DeLay staffer, political operatives lead his children’s charity

Political operatives associated with, and a current employee for, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) make up most of the officers of a controversial charity DeLay organized that has been linked to his fundraising activities at the Republican National Convention.

The charity, Celebrations for Children (CfC), has come under fire in recent months from watchdog groups like Common Cause, which have questioned DeLay’s creation of a children’s charity as a fundraising vehicle to subsidize donor events at the Republican National Convention. Common Cause also filed a complaint with the Internal Revenue Service, asking it to rescind any charitable tax status granted to CfC. Despite repeated requests from Common Cause, the House Ethics Committee has refused to formally rule on the legality of DeLay’s fundraising scheme.

Common Cause recently filed a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request with the charities bureau of the New York State Attorney General’s Office to obtain a registration statement for CfC.

The FOIL showed:

1. CfC is run by a bevy of political operatives with far more fund raising experience and ties to the Republican party than to children’s causes. That is further evidence that DeLay’s charity is about selling access to the lawmaker during the convention.

2. The involvement of a former fundraiser for House Ethics Committee Chairman Joel Hefley (R-CO) raises questions about a potential conflict of interest with that panel.

3. This additional information raises even more questions about the true motives of the charity,” said Common Cause President Chellie Pingree.

Following is a complete list of CfC board members, according to the FOIL:

Rob Jennings (CfC fundraiser) – A longtime GOP fundraiser whose previous clients have included Hefley, House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Don Young (R-AK), Rep. John Shadegg (R-AZ) and Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO).

Barbara Bonfiglio (CfC secretary) – Worked as treasurer for Promoting Republicans You Can Elect Project (PRYCE Project), the political action committee for Rep. Deborah Pryce (R-OH). She is a partner for Williams & Jensen, a Washington law and lobbying firm. Bonfiglio’s clients have included DeLay, Rep. David Dreier (R-CA), chairman of the House Rules Committee and Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-CA), as well as Senate Majority Whip Don Nickles (R-OK) and Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Pete V. Domenici (R-NM). In 2003, watchdog groups filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission alleging that Pryce established two leadership political action committees in violation of campaign finance rules and that eight Republican congressional candidates violated the law by receiving contributions from the PACs. Bonfiglio was listed as the treasurer for the PRYCE Project and the second committee, Value In Electing Women PAC (VIEW PAC).

Craig Richardson (CfC fundraiser) – Longtime DeLay adviser; fundraiser for former Rep. Steve Largent (R-OK). He served as the fundraiser for DeLay’s 2003 “Fantasy Island” golf outing. Richardson also worked with DCI Group, a Republican fundraising organization that specializes in setting up corporate-funded so-called grassroots organizations to support its clients’ interests.

Dani DeLay Ferro (CfC fundraiser) – DeLay’s daughter.

Cassie Statuto Bevan (CfC director) – Longtime staff member of House Ways and Means Committee; former staff director of the Ways and Means subcommittee on human resources. Bevan left the Ways and Means Committee to join DeLay’s office as a senior policy adviser in April 2001, focusing on foster children’s issues.

Carol Holton (CfC chairwoman and director) – Chief operating officer of Child Advocates of Fort Bend County (CAFB), a Texas nonprofit organization that uses four advocacy programs to aid victims of child abuse 18 and younger. Its programs include one that locates extended family members of children in foster care. Christine DeLay is secretary of CAFB’s board of directors, and CAFB has named one of its programs in honor of the DeLays: The Tom and Christine DeLay Children’s Advocacy Center.

Jeff Tallas (CfC treasurer, chief financial officer and director) – Jeff Tallas is an insurance and financial services agent for the Houston-based Tallas Insurance and Financial Services. He is the son of Jim Tallas, a former member of the Texas House of Representatives from Sugar Land (1985-1995).