Posts Tagged ‘Karl Rove’

DoJ’s Attack On Former Gov. Siegelman’s Rights Threatens Election Rights For Many Across Nation

September 12, 2009

On Aug. 27, holdover officials from the Bush Justice Department filed 226 pages arguing that former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman and his co-defendant have presented no evidence since their 2006 bribery convictions that justifies a hearing or new trial.

No evidence?

As too often in the past, DoJ officials look like they’re exaggerating to block justice and to protect themselves. By seeking to imprison Siegelman for 20 additional years, DoJ clearly seeks to end public debate about Alabama’s most prominent Democrat. He held that distinction for years, at least until he narrowly lost re-election in 2002 following still-mysterious Election night switches of 6,000 votes out of his column in a rural county after polls closed.

The all-out federal criminal prosecution launched against Siegelman in 2004 remains the centerpiece of unresolved evidence that Karl Rove used DoJ to target Democratic officials nationwide. In-depth public scrutiny of the DoJ’s high-ranking prosecution teams risks revelations about similar problems in hundreds of other disputed DoJ investigations that altered the nation’s political map during the Bush years.

In the long run, however, DoJ risks even more – including public confidence that it’s protecting our rights to fair elections and trials – if it shirks its responsibility to endorse a full hearing to clear the air.

New evidence since Siegelman’s 2006 trial includes claims of judicial bias and corruption, plus DoJ political prosecution orchestrated by Rove, judge-shopping, jury tampering, failing to comply with prosecutor recusal, firing a DoJ whistleblower, and suppressing evidence that DoJ tried to blackmail its central witness against Siegelman with a sex scandal.

Also, 75 former state attorneys general ─ the chief law enforcers from more than 40 states ─ made a bipartisan filing that is unprecedented in U.S. legal history to argue that Siegelman committed no crime by appointing a donor to a state post. Siegelman’s convictions centered on his 1999 request to HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy to donate to a non-profit foundation to improve Alabama’s funding for education via a state lottery.

Scrushy arranged two donations to the foundation. Siegelman reappointed Scrushy to an unpaid state board on which he’d served under three previous governors. A jury that reported deadlock finally found guilt on 7 of 32 bribery-related charges. The defendants received lengthy prison terms and heavy fines.

Last year, Siegelman, now 63, was released on appeal bond after a CBS 60 Minutes exposé about his prosecution. Scrushy, 53, remains in prison, with each of his convictions stemming from the donations to the education foundation that Siegelman helped create to counter millions in spending by casino owners allied with anti-gambling advocates.

Alabama’s Republican Party sniped at CBS reporting.

But former National Press Club President Robert Ames Alden, a Washington Post editor for 48 years who supervised coverage of many major stories before his retirement in 2000, found the coverage compelling. “The Siegelman prosecution,” Alden tells me, “is one of the worst miscarriages of justice that I’m aware of in the past half century in America.”

Denial Under Oath?
DoJ’s most recent filing falsely told presiding federal judge Mark Fuller that Business Council of Alabama CEO William Canary has denied under oath to the House Judiciary Committee that he schemed with “Karl” to remove Siegelman from Alabama politics. But no committee record exists of such a sworn statement, as noted by Alabama reporter Roger Shuler.

Canary, a former Republican National Committee chief of staff, is well-known in relevant quarters of DoJ. Many “loyal Bushies” remain in power after eight years of employment practices that included mid-term firings of U.S. attorneys who failed to use their powers for political prosecutions. News reports and litigation show that the Bush DoJ also relied heavily on politics in hiring and promoting career staff.

Canary is a longtime Rove ally who advised Alabama’s current Republican governor in his successful 2002 gubernatorial campaign against Siegelman. Canary’s wife Leura, shown below in her official photo, is Alabama’s U.S. attorney for the office that is prosecuting Siegelman. She remains in power despite the nation’s tradition that its 93 U.S. attorneys resign after a change of presidents.

Most of those accused of framing Siegelman deny claims by the defense, whistleblowers and investigative reporters. But none of the denials have been in public under oath and subject to cross-examination. Some have been comments to the press, and many others have been in affidavits that can avoid key issues.

Rove and Harriet Miers, the highest-ranking of the Bush White House advisors accused of improperly interfering at DoJ, were interviewed in private this summer by House Judiciary Committee staff and a Congressman from each party. But the interview rules did not require an oath. Upon release of the transcripts Aug. 11, Rove claimed vindication in his Wall Street Journal column.

A Real Probe Needed
But Rove and Miers asserted memory loss many times on key questions during their interviews, and Rove misled his Journal readers by falsely claiming that Alabama whistleblower Dana Jill Simpson has never testified.

An attorney, Simpson voluntarily testified in 2007 under House Judiciary Committee staff cross-examination. Behind closed doors, she swore that a prominent fellow Republican predicted in early 2005 that Siegelman would be re-indicted later that year after collapse of the government’s first case against him. Also, she swore that she heard that Siegelman’s new prosecution would be steered to the Bush-nominee Judge Fuller, who “hated” Siegelman and would “hang” him.

Rove’s spin on these kinds of post-conviction issues shows why this summer’s interviews should be just a first step in a more thorough probe and public hearing.

The Justice Department should live up to its name by welcoming cross-examination of witnesses under oath before a fair judge. Questions about this case and so many like it around the country will not be forgotten simply by imprisoning the defendants. Others care deeply, both because of defendant rights and our own.

My next articles will explore growing concerns around the country about such matters, including those being voiced by Republicans and libertarians. The national magazine for paralegals Know just published my in-depth profile Dissed and Dismissed about the courageous paralegal Tamarah Grimes. Working on the Siegelman case, she was fired by DoJ in June after she went through official whistleblower channels in 2007 to allege DoJ prosecution misconduct.

In the meantime, I read comments with great interest and look forward to learning your suggestions (including, yes, your criticism) and ideas for next steps.

Follow Andrew Kreig on Twitter.

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Aug. 21 DC Radio Update Features National Parks Leader & Alabama Critic Of Karl Rove

August 20, 2009

Newly appointed National Parks Foundation President and CEO Neil Mulholland described his mission on today’s “Washington Update” radio show, which also included continuing coverage of the 2006 scandal of the mid-term firings of nine U.S. attorneys for political reasons.

Regarding those firings, Alabama journalist Roger Shuler attacked a column in today’s Wall Street Journal by former White House political strategist Karl Rove, who now claims vindication from conspiracy claims and demands apology. On the noon (Eastern) My Technology Lawyer Radio segment:

• Mulholland described his work after taking office Aug. 10 as leader of the national charitable partner of America’s 391 national parks. Mulholland, a Denver-area business executive, entrepreneur and community advocate, directs the Foundation in its strategic mission: To strengthen the connection between the American people and their national parks. He brings 28 years experience from the private sector, including work with Fortune 500 companies, raising private investment capital and engaging local communities to create sustainable development.

• Shuler, editor and publisher of the Legal Schauzer law-oriented Alabama website, challenged as false various claims by Rove regarding his role in shaping the Bush Justice Department and such controversial convictions as that of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman. The Journal today published a column by Rove entitled, “Closing In On Rove,” with the subtitle “Why John Conyers, The New York Times and The Washington Post Owe Me An Apology.” Shuler challenged the facts behind several of Rove’s key points in the column. On Aug. 13, and subsequently, Shuler analyzed Rove’s responses to questioning by Conyers’s House Judiciary Committee such blogs as, “Rove Did NOT Deny Involvement in Siegelman Case.”

Today’s Update show is co-hosted by the show’s founder and business radio pioneer Scott Draughon and by Washington commentator Andrew Kreig. Kreig moderated a panel discussion Aug. 15 that included Siegelman at the annual Netroots Nation convention.

Update focuses on Washington impact on the nation’s business, politics and quality of life. Co-hosts begin the radio show by addressing the capital’s most relevant news developments. A Listen Live! link (www.MyTechnologyLawyer.com/wireless) connects listeners to the radio-stream or to archives of previous shows. Radio listeners can call in questions at 866-685-7469 or by email: radio@MyTechnologyLawyer.com. As a listener advisory: MAC computer users need a tool called “Parallels” to listen to a Windows Media Player. Also, some companies block such programs from their office mainframes.

About the National Park Foundation
The National Park Foundation is an independent charitable organization chartered by Congress in 1967 to strengthen the connection between the American people and their national parks. As the official national non-profit partner of America’s National Parks, the Foundation raises private funds, makes strategic grants, creates innovative partnerships and increases public awareness about the need and opportunity for park philanthropy. In its 2008 fiscal year, the National Park Foundation distributed grants and program support of $27.3 million. Its incoming CEO is the co-founder, Chairman and CEO of Des Moines, Iowa-based Prairie iNet, one of the first commercially successful regional wireless broadband companies in the United States. Also, he is the managing partner of Denver, Colorado-based Phoenix Ventures, where he has advised niche content companies such as MapMyFitness, and FidoTV, as well as several of the largest wireless broadband companies. Details.

About the Roger Shuler and Legal Schnauzer
Roger Shuler graduated from the University of Missouri with a degree in journalism, and joined the Birmingham Post Herald, where he worked for 11 years. Later, he worked at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) in various editorial positions for 19 years until May 2008. In June 2007 as a personal project, he created the Legal Schnauzer to be an independent web-based publication focusing on Alabama and national news after he and his wife witnessed judicial and legal misconduct in the handling of a property-related lawsuit by a neighbor. The blog examines his personal experiences along with broader justice issues, particularly those involving the Bush Justice Department and its apparent use of political prosecutions. Shuler has written extensively about the Don Siegelman case in Alabama and the Paul Minor case in Mississippi. Also, he alleges that “a mountain of evidence” shows that UAB fired him illegally because of the controversial contents of his blog, even though it was developed entirely with personal time and resources. Details: http://legalschnauzer.blogspot.com/.

