As Tom DeLay pursues a return to the public stage, he's meeting resistance from an unexpected source: conservatives who say that he betrayed the movement as a congressional leader.
Four board members of the American Conservative Union, one of the oldest and best established voices of the conservative movement, resigned recently when DeLay was brought onto the board.
DeLay's roles in ramping up government spending and establishing a system of raising money through close dealings with lobbyists were cited by resigning members as their motive for moving on.
"He was part of a congressional leadership that oversaw a massive expansion of the government, which conservatives opposed," said Robert Luddy, a North Carolina businessman among the board members who resigned. "It is one thing to call yourself a conservative, but you have to act on it."
The sentiment was echoed by political strategist Marc Rotterman, another board defector.
"Conservatives looked to Tom DeLay to cut government not grow it. He was complicit in the largest expansion of government in recent times."
Two other ACU board members, former Texas Republican Party Chairman Tom Pauken and Virginia public relations executive Craig Shirley affirmed that they also quit the board over DeLay's arrival.
"I just think we need to break loose from what was happening with the Republican Party in the post-Reagan era," said Pauken, citing a number of concerns including the scandal involving lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
[ACU Chair David] Keene said DeLay had proposed an effort under which he'd raise $1 million for a grassroots lobbying effort, which DeLay would then run. But that idea was shelved when Keene and DeLay failed to agree on some of the details of how it would operate, Keene said.