Is Former Rep. Delahunt Breaking the Law?

Monday, July 11, 2011
Last week, the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, D.C., distributed an interview (see below) with former U.S. Rep. Bill Delahunt (D-MA), promoting stronger U.S. relations with the regime of Hugo Chavez.

Delahunt was recently in Venezuela, where he met with government officials, urged Member of the U.S. Congress to do the same and announced his upcoming activities with a new "non-political group," the U.S.-Venezuela Group of Friends.

Thus, is Delahunt violating the post-employment legal restrictions for former Members of the U.S. Congress?

According to the Ethics Reform Act, former U.S. Rep. Delahunt cannot:

"Knowingly aid or advise a foreign government or foreign political party with the intent to influence the decision of any federal official (including any Member of Congress) in carrying out his or her official duties."

Moreover, the Logan Act prohibits:

"Directly or indirectly commencing or carrying on an correspondence or intercourse with any foreign government, or any officer or agent thereof, with the intent to influence the measure or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof or relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States."

Here's the communique from the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington D.C.:

Delahunt to U.S. Congress: "Come to Venezuela, I Think You'll Be Surprised"

Former U.S. Congressman William Delahunt said that relations between the U.S. and Venezuela will improve because there is the will and a mutual interest for that to occur.

In an interview with the Venezuelan newspaper Ultimas Noticias, Delahunt said, "That will exists between Caracas and Washington because this relationship is sincerely very important for both countries and I think it will happen if we work on it."

The former Democratic congressman thinks that to come to an understanding, it is necessary "to avoid strong rhetoric and put aside the myths and erred perceptions that we have."

"I would say to my former colleagues (in the U.S. Congress) that they should come to Venezuela, to talk, with an open mind. I think you'll be surprised," he added.

Delahunt thinks that it is important that both governments work to return ambassadors to each others capitals.

The former Massachusetts representative is optimistic that relations between the U.S. and Venezuela will improve in the future, just as they have between Caracas and Bogota.

Delahunt indicated that during his visit to Venezuela, which will last until Monday, he will meet with members of the National Assembly, both from the opposition and pro-government parties, "to promote that the inter-parliamentary Boston group be revived."

The Boston group was created in 2002 to strengthen relations between Venezuela's National Assembly and the U.S. Congress. According to Delahunt, "I thought it was very useful." He proposed that the group to use the opportunity to add former legislators and prominent citizens from both countries.

While the initiative comes to life, Delahunt is preparing a plan of activities over the next few months to develop the U.S.-Venezuela Groups of Friends, a non-political group made up of individuals from various sectors of both countries to promote better understanding in the bilateral relationship.