Aug. 14 DC Radio Features Dr. Cyril Wecht and Gail Sistrunk On Alleged Rove Abuses At DoJ

August 13, 2009

After Tuesday’s revelations from Karl Rove’s testimony about the mid-term firing of U.S. attorneys for political reasons, my radio show today Washington Update will assess the results with forensic expert Dr. Cyril Wecht and Project Save Justice Vice President Gail Sistrunk.

On the noon (Eastern) My Technology Lawyer Radio segment, Wecht and Sistrunk will focus especially on how political prosecutions affect targets. Providing a first-hand view is Wecht, a former Democratic U.S. Senate candidate in Pennsylvania and party chairman for Allegheny County, encompassing Pittsburgh. Primarily, he is a leader in forensic medical teaching and consulting.

Now 78, he’s also $6 million in debt from legal fees to win vindication from 84 federal felony charges. The former county coroner faced 27 counts of using an office fax machine for personal matters that he estimates at less than $15 total cost to the government, and faced 34 felonies accusing him of a total of $1,500 in disputed mileage reimbursements over five years.

Republican former U.S. Attorney Gen. Dick Thornburgh, a Wecht attorney, has called the allegations politically motivated. After a hung jury in Wecht’s first trial, Republican U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan was forced to drop charges in June during a second prosecution because for lack of evidence. But she continued to denounce Wecht even after that.

To document similar cases around the U.S., Sistrunk this year produced a video documentary: “The Political Prosecutions of Karl Rove” about the former Bush White House political advisor.

On Tuesday, the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday released long-awaited testimony by Rove and former White House Counsel Harriet Miers about their suspected roles in helping the Justice Department fire nine of the nation’s 93 U.S. attorneys during a mid-term purge in 2006 that was unprecedented in U.S. history. After fighting subpoenas nearly two years, Rove conceded a role in several firings. These included President Bush’s first New Mexico U.S. Attorney David Iglesias, who had been secretly criticized by Republicans for failing to bring prosecutions against Democratic targets in time for Election Day in 2006.

But in his testimony released Tuesday, Rove denied any direct input on criminal cases before the Justice Department. Also, he denied any contact with key officials, including those directly involved with the U.S. Attorney firings. He specifically denied a role or couldn’t remember details regarding the now-controversial prosecution of Democratic former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman. More generally, Alabama Middle District U.S. Attorney Leura Canary remains in office following what a Justice Department official described in 2005 as need for “loyal Bushies,” as does Wecht prosecutor Buchanan.

Today’s Update show is co-hosted by the show’s founder and business radio pioneer Scott Draughon. On Aug. 15, I’ll moderate a panel discussion exploring these issues in Pittsburgh at the annual Netroots Nation convention for independent journalists. The panelists will be Siegelman, Sistrunk, Wecht and his lead counsel Jerry McDevitt of K&L Gates, Thornburgh’s law firm. Details.

Update focuses on Washington impact on the nation’s business, politics and quality of life. We begin the radio show by addressing the capital’s most relevant news developments. A Listen Live! link (www.MyTechnologyLawyer.com/wireless) connects listeners to the radio-stream or to archives of previous shows. Radio listeners can call in questions at 866-685-7469 or by email. As a listener advisory: MAC computer users need a tool called “Parallels” to listen to a Windows Media Player. Also, some companies block such programs from their office mainframes.

About Dr. Cyril H. Wecht
Cyril Wecht, who holds both MD and JD degrees, is the former coroner of Allegheny County in Pennsylvania. A forensic pathologist, he has served as president of medical societies, professor at medical schools, and author of leading publications and books. Among his current posts, he is founder of a consultancy in his name, staff president of Saint Francis Central Hospital in Pittsburgh, and a clinical professor at the University of Pittsburgh Schools of Medicine, Dental Medicine, and Graduate School of Public Health. Also he provides expert commentary to the public about disputes surrounding the deaths of such political leaders as President Kennedy and such celebrities as Elvis Presley. Details.

About Project Save Justice
Project Save Justice educates the public about the U.S. Justice Department. Its current focus is on political prosecutions of elected officials, their families and fundraisers. Research on hundreds of such cases is summarized in a documentary video, “The Political Prosecutions of Karl Rove,” produced by film maker John McTiernan (“Die Hard,” etc.) and the organization’s Vice President and Executive Director Gail Sistrunk. The video is available for free at: http://www.politicalprosecutions.org. Sistrunk is a former college president who reopened one of the first campuses devastated by Hurricane Katrina. She holds degrees from Southeastern Louisiana and Loyola Universities.

About 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. Draughon, author of the 2007 book “The Art of the Business Radio Show,” has long experience also in guiding entrepreneurial success through close attention to the dynamics of the marketplace, law, government policy and effective marketing. Details.

About Andrew Kreig
Andrew Kreig is an investigative reporter, attorney, author and business strategist. Former president of the Wireless Communications Association International from 1996 to last summer, he helped foster the growth of wireless broadband around the world. Documentation for his current investigative reporting is on his website.

Siegelman, Wecht To Lead Netroots Forum Aug. 15 Reporting About DoJ’s ‘Rove’ Prosecutions

August 7, 2009

Netroots Nation hosts an unprecedented forum on Aug. 15 in Pittsburgh to help journalists learn how Bush administration prosecutors altered the U.S. political map by corruption investigations of Democrats, who were targeted by at least 5:1 ratios.

Former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman and former Pennsylvania Allegheny County Coroner Dr. Cyril Wecht will show how “selective prosecution” unfairly ruined careers and poses an ongoing threat to our legal system.

The forum is, “Reporting DoJ Misconduct Scandals: Why Netroots Remains Last Hope for Justice.” The title reflects largely failed oversight by courts, Congress and traditional media – and the breakthrough reporting opportunity right now for others, based on major recent revelations.

I’m moderating the forum after investigating mid-term dismissals U.S. attorneys in 2006. White House political advisor Karl Rove helped remove nine U.S. attorneys in mid-term, including seven on one day. As documented in hearings, “Loyal Bushies” destroyed a U.S. tradition that justice system office-holders are barred from such political hit jobs as pre-election indictments.

High Stakes
But the 84 remaining U.S. attorneys have created their own history, much of it tawdry. That’s why Siegelman, Alabama’s governor from 1999 to 2003, continues to stress an ongoing threat to the country, not simply ruin of his own career and family.

Siegelman’s convictions in 2006 were essentially because he urged HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy in 1999 to donate to a non-profit that advocated better school funding. The governor then reappointed Scrushy to a state regulatory board. Now 63 and free on bond, Siegelman faces 20 years in prison when he returns for sentencing before Middle District Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller, a Republican who is reputed to hate Siegelman. Scrushy, a Republican who says he was framed in a “vendetta” against Siegelman, is serving a seven-year sentence.

Wecht, a law school graduate and a national leader in forensic medicine, also seeks better oversight of DoJ. The 78-year-old Democrat is now $6 million in debt from legal bills.

DoJ’s 84 felony charges against Wecht were politically motivated and based on “trivial” matters, according to 2007 congressional testimony by former U.S. Attorney General Dick Thornburgh, a Republican and member of Wecht’s defense team. Authorities charged Wecht with 24 felonies, for example, involving his use of a fax machine in the coroner’s office.

Republican U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan dropped charges in June for lack of evidence, but continued to denounce Wecht. Remarkably, Buchanan and Alabama Middle District U.S. Attorney Leura Canary remain in office despite a tradition that U.S. attorneys resign when their party loses power. Canary’s husband William is a close friend of Rove and a longtime political opponent of Siegelman.

Change?
No Obama nominees for U.S. attorney have yet taken office, 10 months after elections. As the Senate prepares for its month-long recess today, Bush holdovers continue in many other influential DoJ jobs. One is Public Integrity Section Chief William Welch. He co-signed a July 28 legal argument that no reasonable person in the U.S. would think that Siegelman and Scrushy deserve a hearing to explore their new evidence.

DoJ’s argument rings false. DoJ’s prosecution was already the nation’s most controversial of the decade before evidence in June that prosecutors tried blackmail their chief witness without required disclosure to the defense. And Welch, whom DoJ does not make available for comment, is under court-ordered criminal investigation for the misconduct of his trial team last fall in convicting U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska).

In 2007, University of Missouri at St. Louis Professor Donald Shields found that elected Democrat officials were targeted by a 5:1 ratio over Republicans. New research shows even higher rates, with some prosecutions of Republicans also questionable.

Penetrate the Secrets
To explore these patterns, the Netroots forum features Wecht’s lead trial attorney Jerry McDevitt of K&L Gates. McDevitt will describe how prosecutors can secure advantage in subtle ways at every stage of a proceeding from investigation through appeals.

Gail Sistrunk, vice president and executive director of the educational group Project Save Justice, will summarize national abuses portrayed in its recent documentary video entitled, “The Political Prosecutions of Karl Rove.”

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-Michigan) is invited. The Justice Department declined to send speakers, even for a separate segment with no opposing view.

These topics are undoubtedly sensitive. The Siegelman case alone includes three public-spirited individuals (none Democrats) who’ve paid huge career costs because of their belief that legal ethics required them to report to authorities their evidence of wrongdoing. One is Missouri attorney Paul B. Weeks, who unsuccessfully sought Fuller’s impeachment in 2003. Another is Alabama attorney Dana Jill Simpson, who swore in 2007 that fellow Republicans plotted to frame Siegelman. Also in 2007, Justice Department paralegal Tamarah Grimes protested to DoJ misconduct on the prosecution team. DOJ then threatened her for a year with criminal prosecution, and fired her in June.

I’ve reported their stories here, here and here with responses by authorities.

