DeLay sentenced to three years behind bars

DELAY SENTENCED TO THREE YEARS BEHIND BARS…. In November, disgraced former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) was convicted of money laundering. Today, he received his sentence.

A judge has ordered U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay to serve three years in prison for his role in a scheme to illegally funnel corporate money to Texas candidates in 2002.

The sentence comes after a jury in November convicted DeLay on charges of money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering. DeLay was once one of the most powerful men in U.S. politics, ascending to the No. 2 job in the House of Representatives. […]

Senior Judge Pat Priest issued his ruling after a brief sentencing hearing on Monday in which former U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert testified on DeLay’s behalf.

I don’t imagine he’ll see it this way, but DeLay’s three-year sentence could have been much worse — the maximum penalty for this felony is life in prison.

If you need a refresher, DeLay was busted on an ingenious little scheme he came up with several years ago. Texas had completed its post-2000-census redistricting by 2002, but DeLay wasn’t satisfied with the way in which state lawmakers had drawn the lines. So he hatched a plan without modern precedent, deciding to pursue re-redistricting — redrawing the lines mid-decade, just because DeLay felt like it.

In order to hatch this gambit, he’d need some more GOP allies in the Texas legislature, so he arranged to launder $190,000 in corporate contributions into the accounts of seven state Republican candidates.

Six of them won; re-redistricting occurred; and the GOP majority in Congress grew, just as DeLay had planned.

The minor flaw in all of this is that DeLay’s scheme happened to be a felony, at least according to prosecutors and the members of a Texas jury. DeLay’s defense was largely built around the notion that he didn’t know about the money-laundering until after it had occurred, but prosecutors pointed to a 2005 interview with investigators in which the right-wing former lawmaker said he was aware of the plan in advance. (DeLay later said he misspoke.)

What happens next remains to be seen; DeLay’s legal team is already pursuing appeals.

While we wait to see what happens, it’s hard not to feel a sense of schadenfreude about the developments. Tom DeLay has represented American politics at its worst — corruption, sleaze, deception, and routine abuses of power. Whatever the outcome of the appeal, these court proceedings, including today’s sentencing, couldn’t have happened to a more appropriate person.

It’s also worth noting that the political establishment’s approach to DeLay was entirely wrong. We’ve been told for years that the case was a partisan witch-hunt, launched by a prosecutor intent on “criminalizing politics.”

With the disgraced Republican having been sentenced to three years behind bars, the conventional wisdom on DeLay is in need of an overhaul.

Update: Don’t forget, DeLay may be a convicted felon, but his former staff is still running the U.S. House of Representatives.