Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP
In this April 4, 2006, file photo, then-Rep. Tom Delay (R-TX) is seen in Washington. A lawyer for Delay says the Justice Department has ended a probe of the Texas Republican and will not file any criminal charges.
In this April 4, 2006, file photo, then-Rep. Tom Delay (R-TX) is seen in Washington. A lawyer for Delay says the Justice Department has ended a probe of the Texas Republican and will not file any criminal charges. Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP
The Justice Department has ended its six-year criminal probe of the ties between former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and disgraced ex-lobbyist Jack Abramoff without filing any criminal charges against the former House majority leader.
One of DeLay's lawyers, Richard Cullen, said Monday that the Justice Department's public integrity section informed DeLay's legal team early last week that it was ending the investigation. "Six years is a long time, and I'm sure he wishes it had happened years ago,'' Cullen said of the conclusion of the investigation of DeLay.
DeLay said Monday he always knew the probe would end without criminal charges being filed against him because he did nothing wrong.
DeLay said he wishes the investigation hadn't taken six years, but added he isn't bitter.
"I know this is the price of leadership, but it doesn't have to happen this way," the 11-term Republican from suburban Houston told reporters during a conference call. "I hope people will look at my case and decide the criminalization of politics and the politics of personal destruction is not beneficial to our country and hopefully it will stop."
Justice Department spokeswoman Laura Sweeney declined to comment, which is normally the case when the department ends a criminal probe without filing charges.
Politico.com first reported on the closing of the U.S. Justice Department's probe of DeLay.
DeLay resigned as majority leader and left the House in 2006, after two of his aides pleaded guilty and agreed to tell prosecutors about lavish meals and golf trips from Abramoff.
Abramoff was released from a minimum-security prison camp in June. The ex-lobbyist served about 3 1/2 years in prison for fraud, corruption and conspiracy. He spent three days in a halfway house in Baltimore before he was placed in home confinement. Abramoff currently is working in a kosher pizzeria in northwest Baltimore.
"Tom Delay's case being dropped sends a terrible message to members of Congress," says Melanie Sloan, who heads Citizens for Responsible Ethics in Washington. "Everybody knows that Tom Delay was engaged in corrupt conduct. And if he can get away with that, then there's really nothing else that anyone can't get away with."
DeLay's legal problems aren't over. He has been indicted in Texas on charges of money laundering and conspiracy, allegedly connected to 2002 state legislative elections. That case is pending.
In 2002, DeLay and two other men used the new Texans for a Republican Majority political action committee to raise and spend about $600,000 to defeat Democratic candidates for the Texas Legislature. The three men were indicted in 2005 for allegedly laundering $190,000 in corporate money — heavily restricted under state law — to help elect GOP legislators.
Last year, DeLay, a Republican from Texas, competed on ABC's hit show Dancing With the Stars. DeLay withdrew from the ABC dance-off in October after being diagnosed with stress fractures in both feet.