For Tim Berry, a top Republican lobbyist for Time Warner, the timing couldn’t have been worse.
Berry had been offered the chief of staff slot to Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California, the incoming Republican Whip.
Then, in late November, his old boss, former GOP Majority Leader Tom DeLay, was convicted by a jury of his peers in Texas for money laundering.
Now the job offer is in limbo while McCarthy and other top Republicans weigh whether picking Berry is worth the scrutiny.
McCarthy defended Berry in an interview, while noting he hasn’t made a final decision about whether to hire him.
“He wasn’t involved in any of that,” McCarthy said.
“That” would be DeLay’s recent conviction and, more broadly, his reputation for corruption. On November 24 Delay was convicted on two counts for routing corporate funds through the Republican National Committee to local candidates in Texas, skirting a state law.
Berry worked his way up the DeLay totem pole over ten years, from 1995 to 2005, serving as chief of staff for his last three years under “The Hammer.”
“I know Tim from his work here,” said McCarthy. “Tim’s never been a problem…. He wasn’t involved in any of that. Was he involved in any of that, that you know?”
According to press reports from the time, Berry did have some involvement in the lobbying scandal that helped knock Republicans from power.
Disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff once gave Berry a golf club, and took him on a trip to the Super Bowl with a stop aboard a casino cruise ship.
But unlike other former DeLay aides, like Michael Scanlon, Berry never encountered any trouble with the law.
When Berry was leaving DeLay’s office for K St., his going away party occurred on the same day DeLay was indicted. Roll Call reported at the time that, as the indictment news hadn’t hit yet, “the room was all smiles.”
“Berry was handed a mock Roll Call front page announcing the ‘news’ of his departure,” the story said, “The lead headline blared: ‘Berry Leaves: Bipartisanship May Resume.’”
Besides DeLay’s corruption, conservatives might wince at learning Berry presided as DeLay’s chief of staff at the time the GOP held the Medicare Prescription Drug vote open for hours in the middle of the night to twist several Republican arms into yes votes.
On the other hand, there’s little doubt he would bring legislative acumen to the table.
Berry, who does not seek publicity, is respected on both sides of the aisle for his effectiveness as an aide.
For all of DeLay’s critics, nobody ever called him bad at counting votes.
McCarthy noted no final decision had been made.
“I don’t get my budget until January. I start from scratch, and I’ve got a whole office to hire. I have a lot of people applying for a lot of different offices. I have a lot of work to do,” McCarthy said.
Berry did not reply to a request for comment.
Chris Moody contributed to this report.