Archive for the ‘Don Siegelman Case’ Category

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

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?

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.

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.”

I’m Shocked, Shocked! To Find Politics In Defense Contracting

April 10, 2010
U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL)

U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL)

President Obama announced last week at a White House press conference with his French counterpart that the United States will use fair procedures to award up to $50 billion for next generation Air Force refueling planes.  The Defense Department followed up by delaying for 60 days the bid deadline so that EADS can compete with Boeing Corp. in bidding advertised as free of politics.

But a review of the ruthless tactics used so far suggests that running a politics-free contracting competition is like running a Casablanca casino that has no gambling.

Political, financial and military leaders of at least four foreign powers have pressed for U.S. taxpayer dollars in the closing months of the nearly decade-long competition between Boeing and the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co. (EADS).  In addition to France’s president Nicolas Sarkozy, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Germany’s Angela Merkel and the United Kingdom’s Gordon Brown have visibly pushed for a share of jobs from one of the largest U.S. military contracts in history.

Summarized below are a few of the political intrigues used to win the contract, whose value could be vastly higher than the estimated $35 billion to $50 billion because the winner gets vital momentum for similar deals with other nations.

To secure an EADS victory that would enable a large new assembly factory in Alabama, the state’s senior Republican Sen. Richard Shelby in February put a blanket Senate hold on 70 top-level Obama federal appointments, thereby disrupting the administration’s effort for more control over the federal bureaucracy before mid-term elections.  Shelby backed off after flexing his Senate muscle.

But this kind of political brinksmanship could enable EADS and its primarily Republican Senate backers to delay final Pentagon decision-making past next November’s mid-terms.  The election results could then provide EADS backers enough new clout to threaten Boeing.

On its face, the idea of unseating a U.S. contractor might seem just as far-fetched as last month’s disputed announcement that a state-owned Russian aviation consortium would try to bid.

But my work at the Justice Integrity Project has unearthed sources describing other mind-boggling tactics.  My exclusive report for Huffington Post this weekend, for example, describes how former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman and former Air Force Assistant Secretary Darleen Druyun were imprisoned on corruption charges initiated by EADS supporters.

Siegelman, 64, clearly was framed, in my opinion.  His ostensible crime was denying Alabama his “honest services” by requesting in 1999 a donation to a pro-education non-profit, and then reappointing the donor to a volunteer state board.

But Siegelman’s real “crime” was election as a Democratic governor from 1999 to 2003 with good prospects for reelection unless targeted by the all-out criminal probes run by Republican-controlled entities. These included a remarkable level of involvement by the Air Force itself in hosting at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force Base the headquarters for a multi-year federal-state investigation targeting Siegelman.  That probe resulted in his 2005 indictment before his reelection campaign and conviction the following year.  Now free on bond after serving nearly a year of his seven-year term, he now faces Justice Department recommendations that he be imprisoned for 20 more years and that the Supreme Court deny his appeal, which is supported by an unprecedented coalition of 91 former state attorneys general saying Siegelman’s request for the education donations didn’t constitute a crime.

By contrast, I’ve seen no evidence that Druyun didn’t deserve her nine-month prison sentence for using her Air Force job to create favorable terms for Boeing tanker leases while lining up Boeing jobs for herself, her daughter and prospective son-in-law.

As a result of these prosecutions, the EADS path became easier for its long-shot bid to replace Boeing.  Former Congressman Bob Riley, Siegelman’s successor as Alabama’s governor, used his connections with European and fellow Republican leaders to plan the huge tanker parts assembly factory in Mobile, thereby providing the EADS deal with a vital Made-in-America image.

Similarly, GOP Sen. John McCain of Arizona used competitive intelligence originally developed by political operatives loyal to EADS and the Bush/Rove White House to lead a multi-year Armed Services Committee investigation of the Druyun scandal.  The probe thoroughly embarrassed Boeing and the Air Force.  Boeing’s chairman resigned, and another top-level official was imprisoned.

