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Tom Delay's Scandal: Ethically challenged leader shouldn't hide behind God

Published March 25, 2005 12:01 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2005, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Tom DeLay says he wants Terri Schiavo to live. And there is no reason to doubt that.

But it is clear that the House majority leader is not above using the suffering of a woman he has never met to promote his own, increasingly shaky, political career.

The Texas Republican has gone so far as to suggest that Schiavo's situation is a gift from God that he can use to defend himself against charges brought by his political enemies - enemies whom he all but calls, in an echo of a defensive Hillary Clinton some years ago, a vast left-wing conspiracy.

In remarks to a Washington meeting of the conservative Family Research Council last week, DeLay made it clear that his cause is God's cause, and that those who oppose him oppose God.

Despite the fact that he was able to steamroller through Congress a particularly ill-advised piece of legislation that subverted federalism, the separation of powers and the privacy of medical decision-making, in order to make political hay out of the Schiavo case, DeLay wants the world to see him, too, as a victim.

Until very recently, though, it would be hard to believably cast DeLay as anyone's victim. Not only is he the undisputed leader, fund-raiser and enforcer among House Republicans, he was able to get the chairman of the House Ethics Committee fired in retaliation for that panel admonishing DeLay for his strong-arm political tactics.

But the ethical smell around DeLay continues to get worse. The newest scandal is that he accepted expensive trips to England and South Korea paid for, in violation of House rules, by lobbyists. Those picking up the tab included registered foreign agents and domestic groups seeking to influence federal Indian gambling legislation.

Meanwhile, back in Texas, prosecutors have indicted three of DeLay's associates on multiple charges of money laundering and taking illegal corporate contributions. If DeLay himself is indicted, he would automatically lose his leadership post.

DeLay, all the while, insists that he has done nothing wrong and that those who accuse him of ethical shortcomings are simply using personal attacks on him as a weapon to undermine the conservative causes he supports.

The Hammer, as he is known, makes a good point about the Democrats not having a coherent agenda of their own, so they talk about him. But he gives them a lot to talk about.

If conservative Republicans really want to talk about important issues, and not about Tom DeLay, they might start looking for a different leader.