GOP should ask DeLay to quit leadership postEDITORIAL BOARD, Austin American-Statesman
Sunday, October 10, 2004
After Mississippi Sen. Trent Lott praised his colleague Strom Thurmond's long-ago segregationist run for the presidency at a Thurmond birthday celebration, the outrage was unceasing.
Although Lott was contrite - even to the point of going on Black Entertainment Television to apologize - it wasn't enough. He was forced to resign his position as Senate Majority Leader in December 2002.
Today, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, the Sugar Land Republican known as "The Hammer," has been rebuked three times in two weeks by the House ethics committee for serious rules violations. Yet DeLay remains as arrogant as ever, not apologizing but attacking his critics.
It is time for House Republicans to stand up, admit that DeLay's leadership is tainting them, their party and their institution, and demand his resignation as majority leader.
Delay was admonished on Sept. 30 for having pressured a House member to change his vote on the Medicare drug benefit bill that barely passed the House. DeLay offered to campaign for the lawmaker's son, who was running for a House seat, in return for a "yes" vote on the Medicare bill.
Last Wednesday, the ethics committee rebuked DeLay for creating the appearance of impropriety by attending a fund-raising event for his political action committee. The fund-raiser was sponsored by a Kansas company, Westar Energy, while legislation that would benefit the company was pending in a House committee. DeLay's action, the committee said, created the impression that donors got special access regarding the pending bill.
The committee also slapped DeLay for asking the Federal Aviation Administration for help locating Texas Democrats who left the state during last year's bitter mid-term redistricting fight. House rules say members cannot use government resources for political ends.
However, the committee did not address the most serious allegations brought against DeLay by Democratic U.S. Rep. Chris Bell of Houston. Bell accused DeLay of taking $190,000 in corporate contributions to his political action committee and funneling it to the Republican National Committee. The national committee then returned that same amount to GOP candidates for the Texas Legislature. It is against the law in Texas for corporations to contribute to political candidates' campaigns.
Those contributions are now under investigation by a Travis County grand jury, which last month indicted three DeLay associates connected with his political action committee. Also indicted by the grand jury were Westar and seven other companies that contributed to the Texans for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee.
The money that Bell said was laundered through DeLay's PAC was integral to DeLay's efforts to gain a Republican majority in the Legislature, which would redistrict Texas into an overwhelmingly Republican state. Two of the seven candidates receiving that money were Travis County Republicans Jack Stick and Todd Baxter, who supported the redistricting bill DeLay wanted.
In addition to these black marks against DeLay, the U.S. Senate is also holding hearings on allegations involving lobbyists who formerly worked for or advised DeLay. They are accused of charging Indian tribes millions of dollars in fees by touting their access to the majority leader.
Like many powerful congressional figures before him, DeLay has overreached. He has used his power for self-aggrandizement and ruthless partisanship. And he has scoffed at the law, House rules and simple propriety.
DeLay has abused his position and embarrassed the House. Republicans should choose another leader for their party.