WASHINGTON — House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), dogged by questions about his ethics, is fighting back by telling supporters that Democrats have targeted him in an effort to derail the conservative agenda.
In a five-page single-spaced "briefing document" sent to supporters, DeLay contends that "Democrats have made clear that their only agenda is the politics of personal destruction."
"They hate Ronald Reagan conservatives like DeLay and they hate that he is an effective leader who succeeds in passing the Republican agenda," the document says under the heading "Fact Versus Fiction: The Left-Wing 'Case' Against Tom DeLay."
The briefing document and an accompanying letter, sent to supporters last week by DeLay's reelection committee, signal a more aggressive effort by the congressman to solidify his support among his Republican colleagues. It comes as Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean has vowed to use the DeLay-led congressional intervention last month in the Terri Schiavo case to fight the GOP in the 2006 elections.
"We're going to have an ad with a picture of Tom DeLay saying, 'Do you want this guy to decide whether you die or not? Or is that going to be up to your loved ones?' " Dean told supporters Friday in West Hollywood.
DeLay, the House's No. 2 leader, received three rebukes last year from the House Permanent Select Committee on Ethics for his hardball political tactics.
More recently, he has faced questions about whether he took overseas trips funded by lobbyists and foreign agents -- prohibited by House rules -- and about his association with a lobbyist for Indian gaming interests who is being investigated by a federal grand jury on suspicion of fraud and public corruption.
One of DeLay's Republican colleagues has called for him to give up his leadership post, and another has suggested that he step aside while the allegations are being investigated. But the Texan remains popular among his colleagues because of his work strengthening the House Republican majority, including raising campaign funds for many GOP lawmakers.
The letter also follows a suggestion April 10 by Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, the third-ranking Republican in the Senate, that DeLay "lay out what he did and why he did it and let the people then judge for themselves."
In the letter, DeLay accused Democrats of trying to "demonize" him in an effort to regain control of Congress. "It is abundantly clear that their fundamental strategy revolves around attacking me and working to tear down Republican leadership," DeLay wrote.
DeLay said he was told the privately funded trips he took to Russia in 1997 and Britain in 2000 were paid for by a nonprofit organization, which is permitted under House rules. "If the sponsor of a trip ultimately obtains funding for a trip, a member is not and should not be responsible for that information," the letter said.
He said that two days before a 2001 trip to South Korea, the group sponsoring his visit registered as a foreign agent but did not notify him.
He called the indictment in Texas last year of three political fundraisers with ties to him a "political dirty trick," and he insisted that the Ethics Committee last year did not find that he had violated any rule or law but had told him to moderate his behavior.