Tom DeLay

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Thomas Dale DeLay (born April 8, 1947) is is the former majority leader of the U.S. House of Representatives. On August 8, 2006, DeLay announcerd that he would not run for re-election to the seat, thus forcing his fellow Republicans to organize a write-in campaign in an effort to hold on to the once safe Republican seat. DeLay is a Republican from Texas and is well-known for his far-right stances on both foreign and domestic policy issues.

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Biography and early political career

Born in Laredo, Texas, DeLay spent part of his childhood in Venezuela because of his father's work in the oil and gas industry. He graduated from the University of Houston in 1970 and went into the pest control business. DeLay ran offices and mixed chemicals at several marginally profitable pest extermination businesses though it is purported that he did not actually go onto people's homes to kill rats and roaches himself. Someone else had to do the retail dirty work.

DeLay was elected to the Texas State House in 1978 and then was elected to the US House of Representatives in 1984, representing the Texas 22nd Congressional District of Sugar Land. He became a "born-again Christian" in 1985. Before he became a born-again Christian, DeLay had the nickname "Hot Tub Tommy" and was known for drinking and partying, as well as a fierce passion for deregulation.

DeLay has two brothers and one sister—he is estranged from one brother and his sister, and has an on-again, off-again relationship with his other brother. DeLay is also estranged from his mother, whom he did not invite to his daughter's wedding. DeLay's wife is named Christine and they have one married daughter, Danielle. DeLay has been a foster parent to several troubled teenagers.

Congressional career

As a member of the Republican minority, DeLay made a name for himself in the 1980's by attacking the National Endowment for the Arts and the Environmental Protection Agency. DeLay had a knack for counting votes, and was made a deputy whip by then-Minority Whip Dick Cheney in 1988.

When the Republican Party gained control of the House of Representatives in 1994, DeLay was elected Majority Whip against the wishes of Speaker-elect Newt Gingrich. After serving as Whip for eight years, in DeLay was elected Majority Leader upon the retirement of fellow Texan Dick Armey from the House. Contrary to popular assumption, DeLay was not personally friends with Armey or Gingrich; he considered them intellectual posers who were not committed to Christian values. In 1997 DeLay even tried to topple Gingrich in a parliamentary coup. Nevertheless, at the heyday of the 104th Congress, DeLay described the Republican leadership this way: Gingrich was the visionary, Armey the policy wonk, and DeLay himself was the guy that got everything done.

In Congress, DeLay earned the nickname "The Hammer," for his enforcement of party discipline in close votes and his reputation for wreaking political vengeance on opponents. In the 104th Congress, which met from 1995 to 1997, DeLay successfully whipped 300 out of 303 bills. DeLay likes his nickname, pointing out that the hammer is one of a carpenter's most valuable tools.

DeLay has accomplished this unprecedented centralization of power in a number of ways. His most significant power is his ability to raise money. Two-thirds of the way through the 2004 election cycle, DeLay raised $2.28 million compared to Dennis Hastert's $1.68 million. DeLay also threatens to "primary" Republican moderates who resist his votes, and uses promises of future committee chairmanships. He can also be personable and generous, sponsoring weekly lunches for the Republican caucus.

DeLay also requires lobbyists to whip bills, something that had never been done before. Said one lobbyist in an interview, "I've had members pull me aside and ask me to talk to another member of Congress about a bill or amendment, but I've never been asked to work on a bill - at least like they are asking us to whip bills now." (The Hammer, 93)

In order to allow Northeastern Republicans to appear moderate to their constituents, DeLay allows these "moderates" to take turns voting against controversial bills - a technique called "catch and release." If a Congressman says a bill is unpopular in his district, DeLay will only make him vote for it if his vote is necessary for passage - if his vote is not needed, he or she will be allowed to vote against the party without reprisal. You can see "catch and release" at work every time a bill passes by one vote. In the 108th Congress, a preliminary Medicare vote passed 216-215, a vote on Head Start passed 217-216, a vote on vouchers for DC passed 209-208. "Fast track," aka "trade promotion authority," passed by one vote as well.

The US Congress has never seen the kind of parliamentary discipline that Tom DeLay has been able to impose. Barney Frank, a liberal Democrat from Massachusetts, commented that the House Republicans "have the same kind of discipline as the British Conservative or Labor Party, that's why anybody who votes for a Republican in November is voting for Tom DeLay." At the conclusion of "the Hammer," Jan Reid and Lou Dubose remark of Frank's insight, "it was a partisan observation but nonetheless valid and insightful. Tom DeLay will someday be elected Speaker. When he does, he will in effect be the first Prime Minister of the United States."

