Jersey Democrat, Justice Integrity Project Urge ‘No’ on Kagan, Citing Rights Concerns

July 19, 2010

Louis M. Manzo

The Senate should reject Democrat Elena Kagan’s Supreme Court nomination based on her shabby civil rights record that’s apparent from her Department of Justice work, according to a Democratic former New Jersey legislator and Jersey City mayoral candidate.

Louis M. Manzo, drawing on his experience fighting one of the nation’s most explosive political prosecutions, said the Senate should reject Kagan because of “her indefensible support of restrictions on constitutional freedoms and her failures to defend due process.”

My bipartisan Justice Integrity Project (JIP) today released Manzo’s statement by video to illustrate the project’s objections to Kagan on similar executive power grounds. We announced our objections on June 28, just before the Supreme Court thwarted Kagan’s effort to block a hearing for former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman. Manzo complemented our views with his first-hand experience, available before Senate voting at JIP’s website http://www.justice-integrity.org, which links to Manzo’s video and descriptions of his case, Siegelman’s and others, plus Kagan’s background.

“While serving as Solicitor General arguing against certiorari in Siegelman v. United States, Kagan ignored constitutional protections provided by due process,” Manzo said, continuing:

Also troubling is the manner by which Kagan feigned ignorance to what is frightfully apparent in Siegelman’s case – prosecutorial misconduct. Instead of questioning the bizarre prosecution tactics employed against Siegelman, Kagan blindly supported positions taken by prosecutors with obvious personal and political agendas.

“What all cases involving wrongful prosecutions share in common,” said Manzo, a target in the Bid Rig III case in New Jersey that helped propel Republican U.S. Attorney Chris Christie to New Jersey’s governorship last fall, “is the necessity of a fair judicial system.” In Bid Rig III, DOJ gave a felon large sums to donate to New Jersey campaigns such as Manzo’s, with Democrats overwhelmingly indicted. Manzo won a major victory this spring when his trial judge dismissed the most serious charges.

Expanding on Manzo’s themes, I cited compelling evidence that Siegelman, 64, was framed by DOJ, which seeks to imprison him for 20 more years.

The gist is that Kagan acted selfishly to advance her technocrat career, combining bad legal judgment with a monstrous cover-up. This opens a window to her other failings, which don’t receive the attention they deserve. Senate confirmation these days is largely kabuki-style theater for the public, fostered by a bipartisan, back-scratching elite. Here, a president’s loyalists seek to install one of their cronies over timid, partisan objections about a few special-interest topics. But we are skipping big issues about due process and our other basic liberties, which would inflame the public if ever fully aired.


Louis M. Manzo Statement*
Opposing Confirmation of Elena Kagan to the U.S. Supreme Court

As a case study of the Justice Integrity Project, I am speaking today to urge defeat of Elena Kagan’s nomination to the Supreme Court.

What all cases involving wrongful prosecutions share in common is the necessity of a fair judicial system where redress can be attained in the courts of our land.

While serving as Solicitor General, arguing against certiorari in Siegelman v. United States, Kagan ignored Constitutional protections provided by due process. She argued a position that supported the “standard-less sweep [of the law], which allows policemen, prosecutors and juries to pursue their personal predilections” – something previous courts had guarded against.

Her position was an assault on due process.

Despite concerns raised in the opposing argument – the danger posed by vague interpretations of criminal statutes, which infringe on the protections of free speech as provided by the First Amendment – Kagan ignored the sound opinion of the unprecedented position taken by 42 former United States State Attorneys General** and a United States Attorney General who filed an amicus brief in support of Siegelman’s argument.***

Kagan defended a position that would restrict Constitutional freedoms.

Also troubling is the manner by which Kagan feigned ignorance to what is frightfully apparent in Siegelman’s case – prosecutorial misconduct. Instead of questioning the bizarre prosecution tactics employed against Siegelman, Kagan blindly supported positions taken by prosecutors with obvious personal and political agendas.

These are attributes which are ill-suited for members of the highest Court in our land. Due process is the examination of the means used to justify the end. Her nomination would pose a grave threat to victims of due process violations, whose only redress is the courts.

For her indefensible support of restrictions on Constitutional freedoms and her failures to defend due process, Elena Kagan should be denied confirmation as a Supreme Court nominee. ###
_____________________________________________
*Democratic former New Jersey State Assemblyman and Jersey City candidate for mayor
** The number of former chief law enforcers of their states signing the petition rose to 91, from more than 40 states
*** Republican Former U.S. Attorney Gen. Dick Thornburgh criticized what he described as politicized DOJ decision-making during his 2007 testimony to the House Judiciary Committee

Federal Political Prosecutions Probed At March 25 Forum By Amerian University In DC

March 25, 2010

Citizen action to reform abuses in political and other arbitrary prosecutions is the topic of an American University forum that I’ll join March 25, entitled: “Just Justice: Political Actions by the Department of Justice.”

The two-hour session beginning at 5:30 p.m. features victims and independent experts describing how the public is hurt by politically motivated prosecutions against public officials on the local, state and national levels.  The forum is located in Ward Hall 2.  It’s free and open to the public.

I’ll describe why the public needs to energize their media surrogates to provide more oversight on Justice Department (DOJ) decision-making because of failures of courts and Congress.  I’m summarizing government misconduct in DOJ prosecutions of Republican former New York Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik and Democratic former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman that I documented in Harvard University’s Nieman Watchdog:

Prof. Donald C. Shields, Ph.D.

Another speaker will be University of Missouri Professor Donald C. Shields, who undertook the pioneering research that indicated the Bush Justice Department prosecuted Democrats at a 7:1 ratio in official corruption investigations during its first seven years. 

He’ll provide an update on his more recent research covering the full eight years of the administration, including that regarding racial patterns. 

His research includes 2007 testimony (below) before the House Judiciary Committee illustrating problems revealed by hundreds of cases across the nation.  Their targets had scant understanding of the parallels to their cases elsewhere until his research and a documentary film released last year by Project Save Justice, which was researched by its Vice President Gail Sistrunk and noted filmmaker John McTiernan, whose credits include Die Hard and The Hunt for Red October.  A sample of the Shields research is:

Here’s some additional background from a press release.  We need more events like this around the country, and this is a good start!  Contact me if you have ideas for a similar program in your area, and can help make it happen. 

About Prof. Donald C. Shields

Donald C. Shields (Ph.D., University of Minnesota, 1974) is Professor Emeritus, Department of Communication, University of Missouri—St. Louis. He currently serves as a Lecturer in the Department of Communication Studies, University of Missouri—Kansas City. His primary line of research has investigated symbolic convergence theory and communication.  He has authored or co-authored 10 books and more than 35 book chapters, and more than a dozen of his studies have been reprinted in other books and journals.  

About Andrew Kreig and Justice Integrity Project

Andrew Kreig is an attorney, author and commentator listed in Who’s Who in the World since the mid-1990s. As president of the Wireless Communications Association International for 12 years, he helped lead the advance of the broadband wireless industry worldwide.  He founded the Justice Integrity Project as a non-partisan organization to examine misconduct by federal prosecutors and judges and the consequences for the public.  Details.  # # #    

March 25 Update Hosts Horse-Killing Foes Kerry Wallum, Clay Canfield

March 25, 2010
Country Artist Clay Canfield

Country Artist Clay Canfield

Actor/producer Kerry Wallum and country music artist Clay Canfield are guests March 25 on my DC Update edition of My Technology Lawyer Radio as they describe how they’re using their talents to oppose slaughter of wild horses for meat.

Listeners can access the show nationwide beginning at noon (Eastern Time) via the Live! link, which enables call-in and also archives all shows.

Canfield, who recorded the smash hit “Wild Horses,” is visiting the nation’s capital to sing the song as part of two-hour protest concert outside the White House at Lafayette Park shortly after the radio show.  He is working closely with his friends Wallum, actor-singer Willie Nelson and the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) to protect America’s wild horses by supporting legislation in Congress.

