in state elections. The indictment alleges that his non-federal group—Texans for a Republican Majority—accepted $190,000 from six corporations and transferred the money to the Republican National Committee, which then used it to fund state candidates.
While the Texas courts have yet to decide if DeLay broke any state campaign finance laws, a study by the Center for Public Integrity1 shows that the former House majority leader was right about one thing: his committee's actions are hardly unique.
At least 30 other current members of Congress accepted a total of $7.8 million in corporate donations to their non-federal leadership committees from 2000 to 2002, the study has found. These organizations then transferred a combined $3.5 million to national party committees, which later gave $14 million to candidates in state elections.
The state laws governing such transactions are not uniform: 23 states prohibit corporate donations to candidates in state elections, while 27 allow some use of corporate funds. Of the $14 million contributed by national parties to state candidates, $5 million went to those in states which ban corporate donations.