A lot of folks are speculating about the reasons for Senator Trent Lott's resignation. MSNBC's Keith Olbermann had his usual interesting take on the subject.
Most commentators have focused on changes in lobbying laws or Lott's loss of power under the flailing GOP. Some have even suggested the good senator simply needs to make more cash than his lowly Congressional gig brings home. And some have said, "Hey, lots of Republicans are retiring. It's just a trend."
Well, I don't think most of the retiring folks just got re-elected last year. I don't think most of them hold a safe seat of power till 2012, as Lott does.
So the Legal Schnauzer was just sitting here, ears alert, wondering: What if Trent Lott's resignation has something to do with the Paul Minor case in Mississippi? The Minor case has been the subject of a 25-part series here at our humble blog. (Gee, 25 parts? We must care about this case.)
I decided to turn to the much trusted Scott Horton at Harper's.org. And what to my wandering eyes did appear? This most intriguing post, noting that Horton's sources say FBI agents currently are raiding the law office of Mississippi attorney Richard "Dickie" Scruggs, who is Lott's brother-in-law.
Scruggs, you may recall, joins Paul Minor as probably the two most successful trial lawyers in Mississippi. Both have made financial contributions to state judges, which are perfectly legal under Mississippi law. But Scruggs, who is Lott's relative and a major donor to Republicans, was never prosecuted. Minor, a major donor to Democrats and a thorn in the side of numerous corporations (tobacco, asbestos, oil), was prosecuted and convicted, along with "pro plaintiff" (read Democrat) judges Wes Teel and John Whitfield.
What's going on with the raid at Scruggs' office? Is he going to get nailed for committing crimes, just as Minor did?
I can only guess, but I don't think that's what is happening. Did Scruggs give financial help to state judges? Evidently, yes. Did he receive favorable rulings from said judges? Probably yes. But as we have noted in our "Mississippi Churning" series, that is not a crime. It is only a crime if Scruggs receives a ruling in his favor that is "corrupt" and "unlawful."
The lawsuits at the heart of the Minor case were decided correctly by the judges. The fact they were in Minor's "favor" is irrelevant under the law.
So my guess? I don't think Dickie Scruggs is a criminal any more than Paul Minor is a criminal. But could evidence at Scruggs' firm show that Trent Lott took steps to protect Scruggs while siccing federal investigators on Minor?
You never know with the Bush Justice Department. But that is the question that should be asked.
And we do have a new attorney general in Michael Mukasey. Perhaps he actually is interested in justice, unlike his predecessor, Alberto Gonzalez--who helped turn the Justice Department into a disgusting sewer.
Is Mukasey the guy to drain the swamp? We can hope. And if that's the case, I know the offices of several state judges in Alabama he needs to raid. I think I feel an e-mail coming.