Nobody likes to see a member of Congress indicted for criminal conspiracy. So all of us in Washington were bereft when Tom DeLay was charged in an alleged scheme to funnel illegal corporate campaign funds to Republicans running for the Texas legislature in 2002.

This gave the legislature an opportunity to redraw districts for the U.S. House of Representatives, which helped to strengthen the Republican hold on Congress.

The question of DeLay's ethics kept cropping up. Did he violate the rules when he asked for/took the money?

The capital is split on the issue. Those who defend DeLay claim he is a victim of a vindictive Democratic district attorney who would do anything to besmirch the House majority leader's squeaky-clean reputation.

On the other side are those who rejoice in his legal problems.

Since I am a fair and honest newspaper reporter, I never take sides. All I do is report the facts.

I have talked to people on both sides.

A DeLay supporter said: "It is another example of dirty politics. Our position is you are allowed to funnel corporate money into Republican politics as long as the recipients get nothing in return."

Another defender said, "It is not a conspiracy to redraw the Texas voting districts as long as DeLay feels it is good for the people."

And a lobbyist told me: "I have played golf with the Hammer, and never did he cheat on his score. I have traveled with him, and he has eaten on my expense account. And I have been to his home. Whenever I donate money to one of his worthy causes, he always says in his twangy Texas voice: 'Aw, you shouldn't have done that. Your friendship is all I want from you.' "

The next lobbyist I talked to said: "I love Tom like a brother. I feel awful about testifying for the prosecution. But if he has to go to jail, better him than me."

There was joy in Democratic Mudville that the mighty Tom DeLay had struck out. One said: "I take no pleasure in seeing DeLay swing gently in the wind. But the thing I believe in the most is ethics. If someone has lost his moral compass and has to go to jail to find it, then I believe it will make him a much better person."

Another one said: "The Democrats are not being vindictive. The facts are just not on his side. All we Democrats ask is that there are no abuses of congressional power."

A third said: "The Republican Party should be ashamed of itself. If one of its members raises money by violating the law, it should apologize to the American people."

And another: "This is not about Tom DeLay -- it is about the 2006 elections. The grand jury has spoken, and now his lawyers must speak. I hope it doesn't cost him as much as I think it will."

A Democratic friend said, "If he had been for abortion rights, he wouldn't have gotten into this mess."

What can we expect to get from all this? Media coverage the likes of which we haven't seen since the last political scandal, the race for an author to write the definitive book on DeLay, a TV movie with Brad Pitt playing the congressman and George Clooney as the district attorney, and T-shirts that say "I do laundry for Tom DeLay."

Stay tuned for the next bulletin.

(c) 2005, Tribune Media Services