So have others who are mostly web-based journalists providing effective big picture and local angles. Harper’s, CBS 60 Minutes and the New York Times have been among leaders in traditional media in breaking new ground. But most traditional news organizations avoid this story, which risks antagonizing powerful officials – including at parent companies seeking the goodwill of government policymakers.

This is not just a story about a few well-known political leaders forced to defend themselves. It’s about many others targeted around the country along with their devastated families, thereby affecting the policy agenda of localities and regions. Let’s compare notes in Pittsburgh. And please pass this on to interested friends. This is a good fight, and a big one.

Did DoJ Blackmail Siegelman Witness?

July 21, 2009

The top government witness in the 2006 federal conviction of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman on corruption charges is providing new evidence that prosecutors failed to fulfill their legal obligation to provide the defense with all records documenting witness-coaching.

Former Siegelman aide Nick Bailey swears that prosecutors failed to reveal to the defense details of most of his two dozen prep sessions before he became the Bush Justice Department’s key witness that former HealthSouth chief executive Richard Scrushy bribed the former Democratic governor. Scrushy arranged $500,000 in donations to an education non-profit fostered by Siegelman to increase school funding. At trial, Bailey suggested the donations were required by Siegelman to reappoint Scrushy to a state regulatory board. The defendants, bolstered by legal experts and whistleblowers, claim that they were framed to eliminate Siegelman from politics.

Even more explosive than an alleged failure by prosecutors to comply with federal trial procedures is a sworn statement by Bailey’s current employer Luther “Stan” Pate, another Alabama businessman.

“Nick was told that the government was working to prevent the publicizing of an alleged sexual relationship between Nick and Don Siegelman,” Pate wrote. “Nick also told me that one of the agents working the Siegelman/Scrushy prosecution asked him whether he had ever taken illegal drugs with Governor Siegelman or had a sexual relationship with him. These comments had a dramatic effect on Nick, and, in my observation, added significantly to the pressure he felt to go along with whatever the prosecutors wanted him to say.”

Allegations of sexual blackmail by the government are among the evidentiary exhibits that support legal arguments by Scrushy and Siegelman seeking a new trial based on new evidence from whistleblowers and investigative reporters.

The filings reviewed July 20 but filed late June 26 include a report by the Investigative Group International (IGI), which some nickname “The President’s Investigator.” This is because IGI Chairman Terry Lenzner was a Watergate prosecutor of former President Nixon and later helped defend former President Clinton during impeachment. IGI says that it was hired in April “by counsel for the defense.”

IGI Vice Chairman David Richardson’s affidavit said that Bailey told him and Lenzner during meetings in June that Bailey “did not believe that Governor Siegelman had been bribed by Mr. Scrushy,” among other contradictions of Bailey’s themes during Siegelman’s second trial. Bailey, now free after being sentenced to 18 months in prison on bribery charges unrelated to Siegelman, had been facing a far longer term before he agreed to cooperate with prosecutors against Siegelman.

Pate wrote in his affidavit that he befriended Bailey after the former governor’s aide told him in the spring of 2002 that “he was in trouble with the law.”

“It was obvious to me that he was a man in trouble with heavy burdens,” Pate wrote in his affidavit. “I believe in giving people second chances” but “would not condone any breaking or bending of any laws or rules whatsoever….” Pate said Bailey’s office was next to his, and that he observed Bailey on “an emotional roller-coaster” trying to please prosecutors. He said that Bailey feared for his safety both in and out of prison, as well as for the security of his friends and their reputations.

Bailey said in his affidavit that he was brought to Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama in 2004 some two years after he began cooperating, and was told there by federal prosecutor and Air Force Reserve Col. Stephen Feaga that the government was “starting over” on the Siegelman investigation on the basis of orders from “Washington.”

In 2007, allegations of massive irregularities in the investigation and trial of the Siegelman case became nationally prominent just after the U.S. attorney firing scandal. This was because Alabama attorney and Republican campaign volunteer Dana Jill Simpson filed an affidavit with Siegelman’s sentencing judge, Chief U.S. District Judge Mark E. Fuller of Montgomery. In her sworn statement and in her testimony before the House Judiciary Committee staff, Simpson claimed that fellow Alabama Republicans conspired to remove Siegelman from politics in coordination with what she understood to be White House political strategist Karl Rove and a federal judge who “hated” Siegelman. Rove has denied wrongdoing to the news media. His responses to congressional investigators this month are not yet public.

In February 2008, a CBS 60 Minutes segment featured former Arizona Attorney Gen. Grant Woods, a Republican then co-chairing John McCain’s 2008 GOP Presidential Campaign. Woods said the federal prosecution was clearly political to remove a Democrat from public life. In the show, the then-imprisoned Bailey first made his allegations that he had been coached to provide testimony against the defendants without the required disclosure.

Government officials have maintained throughout the case so far that their conduct has complied with legal and ethical requirements. No officials were available near close of business on July 20 to comment on the allegations by the co-defendants, each of whom is under a seven-year prison sentence, with massive fines. Siegelman is free on bond.

Prosecutors recently asked for a 20-year sentence for Siegelman, 63, upon resentencing by Fuller, who is alleged by the co-defendants to have tolerated prosecution misconduct. Scrushy, 56, is serving his sentence while claiming that he was framed to imprison Siegelman. Scrushy says also that he refused lighten his own sentence by making false accusations against Siegelman.

Events are coming to a head. Fuller has called for final briefs by next week amidst a growing nationwide campaign by grassroots activists and legal experts critical of the prosecution. But an all-Republican federal appeals court panel affirmed the convictions in March, aside from dismissing two of seven charges against Siegelman for lack of evidence. The predominately Republican full court of appeals denied a rehearing.

Huffington Post has published several recent investigative reports on the case. One by me on May 15 was entitled, “Siegelman Deserves New Trial Because of Judge’s ‘Grudge’, Evidence Shows….$300 Million in Bush Military Contracts Awarded to Judge’s Private Company.” The article alleged conflicts of interest by Fuller, who was named to preside over Siegelman’s second trial in Montgomery after the government dropped corruption charges in an earlier trial in 2004 before Chief U.S. District Judge U.W. Clemon of Birmingham.

Fuller was a Republican leader in Alabama and CEO of the Air Force contractor Doss Aviation Inc. before his 2002 appointment to the bench. Fuller has said he’s the victim of political criticism, has ruled that he has acted fairly at all times and last month wrote me that his judicial role prevents him from commenting on specifics. The Justice Department has argued that not one reasonable person in the U.S. would question Fuller’s fairness.

After retirement this year, Clemon wrote U.S. Attorney Gen. Eric Holder that the 2004 case against Siegelman was the most unfounded that he’d observed in his nearly 30-year judicial career, and that prosecutors engaged in judge-shopping to steer the case away from him and toward Alabama’s Montgomery-based Middle District.

On June 26 at the National Press Club, Clemon amplified his observations during a three-hour conference about allegations of selective prosecutions by the Justice Department nationally under the Bush Administration. Among the suspicious elements of Siegelman’s prosecution that Clemon cited were changes in Bailey’s testimony between the first and second trials. In nationwide cablecasts, C-SPAN provided video coverage here of the judge’s remarks and 12 other speakers, including me.

On June 1, Justice Department paralegal Tamarah Grimes followed up her 2007 criticisms of the prosecution by writing a nine-page letter to the Attorney General. A Republican, she had served as the government’s top in-house paralegal during the Siegelman/Scrushy prosecution, although she not was not part of the team attending court.

The Justice Department fired her on June 9 after alleging that she made secret tape recordings about her allegations. She has denied making tape recordings, protested what she regards as punitive attempts to indict her on false charges, and is seeking a hearing before House Judiciary Committee officials who have been unsuccessful since last year in asking the Justice Department to respond to her allegations. The Justice Department has said she deserved to be fired, and it will not comment further for privacy reasons.

Among those contacted for comment late today for this story without success were Alabama’s Middle District U.S. Attorney Leura Canary and Acting U.S. Attorney Louis Franklin. Franklin was designated to supervise the Siegelman case in coordination with Washington officials because Canary’s husband William Canary was a longtime political foe of Siegelman. Among claims by Grimes was that Leura Canary remained in charge of the Siegelman prosecution, leading an all-out effort to secure and maintain convictions.

At this point, it might be helpful if I morph from a hard-news reporter (as I was for five years covering the Justice Department fulltime for the Hartford Courant) into an opinion commentator, who has covered this story and its parallels elsewhere around the U.S. for eight months.

First, shame on me for missing these explosive affidavits until now. The affdivaits were docketed three weeks ago as part of the thick defense filings that I read and posted on my website. But I failed to dig a step further into the evidence. Those of us who are web-based journalists commonly dis the mainstream media (aside from scattered exceptions such as the New York Times ) for failing to cover the Siegelman/Scrushy prosecution with any depth. But this time-delay is a reminder that everyone is vulnerable, and that many other stories are doubtless being overlooked.

Second, these allegations of sexual improprieties have been well-known for years by Alabama reporters, sources and outside national investigators, as have many similar claims of sex sandals involving other prominent officials in both parties in the state. That little of it has come out until now should not be construed, in my opinion, to mean that this is a unique situation.

Far from it. Such situations flourish because of the political and journalistic traditions that news of this sort is suitable for insider bargaining and other leverage, not for the public. Powerful people and their organizations collect this kind of rumor and any relevant evidence like kids collect baseball cards. But it’s rarely shared. This is partly because of what military strategists might call “mutually assured destruction.” Partly, it’s because blackmail (or what might be called “protection” in more polite circles) loses its power if too widely disclosed.

But the rules are changing at this particular juncture in the Siegelman/Scrushy case. As the endgame approaches, the stakes include prison for defendants, or the possibility of career disgrace or worse for those in authority. In case you’re wondering, it’s not simply bad manners if authorities frame suspects, send them to prison, and impoverish their families.

