As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Monday, October 08, 2007

The Siegelman Case And The Politicization of Justice

Wingnut noise machine freak-outs like attacking a sick 12 year-old serve a useful purpose, regardless of the lies. The intent is to distract the media and even the progressive movement while the politicized federal government goes about their deceitful business. The quintessential example of this is the Don Siegelman case. Siegelman, the Democratic former governor of Alabama, was railroaded and convicted of corruption in office last year. Apparently, the lobbyist who "blew the whistle" on Siegelman had dealings with a lot of Alabama politicians, many of then Republicans.

On may 8, 2002, Clayton Lamar (Lanny) Young Jr., a lobbyist and landfill developer described by acquaintances as a hard-drinking "good ole boy," was in an expansive mood. In the downtown offices of the U.S. Attorney in Montgomery, Ala., Young settled into his chair, personal lawyer at his side, and proceeded to tell a group of seasoned prosecutors and investigators that he had paid tens of thousands of dollars in apparently illegal campaign contributions to some of the biggest names in Alabama Republican politics. According to Young, among the recipients of his largesse were the state's former attorney general Jeff Sessions, now a U.S. Senator, and William Pryor Jr., Sessions' successor as attorney general and now a federal judge. Young, whose detailed statements are described in documents obtained by TIME, became a key witness in a major case in Alabama that brought down a high-profile politician and landed him in federal prison with an 88-month sentence. As it happened, however, that official was the top Democrat named by Young in a series of interviews, and none of the Republicans whose campaigns he fingered were investigated in the case, let alone prosecuted.

The Siegelman investigation was clearly politicized, a fact stated by 44 former state Attorney Generals from both sides of the aisle. But this revelation calls things into question even further. It seems that the initial cause of the investigation included a lot of actionable information on Republicans - but that information was simply forgotten.

The prosecutor in the case claims that nothing untoward was done here - that Lanny Young's description of payments to Jeff Sessions were "legitimate." Does this sound legitimate to you?

Early in the investigation, in November 2001, Young announced that five years earlier, he "personally provided Sessions with cash campaign contributions," according to an FBI memo of the interview. Prosecutors didn't follow up that surprising statement with questions, but Young volunteered more. The memo adds that "on one occasion he [Young] provided Session [sic] with $5,000 to $7,000 using two intermediaries," one of whom held a senior position with Sessions' campaign. On another occasion, the FBI records show, Young talked about providing "$10,000 to $15,000 to Session [sic]. Young had his secretaries and friends write checks to the Sessions campaign and Young reimbursed the secretaries and friends for their contributions."

If true, Young's statements describe political money laundering that would be a clear violation of federal law.

This Time article is a blueprint for how the Justice Department has acted in the Bush/Rove era, as a political arm of the Republican Party. And we've seen this habit throughout the federal government. We've seen Scott Jennings briefing members of the General Services Administration about how they can help Republican candidates (Jennings, incidentally, resigned last week, right on the heels of this Time article, interestingly enough). We've seen the efforts to install a known vote suppressor, Hans Von Spakovsky, onto the Federal Election Commission. And now we're seeing it in this case in Alabama. There's a hearing scheduled about this in the Senate Judiciary Committee this week. Jeff Sessions sits on that committee. He must recuse himself. The Justice Department has refused to turn over any documents regarding the Siegelman case. How can the Democrats confirm someone to run that Department without them?

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