WASHINGTON – House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (search) said a "left-wing syndicate" is coordinating the effort to bring him down as the No. 2 Republican leader even though he is not even being investigated for any of the charges being raised by Democrats.
"I'm suggesting there's a left-wing syndicate. That's for sure, we've documented it," DeLay told FOX News' Tony Snow Radio Show on Tuesday.
"These people are all hooked up. The same people that went after George W. Bush have just changed their focus onto me. They are running ads, they are raising money. This is pretty serious stuff," DeLay said.
The Texas Republican has been besieged lately over three trips he took as long as eight years ago that may have been paid for by a lobbyist currently under federal investigation. DeLay's campaign has said two of the trips — to Russia in 1997 and England in 2000 — were deemed proper, and DeLay did not realize that the third trip — to South Korea in 2001 — was paid for by a group that had registered as a foreign agent two days before the traveling party left the United States.
DeLay is also routinely getting pounded by an investigation into his Texans for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee (search) for its fund-raising related to the 2002 Texas state election. Three DeLay consultants and eight corporations have been indicted for illegally raising political funds from corporations and funneling them to TRMPAC.
The congressman said the three "associates" indicted by Travis County, Texas, District Attorney Ronnie Earle are facing "frivolous" charges. In any case, the investigation doesn't include him, he said.
"I haven't been investigated, I haven't been informed I am going to be investigated. They haven't questioned me, they haven't asked for any of my records. I have not been part of this investigation, yet you'd think I'd already committed a felony and been guilty of it," DeLay said.
DeLay has offered to go up to the House ethics panel and discuss all the allegations against him, but he accused Democrats of trying to avoid the meeting so they don't have to take a look at their own actions.
DeLay claimed Democrats don't want to begin their investigation into Rep. Jim McDermott (search) of Washington, a former ethics panel co-chairman, who was convicted last year of distributing in 1997 an illegally recorded cell phone conversation by Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio.
All members convicted in criminal court face an ethics probe. A senior Republican leadership aide told The Washington Times last week that McDermott's is the "only open, active investigation" sitting in the committee.
"Many are worried about their own personal and professional actions, absolutely," DeLay said of congressional members. "And I don't want that. That doesn't help the institution."
Dems Won't Meet With 'Neutered' Committee
Democrats counter that Republicans have stacked the ethics panel with Republicans sympathetic to DeLay and changed the rules to prevent any DeLay investigation from being opened. Previously, it took 50 percent of the panel to open a probe. In January, the House voted to require the evenly-split panel to have a majority of votes to open an investigation, meaning a member of one party would have to agree with the other side of the aisle to open a complaint on any member.
"We're not going to meet with an ethics committee that is neutered by the Republican leadership," House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (search) of Maryland told "FOX News Sunday." "Abuse of power is the issue that is at issue here. And Tom DeLay, of course, represents particularly the use of power, and in our opinion, the abuse of power."
DeLay said that the rules change, written by House Speaker Dennis Hastert without his consultation, brings the panel into line with other determinations for investigation. "If the ethics committee is deadlocked like a grand jury is deadlocked, nothing happens. If a jury in a court of law is deadlocked nothing happens. But if you have a majority of the grand jury or the jury wants to go forward, then we will go forward," he said.
While DeLay and others accuse Democrats of seeking political points from the controversy, some Republicans have privately begun to express concern that the party could be damaged unless a way is found out of the impasse.
In an overture to Democrats on the ethics panel, its chairman offered last week to change portions of the new rules. Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., saw his proposal swiftly rejected.
Hastings and other GOP lawmakers on Wednesday will hold a press conference at 3 p.m. EDT. It's believed he will announce his plan to attempt to break the deadlock over investigative rules.
Hastings will guarantee in writing that Democrats could have three months -- and possibly longer -- for a preliminary investigation of a lawmaker. Hastings also will guarantee that no case would be dismissed without a vote of the full committee.
The proposal was outlined by a Republican congressional official who was not authorized to be quoted by name about the offer.
But his latest attempt still would not meet the demand for a task force and has no chance of stopping Democrats from demanding investigations of DeLay's foreign travel, his fundraising organizations and other aspects of his conduct.
Meanwhile, DeLay's weeks of turmoil have led him to launch a counter-offensive. In a mailing made public Monday, his campaign organization began a vigorous rebuttal to Democratic attacks, saying, "Democrats have made clear that their only agenda is the politics of personal destruction and the criminalization of politics.
"They hate Ronald Reagan conservatives like DeLay and they hate that he is an effective leader who succeeds in passing the Republican agenda."
The language used in the letter as well as DeLay's comments to FOX News about a "left-wing syndicate" are reminiscent of Hillary Rodham Clinton's charge in the 1990s that a "vast right-wing conspiracy" was in place during her husband's presidency.
A spokesman for DeLay said the letter and an accompanying multi-page rebuttal were sent last week to supporters and donors. The rebuttal outlines the committee's actions against DeLay, saying they have been blown out of proportion.
"The committee sent him two letters containing informal warnings to be careful in the future for what it admitted were cases of first impression. The verb 'admonished ' was used and is now exploited to mean some sort of sanction," it said.
DeLay said he has tried to comply with House rules at every turn and routinely has lawyers scrutinize travel plans. He added that Democrats are going after conservatives with the help of good governance groups and the "liberal media."
"Democrats are trying to waylay us and the liberal media is playing their game. We've got a bunch of 527s out there funded by (billionaire activist) George Soros and heavy hitters hooked up with these do-gooder groups like Democracy 21, Common Cause, and they have got this strategy. They announced it, I mean it's publicized that they have this strategy and they are trying to carry it out," he said.
"You talk about judicial activism, we now have journalistic activism. A legitimate paper, The New York Times, is shopping an op-ed piece calling for my resignation amongst Republicans. It shows you what's going on here," DeLay added.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.