DeLay, the comeback kid?

It seems corruption charges have only emboldened Rep. Tom Delay.

Published October 12, 2005 5:21PM (EDT)

Salon editorial fellow J.J. Helland revisits embattled Rep. Tom DeLay.

You would think that after having been admonished last year by a House ethics committee, indicted recently by a Texas grand jury on charges of conspiracy, and then soon after indicted once more on new charges of money laundering, Rep. Tom DeLay would be a bit chastened these days.

But they don't call him "The Hammer" for nothing. It seems that Delay, despite all the controversy swirling around him, maintains an incredible amount of influence, and appears more than ready to take on his political enemies.

The former House Majority leader has launched a media blitz on radio, on TV and in print in an attempt to bolster support in the Houston congressional district he represents. Speaking recently on a Texas radio show, DeLay said, "I know when you stand up for what you believe in, this kind of thing is going to happen  It's part of the fight. I know Democrats hate me and they hate what I believe in and they hate the amazing things we've been able to accomplish ever since we've been in the majority."

No doubt it's that same strident attitude that is the driving force behind DeLay's latest attempt to turn the tables on Ronnie Earle, the Texas district attorney who is overseeing investigation of DeLay. Lawyers for DeLay tried to subpoena Earle, forcing him to respond to charges that he "acted improperly with the grand jurors" -- and in a motion filed last week, DeLay's lawyers accused Earle and his staff of "'unlawfully participat[ing] in grand jury deliberations and attempt[ing] to browbeat and coerce' the [first] grand jury that refused to indict DeLay."

Responding to the accusations against Earle, the foreman from that first jury, William Gibson, said, "That's a bunch of (expletive) there  That man [Earle] did not talk to me."

Whether DeLay's efforts to deflect attention from his own malfeasance will work is unclear, but according to a report today in the New York Times, the ethics scandals plaguing DeLay haven't stopped him from going about his usual business on Capitol Hill. Even though DeLay is officially gone from his leadership position, he still remains the "go-to guy" for many House Republicans -- just recently he was responsible for "rounding up elusive votes on the floor of the House as Republicans barely staved off defeat of a measure they said would spur construction of oil refineries."

"I thought once he was out, people would move on," says James Thurber, director of the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University. "But he is still there, concentrating power within the leadership and himself."

By J.J. Helland

J.J. Helland is Salon's editorial fellow in New York.

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