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?

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Judge, Feds Secretly Denied Kerik Vital Evidence

April 10, 2010

Unless you read niche political and professional publications online you probably missed my revelation this week that federal authorities secretly pressured former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik to plead guilty to corruption charges last fall by suppressing testimony from a key defense witness.

On April 7, I reported in Nieman Watchdog (not affiliated with Connecticut Watchdog) that prosecutors essentially won their case last fall in the aftermath of secret suppression proceedings.  U.S. District Judge Stephen Robinson of White Plains, NY, who was Kerik’s trial judge and also and the Clinton administration’s Democratic U.S. attorney supervising Connecticut cases from 1998 to 2001, ordered the testimony kept secret, and then jailed the defendant for the duration of the pretrial period.

The judge also pressured for shutdown of Kerik’s defense fund and for his defense attorneys to be removed.  Kerik gave up and pled guilty Nov. 5 to corruption charges after being kept in 23-hour-a-day lockdown.  During that jailing, Kerik’s mental health records released to the press and his funds were running out for new lawyers and to provide for his family.  Robinson imposed a four-year prison term Feb. 18, with Kerik on home detention until he reports to prison May 17.

What triggered the plea after millions spent by the defense in pretrial preparation?  Evidence points to the judge’s secret decision in September that Kerik’s jury couldn’t handle testimony that a former New York City inspector general was saying authorities had pressured him to lie to a grand jury to implicate Kerik falsely. 

That this suppression is coming to light only now in such a major case is the focus of my column today on how journalists from cash-crunched news organizations are increasingly spoon-fed the news by authorities.

Here’s the gist:  Michael Caruso, a New York inspector general for 17 years, filed a lawsuit in 2006 claiming that he was fired because he would not falsely tell a grand jury about suspicious words from Kerik, which Caruso could not recall. 

The judge overruled defense arguments that Caruso’s testimony was “central” to a defense to show prosecutor’s aggressive tactics in creating a baseless case.  Instead, the judge agreed with prosecutors that the evidence, although relevant, might inflame jurors against authorities, or else waste courtroom time. 

The judge then ordered the materials secret, and punished the defense for an email that a friend of Kerik’s sent to a Washington Times reporter in September mentioning Caruso.

The full-story is here in Nieman Watchdog, a free online publication funded by Harvard for distribution to journalists and others with a similar interest in public affairs.  As a sign of the times, its editor is Barry Sussman, the Washington Post’s city editor during the 1970s.  Sussman is well-known in journalism circles as the main editor who guided the Post’s Watergate reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein on a daily basis.

A Google search of follow-ups to this week’s Nieman story shows that pick was sporadic and from highly diverse publications.  

The longest and most prominent original article was by the Newsmax, “Harvard’s Nieman: Kerik Case Suppressed Evidence.”  The conservative Newsmax was among the few news outlets during the run-up to trial who stood against conventional wisdom on the issue of Kerik’s guilt after hundreds of pretrial news stories and blogs by others adverse to the defendant.  It was not afraid also to ignore a tradition that on-air remarks by TV commentators or online investigative reporting are not generally newsworthy.  Newsmax quoted Fox News host Geraldo Rivera as saying the judge should recuse himself recuse himself for behavior he described as a “travesty” of justice.

Several progressive email lists or web-news publications also covered the Nieman story this week.  One, for example, was “News from Underground,” a progressive national email list edited by Mark Crispin Miller, a New York University communications professor.  Another was, for some reason, the website of the Clermont County Democratic Party in Ohio.

Perhaps I missed it, but my search failed to locate significant follow up by mainstream wire services, newspapers or broadcasters that had closely followed the accusations against the former Bush cabinet nominee and long-prominent New York Republican official.

I can understand the reasons.  As ever, prosecutors get the initial advantage in coverage with indictments.  Reporters often flesh out the formal indictment for with colorful details they pick up on their own, or from law enforcement leaks.  This is particularly so when a celebrity defendant such as Kerik has become involved with others who are well-known. In his case, his mentor was former mayor and 2008 Presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani, his publisher and former lover was celebrity editor Judith Regan, and one of his wiretapped friends was Westchester’s district attorney and TV commentator Jeanine Pirro.

Defendants are foreclosed by pretrial rules from vigorously arguing a defense, particularly when important evidence is sealed, as in this case. 

If defendants then plead guilty, as some 95 percent of federal defendants do, then the public never hears the other side of the story.  This is because during and after a plea a defendant must show strong remorse, or else face severe extra punishment from the judge at sentencing.  

Once this “Kabuki theater” has played itself out, time-pressured reporters at financially troubled news organizations typically have scant opportunity to revisit any documents that, as here, are unsealed after the end of a case. 

That’s the way it is, as Walter Cronkite used to say.

