After nearly six years of having his life turned upside down, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay is free from a lengthy Justice Department investigation.
DeLay confirmed that the protracted and fruitless DOJ probe was over, bringing to an end a lengthy and expensive look into lobbying-misconduct allegations that the former Republican congressman from Texas, once known as “The Hammer,” had long insisted were wrong.
“While I will never understand why it took so long for the Justice Department to conclude that I was innocent, I am nevertheless pleased that they have made their determination,” Mr. DeLay told reporters in announcing the federal investigation had concluded.
He talked of the enormous personal and political toll the investigation had taken on his life:
“The new politics is no longer good enough to beat you on policy. They have to completely drown you and put you in prison and destroy your family and your reputation and your finances, and then dance on your grave.”
The investigation had sought to link DeLay to uber-lobbyist Jack Abramoff, once a megastar of Washington political players, who was imprisoned for 3 ½ years on federal charges and released from federal custody in June. He reportedly is currently living in a halfway house and works in a Baltimore kosher pizzeria while at work on his memoirs.
The Justice Department probe, under which two former DeLay aides pleaded guilty to conspiracy, failed to find criminal wrongdoing on the part of DeLay, who still faces charges in Texas on a five-year-old money laundering case. He said he feels confident that if the Texas case goes to trial, he will be exonerated.
“The law is on my side,” he said in an interview with HUMAN EVENTS.
After years under a cloud, his political career ruined after he resigned and dragged deeply in debt from the legal fight, DeLay says he is not bitter, even as he struggles to put his life back together and find his place in a conservative movement he still hopes can be rebuilt. He remains a true believer but says much work within his party is left to be done—and badly needed to reclaim the nation and its principles.
“Fifteen years—it’s been 15 years really—and $8 million in legal fees later, but the Lord has given me strength and peace and joy,” he says of the role his strong faith has played as the investigation dragged on.
“I turned over all of my documents, my computers, they read my hard drives. I instructed my staff to be forthcoming and present and to cooperate in full and they did. You would think in a few months (the DOJ) would see there was nothing unlawful in my relationship with Jack. We dealt with each other on a high professional level.”
He adds wistfully of his fate: “It’s the price of leadership. Unfortunately, the Democrats have a whole organization set up to criminalize politics.”
Justice Department spokeswoman Laura Sweeney, via email last week, would neither confirm nor deny the existence of the DeLay investigation or its completion, and it remains unclear why such a probe took so long.
The former House majority leader left his powerful political post in 2006 after two of his aides were convicted for improper conduct. But he always had faith that government investigators would find nothing, even as his reputation was tainted in the press and Democrats vilified his power.
One former DeLay staffer blames the takedown on career attorneys at the Justice Department who wanted the congressman gone and hated his success.
“I don’t think it was a political agenda,” the aide said of the investigation, which began during the Bush Administration. “Here he was getting his agenda through, the most powerful man on the Hill, and these lawyers just wanted to get him.”
“If he did anything wrong seemed to be irrelevant,” the aide said of the feds. “They were pushing and pushing … everyone was cooperating. What the heck they have been doing for the past six years I have no idea. They couldn’t find anything and they spent millions in taxpayer dollars to try to prove something that didn’t exist.”
“We’ve all been smeared,” the aide said. “He’s been smeared. It’s so unfair and he’s such a good person. Tom DeLay didn’t do anything wrong and his name is now synonymous with unethical politics—and there is nothing there.”
DeLay acknowledged that the probe has taken a toll on his family and says he has spent his days over the last few years working on a few consulting projects and on behalf of foster children.
When he left Washington he initially tried to work on building coalitions to assist GOP candidates, hoping to help fundraise and organize like the Democrats have done successfully.
He noted that they have built deep connections and raised plenty of money that they can rely on to pool and aggressively support future races. Republicans, he noted, must get it together to help their own.
“We have a lot of good organizations that are conservative but nobody works with each other,” he said of the need for his party to get serious and coalesce or lose momentum when conservative principles are badly needed—and as voters are clearly energized for real change.
“I’ve never seen the energy level as high as I’ve seen it around the country. It is amazing,” he said.
DeLay said he believes the Republicans have a shot at taking the House of Representatives in the midterm elections, but said it’s hard to gauge how many people will actually go to the polls and vote. He said the party desperately needs a better communications department that can drive its message home. He hopes it can improve and knows he has the skills to help advance conservative ideals that remain central to his life—to “save freedom.”
Of the GOP: “They are not as organized or well-funded as they should be to take advantage of what’s out there. There’s a lot of animosity and fear and people who want to take back their government, but they don’t know what to do about it. People are just screaming for leadership.”
DeLay decried “career bureaucrats that have their own agendas,” particularly in the DOJ’s public integrity unit, he said. He expressed grave concern about judges legislating from the bench and called on lawmakers to make it stop.
“We need to focus on the third branch of government,” he said. “We have let the judicial branch run amok without any checks and balances on it. Congress has given up its responsibility of oversight on the judiciary, and now it’s nothing but a club of lawyers scratching each others’ backs.
“We’ve got to get in there,” he says of judicial misconduct. “We have the right, the responsibility and the authority, whether through purse strings or otherwise … there is no reason for Congress to allow these kinds of decisions. We have to stop them.”