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Chris Bell on the DeLay indictment

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/ssistory.mpl/editorial/outlook/3377651 Oct. 2, 2005, 12:41AM WITHOUT DELAY Seize this moment for reform An opportunity for a new
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 3, 2005
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      http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/ssistory.mpl/editorial/outlook/3377651

      Oct. 2, 2005, 12:41AM
      WITHOUT DELAY
      Seize this moment for reform
      An opportunity for a new covenant
      By CHRIS BELL

      THE political frenzy swirling around Tom DeLay's
      criminal indictment is about so much more than
      Republicans and Democrats; it's about more than Tom
      DeLay and Travis County District Attorney Ronnie
      Earle. This all-too-common analysis being advanced by
      politicos and pundits alike misses the real point.

      During the past year, many have wanted to turn the
      ethics complaint I filed against DeLay into some sort
      of personal battle between DeLay and me, but that was
      never what the complaint was about.

      What has been missed, then and now, is that this is
      ultimately about a corrupt system in need of true
      reform. It's about how rampant corruption has an
      impact on the lives of all Texans, indeed all
      Americans. And, most importantly, it's about making
      positive change. Today, we have a historic opportunity
      to bring real ethics reform to Texas.

      So much of our political system has become largely a
      self-preservation society for entrenched incumbents
      who need only heed the clarion call of cash and the
      braying of partisan ideologues. Make no mistake — both
      parties in Washington pledge fealty to the status quo.
      When I filed my ethics complaint, a few leading
      Democrats thought that I should back down, not because
      they thought I had the facts wrong, but because they
      wanted to preserve the so-called "ethics truce" that
      had existed for seven years, during which no member
      would dare file an ethics complaint against another no
      matter how foul the conduct.

      Only in Washington would placing a truce on ethics
      make sense to some people. Some would obviously rather
      look the other way than admit that the universe does
      not revolve around them and then act accordingly.

      I still think that what I did in filing the ethics
      complaint was unremarkable, or at least should be so.
      What saddens me is that none of my colleagues in
      Congress has filed one since then despite numerous
      reports of unethical conduct that have come to light
      involving other members of Congress.

      Clearly, elected leaders of both parties have
      abdicated their responsibilities to police themselves.
      As a former congressman, I find this extremely
      disappointing. As a native Texan, I am also saddened
      to watch as that systemic corruption and apathy seeps
      its ugly way from Washington into the pores of the
      Austin political establishment. The so-called "culture
      of corruption" is very real, and it is alive and well
      in both Washington and Austin.

      However, with a cloud this big, we can all take
      comfort in the fact that there is a correspondingly
      mammoth silver lining: The steady stream of scandals
      is focusing attention on the need for real ethics
      reform. We can use this opportunity to work toward
      bipartisan ethics reform.

      As I travel the state in my campaign for governor, I
      am recognizing a bipartisan consensus for reforms
      grounded in the principles of transparency and
      accountability. If we seize this opportunity to push
      for ethics reform, we will have accomplished something
      more meaningful than targeting the cash-and-carry
      criminality of one partisan leader.

      Taking out Tom DeLay would boost the morale of the
      Democratic Party and, I dare say, improve the
      representation for the 22nd Congressional District —
      but it would prove a pyrrhic victory on its own.
      Everyone but the scoundrel wants fair elections we can
      all trust. Everyone wants a democracy to hold the
      corrupt accountable. Taking on Tom DeLay without
      accomplishing these goals is an empty pursuit.

      I worked for ethics reform long before Tom DeLay and I
      crossed paths, but our stories have become
      inextricably linked. I'm sure that I will have to
      answer questions about Tom DeLay for the rest of my
      life. Someday, I would like to be able to say that
      even though he has repeatedly demonstrated his passion
      for power at the expense of ethics and integrity — to
      the detriment of those he serves — we all owe him a
      great debt. Without the scandals he caused, the people
      of Texas would not have demanded real ethics reform
      and reclaimed our government from the stench of
      corruption and special interests.

      A new covenant between Texans and their government,
      starting with bipartisan ethics reform to make our
      state government and campaigns more transparent and
      accountable, would be a welcome and fitting conclusion
      to Tom DeLay's long history of unjustifiable actions.
      More importantly, it would be a new beginning for
      Texas.

      Bell, a former Houston congressman, filed the ethics
      complaint against Tom DeLay that resulted in the House
      Ethics Committee unanimously admonishing the
      then-majority leader.
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