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WHEN IT RAINS
DeLay daughter's baby shower held by Texas energy firm under investigation

Lobbyist Abramoff attended

By John Byrne | RAW STORY Editor

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A Texas energy company being investigated with regards to improper fundraising by those connected with House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) held a baby shower for DeLay's daughter Danielle Ferro in May 2002—and the event was attended by lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who paid for some of the congressman’s overseas travel, RAW STORY has found.

The shower, reported in the Washington, D.C. newspaper Roll Call Jun. 10, 2002 (article posted here), was held at the Washington offices of Reliant Energy Inc., a Texas-based power company that has given heavily to DeLay and his political action committees.

Donations collected from Reliant by a DeLay-linked political action committee are now the subject of a Texas state probe. DeLay’s daughter Danielle helped manage that committee, Texans for a Republican Majority, and her records have been subpoenaed by an Austin grand jury.

An energy lobbyist who counted Reliant among her clients set up the May 10, 2002 event which she estimated cost $250.

“Dani and I have been friends a long time,” the lobbyist told Roll Call.

Just a few weeks later, DeLay held a two-day golf tournament where Reliant chipped in $25,000 to the committee now being investigated in Texas—a contribution that a group later discovered was not reported in campaign filings. Shortly thereafter, DeLay conferenced on an omnibus energy bill.

DeLay was rebuked in October of last year by the Republican-controlled House ethics committee for creating an appearance of favoritism surrounding the Jun. 2, 2002 golf outing.

Among the shower's guests was Jack Abramoff, the lobbyist found to have paid for at least two DeLay trips that were fronted through a conservative nonprofit. The trips, taken in violated of House rules, ran a tab of more than $130,000.

“Some of the lobbyists who attended the shower include Jack Abramoff and Tony Rudy of the lobbying firm Greenberg Traurig, LLP,” Roll Call noted.

Told of the event, one veteran Democratic aide was floored. “It’s fairly common for corporations to hold receptions in honor of someone, but I’ve never heard of anybody having a baby shower,” the aide said. “Clearly this shows there was a close relationship and Tom DeLay’s efforts to distance himself from Jack Abramoff [are misleading].”

At the time, DeLay's office blasted those who questioned the shower.

"Dani's girlfriend had a baby shower for her and paid for the Costco finger food out of her own pocket," a DeLay spokesman told the Hill paper. "She invited Dani's friends to celebrate one of the happiest times in life, the birth of a child."

"Tom DeLay understands that his activities are going to be parsed with a great deal of attention," the spokesman added, "but extending this level of intrusiveness to his daughter's baby shower—thrown by and paid for by one of her girlfriends—is cheap."

Ferro is now under investigation by a Texas grand jury examining the fund-raising activities of Texans for a Republican Majority, a Texas state political action committee that was modeled on DeLay's highly effective national PAC. Emails obtained in the case show the Reliant appears to have been solicited by DeLay.

The Texas Observer reported, “In early June 2002, DeLay held a two-day golf tournament at the Homestead resort in Hot Springs, Virginia. The cost of attending the event was a corporate contribution of $25,000 to $50,000. Five energy companies were invited by Maloney to attend: El Paso Corp., Mirant, Reliant Energy, Westar Energy, and Williams Companies… The golfing took place just before a House-Senate conference on an omnibus energy bill.”

Reliant Energy's director of communications would not comment on the baby shower at the time, but admitted the company allowed the use of its conference room for the event.

"Reliant gave $65,000 in soft money to DeLay's leadership PAC, Americans for a Republican Majority, in 2000 and 2001," Roll Call noted. "Through its own PAC, Reliant has donated $37,000 in hard money to DeLay's re-election campaigns since 1996, and another $6,348 to ARMPAC."

Reliant has run afoul of regulations on several occasions. In 2003, the Houston firm admitted to having violated securities laws to inflate profits by 10 percent; in the same year, they also paid $25 million to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to settle charges of manipulating California’s energy markets; in 2002, Reliant paid $10.5 million to settle charges of manipulating Texas’ energy markets.

Energy company manipulation of the California energy market allowed the firms to overcharge California consumers by more than $20 billion between 2000 and 2001. Among the largest offender was Texas-based Enron, also a top donor solicited by DeLay. According to the Washington Post, DeLay requested $100,000 from Enron be channeled to the Texas political action committee abetting a Texas redistricting effort.

Reliant gave $2,000 to DeLay’s campaign committee in the last election cycle.

DeLay and Ferro could not immediately be reached for comment.

Article originally published Apr. 6, 2005.

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