ELECT
VIVIAN HOUGHTON
ATTORNEY GENERAL OF DELAWARE

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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

MEDIA ADVISORY
For immediate release:
Thursday, September 19, 2002

Houghton Chides Brady/Schnee at Wilmington Press Conference

Calls for Delaware to move beyond two party system to address people's needs. Vows to attack the virus of injustice by putting putting "people first."

Contact:

Wilmington, DE:   At a Wilmington press conference today, Green Party candidate for Attorney General Vivian Houghton called upon voters to reject her opponents' inability to address major issues facing Delaware citizens. In the speech to a room full of supporters and other interested citizens, Houghton condemned the racial inequities in the criminal justice system, the lack of health care coverage for over 100,000 uninsured Delawareans, and obstacles to greater democracy such as political corruption through corporate campaign contributions. She cited how her opponents seem more interested in counting numbers than working to solve these problems.

Calling Schnee/Brady "a  political duo that has two heads but basically speaks with one voice on a number of important issues," Houghton distinguished herself by stating her support for legislative initiatives such as HB 99 to guarantee civil rights to people no matter their sexual orientation, calling for an immediate moratorium on the use of the death penalty, and passage of HB 552, The Delaware Health Security Act, insisting that health care be treated as a basic human right.

Throughout her half hour long address, Houghton pointed out how undue corporate influence upon our state government has hurt Delawareans and others.  From overly friendly corporate tax laws that played a part in producing the Enron debacle, to DNREC's "dereliction of duty" to stop chronic polluters, Houghton vowed to reverse the trend of government agencies' failure listen to and use information, ideas, and solutions generated from grassroots community groups.

 

FULL TEXT OF HOUGHTON SPEECH (BELOW)

The Attorney General's Race: Moving Beyond Democrats and Republicans

by Vivian Houghton

As the Attorney General's race enters the last month and a half, the one thing that's clear is this:  there are basically two candidates.  

The one candidate is called Brady-Schnee, a  political construction that has two heads but basically speaks with one voice on a number of important issues like the death penalty, corporate power, the health care industry, and racism within the criminal justice system.  

The other candidate is me, the "people first" candidate.  No political mannequin produced by the dying and corrupt two-party system, I speak with an individual, politically independent voice.  Campaigning from one end of the state to another, the Houghton campaign has earned its way to the forefront of the race, not because I am so special as a person, but because my political vision has been shaped by the same concerns that people express over their dinner tables or on the job with their coworkers.

One of the concerns people have is the bankruptcy of a two-party political system that, in spite of its big promises, spends more time ignoring folks than listening to them.  Consequently, the level of political disillusionment in the country and state has risen to crisis proportions.  No wonder the nation's voter turnout is the lowest among industrialized countries.  And we have the same problem right here in Delaware.  The 10% turnout for the Sept. 7 Democratic and Republican primaries was a pathetic, embarrassing example of the two parties' ineptitude and unpopularity.  

One example of how the parties have gotten themselves into such a hole can be found in the Delaware Attorney General's race.  We live at a time when it has become increasingly obvious that corporate funds buy influence and sometimes even buy elections.  Yet during a public debate when I confronted Brady and Schnee with this very issue, they acted dumbfounded, as if the idea that corporate money could influence Delaware politicians was foolish.  

Like Mr. Schnee, Ms. Brady also scoffs at the idea that big money buys political influence.  At the same debate I already mentioned, she claimed, "Anyone who thinks that . . . is mistaken."  

Yet of all people, Ms. Brady should know the power of money in politics.  Among Republican attorneys general, she is one of the loudest voices in support of those corporations who oppose multi-state lawsuits against industries like the pharmaceutical industry..  This is why she turned down a request from Nevada officials to team up with them in their recent suit against 12 major drug companies.  Nevada has charged the companies with grossly inflating the costs of prescription drugs and thereby defrauding Medicare and Medicaid as well as individual patients. Those hurt the most by such cost gouging are of course the poor, working people and seniors.  

Ms. Brady also knows about the politically corrupting power of corporate money because of what goes on under her own nose right here in Delaware.  One of the things that's been going on under her nose is MBNA's exploration of ways to skirt local and federal campaign donation laws.  As a result of MBNA's borderline contribution practices, the credit card company now finds itself under investigation by the Federal Election Commission for allegedly providing Congressman Jim Moran, a Virginia Democrat, with an illegal loan in order to buy the congressman's support for new bankruptcy legislation that MBNA wants passed.  In a related matter, MBNA's emergence in 2001 as Sen. Joe Biden's biggest campaign contributor has helped the bank turn Biden into one of the bankruptcy bill's foremost supporters.  With such facts buzzing like flies around Ms.. Brady's head on a hot summer day, she insults the public when she claims she doesn't hear the buzz.  Her insistence that corporate money doesn't buy political influence contains as much truth as the proposition that fisherman don't place worms or flies on their hooks with the intention of catching fish.

