WASHINGTON – House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (search) was warmly greeted Tuesday by Republicans gathered in a hotel banquet room to discuss tax reform and Social Security despite being under the constant watch of investigators and Democrats looking for a weak spot.
In fact, the music chosen for the Texas Republican's entrance — "You're Still the One" —stressed the support DeLay maintains among GOP activists and pols despite being under an investigative cloud for questionable donations to his political action committee and most recently suspicion of trading junkets for congressional favors.
Outside the hotel banquet room, reporters gathered to ask DeLay questions, but his security detail rushed him past cameras. Asked by FOX News why he was afraid to talk to the media, the majority leader responded, "I am not afraid. I answered all the questions."
DeLay has already been slapped on the wrist three times by the House ethics committee, though, as he points out, he has not been found to have violated House ethics rules. In Texas, the Texans for a Republican Majority PAC (search) he helped to form is being scrutinized by a grand jury. DeLay calls it part of a partisan witchhunt.
Questions are also swirling about an all-expense-paid trip DeLay made to South Korea in 2001 and about dealings a former DeLay staffer had with Indian casinos.
DeLay made no mention of those inquiries during his speech Tuesday, but he did take aim at Democrats.
"They have put style over substance, politics over people, and partisanship over everything," he told the National Republican Congressional Committee (search).
Democrats have tried to criticize Republicans on the House floor, with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi complaining Tuesday that Republicans have changed the way the ethics committee is organized and operates. Republicans shut down the debate in short order.
But congressional watchdog groups held a press conference Tuesday to point out that as it stands now, no ethics panel, or House Standards of Official Conduct Committee (search), is in place to watch over the House of Representatives.
"This ethics breakdown in the House is the direct result of rules changes and other actions initiated in the beginning of this Congress by the Republican leadership," said Fred Wertheimer, founder and chief of Democracy 21 (search).
Despite being the poster child for the collapse of the ethics panel, DeLay did receive a word of support from the White House Tuesday.
"We join with other congressional leaders in our support for Congressman DeLay. And we will continue to work closely with him to get things done for the American people," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan.
Off-camera, DeLay insists he has done nothing wrong and that he is simply the latest victim of attacks by Democrats and the liberal media. Some newspaper reports of late have quoted unnamed Republicans voicing private concerns about DeLay becoming a distraction to the GOP agenda.
Lawmakers on Capitol Hill who spoke privately with FOX News said they are standing solidly behind DeLay, though some acknowledged that they are having to answer questions about DeLay back home.
Click in the box near the top of the story to watch a report by FOX News' Brian Wilson.