By DAVID ESPO
WASHINGTON – Succumbing to scandal, former Majority Leader Tom DeLay said Tuesday he will resign from Congress in the face of a tough re-election race, closing out a career that blended unflinching conservatism with a bare-knuckled political style.
“I have no fear whatsoever about any investigation into me or my personal or professional activities,” DeLay said in a statement to constituents. At the same time, he said, “I refuse to allow liberal Democrats an opportunity to steal this seat with a negative, personal campaign.”
He said the voters of his Houston-area district “deserve a campaign about the vital national issues that they care most about … and not a campaign focused solely as a referendum on me.”
DeLay relinquished the post as House majority leader last fall after his indictment in Texas as part of an investigation into the allegedly illegal use of funds for state legislative races. He decided in January against trying to get the leadership post back as an election-year corruption scandal staggered Republicans and emboldened minority Democrats.
Last week, former DeLay aide Tony Rudy pleaded guilty to conspiring with lobbyist Jack Abramoff and others to corrupt public officials, and he promised to help the broad federal investigation of bribery and lobbying fraud that already has resulted in three convictions.
Neither Rudy, Abramoff nor anyone else connected with the investigation has publicly accused DeLay of breaking the law, but Rudy confessed that he had taken actions while working in the majority leader’s office that were illegal. DeLay has consistently denied any wrongdoing.
Sen. John McCain (news, bio, voting record), R-Ariz., a major player in congressional investigations of Abramoff and the lobbyist’s involvement with Indian tribes, said Tuesday that he respects DeLay’s decision to step down, and added, “I think there are other aspects of the Abramoff scandal that will be unfolding in the weeks ahead.”
McCain spoke to reporters following a speech to a Hispanic conference. President Bush said Tuesday that DeLay had informed him of his decision Monday afternoon.
“I wish him all the best,” Bush told reporters during a brief White House session, adding, “It had to have been a very difficult decision for someone who loved representing his district in the state of Texas.”
Bush said the Republican Party won’t suffer from DeLay’s decision to resign from Congress. “My own judgment is that our party will continue to succeed because we are the party of ideas.”
DeLay, an 11-term Texas lawmaker who turns 59 on Saturday, said he would make his resignation effective sometime before mid-June but contingent on the congressional calendar.
“He has served our nation with integrity and honor,” said Majority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, who succeeded DeLay in his leadership post earlier this year.
But Democrats said the developments marked more than the end to one man’s career in Congress.
“Tom Delay’s announcement is just the beginning of the reckoning of the Republican culture of corruption that has gripped Washington for too long,” said Karen Finney, a spokeswoman for the Democratic National Committee. “From DeLay to Scooter Libby to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, to Duke Cunningham, to Bob Ney, to David Safavian, the list of goes on and on.”
DeLay portrayed his decision to resign as a fatal blow for the fortunes of his opponent, Democrat Nick Lampson, who has garnered national attention – and financial support.
“As difficult as this decision has been for me, it’s not going to be a great day for liberal Democrats, either,” DeLay said. “My loyalty to the Republican Party, indeed my love for the Republican Party, has played no small part in this decision.”
Last month, DeLay capped a triumph in a contested GOP primary with a vow to win re-election.
It was not clear whether Texas Gov. Rick Perry would call a special election to fill out the unexpired portion of DeLay’s term, or whether the seat would remain vacant until it is filled in November.
Either way, DeLay’s concern about the potential loss of a Houston-area seat long in Republican hands reflected a deeper worry among GOP strategists. After a dozen years in the majority, they face a strong challenge from Democrats this fall, at a time when President Bush’s public support is sagging, and when the Abramoff scandal has helped send congressional approval ratings tumbling.
Until scandal sent him to the sidelines, DeLay had held leadership posts since the Republicans won control of the House in a 1994 landslide. DeLay quickly established himself as a forceful presence – earning a nickname as “The Hammer” – and he easily became majority leader when the spot opened up.
DeLay was the driving force behind President Clinton’s impeachment in 1999, weeks after Republicans lost seats at the polls in a campaign in which they tried to make an issue of Clinton’s personal behavior.
His trademark aggressiveness helped trigger his downfall, when he led a drive to redraw Texas’ congressional district boundaries to increase the number of seats in GOP hands. DeLay was soon caught up in an investigation involving the use of corporate funds in the campaigns of legislators who had participated in the redistricting.
Brian J. Doyle faces 23 charges
Wednesday, April 5, 2006
WASHINGTON (CNN) — A deputy press secretary for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security was arrested Tuesday at his Maryland home on charges he used his computer in an attempt to seduce a child and transmitted harmful materials to a minor, according to the Polk County, Florida, Sheriff’s Office.
Brian J. Doyle, 55, is charged with seven counts of use of a computer to seduce a child and 16 counts of transmission of harmful material to a minor, according to a sheriff’s office statement.
In interviews with police, Doyle confessed and has agreed to waive extradition to Florida, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said.
On March 12, according to a police statement, Doyle contacted a Polk County computer crimes detective posing online as a 14-year-old girl “and initiated a sexually explicit conversation with her … Doyle knew that the ‘girl’ was 14 years old, and he told her who he was and that he worked for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.”
Judd said that Doyle, in the first conversation, told the detective his position with DHS and “started immediately into pretty vulgar language. He explained in graphic detail the sexual acts he wanted to perform with this 14-year-old.”
As the two continued chatting online, police said, Doyle gave her his home and office phone numbers, and the number to his government-issue cell phone. He also had explicit telephone conversations with a detective posing as the girl, authorities said.
In addition, he used the Internet to send “hard-core pornographic movie clips” to her, and also used an America Online instant-messaging service to have explicit online conversations with her.
“The investigation revealed that the phone numbers given to the detective were in fact Doyle’s, and that the AOL account was registered to him,” police said.
Doyle also sent photos of himself that were not sexually explicit, but said he would send nude photos if the “girl” would buy a Web camera and send him nude photos of herself. In one photo, Judd said, Doyle’s DHS security tag is clearly visible.
“Many of the conversations he initiated … are too extraordinary and graphic for public release,” a statement from the sheriff’s office said.
“I read the transcripts,” Judd said. “I wanted to see if this was just as outrageous as the detectives depicted it … It shocked all of us who have worked vice, narcotics, organized crime, homicides.”
A DHS spokesman said the agency would cooperate in the probe.
“We take these allegations very seriously,” Russ Knocke said, “and we will cooperate fully with the ongoing investigation.”
Doyle, Judd said, is divorced and has children. Authorities believe he could have held similar conversations online with others, Judd said, because at some points during online chats he would address the detective by the wrong name.
Doyle never attempted to arrange a visit, Judd said, but did mention knowing someone in the region.
Before Doyle was arrested Tuesday night at his home in Silver Spring, Judd said, the detective had told him that she had access to a Web camera and that her mother would be away, so “he was eager to rush home from work.”
As he was online, detectives from agencies including the U.S. Secret Service and the Montgomery County, Maryland, Police Department knocked on his door and served the arrest warrant, Judd said. They also executed a search warrant for his residence.
“We found his communication still on his computer with our undercover detective,” he said. “Had we not been posing as a 14-year-old, Brian Doyle would have been grooming someone, some young lady, for a sexual encounter.”