Embattled DeLay exits Congress, defends selfVictoria Rossi
Published: Friday, June 9, 2006
Updated: Friday, January 9, 2009
Following a string of ethics concerns raised during his term as house majority leader, Tom DeLay will step down after more than 20 years in the U.S. Congress. In his farewell speech to Congress Thursday night, DeLay defended his hardball conservative tactics, calling a political system without partisanship a "tyranny." At least two Democratic members of Congress rose and left while he was talking.
"For all its faults, it is partisanship - based on core principles - that clarifies our debates, that prevents one party from straying too far from the mainstream and that constantly refreshes our politics with new ideas and new leaders," DeLay said.
DeLay will be remembered by some for his ability to unify the Republican course of action and his efficient promotion of the party's agenda. DeLay, a Sugarland representative, was "the guy who could deliver the votes," said Bruce Buchanan, government professor. To others, his career is marred by corruption.
"He is going to be looked at as many politicians throughout history are - as someone who abused his power," said Craig McDonald, director of Texans for Public Justice, the first group to file complaints leading to DeLay's eventual indictment for money laundering.
Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle charged DeLay with transferring $91,000 in corporate funds from the Republican National Committee to assist in Texas campaigns. Corporate donations are almost entirely prohibited in Texas elections.
It was this indictment that forced DeLay to temporarily leave his post as house majority leader in January, keeping with party rules. Mounting criticism about his ties with Jack Abramoff - who allegedly funded DeLay's golf trips to Scotland - discouraged his attempts to return to the position. DeLay's decision to resign from Congress came three days after his former deputy chief of staff, Tony Rudy, pleaded guilty to corruption charges.
The U.S. House ethics committee has censured DeLay four times in the last five years. He has said that many of the complaints against him were spurred by a Democratic political vendetta.
"He's right in thinking that there would be those who'd use any political ammunition he gave them, but he helps them by creating a basis for it," Buchanan said.
In an April speech announcing his resignation to Congress, DeLay said he was concerned about losing a close race with former U.S. Rep. Nick Lampson, his Democratic opponent in the upcoming midterm elections. He has already won the Republican seat in the primary elections. A U.S. Congressman must either move to a different state, receive a felony conviction or die in order to leave his seat midterm; DeLay said he will be moving to Virginia.
DeLay initially ran for state representative in the Sugarland area because of his frustrations with the Environmental Protection Agency when he was working as an exterminator. He was elected to the U.S. House in 1984, where he served as House Majority Whip for eight years until he became majority Leader in 2002.
He fathered the "pay for play" approach in Congress - a system that all but required interest groups seeking to influence Republican policy to donate to the party, Buchanan said. In Texas, he is associated with the "unprecedented" 2003 mid-census redistricting that helped win Republicans a majority of seats in the following state elections.
"The people inside the Republican Party and the lobbying world regard him very highly. He's a very talented individual," Buchanan added. "He's going to succeed one way or another."
Additional reporting by The Associated Press.