Wallum and Nelson recently announced formation of Luck Films, an independent production company based in their native Texas.  Its goal is important entertainment and documentary films independent of the big-dollar studio system.  Nelson recently gave his views on wild horse and burro protection:

I’m a little prejudiced when it comes to horses.  I have always loved them.  I currently have about 68; 25-30 were rescued directly from slaughter.  I got involved eight years ago, when AWI first made me aware that American horses are being slaughtered and shipped overseas for human consumption.  It’s a shame horses ─ or any animal ─ be treated this way when horses are the foundation of America….Folks, please join my family and friends at the Animal Welfare Institute to see how you can help with this important American cause.

I cohost Update with business radio pioneer Scott Draughon, the show’s founder.  We begin the show with an overview of Washington policy news affecting the nation’s business, politics and quality of life.  Topics this week include a special report on the best-selling memoir by former Bush adviser Karl Rove, Courage and Consequences: My Life As A Conservative In The Fight.  As a listener advisory:  Mac listeners need the tool “Parallels” to enable a Windows Media Player.

About Kerry Wallum and Luck Films

Kerry Wallum grew up in Texas, where he performed in rodeos and had his acting debut in a junior high school play.  From stunts to acting, Kerry now has 67 movies under his belt. On March 16, he joined with American music icon Willie Nelson to announce the creative team for Luck Films. Based out of Luck, Texas, the key partners include also writer/director/actor/producer Norman Macera, producer/director Scott McCauley, and producer/director David Von Roehm.  Luck Films will initially produce three to five feature films a year, and will also branch out into producing musical specials, and documentary films for television and subscription internet streaming.  Details.

About Clay Canfield and “Wild Horses”

Country music artist Clay Canfield is an acoustic country/blues solo artist based near Nashville, TN, specializing in original songs.  He is coming to sing at the March for Mustangs! His incredible song “Wild Horses” will be heard at Lafayette Park on March 25 during the 1-3pm Rally. Clay is donating a portion of the proceeds from each sale of this song to Animal Welfare Institute’s work for the wild herds.  Please join Clay on Facebook to hear the music.  Clay will join Wendie Malick, Ginger Kathrens, Hope Ryden, RT Fitch and many more amazing speakers in a unified rally for the wild herds, organized via the Animal Welfare Institute.  Details

About Scott Draughon and My Technology Lawyer Radio Show

Richard Scott Draughon is host and producer of the My Technology Lawyer Radio Show, which is affiliated with MyTechnologyLawyer.com ─ an on-demand legal service.  Also, he is author of the 2007 book, “The Art of the Business Radio Show” and is an experienced litigator.  Details

About Andrew Kreig and Justice Integrity Project

Andrew Kreig has co-hosted on the My Technology Lawyer Radio network for three years.  He is an attorney, author and commentator listed in Who’s Who in the World since the mid-1990s. As president of the Wireless Communications Association International for 12 years, he helped lead the advance of the broadband wireless industry worldwide.  Currently, he is executive director of the Justice Integrity Project, which he founded this year to examine misconduct by federal prosecutors and judges and the consequences for the public.  Details.  He is a speaker at 5:30 p.m. on March 25 at a forum hosted by American University in Washington, DC.  Entitled “Just Justice: Political Actions by the Department of Justice,” the two-hour session in Ward Hall 2 features victims and independent experts describing how the public is hurt by politically motivated prosecutions against local officials.

# # #

Grassroots Civic Action Is Best Hope To Correct Federal Prosecution Abuses, Says Author Harvey Silverglate In DC Radio Interview Jan. 28

January 28, 2010

Informed and pro-active citizens are the nation’s best hope to correct increasing abuses of power by federal prosecutors, according to my radio interview today with Harvey Silverglate, author of the pioneering new book Three Felonies A Day: How the Feds Target the Innocent.   

Silverglate spoke live on the DC Update edition of My Technology Lawyer Radio, archived at www.MyTechnologyLawyer.com/update.

Silverglate, a Boston-based litigator for 42 years, showed how the federal executive branch abuses power via selective prosecution under hard-to-understand statutes.  The book is winning praise from experts across the political spectrum.  His book deserves the attention of anyone in the country worried that loss of constitutional rights affects politics and business.

Silverglate explained the book’s title thus: The average professional is unaware that he or she has likely committed several federal crimes each day.  Why unaware?  Modern federal criminal laws have exploded in number, and become impossibly broad and vague.

In gripping detail, his book shows unfair prosecutions in different fields affecting ordinary people, as well as Martha Stewart-level celebrities.  In congressional testimony last fall on the problem, Silverglate said:

I was readily able, from my own litigation experience as well as from research done on other cases, to pinpoint myriad inappropriate prosecutions of many an unwary innocent citizen in the medical  community, the medical device and pharmaceutical manufacturing industry, investment houses, bankers, lawyers, accountants and auditors, academics, artists, newspaper reporters, merchants, as well as public officials.  

Won’t judges and defense attorneys protect defendants from unfair treatment?   Silverglate responded to the question on today’s show from my co-host Scott Draughon by saying that too many judges and prosecutors began their careers in a “culture” that assumes that those who are accused must be guilty.  So, Silverglate said, 95% of defendants then plead guilty, in part because so many defense attorneys are former prosecutors accustomed to “processing” clients through the system rather than fighting for them.

His advice for defendants seeking the right attorney?  He suggests seeking help from attorneys active in civic groups compatible with the defendant’s perspectives, not simply experienced courthouse players.

Three Felonies A Day author Harvey Silverglate is counsel to Boston’s Zalkind, Rodriguez, Lunt & Duncan LLP. He is co-founder and board chairman of the Foundation for Individual Rights Education (Fire), a columnist for the Boston Phoenix and a Cato Institute fellow.  His congressional testimony last fall is available here.  In 1999, he co-authored The Shadow University. For details, visit here. Three Felonies a Day is available via Amazon.com here.

Radio: ‘Granny Snatching’ and NJ ‘Corruption’

October 28, 2010

Melissa Hayes

As the first guest Oct. 28 on my radio show Washington Update, New Jersey journalist Melissa Hayes described the acquittal of a local mayor in a nationally important corruption case that’s part of the reform credentials of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

Then Ron Winter, an award-winning journalist and military commentator, provided lessons from his dramatic new consumer book, Granny Snatching, about his fight against relatives to help his 92-year-old widowed mother live at home in dignity. Winter seeks national legislation to prevent similar abuses.

Hear the show nationwide with my co-host Scott Draughon via Live! on the My Technology Lawyer Radio Network by archive.

As background, I recently published, “Politicians, Press Cheat Taxpayers By Ignoring DOJ’s Wasteful Witch-Hunts” about the 46-defendant “Bid Rig III” corruption investigation in New Jersey. The indictments last year helped propel the Republican former New Jersey U.S. attorney Christie to the state’s governorship.

A New Jersey jury acquitted Ridgefield Mayor Anthony Suarez, 43, Oct. 28 of bribery charges involving $10,000 in contributions to a legal defense fund. Hayes covered the trial, and wrote two stories published today: The verdict and defense strategy, “Ridgefield mayor’s victorious defense worked to discredit FBI informant.”

At trial, the defendants attacked the main prosecution witness Solomon Dwek, a brothel owner who also committed a $50 million bank fraud. Dwek obtained leniency from prosecutors because he was willing to use taxpayer funds supplied by authorities to entice mostly Democratic candidates or office-holders into suspicious conversations about what they might do if given campaign “contributions.”

Dwek, now free on bond while he testifies against defendants, has long been earning between $10,000 and $12,000 a month taken from the assets of his fraud victims because bankruptcy authorities say they need him to sort through the paperwork. The office of current New Jersey U.S. attorney Paul Fishman, a Democrat, declined to send a speaker to the show.

