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April 29, 2005

No More DeLay

Adam Barelski

      All those who have been following the saga of Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) would never—not even for an instant—have thought that the end could be near. Mr. DeLay is far too stubborn and power-hungry to do anything other than drag his situation out as long as possible, even at the expense of his own party. Perhaps, however, the end is closer than we thought.

      Recently, as polls show declining support back home, the House Majority Leader sent out a mass letter to his supportive constituents in order to clear his name. This move came after an open letter expressing "grave concern" over the ethical direction of the House under Mr. DeLay's leadership, written by ten former Republican Congressmen from nine different states, was addressed to Dennis Hastert, Speaker of the US House of Representatives. Following such pressure, it is not unclear why Mr. DeLay deemed it necessary to pander to his core of support; on account of his questionable character, his reputation is being shaken in households across the country.

      Unfortunately for Mr. DeLay, the truth is coming out, and rhetoric—like that within the letter written to his constituents—will not be able to save him. It was for this reason that the House Majority Leader had the rules of the House Ethics Committee changed and some of its members purged. The Ethics Committee is now only able to investigate a charge of ethical violation after a bipartisan majority vote. While this process might be perfectly fine if the members of the Committee were perfectly non-partisan in their duties, I cannot help but doubt that this will be the case. Perhaps my viewpoint is influenced by the fact that the Chairman of the Ethics Committee—Joel Hefley (R-CO), who had led the Committee to thrice admonish Mr. DeLay in the past year—has since been removed (along with two other Committee members, who claimed that their dismissal "was a direct result of [their] work in the last session"). These men were replaced by Republican Representatives who were much more loyal to Mr. DeLay, two of whom—Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX) and Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK)—actually contributed to the House Majority Leader's legal defense fund, prior to winning their Committee seats.

      Now, to be fair, it is true that the Hammer (as he is known) has not been convicted of anything yet. He has been accused of numerous violations of House ethics rules and does appear to be embroiled in his fair share of scandals though. Currently, there is an investigation into the illegal funneling of corporate funds into Mr. DeLay's political action committee in Texas. He has been accused of using a tax-exempt charity—Celebrations for Children, Inc.—to collect soft money from anonymous donors and then rewarding the donors with tickets to various events (including the Republican National Convention in NYC). He was allegedly given $100,000 by a private prison company while the debate about privatizing Texas's prison system was underway. He has been implicated in a scandal—in a statement that was later retracted—by Jack Abramoff, a lobbyist with ties to Mr. DeLay, who is under investigation by the Justice Department, the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, the IRS, the Department of the Interior, and the FBI over controversial methods of raising money from Indian tribes. There have been reports of two trips taken by Mr. DeLay that were paid for by foreign agents (in a likely breach of House rules) and one paid for by Mr. Abramoff. And, to top it all off, inquiries have been made into the lavish amounts paid by the Hammer to his wife and daughter.

      As I said before, though, none of this is condemning, per se. According to Mr. DeLay, he is the victim of unfounded liberal attacks. The "liberal media" that has criticized him, however, must also include the Wall Street Journal, David Brooks, Newt Gingrich, Bob Dole, Rep. Christopher Shays (R-CT), Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO), Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), and at least ten (formerly?) conservative ex-Congressmen. The Austin District Attorney, Ronnie Earle—a "partisan Democrat"—who is investigating charges in Texas, must be quite the self-hater: in his 27 year career, he has prosecuted four times as many Democrats as he has Republicans.

      What does all this amount to? Once Mr. DeLay's name garnered negative recognition for threatening the judges involved in the Terri Schiavo case, it has been all downhill for him. People began to find out more and more about the House Majority Leader, and more skeletons have been discovered. The going has been so tough that he even apologized for his statements about the judges—but it was too late for that to remedy everything. Yet, for some reason, very few Republicans have broken ranks with the Hammer; few have had the audacity (and common sense) to oppose their fearless leader. When Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS) faltered, it took a mere 15 days for his support to flounder enough for him to resign; Sen. Bill Frist (R-TN) took over the leadership role and has been shining ever since. Yet, as Mr. DeLay begins to crash and burn, Republicans continue to huddle around and defend him to an extent that makes Robert Novak look moderate. With his record, they shouldn't allow him to continue his path; it will be very destructive to the Republican Party. Actually, I take that back: I hope they continue to support him—it will be very destructive to the Republican Party.

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