DeLay & The Three Tenors

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay is under scrutiny for possible misuse of campaign contributions, and the latest uncovering has to do with a Three Tenors concert.

DeLay’s political donors – with the congressman in attendance, according to a spokesman – were treated to a skybox at Washington, D.C.’s MCI Center for the concert in May 2000. The skybox was leased by lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who is now under criminal investigation.

Shortly after the concert, DeLay voted against gambling legislation opposed by some of Abramoff’s Indian tribe clients – which could appear to be a conflict of interest.

The bugaboo has to do with DeLay’s political action committee not reimbursing Abramoff for the show. House of Representatives ethics rules prevent a lawmaker from accepting a gift of more than $50; Abramoff’s skybox cost anywhere from $3,600 to $7,500.

Defenders say DeLay did nothing wrong at the time because federal law didn’t require the PAC to disclose or reimburse the gift – a law that was changed a few months after the concert. House rules allow lawmakers to accept food, lodging and transportation from a PAC. At the same time, lawmakers can’t accept anything provided by a registered lobbyist.

Congressional ethics experts said this particular conflict will come down to whether DeLay was involved in soliciting the skybox.

Both DeLay’s office and Abramoff’s spokesman said a lack of records or recollection kept them from confirming or denying whether DeLay was involved with any solicitation.