But it’s not necessarily the way it always has to be.  Cases like Kerik’s reported to me with increasing frequency from Alabama and elsewhere around the country have prompted me to found the Justice Integrity Project to provide cutting-edge materials convenient for journalists and others in the public. 

Working with such organizations as Connecticut Watchdog and Nieman Watchdog on a case-by-case basis in hopes of meeting their standards, our project will make it more feasible for mainstream journalists and bloggers alike to research the news.  These white-collar cases are inherently complex ─ and often momentous.  The public deserves the full record.

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.”

Watch Compelling New Video ‘Perils of Today’s Newspapers’

March 30, 2010

I highly recommend a new documentary this month on the perils facing today’s newspapers, particularly in mid-size cities like Bristol, Connecticut.  

The 55-minute film released this month is available for free online.  It’s an original documentary by Connecticut Public Television shows longtime journalists Bristol struggling to adapt to the online world, while trying to fulfill traditional journalistic functions with new business models adapted for today’s needs.  It was well-done from beginning to end, and I was particularly happy to see several old friends from Connecticut with such insightful comments. 

Here’s an excerpt from On Deadline: Is Time Running Out for the Press? is co-produced by John and Rosemary O’Neill and available on the National Newspaper Association website for free.

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.

Jan. 28 Update Hosts ‘Three Felonies A Day’ Author Harvey Silverglate

January 27, 2010

On radio Jan. 28, I’m interviewing longtime Boston litigator and civil rights expert Harvey Silverglate to discuss his pioneering new book Three Felonies A Day on the DC Update edition of My Technology Lawyer Radio.

Listeners can access the show nationwide beginning at noon via the link at www.MyTechnologyLawyer.com/update, which also provides archives of previous shows I co-host with the show’s founder Scott Draughon.

The book’s subtitle is How the Feds Target the Innocent.  The theme is: The average professional in this country 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 have become impossibly broad and vague. National Journal legal columnist Stuart Taylor, Jr. comments, “Abetted by compliant courts and easily gulled media, the feds brand as criminals good people who intended no crime.”

The book shows how the federal executive branch is able to exercise a disturbing form of social control via selective prosecution. The book is winning praise from experts across the political spectrum, and deserves the attention of anyone worried that loss of constitutional rights affects politics and business. 

The show’s founder, business radio pioneer Scott Draughon, will begin the show with an overview of Washington policy news affecting business, politics and quality of life.  Scott’s asked me to join him in an additional a special hour-long discussion at 4 p.m. Jan. 28 because of major recent developments in Washington and around the nation.

Our very accomplished noon guest Harvey Silverglate summarized his book’s themes in testimony last September before a House subcommittee.  

“This book is written from the perspective of a trial lawyer who has seen these statutes wreak havoc with the law and with people’s lives, and threaten the balance between governmental authority and civil society,” he testified.  “The book contains some legal analysis, but primarily it is meant as a description of how vague statutes function, in practice, as a tool of terror and true prosecutorial harassment in the lives of ordinary as well as extraordinary people.” 

Silverglate continued:

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.  

The time has come, it seems to me, to reduce or eliminate – rather than to enlarge – the number of these affronts to liberty and fair treatment of our citizens.

I hope you can join us for an especially important program.  Your calls or email questions are welcome, of course.  Call-in with questions at 866-685-7469, or send emails to radio@MyTechnologyLawyer.com.  

Three Felonies A Day author Harvey Silverglate is counsel to Boston’s Zalkind, Rodriguez, Lunt & Duncan LLP. He is founder and co-chairman of the Foundation for Individual Rights Education, a columnist for the Boston Phoenix and a Cato Institute fellow.  His congressional testify 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.

Listener advisory: Mac Listeners need the tool “Parallels” to access the Windows Media Player.

Trumka Warms Lawmakers On Economic Agenda

January 13, 2010

                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Washington, DC –The AFL-CIO ‘s new President Richard Trumka urged government officials Jan. 11 to put far greater priority in coming weeks on improving the nation’s economy in such areas as jobs, worker rights and health care.

“This is a moment that cries out for political courage ─ but it is not much in evidence,” he said at a National Press Club luncheon that I covered for the club’s publications, with details at www.press.org.

Trumka led the United Mine Workers of America from 1982 to 1995 before becoming AFL-CIO’s secretary treasurer in 1995.  He succeeded longtime AFL-CIO President John Sweeney in September as the top executive of the country’s largest labor organization. 

Trumka summarized his travels since Jan. 1 to talk to “working Americans” about their concerns.

“Everywhere I went,” Trumka said, “people asked me, ‘Why do so many of the people we elect seem to care only about Wall Street?  Why is helping banks a matter of urgency, but unemployment is something we just have to live with?’”

“I came away shaken by the sense that the very things that make America great are in danger,” he continued.  “What makes us unique among nations is this:  In America, working people are the middle class.…But a generation of destructive, greed-driven economic policies has eroded that progress and now threatens our very identity as a nation.”

