Saturday, June 30, 2007

A political hit, says the NY Times

The NY Times takes up the case of the ex-Alabama governor sent off to jail this week under a cloud of suspected political interference:
It is extremely disturbing that Don Siegelman, the former governor of Alabama, was hauled off to jail this week. There is reason to believe his prosecution may have been a political hit, intended to take out the state’s most prominent Democrat, a serious charge that has not been adequately investigated. The appeals court that hears his case should demand answers, as should Congress.

The United States attorneys scandal has made clear that partisan politics is a driving force in the Bush Justice Department. Top prosecutors were fired for refusing to prosecute Democrats or for not bringing baseless vote-fraud cases to help Republicans. Lawyers were improperly hired based on party affiliation.

If the Justice Department was looking to help Republicans in Alabama, putting away Mr. Siegelman would be a shrewd move. In a state short on popular Democrats, he was elected governor in 1998. He was defeated for re-election in 2002 by just a few thousand votes, in an election marred by suspicious vote tabulations.

The charges Mr. Siegelman was convicted of suggest that he may have been a victim of selective prosecution. He was found to have named a prominent Alabama businessman to a state board in exchange for a contribution to a campaign fund for a state lottery, something Mr. Siegelman supported to raise money for his state’s woefully inadequate public schools. He was not found to have taken any money for himself and many elected officials name people who have given directly to their own campaigns to important positions. The jury dismissed 25 of the original 32 counts against Mr. Siegelman.

The most arresting evidence that Mr. Siegelman may have been railroaded is a sworn statement by a Republican lawyer, Dana Jill Simpson. Ms. Simpson said she was on a conference call in which Bill Canary, the husband of the United States attorney whose office handled the case, insisted that “his girls” would “take care of” Mr. Siegelman. According to Ms. Simpson, he identified his “girls” as his wife, Leura Canary, and another top Alabama prosecutor. Mr. Canary, who has longstanding ties to Karl Rove, also said, according to Ms. Simpson, that he had worked it out with “Karl.”

The idea of federal prosecutors putting someone in jail for partisan gain is shocking. But the United States attorneys scandal has made clear that the Bush Justice Department acts in shocking ways. We hope that the appeals court that hears Mr. Siegelman’s case will give it the same hard look that another appeals court recently gave the case of Georgia Thompson. Ms. Thompson, a low-level employee in a Democratic administration in Wisconsin, was found to have been wrongly convicted of corruption by another United States attorney.

Congress, though, should not wait. It should insist that Mr. Canary and everyone on the 2002 call, as well as Mrs. Canary and Mr. Rove, testify about the Siegelman prosecution. In standing by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales throughout the attorneys scandal, the Bush administration has made clear that it does not care about the integrity of the Justice Department. By investigating Mr. Siegelman’s case, Congress can show that it does.
It is a continuing source of amazement to watch this stuff unfold in the U.S.. The Democrats will clearly be occupied for the next eighteen months in exposing such cases. Just when you think a scandal, such as the U.S. attorney one, couldn't get any worse, it does as revelations such as this case rear their ugly facts. Wonder where the next gem will come from?