Tom DeLay- Corporate Whore

U.S. conservatives to rally around Tom DeLay

May 10, 3:59 PM (ET)
By John Whitesides, Political Correspondent

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Conservative activists, frustrated by Democratic opposition to some of President Bush's key proposals, gather on Thursday to show solidarity with embattled Republican House leader Tom DeLay and pressure wavering supporters to stay in his corner.

Hundreds of conservatives plan a tribute to the Texas congressman, under fierce Democratic attack on a series of ethics charges, to show their support has not been dimmed by what they call the politically motivated allegations.

The dinner also will warn Republicans of the political consequences if they abandon DeLay ahead of looming showdowns over Bush's nomination of John Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations, the president's blocked judicial appointments and his initiatives to overhaul Social Security.

"We think it's important to stand up and signal to both the public and to his fellow Republicans that the conservative movement and organizations are standing with Tom DeLay," said Richard Lessner, executive director of the American Conservative Union, a lobbying group.

Morton Blackwell of the Leadership Institute, which recruits and trains young conservative activists, said, "The message is, if you want support from conservatives in the future, you better be in the forefront of those standing beside Tom DeLay."

Admonished by the U.S. House of Representatives ethics panel three times last year, DeLay is battling a growing tide of ethics problems involving fund raising, foreign travel and 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 of new DeLay allegations soon.

Democrats have cranked up their efforts to link other Republicans with DeLay's ethics cloud, but his Republican supporters shrug off the attacks as a political ploy designed to eliminate an effective conservative leader.

"The strategy on the left is to demonize Tom DeLay and neuter him, make him the poster boy of a corrupt Congress," Lessner said.

Only two Republicans, moderate Rep. Chris Shays of Connecticut and conservative Rep. Tom Tancredo of Colorado, have broken with the party and questioned if DeLay should stay in office.

Tickets to the dinner cost $250 or $2,000 a table and will cover the cost of the event. Sponsors, which also include the Heritage Foundation, the Traditional Values Coalition and about a dozen other conservative groups, have sold about 900 tickets.

Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 House Democrat, said conservatives were frightened by the prospect of a future without DeLay. "I don't think the right wing of the Republican Party believes there is a replacement for Tom DeLay," he said.

Conservatives, riding high after the November elections solidified Republican power, have seen their priorities bog down in recent months under fierce Democratic resistance.

Bush's most conservative judicial nominations have been held up in the U.S. Senate by Democratic filibusters, the nomination of conservative Bolton for U.N. ambassador has been delayed and polls show efforts to overhaul the Social Security retirement system are losing ground.

But conservatives expect Bolton's nomination to go through and are pushing for a confrontation over filibusters that would break the Senate logjam. Shifts in momentum, they said, are part of the Washington political cycle.

Andrea Lafferty, executive director of the Traditional Values Coalition, said she hoped the dinner would remind conservatives and their opponents of the movement's strength.

"I think it will send a message that the conservative movement is strong and it's deep and it's wide," she said.

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