Here's a quick refresher on the gerrymandering, permanent majority-building, bug-zapping, Clinton-impeaching, samba-dancing, power-buying, Texas Republican's misdeeds. In brief: DeLay was indicted on conspiracy and money laundering charges in 2005 for allegedly conspiring to launder corporate money during the 2002 elections in an effort to guarantee a GOP majority in the Texas State House. (That case is still pending.)* His ties with Abramoff were the focus of a six-year-long investigation by federal authorities that is now apparently closed.
Melanie Sloan, the executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), responds to the news:
It’s a sad day for America when one of the most corrupt members to ever walk the halls of Congress gets a free pass. As we continue the work of building a Washington that is worthy of the American people, the Justice Department’s decision not to prosecute Mr. DeLay for his actions sends exactly the wrong message to current and future members. The fact that Jack Abramoff and Bob Ney (R-OH) are the only two people who went to prison for one of the worst corruption scandals in congressional history is shocking. The Hammer belongs in the slammer. Mr. DeLay still has crimes to answer for in Texas—generally not considered the best place to be a criminal defendant.
Why does this matter? Because thanks to upcoming gubernatorial elections and the 2010 census, redistricting is back on the political menu for next year (though his indictment for the Texas campaign finance charges is a separate, still pending case). Sloan's "wrong message"—that opportunistic power grabbers around the country need take no heed and fear no retribution for artless political engineering—is that politics continues. As usual.
* This post has been edited since it was first published.