Tom DeLay couldn't leave the U.S. House of Representatives fast enough, as far as I'm concerned. As a GOP House leader, he betrayed the trust of voters and conservatives.
DeLay told Time Magazine that he had done nothing wrong and was proud of his accomplishments. He even said he "was very proud of the fact that I play golf." Talk about your low threshold for HIGH self-esteem.
DeLay also told Time that he had done nothing unethical in Congress. Yes, he found it "incredibly disappointing" that two people formerly on his staff broke the law. Former DeLay Deputy Chief of Staff Tony Rudy pleaded guilty last week to conducting a criminal enterprise out of "The Hammer's" office. Former DeLay spokesman Michael Scanlon pleaded guilty to defrauding clients with seedy lobbyist Jack Abramoff (who also has pleaded guilty to political sins). As DeLay sees it, he has hired "hundreds of people," and it's no reflection on him if there were two bad apples.
Well, maybe, but DeLay had more than two bad apples working for him. According to Rudy's plea-bargain agreement, Rudy lobbied DeLay staffers in violation of a federal law that prohibits former aides from lobbying colleagues for the first year they're off the congressional payroll. Thus, Team DeLay had to know they were breaking the law by talking to Rudy. The law obviously didn't mean much to them.
Rudy's plea bargain aptly states that his crime was "a scheme and artifice to defraud and deprive" American citizens of their right "to the honest services" of House staffers, as Rudy corruptly accepted cash and gifts as a staffer, then corrupted other officials as a lobbyist. DeLay says he has broken no laws, and I'll assume that is true. Nonetheless, DeLay's conduct and demeanor have deprived Americans of the "honest services" that citizens have every right to expect from a House leader.
"DeLay was very astute at pushing legislation that was advantageous to people who would give him money," Public Citizen's Joan Claybrook observed during a conference call Tuesday.
In his quest for lobbyist dollars, DeLay — now known as "Representative 2" in the Rudy plea agreement — and his minions worked to undermine an anti-gambling bill, to the benefit of gambling interests. DeLay also failed to stop so-called conservative activists Lou Sheldon and Ralph Reed, who were greased by Abramoff, from going after social conservatives who, unlike Reed and Sheldon, had stuck to their principles.
DeLay has said he didn't know Team Abramoff had helped to bankroll a posh trip to Scotland. But the very fact that DeLay accepted the first-class travel shows how power corrupted him. When leaders of either party think their position entitles them to lavish living, they've lost touch with their constituents.
In 2004, the House Ethics Committee chastised DeLay three times for unethical behavior, including offering a political favor to a lawmaker in exchange for his support on a prescription-drug bill and getting too chummy with an energy company as the House was looking at an energy bill. DeLay was unbowed. The GOP leadership later responded by neutering the committee.
This week, DeLay told conservative publication Human Events that he is considering filing an ethics complaint against Rep. Cynthia McKinney, D-Ga., for striking a Capitol Police officer. Now, McKinney is a race-baiting loudmouth who deserves a good scolding from the House ethics committee. Still, it is precious that, when he is on the way out and after years of scoffing at those who believe members of Congress should behave with a respect for the institution, DeLay has discovered the ethics committee. I believe the term is "born-again."