DeLay Blames 'Politics of Personal Destruction'

April 5, 2006 — -- Shock waves have reverberated throughout Capitol Hill since Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, announced his resignation from Congress.

The former House majority leader said he was stepping aside because polls showed he could lose his bid for re-election even though his district is decidedly Republican. Recently, DeLay has been embroiled in scandal, most namely, the Jack Abramoff money-laundering investigation.

Last week, DeLay's former deputy chief of staff, Tony Rudy, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and corruption charges, admitting to having sold influence to the lobbyist, who earlier had pleaded guilty to charges of conspiring to corrupt public officials.

DeLay has not been charged with any crime related to the case.

"Look I've had, I've hired lawyers to investigate me as if they were prosecuting me," said DeLay who will turn 59 on Saturday. "They spent all fall, four months looking at everything I had done over the last 21 years and they have found nothing. We have always tried to be honorable in our service, ethical in our service, and we've been passionate about what we believe in, but we've never done anything wrong."

DeLay said there was a "zero" chance that he would be indicted.

In September 2005, a Texas grand jury indicted DeLay on charges of breaking campaign finance laws, and he resigned as House majority leader.

DeLay said that he had decided not to seek re-election because the campaign had become a referendum on him, not on ideas. Although he vanquished Republican opponents in the primary, polls showed him in a dead heat with his Democratic opponent, and DeLay feared that his seat could go to the Democrats.

"It shows you that the politics of personal destruction and character assassination takes its toll," he said to ABC News' George Stephanopoulos. "I've been going through this for 10 years, and after 10 years, particularly … being indicted on laws that don't exist. It takes its toll."

DeLay's redistricting plan may be part of the reason he fears he could lose the race. He helped shore up neighboring districts for Republicans at the expense of his own 22nd district, which had voted 64 percent for Bush. It is now thought to be only 55 percent Republican. Even with DeLay out of the picture, the fight for the seat could be competitive.

DeLay said he had been told by prosecutors that he was not the subject of the Abramoff investigation, even though he is generally believed to be "Representative #2" named by Rudy. DeLay said he was simply not aware of some of his staff's illegal activities.

"It's very easy not to know," he said. "You've been around here. You've worked on the Hill. You know that a leader's office is a whirlwind all day long. And you have to trust the people that work for you."

For now, DeLay said he was getting over his disappointment and hurt by turning to his Christian faith.

"I have the grace of the Lord with me every day, all day long," he said. "That is why I am totally at peace with this decision. I have a sense of joy about it because I walk with the Lord. He guides me and so I haven't fallen from his grace. … Probably right now, the one I struggle with the most is loving your enemies. I'm working on it."