Continuing his efforts to rally his base amid a storm of attacks, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) sent his campaign supporters a “briefing document” last week that marshals his most comprehensive defense yet against a host of ethics allegations.
The memo was distributed by DeLay’s re-election campaign to “friends and supporters.” It included a “‘fact versus fiction briefing document’ that can be shared via e-mail or in clubs, organizations, or groups you are affiliated with.”
On multiple occasions recently, DeLay has voiced increasing frustration about the tenor of the media coverage surrounding the allegations against him. The Majority Leader and his allies have long argued that the more facts people know about the individual charges, the more they will come to agree that he is innocent.
“There’s been a groundswell of requests for accurate information from supporters throughout the district, and this was a response to those requests,” a DeLay aide said of the memo, which was e-mailed late last week.
In a prefatory letter, DeLay blames the attacks against him on “the Democrats, their syndicate of third-party organizations (Common Cause, Public Citizen, Move-On, etc.) and the legion of Democrat-friendly press … trying to retake Congress.”
The letter is followed by a document, titled “What the Press Isn’t Telling You,” addressing several different subjects, including alleged collusion between Democrats and outside groups; the House ethics committee’s admonishments of DeLay; the recent changes in the House ethics rules and on the panel’s roster; the investigation by a Texas grand jury into a fundraising committee started by DeLay; and a series of now-controversial trips DeLay took to Russia, Korea and the United Kingdom.
The memo points out that “Tom DeLay Has Never Been Found in Violation of Any Law by Anyone” and argues that “Democrats and their outside front groups” are attacking him because “they hate Ronald Reagan conservatives like DeLay and they hate that he is an effective leader who succeeds in passing the Republican agenda.”
With regard to the overseas trips, DeLay argues that “no Member should be responsible for deceptive behavior by outside organizations.”
As he has done before, the memo points out that DeLay filed all the proper paperwork for his trips to Russia and the United Kingdom. The two journeys were paid for by the National Center for Public Policy Research, a conservative think tank, although recent news reports have suggested that the NCPPR’s costs were covered by other interests at the suggestion of scandal-tarred lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
“If the sponsor of a trip ultimately obtains funding for a trip, a Member is not and should not be responsible for that information,” the memo says.
As for the 2001 Korea trip, which was sponsored by a registered foreign agent in apparent violation of House ethics rules, DeLay points out that the Korea-U.S. Exchange Council only registered as a foreign agent two days before the trip.
The memo also repeats a now-familiar charge against Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle (D), who is leading the investigation into the activities of the Texans for a Republican Majority PAC during the 2002 state legislative elections.
The document claims that Earle “has a history of targeting political enemies” and that his securing of indictments against three DeLay associates and eight corporate donors “was a political dirty trick sprung 40 days before [the 2004] election.”
On the ethics committee front, the document takes particular exception to the way the press covered the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct’s actions last year in handling a complaint against DeLay filed by then-Rep. Chris Bell (D-Texas).
“Members, the media and outside parties spun the ‘admonishments’ as a formal sanction when it clearly was not any sanction,” the memo says. “The verb ‘admonished’ was used and is now exploited to mean some sort of sanction.”
As for the changes in House ethics rules, which are still the subject of controversy between the two parties, the memo argues that they were made “in fairness to all Members” since the Bell case “revealed how outside parties could insert themselves in the House’s peer review system and exploit it for political purposes.”
Democrats and outside groups have argued that Republicans changed the rules not to make the system more “fair” but to protect DeLay from further scrutiny.
The document further states that last year’s GOP Conference rule changes regarding indicted party leaders “were not driven by Tom DeLay, but Tom DeLay did personally make the request to reinstate the old rule.”
The memo also argues that former ethics Chairman Joel Hefley (R-Colo.) was not “sacked” by leadership but rather replaced because of term limits. Hefley and GOP leaders disagree on whether he had actually reached his maximum tenure, though the House Parliamentarian has weighed in on the side of the leadership.