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DeLay is Gone, But DeLayism Continues, Activists Say

By Joel Wendland  Posted by Joel Wendland (about the submitter)       (Page 1 of 2 pages)   2 comments
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Commenting on the sudden resignation of Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX), representatives of several public interest and advocacy groups are pledging to keep fighting to end corruption in Washington.

Rep. DeLay is under indictment in Texas for illegal use of funds for state legislative races. His ties with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff forced him to give up his post as majority leader in January.

Things got hairier for the troubled DeLay when his aide, Tony Rudy, said DeLay conspired with Abramoff and others to corrupt public officials, promising to help the broad federal investigation of bribery and lobbying fraud in Washington that has already resulted in three convictions.

At a press conference Tuesday (April 4), Roger Hickey, co-director of Campaign for America's Future, an organization that ran television ads in DeLay's district showing the congressman's ties to convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff and revealing the extent of DeLay's corruption, described the early resignation as "a watershed event."

"It is the result of ambition and arrogance of the political machine [DeLay] helped to build," Hickey noted.

Hickey pointed out that ordinary people demanding an end to corruption forced the spotlight on DeLay and his actions.

Hickey added that his group's work to flush out corrupt practices in Washington has just begun. It will be a major issue in the coming congressional elections, Hickey promised.

"Tom DeLay lived by the sword and his career is apparently now dying by the sword," remarked David Donnelly, campaign director of Public Campaign Action Fund.

Charging DeLay with excessive greed for power, Donnelly said that he was but one example of a corrosive campaign finance system. "We need to dismantle this corrupt house that Ton DeLay built over the last decade."

Along with the crimes he has been indicted for, DeLay led the Republican effort to erode the House ethics process. Because, the Republican leadership wanted to protect their top campaign fundraiser, they weakened the ethics committee until it became a national embarrassment, Donnelly stated.

DeLay's influence over this process and most of all that went on in Congress under his tenure as Majority Leader stemmed from his hard-nosed fundraising tactics. Essentially, he promised large corporate interests that he would push their agendas in congressional committees and on the floor if they gave to his campaign funds. He would then disburse the money to Republican members for their campaigns, creating a network of members more loyal to DeLay's agenda than to their own constituents.

This successful fundraising tactic extended DeLay's corrupt practices into many policy issues, form Social Security privatization to Medicaid and welfare and Medicare policy.

Melanie Sloan, director of the public interest watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, pointed out why DeLay has given up his seat. Certainly the GOP wanted him out of the way in time for this fall's elections, but the real reason DeLay gave in was that he needed to turn his more than $1.2 million campaign war chest into a legal defense fund.

House rules currently prevent a member of Congress from using campaign funds for legal defense. Now that he has resigned, DeLay can use the funds to defend himself.

And he will likely need every penny of it. Sloan says that as each of his former aides have fingered him in their own plea agreements, his conviction appears more certain.

Sloan rejected the notion that investigations of Republican dealings and DeLay's criminal acts are merely a partisan matter. "DeLay had a criminal enterprise running out of his office," Sloan states.

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--Joel Wendland is editor of Political Affairs.
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