HOUSTON – With support from the National Rifle Association (search) and a healthy bank account, Tom DeLay (search) appears unshaken by near constant media scrutiny as well as recent calls for him to step aside from his House majority leadership post while investigators look into ethical and legal charges against the No. 2 Republican in the House.
Speaking at the NRA's annual convention on Saturday night in his home district of Houston, DeLay accused liberal Democrats and the national media of giving him a hard time. He also thanked the gun-rights group for not shying away from supporting him.
"When a man is in trouble or in a good fight, you want to have your friends around, preferably armed. So I feel really good," he joked.
Barely speaking of the controversy swirling around him, DeLay did poke fun at the notion that he is somehow hurting for public support.
"Thank you so much for that kind welcome — I hope the national media saw that," he said.
But DeLay is routinely getting pounded with an investigation into his Texans for a Republican Majority (search) Political Action Committee for its assistance to Republican candidates in Texas' 2002 legislative elections and questions about overseas trips and his association with a lobbyist under federal investigation.
Three DeLay associates and eight corporations have been indicted in the investigation. Three of those companies have reached agreements with the prosecutor. DeLay has never been charged with wrongdoing in any of the cases and has denied any legal or ethics violations.
Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean criticized DeLay during a conference in California on Saturday, calling DeLay morally bankrupt and corrupt.
"It is not a moral value to be reprimanded three times by the ethics committee and then to try to get rid of the committee," Dean said, later invoking DeLay's name in a warning to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger about state education funding. "Governor, do not go down the same road as Tom DeLay. We can't use any more corrupt Republicans in office in this country."
The DNC along with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee also launched an anti-DeLay Web site on Friday called "Tom Delay's House of Scandal," detailing Democrats' views of the alleged ethics violations.
The Web site argues that the probes are evidence of Republican ties to special interests that have led to the enactment of legislation that is bad for America. The site also implicates in malfeasance nearly all Republican House members as well as the Republican National Committee and well-known Washington lobbyists by virtue of their relationship to DeLay. And, it makes no bones about its agenda.
"The DCCC is the only organization whose sole mission is defeating Tom DeLay and every Republican congressional member in the country. The DCCC is working tirelessly to recruit, train, advise and fund candidates to take on Tom DeLay and his army of defenders," the site says.
Protesters outside the NRA convention said they were more concerned with deterring DeLay than with banning guns.
"He is an embarrassment to our district," said protester Patricia Baig, a 57-year-old retired school teacher from Missouri City, Texas. "He doesn't represent his district and it is time for him to do the honorable thing and resign."
DeLay has said that he would like to address the House ethics committee about the matters plaguing him, but Democrats refuse to attend any meetings of the panel since January's rules change to require a majority on the evenly-split panel to agree to an investigation.
He also told The Washington Times last week that the charges are partisan rubbish.
"I know since 1995 that everything that we have done has been checked by lawyers, double-checked by lawyers, triple-checked by lawyers, because I know I have been watched and investigated probably more than even Bill Clinton. [Democrats] can't find anything," DeLay said. "And they can keep looking. There's nothing there."
However, since the troubles heated up in the last few weeks, two Republican House members — Tom Tancredo of Colorado and Christopher Shays of Connecticut — have suggested DeLay consider resigning his leadership position while the ethics allegations play out.
Still, stalwart supporters say DeLay should not be hostage to trumped-up political charges.
"This is an effort to try to derail us from the solid work we're getting done, and we've got a lot of it done in this congress," House Majority Whip Roy Blunt told FOX News Sunday.
"We really could have a much fairer and more logical process. The House has gotten so partisan now that it's almost impossible to reach a judgment on what the facts are," former Republican Sen. Bill Brock of Tennessee told FOX News.
And DeLay's troubles didn't seem to bother the 2,550 NRA members who paid $75 to hear DeLay's speech and dine on salad with goat cheese and sirloin steak with peppercorn cognac sauce. Many wore stickers that read: "I'm for the NRA and Tom DeLay."
Wayne LaPierre, the NRA's executive vice president, called DeLay the 4-million member strong NRA's steadfast ally in Congress.
"His work to preserve our constitutional rights has earned the respect of his colleagues, our 4 million members, and millions of law-abiding gun owners across this nation," he said.
FOX News' Megyn Kendall and Sharon Liss and The Associated Press contributed to this report.