In a stunning about-face, Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) has decided to drop out of his race for re-election, according to the Washington Post, and will leave Congress before November, perhaps by the end of May, according to Time.
Depending on Texas replacement rules, a Republican could be appointed to complete his term and then run as an incumbent. Given how coy DeLay sounded in his Time interview — “we don’t have to choose from my primary opponents” — this is the plan.
The rise to the fall of Tom DeLay is not unlike that of Former Majority Leader Newt Gingrich, who some say is considering a run for the presidency in 2008. [He has recently authored a book, often an early step.] However, DeLay sounds like he plans to take a more prominent public position than Gingrich did.
Key Aide Pled Guilty Friday
DeLay handily won his Republican primary in March. But on Friday, Tony C. Rudy (39), the former Majority Leader’s ex-deputy chief of staff, pled guilty to conspiracy and corruption on actions taken on behalf of Jack Abramoff, the lobbyist at the heart of a Capitol corruption investigation.
Rudy accepted at least $86,000 from Abramoff while employed by DeLay. And although he reportedly did not implicate DeLay on Friday, the San Jose Mercury News reports that he “finger[ed] his ex-boss – DeLay’s former chief of staff Ed Buckham – as playing a role in the congressional bribery scandal.”
DeLay, a born-again Christian, told Time that he believes he can accomplish his political goals outside of Congress, suggesting an evangelical role is in the cards:
“[T]his country was built on morals and religion… There is a connection between religion and politics, and religion and government… The people that go to church understand that a country has to be based on some sort of religion and fear of God because they understand that.”
“Abortion on demand is still in this country, and I want to end abortion as we know it,” he continued. He also talked about replacing the income tax with a “fair tax,” “culture wars” and the “attack” on the American family. He also took a swipe at Ronnie Earle, repeating his claim that his Texas indictment is “a political hit job.”
Second DeLay Aide Caught
Rudy is the second DeLay insider to be caught in the fallout from Abramoff’s deals. In November, Michael Scanlon, an ex-aide who became Abramoff’s lobbying partner, turned state’s evidence.
The Houston Chronicle reports that another DeLay aide, Emily Miller, “has been cooperating with federal investigators as they bring down DeLay aides in what may be a tightening of the net around the former majority leader himself.”
In October, another Abramoff associate, David Safavian, General Services Administration (GSA) chief of staff from May 2002 – January 2004, was indicted in connection with lying and obstructing investigations into Abramoff’s activities.
Representatives Ditch Donations
The Hill reports that 13 House Republicans “already have returned or plan to return contributions they took” from Rudy. Since 2001, The Hill reports that Rudy gave $48,500 “to four members of leadership, two committee chairmen and then-Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), Rudy’s boss from 1995 to 2000.”
Abramoff was sentenced last week to five years and 10 months in prison for business fraud unrelated to this case.