Thursday, January 12, 2006

Houston TV stations withhold ads attacking DeLay

Houston TV stations withhold ads attacking DeLay

By Jeff Franks

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Several Houston television stations withheld a political ad on Wednesday accusing U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay of corruption after a lawyer for the former House majority leader said the ad was false and could lead to legal action.

The ad, sponsored by public interest groups Campaign for America's Future and Public Campaign Action Fund, calls for DeLay to resign because of his indictment in Texas on campaign finance charges and his links to disgraced Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

"All four of the major broadcast stations (in Houston) contacted to air the ad, as well as Time Warner cable, have stated they either will not run the ad or will keep it off the air for further review," according to a statement sent out by DeLay's office.

Some of the stations said during their newscasts they were looking at the ad to determine its credibility or that they had found some of the allegations to be questionable. The ad was supposed to run for a week, starting on Wednesday.

(Question: Were these stations just as cautious during the election campaign or did they run the Swift Boat Liar ads?)

In a letter to the stations, DeLay attorney Donald McGahn said the ad was "reckless, malicious and false, casting Mr. DeLay in a false light by accusing him of unsubstantiated criminal conduct. Such accusations are actionable."

"We demand that you refuse or otherwise cease airing the advertisement, so as to avoid any liability," the letter said.

Public Campaign Action Fund national campaigns director David Donnelly said DeLay was trying to prevent people in his Houston-area district from knowing what "he's up to with corrupt lobbyists in Washington."

"When powerful lawmakers corrupt the political process and get caught, they often try to bully the media to try to prevent them from doing their job," he said in a statement.

Despite the menacing language in the letter, DeLay spokeswoman Shannon Flaherty said McGahn was not threatening to sue the television stations, although at least one of them reported he was.

Abramoff sent shock waves through Washington last week when he pleaded guilty to fraud charges and admitted giving lavish gifts and trips to lawmakers in return for special treatment. He has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors investigating corruption in Congress.

DeLay, who received campaign contributions from Abramoff and associates over the years, has described the lobbyist as a good friend.

After Abramoff's guilty plea, DeLay announced he was giving up trying to regain his position as House majority leader, which is the second most powerful Republican in the House of Representatives.

He stepped down from the post in September after he was indicted in Texas on charges of conspiracy and money laundering linked to campaign contributions raised by his Texans for a Republican Majority political action committee for the 2002 Texas Legislature elections. DeLay has denied any wrongdoing.