DeLay's prosecutors dig deeper into California

Subpoenas seek records from defense contractor
By Laylan Copelin
Thursday, January 19, 2006

It was the fall of 2002, and Texans for a Republican Majority was scouring for corporate money when it found an unlikely donor — a California defense technology firm willing to send part of its $40,000 startup money to help U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay's political committee.

PerfectWave Technologies, a San Diego-area firm, gave DeLay's committee $15,000 to help elect Republicans to the Texas Legislature. It sent the rest of the $40,000 to a gala tribute to Randy "Duke" Cunningham, the San Diego-area congressman who resigned after pleading guilty last year to taking bribes from military contractors.

On Thursday, Travis County prosecutors dug deeper into the Southern California connections to DeLay and Texans for a Republican Majority political action committee, subpoenaing a second round of records of any "negotiations or agreements" that prompted the donation. They also asked for any communications about pending federal legislation that would have affected the firm.

DeLay and his co-defendants, John Colyandro of Austin and Jim Ellis of DeLay's Washington staff, have been indicted on a charge of conspiring to launder corporate money given to Texans for a Republican Majority into political donations. State law generally prohibits corporate money being spent in connection with campaigns.

The indictments charge the men with making a $190,000 donation to the Republican National Committee which, in turn, gave the same amount to Texas legislative candidates. DeLay's lawyers, who defend the $190,000 exchange as two separate, legal transactions, dismissed Thursday' subpoenas as a fishing expedition.

The $15,000 from PerfectWave came at about the same time $190,000 was given to the national Republicans.

Last month, prosecutors subpoenaed bank records of PerfectWave Technologies, a company that builds technology for battlefield communications, plus documents from San Diego military contractor Brent Wilkes, a big donor to Republicans. Wilkes owns PerfectWave and several other defense-related companies,as well as a Washington-based lobbying firm, Group W.

DeLay, a Sugar Land Republican who resigned as House majority leader after he was indicted last year, flew on Wilkes' jet, played golf with him and came to depend on his political support. Wilkes has not been charged with a crime, but his lawyer has identified him as an unnamedco-conspirator mentioned in Cunningham's court documents.

On Thursday, prosecutors sought records from William Bain Adams, an investor in PerfectWave Technologies, who gave the company its initial $40,000, according to the subpoena. They also subpoenaed records of the company president Max Gelwix and Paul Smithers, a corporate lawyer for Wilkes.

None responded to phone calls for comment.

According to the subpoena, on Sept. 18, 2002, Adams deposited $40,000 to the account of Perfect- Wave Technologies. Two days later, the company gave $15,000 to Texans for a Republican Majority.

PerfectWave Technologies sent the remaining $25,000 from Adams to a "Tribute to Heroes" gala, organized by Wilkes, that feted Cunningham with a trophy naming him a hero.

Travis County prosecutors are apparently trying to determine why PerfectWave Technologies would donate the initial depositfrom Adams to two political causes: DeLay and Cunningham.

DeLay's lawyer, Dick DeGue- rin, said there is nothing shock- ing about donors from all over the country wanting to give money to the Republican majority leader in Congress.

"Is it entirely altruistic that donors give? Of course not," DeGuerin said. "It's stupid to think a political donor doesn't try to increase their clout."

There's a big difference, he said, between bribery and a donor trying to "get their phone calls returned."

Austin lawyer Cris Feldman, who won a lawsuit filed by Democrats against Texans for a Republican Majority on related matters, said he was suspicious of so many out-of-state companies pouring corporate money into Texas during the 2002 campaigns.

Feldman noted that Wilkes, through his companies, hired Alexander Strategies, a now defunct lobbying firm where DeLay's wife and many of his former staffers worked.

"It looks like this is leading back to the door of DeLay Inc.," said Feldman, using the nickname for DeLay's close association with the capital lobbying firms.

DeGuerin questioned prosecutors issuing subpoenas in a case that is temporarily on hold, pending appeals on pretrial matters.

"We're not going to try to get these people not to respond," DeGuerin said. "But any lawyer worth his salt will see the subpoenas are not worth so much toilet paper."