Tom DeLay Cleared: Times Puts Story on A-18

When ethics probers drop an investigation into a conservative, it's apparently less newsworthy than weeds at organic golf courses.

When former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay announced that the Justice Department was dropping its six-year investigation of his relationship with convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, The Washington Post put the news on the front page Tuesday. The New York Times decided that this story was best put on page A-18.

The front page of the Times covered flooding in Pakistan, Team Obama's tough evaluation of offshore drilling permits, and a chilling Rod Nordland story on new public executions by the Taliban in northern Afhanistan. But the front page also offered "Walking in New York? Beware Men Turning Left" and "Exclusive Golf Course Is Also Organic, So a Weed or Two Get In."

At least the Times covered the DeLay story. To date, the newspaper "of record" has not mentioned Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's exclamation last Tuesday that "I don't know how anyone of Hispanic heritage could be a Republican."

The Times was quick to note that DeLay still faces the indictment of Democratic Travis County prosecutor Ronnie Earle from 2005. The caption under DeLay's picture read "Tom DeLay still faces a trial in Texas on unrelated charges of money laundering and conspiracy." Reporter Charlie Savage elaborated:

Mr. DeLay's legal troubles are not yet over. He still faces a trial in Texas on unrelated state charges of money laundering and conspiracy in connection with campaign donations during the 2002 election. A trial on those charges, for which he was indicted in 2005, was delayed for years because of an appeal by co-defendants, but a hearing on pretrial motions is scheduled for next week.

Savage made no attempt to calculate how much money the federal government has spent investigating DeLay, which was standard operating procedure for the media during Clinton investigations. Instead, Savage reminded the reader of all the prosecutors' successes:

The scandal, which helped Democrats win majorities in Congress in the 2006 election, led to convictions or guilty pleas by two of Mr. DeLay's former aides; former Representative Bob Ney, Republican of Ohio; two former White House officials; Mr. Abramoff himself; and several other former Congressional aides and lobbyists. Mr. Abramoff was released from prison in June.

There were no conservative groups to complain about the partisanship of the process, but Savage did bring in a liberal group (without a label) to lament how it was a malodorous outrage that DeLay hadn't been jailed:

Melanie Sloan, the executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a government watchdog group, sharply criticized the Justice Department's decision to close the investigation into Mr. DeLay's role without charges.

"It's a sad day for America when one of the most corrupt members to ever walk the halls of Congress gets a free pass," Ms. Sloan said. "The Justice Department's decision not to prosecute Mr. DeLay for his actions sends exactly the wrong message to current and future members."

The only supporter of DeLay in the Times piece was DeLay:

But Mr. DeLay said that he had done nothing wrong and that his political enemies had spent more than "criminalization of politics and the politics of personal destruction" that he contended his case exemplified.

"The new politics - it's a decade coming up with "frivolous" ethics charges against him. He denounced theno longer good enough to beat you on policy," he said. "They have to completely drown you and put you in prison and destroy your family and your reputation and finances, then dance on your grave."