More important, the Air Force reopened bidding, and awarded the tanker contract in early 2008 to EADS and its then-partner Northrop Grumman Corp.  This was just as McCain’s revived presidential campaign was eliminating his Republican competitors.

In March 2008, Washington investigative reporter and now Russia Today cable commentator Wayne Madsen reported that Europe’s Rothschild family was supporting McCain and the EADs deal, as were key allies of the Bush family.  That spring, the Associated Press documented how five EADS backers supported McCain, including his co-chairman and key financial supporter Tom Loeffler.  Federal contractors and foreign citizens are forbidden to contribute, but not their allies.

McCain’s earlier investigation of Boeing had received mostly positive reviews.  “It’s the best example of congressional oversight that we’ve seen in a decade,” Taxpayers for Common Sense Vice President Keith Ashdown told the Washington Independent.  “It was before the completely bone-headed decision to bring on all those EADS lobbyists.”

Last June, the Government Accounting Office overturned the EADS/Northrop Grumman award, saying that the Bush administration’s Defense Department had slanted criteria against Boeing.  Northrop Grumman dropped out of the bidding this year, saying the process was too expensive and its bid with EADS was unlikely to succeed under the Air Force’s new specifications under Obama.

That left Boeing’s rivals scrambling for credible partners and strategies, including a way to build the factory in Mobile.  EADS kept up its momentum via the direct talks between the French and U.S. presidents last week on world issues, including a fair process for tanker bidding.

“It’s in the interest of American taxpayers,” said Obama, “and it’s also in the interest of our young men and woman who rely on this equipment in order to protect this nation.”

Sarkozy responded that he trusts Obama.  “If you say to me that the request for proposals, the call for tenders, will be free, fair and transparent,” said the French president, “then we say EADS will bid and we trust you.”

Such benign words obscure the ongoing struggle for well-paid manufacturing jobs.  Boeing, of course, has its own stable of political advocates, who argue that tanker construction is overdue.  “It’s wrong to slow down this critical procurement process,” said Republican Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas, which has 3,000 Boeing employees.  “Our entire military relies on refueling tankers, which were built in the 1950s.”

Decision-makers downplay any pressures.  “We have been and continue to make decisions on this critical program based solely on the law of the land and the needs of our war-fighters,” said Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell last week.  “Politics are not a part of this process –– never have been, never will be.”

Sounds great!  And is there any gambling in the casino?

Air Force Delay In Tanker Bidding Extends Political Intrigues

April 3, 2010

Let’s hope the Obama administration this week delayed its deadline for picking the next generation of Air Force tankers for good reason, as claimed ─ not as a cave-in to those who want U.S. taxpayers to fund European jobs.

To kowtow to Europe’s EADS and their mostly Republican U.S. allies for the wrong reasons would only hurt the U.S. economy and encourage scandalous conduct that’s been occurring on both sides of the nearly decade-long EADS rivalry with Boeing over tanker contracts.

Talks this week between President Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy resulted in a Pentagon announcement March 31 that it would delay its deadline for bids 60 days until July 9 if desired by EADS, the acronym for European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co.

Obama said during a joint press conference March 30 in Washington that he promised Sarkozy that Defense Department decision-making would be “free and fair” because the U.S. wants to hold a transparent bidding process.

The contract’s value officially is estimated at $35 billion, one of the largest in American history.  But the value could be vastly higher because the contract winner gets vital momentum for similar deals with other nations around the world.

Political, financial and military leaders of five world powers are active at their highest levels. In addition to France’s leader, Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Germany’s Angela Merkel and the United Kingdom’s Gordon Brown are also interested in securing jobs from the U.S. contracts.  

Boeing issued a statement April 1 denying any legitimate reason to extend the bidding past DOD’s previous deadline May 10 to accommodate the Europeans.  EADS has been pushing for a longer bidding process that might push final decision-making past mid-term U.S. elections.

In jockeying for an EADS victory that would create a large assembly factory in Alabama, the state’s senior Republican Sen. Richard Shelby in February put a blanket hold on 70 top-level Obama federal appointments. 

