June 28, 2007

Salting the Earth

Karl Rove has always been known as someone who was willing to do "anything" to destroy his enemy. As we learn of more ways the Republican Party and the Bush administration have corrupted our legal systems, trusting that the Justice department is acting for the good of the American people has gotten much harder to believe. So it is not surprising to learn that Karl Rove was involved in the latest travesty of justice.

The strange story of the prosecution of Alabama's former Democratic governor Don Siegelman is one that really must be exposed because it is so clear the prosecution is politically motivated. The LA Times piece yesterday was filled with jaw-dropping facts. Here are some of the stranger items reported:

All but a handful of more than 100 charges against the former governor were rejected, his defenders point out.

And the bribery charge on which he was convicted did not involve pocketing money personally, but rather persuading a rich business executive to put $500,000 into a campaign for a state lottery to support education.

Prosecutors said Siegelman, 61, named the executive to a state board, though the executive had held the same position under three previous governors.

Get that? He reappointed the guy to the same position he held under the previous three governors, and the governor gets accused of giving special favors to the executive as a quid pro quo because he had asked the executive to donate $500,000 to a state project.

Then there was the obstruction of justice conviction for the fact that he tried to conceal the sale of his motorcycle, worth $9,200. Boy, when you are working in those numbers it's clear that some politicians in Alabama are going for way too cheap if that is what counts for corruption. (At least Duke Cunningham earned his 10 year prison sentence by was pocketing millions.)

And then there is the Abramoff connection.

The present case arose out of Siegelman's attempt in 1999 to fulfill a campaign pledge to launch a state lottery that would provide free college tuition for most Alabama college students. The lottery initiative was defeated at the polls, in part because of opposition from lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his allies who fought gambling enterprises that might compete with casinos operated by Abramoff's Indian clients.

Nothing like having one standard for Democrats and another for Republicans.

But Siegelman's case differs from the usual pattern [of Alabama governors being prosecuted for corruption] in some ways. For example, former Gov. Guy Hunt, a Republican, was found guilty in state court of personally pocketing $200,000. And state prosecutors sought probation, not jail time, in the Hunt case.

Oh. So the previous Republican governor actually pocketed $200,000 and he didn't get any jail time at all. But, obviously Siegelman is such a bad guy, the prosecution is pushing for a sentence of 30 years. Who says justice isn't fair?

And what is so bad about Siegelman according to the prosecution? It was those charges that the jury didn't believe the prosecution actually, you know, proved. But the Judge is going to allow the prosecution to retry the case in front of him to see if perhaps this time the charges will stick.

The reason this case is finally getting national attention is because a Republican activist decided she couldn't go along with the railroading job.

This month another Republican activist, lawyer Dana Jill Simpson of Rainsville, Ala., filed a sworn statement saying that she was on a Republican campaign conference call in 2002 when she heard Bill Canary tell other campaign workers not to worry about Siegelman because Canary's "girls" and "Karl" would make sure the Justice Department pursued the Democrat so he was not a political threat in the future.

People who know Karl are not surprised to see his name crop up in this case. After all, Karl has a long time history with corrupting the justice system in Alabama.

In November 2004, The Atlantic published Joshua Green's Karl Rove in a Corner which talked about Karl Rove's tactics in an extremely close judicial election in 1994 in Alabama.

At the time, judicial races in Alabama were customarily low-key affairs. "Campaigning" tended to entail little more than presenting one's qualifications at a meeting of the bar association, and because the state was so staunchly Democratic, sometimes not even that much was required. It was not uncommon for a judge to step down before the end of his term and handpick a successor, who then ran unopposed.

All that changed in 1994. Rove brought to Alabama a formula, honed in Texas, for winning judicial races. It involved demonizing Democrats as pawns of the plaintiffs' bar and stoking populist resentment with tales of outrageous verdicts. At Rove's behest, Hooper and his fellow Republican candidates focused relentlessly on a single case involving an Alabama doctor from the richest part of the state who had sued BMW after discovering that, prior to delivery, his new car had been damaged by acid rain and repainted, diminishing its value. After a trial revealed this practice to be widespread, a jury slapped the automaker with $4 million in punitive damages. "It was the poster-child case of outrageous verdicts," says Bill Smith, a political consultant who got his start working for Rove on these and other Alabama races. "Karl figured out the vocabulary on the BMW case and others like it that point out not just liberal behavior but outrageous decisions that make you mad as hell."

In this case, Rove's candidate prevailed despite the fact the other guy got more votes because Rove got the election decided by the courts. Josh's piece delved deeper into how Rove ran campaigns.

Anyone who takes an honest look at his history will come away awed by Rove's power, when challenged, to draw on an animal ferocity that far exceeds the chest-thumping bravado common to professional political operatives. Having studied what happens when Karl Rove is cornered, I came away with two overriding impressions. One was a new appreciation for his mastery of campaigning. The other was astonishment at the degree to which, despite all that's been written about him, Rove's fiercest tendencies have been elided in national media coverage.

It was also in Alabama that Rove conducted the whisper campaign that destroyed the reputation of a decent and honorable judge, so his guy could win. After Karl was done, the majority of the judges in Alabama were Republicans and ones elected with Rovian dirty politics.

And finally, we know that Karl Rove has used his connections to put his opponents in prison. James Moore and Wayne Slater tell the story of Mike Moeller and Pete McRae in Bush's Brain about how Karl used a connection in the FBI to get them prosecuted and convicted for illegally soliciting campaign contributions for Jim Hightower.

Getting the justice system to railroad your opponents is a very effective method of saying, don't cross me, because you will pay. Everything about the Siegelman case says that Karl Rove is using the justice system to make an example of someone he wants out of the way.

Posted by Mary at June 28, 2007 01:03 AM | Corruption & Graft | Technorati links |