Lobbying Firm Forced to Close Amid Probe
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
One of Washington's best-connected Republican lobbying firms is planning to shut down. The Alexander Strategy Group will close at the end of the month. ASG, as it's commonly known, has strong ties to Congressman Tom DeLay. He's the leader who's under indictment in Texas and who last week gave up his claim to the post of House majority leader. NPR's Peter Overby reports.
PETER OVERBY reporting:
When the Alexander Strategy Group was launched in 1998, it almost seemed like a spinoff of DeLay's leadership office. DeLay was then majority whip, the third highest position in the House, but he was widely perceived as having considerably more than a number-three man's clout.
ASG was founded by Edwin Buckham, then DeLay's chief of staff. Buckham continued to oversee DeLay's political network after starting ASG. Another partner early on was DeLay political adviser Jim Ellis. He's now under indictment in Texas in the same campaign money-laundering case that has ensnared DeLay.
The Alexander Strategy Group never wanted for clients. It had small ones like the Music Licensing Committee for religious broadcasters(ph), and it had big ones. Enron, Microsoft, UPS and Time Warner all signed on for ASG's Washington services. But the past few months have brought a string of challenges. One client, Group W Advisors, has been linked to the scandal surrounding former Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham. The California Republican resigned and pleaded guilty to a bribery conspiracy in which he admitted taking $2.4 million in payoffs. It also turns out that ASG employed Tom DeLay's wife, Christine. She was paid $115,000 over three years to research the favorite charities of members of Congress.
Buckham's name has also come up in reports about junkets that DeLay took that are now under federal investigation. And ASG has ties to Jack Abramoff, the lobbyist who pleaded guilty to bribery, conspiracy and other charges last week and has been having long talks with federal prosecutors. One of ASG's current partners, Tony Rudy, was also once a key aide to DeLay who left DeLay to work for Abramoff. Abramoff's plea agreement identifies Rudy, but does not name him, as a congressional staffer who allegedly profited from helping Abramoff.
Buckham did not respond to NPR's repeated requests for comment. As of last night, the firm's Web site still had this quote from Rudy: "If you're not winning, you're losing. If you're not defining yourselves, you will be defined by your opponents." Now Republican insiders say the Alexander Strategy Group has lost the ability to define itself. Some of the group's lobbyists hope to reorganize next month and work to keep their clients. Peter Overby, NPR News, Washington.
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