The gloves are off. Expect to hear much more about this case in the national media over the next few weeks, with 60 Minutes again working to stay in the lead. Whistleblowers like Tamarah Grimes, Jill Simpson and others have created an extraordinary drama inspiring many other defendants in such cases across the country, as well as their families. These include such Republicans as twice-acquitted former Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz. These defendants increasingly argue that their prosecutions were political, as Diaz did during his eloquent remarks June 26 at the National Press Club and preserved by C-SPAN.

Part of the drama over the next few weeks in the Siegelman case will be whether the presiding judge Fuller gets out of it quickly by either recusal or by blaming prosecutors for misconduct. Alternatively, he and the Justice Department could continue to stand tough, admitting no error. Up to now, they’ve argued that the public need be concerned only about crimes by Siegelman and Scrushy that deserve long prison time, and no mercy. In 2007, Fuller had the defendants hauled off to prison in shackles in front of news photographers, with Siegelman put in solitary confinement for good measure.

Think about it. You might not want to be Don Siegelman today. But would you like to be one of those who led his prosecution?

Siegelman Deserves New Trial Because of Judge’s ‘Grudge,’ Evidence Shows

May 16, 2009

$300 Million in Bush Contracts Enriched Judge’s Private Company

The Alabama federal judge who presided over the 2006 corruption trial of the state’s former governor holds a grudge against the defendant for helping to expose the judge’s own alleged corruption six years ago. Former Gov. Don Siegelman therefore deserves a new trial with an unbiased judge ─ not one whose privately owned company, Doss Aviation, has been enriched by the Bush administration’s award of $300 million in contracts since 2006, making the judge millions in non-judicial income.

These are the opinions of Missouri attorney Paul B. Weeks, who is speaking out publicly for the first time since his effort in 2003 to obtain the impeachment of U.S. District Judge Mark E. Fuller of Montgomery on Doss Aviation-related allegations.

The comments by Weeks come during a momentous week in one of the most controversial U.S. criminal cases of the decade, with public officials and Alabama activists alike claiming Siegelman was targeted for prosecution because of status as Alabama’s most popular Democrat. The Eleventh U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected on May 15 Siegelman’s request for an en banc appeal of his case, thus keeping it in the hands of Judge Fuller. Also, the Obama U.S. Justice Department announced May 12 that it wants Fuller to increase Siegelman’s prison sentence to 20 years on re-sentencing this spring, even though Siegelman now faces two fewer charges than when Fuller sentenced him in 2007 to seven years in prison.

Siegelman, now free on bail, issued this statement on May 15: “The Bush holdovers in the Department of Justice have asked that I be sentenced to an additional 20 years in prison. The Bush-appointed U.S. Attorney, whose husband is Karl Rove’s closest friend in Alabama, joined with the Chief of the Public Integrity Section of D.O.J., also a Bush holdover, in asking for the longer sentence. What makes the request for a longer sentence even more bizarre is the fact that the Bush holdovers are asking my (Bush-appointed) judge to give me 20 years in prison based on charges for which I was found not guilty.”

In 2003, Fuller avoided any public questions about impeachment allegations of Paul Weeks, which were enabled in part by evidence that Weeks obtained from a state district attorney who had been appointed by Siegelman during his gubernatorial term from 1999 to 2003.

With the impeachment complaint by Weeks receiving no media coverage and known only by high-level government and legal insiders, Fuller was promoted to the position of chief judge for Alabama’s middle district. In 2005, he became Siegelman’s judge in one of the most controversial U.S. criminal cases of this decade. After Siegelman was convicted, Fuller sentenced Siegelman in 2007 to seven years in prison amid claims that the White House had pressured prosecutors to frame the Democratic former governor to remove him as a re-election threat. A Republican, Fuller also became wealthy via his reported 44 percent controlling ownership in Doss Aviation, whose work includes training U.S. Air Force flight candidates nationwide and refueling Air Force planes.

“Siegelman deserved a fair judge, and what he got is one who holds a grudge against him for my impeachment effort,” says Weeks. “If Fuller had a trace of honor he would have recused himself immediately. Instead, he’s part of the machine that pounded down the defendant. It makes a huge difference to a defendant whether the judge is protecting your rights, or letting prosecutors stifle them. All Siegelman needs to do to win a new trial is to put my 2003 affidavit on the table as Exhibit A.”

Yet Fuller has repeatedly denied bias in the Siegelman case, and has said that he’s entitled to obtain stockholder benefits from Doss Aviation without recusing himself from the Siegelman case. The judge declined comment this month on a number of questions arising from this investigation. But the judge wrote an opinion in 2007 stating that no qualified, independent person would think he has the appearance of bias. The Public Integrity Section of the Justice Department endorsed that view in 2008 by asserting that no qualified person could doubt Fuller’s fairness.

Similarly, an all-Republican panel of the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on March 6, 2009 that any claims of bias against Fuller are “untimely.” Thus, Fuller continues to preside over the case. The appeals court also rejected claims of Justice Department misconduct as either unmerited or harmless, aside from two of seven convictions dismissed for lack of evidence. Siegelman asked for a review by all judges of the appeals court, telling the Huffington Post last week, “If we get a rehearing then we have a few months to pursue options with the Department of Justice. If we don’t, then I’m going to be re-sentenced to prison by the same judge and prosecutors, which I say, parenthetically with an exclamation point, is probably the most bizarre twist yet. I’d be still fighting the same right-wing, [Karl] Rove-anointed and Bush-appointed prosecutors even with [Barack] Obama and [Eric] Holder in charge.”

The unanimous appeals court decision in March vindicating the judge and prosecution failed to quiet escalating complaints about the case. Last month, the New York Times reported that 75 former state attorneys general urged the Justice Department to probe Siegelman’s conviction.

Allegations of prosecutorial misconduct have prompted a nationwide letter-writing campaign this spring by Siegelman supporters to the Justice Department to drop all charges against Siegelman. Vacating charges would parallel Department actions in the prosecution last fall against then- U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, the Alaska Republican. The Obama Justice Department dropped charges against Stevens in April after the trial judge protested the unfairness of prosecutors.

Siegelman’s supporters claim the same kind of misconduct against him. Last year, for example, congressional investigators demanded an explanation of why a whistleblower in the Justice Department said federal prosecutors communicated with Siegelman jurors during deliberations without notifying the defense. A CBS 60 Minutes exposé earlier in 2008 alerted a national television audience to many more questions about Siegelman’s prosecution, including the prosecutors’ coaching of the key witness against Siegelman in 70 practice sessions without providing interview notes to the defense before trial, as required.

The May 5, 2009 decision by Senate Republicans to name Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions as their top-ranking member on the Judiciary Committee also raises a question about his oversight in sponsoring Fuller for the federal bench. On Oct. 7, 2002, Sessions detailed for his Senate colleagues Fuller’s experience, and strongly supported the nominee’s qualifications. But Sessions failed to notify his colleagues that Fuller had been working from 1989 until mid-2002 as chairman and CEO of Doss Aviation. That overlapped since 1997 with the nominee’s full-time job as an Alabama district attorney supervising work in two counties.

Sessions also failed to notify his colleagues of Fuller’s involvement in a pension-related dispute in Alabama that would soon spark heavy criticism of Fuller in the Alabama press, and within months lead directly to impeachment effort by the Missouri attorney Paul Weeks.

In fact, not one senator from either party mentioned anything during Fuller’s confirmation hearing about the nominee’s military work or the pension controversy. And, according to Weeks, not a single senator on the Senate Judiciary Committee ever contacted him for a follow-up inquiry on the 180-pages of evidence that Weeks hand-delivered to each office in 2003 seeking Fuller’s impeachment.

“U.S. Senators, including Senator Sessions, have insisted that Congress strictly enforce the Constitution’s Good Behaviour Clause and impact and remove any federal judge whose conduct does not meet exacting standards,” Weeks wrote in 2003, quoting a law review co-authored by Sessions on the topic. “The evidence strongly suggests that Judge Fuller has failed Senator Session’s exacting standards of good conduct.”

The public is, of course, the ultimate judge in the vital process of lifetime appointment for the judiciary, as well as the more specific controversies regarding the fairness of Fuller’s continued oversight of Siegelman’s fate. What follows is an overview of these matters, which extend back over a decade. Many are currently in dispute. The issues include a long-running battle by the House Judiciary Committee to compel responses by former White House advisor Karl Rove about his purported role in the Siegelman case and similar prosecutions across the United States.

This research project’s revelations about the Justice Department’s prosecution of former Gov. Don Siegelman are organized into the following chapters:

• Siegelman Case Recap
• Meet Judge Fuller
• 2003: Enter Paul Weeks
• Weeks Obtains Fuller’s Recusal
• Siegelman Indicted
• 2007: Fuller Imposes Sentence
• Follow the Money
• Legal Rules for Recusal
• Outside Experts
• What’s Next?

For additional articles, charts and photos, visit: http://www.eagleviewdc.com/ to see:

• Key Dates
• Who’s Who
• Expert Opinions
• Judge Fuller’s Other Recusal Cases

Whistleblower Paul Weeks is resuming his effort to obtain the impeachment of Chief U.S. District Judge Mark E. Fuller, and will respond to media questions by tele-conference on Monday, May 18 at 10 a.m. (Eastern Time). The judge and a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Justice are being invited to participate also. Dial (213) 443-4974#. The conference code is: 2026380070. Those asking questions should first identify themselves.

Siegelman Case Recap
Don Eugene Siegelman is now 63. A Rhodes Scholar, Siegelman was elected as Alabama’s attorney general in 1978 and as the state’s governor 10 years later. But he was defeated in a 2002 re-election vote that was so close he was declared the winner on Nov. 3 until a reported software glitch during a controversial rural county recount cost him 6,000 votes and thus the election. Even after defeat, he remained Alabama’s leading Democrat and the only official in Alabama state history from either party ever elected to all four of its statewide offices.

