Despite the corruption and lobbying scandals that ensnared Republicans in Congress and triggered a Democratic resurgence over the past decade, Tom DeLay has only one piece of advice for GOP leaders as they attempt to retake the House in the upcoming midterm elections: Be more aggressive.
"The biggest change that I think they need [is] to be more aggressive at turning back the Obama agenda," the former House majority leader told ABC News Chief Investigative Correspondent Brian Ross in a lengthy, wide ranging interview on this week's episode of "Brian Ross Investigates."
The interview was conducted after the Justice Department informed DeLay it would be dropping its six-year probe into his conduct in office.
The Hammer Talks Washington Politics
Combative and unbowed, the man who was once known as simply "The Hammer," defended his relationship with disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff. He said the two remain close friends and spoke just last month, shortly after Abramoff was released from federal prison and moved into a Baltimore halfway house. Asked what the two discussed, DeLay said, "None of your business."
The former majority leader decried the ugly nature of Washington politics, upbraided Democrats, and blamed "bureaucrats" in the U.S. Justice Department for letting politics and personal vendettas drive their case against him, saying "they hung this cloud over my head for six years."
And he criticized the media – including ABC News -- for creating what he said was an impression that political corruption is far more widespread than it really is.
"It's not bad enough now to just beat them at policy or let them ruin your reputation," DeLay said. "They've got to bankrupt you, ruin your family, put you in jail, put you in the grave, and then dance on your grace. That's not good for the country."
The Texas Republican also did not rule out a return to elected office.
"I don't know what the Lord has in store for me," he smiled when asked if he would ever run again.
Perhaps the most striking moment of the 20-minute interview came when Ross asked DeLay if he felt there were any lessons to take from the Abramoff scandal and an era in which free-spending lobbyists lavished members of congress with meals, trips, and campaign donations.
"None at all," DeLay said, staring blankly. "The lesson to learn is, don't break the law."
Tom DeLay on the Jack Abramoff Scandal
Delay and Ross have tangled repeatedly over the years, as ABC News traveled to the South Pacific to show the then-majority leader embracing Abramoff and being feted by his clients. ABC News also captured some of the first footage of the famously lavish DeLay fundraising events at the Republican National Convention – events which had historically been closed to the public.
Asked if money had been a negative force in Washington, DeLay said he did not think it was.
"I don't believe it. I was good at raising it. And I used it to advance the conservative cause," he said. "Money can corrupt corruptible people, [but] most people are not corrupt."
When Ross asked the former congressman if he believed Abramoff had a corrupting influence on Washington, DeLay responded, "Absolutely not." While DeLay entertained a handful of questions about the conviction of Jack Abramoff, he became increasingly agitated when asked about the case that led to the lobbyist's conviction. At several points, DeLay threatened to walk out of the interview if discussion of Abramoff continued.
There were lighter moments, though, as when Ross asked DeLay about his unexpected appearance on the reality television show Dancing With the Stars.
"I love to dance," DeLay smiled. "I had a great time doing it."
Brian Ross Investigates: The Show
"Brian Ross Investigates" is a weekly 30-minute investigative news magazine show that features exclusive interviews, undercover videos and extended investigations and story updates.
"The show is part of our expanded digital efforts in this new age of news," Ross said. "It's an exciting venture that we hope will allow viewers to interact with our investigative team and offer input as we continue reporting."
"Brian Ross Investigates" airs every Friday on Hulu.com - CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE FULL EPISODES - and ABC News Now, the network's 24-hour news channel available throughout the U.S. and Europe, at 1:36pm. Each show is also available on mobile devices, including the iPhone and iPad.
Viewers can submit videos and personal thoughts on controversial issues and current topics through Facebook and Twitter, including the "Skype Gripe" segment, in which viewers are invited to interact with Ross about recent investigations.
This week is the 20th episode of "Brian Ross Investigates." All shows are archived on Hulu for viewing.