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Cullen to Lead DeLay Defense

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) is replacing his lead ethics lawyer with Richard Cullen, a former federal prosecutor and Virginia attorney general with strong ties to Sens. John Warner (R-Va.) and George Allen (R-Va.).

Cullen, a partner with the firm McGuireWoods based in Richmond, Va., will take over the lead ethics role for DeLay from former Rep. Ed Bethune (R-Ark.), according to sources close to the issue. Bethune will remain as a consultant to DeLay’s legal team, said the sources.

Cullen is a well-connected Republican lawyer with extensive experience in white-collar criminal cases and ethics investigations.

“Richard Cullen is a valuable addition to our team,” said Dan Allen, DeLay’s spokesman. “Not only his legal experience, but his political acumen will be a huge asset for us.”

With Warner’s support, Cullen was appointed in 1991 by then-President George H.W. Bush as U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, a position he held until April 1993. Warner also appointed Cullen as part of the GOP team on a Senate probe investigating Louisiana’s disputed Senate race in 1996.

In June 1997, Allen, then governor of Virginia, appointed Cullen as state attorney general when James Gilmore left the job to run for governor. Cullen served in that post until January 1998. Cullen served as treasurer of Allen’s Senate campaign in 2000, went to Florida as a member of then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush’s team during the 2000 presidential recount, and was part of the Bush transition team in early 2001 for the Justice Department.

During the last several years, Cullen has been rumored to be in the running for several top positions at the Justice Department, and was once on the short list of candidates for a federal judgeship.

Cullen has also represented big corporations in federal probes, including Boeing and Time Warner. He heads up the McGuireWoods white collar and government investigations unit, and has been affiliated with the firm since 1997, minus his two terms of public service.

DeLay’s retention of Cullen was first reported Saturday by the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Bethune has taken a high-profile role on several legal issues for DeLay, including a racketeering lawsuit filed by House Democrats in 2000 that was later dismissed.

Bethune also represented the Majority Leader during two separate ethics probes in the 108th Congress. DeLay was admonished on three different ethics charges last fall.

With the addition of Cullen and Bethune, DeLay’s legal team now includes: Bobby Burchfield of McDermott Will and Emery; Don McGahn, general counsel for the National Republican Campaign Committee and top campaign-finance expert; and Bill White and Steve Brittan, two criminal defense attorneys in Austin monitoring an ongoing criminal investigations into a DeLay-founded PAC’s role in the 2002 state legislative races.

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