Common Cause Joins Clamor for Ethics Comments

Posted December 5, 2003 at 6:17pm

The public-interest group Common Cause asked the House ethics committee to reveal advice reportedly given to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) approving his plan to collect funds for a charity set up to help disadvantaged youths during next year’s GOP presidential convention.

Common Cause joined two other watchdog groups in calling on the Internal Revenue Service to reject tax-exempt status for the charity, Celebrations for Children Inc.

According to DeLay associates, the charity hopes to raise more than $1 million during next year’s convention in New York City. For a donation of $500,000, donors will get private dinners with DeLay before and after the convention, tee times at a prestigious golf course on Long Island, VIP tickets to Broadway shows, a yacht cruise, invitations to a late-night concert and access to a luxury hospitality suite on the night President Bush is expected to receive his party’s nomination for a second term. Contributors can also write off the donations from their tax returns if the IRS approves the group’s exemption status.

In first reporting about the new charity, Roll Call reported that DeLay had received clearance from the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct to attend and participate in the events sponsored by CFC.

The committee’s rules treat requests for advice from lawmakers as strictly confidential, and the House has battled to keep those files secret even when they had been sought by federal prosecutors and grand juries. But Common Cause argued that the panel should waive those rules given the significance of DeLay’s plan. The group also sent letters to all House Members asking them to urge the committee to release its files.

Stuart Roy, a DeLay spokesman, said: “The DeLays have a long history of helping abused and neglected children, devoting their lives to that cause. Fred Wertheimer and these other Democrat front groups have a long history of abusing their tax status for partisan political attacks and devoting their lives to the service of Democrat fat cats.

“They can’t see through their own hate to view how Tom DeLay helps the abused children that no one else wants to. These people have a sick, perverse world view.”

Democracy 21, the group headed by Wertheimer, and the Campaign Legal Center, last week urged the IRS to deny CFC’s application for tax-exempt status. The group submitted its request to the tax agency in September and the matter is still pending.

Regardless of what the IRS decides, a court ruling last week may shed more light on the agency’s decision-making in the case of CFC.

In a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, the court ruled that the IRS must disclose its reasoning each time it denies a request for tax-exempt status or revokes it.