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©_2002_Authorized and_paid_for_by_the Committee_to_Elect Vivian_Houghton Attorney_General, 800_N_West_St., Wilmington_DE_19801

Committee to Elect 
Vivian Houghton Attorney General

The News Journal, Oct. 20, 2002, Page A-11

In their own words

For attorney general

Go after polluters and monied interests with equal vigor

By Vivian A. Houghton

The most important issue facing the attorney general's office is fairness. From excess development in southern Delaware to MBNA forcing of Wilmington to change city ordinances, big money does what it wants. This is why the word in the street is that the law, far from being impartial, is a commodity to be purchased with cash. Slackers buy crack or X; the wealthy buy power and exemptions from the law. 

Look at Metachem. Recently it was revealed that its Delaware City workers' pensions are in jeopardy because of the company's bankruptcy filing. Not only is the company leaving these workers in potential ruin, it has contributed to the ruination of the environment by leaving behind tons of illegal chemical waste. Yet in spite of the fact that companies like Metachem don't respect their workers, the communities they inhabit or the environment, more often than not they escape prosecution. 

Unfortunately, avoiding justice is easy for Delaware companies. It is an insult to the public that the state Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control usually handles industrial contamination by making companies pay relatively small fines that have little punitive effect. 

Meanwhile, Claymont, known for pollution problems stemming from Sunoco and General Chemical, has the highest rate of respiratory problems among youth in the nation. 

Because of such facts, once elected I plan to establish a task force to investigate bringing criminal charges against DNREC for failure to competently oversee polluters. Incumbent Attorney General M. Jane Brady won't launch such an investigation. And Democratic candidate Carl Schnee, who spent months refusing to take a stand on corporate crime, only now has begun to imitate me on such issues in the hope of getting back into the race. 

Corporate crime isn't the only problem the attorney general's office must confront. Racial inequity also haunts Delaware justice. 

For every white person who is imprisoned in Delaware, 9.4 blacks are imprisoned in spite of the fact that blacks make up only 19.2 percent of the population. Just as disturbing is the fact that in Delaware, more than half of those on death row are non-white. This is an unnerving disproportion. 

Another race-related aspect of the criminal justice system is disparity in time served. Take the parallel cases of Amy Grossman and Brian Peterson, a white couple, and Abigail Caliboso and Eric Jose Ocampo, a Filipino couple. Both young couples were found guilty of the death of a newborn, but the Filipinos were sentenced to twice as much prison time as the white couple. This was in spite of the fact that they cooperated with police more than Grossman and Peterson did. 

Such racial disparities in sentencing and incarceration are typical. Yet such facts haven't jolted Schnee or Brady to speak out strongly, even though racial equity is pivotal to justice. 

Fortunately, although money can buy power sometimes, it can't do so all the time. In spite of Schnee's $350,000 campaign, I, with a far more frugal campaign, have emerged as Brady's strongest challenger because people are tired of politics as usual. As a result, voters have a real choice in the attorney general election. They can vote for independence and a people-first philosophy on the one hand or for more of what we already have on the other--inequity. 

In the last 20 years, the gap between Delaware's rich and poor has grown by 39 percent. Meanwhile, the state spent millions of dollars to build more prison space into which we stuff inmates, many of whom are nonviolent drug addicts who need medical rehabilitation, not jail time. 

On top of this, the state's general health is deteriorating. We have the country's seventh highest infant mortality rate, 100,000 people without medical insurance, and the nation's fourth highest cancer rate. 

Regarding Delaware's cancer rate, people should consider this: if even only a fraction of our cancer deaths are caused by industrial contamination, that means the executives and managers of the responsible plants have participated in a collective serial killing of far greater magnitude than any crime perpetrated by any individual criminal the state has ever known. 

Why should such corporate criminals be left to wine and dine each other in the Hotel du Pont's Green Room when in the same city someone can be photographed and fingerprinted by the police for just standing on a street corner? 

Delaware needs an attorney general who isn't afraid to stick up for justice in the justice system. 

Vivian A. Houghton is the Green Party candidate for attorney general.

[web note: This News Journal page A-11 article included a picture of the candidate.]