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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 April 2006, 16:01 GMT 17:01 UK
Profile: Tom DeLay
Tom DeLay
Tom DeLay has been hugely popular within the Republican Party
Tom DeLay's announcement that he is leaving the US Congress closes the door on a career spent steering Republican causes through the corridors of power.

He was, until late last year, one of Washington's most powerful politicians - the aggressive, energetic leader of the Republican majority in the House of Representatives.

But a series of corruption allegations led him to resign his post as majority leader in September 2005 - and to his decision, in the following April, to leave Congress altogether.

Mr DeLay denies criminal charges that he illegally used corporate funds to fund the Republican Party in his native Texas.

But with a potentially damaging trial yet to begin, Mr DeLay said he would rather leave political office than risk losing his seat to his Democrat rivals in November's mid-term elections.

President's friend

Little known outside the US, Mr DeLay's office was for years the first and often only port of call for those who needed a bill passed in the US House of Representatives.

The former pest control officer's powers of persuasion were legendary.

President Bush and DeLay on 23 September in Austin, Texas
Bush may feel DeLay's absence

As chief whip of the Republican Party in 1995-97, he managed to marshal through 300 bills out of a target of 303 - an impressive performance for a man nicknamed "The Hammer".

He has been loathed by half the Americans and loved by the other half, says the BBC's Justin Webb in Washington.

Mr DeLay has also been a key fundraiser for his fellow Texan, President George W Bush.

And he has used this talent to secure voting majorities by sometimes promising, sometimes threatening to withhold or withdraw financial incentives to reluctant colleagues in the House, says our correspondent.

The president had depended on him to get legislation through - a job made the more difficult when popular support for Mr Bush had declined and Congress was needed to authorise mammoth bills to pay for the Iraq war effort and Hurricane Katrina.

'Shameless' indictment

The indictment against Mr DeLay alleges that he and two others used corporate funds to influence a general election in Texas in 2002.

"The defendants entered into an agreement with each other or with TRMPAC [Texans for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee] to make a political contribution in violation of the Texas election code," says the four-page document.

TRMPAC - formed by Mr DeLay - was also charged with illegally accepting $120,000 of corporate money while the congressman was helping Republicans win control of the Texas legislature for the first time since the post-Civil War reconstruction era.

State law prohibits the use of corporate contributions to advocate the election or defeat of candidates.

This is one of the weakest, most baseless indictments in American history
Tom DeLay

The historic victory was followed by a DeLay-inspired remapping of congressional districts in Texas.

It upset the Democrats so much they took refuge in neighbouring states for a time in an ultimately unsuccessful bid to deny the House a necessary minimum number present if its decisions are to be valid - and prevent the perceived gerrymandering.

The exercise sent more Republicans from Texas to the US House of Representatives - a Republican majority of 21-11 in the current Congress.

Mixed blessing

Mr DeLay has accused the prosecutor, Ronnie Earle, a Democrat, of pursuing a political vendetta against him.

But according to Dallas Morning News political correspondent Wayne Slater, there is scant evidence of that.

He points out that Mr Earle has indicted two-to-three times more Democrats than Republicans during his tenure.

A Congressional ethics committee has reprimanded Mr DeLay three times for what it calls objectionable behaviour - including foreign trips financed irregularly.

One such trip was to Britain, including golfing in Scotland, arranged by Jack Abramoff, a political lobbyist and friend of Mr DeLay now facing charges of fraud.

Another DeLay trip, to South Korea, was paid for by a foreign organisation, which is illegal under Congress rules.

President Bush may feel Mr DeLay's absence, but he has been a bit of a mixed blessing for the White House, says our Washington correspondent.

For although Tom DeLay was hugely powerful in Congress, he also allied himself with causes that inconvenienced the White House. At one stage he said America's judges were running amok - a view not widely shared by US citizens.




SEE ALSO:
Top US Republican stepping down
04 Apr 06 |  Americas
Bush ally faces criminal charge
28 Sep 05 |  Americas
Top Republican DeLay under siege
15 Apr 05 |  Americas
Republican 'paid family $500,000'
06 Apr 05 |  Americas


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