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Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Tying the Siegelman, Minor Cases Together

Are there connections between the Don Siegelman prosecution in Alabama and the Paul Minor prosecution in Mississippi?

Both involved prominent Democrats in Deep South states, pursued by Republican-led prosecutors on charges that seemed flimsy at best.

Larisa Alexandrovna and Muriel Kane of Raw Story look into the two cases and find many similarities. It's almost as if the two cases were pulled from the same playbook.

Among the key points:

* Tribal casinos were central to both--In Alabama, Siegelman wanted to start an education lottery, threatening the business of the neighboring Mississippi Choctaws. In Mississippi, Minor defendant Oliver Diaz ruled in favor of more regulation of tribal casinos.

* The U.S. Chamber of Commerce was central to both--It has been well established that the U.S. Chamber put financial clout behind efforts by Karl Rove and Bill Canary to turn Alabama's courts pro-business. Raw Story points to similar activity in Mississippi. "Despite its seemingly bipartisan name, the Chamber of Commerce has operated as a pro-Republican powerhouse since the fervently anti-regulation Thomas J. Donahue became president in 1997," the authors write. They note that Donahue and Bill Canary are friends, and Donahue played a major role in placing Canary as head of the Business Council of Alabama. Canary later would become famous for his quote that "my girls" would "take care of Don Siegelman."

* Tobacco litigation played a central role in both--The U.S. Chamber of Commerce spent more than $1 million in 2000 to help elect pro-business judges to the Mississippi Supreme Court. This came after a 1997 tobacco settlement and followed a pattern used by Rove and Canary in Alabama.

* Using an FBI investigation to affect elections in both--News of an FBI investigation about possible judicial misconduct leaked to Mississippi papers in October 2002. "Overnight, donations by lawyers like Minor became 'radioactive,'" the authors write, "and six pro-business Republican judges were elected." Similar tactics were used in Alabama against Siegelman.

* Questionable recusals in both--In Mississippi, prosecutor Dunn Lampton claimed that he had recused himself and that Washington lawyers were taking the leading role. He later acknowledged he had not recused himself. A similar situation occurred with prosecutor Leura Canary in Alabama.

* Signs of prosecutorial bias in both--In Alabama, Leura Canary's husband, Bill Canary, served as an advisor to Bob Riley, Siegelman's opponent. In Mississippi, Paul Minor had successfully sued several companies associated with Lampton's family members and contributors to his unsuccessful bid for a Congressional seat.

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