Leura Canary, the notorious Bush-appointed prosecutor who was at the heart of the Don Siegelman case, is the focus of a U.S. Department of Justice investigation, sources tell Legal Schnauzer.
Canary announced her retirement as U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Alabama on May 26. But sources say the ongoing federal investigation is the real reason Canary stepped down, even though Obama nominee George Beck has not been confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Louis Franklin will serve as acting U.S. attorney for the Middle District, pending Beck's confirmation.
A long-awaited Alabama federal bingo prosecution, featuring gambling magnate Milton McGregor and a number of state legislators, begins today in Montgomery. It is expected to last about two months and figures to be the biggest story of the summer in Alabama. But the investigation of Canary could prove to be the far bigger story, with potentially major ramifications on the national stage.
After all, the Canary investigation could lead to individuals who have helped shape her political agenda, such as former Bush White House strategist Karl Rove and U.S. Chamber of Commerce President Tom Donohue. The investigation also could show that the Obama Justice Department is not as useless as it currently appears, indicating Attorney General Eric Holder is willing to "look backwards" at apparent misconduct of the previous administration.
Technically, Canary has been under investigation by the DOJ's Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR) since June 2008. But we've seen no sign that Canary actually has been under genuine scrutiny. Sources, however, say that changed about two months ago--and the investigation now is serious enough that it prompted Canary to "retire."
Who is leading the Canary investigation? Why did it suddenly heat up about two months ago? What is the focus of the probe (the Siegelman case, the bingo case, something else, all of the above)? We don't have the answers to those questions yet. But sources say that Leura Canary, for perhaps the first time since her appointment, is feeling real heat.
One source, with close ties to the Middle District office, was "shocked" to hear of Canary's retirement. The U.S. attorney had made "adamant promises" to her staff that she would not leave until her successor was confirmed, our source says.
What could a genuine investigation of Leura Canary mean on the national level? Her husband, Bill Canary, is president of the Business Council of Alabama and a long-time ally of Thomas Donohue and Karl Rove. In fact, Canary and Rove used funds from the U.S. Chamber and other corporate sponsors in the 1990s to help turn Alabama's Supreme Court from Democratic to Republican control.
It's hard to imagine that an investigation of Leura Canary would not encompass her husband. If both Canarys wind up under the white-hot light, they could point investigators to the individuals and entities who have been pulling their strings. That could lead to Tom Donohue, Karl Rove, the U.S. Chamber, even the Bush White House.
Is there some wishful thinking on my part in that last paragraph? Yes there is. Since news outlets reported that Florida suddenly had turned in George W. Bush's favor on election night 2000, we have seen one Republican scandal after another covered up or ignored. Obama's utter failure on justice issues, so far, has been shameful for a president who pledged to change the toxic environment he inherited.
As a colossal cynic on justice matters, I fully expect Leura Canary and her henchmen to somehow wriggle off the hook. But for the first time in 10-plus years, I'm seeing a glimmer of hope that someone in authority might be taking Alabama's justice cesspool seriously.
Leura Canary played a leading role in creating that cesspool, and sources say the seat under her fanny is getting warm. If justice still matters at all in this country, Canary's seat soon will become scorching hot. And some of her puppeteers might start feeling a tad uncomfortable, too.
[Photo: Montgomery Advertiser]