Some of the best evidence about the sport's corrupting function comes from a golf retreat/fund-raiser held three years ago in West Virginia for two of DeLay's political action committees. Energy-company executives paid as much as $25,000 to attend the retreat, which was held on the eve of House and Senate negotiations over a bill in which they had a huge stake. One of the executives later described tooling about in a golf cart with a top DeLay aide and pitching his case about the bill directly to the majority leader. For this, even the somnolent House ethics committee felt obliged to admonish DeLay.
Not long after Sept. 11, members of Congress were told of intelligence about a three-man al-Qaida sniper team that was training to assassinate U.S. politicians on a golf course. But even this chilling warning doesn't seem to have diminished Republican zeal for a day on the rolling greens. Golf is too central to the Washington GOP lifestyle to be abandoned easily. And some Republicans swear that it offers nothing less than a window into the soul. "You can tell a lot about a person's character by the way they play golf. If they cheat at golf, they'll cheat at anything," Tom DeLay once said. Hear that, GOP faithful? Take it from your leader: Next time you sell your soul to a lobbyist for an overseas golf trip, no mulligans!