The Cut and Run Republican

In an interview with Time magazine's Mike Allen yesterday, Tom DeLay, "arguably the most powerful Republican in Congress," announced that he would resign from the House of Representatives and not run for reelection. The wicked witch may be dead, but his comet-tail of Republican corruption is alive and well.

When it comes to Tom DeLay, even resigning isn't what it appears to be. By declaring his residency to be Virginia, instead of just dropping out of the race, DeLay is playing a little statutory footsie in the hope of clearing the way for state Republican officials to name another Republican candidate to face Democrat Nick Lampson. Lampson, a former House member, lost his seat in a redistricting engineered by, you guessed it, Tom DeLay.

According to the Time interview, the former majority leader was taking one for the team:


"And although I felt, I feel that I could have won the race, I just felt like I didn't want to risk the seat and that I can do more on the outside of the House than I can on the inside right now. I want to continue to fight for the conservative cause. I want to continue to work for a Republican majority."
The Republican's abrupt and cowardly resignation is more redolent of a man running from the law than of a team player taking his lumps. As Melissa McEwan put it, quoting from the Washington Post, "DeLay failed to mention that his decision may have less to do with a selfless interest in fighting 'for the conservative cause,' and more to do with, uh, this:
The decision came just three days after his former deputy chief of staff, Tony C. Rudy, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and corruption charges, telling federal prosecutors of a criminal enterprise being run out of DeLay's leadership offices."
Rudy's demise is only the latest of DeLay's top aides and associates facing legal issues -- many of whom are also powerful players in the GOP infrastructure.

From a recent Ari Berman article in The Nation following DeLay's indictment for money laundering:
Three individuals, eight corporations and two political action committees connected to DeLay have been indicted as a result of the probe. In addition, the government's top procurement official, David Safavian, was arrested in September for obstructing a criminal investigation into uber-lobbyist Jack Abramoff, a close DeLay ally. Abramoff himself is under criminal investigation for defrauding Indian tribes and was indicted for wire fraud in Florida in a separate case.
One of DeLay's proudest accomplishments, the K-Street Project, is essentially a campaign to, as John Nichols put it "formalize links between campaign giving, lobbying and legislating." Nicholas Confessore provides a more detailed explanation of his tactics:
In 1995, DeLay famously compiled a list of the 400 largest PACs, along with the amounts and percentages of money they had recently given to each party. Lobbyists were invited into DeLay's office and shown their place in "friendly" or "unfriendly" columns. ("If you want to play in our revolution," DeLay told the Washington Post, "you have to live by our rules.") Another was to oust Democrats from trade associations, what DeLay and Norquist dubbed "the K Street Strategy."
Here's another exchange from the Time interview that positively wilts after the preceding passage:
TIME: Have you ever done anything unethical?
DeLay: No.
TIME: Since you left Baylor University, say, have you done anything immoral?
DeLay: No. Oh! (laughs) Are you kidding? Everybody does some things -- we're all sinners.
Indeed.

DeLay will undoubtedly maintain that his four letters of admonition, his criminal indictments, the numerous anecdotes of threats and coercion, are merely partisan contrivances, as he has done in the past.

But the point here isn't simply that a man who consciously took it upon himself to undermine the American system of Democracy is facing charges for his strong-arming opponents and ethics breaches of breathtaking proportions. The point is that nearly every powerful player in the conservative movement and the Republican Party "fed from his trough."

Josh Marshall writes:
It's DeLay's House. DeLay's Republican D.C. machine. They built and fortified it with the money he brought in. The great majority of them voted for the "DeLay Rule," custom-tailored for Majority Leader DeLay to avoid stepping down even after indictment. The current Republican membership of the House ethics committee was hand-picked to provide protection for DeLay, and the old membership was purged. He's their guy. Their rule rests on his machine. They can run, but they can't hide.
His political action committee had donated money to 241 out of 246 Republicans in the House, he installed a patsy as Speaker of the House, "but," writes The Nation's John Nichols, "DeLay's crudest dismantling of democracy will be little mentioned today, just as it was barely noted at the time that he brought the hammer down."

DeLay's hooks, it turns out, weren't only in the pay-to-play system of legislating, they were an integral part of Bush's 2000 election "victory." After responding to the Florida Supreme Court's decision to allow a recount that, "I hope this misguided ruling will be vigorously challenged," DeLay did just that. He sent operatives to Florida to create a phony riot that cowed the canvassing board into stopping that recount, effectively sealing the victory for Bush.

Last December in a move that the Washington Post described as "highly unusual," the president announced that he believes: "DeLay is not guilty [of money laundering]." We'll let the courts hash that out and anxiously await Bush's follow-up should his prognostication prove incorrect.

And speaking of prognostications, who better to explain the workings of this chapter of contemporary conservative D.C. politics than the New York Times' David Brooks: "The real problem wasn't DeLay, it was DeLayism, the whole culture that merged K Street with the Hill and held that raising money is the most important way to contribute to the team." DeLay's resignation and cowardly flight is a major victory for all Americans, but DeLayism is alive and well.

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