If our overall culture has one leg in the sewer, what about our political culture? It seems to be covered in slime from head to toe, with no better example than the bogus prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman.
Andrew Kreig, a Washington, D.C.-based attorney and journalist, shows in a recent piece at Huffington Post how the Siegelman prosecution showcases a political culture that is covered with muck.
Kreig focuses on a recent Justice Department filing that argues that Siegelman and codefendant Richard Scrushy have presented "no evidence" since their 2006 bribery convictions that justifies a hearing or new trial. You can almost hear Kreig's jaw hitting the floor as he writes that:
As too often in the past, DoJ officials look like they're exaggerating to block justice and to protect themselves. By seeking to imprison Siegelman for 20 additional years, DoJ clearly seeks to end public debate about Alabama’s most prominent Democrat. He held that distinction for years, at least until he narrowly lost re-election in 2002 following still-mysterious Election night switches of 6,000 votes out of his column in a rural county after polls closed.
Kreig goes on to cite the mountain of evidence that suggests Siegelman and Scrushy were unlawfully prosecuted and convicted:
New evidence since Siegelman’s 2006 trial includes claims of judicial bias and corruption, plus DOJ political prosecution orchestrated by Rove, judge-shopping, jury tampering, failing to comply with prosecutor recusal, firing a DoJ whistleblower, and suppressing evidence that DoJ tried to blackmail its central witness against Siegelman with a sex scandal.
How much more evidence do you need? Not only do everyday Americans have problems with the truth these days, so do the folks who carry out federal prosecutions. That's comforting.
Kreig is not alone in pointing out the dysfunction that has come to permeate our political and justice systems. A group of 91 former state attorneys general recently petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to hear an appeal in the Siegelman case, coming on the heels of a similar petition from nine U.S. law professors.
The petitions are written in polite legal language, but their essential message to the Supreme Court is this: "Our trial and appellate courts now are so corrupt that they butchered this case and imperiled the freedom of all politicians and their financial supporters. You've got to do something!"
You can check out the documents here:
Siegelman--Former State Attorneys General (PDF)
Siegelman--Law Professors (PDF)
Does such dysfunction have consequences for all of us? Oh yes, says Andrew Kreig:
The all-out federal criminal prosecution launched against Siegelman in 2004 remains the centerpiece of unresolved evidence that Karl Rove used DoJ to target Democratic officials nationwide. In-depth public scrutiny of the DoJ's high-ranking prosecution teams risks revelations about similar problems in hundreds of other disputed DoJ investigations that altered the nation’s political map during the Bush years.
In the long run, however, DoJ risks even more – including public confidence that it's protecting our rights to fair elections and trials – if it shirks its responsibility to endorse a full hearing to clear the air.