DeLay’s fate is a cautionary tale for House GOP leaders — and Democrats

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  • Dale Eisman

The fall of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, sentenced Monday to three years in prison for his role in a political money-laundering operation, is a well-timed warning to the House’s new GOP leaders – and Democrats too – about what can happen when lawmakers put themselves and their pursuit of power above the law.

DeLay, once known in Washington as “the Hammer,” was the Capitol’s foremost practitioner of scorched-earth politics before scandals forced him into retirement in 2006. He continues to insist there was nothing improper about his involvement in a scheme to funnel corporate contributions to Republican candidates in his home state of Texas, where corporate campaign spending is illegal.

“Mr. DeLay argues that many people in politics move money around as he did to skirt campaign finance laws and that they get away with it,” said Bob Edgar, Common Cause’s president. “He has a point, but the judge and jury have properly answered it by insisting that the law be enforced.

“The new Republican-led House has a chance to show that it’s learned the lesson of the DeLay era,” Edgar said. “Its leaders should take a fresh look at proposals like the DISCLOSE Act and the Fair Elections Now Act, which would bring greater transparency to campaign finance and reduce candidates’ dependence on corporate and other special interest donations.”