Ex-DeLay aide gets 5 months in halfway house

MARK SHERMAN Associated Press Published:

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A former aide to onetime congressional power broker Tom DeLay was sentenced Friday to five months in a halfway house in the final act of the probe of the Jack Abramoff influence-peddling scandal.

Tony Rudy, an ex-deputy chief of staff to DeLay, pleaded guilty six years ago to conspiring with Abramoff, a Republican super-lobbyist, and others to accept a stream of gifts when Rudy was a congressional staffer and to offering gifts to public officials when Rudy became a lobbyist -- all in exchange for legislative favors. His cooperation with prosecutors has led to 18 convictions.

U.S. District Judge Ellen Huvelle said Rudy deserved some time in confinement for "very serious offenses," rejecting a plea from Rudy's lawyer to avoid time away from his family.

Rudy and Abramoff were among 21 people who pleaded guilty or were convicted at trial in an investigation of influence peddling in the halls of Congress that, in the end, netted only one lawmaker, Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio.

DeLay, a Texas Republican who rose to House Majority Leader, the No. 2 post in that body, was among other lawmakers who were investigated but never charged. DeLay was convicted on state charges unrelated to the Abramoff investigation.

Rudy, 45, has been living in California in recent years, where he runs a business that does marketing, among other things, he said in court Friday. He also has spent a lot of time coaching children's sports teams and doing other volunteer work, he said.

As a congressional aide, Rudy helped secure appropriations for Abramoff clients and developed a strategy to defeat legislation that would have restricted Internet gambling.

The government says that while Rudy worked for DeLay in the late 1990s, Abramoff's lobbying team paid $50,000 to Rudy's wife for what prosecutors described as a "low-show job." Prosecutors allege she was hired only because she was Rudy's wife and that Rudy continued to accept payments from Abramoff's associates even though he knew she had stopped working.

Huvelle said Friday that she was particularly struck by the arrangement with Rudy's wife. "It is fairly brash to funnel $50,000 to your own pocket basically, as a public servant," Huvelle said.

In 2000, Rudy left the government, joined Team Abramoff and lobbied Congress in violation of a one-year federal ban imposed on former congressional staffers.

As a lobbyist, Rudy helped organize several all-expense-paid trips. An outing to the 2001 Super Bowl in Tampa, Fla., for some House and Senate staff members included a gambling cruise on Abramoff's SunCruz casinos. Rudy helped organize a lavish 2002 trip to Scotland for congressman Ney and David Safavian. Ney served a year in prison and six months in a halfway house for granting political favors to Abramoff and his lobbying associates in exchange for golf trips, other gifts and campaign donations. Safavian, serving a year in prison for lying to investigators about his relationship with Abramoff, was the General Services Administration's chief of staff and later worked in the White House as the top procurement official in the George W. Bush administration

While working for DeLay, Rudy was the conduit for tickets to sporting events for numerous congressional staffers to advance Rudy's political influence and DeLay's political standing. At the time, DeLay held the No. 3 leadership post for Republicans in the House.

In the late 1990s, Rudy's many gifts from Abramoff's lobbying team including use of a private jet to play golf at Pebble Beach in California. Rudy failed to disclose any of the gifts that he received from Abramoff -- including trips, golf and frequent meals.

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Associated Press writer Pete Yost contributed to this report.