In an interview with RAW STORY Wednesday afternoon, the congressman who filed the ethics complaint against House Majority Leader Tom DeLay last fall said he was “surprised and pleased.”
Chris Bell, a former Democratic congressman from Texas, was ousted in DeLay-engineered redistricting after filing an ethics complaint against the Republican leader. DeLay was subsequently admonished twice by the Ethics Committee.
“I just thought after a couple weeks ago when they handed down a new series of indictments involving the political action committee and adding charges to the individuals that that would be the end of it," Bell said. "And I had sort of taken that to be the case, so that when it started circulating yesterday that an indictment was possible, I was surprised."
Bell's complaint included the charge for which DeLay has been indicted. DeLay's Texas political action committee (TRMPAC) accepted $255,000 from companies and placed the money in an account, from which a $290,000 check was drawn to the Republican National Committee. Such a move is illegal under campaign finance law.
"That was the one count that the Ethics Committee left pending," Bell said.
"They handed down two admonishments, but then they left the allegations regarding TRMPAC pending action by the Travis County Grand Jury. Hopefully this will provide the impetus for the ethics committee to now move forward on that count."
Bell, a veteran DeLay critic, says the Texas strongman must own up to his mistakes.
“At some point Mr DeLay needs to look in the mirror to see who’s responsible for his hardships," he said. "They say that he’s been such a powerful member and a powerful conservative. Mr DeLay conducts his business in a highly questionable fashion and that’s why I think he’s the most corrupt politician in America today.”
Asked if he felt vindicated by the indictment, Bell said no.
“I don’t like that term because I never felt like I needed vindication," the Texas Democrat replied. "I thought the allegations that I brought forth against Mr. DeLay were extraordinarily well justified. I never felt the need for vindication. I made a conscious decision that it was right to bring the ethics complaint forward.”
“I have a feeling that it will be a long drawn out legal battle, it’s been drawn out to this point, and I don’t see that changing," Bell added. "I think when anybody sits down and looks at the facts, they’re going to see a very ugly picture."
While DeLay has frequently sought to portray the charges against him as politically motivated, Bell contends DeLay's ethics aren't a partisan matter.
"People can sit back and cry politics and partisanship... or they can try to educate themselves of the facts, and whether they’re Republican, Democrat or independent," he remarked. "They are going to see some very strong allegations of misconduct. That’s precisely what I saw in doing my research prior to filing the ethics complaint and that was my motivation for filing the complaint.
"At the end of the day," he continued, "once the dots are connected, it’s not terribly complicated and it’s not terribly pretty. They basically cheated in order to take control."
Originally published on Wednesday September 28, 2005.