Winter, the show’s second guest and my longtime friend from our early days in investigative reporting, described his latest book, Granny Snatching, and its importance for families as our population ages. The book’s introduction says:

What began as an act of kindness just before Christmas, 2008 when author Ron Winter and his family offered to share their home with his aging mother, ended in a rescue mission and a year-long legal battle against out-of-state relatives who were trying to commit her to an Alzheimer’s home and strip her of her assets.

The struggle was especially significant since Ella Winter does not have Alzheimer’s. Winter’s new book, is the gripping account of one family’s battle to confront a growing national phenomenon – Granny Snatching – wherein family members attempt to institutionalize elder relatives and gain control of their assets.

Ron Winter


Granny Snatching exemplifies the need for national legislation that will guarantee uniform rights for elderly citizens regardless of which state they live in or where they may be housed,” says Winter, who regularly writes and speaks on the military and politics.

He previously authored Masters of the Art: A Fighting Marine’s Memoir of Vietnam. “Advocates for the elderly have been pushing for such legislation for several years,” Winter continues. “Reported instances of elder abuse, under which granny snatching is classified, are climbing steadily toward the one-million mark annually in the US alone. This time, the victim was spared.”

About Melissa Hayes and The Jersey Journal
Melissa Hayes joined the Jersey Journal as a staff writer in October 2009 after three years at the Burlington County Times, also in New Jersey. She covers Jersey City and Hudson County, including municipal government and happenings, as well as Hudson County politics. Details.

About Ron Winter
Ronald Winter is an author, public relations executive, college professor and award-winning journalist. He regularly writes and speaks on the military and politics. Winter gave up an academic scholarship at the State University of New York at Albany in 1966 to join the Marines and fight in Vietnam as a helicopter crewman and machine gunner. He flew 300 combat missions and was awarded 15 Air Medals, Combat Aircrew Wings, and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. Details on books.

Alabama’s Democratic Senate Nominee Barnes Questions Rival’s Health As Issue

October 17, 2010

Bill Barnes

Bill Barnes, the Democratic nominee for an Alabama U.S. Senate seat in the Nov. 2 election, raised a number of sensitive issues on my radio interview Oct. 14.

Among them, he questioned his opponent’s commitment to fighting for BP Gulf disaster victims and to serving out his term.

In an exclusive interview on Washington Update radio, Barnes said his Republican opponent Richard Shelby, 76, portrayed below in his longtime official photo, has shown scant interest in the plight of Alabama’s victims of the oil tragedy.

Sen. Richard Shelby

In response to a listener call, Barnes also voiced for the first time in his campaign suspicions among high-level Alabama Democrats that Shelby’s health might encourage him to resign shortly after the election to enable Alabama Gov. Bob Riley to shift to the Senate before his gubernatorial term expires in January.

“It’s a strong possibility that Mr. Shelby, Sen. Shelby, is suffering from some health issues,” Barnes said in his interview, noting that Shelby has made few campaign appearances. “Gov. Riley has been in the media quite regularly, drawing a lot of attention to himself, it appears. And I often wonder in my own mind, what’s the angle? Is he [Sen. Shelby] my true opponent?”

Gov. Bob Riley


Access the show nationwide on the My Technology Lawyer Radio Network archive. The weekly public affairs show’s founder Scott Draughon and I interviewed Barnes at 17 minutes past the hour.

See our attached news release for a more thorough description of quotations from the Barnes interview. The other guest was Jim Baldauf, president and co-founder of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil & GAS – USA, a non-profit, non-partisan research and public education initiative.

Feds Bully ‘Die Hard’ Filmmaker McTiernan Into False Statement Plea

July 14, 2010

Rollerball Poster

A noted Hollywood filmmaker faces prison after a conditional guilty plea July 12 in a wiretapping case so interesting that it deserves two alternative news accounts.

Here’s the version provided to the vast majority of Americans by Reuters, via such conduits as ABC Entertainment:

Die Hard film director John McTiernan pleaded guilty to lying to law enforcement officials in connection with the racketeering case of a private detective who represented many Hollywood stars.

A trial for McTiernan had been expected to begin on Tuesday in Los Angeles on two counts of making false statements to federal agents and one count of perjury. McTiernan, 59, originally pleaded guilty in 2006 to a charge of knowingly lying to agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the criminal case against private detective Anthony Pellicano, who has since been jailed.

But the film director later withdrew his plea, saying he had received poor legal advice, had been drinking and was jet-lagged from traveling when FBI agents questioned him. Federal officials again charged McTiernan with crimes in 2009, leading to Monday’s guilty plea. A judge set a sentencing date of Oct. 4….

I’ve written at least a hundred variants of this kind of traditional guilty plea story while covering federal courts fulltime from 1976 to 1980 for the Hartford Courant. But times have changed, and IMO the essence of McTiernan’s case is better conveyed this way:

Yet again, federal authorities abused their vast powers for their greater glory by manufacturing a crime and ruining a defendant’s career ─ at needless expense to federal taxpayers.

Too tough a verdict? You be the judge. First, kindly note that McTiernan’s plea was “conditional” on his appeal, a fact totally omitted by the Reuters story and thus by such headlines around the nation as that by the July 13 Washington Post, which blares: “John McTiernan is headed to jail.”

Wiretappers Unmasked
In 2002, a federal investigative team led by Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel Saunders and FBI agent Stanley Ornellas exposed a scheme whereby the famous LA private eye Pellicano systematically broke wiretapping laws to help his clients in big-dollar entertainment industry battles.

In 2004, Howard Blum and John Connolly authored an in-depth overview for Vanity Fair entitled, “The Pellicano Brief.” It described Pellicano’s “A-list” clients and a pivotal raid of the detective’s offices by the feds, who seized guns, $200,000 in cash, plastic explosives and hand grenades on their way to winning a 15-year prison term for the PI.

The article didn’t mention McTiernan among the detective’s many famous clients. But we now know that McTiernan by then had sampled Pellicano’s services in 2000 by paying him $50,000 for a two-week investigation of fellow moviemaker Charles Rovan as the two struggled for creative control over their film, Rollerball, which was destined to be a box office flop.

Fast forward to early 2006. More than three years after the big raid on Pellicano’s office, none of the “A-list” Hollywood stars, managers, producers and lawyers had been jailed.

As sometimes happens in such situations, authorities sprang a perjury trap on McTiernan, who was famous for directing such action films as Predator, Die Hard, and The Hunt for Red October. In a perjury trap, authorities can create a crime by inducing a target in an unguarded moment to forgo the right to silence and give a false statement about an embarrassing matter that might otherwise not provide a basis for a criminal charge.

The concept became notorious after Independent Counsel Ken Starr relied on it to try to save his otherwise failed Watergate investigation of Bill Clinton by surprising the president at a grand jury with unrelated questions about Monica Lewinsky.

The Lewinsky case illustrated how reporters and readers alike tend to focus, understandably enough, on the sensational specifics of a scandal without reflecting that a perjury trap is often unfair. Why? Almost anyone has done something embarrassing. So, it’s just not right for authorities to use all-out tactics to create a crime by trapping some miscreants instead of focusing on whether the underlying activity is criminal.

Unfair or not, these kinds of traps are generally legal under the vast discretion that we provide to authorities. Here’s how the one against McTiernan unfolded, according to court records:

After returning ill from a film shoot in Thailand and after drinking McTiernan received an evening phone call at home from Ornellas, the FBI’s lead agent in the Pellicano case. Towards the end of a brief conversation, McTiernan falsely denied that he’d engaged Pellicano for illegal services.

