Saturday, July 21, 2007

Secret agent Republicans

Since the seminal report on the 2004 elections, What Went Wrong in Ohio, aka The Conyers Report, John Conyers has been steeping the fetid brew of Republican election malfeasance. The US Attorney purge has only revealed more of the same, though the vector of that scandal describes yet another dimension of the election rigging phase space. The firing of resolutely independent USAs, numbering nine to date, immediately prompted the question: what were the other 84 US Attorneys doing to not get fired? Answers in a few cases were shortly forthcoming and now Conyers has demanded documents in the Don Siegelman case, were the USA brought an indictment against Siegleman two years after the former Alabama Governor left office, conveniently timed before the 2004 election. At least two other cases popped up and Conyers' letter to the sedulously servile Alberto Gonzales offers a compact summary of these obviously political prosecutions.
* The 2006 conviction of Alabama's former Democratic Governor Don Siegelman for bribery, conspiracy, and mail fraud has raised serious concerns. Mr. Siegelman was indicted in 2004, two years after losing the governor's race by a mere 3,200 votes in the closest governor's election in Alabama state history. In May, 2007, Jill Simpson, a Republican attorney in Alabama who had worked for Mr. Siegelman's 2002 Republican opponent, swore in an affidavit that in 2002, a former protege of Karl Rove told a small group of Republican political operatives that Karl Rove and two U.S. Attorneys in Alabama were working to "take care of" Mr. Siegelman. The Rove protege, Bill Canary, is married to Leura Canary, who President Bush appointed in 2001 to be the U.S. Attorney in the Middle District of Alabama. In 2005, the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Middle District of Alabama indicted Mr. Siegelman (Ms. Canary recused herself from participating in the Siegelman case in 2002). In her affidavit, Ms. Simpson said that Bill Canary told her and two colleagues that "Karl [Rove] had spoken with the Department of Justice and the Department was already pursuing Don Siegelman." The phone call that Ms. Simpson was referring to occurred in November, 2002, when Mr. Siegelman was seeking a recount of the vote he had just lost, and when Republican operatives were concerned that Mr. Siegelman could be a significant political threat in future elections.

There have been several reported irregularities in the case against Mr. Siegelman that raise questions about his prosecution. In 2004, charges against Mr. Siegelman were dropped by the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Northern District of Alabama before the case went to trial, and the judge harshly rebuked prosecutors bringing that case. In the RICO case filed in the Middle District of Alabama in 2005, there have been allegations of jury tampering involving two of the jurors who convicted Mr. Siegelman. These and other irregularities prompted 44 former state attorneys general to sign a petition "urging the United States Congress to investigate the circumstances surrounding the investigation, prosecution, sentencing and detention" of Mr. Siegelman.
On the behaviour of USA Steve Biskupic (rhymes with "Karl Rove's bitch"):
* On April 5, 2007, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, citing "evidence [that] is beyond thin," threw out the federal conviction of Georgia Thompson, a Wisconsin state procurement officer. The office of the U.S. Attorney in Wisconsin, Steven Biskupic, had won a jury conviction of Ms. Thompson, claiming the career civil servant impermissibly awarded a contract to a travel agency whose director was a political contributor to Democratic Governor Jim Doyle. The U.S. Attorney proceeded with the prosecution even though the travel agency that won the contract submitted the lowest bid, and tied for first place on the complicated merit score that ranked all contract bidders. Additionally, there was no evidence that Ms. Thompson was aware of or interested in the political contributions by the head of the travel agency.

Steven Biskupic's name appeared on a March, 2005, list that was compiled by Department of Justice staff which named U.S. Attorneys who could potentially be ousted. In January, 2006, Mr. Biskupic indicted Ms. Thompson; that same month, Mr. Biskupic's name had been removed from the DOJ list of U.S. Attorneys who might be replaced. After Ms. Thompson's conviction in June, 2006, the campaign of Gov. Doyle's Republican opponent, U.S. Representative Mark Green, seized on the conviction as a means to paint Gov. Doyle as corrupt. The Court of Appeals, finding that no crime had been committed, acquitted Ms. Thompson, declaring her "innocent," but of course, the political damage had been done and could not be rectified.
The third case is attended by the fact that "since 2001, the U.S. Attorney has never indicted a Republican official, and has only prosecuted officeholders who are Democrats."
* The prosecution of Dr. Cyril Wecht in the Western District of Pennsylvania by U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan has also engendered controversy. It has been alleged that the case of Dr. Wecht, a prominent 75-year old Democrat who was the coroner in Allegheny County, is indicative of other prosecutions in the Western District - since 2001, the U.S. Attorney has never indicted a Republican official, and has only prosecuted officeholders who are Democrats. Dr. Wecht, a world renowned forensic pathologist and television commentator, was charged with misusing his office and personally enriching himself by, among other things, striking a deal with a local university to trade unclaimed cadavers for university lab space. Claiming Dr. Wecht was a flight risk, Ms. Buchanan advised his defense lawyers, including former Attorney General Richard Thornburgh, that her office intended to arrest Dr. Wecht and subject him to a "perp walk," even though Dr. Wecht and his lawyers repeatedly offered to self-surrender and voluntarily appear in court to be arraigned. Reportedly only after former Attorney General Thornburgh spoke with Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty did Ms. Buchanan agree not to arrest Dr. Wecht and subject him to a "perp walk." In court filings, Dr. Wecht alleges that Ms. Buchanan's office inflamed the press by making inappropriate statements. The U.S. Attorney's office urged the courts to set the trial in October, 2006, a month before the congressional elections; the case was postponed only after the federal appeals court agreed to hear motions by Dr. Wecht's attorneys. Yet U.S. Attorney Buchanan has not brought charges against at least two Republican officials who, like Dr. Wecht, are alleged to have misused their office staff.
If the Democrats do not see that they have a serious, serious problem aligned against them -- and there are many who seem content with the safety of their own seats, so much so that they refuse to recognize what any of this means -- then this country can pretty much count on GOP election wins that will continue to be won within the margins of error.

But it looks like they still don't believe anything is seriously wrong. Dianne Feinstein, one of those comfortably installed Dems, said that all the problems seen in the elections since 2000 will just have to wait until 2012 because last minute meddling could cause problems that aren't imaginary:
My sense is there's no way to get this thing in place by the election of 2008. Without adequate time, we could cause real problems in the election.
Eight years of private, Republican-connected voting machine vendors, bizarre and conventionally inexplicable voting anomalies, phony terror threats, secret ballot counting and partisan GOP agents installed at almost every level of local, state and federal government, and Feinstein worries that "we" could cause problems in the elections.

Perhaps Feinstein is a GOP operative, too. It doesn't really matter whether she is consciously aware of this because, in her stupor, she is certainly acting like one.


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