Texas Monthly has adjudged golf-happy Congressman Tom DeLay one of the 20 most "impressive, intriguing and influential" Texans of the year, an honor he shares with dope-scarfing partyboy Michael Irvin and noted thespian Chuck Norris. We wouldn't argue with the designation: after all, it is impressive how much money the congressman's younger brother Randy has been raking in as a lobbyist since Tom acquired so much influence as House majority whip. Lawyer Randy took up the lobbying game six months after Tom ascended to whipdom last year, and through this June had pocketed more than $400,000 from a growing list of clients, including Union Pacific, Dell computers, the Mexican cement monopoly Cemex and the city of Houston. The city's Washington lobbying firm, Fulbright & Jaworski, paid Randy $20,000 to work in support of a House bill that would force professional sports teams to compensate cities for tax-supported facilities if they move elsewhere. Free marketer Tom, who normally detests any government interference with business, was an ardent backer.
Tom also is a big supporter of the move to designate the I-69 interstate highway from Canada to Mexico, and Randy has been hired at the rate of $6,000 a month by the I-69 Coalition. He has also been paid more than $75,000 by the South Texas town of Pharr, which is competing with Laredo for I-69 designation.
But Randy's biggest client by far has been Cemex, which paid him almost $194,000 from June through November of last year. Congress-covering weekly Roll Call reported in October that Tom DeLay had circulated a letter among his fellow representatives calling for the end of import duties on Mexican cement. And a month after Randy signed on with Cemex, Tom wrote an unsolicited op-ed piece for the Houston Chronicle calling for the end to the cement tariffs, without mentioning Cemex by name or his brother's financial stake in the issue. For months, Ralph Nader's Congressional Accountability Project has unsuccessfully entreated dozens of weak-spleened Democrats to carry a House Ethics Committee complaint against the congressman for improperly assisting his brother.
Randy DeLay did not return calls from the Press about his apparently part-time lobbying work. He reportedly splits his time between Washington and Houston, having moved into a large house on a golf course in the Sugar Land subdivision of Pecan Grove, and according to Fort Bend Republicans, occasionally shows up at political gatherings to say a few words when Tom is unavailable.
Randy's newest client is Houston Industries, the parent company of Houston Lighting & Power, which faces major regulatory changes in Congress and whose president, Don Jordan, counts Tom DeLay among HI's best officeholder friends. Probably just another intriguing but meaningless coincidence, huh?
The much-anticipated courtroom showdown between Sylvester Turner and Wayne Dolcefino finally got to the preliminary trial stage this week, with some fresh meat being thrown into the already spicy stew in the form of recent testimony from assistant U.S. Attorney Gordon Young. In his deposition, Young revealed that the Secret Service had recommended prosecuting Turner for his alleged role in the faked death of one of Turner's legal clients, Sylvester Foster, in 1986. That insurance scam -- and whether Turner was involved in it -- was the subject of a Dolcefino report that Channel 13 aired shortly before Turner's 1991 mayoral runoff with Bob Lanier. Turner later sued Dolcefino and the station for libel.
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Last year, Young co-signed a letter with his boss, U.S. Attorney Gaynelle Griffin Jones, declining to prosecute Turner and associate Dwight Thomas due to the amount of time that had passed since the swindle and difficulty in obtaining corroborating testimony. But Young did not provide much support for that decision when giving his deposition late last month. In fact, the prosecutor testified that a cohort of Foster's, Keith Anderson, implicated Turner in the scheme, and that both the Secret Service and Young found Anderson's testimony to be credible. Young said the since-deceased Anderson told investigators that Turner had counseled Foster on how to collect money from an insurance policy without the insured's body's being found. Anderson also claimed Foster talked with Turner by cell phone while sailing off Kemah. The boat later dropped Foster ashore and then resumed its voyage, after which Anderson and partner Russell Reinders reported that Foster had fallen overboard and was missing. Anderson also claimed Reinders later met with Turner. Judge Elizabeth Ray refused another request from Dolcefino's lawyers to throw out Turner's suit based on Young's deposition.
Turner has repeatedly denied any role in the faked death of Foster, and has characterized Dolcefino's reports as malicious untruths leaked by operatives in Lanier's campaign. On that front, Turner attorney Ron Franklin last week subpoenaed political operative Marc Campos to produce his records of Lanier's campaign finance committee, as well as any documentation concerning the role of private investigator Peary Perry. After months of resistance by Dolcefino to identifying the sources for his reports, Perry's attorney acknowledged last month that the Lanier campaign volunteer had indeed met with the reporter and discussed the allegations against Turner. Franklin also asked for the telephone records of private eye Clyde Wilson for the six months beginning in November 1991, an effort which drew a weirdly alliterative response from Wilson attorney Tom Alexander: "Piously preaching privacy to conceal his own participation in matters of public record, plaintiff inconsistently attempts to invade the privacy of the records of clients and subjects of [Wilson's] investigations." Ray denied Franklin's request -- with the exception of one set of phone calls between Wilson and a "Mr. Johnson" in Cleveland, who had tipped the investigator to the insurance scam allegations.
Turner's side was also maneuvering to keep any mention of marital discord between the plaintiff and his now-divorced wife, Cheryl Gilliam, out of the trial, specifically a graphic affidavit the then Mrs. Turner gave to a private investigator in 1991. Turner's lawyers argue that Dolcefino's broadcasts "in no way relate to any of the unsupported allegations of sexual misconduct contained in the affidavit." Dolcefino's attorneys claim the affidavit is relevant because it formed part of the reporter's "mental impressions."
Tim Fleck has returned from special assignment in the Cayman Islands and can be reached by calling 624-1483 or 624-1496 (fax), or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.