The Bush Administration’s Justice Department announced Siegelman’s indictment in May 2004 on multiple charges of conspiring in health care frauds while governor. Preparing for trial, prosecutors unsuccessfully argued that Birmingham-based Chief U.S. District Judge U.W. Clemon should be removed from presiding because of alleged anti-prosecution bias. Clemon was a Democrat who joined the federal bench in 1980. Failing to obtain the judge’s removal, prosecutors dropped their own case against Siegelman early during trial, in October 2004.

But on May 17, 2005, Bush Administration prosecutors obtained a new and sealed indictment of Siegelman in the different judicial district of Montgomery. Fuller, by then chief judge of Alabama’s district based in Montgomery, was secretly named to preside over a sealed indictment that was unknown to defendants until October.

On Oct. 26, the Justice Department announced a superseding indictment of 32 corruption counts against Siegelman and three co-defendants. This was as Siegelman geared up for his 2006 re-election effort. Siegelman and his co-defendants began trial on May 1, 2006, a month before the Democratic primary that he lost amid adverse news coverage from long-running prosecution and trial.

Siegelman’s trial prompted many complaints of prosecutorial misconduct that were mostly absolved by Fuller. Prolonged and almost deadlocked jury deliberations ended with a split verdict on June 29.

The jury acquitted on 25 of the 32 counts. The guilty verdicts centered on two $250,000 donations that then-HealthSouth Inc. CEO Richard Scrushy arranged for the non-profit Alabama Education Foundation in 1999 and 2000. Prosecutors called the donations bribes. They said it was a deal whereby Siegelman would reappoint Scrushy in 1999 to Alabama’s Certificate of Need board, on which Scrushy had served under three previous governors before resigning.

Scrushy unsuccessfully argued that he knew nothing about the non-profit foundation’ finances, and so couldn’t have been trying to bribe Siegelman by helping it. “I might be the only person in the United States who has ever been convicted for making a charitable contribution,” Scrushy said after trial. Also, the jury convicted Siegelman for obstruction of justice for writing $2,973 check allegedly intended to cover up a gift from a lobbyist.

On June 28, Fuller sentenced the defendants to approximately seven years in prison apiece. The judge ordered the defendants taken from the courtroom in shackles, and denied them an appeal bond. Siegelman served a month of that time in solitary confinement. An all-Democratic appeals court panel freed Siegelman on bond nearly nine months later. Siegelman has said he was innocent of wrongdoing, with the prosecution intended to thwart his 2006 re-election campaign. Scrushy, 56, remains in prison.

Controversy in the Siegelman prosecution is rivaled by only a few criminal cases this decade in the U.S. On May 21, 2007, attorney Jill Simpson reluctantly stepped forward to file a sworn statement with Fuller alleging that fellow Republicans had used the Bush Justice Department to eliminate Siegelman as a Democratic re-election threat in Alabama. This created a sensation in political and criminal circles beyond the Alabama case because it coincided with more general allegations that spring of White House involvement in firing U.S. attorneys for political reasons.

The Republicans named have denied Simpson’s allegations, as amplified below. In recent interviews for this report, Simpson concurred with Weeks, to whom she has never spoken, that Siegelman and Scrushy deserve a new trial because of prosecutorial misconduct.

Also, she says that she is prohibited by Alabama bar association rules from criticizing a judge outside of court. But the record in the case indicates that she sought to fulfill her other bar obligation to prevent wrongdoing by volunteering extensive information to defense attorneys in February 2007 about Doss Aviation finances. Her information was the basis for an unsuccessful defense argument to Fuller in April that his Doss Aviation holdings should disqualify him from the case, as amplified below.

Meet Judge Fuller
Mark Everett Fuller, now 50, was nominated by to the federal bench by President Bush on Aug. 1, 2002 following a successful career in business, state office and volunteer efforts. According to disclosure documents for his Senate confirmation, Fuller became chief executive officer and chairman of the Colorado-based federal contractor Doss Aviation in 1989, four years after graduation from the University of Alabama law school.

Those disclosure records show that Fuller also served from 1997 until mid-2002 as Alabama’s district attorney for the Twelfth Judicial Circuit, overseeing that office’s work for two counties surrounding his hometown of Enterprise.

Among his civic volunteer efforts, Fuller served on the Alabama Republican Party Executive Committee from 1992 to 1998. He thus played a leadership role in the Republican Party’s transformation of the state’s office-holders from being predominately Democrat to Republican. Also, Fuller was the campaign manager for his namesake and hometown Congressman Terry Everett, the former Republican chairman of the Strategic Forces Subcommittee on the House Armed Services Committee. [Editor’s Note: The confirmation hearings require very long download time, with more than 1,300 pages covering multiple judicial nominees.]

Fuller promised on his nomination questionnaire always to report any possible conflict of interest and to recuse himself, according to his disclosure reports, summarized by Weeks as Exhibit 21 of his affidavit.

Alabama’s two Republican Senators, Sessions and Richard Shelby, recommended Fuller during his confirmation hearing on Oct. 7, 2002. Shelby made his recommendation “without reservation.” Sessions said of Fuller, “He has served as chairman of Character and Fitness Committee for the Alabama State Bar, which is an important office and reflects the respect the bar has for him.”

Committee Chairman Pat Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont, focused his questions on Fuller’s legal views. Leahy asked whether the nominee would promise to be fair as a judge. Fuller responded that “one of the worst things I can think of is to have an innocent person in prison.” None of the senators asked about the nominee’s longest period of employment, his 13 years leading Doss Aviation as chairman and CEO, extending to only a few months before the hearing in 2002.

Judiciary Committee ranking Republican Orrin G. Hatch of Utah introduced Fuller’s credentials to the Senate on Nov. 14, 2002. Hatch’s strong recommendation mentioned such qualifications as the nominee’s two years as a law firm associate. Like his fellow senators, Hatch completely ignored the Doss Aviation work. Fuller was approved by a voice vote that evening, and received his judicial commission on Nov. 26.

2003: Enter Paul Weeks
Paul Benton Weeks III of Springfield, Missouri is a 1981 University of Virginia Law School graduate with 28 years experience. This includes successes in complex litigation, and in defending a Missouri client against a corrupt Missouri state court judge forced from the bench by Weeks for misconduct. Separately, Weeks for many years represented a plaintiff in a class action lawsuit Murray v. Scott being litigated in Montgomery, Alabama, and in 2001 help win the recusal of a presiding judge for alleged conflict of interest [Weeks Exhibit 13].

On Dec. 5, 2002, the newly confirmed Fuller was assigned to preside over the Murray case, which is unrelated to the criminal prosecution of Siegelman that began in 2004. Weeks undertook what he calls a routine background check of Fuller by reading newspaper clips.

Some clips reported on controversial extra pay that Fuller had authorized in his district attorney’s office for his chief investigator, age 49, who wanted to retire. Fuller boosted the investigator’s pay from $80,000 to $152,000 per year because of what Fuller called extra work assignments writing office manuals. As early as 2001, Fuller was trying to persuade the Retirement Systems of Alabama (RSA) to use the higher salary as a basis for calculating the investigator’s retirement pay. Fuller’s former law firm Cassady & Cassady ─ whose senior partner Joe C. Cassady reportedly owned 25 percent of Doss Aviation ─ represented the investigator before the pension board. [See Weeks Exhibits 14 and 19]

On Dec. 4, the campaign for more retirement pay for the investigator resumed with the new federal judge’s testimony to the RSA board arguing that the investigator deserved the extra money. But regulators denied request, saying that their obligation was to prevent unmerited pay spikes, (which are sometimes called “backlogging”). RSA projected that the cost to the state pension system would be $330,000 in unmerited payments to Fuller’s investigator over the course of the retiree’s lifetime, thereby hurting other state pension beneficiaries. [Exhibits 14-18]

Fuller’s actions prompted several newspaper articles and editorials read by Weeks chastising the new judge, and praising the retirement board. Newspapers also reported more general criticism of Fuller’s office by Circuit Judge Gary McAliley, who had overseen that district attorney’s office as judge for 28 years. Alabama’s Enterprise Sun, for example, reported on Dec. 11, 2002 that McAliley wrote Siegelman that he was willing to take cut in a pay and rank to succeed Fuller because he believed allegations of financial irregularities in Fuller’s office needed correction. [Exhibit 16]

“Terrible things have come to exist in that office,” McAliley told then-Gov. Siegelman in a letter. “If allowed to continue, public trust will be destroyed and the people will not best be served.” McAliley also was quoted as saying he was concerned about cutbacks in spending for what he regarded as vital community legal services, such as enforcement of child-care support orders.

Suspicions aroused, Weeks drove from Missouri to Alabama for an in-depth review that included discussions with public employees. He obtained a sworn statement from McAliley, a Democrat whom Siegelman appointed in December 2002 to succeed Fuller. McAliley’s affidavit says that he was told by one of the pension board attorneys “that not one single Board member believed Mark Fuller was not lying” when the newly confirmed judge testified to the board under oath in December 2002. [Exhibit 19]

Weeks Obtains Fuller’s Recusal
Weeks put his evidence into a comprehensive filing to Fuller on July 25, 2003. The filing alleged “clear evidence of criminal misconduct” by Fuller both before and after he became a federal judge. Weeks wrote, “The evidence of criminal wrongdoing identified in this affidavit implicates lying and perjury; criminal conspiracy and criminal attempt to defraud the Retirement System of Alabama (RSA) of approximately $330,000; and, misuse of the office of district attorney and federal judge in furtherance of a criminal conspiracy and criminal attempt to defraud.”

