A candidate for the U.S. Senate has asked for a meeting with Attorney General Eric Holder to discuss justice-related concerns in Alabama.
William G. "Bill" Barnes, a Democrat from Birmingham, is running a long-shot campaign against incumbent Republican Richard Shelby. Polls show Shelby with a comfortable lead, thanks partly to his massive campaign war chest, but Barnes does not intend to go quietly.
In a letter to Holder, Barnes essentially states that the U.S. Justice Department acted in a highly questionable manner during the George W. Bush administration--and has not been much better under Barack Obama. (See full letter at the end of this post.) Writes Barnes:
The primary issue is fostering public confidence in the fairness and thoroughness of Justice Department’ s work under your watch. To be sure, you provided an eloquent speech on civil rights recently at the University of Alabama. But it was reported that you declined to receive any questions then, just as you failed to respond to questions from USA Today reporters compiling their alarming judicial findings of federal prosecutorial misconduct
With that background, I seek your personal assurance that the Justice Department is operating in accordance with its leaders’ highest ideals and longstanding expectations, especially given the grave threats now to financial, environmental and civil liberties proving so alarming to the public.
Barnes says he is concerned that civil and criminal proceedings will not lead to just compensation for Alabama victims of the BP oil spill. He also notes that the Obama administration has had a limp response to a USA Today series outlining widespread prosecutorial misconduct in the federal justice system.
Then Barnes gets down to some specific questions about Alabama, focusing first on Leura Canary, U.S. attorney for the Middle District in Montgomery:
Why is the Bush Presidential appointee Leura Canary still the Middle District U.S. attorney nine years after she took office, nearly two years after President Obama was elected and long after her work made her perhaps the most notoriously political U.S. attorney in the country? Why hasn’t she been replaced with a non-political, acting U.S. attorney congruent with U.S. traditions?
Barnes also addresses the prosecution of former Democratic Governor Don Siegelman:
My understanding is that Alabama’s distinguished former Chief U.S. District Judge U.W. Clemon of our Northern District and the U.S. House Judiciary Committee leadership last year joined the thousands if not tens of thousands of U.S. citizens who have written the Justice Department and White House seeking an investigation of irregularities in the conviction of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman. My questions:
* What is the status of the investigation that Chairman Conyers requested a year ago?
* How thoroughly did the Justice Department investigate the corruption and impeachment complaint filed by attorney Paul B. Weeks against Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller, Siegelman’s trial judge involving an alleged attempt to defraud Alabama’s pension fund?
* Do you stand by the Justice Department’s view that the $300 million in recent Bush administration contracts for the trial judge’s closely held company fails to create an appearance of bias meriting recusal?
* What was the secret basis of your request last year for 20 more years for Siegelman?
Barnes turns his attention to the recent arrests of 11 individuals in a federal investigation of gambling-related legislation:
Regarding the Oct.1 indictments of 11 defendants on a public corruption case in Alabama:
* Why did you use a prosecution team so heavily reliant on prosecutors whose actions became nationally notorious in winning the convictions of Siegelman and former Alaska Sen. Stevens?
* Doesn’t this needlessly undermine public confidence, given the Justice Department’s vast
numbers of accomplished, untainted professionals?
Finally, Barnes notes that GOP Governor Riley continues to avoid scrutiny, despite his documented ties to disgraced lobbyists Jack Abramoff and Michael Scanlon:
A number of Alabama residents recently petitioned for a federal investigation of allegations that Alabama Gov. Riley be investigated for longstanding allegations that he received millions of dollars in illegal campaign contributions from Mississippi casino owners laundered via Jack Abramoff and that he and his associates received millions more in a gambling investment scheme from Alabama investors. Have federal authorities aggressively investigated these allegations?
As we write this post, Holder has not responded to Barnes' request.
Barnes Holder Letter