McTiernan was promptly indicted, pleaded guilty to false statement, and received four months in prison and $100,000 fine as the first big-name Hollywood defendant nailed in the case. U.S. District Judge Dale S. Fischer, a 2003 appointee of President Bush, denounced McTiernan at sentencing for what she called his arrogance.

The defendant changed lawyers, and won a 2008 federal appeals court decision that enabled him to withdraw his guilty plea. Authorities responded with a new indictment that increased the defendant’s liabilities by reconfiguring the original false statement into two separate felonies, plus a perjury charge arising from his pursuit of his appeal.

These maneuvers increased McTiernan’s potential prison sentence to multiple years if he dares offend authorities further by proceeding to trial. I’ve reviewed the jury instructions approved by the judge, which almost guarantee a guilty verdict by limiting the defendant’s ability to argue that he wasn’t in a position to know if the person asking him questions by phone really was an FBI agent. McTiernan’s work inevitably brings calls from imposter “reporters” and others seeking details about such stars as Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone.

McTiernan doubtless didn’t ingratiate himself with authorities by helping found a non-profit, Project Save Justice, which filmed a 2009 documentary entitled, The Political Prosecutions of Karl Rove. The film, available for free use in schools and for other free viewing on the project’s website, powerfully documents the travails of U.S. victims of political prosecutions. The movie and a congressional report have helped publicize academic studies showing that local Democrats were investigated at a nearly 5:1 ratio during 1,200 DOJ official corruption probes during the Bush administration around the nation

McTiernan describes his background as being a moderate Republican. But the director, like many in the civil rights field, including at my bipartisan Justice Integrity Project, has come to see since 2008 that the Obama DOJ is permeated also by a win-at-any-cost mentality that transcends traditional party divisions.

After Monday’s hearing McTiernan’s attorney, Oliver E. Diaz, noted that his client’s conditional guilty plea maintains his right to appeal numerous per-trial motions filed by the government and granted by the judge. Diaz, a Republican former Mississippi Supreme Court justice, himself had been one of the Bush DOJ’s political prosecution targets before twice being acquitted of federal corruption charges. The Diaz story is described in the Project Save Justice documentary, at his subsite at the Justice Integrity Project, and in a Harper’s article by Scott Horton.

Last month, McTiernan failed in his attempt to recuse the judge, a Republican whose courtroom comments suggest that she despises the defendant. Part of the issue seems to be that some federal authorities become personally offended if defendants use up courtroom time by failing to plead guilty, as do 95 percent of those accused.

I saw something similar up earlier this year in covering the sentencing of Republican former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik.

His Democratic federal judge seemed to become almost unhinged in denouncing the defendant, citing such factors as Kerik’s making more money than the judge and prolonging proceedings by not pleading guilty. The judge has now quit the federal bench to join a law firm with an annual per-partner compensation of $2.1 million. The hypocrisy has inflamed Kerik’s supporters around the country, as illustrated by this Oklahoma criminal justice site.

Solutions?
The good news is that solutions shouldn’t be hard to devise. My three suggestions are:

First, authorities should focus on underlying crimes, not creating new ones to save face. If we as a society hate illegal surveillance let’s focus directly on that and its perpetrators, who are far more numerous and effective than John McTiernan’s two-week foray into those dark arts in 2000.

Second and much more important, lots of these trial problems would go away if judges would encourage both sides to proceed with proportion. For authorities to insist, as they did, that McTiernan spend at least a year in prison if he pleads guilty inevitability stretches out the proceedings at vast cost to everyone. To what purpose? Do taxpayers really have unlimited funds for these kinds of selective prosecution jihads?

This spring, authors Jesse Ventura and Dick Russell cited my recent article about Dr. Cyril Wecht in their best-selling book American Conspiracies. Until a Pennsylvania judge threw out the case last year, the feds forced Wecht , in his late 70s and in the twilight of his distinguished career, to spend $8.6 million in legal fees. This was largely to defend himself from 43 federal felony charges that on 43 occasions when he’d sent personal faxes costing his county a total of $3.86 — yes, that’s less than $4 — during his 20 years as a county coroner. Even after all the charges were dismissed the federal prosecutor had the gall to run for Congress last fall. But the public seems to be getting wise, and she was defeated.

Finally, we’ve got to find new ways of providing oversight. The U.S. Senate rubber-stamps most federal prosecution and judicial appointments. The Senate provided unanimous approval, for example, for the judges overseeing both the McTiernan and Kerik cases. Congress rarely enforces subpoenas on sensitive oversight matters anymore if DOJ doesn’t want to comply. And the traditional courthouse news reporter that I used to know in olden days have disappeared for cost reasons, replaced by visiting stenographers from wire services who primarily amplify whatever information federal authorities want to emphasize.

But if the public must be burdened with multiple information sources at least they should be entertaining. In that spirit, we’ve presented above, Rashomon-style, two different accounts of the same crime story. The first is the one that went out on the wires, and the second is my opinion-style commentary.

Even more on target than Rashomon is a telling comment by the Sally Field character in Absence of Malice, the 1981 film about the interplay of federal prosecutors and reporters. My perspective on it has changed. Upon its release, I denounced it to my friends as an unwarranted slur on the news and legal professions. Live and learn, and I’ve highly recommended it for the past two decades.

At the end, Field’s character comments about a news story that omits vital context in describing her: “It’s accurate,” she says. “But it isn’t true.”

Obama Should Learn From Artur Davis Debacle

June 10, 2010

U.S. Rep. Artur Davis

The full story has yet to be written about last week’s rout of favored Democratic candidate Artur Davis in the Alabama gubernatorial primary.

Little-known Agriculture Commissioner Ron Sparks ran to the left of the better-funded Davis and trounced him by a 62-38 margin even though Davis was his state’s senior Democratic congressman and enjoyed a close relationship with President Obama, whose Harvard Law School studies overlapped by a year.

The corporate-owned media know that the Davis defeat is big news, as shown by two stories in the June 6 Washington Post alone, here and here.

But this is mostly horse-race coverage about winning. The MSM are reluctant to scrutinize the substantive issues, the campaign’s deep intrigues, or the White House view that it should recruit Republican-lite careerists like Davis for open seats in conservative or swing districts. Most of these stories are like a cake missing salt or sugar.

My take:

In one of the reddest of the red states, Sparks ran an issue-oriented campaign that offered solutions to the hopes and fears of voters threatened by further job loss, inadequate health care, gambling as a job-creator and source of government funding, and, most recently, the horror of the BP’s oil drilling catastrophe.

Furthermore, significant segments of the Democratic base suspected Davis of making self-serving deals with their Republican enemies to help his own career.

True, Davis was burdened also as an African-American running in the onetime “Cradle of the Confederacy,” which also has the highest white population percentage of any Deep South state.

But this was not a race-determined election. Sparks managed to beat Davis in many heavily African-American districts. Some were within his opponent’s congressional district, which has been gerrymandered to include Birmingham with the rural Black Belt to help minority candidates.

On June 3, I wrote Why Alabama Democrats Rejected Centrist Artur Davis, Obama’s Pal. It noted that Sparks won the support of all four of the state’s major black political organizations while Davis was winning endorsements for the primary from reliably Republican major newspapers.

Alabama Democratic Conference Chairman Dr. Joe Reed, for instance, was quoted as saying:

It’s no secret that Davis is the preferred opponent of the Republican Party. This may be because he will be the most easily defeated Democrat, or because he is the most Republican of the Democratic candidates.

Also, Davis was too clever by a half in turning his back on Alabama’s most recent Democratic governor, Don Siegelman, after Siegelman was framed by the Bush Justice Department on corruption charges in 2006.

Last summer, I received what I believe to be reliable information that Davis, with encouragement party leaders in Washington, worked out a deal to keep Bush-appointed U.S. attorney Leura Canary running the Middle District office that prosecuted Siegelman. In return, Davis received support for his campaign from her husband Bill Canary, CEO of the Business Council of Alabama (BCA). Davis denied the tale and it never reached mainstream media.

