House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) is nobody's fool. Sometimes he just goes out of his way to sound like one. The insecticide DDT? According to DeLay, it's perfectly safe. The bald eagle? Never approached extinction. Acid rain? All you gotta do is pour a little lime in a few lakes. Global warming? A myth and a fraud. "The Nobel appeasement prize," DeLay sneered when scientists researching ozone depletion won the award last year. The Environmental Protection Agency? "The gestapo of government," he fumes.
DeLay's rhetoric is so over the top it's tempting to pass him off as a harmless blowhard. But to do so would be a dangerous mistake. At 49, DeLay is the third-ranking leader of the GOP House, and Newt Gingrich's primary rival for control of the Republican revolution. Ideologically, he is to the right of even Gingrich and House Majority Leader Dick Armey, holding hardline positions on abortion, gun control, immigration, welfare, gays, the budget, and taxes.
DeLay's chief passion, however, is the wholesale deregulation of American business. More than any other politician, DeLay is responsible for the House's all-out assault on 25 years of bipartisan environmental regulation. In the past two years, he has tried to repeal the Clean Air Act, fought to cut the EPA's budget by a third, and invited corporate lobbyists and contributors to pen legislation exempting their industries from environmental laws.
But big polluters aren't the only ones reaping rewards from DeLay's position. A Mother Jones investigation reveals DeLay's connection to several cases of apparent influence-peddling involving his brother, a Washington lobbyist. Randy DeLay has made a very comfortable living lobbying for some of the same business interests that have profited from brother Tom's legislative efforts.