Some have come to call the Republican Congress the "legislative arm of the White House".

On economic and environmental policy, DeLay is rated a 95 by the anti-tax Americans for Tax Reform, and 95 to 100 by the United States Chamber of Commerce, a business lobby. However he earned ratings of 0 from the Sierra Club and League of Conservation Voters. He has been a fervent critic of the EPA, which he has called the "Gestapo of government." DeLay has also sided with business owners over labor unions.

DeLay blames Senate Democrats and what he dubbed "BANANA (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything) environmentalists" for blocking legislative solutions to problems such as the 2003 North America blackout. [1]

His Christian conservative viewpoint led him to vote 100% in line with the views of the National Right to Life Committee and 0% with the National Abortion Reproductive Rights Action League.

In foreign policy, DeLay has been a strong Christian Zionist supporter of the State of Israel, saying, "The Republican leadership, especially that leadership in the House, has made pro-Israel policy a fundamental component of our foreign policy agenda and it drives the Democrat leadership crazy--because they just can't figure out why we do it!" [2]

On a 2003 trip to Israel, DeLay toured the nation and addressed members of the Knesset. His opposition to land concessions is so strong that the far-right National Union Party deputy Aryeh Eldad revealed "As I shook his hand, I told Tom DeLay that I thought I was the farthest to the right in the Knesset." Former Mossad chief Danny Yatom said "The Likud is nothing compared to this guy." (The Hammer, 236)

DeLay is widely considered to be among the more stridently partisan members of Congress. For example, in discussing the candidates for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination, DeLay referred to their "hateful, moronic comments" and added that they had "nothing to offer the public debate but rage, resentment and quackery." [3]

Controversy

Threatening Judges

Recently, DeLay has started threatening judges, and the trend is catching on like wildfire.

Misconduct in Texas fundraising

After the 1990 census, the Texas Democrats drew what even some Republicans would argue was the most effective partisan gerrymander in the country. After the 2000 census, Texas Republicans wanted to draw congressional district lines that were more favorable to them, or to gerrymander the Democrats into a small minority, but they were unable to break the Democrats' majority in the Texas legislature. The district lines for the 2000s were thus drawn by a court.

DeLay saw Texas as a great opportunity for the Republicans to pick up as many as seven Congressional seats if they could redraw Congressional district lines in their favor. The only problem the Texas GOP had was Democratic control of the legislature. Republicans were able to gain a majority in the state legislature after a measure for the new state house and senate districts failed. When this happened, a clause of the state constitution was invoked allowing the Legislative Redistricting Board, made up of statewide elected officials (the Lt. Governor, Comptroller, Speaker of the House, Attorney-General, and Land Commissioner) to draw up districts. As only one of these (Speaker Pete Laney) was a Democrat, the result predictably drew districts in which the Republicans had a strong majority in both the House and Senate. To break the Democratic hold on the state legislature and take advantage of the newly drawn districts, DeLay decided to raise large amounts of money and outspend the Democrats in the 2002 elections. In the process of raising that money, corporate money made its way into DeLay's PAC, Americans for a Republican Majority. As part of Texas' progressive legacy, corporate donations are illegal in Texas.

Despite the illegality of the fundraising, which at the time did not come to light, the Republicans were able to beat the Democrats in Texas in 2002. Thus, the Republicans opened up an unprecedented mid-decade district redraw, or gerrymander. In 2003, Texas Democrats from the State House made national headlines when they traveled across the state border to Oklahoma en masse to deny a quorum for voting on the plan. They effectively broke the bill for the time being. When it was brought up again in a special session, the bill was passed by the House, but most of the Senate Democrats went to New Mexico, and killed one special session that way by denying a quorum again, promising to return if Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst (the Senate President) would promise them that the two-thirds tradition (not allowing a bill to be debated without two-thirds of the members of the Senate agree). Gov. Rick Perry called them back a second time, and with one member (Senator John Whitmire) deciding to return, the remaining Senate Democrats did as well.

Democrats were only able to hold off the legislative majority for a short time. The Democrat legislators of Texas cried to the press that they had maxed out their credit cards in their effort not to be abducted without a warrant by the state of Texas. The principal and interest on their credit cards, the Democrat legislators are still being forced to pay. Eventually the Democrats returned to Austin to face defeat. In the Texas Senate, the Lt. Governor broke precedent in letting something not supported by a two-thirds majority come to a vote.

Opponents of the plan noted the long tradition of vote splitting between the parties and suggested that such dramatic changes in the makeup of the Texas Congressional Delegation were evidence of gerrymandering, while supporters noted that the Democrats' 17 to 15 edge in the congressional delegation, held since the 1991 Texas redistricting implemented by the Democrats, does not reflect the politics of a state where all 29 statewide office-holders elected are Republicans.

