Today's Attack on Tom DeLay Involves Guilt by Association

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:31 PM EDT

( - Get out your pencils: You'll need to draw a chart to keep this story straight. The gist is this: The Campaign for America's Future, a liberal policy group, is challenging House Majority Leader Tom DeLay to "explain his relationship" to Brian Darling, the former counsel to Sen. Mel Martinez.

Darling wrote the Republican strategy memo that said intervention in the Terri Schiavo case would be a "great political issue" for Republicans.

Martinez, a Florida Republican, said he never read Darling's one-page "talking points" memo. He said he inadvertently passed it on to Sen. Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat, during debate over a federal law intended to win a reprieve for the dying Terri Schiavo.

From there, the memo made its way to ABC News and the Washington Post, both of which ran reports questioning whether Republicans might be seizing on a family's tragedy for political gain.

Rep. DeLay strongly supported legislation allowing the federal courts to review the Schiavo case, and some Americans have blasted him for comments he made before and after Schiavo's death.

Now for the murky part of the story:

The Campaign for America's Future issued a press release Thursday noting that Darling, the memo-writer, once worked for the Alexander Strategy Group, a Washington-based corporate lobbying firm that is "heavily connected to Rep. DeLay."

Darling's clients included Universal Bearing, Inc., a company owned by the Hanwha Group, which -- according to the Campaign for America's Future -- "has direct ties to the foreign agent that paid for Rep. DeLay's improper trip to Korea."

There's more: The Alexander Strategy Group was formed by Rep. DeLay's former Chief of Staff Ed Buckham, who also introduced Rep. DeLay to corporate lobbyist Jack Abramoff, the Campaign for America's Future said.

Former DeLay aide Jim Ellis, who was indicted for money laundering, was a consultant to the Alexander Strategy Group.

Former DeLay staffer Tony Rudy, former DeLay PAC director Karl Gallant, and Rep. DeLay's spouse, Christine DeLay, all worked for Alexander Strategy Group.

The Campaign for America's Future left it at that, simply outlining a web of connections that is a common phenomenon in Washington. The "get DeLay" crowd has not said -- yet -- that Brian Darling was reflecting Tom DeLay's thinking when Darling wrote that the Terri Schiavo case would be a good way to score political points with the pro-life base.

The Campaign for America's Future is one of several groups running television and newspaper ads questioning Rep. DeLay's ethics. The group argues that the controversy surrounding DeLay is "increasingly seen as a liability to his party."

So far, Republican leaders have circled the wagons around House Majority Leader DeLay, saying he is being singled out, not for the merit of the allegations against him, but because he is an effective promoter of the conservative agenda.