Watchdog groups are calling on Colorado Congressman Bob Beauprez to return $30,000 in campaign contributions he received from indicted GOP strongman Tom DeLay -- and to ask for a refund of the $1,000 that he kicked into a fund to offset DeLay's legal expenses.
DeLay, nicknamed "The Hammer" for his strongarm tactics, was stripped of his power as U.S. House majority leader last week. He has been charged with conspiracy to use corporate donations to aid political campaigns in his home state of Texas. A grand jury this week slapped him with an additional charge of money laundering in 2002 to help Texas Republicans.
Beauprez, a second-term congressman, provided $1,000 to the Tom Delay Legal Expense Trust, which includes hundreds of thousands of dollars in contributions from the congressman's political allies, corporations and special interest groups. In 2001, the trust helped DeLay successfully fend off allegations that he broke federal racketeering laws to help fellow Republicans.
Michael Huttner, executive director of ProgressNow.org, a Denver-based nonprofit, says Beauprez, who is challenging Marc Holtzman in next year's Republican primary for governor, should ask for his money back or risk leaving the impression that he supports criminal activity.
"Instead of donating money to defend the guy, he might want to play it safe," Huttner says.
Huttner also called on Beauprez to return $30,000 he has received in recent years from a DeLay political action committee -- Americans for a Republican Majority, or ARMPAC -- because the money might be tainted.
One of Beauprez's colleagues, Rep. Jeb Bradley, R-N.H., already has returned $15,000 to the committee. Bradley told a newspaper in his home state that he wanted to remove any question about the nature of the contribution.
Beauprez spokesman Jordan Stoick says the Colorado congressman would not follow suit because ARMPAC is not under scrutiny. Stoick says Beauprez also stands behind his contribution to the legal fund.
"Rep. DeLay has not been found guilty of anything by anyone," Stoick says. "Like any other American, Congressman DeLay is innocent until proven guilty."
The League of Conservation Voters also is demanding that Beauprez return funds to ARMPAC, calling his decision to keep the money bad judgment, especially in light of certain votes Beauprez made for energy policies backed by DeLay.
DeLay, who maintains his innocence, was admonished several times a year ago by the bipartisan House ethics committee, which raised questions about his attendance at a fund-raiser for an energy company seeking favorable legislation.
Rep. Joel Hefley, a Colorado Springs Republican, later was ousted as chairman of the committee, in a move that many viewed as retaliatory. Hefley has not received any contributions from DeLay.
-- Michael de Yoanna