Congressman Tom Delay, the former House Majority Leader, has announced that he will retire from Congress. I have mixed feelings about this, but overall I think it is for the best.
On the plus side, Delay was clearly the most conservative member of the House leadership. He helped to make sure that the assault weapons ban was not renewed, and he helped to advance other conservative causes.
Delay has been indicted on completely bogus charges by partisan Democratic prosecutor Ronnie Earle. Some of these charges have already been thrown out, and the others appear to be equally baseless. They allege a highly technical violation of campaign finance law.
However, there are also questions regarding Delay's involvement with corrupt lobbyist extrordinaire Jack Abramoff. While it is unclear exactly what Delay might have done, this appears to be a more substantive issue. It remains to be seen whether Delay's retirement is outracing some new revelation, or just based on concern about his chances of victory, as he has said.
What I find really unconscionable about Delay is what he did to former Rep. Nick Smith, who represented Michigan's 7th district. When Delay was trying to round up votes for the despicable prescription drug entitlement, he offered what was in essence a bribe to obtain Smith's vote. Specifically, he offered to help funnel hundreds of thousands of dollars to the campaign of Brad Smith, Nick Smith's son, who was running to succeed his retiring father. Otherwise, he threatened to make Brad Smith lose. Nick Smith did the right thing and voted against the prescription drug bill. The Chamber of Commerce then endorsed the underwhelming Clark Bisbee, funneling him donations that might otherwise have gone to Brad Smith. Both Smith and Bisbee lost, and liberal republican Joe Schwarz won the primary with a measly 28% of the vote.
Other random thoughts: I hope the GOP nominates ultraconservative former congressman Steve Stockman to succeed Delay.
I wonder what the chances are that Bob Ney, the other Abramoff-tainted congressman, will be on the ballot in November?