Tom DeLay Drops the Hammer on Austin Newspaper, Which Hits Back

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By: E&P Staff

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay is blaming a Sept. 11, 2005, editorial in the Austin American-Statesman for pressuring a Texas prosecutor to pursue the criminal case against him.

“It was this renewed political pressure in the waning days of his hollow investigation that led to this morning’s action,” DeLay said Wednesday after a grand jury indicted him on a criminal conspiracy charge.

In an editorial today, the American-Statesman replied that its editorial “questioned why only the political action committees and not the individuals behind them had been indicted. DeLay was not mentioned by name, nor was there an allusion to him. It is either DeLay’s hubris or his conscience that leads him to think that the editorial targeted him.”

It also pointedly observed: “Too much power can be a dangerous thing, as many political leaders have learned over the years. Hubris and overreaching are hazards of the political class.”

The indictment accuses DeLay of conspiring to violate political fundraising laws with two associates. He temporarily stepped aside as majority leader to fight the charge, which could result in a jail term of up to two years if he is convicted.

DeLay said that prosecutor Ronnie Earle had said that he was not the target or focus of his probe into election spending in the 2002 state legislative campaigns. “Soon thereafter, Mr. Earle’s hometown newspaper ran a biting editorial about his investigation, rhetorically asking what the point had been, after all, if I wasn’t to be indicted,” DeLay said.

Arnold Garcia, editorial page editor for the American-Statesman, said the newspaper was doing its job in writing the opinion piece.

“We’re commenting on an item of public interest,” Garcia told the Associated Press. “But you should never forget the newspaper didn’t indict Mr. DeLay. A grand jury did.”

Today’s editorial observed: “DeLay sowed the seeds that led to a GOP majority in the Texas Legislature after the 2002 elections, a majority that returned the favor in a mid-census redistricting that gave DeLay a more Republican Congress. But he reaped the whirlwind because he pushed too hard and demanded too much.

“An angry and defiant DeLay blamed the indictment, which temporarily cost him his leadership position, on partisan politics by Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, a Democrat. Coming from one of the most fanatical partisans in the country, that charge is risible.”

The Sept. 11 editorial had said Earle and the grand jury may have good reason for indicting just organizations, but “time is running out, and on the face of it, the felony indictments returned last week against the Texas Association of Business and the now nonexistent Texans for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee are disappointing.”

The American-Statesman re-posted the Sept. 11 editorial on its Web site Wednesday.

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