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Thomas Dale DeLay
Republican, Texas (1985-2006)
Update, Aug. 25, 2008: A Texas court of appeals declined to throw out money-laundering indictments against two of DeLay's political operatives. The operatives claimed the law was too confusing. Judge Alan Waldrop, however, said: "The challenged statutes give constitutionally adequate notice of the conduct prohibited and sufficiently determinate guidelines for law enforcement."
The Honorable Tom DeLay said goodbye to Congress on Thursday, June 8, 2006. He was tough, unrepentant to the bitter end: "Given the chance to do it all again, there's only one thing I'd change,' DeLay said. "I'd fight even harder."
The powerful former majority leader has had his troubles lately. Starting with several brush ups with the Ethics Committee: in 1997, 1999, and twice in 2004, DeLay was hauled before the Ethics Committee and given letters of warning.
The 1997 Ethics complaint was dismissed. The committee said there was "no basis" for an investigation into charges that DeLay did political favors for his lobbyist brother, Randy, or put the squeeze on special interests for campaign contributions. But the committee warned DeLay about soliciting political contributions on federal grounds, noting that he had not denied a newspaper story from 1995 recounting how he had pressured a lobbyist in a meeting in his Capitol office to get a larger contribution for the Republican Party.
DeLay on the 1997 complaint: "As I have maintained from the start, these complaints were politically motivated and not true."
Gary Ruskin of the Congressional Accountability Project: the Ethics committee decision was a "sweetheart whitewash" of "serious ethics complaints that deserve a serious investigation."
The 2004 Ethics Complaints: The House Ethics Committee deliberated twice on De Lay. First, it admonished DeLay for improperly linked personal interest of Member with effort to achieve a legislative goal. (Investigation into voting on Medicare Prescription Drug Act of 2003). Check out the Committee Report. The charge was an alleged solicitation and receipt of campaign contributions in return for legislative assistance, use of corporate political contributions in violate of state law, and improper use of official resources for political purposes.
Ethics chair the Honorable Joel Hefley (Republican-Colorado) and vice chair Alan B. Mollohan (Democrat-West Virginia) wrote that DeLay's conduct was "beyond the bounds of acceptable behavior." They added: "In view of the number of instances to date in which the Committee has found it necessary to comment on conduct in which you have engaged, it is clearly necessary for you to temper your future actions. . . "
In the second complaint, lame duck congressman, the Honorable Chris Bell filed a complaint in June 2004, asking the Ethics Committee to probe DeLay's involvement in questionable campaign contributions allegedly solicited and accepted by his political action committee, Texans for a Republican Majority. Corporate contributions to TRM are also the object of a Travis County investigation, under the direction of prosecutor Ronnie Earle (see below). The House Ethics Committee eventually admonished DeLay for two transgressions against Bell. But they also slapped Bell with a printed warning for including innuendo and exaggeration in his filing. The warning also said that Bell was playing politics. Check out the statement from the Ethics Committee and the letter sent to Representative Bell. Check out the Ethics Committee statement about the Bell complaint filed against DeLay.
Conservative columnist David Brooks said this in late 2004: "Tom Delay is a scandal waiting to happen. He casts himself as the enemy of Washington, but he's really a conventional (if effective) pol who wants to use dollars to entrench power. He represents the greatest danger the Republicans face, bossism. He wants to be the G.O.P.'s Boss Tweed." [For other pearls of wisdom, check the Quote Board].
In Sept. 2005, DeLay was indicted in Travis County, Texas, accused of conspiring with two previously indicted aides to violate a century-old Texas ban on the use of corporate money by state political candidates, by funneling thousands of dollars in corporate contributions through the Republican National Committee. DeLay was forced forfeit the Majority Leader position, and step aside. His colleague, the Honorable Roy Blunt of Missouri took his place.
The indictment charged DeLay of conspiring to money launder. Texas law says that corporations cannot give money to individual candidates. The indictment says that $190,000 in corporate money raised by Texans for a Republican Majority was laundered through the Republican National Committee and then given back to individual candidates. Seven candidates were involved.
DeLay response: well, blame it on the Liberals: the prosecution is part of a larger pattern of liberals using the criminal justice system against conservatives. "What we are fighting is so much larger than a single court case or a single district attorney in Travis County," Delay said, in a letter sent to constituents. "We are witnessing the criminalization of conservative politics." (Click here for other examples of "Lyin' Through Their Teeth").
DeLay" "I have done nothing wrong. I have violated no law, no regulation, no rule of the House."
