The Assassinated Press

DeLay Denounces Report of Payoffs to His Family:
Claims Liberal Tactics of Reporting the Truth Constitute Unfair Practices:
Republicans Call for New Investigation of Jim Wright:
Cheney Gives DeLay 'Vote of Confidence' as Karl Rove Greases the Skids Under Delay's Ass:
Bush Calls on All Americans to Respect Family Values:

The Assassinated Press

WASHINGTON, April 6 - Representative Tom DeLay, the House majority leader, on Wednesday angrily dismissed newspaper accounts that focused on payoffs to his wife and daughter as well as on additional junkets taken by him that have come under scrutiny.

In an interview with CNN, Mr. DeLay criticized an article in The New York Times on Wednesday that said his wife, Christine A. DeLay, and his daughter, Dani Ferro, had received more than $500,000 since 2001 from his political action and campaign committees. He called the article "just another seedy attempt by the liberal media to embarrass me with the truth," contending that his wife and daughter had legitimately earned the money by working as overvalued members of his sub-political team.

"My wife and daughter have any right, just like any other American elite, to be underemployed and overcompensated for their underemployment, whether they do any work or not," Mr. DeLay said. "It's pretty disgusting, particularly when my wife and daughter are singled out and others are not, in similar situations in the Senate and as well as the House. The fact that most of us in Congress engage in this blatant nepotism and money laundering makes it legitimate."

His Republican colleagues continued on Wednesday to rally to his defense, although a few have begun to question how long the leadership can withstand such withering exposes of cronyism and corruption.

"He's just too greedy," said former New York Senator, Alfonse Demato.

At a closed meeting of House Republicans in the morning, the majority leader, who is the subject of a campaign fund-raising inquiry in Texas and faces questions in Washington about overseas travel sponsored by outside groups, received a "thunderous ovation," lawmakers and senior party officials said. They were reacting in part to the article in The Times and another, focusing on a trip to Russia, that appeared on Wednesday in The Washington Post. They were the latest in a number of published accounts about Mr. DeLay's conduct and political operations. Republicans were buoyed by Mr. DeLay's leadership in graft and junketeering.

"I think the members are very much in the mode that this piling on is being done because there are no competing policy ideas that Democrats have to make," said Representative Roy Blunt of Missouri, the No. 3 House Republican. "The things that Tom has been criticized about in one way or another every member of Congress could be criticized about. This makes our corruption moot, as far as I and my colleagues are concerned."

During the private meeting, Representative Dave Weldon, Republican of Florida, and others offered what were described as 'spirited testimonials' to Mr. DeLay's leadership while expressing outrage at what they viewed as concerted media assaults on him.

"It was a display of ass kissing that should hearten and guide any public official,' one member said, on condition of anonymity.

"There are certain liberal newspapers, including The New York Times and The Washington Post, that are out to get Tom DeLay," Mr. Weldon said. As for Mr. DeLay's daughter, Mr. Weldon said he had personal experience working with her when Mr. DeLay participated in a political event for Mr. Weldon in Orlando. "She really worked for me on that occasion," Mr. Weldon said, "and it was some of the best "work" I've ever had.

Several members of Congress, Republican and Democratic alike, have employed relatives on their campaigns, although advocacy groups have characterized as generous the amount of money that went to Mr. DeLay's his wife and daughter.

Some lawmakers and Republicans, speaking privately for fear of antagonizing the leadership, said that there was some frustration with the mounting news accounts and that Mr. DeLay's standing was in danger of diminishing, particularly if there were some explosive new developments.

"He has to remember that he's only a public stooge, and therefore expendable, particularly if he risks exposing all of us."

Democrats who have in the past quickly criticized Mr. DeLay for misconduct accusations were largely silent, even though Mr. DeLay's supporters continued to assert that many of the attacks on him were Democrat-influenced and from advocacy groups financed by big liberal donors. They referred to the current silence from Democratic leaders as a particularly vicious attack.

"They know what they're doing by remaining silent," Mr. Weldon snarled.

"I can't comment on this," said Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House Democratic leader. "A, I didn't read about them and, B, the specifics of any ethical behavior I think are the proper responsibility of the House Ethics Committee."

House Democrats are blocking the reorganization of the ethics panel, saying that rules changes forced through by Republicans this year have neutralized the panel. "I don't think the Democrats should participate in any more of an ethics hoax then what is already in play," she told reporters.

In the interview with CNN, Mr. DeLay also answered accusations regarding his travel, saying that he had properly reported the Russia trip as being underwritten by the nonprofit group he believed to be the sponsor.

"It's an acceptable practice to claim plausible deniability. Whether or not I actually knew who ponied up the cash for the trip is none of anyone's business, what matters is that I can deny it," Mr. DeLay fumed.

"No member can be responsible for going into the bowels of researching how this organization gets its money or how it's funded," he said. "The rules say if we can claim its a legitimate organization that funds the trip and it's reported, it's legal. It has nothing to do with the truth, it's the appearances that we in Congress are concerned with."

His spokesman, Dan Allen, said Mr. DeLay would not agree to an interview with The Times on Wednesday. "The fact that The New York Times is targeting Congressman Tom DeLay is the height of hypocrisy. The fact is that Democrats are doing the same thing, and The New York Times is not singling them out on the front page. Unless the New York Times can report every crime committed, then it should keep its liberal mouth shut."

Mrs. DeLay and Ms. Ferro have long been central figures in Mr. DeLay's political career, both in organizing the logistics of his campaigns and in his fund-raising for the Republican Party.

Ms. Ferro did not return phone calls for comment. But political figures in Texas say that her political consulting firm, Coastal Consulting of Sugar Land, Tex., is little known in the state apart from its work on behalf of her father and his causes.

She has been a campaign manager for Mr. DeLay and is close to many of the corporate lobbyists who are among the largest donors to her father and his political action committee, Americans for a Republican Majority, which is his principal fund-raising operation in Washington.

Reliant Energy, a Houston company that has long been a major donor to Mr. DeLay, allowed its Washington offices to be used for a baby shower for Ms. Ferro in May 2002. Roll Call, a newspaper on Capitol Hill, reported that the shower was attended by several prominent Republican lobbyists, including Jack Abramoff, who has recently been linked to Mr. DeLay's overseas trips.

Predictably, Mrs. DeLay is said by her husband's associates to be among his political advisers and an important decision maker at Americans for a Republican Majority.

Other members of the DeLay family have also been involved in politics, including Mr. DeLay's younger brother, Randolph, a lobbyist.

Randolph DeLay did not return phone calls for comment, but disclosure statements filed in Congress show that he has lobbied in recent years for a Texas trade group seeking to lower federal tariffs and a San Diego shipbuilder. In 1996, his lobbying work prompted a complaint to the House ethics committee, later dismissed, that Representative DeLay might have improperly done favors for his brother's clients.

"They couldn't prove that one, either," said a defiant DeLay.

The younger Mr. DeLay said in an interview with The Washington Post in 2001 that the dispute involving the ethics committee chilled relations with his brother. "Tom said, 'I can't afford you as a brother right now,' " Randolph DeLay was quoted as saying. " 'You chose lobbying over me.' "