Unfortunately, the Brady-Schnee duo have not only waded hip-deep into hypocrisy by downplaying the corruption related to corporate influence in politics, they also ignore, for all practical purposes, an issue that should be important to any attorney general: the racial inequities that plague our criminal justice system.  

To give you an idea of what I mean by inequity, listen to these two facts:  

Fact #1:  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% of the population.  

Fact #2:  In Delaware, which has a total person of color population of approximately 25 percent, over half those on death row are non-white, a startling disproportion.  

These facts reflect national trends.  For instance, as a majority of Americans now recognize, the death penalty debate in our country  is often a coded dialogue about race and economic status.  As all the data show, if you're a person of color or poor you're far more likely to be executed for a capital crime than is a wealthy Caucasian. Additionally, who you kill plays a significant role in determining what punishment you receive, since the death of certain people is viewed as less important than the death of others.  For instance, from 1977-1998, of the 500 prisoners who were put to death in America 81.80 percent were convicted of the murder of a white person in spite of the fact that about 50% of the nation's murder victims are African American.

These and related racial trends aren't abstractions that don't affect us; they play out here in Delaware, right in the midst of us.  The execution of Abdullah Tanzil Hameen by lethal injection in Smyrna in May of last year was an example of how the ideological debate about the death penalty often gets in the way of making sensible criminal justice decisions.  

Hameen was a man whose record of remorse, self-improvement and helping others was such that an astounding array of people, including parole board members, prison officials and concerned citizens pled for his sentence to be commuted to life in prison. Yet in spite of this, Hameen's appeal was rejected and he was put to death.  "Why did this happen?" you might ask.  The answer is that it happened because the death penalty debate in Delaware has become a sort of amateur theater production in which various public officials step on stage to act the part of tough guys who establish their importance by wearing executioner masks.  The fact that Brady-Schnee have neither the courage nor conviction to separate themselves from this circus is an example of the lack of political backbone that characterizes too many politicians.  

The good news is that not all elected officials lack honor on this issue. Delaware State Senator Simpson is one person who has preserved his integrity.  He has authored a bill, Joint Resolution No. 3, which would establish a commission to investigate problems related to the death penalty's use in Delaware. Among the major reasons cited by Simpson for his bill are:  

  1. The fact that "income and resources of the defendant play a significant role in the death penalty process," and 

  2. The existence of statistical evidence that "racial bias continues to have an impact on which defendants are chosen to face capital charges."  

Unhappily, because of political maneuvering in the state senate, Simpson's bill has been prevented from being fully debated. Well, when I'm elected attorney general, you can take this to the bank:  I will use my influence to support bills like this and to oppose the death penalty. Unlike Brady-Schnee I am not afraid to step up to the plate and boldly dismantle inequity when I see it.  The issue here isn't an academic debate about the theoretical usefulness of the death penalty in stopping crime; the issue is that the death penalty is applied so racially unfairly in Delaware and the United States that no impartial person can reasonably support its continuation. This is even more true today than it was 5 years ago, now that DNA evidence is increasingly used to overturn convictions that were once thought to be solid convictions. If you put the wrong person to death, you can't rectify the problem later.   This is why I not only support Simpson's bill, but, until it or a similar one is passed, I am 100% behind Delaware emulating the recent Maryland moratorium on the death penalty.  It's about time.  

Ms. Brady of course does not agree with such thinking. In fact, she salivates so much at the prospect of giving someone capital punishment that when Amy Grossman and Brian Peterson were arrested for killing their newborn infant in a Newark motel, Ms.. Brady appeared on national TV, trying to drum up support for an execution even before she knew all the facts.  After this embarrassing spectacle, her office later was able to secure a sentence of only 2.5 years for Grossman and 2 years for Peterson.  However, in a similar case the following year, Ms. Brady's office was able to do a little better by getting 5-year sentences for two Filipinos for committing a similar crime.  The couple, 20-year-old Abigail Caliboso and her boyfriend 19-year-old boyfriend, Eric Jose Ocampo, received much heavier sentences in spite of cooperating with the police, which Grossberg and Petersen, Caucasian yuppies from New Jersey, refused to do.  