But enough people in Alabama were getting the picture by Internet and word-of-mouth so that I predicted last July that Davis would never be elected Alabama governor.

After my article last week I received as feedback a document written by a well-connected, white Alabama Democrat entitled, “10 reasons Artur didn’t make it, based on voters’ perceptions.” For three years, I’ve found the source to be reliable. So, I pass on the list, edited slightly for space and privacy reasons, and with a warning that I’ve not personally confirmed each claim:

1. He’s arrogant and took black voters for granted.

2. He abandoned Siegelman and quit the House Judiciary Committee. Siegelman is still a hero to black voters.

3. He took money, $4,500, from BCA Leader Billy Canary. Lobbyists have said for two years that Artur would let Leura stay in office until she could get her federal retirement in exchange for a BCA endorsement. Now, Leura is launching new indictments aimed at Democratic officeholders in seats where Republicans may be able to take over. Most Democrats see this as Artur’s fault.

4. Late in the campaign, he was accused of keeping the Middle District U.S. Attorney’s seat open for himself.

5. He didn’t campaign much and sent a flock of young white kids to the Jefferson-Jackson Day event instead of showing up.

6. His rejection of the Health Care bill and its reconciliation companion were shocking to his base.

I’m going to skip my correspondent’s specific allegations in factors No. 7 and 9, which involve widespread rumors (at least among party insiders) of Davis romantic activities outside of marriage, plus his supposed special deference for two major Alabama companies.

The larger point is that politicians now need to understand that allegations once considered off-limits are going to get vastly more scrutiny during times when so many voters are financially devastated, hurt or angry.

And speaking at least for myself, my research has shown that Davis cynically cooperated in a self-serving sellout of Bush-era political prosecution victims now rotting in prison for no good reason. The defendants and their families number far more than just Siegelman, with one study showing them to be 46 percent African American nationwide. So by any reasonable standard of proportionality, whispers about Davis don’t make him a victim.

Another factor in the Davis defeat is the Democratic Party’s get-out-the-vote (GOTV) election-day machinery of the four black political groups and an overlapping network of black churches.

To understand what happened last week, it’s useful also to recall how Davis was propelled into office in a 2002 primary win. Davies won the help of heavy outside financing over black incumbent Earl Hilliard, who was perceived by a number of Israel’s U.S. supporters as not sufficiently supportive.

The fault lines continued Tuesday, with Hilliard’s son Earl Jr. winning both local and the Congressional Black Caucus endorsement to succeed Davis in Congress, but narrowly failing to qualify for a run-off against the better-funded front-runner Terri Sewell, a Harvard Law friend of Davis and a Jefferson County commissioner.

The level of intrigue in Tuesday’s election is illustrated by a news report that fake guide ballots angered Reed and the ADC showing Reed’s picture and Barack Obama’s, along with false endorsements of Davis and a congressional candidate from the fifth district. WHNT-TV in Huntsville reported the story as follows:

The idea of a fake guide ballot really irks Dr. Reed.

“This was an effort on the part of somebody to frustrate the ADC’s endorsement and try to frustrate the people who look to the ADC ballot for guidance,” said Reed, in a phone interview….These evil doers are out there plotting, trying their best to undermine ADC and frustrate black voters….I think we’ve got to expose them and when we can, prosecute them.”

To be sure, it’s not clear who might have distributed the flyers, and elaborate tricks can come from anywhere on election days.

A larger lesson developing from all this is that political leaders in the national Democratic Party – and the pundits who cover them – should understand that the Davis debacle in Alabama illustrates how hungry the public is for real change that helps people.

Democratic leaders who take the base for granted do so at their peril, as House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers said last summer in my blog last summer. I quoted the longtime Democrat from Detroit as predicting a one-term Presidency for his friend Obama unless he adopted harder-hitting and more progressive measures on such issues as health care.

One of the advantages of today updating my initial report from Wednesday on the Davis primary is the opportunity to draw on the apt observations of others. Among the most perceptive is Alabama journalist Glynn Wilson, who wrote a wrap-up for his Locust Fork News-Journal website entitled, “The Big Picture.”

Wilson, whose other stories last week included a breakthrough investigative reporting about how BP is using foreign nationals detained in U.S. prisons as a cost-effective strategy for shoreline oil clean-up, provided a tough verdict on the primary:

The political career of Birmingham Congressman Artur Davis is over. Davis made a show out of trying to become Alabama’s first black governor in one of the most bizarre and ridiculous political campaigns in the state’s history.

“I have no interest in running for political office again,” Davis confirmed to a reporter for a Birmingham paper. “The voters spoke in a very decisive way across every sector and in every section of the state. A candidate that fails across-the-board like that obviously needs to find something else productive to do with his life.”

Years ago as a young newspaper reporter at the Hartford Courant, I came across a group of colleagues bad-mouthing a once prominent publisher who’d just lost his job.

“This is kicking a guy when he’s down,” I remonstrated.

“That’s when you get your best shot at ‘em!!” responded one of the best journalists I’ve ever met.

In that spirit, let me close with an admirably concise overview by Huffington Post political columnist Sam Stein last week.

The strains between Davis and the black community, indeed, ran far deeper than conventional wisdom ever held. So much so that Roland Martin, a prominent CNN analyst, syndicated columnist and television talk show host felt compelled to email the Huffington Post a withering critique of the Alabama Democrat for ducking African-American media.
Davis lost, Martin told Huffington Post, because:

He was arrogant as hell. Davis pointedly refused to do black media. He turned my TV One show down six times; he didn’t do Tom Joyner’s show, with 8 million listeners – TJ is a Tuskegee native; he turned down dozens of requests from Joe Madison of Sirius/XM; and he didn’t do many others. He assumed because of his skin blacks would flock to his campaign. Sparks outhustled him and worked black voters in a major way.

Any smart politician knows to shore up their base. He was advised by top Democratic strategists, from the White House on down, to solidify his base. He never did that.

Last week, Davis was the fall guy for a failed, top-down, “moderate” strategy.

Who’s next?

June 10 Update: Union Critic McMahon, Megacommunities Author Gerencser

June 10, 2010

Brett McMahon

Brett McMahon

Mark Gerencser

Guests on my June 10 DC Update radio show with Scott Draughon were Halt the Assault spokesman Brett McMahon and Mark Gerencser, co-author of Megacommunities. Hear them nationwide by archive via the My Technology Lawyer Radio network.

McMahon his group are free-market advocates on: Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA)/ Card Check, Davis-Bacon Act/Prevailing Wage, Health Care Reform, Immigration Reform, Three Percent Tax Withholding, Union-Only Project Labor Agreements and Job Creation.

He focused on the unfairness of a federal bailout of a proposed union pension funds and the failure of labor to prevail in Tuesday’s Arkansas Senate primary against incumbent Democratic Agriculture Chair Blanche Lincoln.

Megacommunities introduces a radically new framework to solves today’s thorniest problems, such as hurricanes and global pandemics. Gerencser focused particularly on the case study of convening solution providers for Alzheimer’s disease into a group effort to share information on new drugs instead of marketing them individually. He said success is based on exclusion.

About Brett McMahon, ABC and Halt the Assault
Brett McMahon, vice president of the Maryland construction company Miller and Long, is an active member of the Association of Building Contractors (ABC) PAC and the Government Affairs Coordinating Committee. ABC (www.abc.org) is a national association representing 23,000 merit shop construction and construction-related firms in 79 chapters across the United States. Recently, it helped found Halt the Assault, an advocacy body. Details.

About Mark Gerencser, Booz Allen Hamilton Brett McMahon and MegaCommunities

Mark Gerencser is senior vice president at Booz Allen Hamilton. Headquartered in McLean, VA, it serves clients in defense, security as well as civil government agencies and ministries around the world. In 2009, he co-authored Megacommunities: How Leaders of Government, Business and Non-Profits Can Tackle Today’s Global Challenges Together. It suggests solution models for problems too large for any one authority to solve alone.