Shelby disrupted the Obama administration as it entered a critical phase of its second year after numerous delays in appointments during the first year that are keeping holdovers in many key slots throughout government.  In Alabama’s middle district, for example, Leura Canary remains as U.S. attorney despite being one of the nation’s most controversial “loyal Bushies” (the term comes from a former Bush DOJ chief of staff) targeting such key Democrats as Alabama’s former Gov. Don Siegelman.    

Later, Shelby backed off in blocking all Obama appointments after flexing his Senate muscle.  As a countermeasure, the Obama administration just made 15 recess appointments to try to secure control of federal bureaucracy before too much more time passes. 

U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby

But the political clock is ticking in other ways if EADS and its backers can nudge final Pentagon decision-making on July bids a few more weeks into the period after November’s U.S. elections.   Republicans are expected to gain far more congressional clout.  At that point, the Republican mastery of Senate rules even when they’re in the minority, combined with European financial muscle could threaten Boeing, which is no slouch itself in power politics in the United States and internationally.

Ensuring an award to EADS was a factor, according to my sources, behind two of the past decade’s most notable federal corruption prosecutions, those of Siegelman and former Air Force Assistant Secretary Darleen Druyun.  An independent review is the primary focus of my work with the start-up Justice Integrity Project.   Prosecutors dispute any political motive in either investigation.

In 2006, federal authorities working through Canary’s office convicted Siegelman, regarded by my political sources as less adept than his Republican rival Bob Riley in the congressional and international clout needed to ensure an EADS victory and an Alabama reassembly plant. 

Riley had been a leader in House military appropriations before narrowly defeating Siegelman in 2002 gubernatorial election. As a congressman and then as governor, Riley cultivated contacts with Russian raw material suppliers and France-based manufacturers who are major advocates of EADS.   

Also, the federal authorities won a corruption conviction against Druyun, building on initial investigative work by Boeing’s opponents in the competitive intelligence community.  Earlier, Druyun had helped Boeing obtain highly favorable terms on Air Force tanker leases.  She then received a $250,000 per year job at Boeing in 2003 after her retirement from the Air Force.

Her conviction helped overturn the initial Air Force award and reopen bidding, which is still continuing with this week’s extension.

This kind of intense interest in building airplanes is, of course, well-understood among Washington’s lobbyists and those whom they fund for elective office.  Closely following such contract awards also are national security proponents and business leaders in localities hosting proposed factories. 

Mobile County, for example, maintains an advocacy website called Save Our Tanker, where I’ve signed up as a “supporter” to receive news updates.   Another major advocate for EADS is the Business Council of Alabama, whose CEO/president is the prosecutor Canary’s husband William Canary.  He’s also the former campaign manager for Riley in his 2002 victory against Siegelman and a former Republican National Committee chief of staff.  

Boeing and its supporters foster similar efforts, including plans to apportion the tanker jobs around the U.S. to gather strong bipartisan support among congressional delegations.  Boeing’s claims that more U.S. manufacturing jobs will come from an award to a U.S. based company.  But traditional “Buy American” procedures have been eroded over the long term as both parties seek the financial rewards of globalization, as well as compliance with fair trade rules.

Boeing’s advocates include Republican Senators Sam Brownback of Kansas, which has an estimated 3,000 Boeing employees, and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. They were among the senators who wrote Obama March 31 to urge the president “to move forward on the Air Force tanker competition without delay.”  Their letter noted a March 23 final decision by a World Trade Organization panel that European governments had illegally subsidized the EADS subsidiary Airbus.

Who’s Who Backgrounder

On this spring weekend, U.S. taxpayers trying to make ends meet in a troubled economy and preoccupied during religious holidays deserve a backgrounder.  Here goes:

The current fleet of tankers used for mid-air refueling was built by Boeing in contracts dating back five decades.  In 2001, Boeing was awarded a renewal of the contract.   

Riley, as a member of the House, undertook discussions with French and other European interests to secure their support for an assembly plant in Mobile.  Riley also won Alabama’s 2002 election with the help 6,000 votes stricken from Siegelman’s election machine totals after polls closed on election night in Baldwin County, which adjoins Mobile on the Florida border.

