Tom DeLay- Corporate Whore

Conservatives salute Republican leader DeLay

May 12, 11:24 PM (ET)
By John Whitesides, Political Correspondent

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Conservative activists pledged their support for embattled Republican House leader Tom DeLay at a dinner tribute on Thursday, and accused his foes of politically motivated attacks designed to cripple the conservative movement's most effective leader.

More than 900 conservatives paid $250 a plate to attend the dinner at a downtown Washington hotel and cheer the Texas congressman, who condemned Democrats as the party of no ideas and "no class."

"We've spent 10 years making history while Democratic leaders have spent 10 years making noise," DeLay said in a speech to supporters that did not directly mention the swirl of ethics allegations against him.

DeLay was admonished three times last year by the House of Representatives ethics panel and has been battling a wave of ethics problems involving fund raising, foreign travel and his relationships with lobbyists.

Three DeLay aides face charges in Texas of illegally raising money from corporations, and the House panel is expected to open a probe soon of new DeLay allegations.

DeLay's supporters said he was under attack because of his effectiveness, and said his troubles were a challenge for the entire conservative movement.

"The message tonight is, 'If they pick a fight with Tom DeLay, they pick a fight with all of us,"' said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council.

Former congressman and vice presidential candidate Jack Kemp said DeLay's success as the No. 2 Republican in the House was "probably why he is being attacked."


"We're here tonight not because Tom needs our help, but because we as conservatives continue to need his," said David Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, the primary sponsor of the dinner.

"We are here tonight because when one of our own is unfairly attacked we have an obligation to ourselves and to the values we fight for to stand up for him."

Organizers said they deliberately did not try to build attendance among lobbyists or DeLay's fellow Republicans in Congress, although both were represented at the dinner, and focused instead on the movement's grass roots activists.

"The people who are at this dinner are the people who make up the conservative movement," Keene told reporters.

Referring to the wide Washington avenue that houses many of the biggest lobbying firms, Keene said: "This dinner isn't for the boys and girls on K Street."

Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri, the No. 3 House Republican, sat at the head table with DeLay, along with Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman and a host of conservative leaders.

Democrats ridiculed the dinner and said it was more evidence of DeLay's ties to special interests.

A fund-raising appeal sent by the House Democratic campaign committee while the dinner was occurring asked Democrats to "celebrate Tom DeLay's high achievements in influence peddling" with a donation to the anti-DeLay "Hammer the Hammer Fund."

"If Tom DeLay is the 'conservative movement,' then that is a sad movement indeed -- and certainly nothing to go around celebrating," Democratic strategist Donna Brazile said in the e-mail appeal.

A few dozen protesters, some dressed as clowns and barkers in a street theater "carnival of corruption," greeted attendees outside the hotel that hosted the dinner. Some held signs reading "Feed the Needy, Not the Greedy" and "Congress -- bought and paid for by Tom DeLay."

Several speakers blamed the media for DeLay's problems.

"This is a media out of control in their commitment to bringing down this man," said Brent Bozell, president of the Media Research Center. "Are the media blinded by red-hot hostility to this man? Yes."

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