No good deed goes unpunished

By Paul M. Weyrich
web posted May 15, 2000

The late Claire Booth Luce used to say, with reference to public service, that no good deed goes unpunished. Tom DeLay understands that sentiment more than most these days. He is now having to defend himself against a lawsuit filed by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and its operative Rep. Patrick Kennedy.

This is no ordinary lawsuit. It is filed under the RICO or racketeering statutes. Why, what sort of nefarious deeds has DeLay been up to? Well, it seems he has been effective in raising money, not only for the Political Action Committee he controls, or his party, but also for some outside organizations that he does not personally control, but which are run by friends or former staffers of his and are known to be politically sympathetic.

Speaker Dennis Hastert has said privately that he thinks the Democrats now know that their chance to win back control of the House has diminished. This is an action, Hastert believes, to try to slow down DeLay, who has proven to be one of the most effective Members in the Republican leadership.

Of course the Democrats can never forgive DeLay. It was he, more than any other Member, who saw to it that Bill Clinton was impeached. After the Democrats picked up seats in 1998, contrary to every so-called sixth year itch election in the 20th Century, they were morally convinced that impeachment was dead. DeLay thought otherwise. One by one he sent Members over to read the private FBI files which had been gathered in the case. One by one Members came back and told DeLay that they had to vote for impeachment. Even though the Senate failed to convict Clinton, the Democrats understand that he will be remembered in history as only the second president to have been impeached in our nation's history. This is payback time for DeLay.

Is this a serious lawsuit? No one thinks it is. Not even legal scholars from the other side. DeLay is a careful man. He and his associates follow the law. I know this from personal experience. He is very cautious legally in dealing with outside groups. Accordingly, the major media did not give this lawsuit the sort of attention they would have given one which had real merit. Even the Washington Post, while sympathetic to Kennedy, editorialized against the suit. Many liberal Democrats are not pleased because they know they have done for liberal causes the same sort of thing DeLay has done on the right. They don't want to go there. If DeLay is guilty of racketeering, they are guilty to the tenth power for what they have done for a far longer time.

Are you listening Tony Coelho? Al Gore's campaign manager resigned from Congress rather than face the ethics charges that were about to come forth form that body (then under the control of Democrats). Well, there is no greater champion of shaking down contributors for the liberals than Coelho.

What he did over the years makes DeLay look like a rank amateur. After all, DeLay never threatened anybody who didn't contribute. DeLay never held up legislation until the right amount of cash was on the table. DeLay never had his own hands in the till.

If the Democrats want to play that game, Republicans have grounds for at least a dozen, maybe twenty or more such lawsuits. Smarter Democrats want no part of this. They know this can blow up in Kennedy's face.

This is not a legitimate suit. Kennedy uses as its basis hearsay evidence from third and fourth parties. Oh, and don't forget the newspaper clippings.

We know how the national press always tells the truth about conservatives and gets all the facts straight, right?

I don't worry that DeLay will lose this suit. No way. I don't worry that he will suffer in his district. This might bring a tighter race but he will still win in a landslide where the people know him best. But I do worry that nationally this can ruin the reputation of a good and decent man. A man who prays daily. A man who, despite his grinding schedule, takes in foster children and along with his devoted wife, Christine, cares for them.

I do worry that it will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to beat this phony rap. That money could go to promote worthy causes. I do worry that the nervous nelly business community will now run screaming from the room when DeLay comes around to ask for help lest they too be tainted by this bogus lawsuit.

After former Labor Secretary Ray Donovan was cleared of all the equally phony charges against him, he held a press conference and asked: "How do I get my good name back?" Unfortunately, that is what is most often remembered about Donovan as Labor Secretary. He was charged with racketeering as well in connection with businesses he had operated before becoming Secretary. He did many, many effective things to bring balance back to the Labor Department that had been run by the unions under the table for years. That he gets no credit for. All that people recall is that he was charged with corruption.

That is what I fear for Tom DeLay. That somehow, despite the fact that this suit is utterly lacking in merit, that is what will be remembered about this statesman. We can't let that happen. Ordinarily when there are these kinds of charges, conservatives are reluctant to defend the person charged. They fear that the media will then link them to the charges. They want more facts. They first want to see how things go in court.

Forget all that if you have any decency in you at all. Rally behind Tom DeLay. He is innocent. I will stake my career on that point. And if we rally behind him, as both Speaker Hastert and Majority Leader Dick Armey have done, the left will not be able to destroy the effectiveness of this man.

Armey said the liberals have sunk so low because they are losing all of the public policy arguments so they have to resort to their longtime hidden card...the smear.

We long have prayed for a leader like DeLay. We long have wished we had someone who felt about matters as deeply as we do. DeLay told us the other day that he nearly resigned from Congress because of the way his colleagues have acted in the Elian Gonzales case. He said they have refused to take the Constitution seriously and he doesn't want to be a part of any group which does not. In typical fashion, however, DeLay didn't quit. Instead he began to educate his colleagues just the way he did on impeachment. And he is, slowly but surely, making some progress.

We cannot let the corrupt Kennedys define corruption. We cannot let this good man hang out to dry. If we do there will be severe consequences for the Congress, for our movement, for the nation. Let us hope DeLay is able to get expedited action on this lawsuit so it is not hanging over his head during this whole electoral season. Let us take every step possible...prayer...petitions...public comment on talk radio and TV...letters to publications...rallies...displays of support at public meetings...resolutions passed by legislative bodies and private name it. Let's do it. If we fail to do so, it will be our loss. After all, it is us Kennedy is after. DeLay is just the convenient whipping boy. And he is so precisely because he fights for us. Now we must fight for him.

Paul Weyrich is president of the Free Congress Foundation.

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