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ISSUE 118 VOL 17 PUBLISHED 4/22/2005

DeLay’s ethics questioned

By Byron Vierk
Staff Writer

Friday, April 22, 2005

While attending the National Rifle Association (NRA) convention in Houston, Texas, Congressman and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay uttered this stirring sound bite: “When a man’s in trouble or in a good fight, you want all your friends around them, preferably armed. So I feel pretty good.” DeLay, it seems, needs all the protection and support he can find nowadays. The congressman is caught up in yet another ethical snafu. This is his fourth scandal since becoming a member of the House of Representatives.

Democrats in the House are taking aim at DeLay due mostly to financial improprieties committed under his leadership. In one instance uncovered by the Washington Post, a six day trip to Moscow in 1997, DeLay claims was sponsored by a non-profit organization was in fact underwritten by Russian business interests lobbying in support of the Russian government interests. DeLay still maintains the existence of the phantom non-profit organization that supplied funds for his “business trip.” Yet interviews and documents presented by those closely involved with the planning of the trip show that the money, in fact, came from a mysterious company in the Bahamas. This company has been shown to have direct ties to Jack Abramoff. Abramoff is an longtime associate of DeLay, who himself is now the center of a corruption probe. DeLay has denied any knowledge of impropriety, despite the presence of lobbyists such as Abramoff on several of such business “excursions.” So why is this such a big deal? Members of the House of Representatives have a responsibility to the American people to make every effort to insure that sponsors for travel are not registered lobbyists or representative of foreign interests. In fact, House ethics rules specifically forbid accepting contributions for travel from lobbyists or foreign agents. One would think that DeLay, who has come before (and been admonished by) the House Ethics committee three times previous to these new allegations should really know better by now, or at least know a few of the House rules. DeLay’s “Russian holiday” is just one of several scandals brought to light in the past few months.

DeLay participated in a $70,000 all-expenses paid trip to the UK in 2000 which was indirectly financed by an Native American Tribe and casino under the supervision of DeLay’s old pal, Abramoff. DeLay also took a $100,000 trip to South Korea, financed by a special interest group created by a lobbyist on behalf of a Korean business interest. Then, of course, there is the most recent bombshell unearthed by the New York Times, which finds that DeLay’s wife and daughter have been paid more than $500,000 by the Congressman’s various Political Action Committees. These were payments that had been listed on Tax returns as “fundraising fees.”

While DeLay’s daughter has managed his campaigns in the past, payments are continuing despite their unethical and improper enrichment of DeLay’s family members.

If the so-called “Politics of Destruction” have taught us anything, it’s that the best way to defends one’s self when attacked is to identify and discredit the attackers.

In DeLay’s case however, his most vehement and outraged opponents aren’t just House Democrats. When conservatives like Newt Gingrich characterize DeLay’s defense of his actions as ‘the classic Hillary Clinton defense’ and state bluntly, “[DeLay’s] problem isn’t with the Democrats, it’s with the country,” it’s a real indicator that time is running out for Tom DeLay as House Majority Leader. Heck, even Bill O’Reilly has jumped on the bandwagon, declaring with his characteristic wit, “Mr. DeLay, you got somethin’ to answer for.”

As for the so-called “massive left-wing conspiracy” to ‘destroy everything we hold dear’ described by DeLay, it’s pretty much non-existent.

Yes, the media is out to get Tom DeLay. Bringing to light corruption in politics knows no party lines, no race, no gender and no sexual orientation.

Whether it was Richard Nixon in the 1970s or Bill Clinton in the 1990s, a scandal is a scandal, regardless of political clout or belief. DeLay may choose to continue to sit back and further his “woe is me” routine, blaming his problems on everyone except for the person who is responsible for them: himself.

But even if DeLay never owns up to his improprieties, after multiple ethics violations and little consequence, it’s about time a man nicknamed “The Hammer” got nailed.

Staff writer Byron Vierk is a senior from Lincoln, Neb. He majors in English and history.

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