Throughout the early part of this decade, Siegelman was targeted for investigation on corruption charges via what became a massive federal-state probe that Republican administrations headquartered at Maxwell-Gunter Air Force base.  Siegelman’s lead prosecutor was a powerful colonel in the Air Force reserves who supervised the case, including prospective witnesses brought to the base for pre-trial questioning.  In 2005, Siegelman was indicted and a year later convicted in his second trial on corruption charges as he planned to run for re-election. His main convictions were for seeking donations from a businessman for a non-profit advocating for better school funding and then reappointing the donor to a board. 

Siegelman’s judge, Middle District Chief U.S. Judge Mark Fuller, meanwhile was being enriched by the Air Force as the principal stockholder of closely held Doss Aviation.  Siegelman’s judge held between 32 and 44% of Doss shares while the company was receiving hundreds of millions of dollars in Air Force contracts to refuel Air Force planes and train Air Force pilots.

Chief U.S. Judge Mark Fuller

All individuals mentioned above and both the Bush and Obama Justice Department have denied any special political or Air Force motivations in the Siegelman prosecution, despite claims of misconduct by whistleblowers and a witness interrogated at the Air Force base.

Also, Fuller has declined to recuse himself for conflict of interest, saying not one reasonable person in the U.S. would think it necessary. Former White House strategist Karl Rove’s best-selling new memoir Courage and Consequence defends Fuller stock-holdings during Siegelman’s prosecution, and denies any Rove involvement in Siegelman’s prosecution.

The Justice Department has agreed with the judge, and is seeking 20 additional years in prison for Siegelman.  The Obama administration seeks to prevent any Supreme Court review.   Meanwhile, the Air Force’s contract award via Druyun’s office was overturned in 2005 after Sen. John McCain of Arizona led the Senate Armed Services Committee investigation exposing Boeing’s corruption with Druyun. 

EADS (via its North American subsidiary) and its then-partner Northrop Grumman then won the tanker contract.  The award vindicated the high hopes of those advocating what had once been a long-shot bid. Benefits extended beyond Mobile to the economies of the nearby Florida Panhandle and Mississippi, and of course to European interests performing much of the work.

In 2008, the Associated Press documented that McCain’s Presidential campaign was being supported by a number of EADS backers, including McCain’s co-chairman and key financial supporter Tom Loeffler, a former Texas congressman whose firm lobbied for EADS.  Federal contractors and foreign citizens are forbidden to contribute, but not their allies.

McCain’s investigation originally received mostly positive reviews.  “It’s the best example of congressional oversight that we’ve seen in a decade,” Keith Ashdown, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, told the Washington Independent.  “It was before the completely bone-headed decision to bring on all those EADS lobbyists.”

Last June, the Government Accounting Office overturned the EADS/Northrop Grumman award, saying that the Bush administration’s criteria had been slanted to favor their planes. 

Northrop Grumman dropped out of the bidding this year, saying the bidding process was too expensive and its bid with EADS was unlikely to succeed under Air Force specifications.  That left Boeing’s opponents scrambling for credible partners and strategies.

Last month, a Los Angeles lawyer said his client United Aircraft, a holding company for several Russian aircraft companies, would soon announce a joint venture with an unnamed U.S. defense contractor to seek the contracts.  But the company itself denied interest, and Russia’s prime minister edged away from advocacy of that proposal.

EADS has kept up its momentum via the direct talks between the French and U.S. presidents this week on a variety of world issues.  Among other topics, the leaders agreed on what they described as a fair process for the tanker bidding.

“It’s in the interest of American taxpayers,” said Obama, “and it’s also in the interest of our young men and woman who rely on this equipment in order to protect this nation.”

Sarkozy responded that he trusts Obama.  “If you say to me that the request for proposals, the call for tenders, will be free, fair and transparent,” said the French president, “then we say EADS will bid and we trust you.”