A few questions for Karl Rove on his book tour

May 30, 2010

Karl Rove

Bush’s brain shouldn’t mind answering a few questions as he goes around the South and Midwest selling his book. Just might enliven the events, and end up selling more copies. So here are a few, as I suggested recently in a Nieman Watchdog article.

While Karl Rove’s national book tour continues, reporters along the route should ask the important questions Rove has avoided – or hasn’t been asked – by DC pundits and in a once-over-lightly by the House Judiciary Committee last summer.

Rove’s Courage and Consequence tour puts him in seven states in the Midwest and South between now and early June, possibly in contact with many local and regional reporters who could make news if they ask good questions.  
 
The questions should be focused. Rove served the first 6½ years of the Bush presidency as senior advisor before leaving after the U.S. attorney firing scandal. Even his 596-page memoir can’t reasonably cover that period and his life story except by generalized summaries and selective illustrations.
 
To drill down, I suggest asking about political prosecutions. These are instances of using Justice Department probes not to solve crimes but to destroy political opponents and their funding. My 18 months of ongoing research suggest that such prosecutions have greatly affected the public through altered government policies, both locally and nationally. 
 
Evidence presented by the Judiciary majority shows that Justice Department chief of staff Kyle Sampson urged Rove in 2005 to rely on “loyal Bushies” to make prosecution decisions. Democrats in Congress later cited an academic study showing that the Bush DOJ targeted Democrats over Republicans by almost 5 to 1 in 820 official corruption investigations. This altered the nation’s political map and destroyed many political careers in a process that was largely secret.
 
The libertarian Cato Institute presented an expert seminar that I covered last fall in Nieman Watchdog, preserved in a video. I’ve since assembled case studies from around the nation at the non-partisan Justice Integrity Project that I founded this year. We explore the past, as well as emerging evidence of tolerance for political prosecutions under the Obama administration.
 
Rove’s memoir denies that he or others in the Bush White House exerted any improper role at the Justice Department. The book blames “conspiracy buffs” for suspicions he acted improperly in the 2006 U.S. attorney purge of such Republicans as New Mexico U.S. Attorney David Iglesias, whose memoir, In Justice, sums up the unprecedented mid-term firings with a chapter entitled, “All Roads Lead to Rove.”
 
Similarly, Rove dismisses as preposterous claims reported in the New York Times that he helped frame Alabama’s Democratic former Gov. Don Siegelman in 2006 on corruption charges. Rove wrote:
 
One of the nation’s least reliable papers was relying on two unreliable sources – Dana Jill Simpson and Don Siegelman. Siegelman was trying to avoid prison. And Simpson, well, because I never met the woman, or had any of the dealings with her that she claims, I could only conclude that she must be a nut looking for a television camera and brief celebrity-hood.
 
Last month, I published sharply worded retorts to Rove from Simpson and Siegelman. The latter, now 64, is free on bond but facing 20 additional years in prison. Simpson is an Alabama attorney who gave courts, Congress and CBS 60 Minutes in 2007 evidence that her fellow Republicans had worked for years to frame Siegelman for political purposes. 
 
Each also attacked the Obama administration and the mainstream media for lax follow-up on evidence of political prosecutions. “By failing to restore justice,” Siegelman told me, “they leave our democracy vulnerable to future subversions by those like Rove. By failing to investigate Karl Rove’s subversion of our constitutional rights, abuse of power and the use of the DOJ as a political weapon, Congress and the mainstream media will be held in contempt by history.”
 
A recent book signing in Alabama shows the kind of questions reporters may want to ask. Usually reporters defer to Rove as a visiting celebrity and amplify his commentary, which he delivers also via his Newsweek and Wall Street Journal columns, and as a Fox News contributor. But not always. For example, the Birmingham News showed a protester photo demanding Rove’s jailing, then had Rove repeating his denial he helped frame Siegelman.  
 
One reporter was very tough. Locust Fork News-Journal Publisher Glynn Wilson, who has written for the New York Times, had a column entitled, ”Karl ‘Turd Blossom’ Rove Signs Books in Birmingham.” In it was this exchange, unlike almost anything you’ll see in the “respectable” press:
 
When the broadcast reporters seemed to be out of questions, I jumped in and asked the final question that set Rove back on his heels and basically ended the press conference.
 
Since Rove once made the claim that as Bush’s so-called “brain” and “architect” he would deliver an American majority to the Republican Party for “a generation,” and since that didn’t quite work out after he was forced to resign from the White House along with then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez in August, 2007, and since a black guy from Chicago named Barack Obama sort of stomped the Republican Party in the presidential election of 2008, I asked: “How does it feel to be an utter failure?”
 
Rove refused to answer the question.
 
When I identified myself as the editor and publisher of the Locust Fork News-Journal, Rove at first said, flippantly, “Never heard of it.” Then he changed his response to, “Oh, yeah I have. That little website.”
 
Rove had reason to remember the site; in 2007, Wilson had helped spur national coverage of how Simpson broke with her party to describe the impact of partisan prosecutors in a court affidavit to Siegelman’s sentencing judge and later in testimony to Judiciary committee staff.
 
My suggested questions focus on developments in Alabama, including his 1990s work advising on how to transform Alabama’s elective office-holders from primarily Democratic to Republican. Rove omits that period from his memoir, but a 2004 Atlantic piece explores it.
 
Siegelman has a long political history. In 1964, he was a student leader at Mobile’s Murphy High School, the state’s first to undergo court-ordered integration. (In the small world category, one of his classmates, I’ve been told, was a girl named Darby, later to become Rove’s wife for 24 years until their divorce last winter.)
 
Alabama had been a center of massive resistance to integration led by Gov. George Wallace. Siegelman advocated peaceful desegregation. He went on to win statewide office in Alabama almost continuously from 1978 to 2003.
 
Here, then, are suggested questions for Rove:
 
Q. Your Wall Street Journal column last summer derided Simpson as a publicity-seeker, and claimed she didn’t have the nerve to make her allegations under oath. But that was wrong and she promptly requested a correction from you and the Journal. Did you publish one? If not, why not?
 
Q. In your House Judiciary testimony last July, you said your national responsibilities prevented you from following the Siegelman case and Alabama politics closely. In your memoir, you wrote, “I almost felt sorry for my chief interrogator, California Congressman Adam Schiff. He clearly was not prepared.” Suppose the congressman and his colleagues had asked you a simple question: Did you and your wife host some of Siegelman’s prosecutors at a party at your Rosemary Beach home in March 2007 about eight months after his conviction, not long before he was sentenced? If yes, was there any particular reason for that party?
Q. Federal courts have just ordered a new trial for the Garza family in Texas, who allege they were prosecuted because they refused to hire the corrupt DC lobbyist Jack Abramoff to represent their Kickapoo tribal business for their state’s first gambling casino. Out of all the people in the world you could have hired as your top assistant at the White House, why did you hire Abramoff’s former assistant Susan Ralston? Did you ever talk with her about Indian tribal casinos, Justice Department prosecutions or inviting Abramoff to the White House?
 
Q. Would you be willing to square off in a sworn setting against David Iglesias, the first U.S. attorney for New Mexico in 2001 and a prosecutor who entitled a book chapter “All Roads Lead to Rove” in his book about his political purge in 2006?
 

President George W. Bush and Kickapoo Chief Raul Garza, center, with Karl Rove partially visible at right and lobbyist Jack Abramoff in background over President's left shoulder (White House photo).

In late March, I sent Rove the first two questions to check the facts for this article. The last need no preamble because of such hearings as a unanimous Senate Indian Affairs Committee report in 2006 that asserted that Abramoff arranged vast sums from Indian casinos in Mississippi to fight Siegelman and his plan for an Alabama lottery to compete with casinos.

