Today's news that House Republican Leader Tom DeLay has been indicted by a Texas grand jury for alleged participation in a criminal conspiracy to violate state laws banning corporate political contributions has predictably been greeted with righteous glee among Democrats and lurid accusations of a conspiracy among Republicans -- or at least those Republicans who are not already distancing themselves from the powerful and vengeful ex-exterminator from Sugarland.
It's now obvious why Democrats and even some Republicans fought DeLay's failed effort earlier this year to change Republican caucus rules to delete a longstanding requirement that its leaders step aside temporarily if indicted for serious crimes.
But tempting as it is to dwell on the possibility that this self-appointed moral arbiter of the nation could soon be strolling the halls not of Congress but of a Texas correctional facility, we urge Democrats to keep focused on a much bigger issue: the systemic pattern of corruption, cronyism, influence-peddling, and partisan intimidation in Washington. DeLay is clearly a major ink-spot in that pattern; even if he evades imprisonment on the Texas charges, let's remember that the object of the fundraising effort in question was The Hammer's obsessive campaign to launch a re-redistricting of U.S. House seats to buttress his power in the Capitol. And that broader determination to ruthlessly hold and use power by the GOP is what has given us a vast array of ethical lapses and bad policies, from Jack Abramoff's enormous roulette wheel of shakedowns and wirepullings, to a long series of fiscally ruinous special-interest raids on the U.S. Treasury, and even down to the staffing of FEMA with Republican campaign operatives.
We've offered a whole package of reform measures to "drain the swamp" in Washington, including lobbying reform, redistricting reform, ethics laws with teeth, and a major rollback of corporate subsidies in the federal budget and tax code. Others should offer their own ideas, but the key thing right now is to make DeLay's "accountability moment" a reform moment for Democrats, and for the country.
--The Democratic Leadership Council