A Texas jury’s guilty verdict against former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay was an overdue rebuke of a man who was once the most powerful member of Congress. DeLay, 63, was found guilty Wednesday of illegally funneling corporate money to help elect Republican candidates to the Texas legislature.
Solidifying Republicans’ hold in the legislature allowed them to redraw congressional districts to increase the GOP majority in Washington. After DeLay orchestrated the plan in 2002, the Republican Party picked up 12 seats in the U.S. House in the 2004 elections.
Compared with the campaign-finance standards of today, DeLay’s funneling $190,000 in corporate money to help elect state candidates seems puny in its scope. In this year’s mid-term elections, anonymous interests paid at least $130 million to defeat or elect favored candidates nationwide, mostly Republicans. Today’s secret campaign slush funds are legal, owing largely to a Supreme Court decision that allows unlimited campaign spending by corporations and unions.
But DeLay’s downfall still serves as a lesson. A former lieutenant of then-Speaker Newt Gingrich (R., Ga.), DeLay became known as “The Hammer” for his ability to enforce steely discipline within the Republican ranks. He never became speaker, but he didn’t need to. House Republicans knew who was in charge. DeLay resigned as majority leader in 2005 to fight the charges. It took too long, but the jury’s verdict proves just how far some people will go in their ceaseless push for partisan power.