Documentary on Tom DeLay Premieres in Houston

Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, given the nickname "the hammer" during his political career, can add one more title to his resume: reluctant movie star.

The Texas Republican was the focus of a new documentary that premiered Friday night in Houston examining the scandals that drove him from office.

The film, titled "The Big Buy: How Tom DeLay Stole Congress," features interviews with Democratic and Republican lawmakers from Texas, as well as liberal stalwarts such as Molly Ivins and Jim Hightower.

DeLay, who plans to resign from the House on June 9, did not talk with the filmmakers.

The first part of the 75-minute film details DeLay's efforts to win GOP seats in the Legislature in 2002 to push through a redistricting plan that helped Texas send more Republicans to Congress in 2004.

"There's no question he did that. But he did it on the fair and square," said DeLay's lawyer, Dick DeGuerin.

DeGuerin called the documentary "a highly partisan attack" on DeLay "because of the effective job he did in redistricting in Texas."

The film also describes the investigation by Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, who has charged DeLay and two associates with money laundering for funneling corporate donations to state GOP candidates through a Texas committee and an arm of the Republican National Committee

Under Texas law, corporate money cannot be directly used for political campaigns.

Filmmakers Mark Birnbaum and Jim Schermbeck said they set out to tell a balanced story about the abuse of power.

DeLay refused their interview requests but is represented by video footage from network interviews and news conferences. "We give lots of screen time to Congressman DeLay giving his passionate defense of what he did," Schermbeck said.

Earle talked to the filmmakers and granted them access to his office as he prepared indictments in the case.

"The root of all evil truly is money, especially in politics," Earle says in the film. "We can't any longer exist as a democracy unless we come to grips with that problem and we unite as a people and stop it."

DeGuerin said Earle's comment did not reflect the law.

"It takes money to run a political campaign," he said. "That's a fact of life. It's not evil; it's just regulated."

DeLay, 59, an 11-term congressman, stepped down as majority leader last fall after his indictment in Texas. Last month, he announced his intention to resign, saying he did not want to allow Democrats to turn the next election in his district near Houston into a negative personal campaign.

The film will be shown this weekend in theaters in Houston and Dallas and then released to other cities.