March 06, 2007

Watch Heather Wilson Dance As Fast As She Can

In 2006 Rep. Heather Wilson was in the battle of her political life, and she barely pulled out a win by a mere 861 votes against her Democratic opponent. Having survived by the skin of her teeth, she now finds herself in the midst of a scandal that could prove even harder to overcome.

Let's review the facts of the case of the mysterious firings of US attorneys as they affect the hapless New Mexico contingent.

Ms. Wilson's name first came to notice when David Iglesias, the US Attorney based in New Mexico, decided he was not going to let stand the aspersion on his work as US Attorney.

If you want to know why the firing of the US Attorneys has gotten such attention, you only need to look at the arrogance of the Gonzales DOJ who thought that they can besmear the reputations of the attorneys they just fired and that those attorneys would go quietly into the wilderness.

Well, David Iglesias didn't like having his integrity smeared by those who have no honor.

David Iglesias realized that his summary dismissal was most likely linked to those phone calls before the election last fall from two members of Congress representing New Mexico who wanted to know what was happening with an investigation into corruption involving a Democrat. He refused to play along and his name was put on the list of people that would be removed after the election.

Now who is stupid enough to think that Iglesias would not have linked the calls from partisan Republicans wanting to see more action in indicting Democrats for corruption to the overwhelming indications (with actual indictments and people going to prison) of corruption in the Republican party? He knew why they were calling him. And he might not have ever said anything, except they told the world that he was fired because of his poor performance.

Now the smearers, those destroyers of the reputation of civil servants, are working hard to come up with an acceptable story, yet they seem to be coming up short.

As Josh Marshall lays out the story:

Wilson and Domenici were hearing from Republican supporters that Iglesias was taking too long dropping that indictment on Democrat Manny Aragon -- it was commonly believed last fall that Wilson's political future depended on it. Wilson and Domenici weren't too happy about it either since Wilson was banking on an indictment before the election to save her seat. According to the Albuquerque Journal, Iglesias's bosses in Washington weren't happy with how long it was taking either. So within two to three weeks of the election both Wilson and then Domenici call Iglesias to ask what the delay is. He gives them both the cold shoulder. On election day Wilson wins reelection by fewer than one thousand votes. Five weeks after that, Iglesias gets the call from Michael Battle telling him he's fired.

Josh thinks that Ms Wilson has definitely stepped in it with her statement today.

Enough. Wilson would have done better to follow the Domenici route and just pretended she was making an informational call. After reading this transparently bogus line from Wilson this is the first moment when I think there's a decent chance there will be a special election some time over the next twelve months in the first district of New Mexico. Anyone who reads even Wilson's defense knows that she did precisely what Iglesias said she did: muscled a US Attorney to issue an indictment two weeks prior to election day because she believed it would help her save her seat.

And even before Wilson's admitting she called Iglesias, things were beginning to look bad. According to TPM, Heather Wilson's Democratic opponent thinks that the Republican machine had already subverted justice in the handling of the other Democratic scandal in New Mexico.

In an interview with Heath Haussamen, who blogs on New Mexico politics, Madrid claims that Iglesias may have succumbed to similar internal GOP political pressure in another public corruption case:

In an exclusive interview, Madrid said she wouldn’t be surprised if Iglesias is telling the truth, because she believes Domenici and Wilson may have had a hand in another massive public corruption scandal prosecuted by his office.

She said Iglesias, a Republican, kept her office from having any involvement in prosecution of the state treasurer scandal. She believes that was “probably” done at the urging of Republican operatives and designed to give Wilson fuel to attack Madrid for doing nothing about the scandal.

. . .

Madrid said her office was involved in 2005 in the early stages of the investigation of the treasurer scandal, along with the state’s Taxation and Revenue Department, but the FBI stepped in, took control of the investigation and ordered her to stay away.

Madrid contends that was likely done at the urging of Republicans, who may have been preparing to fight what, at the time, was only a potential Madrid campaign against Wilson. The congresswoman repeatedly attacked Madrid during the campaign for doing nothing about the corruption in the treasurer’s office.

“We were deliberately kept out by the Justice Department, the U.S. attorney and the FBI,” Madrid said, adding that she believes it is likely that Iglesias, Domenici, Wilson and Bush political adviser Karl Rove “had these prosecutions so intertwined with this campaign.”

The actions of Heather Wilson and Pete Domenici should definitely be investigated. But it is important to not let their malfeasance overshadow the criminal level of politization of justice authorized by this administration. Does anyone honestly believe that these US attorneys would have been fired so blatantly if the loophole allowing the naming of a replacement without having to take that nominee through a Senate hearing had not passed?

Watching the hearing over the next few days will be quite interesting. The DOJ will have to figure out which of their excuses will hold water: too much attention to corruption or too little? Too few immigation cases or too many? And perhaps the DOJ will find a way to explain that little admission that at least one of the fired US Attorneys was removed to polish the resume of a Rove protegee?

Posted by Mary at March 6, 2007 02:00 AM | Corruption & Graft | Technorati links |