Weeks wrote that Fuller should recuse himself because he could not be trusted to preside over the Murray lawsuit. Additionally, Weeks wrote that Fuller should be impeached by the U.S. Senate and prosecuted by the Justice Department. Weeks documented his allegations in a 39-page, single-spaced affidavit, plus its 22 exhibits totaling 140 pages more of evidence.

According to Weeks’s statement, the problem was Fuller’s cozy arrangement with his state staff that enabled him to lead Doss Aviation in Colorado Springs while also drawing a full-time salary as state district attorney in Alabama. Weeks suggested that the pay raise and pension fight for the investigator were, in effect, hush money.

Weeks promptly won Fuller’s recusal with his filing, with no reasons given in court dockets. The affidavit by Weeks and relevant attachments are available via electronic links to this author’s website www.eagleviewdc.com, but they are not electronically searchable via the federal court’s PACER system for court filings. Instead, the court system keeps the information compiled by Weeks in a “separate” binder, according to a cryptic comment on the Murray docket .

Weeks says he believed so strongly that Fuller should be impeached as well as recused that he drove from Missouri to Washington, D.C. to deliver copies of his 180-pages of evidence against Fuller to the office of every member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has initial jurisdiction over impeachment actions. Weeks also delivered about 30 more copies to the House Judiciary Committee leadership from both parties, as well as to federal judicial, Justice Department and bar association authorities in a fruitless attempt to obtain the judge’s removal.

Weeks says he never heard a request for further information from any of the oversight authorities, and so he let the matter drop. In 2007, however, he read about Siegelman’s sentencing by Fuller. Via word-of-mouth in legal circles, Harper’s columnist Scott Horton learned of the 2003 affidavit, and obtained a copy that was used for several hard-hitting columns targeting Fuller beginning in October 2007. But Weeks himself has not commented until now.

Weeks is a political independent who has never met Siegelman or tried to contact him, according to a series of exclusive interviews that Weeks granted for this article. To help this research, Weeks also loaned his only remaining copy of his 140-page evidence portfolio, whose most relevant Exhibits 14 to 22 are excerpted in weblinks.

“I just wish I had known about Siegelman’s case before his trial so they [defendants and attorneys] could have been able to understand the kind of animus Fuller has to have for Siegelman,” Weeks says. “I guarantee that Fuller blames Siegelman for my affidavit. If you look at how Fuller treated Siegelman, he clearly hates him.”

“What’s remarkable is that Siegelman has never been given a real chance to show why it’s not appropriate for Fuller to be his judge,” Weeks says. “The material I produced was never available. I think it was put into a separate file to keep it hidden.”

Even a defendant as experienced as Siegelman says that he’s had to learn vital new information along the way. Siegelman says that he never heard of the allegations made by Weeks against Fuller until after his conviction. Siegelman says a retirement board official later reminded him about the controversy over Fuller’s effort to win extra pension money for a staffer. But the former governor says he had no idea that complaints about the pension had evolved into an impeachment effort involving Weeks’s accusations regarding Fuller’s government contracts work.

Responding to a question for this article, Siegelman recently wrote, “I appointed Judge McAliley because he told me, ‘I’m the only one strong enough to clean up Mark Fuller’s mess.’ With his commitment, I appointed Gary.”

Fuller has never publicly addressed Weeks’s affidavit. But the judge has said to a Dothan television station that he “left the district attorney’s office in sound financial condition, and comments made to the contrary are politically motivated.” More generally, Fuller has denied any pro-prosecution tilt in his trial oversight, or any reason to remove himself from the Siegelman case or similar cases because of his Doss Aviation holdings or on other fairness grounds.

Fuller received a two-page letter this month inviting him to comment about the allegations raised in his article. He declined to respond, and in a follow up phone call an office staffer said the judge does not make comments to the news media or make his photo available.

Follow the Money
Simpson, a government contracts attorney by profession and an “opposition research” volunteer for Republicans against Democrats by preference, alerted Scrushy’s counsel in February 2007 to Fuller’s Doss Aviation holdings that she had heard about through her contracting and political circles. She says that she felt obligated as an attorney to try to stop wrongful imprisonments of the defendants, but hoped to avoid any public visibility. Simpson says that neither she nor Scrushy’s defense lawyers knew anything at the time about the Weeks affidavit documenting Fuller’s role with Doss Aviation.

After confirming Simpson’s information with independent research, Scrushy alleged in an April 17, 2007 filing that Fuller’s extra-judicial Doss Aviation income and huge growth in the value of his shares created the potential for bias in favor of the federal government ─ by far his company’s primary customer. Scrushy cited documents stating, for example, that Fuller owned 43.75% of Doss Aviation shares. The only other Doss Aviation shareholder with more than a 6.25 per cent share was Fuller’s former law partner Cassady, who was listed as owning a 25 percent share according to state corporation records.

Scrushy argued that Fuller thus benefitted greatly from federal contract awards. Among them was a $178 million U.S. Air Force deal announced in April 2006 whereby Doss would train Air Force flight candidates nationwide in a 10-year deal renewable yearly, thus providing Fuller an incentive to remain in the Bush administration’s good graces.

The latest Fuller financial disclosure documents available to Scrushy at the time were from 2005, which showed a potential range of income for the judge from Doss Aviation holdings of $200,000 to $2 million during the 2005 year. Fuller’s financial disclosure statements for 2006 and 2007 show his Doss Aviation income valued in an unspecified range between $1.1 million and $6 million each year.

Recent additional research by the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University found that Doss Aviation has been awarded more than $300 million in federal awards since Fuller began presiding over the Siegelman case in 2005. The scope of Doss Aviation’s work is illustrated by the company’s website, www.dossaviation.com. Among other things, it displays a photo of Doss Aviation refueling the presidential plane Air Force One as part of its extensive refueling work for the Air Force. The website also describes the company’s vital role in training Air Force pilots, and in manufacturing uniforms for federal military and civilian employees.

Legal Rules for Recusal
Upon receiving Scrushy’s filing in 2007, Fuller ordered it sealed and denied a defense request to provide additional evidence. Federal law requires that a “judge . . . shall disqualify himself in any proceeding in which his impartiality might reasonably be questioned.” The issue defers to the opinion of an ordinary informed person. Further, it does not require proof of actual bias, only “significant doubt.”

The judge’s decision said that “no objective, disinterested lay observer….” would entertain a “significant doubt” about his impartiality. The judge declined to rule on whether Scrushy’s recusal motion had been timely.

After seeing Scrushy’s motion rejected and knowing that he and Siegelman faced sentencing in June by Fuller, Simpson filed her whistleblowing affidavit with Fuller on May 21. In it, she alleged that fellow Republicans such as Business and Economic Council President William Canary conspired to use the criminal justice system to remove Siegelman from public office. Canary is a former chief of staff for the Republican National Committee who worked closely in Washington with his friend Karl Rove beginning in the late 1980s. Canary’s wife Leura remains (as of this writing on May 15, 2009) as the Bush administration’s U.S. Attorney for Alabama’s Middle District.

More specifically, Simpson claimed that she heard Canary say during a post-election conference call in 2002 that “Karl” would be contacted to take care of Siegelman in the future. In the context of the conversation, she interpreted that to mean then-White House adviser Karl Rove, a longtime player with Canary in Alabama’s political transformation from predominately Democrat to Republican office-holders.

Rove has denied any involvement Siegelman’s prosecution, and the Canarys have denied any improper role in Siegelman’s prosecution. Simpson went on to give sworn testimony to House Judiciary Committee staff on September 14, 2007, and appear on a CBS 60 Minutes program in February2008. For the latter, she says she wore a brown hair disguise after her home and computers were destroyed by a suspicious fire in 2007, and she was deliberately run off the road, resulting in a total wreck of her car.

Her targets have vigorously disputed her claims in affidavits or media interviews. In a House Judiciary Committee hearing in 2007, for example, Alabama’s Gov. Bob Riley’s son Robert “Rob” Riley and former Alabama Supreme Court Justice Terry Butts released sworn statements saying they were not on the November 2002 conference with Simpson. This is the call conference that she had said focused on Siegelman as a political threat.

In her congressional testimony, she said that her fellow Republican volunteer and occasional business colleague Rob Riley had told her in early 2005 that Fuller “hated” Siegelman for getting him audited in the pension “backlogging” case. “He said that Don Siegelman has caused Fuller to get audited,” she testified of her conversation with Riley. “That’s what Fuller thought. He hated him for that.” Simpson’s testimony was that Riley also told her during that that Fuller was going to be picked as judge to “hang” Siegelman ─ a claim denied by Riley in his affidavit, where he said he’s never met Fuller.

Fuller Imposes Sentence
After rejecting claims of bias, Fuller on June 26, 2007, sentenced each defendant to terms of approximately seven years in prison apiece, with no credit for any good works in their long careers.

Saying Siegelman deserved no leniency or consideration even for the jury’s many “not guilty” verdicts, Fuller ordered the defendants’ immediate removal from the court in shackles, photos of which were widely disseminated by Alabama’s news media. Fuller also forbade the customary appeal bond for white-collar defendants or the chance for Siegelman and his co-defendant to say farewell to their families.

Two weeks later, 44 former attorneys general representing 40 states petitioned Congress to investigate the Siegelman case just two weeks after Fuller sentenced the defendants.

In February 2008, a CBS 60 Minutes segment featured both Simpson and Arizona Attorney Gen. Grant Woods, a Republican then co-chairing John McCain’s 2008 GOP Presidential Campaign.

Woods and CBS reporting provided much of the program’s impact. “I haven’t seen a case with this many red flags on it that pointed towards a real injustice being done,” Woods told the CBS audience. “I personally believe that what happened here is that they targeted Don Siegelman because they could not beat him fair-and-square. This was a Republican state, and he was the one Democrat they could never get rid of.”