Unlike Ms. Brady, Mr. Schnee occasionally makes a comment about the impropriety of racial inequity in the criminal justice system, but his voice on the issue is a tiny, timid one that lacks the force to address the problem head-on.  Instead, Mr. Schnee mostly concentrates on quarreling with Ms. Brady over the number of minorities who work in the Attorney General's office. Talking about this issue is not in itself bad, since it sheds light on the fact that we need more minorities in the AG's office. Regrettably, though, Mr. Schnee doesn't know how to go beyond this issue to discuss race in a deeper, more analytical way.  He refuses to oppose the death penalty or to speak out systematically against racial biases in the sentencing of African Americans and other people of color.  Mr. Schnee, although a decent man, apparently prefers to do his thinking at a safe distance from the problems he addresses.  On the campaign trail and in public debates, he displays no familiarity with the zones of suffering where racial injustice tracks down people like a virus in search of a body to infect. Delaware needs an attorney general who isn't afraid to attack the virus of injustice back. Delaware doesn't need an attorney general who tells the virus, "You can do what you want just as long as you don't bother me!" 

Another area of concern for Delawareans is health insurance, a problem that Brady-Schnee, who belong to political parties which have close financial ties to the insurance and pharmaceutical companies, aren't equipped to handle.  They aren't equipped to handle them precisely because they are too financially connected to the companies to monitor them vigorously.  As people say on their front stoops and in church basements and in parks and in union halls: "He who pays the piper, calls the tune."

I, on the other hand, don't have this problem since I have no financial ties to these industries.  Therefore, as Delaware's Attorney General, I will take my marching orders regarding health care rights from no one except "we the people."  This means I will investigate insurance companies' behavior and I will prosecute any individual company or group of companies that illegally deny customers health care procedures, medications or office visits that the customers' health warrants. I will also use my position to advocate for a system of justice that includes a vision of health care as a basic human right that should be taken out of the hands of for-profit insurance companies and overseen instead by a single-payer system.   In this regard I support Delaware's House Bill 552, The Delaware Health Security Act.  

Our state is in dire need of health care reform.  Because of this, Delaware requires an attorney general who is not afraid of HMO's, drug companies, and health care bureaucrats.  Without strong will and clarity of vision in the AG's office, health care delivery will suffer as profit-hunger continues to replace proper medical care as the center of the health industry.   Already there are 100,000 Delawareans who have no health care insurance and another 100,000 who have sub-standard health care. Not surprisingly, the lack the lack of adequate medical coverage falls disproportionately on the low-income. Delaware is 44th among the states in the percentage of low-income children without health insurance.  This is a horrible statistic.  What makes it even more depressing is that Delaware's below-average health care system exists in the midst of a wealthy state that is known nationally as the nation's "corporate capital."  

Unfortunately, the title "corporate capital" explains exactly what the problem is in terms of health care as well as in terms of other issues of concern.  The fact is that too often in our state more care is given to the health of our corporations than to the health of our people.  

Take Enron as an example.  Delaware's pro-business incorporation and tax laws have made Delaware a haven for big money, which is why approximately 520,000 firms have been incorporated there. Enron is one of the companies that has taken advantage of these pro-corporate laws.  It did so by setting up 685 subsidiaries in Delaware. Enron did this so it could avoid paying local taxes and at the same time could hide some of its high-stakes deals from investor scrutiny.  Tragically, some of these deals helped to bring Enron crashing down on the heads of its employees and many small investors. It is in this sense that the "health" of corporations too often is given precedence over people's health in our state. 

Delaware needs an attorney general who isn't afraid to study such problems clear-mindedly.  The other candidates don't have the analysis, independence, or political will to do this.  I do.   

As I said when I began this statement earlier, there are basically two candidates in this race.  One is called Brady-Schnee, a  political duo that has two heads but basically speaks with one voice on a number of important issues.  

The other candidate is me, the "people first" candidate. I'm independent and I don't take my marching orders from any big contributors or giant corporations or big banks. We need more democracy and less autocracy in Delaware.  This is why I speak in the name of reform.  I don't like the fact that our criminal justice system is contaminated by inequity and I plan to change that as soon as I get into office.  

Thank you.  

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT

Committee to Elect Vivian Houghton Attorney General
800 West Street
Wilmington, Delaware 19801
(302)239-2572
agcandidate@vivianhoughton.com
 
http://vivianhoughton.com/vivian

Green Party of Delaware
P. O. Box 6044
Wilmington, Delaware 19804
(302)738-9963
greenpartyde@yahoo.com
 
http://www.gpde.org

Green Party of the United States
1314 18th Street, Lower Level
Washington, D.C. 20036
866-41GREEN (toll free)
info@greenpartyus.org
 
http://greenpartyus.org

 

PEOPLE FIRST IN THE FIRST STATE: IT'S ABOUT TIME