Update: Aug. 4, 2006-a federal appeals court ruled
that the Texas GOP could not replace DeLay on the November
ballot. DeLay moved his residence to Virginia (while his wife lives in their Sugarland, Texas, home. Then on Aug. 7,
the Supreme Court agreed: DeLay stays on the ballot.
Despite the Court ruling, DeLay joins the short,
but potentially, lengthy list of Congressional Roadkill.
Stay tuned . . . .
(Oh, did we forget to mention Jack Abramoff . . . )
Here's what DeLay is now saying to folks back home about Abramoff: in a nine-page letter to supporters, he says this" "A final word on Jack Abramoff: the notion that he was a close friend who wielded influence over me is absolutely untrue. . . The reality is, Jack Abramoff and I were not close personal friends. I met with him only occasionally, in fact less frequently than numerous others who brought issues before Congress--never did he receive preferential treatment. To be certain, I knew nothing about the crimes for which he has pled guilty." Can we spell B-A-C-K-P-E-D-D-L-I-N-G. Click here to see other Quotes from BadBoys.
Update (March 31, 2006): Former DeLay Aide Pleads Guilty. Tony Rudy, former top assistant to DeLay, plead guilty to one of conspiracy and agreed to cooperate in the expanding Abramoff investigation. Rudy was accused of blocking legislation in exchange for money and later to illegally influence other public officials. While working as DeLay's top aide, Rudy took payments from Abramoff in 2000, and helped stop an Internet gambling bill opposed by Abramoff clients.
Tom DeLay praising Rudy on his departure from his staff: "One of the things that I have always admired about Tony is his real commitment to the conservative agenda. He is not in Washington, D.C., for power or personal gain. He is here because he believes in what he is doing and because of his desire to make America a better place."
Update (June 7, 2006): Former DeLay chief of staff set up retirement account for DeLay's wife. In the late 1990s, Ed Buckham set up a retirement account for Christine DeLay, wife of Tom DeLay. Buckham contributed thousands of dollars to the retirement fund while paying her a salary to work for him from her home. The FBI is interested in this sweetheart deal. (Check out a similar presumably legal, but sweet deal for the wife of Rep. John Doolittle, also arranged by Buckham). Buckham is under scrutiny because his lobbying firm received hundreds of thousands of dollars from--guess who?--Jack Abramoff. The Buckham lobbying firm is now defunct. The Washington Post figured that counting up all sources, the DeLay family benefited by at least $490,000 from entities that were at least partly owned by Buckham, his former chief of staff. DeLay, of course, denies any wrongdoing.
Melanie Sloan, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, had the best perspective on lawmakers and payment to lawmakers' wives: "the real scandal in Washington is what is legal."
Update: May 9, 2007: DeLay, fed up with delays, is calling on the FBI to either drop its investigation of his wife and former political associates or bring charges quickly. "They're not going after me, they're going after other people and they're questioning the other people about whether they know anything I may have done . . . It's a Justice Department that is running amok. Fish or cut bait. Do something," said an exasperated DeLay.
Sources: R. G. Ratcliffe, "DeLay Decries 'Politics of Personal Destruction: Letter Alleges a Liberal Assault on Conservatives," Houston Chronicle, October 28, 2005, B3; David Brooks, "Scandal Waiting to Happen," New York Times, Nov. 20, 2004, A19; "Shooting the Messenger," The Houston Chronicle, Nov. 22, 2004, B8; Philip Shenon and Carl Huse, "DeLay is Indicted in Texas Case and Forfeits GOP Post," New York Times, Sept. 29, 2005, A1; "Rewriting Ethics History," Washington Post, Nov. 21, 2004, B6; John Breshnahan, "DeLay Makes Plea to Voters," Roll Call, February 8, 2006, 1.; "Former DeLay Aide Pleads Guilty," Washington Post, Mar. 31, 2006. Congressional Record, Dec. 15, 2000. R. Jeffrey Smith, "Retirement Account of DeLay's Wife Traced," Washington Post, June 7, 2006, A4. Michael Grunwald, "DeLay Pulls No Punches in Final Speech to House," Washington Post, June 9, 2006, A3. Sylvia Moreno, "Appeals Panel Keeps DeLay on Ballot," Washington Post, August 4, 2006, A6; Alexander Bolton, "DeLay: FBI 'Running Amok," The Hill,May 9, 2007, 1. "DeLay Funraisers' Indictments Stand," Washington Post, August 25, 2008, A6.