I don't know about you, but I am shocked. I can't imagine the main person going after DeLay backs the Democratic party. What a shock. ------- Earle's speech on political corruption keys on the GOP leader, whom he likens to a bully By MICHAEL HEDGES Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle Washington Bureau Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, who denies partisan motives for his investigation of a political group founded by Republican leader Tom DeLay, was the featured speaker last week at a Democratic fund-raiser where he spoke directly about the congressman. A newly formed Democratic political action committee, Texas Values in Action Coalition, hosted the May 12 event in Dallas to raise campaign money to take control of the state Legislature from the GOP, organizers said. Earle, an elected Democrat, helped generate $102,000 for the organization. In his remarks, Earle likened DeLay to a bully and spoke about political corruption and the investigation involving DeLay, the House majority leader from Sugar Land, according to a transcript supplied by Earle. "This case is not just about Tom DeLay. If it isn't this Tom DeLay, it'll be another one, just like one bully replaces the one before," Earle said. "This is a structural problem involving the combination of money and power," he added. "Money brings power and power corrupts." The crowd of 80 to 100 Democratic activists responded by making donations that exceeded the event's fund-raising goal. Reasons for speaking Earle and his staff of prosecutors have obtained indictments of three DeLay associates on charges that their political committee, the DeLay-led Texans for a Republican Majority, broke state campaign finance laws with the use of corporate donations on its way to helping establish Republican control in the state House. Earle said Wednesday he knew the group that met in Dallas was raising money for Democrats, but that it was not his reason for speaking. "I'd make the same speech to any group, Republican or Democrat, as long as the group was interested in honest, open government," Earle said in a telephone interview. The prosecutor said he did not recall making other fund-raising speeches for anyone besides himself since he began investigating DeLay. "We are investigating anybody who has committed a crime," he said when asked if DeLay is a target of the probe. Political analysts said Earle's appearance left him open to questions about his motives. "It may help Tom DeLay establish his case that Ronnie Earle's investigation is a partisan witch hunt," said Richard Murray, a political scientist with the University of Houston. "It clearly fuels the perception that his investigation is politically motivated. It was probably not a wise move," said Larry Noble, a former Federal Election Commission lawyer who heads the watchdog group Center for Responsive Politics. "It is somewhat less serious because he is a (Democratic) elected official," Noble said. "Otherwise, it would be a serious problem." DeLay spokesman Dan Allen said Earle has wasted public money on an investigation that has amounted to a public relations campaign, "and now a fund-raising effort for Democrats by Mr. Earle." 'Pot-and-kettle' comparison Allen said DeLay has not been contacted by Earle or any government investigator about anything related to the investigation. Russell Langley, a co-founder of Texas Values in Action Coalition, said Earle was among those who inspired formation of the committee and that the prosecutor's participation in the campaign was proper. "Throughout his career he has represented honesty and integrity in government. ... As long as he was raising money legally, we didn't see any problem with it," Langley said. He added that he was not concerned about whether Earle's fund-raising appearance might compromise his stance as an independent investigator of potential crimes involving Republicans. "We weren't worried about that, considering Tom DeLay's partisanship," he said. "That would really be a pot-and-kettle comparison." Title of address In his speech, titled "Public Safety and the Tone of Corruption in Government," Earle recounted some of his investigations of alleged public corruption by Democratic and Republican officeholders. "He talked ... about improving ethics in government," said Marc Stanley, who hosted the party at his Dallas home. "There were a few questions about whether he was receiving pressure not to indict Tom DeLay. He answered that he lives out on a farm and he wasn't worried about pressure whatsoever." Former House Speaker Jim Wright, a Fort Worth Democrat who was forced to resign from Congress in 1989 after the House Ethics Committee began investigating whether he improperly profited from a book publishing deal, was among those who attended the event. He is scheduled to speak at the committee's next fund-raiser in June. DeLay has become a lightning rod for criticism by Democrats in Texas and elsewhere, especially because he led efforts to change the state's U.S. House district boundaries to the electoral advantage of Republicans. Questions about his overseas travels, connections to lobbyists and political fund raising have become a rallying point for Democrats looking ahead to elections in 2006. "I think Tom DeLay ought to go back to Houston where he can serve his jail sentence," Howard Dean, chairman of the Democratic National Committee, told Massachusetts Democrats on Saturday. Dallas lawyer Ed Ishmael, another co-founder of the Democratic committee to which Earle spoke, is described on the group's Web site as "a leader in the Howard Dean presidential campaign" of 2004.