 
I invited Rove to call in to my weekly public affairs radio show as a featured guest at his convenience to discuss his book. Karl Rove & Co. Chief of Staff Sheena Tahilramani responded with a pleasant email that I received at 12:30 a.m. on a recent Sunday. 

Karl Rove's "Courage and Consequence"

She granted permission for me to use his photo and book jacket. “As far as any background on this subject,” she wrote, “it’s just not something Karl’s able to delve into while he’s in the middle of the tour. I’ve already got him fully committed and his plate is full. Thanks for reaching out.”

 
Clearly, Rove and his staff are hard-working, professional and successful. But let’s not miss the unique opportunity of a local book tour to learn more than his memoir provides about what he’s doing.  

May 6 Update: Author Paul Craig Roberts Charts Drastic Decline of U.S. Liberties, Media

May 6, 2010

Paul Craig Roberts

Author, former Reagan official and civil rights advocate Paul Craig Roberts described on the May 6 edition of my Washington Update radio show why he is retiring from writing because of the nation’s appalling decline in civil rights protections.

Roberts has had an extraordinarily successful career as a Wall Street Journal editor, author, research scholar and assistant Treasury secretary. You can hear him here in an archived version of the show from anywhere in the country following his live interview on the My Technology Lawyer Radio network.

This spring Roberts published what he called his final essay, “Truth Has Fallen and Has Taken Liberty With It.” In it, he wrote:

Americans have bought into the government’s claim that security requires the suspension of civil liberties and accountable government. Astonishingly, Americans, or most of them, believe that civil liberties, such as habeas corpus and due process, protect “terrorists,” and not themselves. Many also believe that the Constitution is a tired old document that prevents government from exercising the kind of police state powers necessary to keep Americans safe and free….The American media does not serve the truth. It serves the government and the interest groups that empower the government….As the pen is censored and its might extinguished, I am signing off.

We spent much of the show exploring his insights, battles and grim outlook for the country, previewed in his 2000 book updated in 2008, The Tyranny of Good Intentions. Co-authored with Lawrence Stratton, the book is subtitled: How Prosecutors and Bureaucrats Are Trampling the Constitution in the Name of Justice.  The book, rated with five stars on Amazon.com by most readers with a low-rating of three-stars by a reader who protests that Roberts does not provide enough solutions for the dire portrait of the nation’s future.   The book is an impressive survey of the advancement of legal theories of due process and other civil rights from ancient times to what he describes as a bipartisan abdication of our rights to central executive authorities in an abdication of responsibility by Congress, the news media and the courts that he describes as foreign to Anglo-American legal traditions.

His book and essays critique not simply the legal system, but breakdowns in the news, manufacturing, and Wall Street. As a result, he says, his writings are now longer welcome at major corporate-owned publications. He has been a prolific author up to now for web-based investigative outlets until recently.

Scott Draughon, the show’s founder and co-host, drove much of the lively interview.  We began the show with a news overview addressing the Gulf oil spill and Florida Gov. Charlie Crist’s party switch from GOP to independent. Listener advisory: Mac listeners need “Parallels.”

About Paul Craig Roberts
Paul Craig Roberts has held many academic appointments, and holds France’s Legion of Honor. He authored Supply-Side Revolution: An Insider’s Account of Policymaking in Washington; Alienation and the Soviet Economy; and Meltdown: Inside the Soviet Economy. co-authored with Lawrence Stratton The Tyranny of Good Intentions, subtitled: How Prosecutors and Bureaucrats Are Trampling the Constitution in the Name of Justice.

April 22 Update: Federal Spending Critic Cites Defense Waste, Capability Problems

April 22, 2010
Winslow T. Wheeler

Winslow T. Wheeler

Winslow Wheeler, a leading critic of federal waste, today critiqued the Defense Department’s trillion-dollar budget on the DC Update edition of My Technology Lawyer Radio.  On the show, he amplified his call April 21 to suspend production of the F-35 fighter.  Hear today’s radio show in a nationally-available archive by clicking Live! (http://snipurl.com/v1yey).

Wheeler, author of America’s Defense Meltdown: Pentagon Reform for President Obama and the New Congress, described the nation’s most expensive military procurement as producing fighters deeply flawed and thus a waste.  Also, he reviewed an essay this week, Our Trillion Dollar Defense Budget, by fellow National Journal commentator George Wilson.  Among Wheeler’s own National Journal essays are: 2010 Will Be The Year Of….What? and Containment Succeeded and Pre-emption Failed — Time For A New National Strategy? As a Senate staffer, Wheeler worked on hundreds of bills and amendments.  These included the War Powers Act, and many proposals to reform DOD procurement and require more realistic weapons tests. 

Update’s co-hosts are business radio pioneer Scott Draughon and Washington commentator Andrew Kreig.  The hosts began the show with an overview of Washington policy news affecting the nation’s business, politics and quality of life.  Mac listeners need “Parallels” to enable a Windows Media Player.

About Winslow Wheeler

Winslow T. Wheeler worked on national security issues for 31 years for the U.S. Senate and General Accounting Office (GAO).  In the Senate, Wheeler worked for Jacob Javits, R-N.Y., Nancy Kassebaum, R-Kansas, David Pryor, D-Arkansas, and Pete Domenici, R-New Mexico.  He was the first, and according to Senate records the last, Senate staffer to work simultaneously on the personal staffs of a Republican and a Democrat (Sens. Pryor and Kassebaum). Among his books, Wheeler authored The Wastrels of Defense: How Congress Sabotages U.S. Security, published by the U.S. Naval Institute Press. He is director of the Straus Military Reform Project at the Center for Defense Information and is a research fellow at the Independent Institute .

About Scott Draughon and My Technology Lawyer Radio Show

Richard Scott Draughon is host and producer of the My Technology Lawyer Radio Show, which is affiliated with MyTechnologyLawyer.com ─ an on-demand legal service.  Also, he is author of the 2007 book, “The Art of the Business Radio Show” and is an experienced litigator.  Details

About Andrew Kreig

Andrew Kreig, an attorney and author, is executive director of the Justice Integrity Project in Washington, DC. Earlier, he led the Wireless Communications Association International as CEO from 1996 to 2008 in its worldwide advocacy to establish the broadband wireless industry.  Details.

Siegelman Judge Asked To Recuse Now, With Kagan and Rove Opposing Oversight

April 13, 2010

Imprisoned businessman Richard Scrushy, a defendant in the most controversial federal prosecution of the decade, last week repeated his call for the presiding judge to remove himself ─ even as the disputes widened to include reported Supreme Court contender Elena Kagan, up to $50 billion in scandal-ridden Air Force contracts, and Karl Rove’s best-selling new memoir.

Scrushy, now serving a seven-year sentence for arranging $500,000 in donations to a non-profit at the request of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, requested last week that Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller of Montgomery rule on recusal requests filed last summer, or else withdraw.  

Scrushy and Siegelman have argued that the judge is disqualified after being enriched by $300 million in Bush-era contracts via the judge’s closely held company Doss Aviation for such services as refueling Air Force planes and training pilots.

“Quite simply, there is no valid reason for this Court’s failure to dispose of this motion in a timely fashion,” wrote Scrushy’s attorneys last week. 

The former HealthSouth CEO’s conviction is based on his donations to the Alabama Education Foundation in 1999 and 2000 at the request of then-governor Siegelman.  In June 2007, Fuller ordered seven-year terms for defendants.  The judge sent them immediately to prison in shackles with no appeal bond, with solitary confinement initially for Siegelman.

A Republican, Scrushy has argued that he was an innocent bystander caught up in a plan by the Bush Justice Department to eliminate the Democrat Siegelman from politics.  “I’m the first person in history,” Scrushy has said, “to be sent to prison for making a charitable donation.”

