Q&A: Tom DeLay Explains His Decision

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TIME: I can't imagine you not as a Texan.

Christine DeLay: You can live anywhere and be a Texan, though. It's an attitude.

TIME: And you don't plan to change the attitude?

DeLay: No way, no how.

Do you plan to do any writing?

DeLay: I'm not a very good writer.

TIME: Have you kept a diary?

DeLay: No. I plan to do a lot of speaking out, a lot of organizing. Right now, it's my opinion that the conservative movement is leaderless and we need a strong leader to pull the movement together, and I want to go out there and try to do that.

TIME: When did you accept Jesus as your Lord and savior, and how does that affect your daily life?

DeLay: I was baptized when I was 12 and immediately walked away from him. (Laughs) And did not walk with him until I got in Congress. When I was elected to Congress, I was a self-centered jerk. Representative Frank Wolf, a Republican of Virginia, had a ministry. He would go to door to door to each freshman. He'd come in and talk to you and invite you to a Bible study and show you a James Dobson video called, "Where's Daddy?" And every bad thing that he was talking about was me. And it really got my attention and it had a profound impact on me, made me really look at who I was and what I was doing. I started going to that Bible study. That's when I came back to Christ, and have been with him ever since. That was 22 years ago. And I've been maturing ever since. (Chuckles)

TIME: How does that affect you, day to day and hour to hour?

DeLay: Well, it's who I am. My faith is who I am. What I believe in it who I am. And it's what I work for and fight for. ...

TIME: Turning to the case.

DeLay: What case? WHICH case? (Chuckles heartily)

TIME: In Texas, you're essentially accused of money laundering. What do you think is going to be the outcome of that?

DeLay: Well, I'm outraged by the abuse of power by the district attorney. I'm outraged by the Texas judicial system being used for political gains. This is nothing but a political hit job. And it's not just me. He's done it before, against all his political enemies, Democrats or Republicans. It is outrageous. It has had a direct impact on the future of this state and the future of the Houston-Galveston area. When you have the Majority Leader that passed the sales-tax deductibility in Texas, that got Texas 92 cents for every dollar of highway money [sent to Washington], which is $788 million more a year than what they'd been doing, when he has been able to fully fund NASA against all comers, including the Senate. And I could go on and on and on. It has a real impact.

TIME: To stick to the facts of the case, what do you believe you're going to show? What do you believe the outcome will be?

DeLay: We're going to show that this is not money laundering.

TIME: And why not, in simple terms?

DeLay: Well, I'm not getting into the specific. You want to talk to my lawyer, go ahead. What we did—no, actually what TRMPAC [Texans for a Republican Majority, a political action committee founded by DeLay] did was consistent with what has been done by the Democrats as well as the Republicans for years. They took moneys that were legally raised from corporate interests that was more than they could use, sent that money—corporate funds and soft moneys—to the Republican National Committee so that they could take those funds and put them in states that accepted, legally, corporate funds for campaigns. And the Republican Party is supposed to—it's supposed to participate in the elections in the state of Texas, and they did. There was no quid pro quo. There was no exchange of funds. The moneys collected in Texas ended up in other states. And hard moneys legally raised by the Republican National Committee ended up in Texas.

TIME: What do you believe the Justice Department is looking at in connection with you?

DeLay: They're not looking at anything in connection with me. I'm not a target of the cam—of the investigation.

TIME: So you don't think you have any—

DeLay: I know I don't. I paid lawyers to investigate me as if they were prosecuting me. And they found nothing. There is absolutely nothing—no connection with Jack Abramoff that is illegal, dishonest, unethical or against the House rules.

TIME: So you don't think that you have any legal jeopardy beyond the Texas case?

DeLay: I don't think—I KNOW. I have no legal jeopardy. Now, I have plenty of political jeopardy. I have the media.... I know that my enemies are using it and accusing me of guilt by association and all of that. And you have to deal with it politically. But we are.

TIME: Do you think you did anything that made you more of a target for your critics? Do you think you made it easier for the opponents to—

DeLay: No. The opponents HATE what we do—what we have done in the last 11 years in the majority. We have built the largest political coalition of my adult lifetime. They hate that. We have been effective for 11 years going now, doing some pretty amazing things. They hate that. The reason we've been effective is we've tried to change the culture of Washington, D.C. And do it legally and ethically. The Democrats hate the fact that their culture of K Street has been changed from a totally dominated Democrat K Street [lobbying community]to a totally dominated Republican K Street. Nothing illegal about that at all. And we built that. When we took over in 1995, the K Street contributions to elections was 70/30—70 percent Democrat, 30 percent Republican. Today it's 60-40—60 percent Republican and 40 percent Republican. That's a change in culture. Democrats and the left hate that, and they have worked very hard to destroy it.

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