Also, CBS reported a misconduct allegation against the prosecution regarding its star witness, a former Siegelman aide named Nick Bailey who was seeking leniency from his 10-year sentence for unrelated bribery convictions. CBS quoted Bailey as saying prosecutors coached him 70 times pre-trial for his testimony with none of the interview notes provided to the defense, as legally required.

Siegelman, who was placed in solitary confinement for a month, and his co-defendant Scrushy have found continuing support by the former attorneys general. Woods and 53 other former top state law enforcers argued unsuccessfully to the appeals court last year that the kind of donations arranged by Scrushy to a non-profit followed by a government appointment have not been considered criminal in the past.

But in 2008, the Bush Justice Department endorsed Fuller’s argument that no qualified person would question the judge’s fairness. The brief was co-signed by Alabama prosecutors and the Department’s Public Integrity Chief William Welch II. Welch is the same official whose office led the prosecution against former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens on corruption charges. The Stevens conviction was dismissed after U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, a Democrat, sharply criticized prosecutors.

On March 6 of this year, the Eleventh Circuit appeals court vindicated the Siegelman prosecution by affirming five of seven jury convictions. The all-Republican panel dismissed as “untimely” claims that Fuller might be biased, without addressing the substance of the claims. The panel wrote just over a page of its 68-page decision on the recusal issue. It said, “Scrushy’s motion was untimely, based upon information readily available to him prior to trial, and has all the earmarks of an eleventh-hour ploy based upon his dissatisfaction with the jury’s verdict and the judge’s post-trial rulings.”

One of the judges writing the unsigned opinion was Chief Judge James L. Edmondson, who in 2003 had signed the transfer that removed Fuller from the Murray case following Weeks’s affidavit demanding that Fuller recuse himself because of backlogging stemming from the same Doss Aviation connections that Scrushy learned about only in 2007 after his trial.

Outside Experts
To analyze the judicial conflicts issue two years ago, Harper’s columnist and Columbia University law professor Scott Horton interviewed Georgetown University Law Center Professor David Luban, a legal ethics expert. “What amazes me about these facts,” Luban said, “is that they combine past political activism against the governor, a possible grudge against the governor, and the judge’s company’s financial dependence on the government’s good graces.”

Of the various claims against the judge, Luban concluded: “Taken together, we have a perfect storm. Under these circumstances, impartiality would take superhuman self-control, and we don’t expect judges to be superhuman. The recusal standard is designed so that we don’t have to expect it.”

Fuller seems to have ignored this and a dozen other Harper’s on-line columns by Horton under such titles as, “Judge Mark Fuller: A Siegelman Grudge Match?” and the “The Pork Barrel World of Mark Fuller” criticizing Fuller’s decision to remain on the Siegelman case.

Horton mocked the judge’s claim that he held a routine, passive investment in a company that happens to receive contracts that are competitively awarded: “Fuller would have us believe that the process of issuing these contracts is divorced from the political world in Washington. That’s absurd.” Horton’s 2007 work also reported Weeks’s 2003 affidavit. Horton wrote that he sought a response from Fuller on the allegations but could not obtain one.

Yet Fuller’s position and the federal appeals court opinion rejecting bias on timeliness grounds find at least some support from outside observers.

Gillers, a law professor at New York University School of Law and a legal ethics expert, says that defendants bear a heavy burden: They must show that they could not reasonably have been expected to learn the relevant scope of Fuller’s financial interests from his judicial disclosure forms or elsewhere and then follow the leads. Gillers described a half-dozen relevant questions to ask in deciding whether in the Siegelman case the failure to seek recusal sooner should be excused and, if so, whether reversal is then warranted: First is whether Fuller’s interests in his companies could reasonably have been discovered by looking at judicial disclosure forms pre-trial. Even if the forms would not have alerted Siegelman to Fuller’s interests, Gillers says, that would only excuse his pre-trial failure. A court would then want to know the sizes of the companies’ deals at the time of trial and Fuller’s personal financial stake in these deals. Other expert views, including excerpts from the court opinions and litigant filings in the Siegelman case, are summarized in a separate article at http://www.eagleviewdc.com.

On the political front, the House Judiciary Committee continues its investigation of vehement allegations that the Bush White House targeted and fired Democratic district attorneys around the country and pushed political prosecutions such as Siegelman’s. The committee is expected to interview Bush adviser Karl Rove in June about allegations he helped orchestrate politically motivated prosecutions of Siegelman and others across the nation. Rove reportedly testified today, May 15, to a federal grand jury investigating the firing of U.S. attorneys nationally. That investigation is led by Connecticut’s Republican-appointed U.S. Attorney Nora Dannehy.

What’s Next?
Siegelman supporters have launched a nationwide letter-writing campaign begging the Obama administration’s new Attorney General Eric Holder and Congress to provide parity between their oversight of the Ted Stevens and Siegelman cases. Holder said during an April 9 press conference that he didn’t have any reviews underway of Siegelman’s prosecution. Siegelman himself is spearheading that intensifying lobbying effort to persuade the Justice Department to intervene.

And yet, despite his pleas, federal intervention seems unlikely, as reported last week by the Huffington Post. The Justice Department was quoted as saying there is virtually nothing it can do when it comes to Siegelman’s appeal. “Because Mr. Siegelman has requested the full Eleventh Circuit Appeals Court to review the recent ruling by the three-judge panel, the Department will continue to litigate this matter in the courts, not in the media,” said DOJ spokesperson Laura Sweeney. “The decision whether to hold an en banc hearing is the court’s, not DOJ’s.”

Weeks believes that Attorney General Holder finds it politically indelicate so far to step into Siegelman’s case, especially so soon after he condemned the prosecution of former Sen. Stevens. “If it’s one case of misconduct, authorities can look like heroes for investigating it. If it’s two, they’re opening the floodgates for reviews of all their questionable conduct.”

But regardless of what happens to Siegelman’s case politically or legally, Weeks says Fuller’s position as a judge still needs to be investigated to determine whether he should be impeached.

“There needs to be oversight beyond that appeals court,” Weeks concludes. “They really contained the problem pretty well up to now. But there’s no statute of limitations for impeachment, and this case shouldn’t end with a new judge and new trial, or dropped charges against Siegelman and Scrushy,” he says.

“I’ve been a fan of good judges for my entire 28 years as a lawyer,” he says. “But when you get a bad one, with all the power that they hold, that’s about as close to the devil here on earth as you can find.” ###

Karl Rove’s Deal To Provide House Testimony Slammed & Praised By His Alabama Opponents

March 5, 2009

The new agreement by former Bush Presidential advisor Karl Rove to testify before the House Judiciary Committee was attacked today by a whistleblower’s attorney as an inadequate way to ascertain the truth, even as the deal was praised as a good start by former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, a leading alleged victim of Rove. Siegelman’s comments are below.

Priscilla Black Duncan of Montgomery, Alabama, who represents the former Republican political volunteer Dana Jill Simpson, attacked the deal today in an interview on My Technology Lawyer Radio. Duncan said that Rove will probably receive only light scrutiny if he answers questions in private with unsworn responses to committee staff, as opposed to questions under oath by a full committee with adequate staff able to discuss nationwide patterns.

A witness in 2007 before Judiciary Committee staff herself, Simpson filed an affidavit nearly two years ago suggesting that Rove was improperly involved in the federal prosecution of former Democratic Alabama Gov. Siegelman, who is now free on appeal following conviction of federal charges involving a ballot referendum. Rove has denied in interviews any improper conduct, but has also claimed “executive privilege” to refuse testimony despite an adverse federal court ruling on his status. The deal was announced Wednesday by the Judiciary Committee after input from the White House.

Duncan was a guest today on a special edition of the radio show co-hosted by legal commentators Scott Draughon and Andrew Kreig focusing on Congressional oversight of the U.S. legal system and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). Kreig published an opinion column Wednesday on the Huffington Post entitled, “Probe the Past To Protect the Future.” It argued that Congress needs to be far more vigorous in overseeing federal spending and the justice system, particularly in ensuring that oversight hearings are thorough enough to restore battered public confidence in the economy, justice system and communications industry regulation.

Another guest today was George Mason University School of Law Professor Thomas W. Hazlett, director of the law school’s Information Economy Project and previously the FCC’s first chief economist. Asked about the federal stimulus spending for broadband, he said he doubted results would meet expectations, especially in funds allocated to what he described as “gold-plated” rural telecom incumbents.

The show began with a news round-up of major developments this week. These included President Obama’s nomination of former FCC chief legal advisor and high-ranking Obama campaign volunteer Julius Genachowski to become the next FCC chairman, plus speculation about other high-level technology and commerce appointments.

Kreig discussed his column, which documented why much more vigorous oversight is needed in such areas as politically-motivated federal prosecutions and flawed oversight last year of such institutions as the FCC. Hazlett provided his view on what kinds of federal initiatives would best work economically in the telecom and wireless industries.

In the final segment, Duncan described her client’s concern that the White House had a conflict of interest in helping broker a testimony deal between the Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI), Rove and former White House Counsel Harriet Miers, who has also been accused of involvement in a nationwide plan to politicize the Justice Department. Duncan said that she wrote White House Counsel Gregory Craig calling for his recusal or resignation because he previously worked for the prominent Washington law firm Williams and Connolly that has important relationships with Rove and his then-White House colleagues that allegedly weren’t disclosed to Simpson when she sought legal advice from Craig in 2007. Her letter was reported this week by Locust-Fork News-Journal editor Glynn Wilson, who has closely followed the Siegelman case. A White House press aide did not respond to a request for comment.

A Listen Live! link connects to the March 5 radio stream, plus archived past shows.

