David J. Phillip  /  AP file
Rep. Tom DeLay, right, is applauded by supporters on Jan. 7, when he announced he would abandon his bid to remain as House majority leader.
updated 1/30/2006 7:07:53 PM ET 2006-01-31T00:07:53

Confident of his chances in a tough November re-election race, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay blasted the “runaway prosecutor,” dismissed fallout from a disgraced lobbyist and said he remains focused on pushing a conservative agenda in Congress.

“We've had an 11-year run of a Republican majority doing things that I’m incredibly proud of — cutting taxes, strong national defense, welfare reform, balancing the budget, paying down on the debt. I mean, one thing after another, we've been effective on it and the Democrats don't like it,” DeLay said in an interview on “Hardball with Chris Matthews.”

“Hardball with Chris Matthews” airs at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. ET on MSNBC.

DeLay, a Texas Republican, was indicted last fall on money-laundering charges related to his re-election campaign. He stepped down from his post and announced Jan. 7 he would not seek to regain it.

Constituents have been “very, very supportive,” he said. “They know what Ronnie Earle is — a runaway district attorney who is abusing his power, indicting me on laws that don’t exist. ... The backlash is in my favor.”

Abramoff scandal
When the talk turned to the issue of disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, DeLay said he had not been implicated in the widening corruption probe.

“(The) Department of Justice has told my lawyers on several occasions that I’m not a target of this investigation,” DeLay told Matthews. “We have no problem here. All we have are leftist groups trying to create a sense of guilt by association in this case.”

Abramoff pleaded guilty on Jan. 3 to felony charges of fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy to bribe public officials. He also agreed to help prosecutors in their investigation of several members of Congress.

An associate of Abramoff and former DeLay aide, Michael Scanlon, pleaded guilty in November to conspiracy to bribe public officials.

“I think that’s really unfortunate that they broke the law and they’ve been found guilty breaking it,” DeLay added. “I had nothing to do with that. I’ve done nothing wrong. I haven't broken any laws.”

DeLay has not been linked to any wrongdoing regarding donations from Abramoff.

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But the scandal prompted six members of Congress to return or donate money from the lobbyist and his associates. They were Rep. Ernest Istook, R-Okla.; Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan.; Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont.; Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont.; and Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D.

Democratic opposition
DeLay took a swipe at potential Democratic challenger Nick Lamson, who he said was “trying to appear moderate” to appeal to his conservative constituents but would “then go to Washington and be buddies with [House Minority Leader] Nancy Pelosi, voting with her 90-95 percent of the time.”

“Because Nancy Pelosi,, George Soros, Howard Dean — not very popular people in the 22nd District of Texas, and he’s going to try to do both which he’s always done in his career.”

As for critics who have accused DeLay of strong-arm tactics and intolerance for dissent among fellow Republicans, the congressman had harsh words for them.

“They hate it because they’re losing. I have built a huge coalition to support our agenda of a limited government, strong national defense, protecting American families against overactive judiciary, he said.

“Democrats hate it that I’m effective. They just hate it. And that's just too bad, but we're going to keep on working as hard as we can for the conservative agenda for the future of this country. ”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Video: Playing "Hardball"


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