Tom DeLay and House Ethics

Author: Samuel Metz

Date: 04/15/2005

Representative Tom DeLay employed his wife and daughter as political consultants and paid them several hundred thousand dollars. He and other Republican leaders of the House state this practice is both commonplace and acceptable. 

They may be right. 

In fact, it would be worth while for Rep. DeLay to prove he is right, as the consequences of being wrong are daunting. If paying immediate family members large amounts of money from professional expenses is not commonplace and acceptable, then, in the words of the late Latin American philosopher Desi Arnez, "Luuuuccciii, you got some ‘splaining to do."

But help is just around the corner. House Republicans can rescue their maligned leader with a grand gesture that would exonerate him and seize the shrinking moral high ground in the partisan politics that engulf our Congress: Let every House Republican list every family member that they employ and how much they are paid. 

What a gesture of support. Mr. DeLay might then present the results when the press questions this practice. See, he can state, 60% (let us guess) of my Republican colleagues have family on staff, and they’re not ashamed to say so. Then, indeed, Mr. DeLay can corroborate his explanation: The practice is both commonplace and acceptable, so find another target, you jackals.

Some contentious Democrats may demur, and claim that just because Republicans engage in despicable nepotism doesn’t make it right. If they dare present this argument, the Republican response will be easy: Show us your own list of family employees. If Democrats decline to do so or their list reveals the same degree of incestuous employment, then the dispute is over, with Republicans the clear winner.

Mr. DeLay should make this project a high priority. Absolutely the worst scenario for Mr. Delay would be that the House Democrats create their own list first, document that nepotism is exceedingly rare on their side of the aisle, and then proactively censure their own members who violate this unwritten code. 

Of course, if Mr. DeLay suspects that paying immediate family members from his professional budget is considered rare and unethical by all party members, then he might brush up on a non-partisan resignation speech. Maybe his family can help.

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