Both the Bush and Obama Justice Departments have maintained that neither Fuller nor they have done anything wrong.

Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller (Phil Fleming Photo)

$50 Billion In Air Force Contracts At Stake

Meanwhile, I reported last week that a factor prompting Siegelman’s prosecution was the aim of some Republicans to see up to $50 billion in awards for next-generation Air Force refueling tankers go to Europe’s multi-national consortium EADS and Northrop Grumman. 

The EADS-led plan would replace Boeing Corp., the previous tanker builder.  Years ago, EADS used competitive intelligence agents to show that Boeing had bribed an Air Force procurement officer.  My article noted that an EADS victory would enable an assembly plant in Alabama, as advocated by four European heads of state, major global financiers and some U.S. politicians.   

“The ring of truth in the article,” Siegelman wrote me last week after publication and follow-up, “is that Republicans wanted EADs, and I was close to Boeing because I had helped them expand their National Missile Defense Center in Huntsville and had them locate a manufacturing facility for the Delta IV and Delta II Rockets in Decatur, AL.” 

Siegelman was Alabama’s governor from 1999 to 2003, but lost reelection in 2002 when 6,000 of his votes mysteriously shifted from voting machines in Baldwin County after polls closed.  “Keep in mind,” Siegelman wrote last week, “the head of Alabama’s Business Council after my election was stolen was, and is, Bill Canary.”

Siegelman argues that Rove worked with Alabama prosecutors who included U.S. Attorney Leura Canary.  Her husband is Rove’s longtime friend and political ally Canary, whose work included managing the 2002 campaign of Siegelman’s Republican rival Bob Riley, Alabama’s current governor.  

Power Plays Against Obama’s Nominations

Both Leura and Bill Canary have issued statements denying wrongdoing.  To defer to Alabama’s two powerful Republican senators, the Obama administration has so far continued her in office after she served during the two Bush administrations as the president’s top prosecutor in Alabama’s middle district, covering the state capital region.   

In February, Sen. Richard Shelby threatened to issue a blanket Senate hold on all Obama federal appointments unless the Defense Department gives more consideration to EADS-Northrop Grumman’s bid.  Sen. Jeff Sessions also wields power as the senior Republican on the Judiciary Committee, and thus the gatekeeper for any Obama judicial or Justice Department nominee.

Leura Canary’s office continues to make news as federal investigators this month warned state lawmakers that they risk prosecution if they illegally help Alabama’s nascent electronic bingo industry fought by Riley. 

This is part of a long-term battle making allies of anti-gambling crusaders and Mississippi casino operators, who seek to retain Alabama gambling business.  Senate testimony has revealed that Jack Abramoff arranged for $10 million in donations from Mississippi casino owners to fight Siegelman, who promised in his 1999 election campaign to create a lottery to obtain funding for better schools.  Siegelman signed a personal note to help found the Alabama Education Foundation to advocate for lotteries and the funding.  

Bush administration prosecutors used Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base as headquarters for a multi-year investigation of Siegelman to show that Scrushy’s donations to the foundation were in effect a bribe to Siegelman, who in 1999 reappointed Scrushy to a state board. 

A bipartisan group of 91 former state attorneys general from more than 40 states have since formed an unprecedented coalition filing  a friend-of-the-court brief to the Supreme Court and arguing it should hear Siegelman’s case because his actions did not constitute a crime.

But Kagan, now widely reported as a leading candidate to ascend from her post as Justice Department solicitor general to become her friend Obama’s nominee for a Supreme Court vacancy, urged the high court in November to deny Siegelman a hearing.

She cited technical legal arguments devised with the assistance of DOJ’s trial prosecutors.  Since the 2006 convictions DoJ has withstood complaints that include: political prosecution with Rovejudge-shopping, jury tampering, lying about the recusal of Alabama’s top prosecutor, firing a DoJ whistleblower, and suppressing evidence that DoJ tried to blackmail its central witness.

Kagan’s argument is certain to inflame Siegelman’s supporters around the country if she is nominated to the Supreme Court.  DOJ has requested that Fuller resentence Siegelman, now 64, to an additional 20 years in prison even though Siegelman supporters estimate they have sent DOJ, the White House and news media outlets tens of thousands of complaints in recent years.

Yet DOJ argues that Fuller should remain deciding the case because not one reasonable person in the United States would think his impartiality could be questioned, which it cites as the relevant legal standard for recusal.

Rove Renews Attacks

Concurring with DOJ’s view is former White House advisor Rove, now on book tour promoting his memoir Courage and Consequence that denies any improper role by him, others in the Bush White House, prosecutors or the judge. 

Also, Rove mocks whistleblowers and congressional Democrats alike who have become involved in the Siegelman/Scrushy case. 

One Rove target is California Congressman Adam Schiff, the House Judiciary Committee’s chief interrogator last July asking Rove about his role in DOJ prosecutions.  In Courage, Rove says Schiff “was clearly not prepared.” 

Schiff’s work can be examined here in the transcripts.  Schiff, via his communications director, declined to respond to Rove’s insult, which encompasses also the committee entrusting Schiff to lead its review.  

Rove wrote also in Courage that a Democratic committee staffer privately disparaged to him Republican whistleblower Dana Jill Simpson.  She is an Alabama lawyer from rural Rainsville who had stepped forward to provide the committee in 2007 with sworn testimony and documentation of the court record on military contracting.

She alleged a plan by her fellow Republicans as early as 2002 to frame Siegelman, and later steer the case to Fuller.  Her testimony said that Riley’s son Robert confided to her in 2005 even before Siegelman was indicted in his second trial that Fuller hated Siegelman and would “hang” him.  Robert Riley has issued a statement denying her claim, but has not been called to testify.

Simpson responds that the facts would become obvious if Congress for the first time summoned witnesses for a public hearing under oath, or if the Supreme Court would examine the court filings on Fuller’s conflicts.  Siegelman, released on bond in 2008 by federal appeals court Democrats promptly after CBS 60 Minutes alleged government misconduct, also seeks Supreme Court review and a first-ever congressional hearing. 

Simpson, as a behind-the-scenes unpaid whistleblower in 2007, helped Scrushy’s attorneys submit a filing to Fuller in April 2007 seeking judicial recusal because, unknown to defendants, the judge owned up to 44% of Doss when it received an Air Force contract for $178 million just before the start of trial.

Fuller refused to recuse himself.  DOJ endorsed the judge’s continuation and communicated ex parte with the judge to help him resolve the matter, in part by seal the allegations against him temporarily from public view.  Doss officials and Fuller have declined comment on the judge’s current Doss ownership, which reportedly dwindled to 32% several years ago. Nearly all other shareholders owned 6%.

In general, the Obama administration maintains that the nation should look ahead, not bog down in recriminations.

On Friday, Obama’s DOJ withdrew the nomination of Indiana law professor Dawn Johnsen, a critic of Bush torture and detention policies, to run DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel.  That unit guides both the White House and DOJ on permissible uses of powers.  Progressive commentators argue that her appointment died because she was perceived as too independent to be trusted in review over Bush and Obama DOJ decision-making.

Last summer, Scrushy and Siegelman renewed their recusal and other appellate issues with filings that included a claim that the prosecution’s chief witness Nick Bailey was sexually blackmailed by interrogators at the Air Force base to shape his trial testimony. 

Fuller’s failure to rule on withdrawal thus prompted last week’s Scrushy filing, which said: “The recusal motion was based on three grounds: the fact that the Chief Judge is a material witness to the facts concerning an ex parte meeting in early April 2007, which is at issue in Defendant’s pending new trial motion; that the Chief Judge has personal knowledge of contested facts as a result of that meeting; and that the Chief Judge’s conduct raises grave questions as to his impartiality and the appearance of that impartiality.”


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