Monday, April 10, 2006


With polls showing that he risked losing his seat in congressional elections this fall, Tom Delay announced that he will not seek reelection in his Texas district.

The shameful announcement was a major, and quite sobering, reckoning for a man not quite accustomed to such things.

Stuart Roy, once an aide to DeLay, said he thought his former boss was deterred by the prospect of a tough fight, and the possibility of life in Congress without a major leadership position - even if he were reelected. Delay came to love power, and in the absence of it, the job of serving his district and the country just wouldn't be satisfying enough.

Once one of the most influential Republicans in Congress, the embattled Delay is facing money-laundering charges in his home state of Texas. Perhaps he felt he needed to give his own defense his undivided attention.

Dropping out of the race allows Delay to use $1.3 million in left over campaign contributions to help bankroll his legal defense. So the move isn't just to save face, but to save his personal finances as well.

In an effort to consolidate Republican power and build a lasting political majority, DeLay engineered the controversial redrawing of Texas congressional district boundaries.

DeLay came to define the style and tone of the GOP over the last decade. He used his political power and influence to raise money from special interests to advance his party's interests. In the end, it is difficult to determine where once begins and the other ends.

DeLay demanded corporate support for the party, not only in terms of fundraising but also in choosing Republicans to fill jobs at lobbying firms and trade associations. Two dozen former DeLay staffers have prominent lobbying jobs around Washington. His tactics helped forge a close relationship between big business and the party.

As a prolific fundraiser for the party and for other members of Congress, DeLay earned the deep loyalty of his colleagues.

But on three occasions in a single week, the House Ethics Committee admonished DeLay for his questionable behavior. And that could be the legacy of the Texas Congressman. His quest for power led to a sense of entitlement and privilege, to being above the rules, and even above the law.

DeLay came to symbolize corruption in Washington and a 'win at all costs' mentality. DeLay didn't appear concerned about rules, or integrity, or decency. He cared about himself, the Republican Party, and the advancement of both. He is a partisan, not a patriot. And there are plenty of them in Washington these days, on both sides of the aisle.

And that is how he will be remembered. He will be remembered for excess. And depending on how his trial turns out, he could also be remembered as a politician who believed that the government is for sale to the highest bidder.

A shameful legacy indeed.

Copyright © 2006 Sean M. Kennedy. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without the author's consent.

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