The DeLay era ends

April 05, 2006

When the full tale is finally told of Tom DeLay's political rise and fall, both will be attributed to a ruthless style that so poisoned the atmosphere even he couldn't survive it.

The 11-term Texas Republican and former House majority leader abruptly pulled the plug on his re-election campaign and announced plans to resign after concluding that his scandal-tarred reputation made such a rich target for opponents it threatened not only his re-election but GOP majority control.

Mr. DeLay says he has broken no laws. But he is under indictment in Texas as part of an alleged scheme to illegally finance state legislative races. Meanwhile, a federal probe of lobbyist Jack Abramoff veers ominously toward the leader who once called him "one of my closest and dearest friends."

What's known for sure is that at the height of Mr. DeLay's power - while he was relentlessly pursuing the impeachment of Democratic President Bill Clinton - his leadership office was an ethical cesspool.

One former top aide, Tony C. Rudy, pleaded guilty last week to using his official post to do favors for Mr. Abramoff and others in return for lucrative gifts. Mr. Rudy also spent his days in the DeLay office turning a healthy profit from nearly 500 stock trades on his government computer, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Michael Scanlon, another former aide, cashed in on his connections with Mr. Abramoff shortly after leaving the DeLay payroll, helping to bilk Abramoff clients in a scheme to which he, too, has pleaded guilty. A third top DeLay staffer, now-lobbyist Edwin A. Buckham, has also been linked to the federal probe.

Mr. DeLay may have been oblivious to what was going on under his nose, and seems not to have shared his associates' greed. But his obvious contempt for standards of conduct in political dealings set a tone that his aides applied to their purposes.

He's done his party a favor by leaving before he was thrown out. Republicans would be smart to have the whole place disinfected as soon as he's gone.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.