The union has announced a five-point program to create more than 4 million jobs with what he called “a crucial alliance of the middle class and the poor” to achieve legislative victories. 

But he singled out health care as an issue that “drives a wedge between the middle class and the poor” by Senate proposals to pay for expanded insurance by taxing employee health care plans.  “Most of the 31 million insured employees who would be hit by the excise tax are not union members,” he said. 

“The tax on benefits in the Senate bill pits working Americans who need health care for their families against working Americans struggling to keep health care for their families,” he said.  “This is a policy designed to benefit elites – in this case, insurers, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies and irresponsible employers– at the expense of the broader public.”

In a veiled threat that he didn’t amplify, he said the labor movement is fighting “to win health care reform that is worthy of the support of working men and women.”

Aiming part of his remarks at Democratic lawmakers, Trumka warned against a repeat in 2010 of the disappointment his members felt in 1994 against Democratic incumbents when their party was routed at the polls.

“Politicians who think that working people have it too good – too much health care, too much Social Security and Medicare, too much power on the job – are inviting a repeat of 1994,” he said.

During Q&A, he declined to discuss specifics about his meeting with President Obama later in the afternoon except to say, “We’ll be talking about health care.”  He did say that the discussion would be “among friends.” 

In response to a related question, Trumka said, “We’re not going to accept a bad bill.” Obama and other Democratic leaders hope to eke out a slender victory on their health care insurance legislation in the face of almost united Republican opposition and increasing criticism from Democrats, including progressives and union members.

Trumka’s prepared speech was nearly seven-pages long single-spaced. Club President Donna Leinwand asked him to cut it short at about 1:35 p.m. to stay on the Club’s usual timetable enabling audience questions and a luncheon end by 2 p.m.

Trumka declined, saying, “Working people have been waiting 30 years for this.” 

The last sentences of his prepared speech were a warning to political leaders to choose between working for the general public or “the profits of insurance companies, speculators and outsourcers.”

“There is no middle ground,” Trumka concluded.  “Working America is waiting for an answer.  We are in a ‘show me’ kind of mood, and time is running out.”

Jan. 7: DC Radio Hosts Ken Auletta On His Best-Seller ‘Googled’

January 7, 2010

New Yorker media columnist Ken Auletta discussed his latest best-seller Googled: The End of the World As We Know It on the Jan. 7 DC Update edition of My Technology Lawyer Radio.  

Listeners can access the show nationwide via the link at www.MyTechnologyLawyer.com/update, which also contains archives of previous shows.

In the show’s first guest segment beginning 18 minutes into the hour, Auletta discussed how, “Google has morphed from a search into a media company…that bestrides the world.”  He further described how Google in the process has become both “beloved” by some and “feared” by others.  

The book lives up to its advance billing:  Using Google as a proxy for the larger digital revolution, Auletta shares the secrets of Google’s success and describes why that success threatens traditional media.  The author enjoyed unprecedented access to Google’s founders and executives, but brings to bear an independent expert outlook. 

The book has hit the bestseller lists, with publishers in 12 nations.  Netscape founder Marc Andreessen describes Googled as, “A uniquely incisive account of the new Internet revolution, powered by Ken Auletta’s unparalleled access.  A great book.”

The radio show is co-hosted by business radio pioneer Scott Draughon and by Washington commentator Andrew Kreig.  The hosts begin with an overview of Washington policy news affecting the nation’s business, politics and quality of life.  As a listener advisory: Mac computer users need the tool “Parallels” to hear Windows Media Player.

About Ken Auletta and Googled

Ken Auletta has written the “Annals of Communications” column for The New Yorker since 1992. He is the author of 10 books, including four national bestsellers. These include Three Blind Mice: How the TV Networks Lost Their Way, Greed and Glory on Wall Street: The Fall of the House of Lehman, and World War 3.0: Microsoft and Its Enemies. In naming him America’s premier media critic, the Columbia Journalism Review said, “No other reporter has covered the new communications revolution as thoroughly.”  For details, visit his website here. Googled is available via Amazon.com here, with 32 reader reviews averaging a four-star rating out of a possible five.    

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 that he leads.  Draughon is author of the pioneering book The Art of the Business Radio Show.  For details, visit the website: http://www.mytechnologylawyer.com

About Andrew Kreig

Andrew Kreig is an investigative reporter, author and attorney who reports frequently about official corruption on such new media sites as Huffington Post, Connecticut Watchdog, Nieman Watchdog and OpEd News. Kreig is finishing a year as senior fellow with the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University and is a research fellow with the Information Economy Project at George Mason University School of Law. Earlier, he was president of the Wireless Communications Association International from 1996 to last summer and authored the 1987 book, Spiked: How Chain Management Corrupted America’s Oldest Newspaper.