Ethics investigations

During the summer of 2004, DeLay was investigated for ethical violations stemming from complaints filed by Democratic Representative Chris Bell of Texas.

On September 30, 2004, the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct (the "Ethics Committee") found that DeLay had violated House rules in 2003 in his efforts to pass a bill concerning health care. The committee admonished DeLay for having made an offer to Representative Nick Smith, who was retiring, that DeLay would endorse Smith's son for the seat if Smith would vote in favor of the bill. This admonishment caused the conservative-leaning Judicial Watch to issue a call for DeLay to resign as Majority Leader.

On October 6, 2004, the Ethics Committee admonished DeLay for a second time, this time for violations stemming from the Bell complaint. Specifically, it stated that he should not have asked the Federal Aviation Administration to track a small plane that he believed to be carrying Democratic Texas state legislators, who were fleeing to Oklahoma from Texas to prevent a quorum, thus stopping a redistricting plan they did not approve of.

The panel also admonished DeLay for his dealings with Westar Energy, a Kansas-based firm; it cited memos from Westar stating that they believed $56,000 in donations to DeLay's PAC and others would get them "a seat at the table". Subsequently, DeLay appeared at a Westar-hosted golf fundraiser, "just as the House-Senate conference on major energy legislation...was about to get underway". This, the conference stated, violated the requirement that lawmakers may not solicit political donations "that may create even the appearance" that they will lead to special access or special treatment.

However, the committee decided to delay action on Bell's third charge, dealing with improper fundraising by the DeLay-headed Texans for a Republican Majority PAC; Bell charged that it improperly raised funds from corporations to channel to local Texas legislative races. The matter is currently being investigated by a grand jury in Travis County, Texas.

On September 21, 2004, the grand jury indicted three members of Texans for a Republican Majority, including its executive director, on charges of money laundering and accepting illegal campaign contributions. DeLay and his supporters contend that this investigation and the indictments are politically motivated maneuvers by the Democratic Travis County, Texas District Attorney Ronnie Earle - a controversial and colorful political figure with a history of pursuing unconventional indictments against elected officials including Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. Fearing a possible indictment of DeLay, which they feel is politically motivated on November 17, 2004, House Republicans changed an early 1990s rule that would force House Leaders to step down if indicted; the new rules will allow a committee to review any indictment to determine if it is politically motivated and if it is not politically motivated the House Leader would be required to step down. However, a firestorm of protest from rank-and-file Republicans forced DeLay himself to back off from the rule change on January 3, 2005.

On November 18, 2004, the Ethics Committee also issued a statement admonishing Bell, advising him that his accusation violated a rule barring "innuendo, speculative assertions or conclusory statements". DeLay responded by criticizing Bell as well as Democratic House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

In a December 15, 2005 interview on the Fox News Channel Pres. George W. Bush stated that he thinks DeLay is innocent of ethics violations. Defending Bush's baseless conclusion, embattled White House press secretary Scott McClellan said, "We don't typically tend to get into discussing legal matters of that nature. But in this instance, the president chose to respond to it. Call it presidential prerogative." Or call it pathetic.

On March 31, 2006, Tony Rudy, DeLay's former deputy chief of staff, plead guilty to conspiring with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Electoral Competition

2006 Republican Primary Election

  • Tom Campbell, former general counsel for the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
  • _________
  • _________

General Election

  • Democrat Nick Lampson has launched an opposition bid against DeLay in 2006.
  • Republican David Wallace is running as a Republican write-in candidate.
  • Former Republican Congressman Steve Stockman, who is even more conservative than DeLay, is also running as an Independent.

References

  • Lou Dubose & Jan Reid. 2004. The Hammer: Tom DeLay: God, Money, and the Rise of the Republican Congress. PublicAffairs. ISBN 1586482386.
  • Jennifer Loven. "White House Defends Bush Comments on DeLay." Associated Press. December 15, 2005.
  • "Tom DeLay Faces Primary Voters for First Time Since Indictment." Bloomberg. Macrh 7, 2006.
  • Alexander Bolton. "Tom Delay Will Not Run." The Hill'. August 9, 2006. Article in The Hill



Affiliations

Further reading

  • Lou Dubose. "DeLay's Day of Reckoning?" The Progressive. April 2006. Pp. 25-27

Related articles

External Links


11/17/2004:

  • Talking Points Memo is ratcheting up pressure on the Republican congress members to determine who voted for/against suspending rules that put DeLay's chairmanship at risk. Also, see DeLay Rule for summary info on this.
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