DELAY-ED JUSTICE: No one was surprised when a Texas jury found former House majority leader Tom DeLay guilty. The man who ran the House during much of the Bush/Cheney era—as the conniving puppet master to hapless Speaker Denny Hastert—engaged in money laundering as part of a grand scheme to use corporate cash to buy elections, flip control of the Texas House and redraw Congressional district lines to ensure Republican victories. DeLay could have ended up with more than 100 years of jail time; instead, a Texas judge gave him just three years. Tom Smith, who directs the Texas office of Public Citizen— which, along with Texans for Public Justice, kept pounding “The Hammer” even after he left Congress—said of the ruling, “His sentence of three years in prison is a far cry from justice when compared to the damage he has done to Texas households, the effects of which will be felt for decades to come.”
While the prospect that a figure once so powerful might actually spend even a modest amount of time behind bars points to some overdue accountability, the slight sentence neglects the fact that DeLay committed the crudest of electoral crimes. He subverted democracy, using money not just to influence elections but to warp the redistricting process in such a way that future elections would be meaningless. DeLay claims he was just engaging in a little political roughhousing. And that’s the problem. When elected leaders game the system so that elections don’t matter, they are not playing politics; they are committing acts that the founders identified in the Constitution as “high crimes.” DeLay should be held fully to account so that the current members of Congress might begin to respect their oath to support and defend the Constitution, which binds them to preserve and enhance democracy—not crush it with criminal conspiracies. JOHN NICHOLS
WHERE’S THE MONEY? After a devastating earthquake killed more than 200,000 people in Haiti last year, the international community pledged $5.3 billion for 2010–11 at a UN conference to help Haiti “build back better,” with the US pledging $1.2 billion. Yet excluding debt relief, governments and international institutions have disbursed just $1.3 billion of the pledges they made, according to the UN Office of the Special Envoy to Haiti. The United States has disbursed only $120 million of its pledge. Of the European Community’s pledge of $294 million, it had paid $97.2 million by December. Canada, originally reported to have pledged $375 million for Haiti’s reconstruction, had paid only $55.3 million. Meanwhile, France has delivered less than a quarter of the $30 million it pledged to the Haiti Reconstruction Fund.
A scathing report by Oxfam called the lack of reconstruction progress “deeply disappointing,” citing the slow rate of delivering on UN pledges. ISABEL MACDONALD