CNN: DeLay is a Cross Between a Concierge and a Mafia Don
On this afternoon’s “Live From...”, CNN’s Candy Crowley did a not-so flattering report on the newly indicted House Majority Leader, Tom DeLay (R-Tex). Crowley interviewed a variety of Democratic foes in the report who have some pretty damning words for the embattled Congressman from Texas. Yet, some of the harshest criticisms came from Crowley herself:
“Someone once called him a cross between a concierge and a Mafia don, a guy who delivered.”
“They call him ‘The Hammer,’ pounding money out of donors... pounding votes out of colleagues. Pounding the Democrats.”
What follows is a full transcript of this report, and a video link.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): As a bug exterminator driven to politics by his fury over environmental rules, he once called the EPA the Gestapo of government. After the president, he may be the most powerful man in Washington.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The majority leader of the House of Representatives, Tom DeLay of Texas.
CROWLEY: Tom DeLay came to power the old-fashioned way, under his own steam, building a base of loyalties, collecting chips.
BOB BARR (R), FMR. U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: He's worked for each member to get elected and to be reelected. That is something that members don't forget, or forget at their own peril.
CROWLEY: Last year, DeLay, a prodigious fundraiser, gave more money to congressional candidates than any other lawmaker. A decade ago, he was a relative unknown in a minority party. But DeLay was setting the type for his headliner status, sending cash and care packages to the campaigns of Republican hopefuls in the class of '94.
REP. DAVID DREIER (R-CA), RULES CHAIRMAN: So a candidate for Congress who would be out knocking on doors, meeting with supporters, talking about issues, debating his or her opponent, would come back to the headquarters and they would say, this guy, Tom DeLay, just sent home-baked cookies from Texas.
CROWLEY: When the House opened for business in '95, Republicans were in charge for the first time in four decades. Many of them owed Tom DeLay.
He was elected whip, the person responsible for rounding up votes. He was very good at it. Someone once called him a cross between a concierge and a Mafia don, a guy who delivered.
BILL PAXON (R), FMR. U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: Was the kind of person who would always reach out to help, help with your political needs, your congressional needs, your personal needs.
CROWLEY: A guy who expected loyalty.
CHARLIE STENHOLM (D), FMR. U.S. REPRESENTATIVE: If anyone within his own party disagrees with him, they find an opponent waiting in the wings in the next primary, they find a threat to reduce the amount of funding available to them.
CROWLEY: They call him "The Hammer," pounding money out of donors...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's $10,,200.
DENNIS HASTERT, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The gentleman from Texas...
CROWLEY: ... pounding votes out of colleagues. Pounding the Democrats.
ERIC SMITH, FMR. DEMOCRATIC AIDE: There were countless times on the House floor when Democrats would feel like we had finally pulled one off and we were finally going to win, and the clock and the vote would stop, and Tom DeLay would appear on the floor and Republican members would start walking to the well (ph) of the House to change their votes.
CROWLEY: Eight years as whip, three now as majority leader, he is a brass knuckles conservative in relentless pursuit of his agenda.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every morning when he wakes up, he is trying to figure out a way that the conservatives can win and that the Democrats lose.
CROWLEY: In Texas, DeLay pushed the state legislature to redraw district lines to favor Republican elections. When minority Democrats fled the state to prevent a vote, he called the FAA to find out where they went.
STENHOLM: He was a bulldog, and he wasn't going to take no for an answer. And some of his tactics are being reviewed by the proper legal authorities. And I'll leave it to them whether anything was illegal or not.
CROWLEY: Drawn into a district he couldn't win, Charlie Stenholm is now a former congressman, one of the Texas Democrats who lost their congressional seat in 2004. And Tom DeLay got six more Texas Republicans in Washington to help move the agenda.
Smaller government, lower taxes, fewer regulations. He is the go-to guy for getting legislation through Congress. Donors want to give him money. Lobbyists want to please him, or at least not make him mad. Power begets more power.
DeLay warned pro-business lobbies to stop giving money to Democratic candidates. H He pushed K Street, Washington speak for lobbyists and trade associations, to hire Republicans. He expanded his reach.
STUART ROY, FMR. DELAY AIDE: There are certainly a lot of people in the government relations world, public relations, who are close to Tom DeLay and who are able to look out for him, be eyes and ears.
CROWLEY: Bloomberg News found more than 200 companies, coalitions and trade groups have hired former DeLay employees as lobbyists. Never charged with violating House rules, DeLay has gone to the edge, warned by the Ethics Committee on four separate occasions.
His colleagues are loyal, his critics intense. And all agree on this...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, that's the thing about DeLay, is that he always wins.
CROWLEY: Tom DeLay wields great power with no apology, few boundaries, and no one takes odds against him.
Candy Crowley, CNN, Washington.