Behind those benign words looms the titanic struggle for jobs and power among nations.  The stakes were portrayed in a March 19, 2008 column by Washington-based commentator Wayne Madsen, a former National Security Agency analyst, Fox News contributor and active volunteer leader for McCain during his 2000 presidential campaign in Northern Virginia.

Madsen, now a TV commentator for the Russia Today cable program, wrote two years ago about McCain’s 2008 efforts: “Tomorrow, McCain will be feted at a campaign luncheon at London’s swank Spencer House at St. James Place by Lord Jacob Rothschild and Nathan Rothschild.”  Madsen went on to describe at length ties between U.S., EADS, Russian, Alabama and other leaders supported by such influential players as the Rothschild family and the Carlyle Group.

Boeing, of course, has its own stable of powerful advocates, who drum up political funding for their candidates and argue that tanker construction is overdue.  “It’s wrong to slow down this critical procurement process,” said the Kansas Republican Brownback about the Pentagon’s bidding extension for EADS.  “Our entire military relies on refueling tankers, which were built in the 1950s.”

For the moment, however, most are downplaying tensions publicly.  Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said this week that the deadline change is the only modification that the Defense Department will make to specifications for the 179 refueling tankers.  Even the 60-day delay is 30 days short of what EADS has requested to make a viable bid.  The Pentagon then needs months to review the bids, aiming for a decision just before the November elections.

“We have been and continue to make decisions on this critical program based solely on the law of the land and the needs of our war-fighters,” Morrell said.  “Politics are not a part of this process –– never have been, never will be.”

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.  # # #    

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.

Siegelman DoJ Paralegal’s Story: From Justice Dream Job To Nightmare

September 13, 2009

As federal prosecutors prepared in 2006 for the corruption trial of Alabama’s former Gov. Don Siegelman, Justice Department paralegal Tamarah Grimes thought she was progressing well in her career. She was past beginner stage after three years at the Middle District U.S. Attorney’s office helping prepare federal cases in the state capital of Montgomery.

Indeed, she was the government’s top in-house paralegal in one of the country’s most important federal prosecutions, which targeted an iconic former governor along with one of their state’s richest businessmen.

But a year later, the prosecution’s all-out effort to convict Siegelman and HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy brought Grimes to a career crisis as a legal professional.

Tamara Grimes

Tamarah Grimes

In July 2007, Grimes stepped forward to allege that her colleagues had violated basic legal protections to ensure a fair trial. She claimed, for example, that that prosecutors had communicated with jurors and that pro-conviction jurors had privately strategized by email outside the jury room to obtain guilty verdicts — all without required notification to the defense.

Also, she complained of being the victim of sexually offensive comments by colleagues, particularly in an off-site prosecutors’ office that was entirely devoted to what they called “The Big Case.”

In using the authorized procedures for such complaints, she turned her career dream into a nightmare. What follows is her story. It led to more than a year of threats that she would be prosecuted herself for denying that she had made audiotapes of colleagues.

After she wrote the Obama administration’s Attorney General Eric Holder on June 1 outlining misconduct allegations and asking for his help the Justice Department fired her seven days later for failure to retain a security clearance – which DoJ itself had removed in 2008. At the same time, she was regarded elsewhere as one of the nation’s leading whistleblowers for shedding light on the Siegelman conviction, which has become the most controversial criminal prosecution of the entire Bush administration.

“I did nothing to justify termination,” she told KNOW. “I was a loyal, exemplary employee with no discipline problems and many performance-based awards prior to my complaints during the prosecution of the Scrushy/Siegelman matter.”

But in July 2007, Grimes stepped forward precisely when her office was basking in the victory against Siegelman, Alabama’s leading Democrat for two decades after election as attorney general in 1978. Her criticism had the potential to ruin all the hard work of convicting him.

**********
For the full story, read the September edition of KNOW: The Magazine for Paralegals. My article is entitled, “From Justice Dream Job to Nightmare…Exclusive Interview With Tamarah Grimes, Justice Department Paralegal…Why This Whistleblower Was Dissed & Dismissed.”