After nearly 8,000 days in Congress, one House takeover, one impeachment, a shooting in his office, a catastrophic terrorist attack and myriad legislative achievements, Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) has trouble picking the most important or memorable moment of his career.
When pressed in an interview Tuesday — three days before he will leave the chamber for good — DeLay paused, and then went back to his very first years in the House.
“The beginning of my career was momentous in realizing what a jerk I was as a father and a husband, and getting my act straight,” DeLay said. “I became a better father, a better husband and a better person.”
DeLay may have found personal redemption two decades ago, but his political redemption — if it comes — will have to wait.
In addition to the Justice Department’s investigation of Jack Abramoff, which has yielded guilty pleas from two former DeLay aides, the ex-Majority Leader remains under indictment in Texas for his role in raising money for the state’s 2002 legislative elections.
“It’s obvious that Ronnie Earle is going to drag this out past the election,” DeLay said, explaining that he doubts he will face the Travis County district attorney in court before November. “He’s using every procedural motion he can use to drag it out as long as he can.”
DeLay was unable to guess when the Abramoff case will be over or when, as he expects, Justice will publicly exonerate him.
“We are cooperating in every way we can. That’s up to the Justice Department,” DeLay said.
As of March 31, DeLay had more than $1.4 million sitting in his campaign account. But while he won’t be spending it on re-election, DeLay said he won’t be showering it on his colleagues or the National Republican Congressional Committee, either.
“It’s already spent,” DeLay said. “I need it to pay legal expenses. There’s not enough in my campaign account to pay my legal expenses.”
In addition to using his campaign money, DeLay also has been drawing on his legal defense fund to pay his burgeoning lawyers’ bills. Once he’s out of the House, DeLay said, he will soon establish a private legal defense fund that will have no limits on how much donors can give.
While more legal expenses are clearly in DeLay’s future, nothing else appears certain.
Asked what he will do after he leaves public office, DeLay said, “I really don’t know. I do know that I want to push the conservative cause and go out to the country and talk about important issues, help people get elected. Right now that’s all I know. ... I’m going to take my time and just see where the Lord needs me.”
Would he consider becoming a lobbyist?
“I don’t think so,” DeLay said. “I don’t think that’s where my [interests are]. I think I could be a consultant. I think I could develop strategies to drive things through the Congress, put teams together, put coalitions together. That’s what I did the last 12 years.”