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A few months ago, a Texas appeals court panel fully acquitted Mr. DeLay in what amounted to a rebuke of the trial court judge.

Mr. DeLay’s agony echoes that of Reagan administration Labor Secretary Ray Donovan, who was indicted on fraud charges in 1987 in a highly publicized case. After his acquittal, he asked bitterly, “Which office do I go to get my reputation back?”

Yet Mr. DeLay sees his ordeal with the Texas criminal justice system differently.

“I personally don’t feel like I lost my reputation,” he said. “I know who I am. I know what criminalization of politics is all about. I accepted that challenge some 17 years ago when [former House Speaker] Nancy Pelosi and the other Democrats announced publicly that they were going take me out in 1996, with my first ethics charges that were dismissed.”

But Mr. DeLay’s legal travails aren’t over. His acquittal is being appealed, and he still has major legal bills.

“I’m not a wealthy man, but I’m raising the money,” he said. “I still have a huge, huge following and people that support me. This whole thing has cost me $12 million.”

As for how he has been able to raise that much money over so many years, he shrugged and replied, “I’ve been asking friends to contribute to the Tom DeLay Trust Fund; 800 Commerce Street, Houston, Texas,” he said.

Even after a long absence from the political spotlight, Mr. DeLay is uncomfortable hearing himself described as resurgent.

“I’m really not looking for a resurgence of Tom DeLay,” he said. “I haven’t been sitting at home, whining and crying in my beer about what’s going on.”

He said the journey has made him a better human being and a better husband and father because it has made him less arrogant.

“In 1985, I came to Congress and I was the most self-centered, arrogant jerk that you can imagine — drank too much, everything was all about me,” he said. “I was the center of my universe.”

He acknowledged that he remains a work in progress.

“It takes a long time to take an arrogant person like me and make him a humbled man.”

Many fellow conservatives, he said, are still wary of him for pushing through President George W. Bush’s bill to provide prescription drug coverage through Medicare. Many conservatives consider it the biggest expansion of welfare since Lyndon B. Johnson’s war on poverty.

Mr. DeLay rejects the criticism. “Yeah, well, they’re absolutely wrong,” he said. “It’s not a government-subsidized nor a government program.”

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