Later, Rove said in a Fox News interview that he expected to be devoured by Democrats when he testifies. “I’m the main course. Some Democrats would love to have me barbecued.”

Meanwhile, Siegelman sent a statement to Kreig this afternoon saying in part, “I am all for it. John Conyers is to be commended for his strength and determination in getting at the truth. I spent nine months in prison because Karl Rove and his Alabama friends wanted me ‘taken care of’ according to the sworn testimony of a Republican whistleblower. This process will not be easy, it will not be pretty and the American people will not be proud of what they see when the truth comes out. But just like an infected wound, our country cannot be healed until the wound caused by Karl Rove has been cleaned out.”

“Just as in my case, there are a dozen potential witnesses who need to be put under oath and asked about their relationship with Rove and the conspiracy to selectively prosecute me for partisan reasons.”

About Andrew Kreig
Andrew Kreig draws on work in business, law, government and journalism. Former president of the Wireless Communications Association International from 1996 to last summer, he is Senior Fellow with Brandeis University’s Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism and an affiliated Research Fellow with George Mason University’s Information Economy Project.

About 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. For details, visit: http://www.mytechnologylawyer.com. Among other projects, he will be organizing cutting-edge sessions at the Technosium on March 26 in San Francisco.

Probe the Past To Protect the Future

March 5, 2009

To build the public confidence needed for economic recovery, Congressional leaders need to be much tougher in overseeing such high-level decision-making as the $30 billion more in bailouts for American International Group (AIG) that the Obama Administration announced on Monday (March 2).

After so much savings and job loss the public deserves far more assurance that investigations will get to the bottom of past and present decisions by Democrat and Republican alike. Vast questions remain about the last decade’s federal deficits, even as the government fast-tracks $787 billion in new stimulus spending and proposes a $3.6 trillion annual federal budget that includes a $1.75 trillion deficit. Fears are growing that oversight won’t be effective. Congressional committees must become better watchdogs, especially because of cutbacks by the traditional news media and foot-dragging by Executive Branch officials who fear accountability.

Wrong-doers and their apologists insist that the country should look forward for the betterment of all, and that any future problems will be dealt with fairly. Nonsense. As always, justice starts by a review of the evidence. “Sunshine is the best disinfectant,” Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis famously said. But pest control is useful too. Either way, strong measures are required to build public confidence for legitimate initiatives on such complex questions as which companies are “too big to fail,” and which ones should pay the price for their terrible decisions.

Congress is taking well-publicized steps for increased oversight. Yet vigorous public pressure is required to ensure that their “investigations” are not merely for show. For example:

• Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) is holding a hearing today on “Truth” to examine Bush Administration policies that led to torture, rendition and imprisonment without trial. But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) is among those who fear that the Senate probe might foreclose further inquiry, including potential liability.

• House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-Michigan) again subpoenaed former Presidential advisor Karl Rove to respond Feb. 23 to allegations that the White House helped fire federal prosecutors for political reasons, including tolerating corrupt contracts and targeting such Democratic politicians as Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman. But Rove again ignored the subpoena. In doing so, he continued his defiance enabled by the Bush Justice Department during the nearly two years since contracts attorney and Republican political operative Jill Simpson stepped forward with allegations against Rove and federal authorities prosecuting Siegelman.

• The House Energy and Commerce Committee concluded its year-long investigation of Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin in December with a majority report entitled “Deception and Distrust,” finding that he had abused his power. But the Committee could not persuade Martin or three of his top appointees (including his Chief of Staff and the FCC Inspector General) to appear before them to answer the allegations – even though the FCC was created in the 1930s as an agency independent of the Executive Branch, and subject to oversight.

As usual, pressure for government contracts and favorable law is the basic problem. Back in the 1800s, the word “lobbyist” was coined to describe those operating from the lobby of the Willard Hotel near the White House. Today’s Willard is replicated by thousands other venues that breed the kind of scandals that have blighted every U.S. Presidency of any duration, especially during war. During the Civil War, for example, a much-smaller Washington and its adjoining suburbs hosted between 7,500 and 15,000 prostitutes, with the heaviest concentrations near the Army encampment of Gen. Joseph Hooker between Congress and the White House.

Republican President Dwight Eisenhower warned in his 1961 “Farewell Address to the Nation” against a vast “military-industrial complex” that threatened democracy. As the former World War II hero feared, those dangers are now undermining not simply the contracting process, but also such institutional protections as Congress, the courts and news media.

For those searching for protections in the U.S. Constitution, the most explicit reside in Congress. But protection is dwindling from there when Executive Branch officials refuse to testify by citing “Executive Privilege,” a Constitutional myth that was initiated in 1958 and much-expanded since Watergate.

As an advocate for business in Washington civic affairs for nearly two decades, I’m convinced that these problems require our full attention. Regarding the news media, their income stream is increasingly dependent on affiliated businesses and not on serving subscribers. The major TV networks, for instance, make virtually nothing from direct customer billings via cable and satellite, although many in the public naively assume that they’re being served via a “marketplace of ideas.” In fact, traditional and new media alike depend heavily on the goodwill of government officials, plus advertising. The financial reports of the Washington Post, for instance, show that since 2007 it has been making more than ten times its revenue from its education industry affiliates as from its Post subscriptions. Although new media are more entrepreneurial and increasingly broader-based in consumer appeal, many of their roots are in fairly recent federal Internet research and privatization policy — and many of their futures are highly dependent on favorable regulation, merger approval and stimulus spending.

Congress and many other government officials face strong temptation to go through the motions of vigorous oversight, but to defer quietly at critical junctures to special interests that can help with campaign contributions, plus investment tips and jobs for friends. In terms of self-policing, forget about it. The U.S. Senate Ethics Committee recently reported for the second year in a row that it took no disciplinary action against anyone.

To illustrate how the House of Representatives sometimes works, let me reconstruct a conversation I had with Democratic U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro a decade ago when I sat next to her on a flight from Washington to her home district in New Haven, Connecticut. I was near the beginning of a long run as president of the Wireless Communications Association International, and took the opportunity to describe unrelated problems that I had observed in the justice system and relevant news media.

“You’ve got to do something!” I recall her responding.

“Me? I’m in business, and you’re in Congress.”

“Yes, but we can’t do much.”

At least she was trying, unlike many who quickly disintegrate from their Mr. Smith Goes to Washington idealism. But the upshot is that we all, in effect, passed the buck for years, and it’s now a fine mess that we’re in. The three examples of Congressional investigations cited above each illustrate important problems.

Regarding today’s Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on U.S. government-run torture, should the goal of such a review simply be to fact-finding and promises not to torture others? We already had that during the Church Committee hearings in the 1970s. And if the Senate process isn’t done correctly, clever defense attorneys are adept at using a legislative investigation to eliminate more serious liability down the road. Who’s reporting to the public on those fine points?

In the Siegelman case, Alabama’s leading Democrat was convicted in 2006 of re-appointing an industry executive to a state advisory board in return for $500,000 for a state ballot referendum campaign. Siegelman was promptly shackled after sentencing and shipped to prison to begin a seven-year sentence. Supposedly, this helps ensure good government. But if Siegelman were framed to get him out of the way, what’s the public interest in that? Perhaps even more important, why can’t Congress get answers so long after the underlying events that go back to the late 1990s?

In case you’re wondering how you’ll know what’s going on, consider the results of the year-long House Commerce Committee probe of abuse of power allegations against the Bush FCC Chairman Kevin Martin. The still-boyish looking Martin might have seemed overmatched in defying longtime Committee Chairman John Dingell (D-Michigan), now the longest-serving member of Congress in U.S. history after succeeding his father in 1955. The white-haired, cane-carrying, tough-talking Dingell ostensibly wielded vast oversight power over the FCC. But his power base was declining, in part because of his strong support for the embattled U.S. auto industry.

Martin, by contrast, could rely upon his tight bonds with the White House and his confidence that most in the financially stricken news media had other priorities than scrutinizing someone with so much power over their companies. To be sure, there were a few critics such as the iconoclastic conservative editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal worried about arbitrary interventions disrupting free markets. Martin also had to endure some adverse headlines from the Commerce Committee report in December. But Martin, as a former member of Independent Prosecutor Ken Starr’s team pursuing President Bill Clinton, knew better than most the dangers of answering questions under oath. So, he issued his own statements, including a summary for posterity on the FCC website summarizing his accomplishments: “Driving Investment and Innovation While Protecting Consumers.”

No small-timer, Martin’s previous job before becoming an FCC Commissioner had been leading the 2000 Bush-Cheney Florida vote recount that enabled the Bush Presidency. Martin’s wife Cathie Martin then went to work in the Bush Administration as communications director for Karl Rove before promotion to the same post for Vice President Dick Cheney. In other words, her job was to influence the communications industry, and her husband’s was to regulate it. Rather convenient, yes?

If you already knew these things, I’ll plead guilty right now to wasting your valuable time. But if not, let’s consider what’s necessary to make our government the public’s servant instead of its master. One key test for the Obama Administration will be whether the land-rush for stimulus spending dollars proceeds in a transparent and otherwise effective manner, or whether it becomes a black box of unknowable criteria, as sometimes seems the case in such financial bailouts as that for the insurer AIG. Another promising sign would be whether Obama’s Attorney General Eric Holder enforces Congressional subpoenas, and otherwise takes the steps to foster a non-political and transparent justice system. Or will the Obama Administration itself try to benefit from expanding Executive Privilege, and otherwise limit effective oversight by a compliant Congress?

In shoring up the public will to dig deep, we can learn from former CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite. He was steeled as a World War II correspondent, and then recognized in1970s public opinion surveys as, “The most trusted man in America.” This is what he said in 2002 looking back at all that he’d seen: “Not only do we have a right to know, we have a duty to know what our Government is doing in our name.”