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Bishop, Cannon defend GOP colleague

Utah Republicans in the House remained staunch defenders of their beleaguered majority leader, Tom DeLay, R-Texas.

Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, called DeLay a skilled leader and accomplished lawmaker. Because of that, he has "political enemies who wish to damage him politically," he said.

"To charge (DeLay) with conspiracy to commit a crime rather than an actual crime casts clouds of doubt as to the validity of the indictment and evidence used," he added. "I have always thought that this investigation was more politically motivated than factually based. I continue to believe that."

Rep. Chris Cannon, R-Utah, said the legal issues will have to "sort themselves out," and "we are going to wait and see what happens."

But it is clear, Cannon said, that the media have not focused on the political nature of the attacks, something that "will be more obvious in the future. The stories I am hearing suggest this is far more political than an indictment would suggest."

Rep. Jim Matheson, the only Democrat in the Utah delegation, insisted, "The process by which Mr. DeLay's actions will be judged will be long, and I hope it is carried out fairly and in the light of day. There is no room for partisan grandstanding on this matter. If wrongdoing is confirmed, it ought to be dealt with in the appropriate way laid out by the rules of the House."

Matheson said government officials should maintain the public trust through a high standard of professional conduct.