Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Jim Ryun buys "Safe House" from Tom Delay's gang

TPM Muckraker has been trying to keep track of the byzantine glory of the Tom Delay crime family. One thread of illegal fundraising runs through a group called the U.S Family Network. Jack Abramoff used the group, founded by former Delay Chief of Staff Ed Buckham, as a slush fund, and as a way to funnel cash from lobbying clients to various Delay causes.

The USFN owned a townhouse in a residential part of Washington, nicknaming it the "Safe House." Delay's PAC, Buckham's lobbying group, and the USFN all shared the building. When the FEC started sniffing around this cozy arrangement and the neighbors complained about violations of zoning laws, the USFN sold the house off at a loss. This is fairly unusual, given that the housing market was booming.

Muckraker can take the story from there:
Now, that got us to wondering. A loss of that scale is far from Duke Cunningham territory. But the DC housing market was pretty hot back then and the USFN held the property for just about 2 years.

So who got such a good deal?

The buyer was Rep. Jim Ryun (R-KS).

D.C. property records show that the townhouse was sold to Ryun for $410,000 on December 15, 2000. According to the Post, the USFN purchased the townhouse for $429,000; the deed was signed January 12, 1999. …

Property sold to a member of Congress at substantially under market value can, in some instances, be construed as a de facto gift. In this case, that would be from the Buckham-controlled and Abramoff-client-funded front group USFN to Rep. Ryun.
Jim Ryun is one of Tom Delay's closest allies, a major donor to his legal defense fund, and a supporter of the right of indictees like Delay to lead the US House of Representatives. While backing Tom Delay through thick and thin and having the taxpayers rent his car for him, it's far from clear what Ryun has been doing for Kansans, nor what to make of his bizarre shoe fetish. (Search THOMAS for legislation sponsored by Jim Ryun containing the term "footwear." He's been a busy boy.)

A few months ago, I wrote of the Delay contributions "The evidence available paints a picture that's suggestive, but not conclusive. Ryun certainly got money from a tainted pool, but whether the tainted money was specifically aimed at him is a different question."

This real estate deal takes us one step closer to an answer to that question.