Rep. DeLay should follow rules

U- Wire and U- Wire

Some men excel at being above the law.

Tom DeLay, the Bug Man of Sugarland and Republican Majority Leader in the House of Representatives, is one of those men.

In 1993, when Newt Gingrich and the GOP were poised to take over Congress, they backed and passed an enlightened rule that mandated any member of any party leadership that was under criminal indictment would be made to step aside.

This was a statute that was a long time coming, and why wouldn’t the Republicans support it?

The Democratic bosses of the Congress at that time were baronial, entrenched and corrupt. Incredibly arrogant, many of the Dems believed themselves above outside control, and public dissatisfaction helped the conservatives gain a majority a year later, one that has endured until the present day, as had that rule.

That is, until Nov. 10.

One day after they had unanimously, unanimously re-elected the Bug Man as their chief, the Republicans of the United States Congress, in a closed session, decided to dump the rule they’d had since ’93. Why? Because DeLay’s in trouble.

The in-House law, so necessary when the Democrats were in power, has mysteriously disappeared into thin air at exactly the right time for the majority leader.

Now those under indictment will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis by the insider-friendly Republican Steering Committee — a court of cronies. What an odd change.

The sage Anachrasis wrote, “Laws are like spiders’ webs, and will like them only entangle and hold the poor and weak, while the rich and powerful will easily break through them.”

He was Greek, not Texan, but he must have been thinking of DeLay.

The distinguished Congressman (who goes by “The Hammer”) began his professional life as a mixer of exterminating poisons and went on to a fabulous career in brazen gerrymandering.

This man — whose career gave the Republican majority in congress five more seats here in the Lone Star State about four weeks ago — is the subject of an investigation by District Attorney Ronnie Earle of Travis County.

There are charges of illegal corporate money filtered down to the 2002 legislature races in Texas to elect DeLay allies — the same group of swell guys who would go on to sign off on the crackpot redistricting scheme we now enjoy.

Next time you have to explain why in this last race we had two veteran Congressmen running against each other, think of Bug Man. And that’s not all.

On Sept. 30, the usually sleepy House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct (short for “Ethics Panel”) ruled DeLay had violated congressional rules in 2003.

A retiring representative wanted his child to replace him. DeLay offered the old man, in exchange for a crucial vote on a health care bill, an endorsement for his son.

If that wasn’t enough, about a week later, the Ethics folks came down on DeLay again. Oh, you know, he only had asked the Federal Aviation Administration to track down those pesky fleeing Democrats (remember them?), who went to New Mexico so the Legislature wouldn’t have a quorum.

The same committee also condemned DeLay for possible shady dealings with Westar Energy of Kansas for influence on energy policy.

“Beyond the bounds of acceptable conduct,” the bipartisan panel said. No House member currently sitting has received more ethics warnings than DeLay.

And now D.A. Earle is investigating him. This latest threat to His Hammerness is the most troubling. Why?

Because whereas the above were simply censures by his fellow members of Congress, this most recent inquiry is under review by a grand jury, and possibly could result in a criminal indictment.

Interestingly enough, the jury’s already thrown the book at three members of DeLay’s political action committee — money machine, in layman’s terms — “Texans for a Republican Majority,” and they’re probably coming for the majority leader next. DeLay and his cronies have attacked Earle as partisan because he’s an elected Democrat. But Earle’s prosecuted more Democratic politicians than Republican ones, 11 out of 15. He’s been ranked as one of the top district attorneys in the country.

If he’s good enough to prosecute his own party, why not the other?

Thank god they got rid of that pesky rule in time. How quickly laws wither away when self-interest’s at hand.

In Congress, DeLay is a powerful man, more powerful than the official boss, Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert. Nobody whips votes into line like DeLay — nobody. He got the nickname for insuring fierce discipline inside his party and for being horribly vengeful to his enemies. During the 104th Congress, running from 1995 to 1997, the Hammer nailed 300 out of 303 bills. The GOP is desperate to keep him.

The criminal indictment rule was good enough for DeLay when he attempted an inter-party putsch against Gingrich in ’97, when Gingrich had been charged with ethics violations. Or, for that matter, when Bug Man and his gang attempted a coup d’etat against President Clinton a few years ago and assured us they were pursuing the rule of law. Oh, this is sweet, sweet irony. Did the GOP replace a Democratic majority just to replicate the same offenses?

Where has that moral fire gone? The way of all hypocrisy, it would seem — that is, the way of expediency.

A crook’s a crook, whether he’s a Democrat or a Republican. If DeLay’s found guilty, let him face the music. The Hammer is a stain on his party and on the U.S. Congress. Here’s what I suggest: if you’re represented by a Republican, as I am, call your congressman (you can find their numbers on, and nicely ask: “During the caucus meeting, did the congressman support the DeLay rule?” I called mine, left a message, still waiting for a call back. Not that I’m really wondering — Randy Neugebauer got $15,000 for his campaign from another ARMPAC, another brainchild of DeLay.

I suspect one good turn deserves another. Congress is so good at making laws for us.

Let’s see if they can enforce their own.