|An edited version|
of Bill Pryor, from
That is the take of Andrew Kreig, director of the Washington, D.C.-based Justice Integrity Project. Kreig, a journalist with a law degree from the University of Chicago, is the author of Presidential Puppetry: Obama, Romney, and their Masters, which is being released in hardcover this month.
We broke the Pryor story one week ago here at Legal Schnauzer, and since then, it has been featured in a wide variety of press outlets--from those focusing on dishy legal news (Above the Law), to one connected to Fox News (Alan Colmes' Liberaland), to one focused on style and culture (NewNowNext).
I discussed the controversy yesterday on Justice With A Snap! a Miami-based radio show hosted by former Florida judge David Young. The first openly gay judge on TV, Young left the bench in 2007 to star in the Emmy-nominated Judge David Young program, a nationally syndicated court show. Like most of the others who have examined the gay-porn story, Young spent a lot of time on the two-faced nature of Pryor's actions.
Political hypocrisy, of course, is not limited to Alabama or even the South. But Kreig suggests our culture generates an overabundance of public figures who say one thing, but do something else. From Kreig's September 23 piece, titled "Famed Conservative Federal Judge Accused of Posing Nude as a Young Man."
Illicit sex, which is widespread among the powerful and their ambitious acolytes in Washington as elsewhere, appears to have been especially pervasive among Alabama leaders, who have typically kept up appearances by being married.
Those in both political parties were involved. But this column focuses upon those who especially touted their family values on their way to political victory, not upon the vanquished.
Why is this is relevant to politics and courts? Because the degree of hypocrisy and conniving required to sustain a promiscuous lifestyle at the same time as a virtuous public image is precisely the brazen skill-set that enables success in fund-raising, gerrymandering, voting machine rigging, and trumped-up criminal charges against political opponents.
Even those committed to Republican victories are sometimes repulsed by the methods and life-styles of major practitioners of the dark political arts. Yet these kinds of stories are extremely difficult to bring to public attention, important though they might be to the average voter operating on conventional wisdom.
How creepy can the sexual shenanigans get in the political underworld? Consider this tale from Kreig:
I am among the DC-based reporters who have been approached by a longtime conservative journalist who had researched the ascendancy of gays and bisexuals in the national party leadership -- and was frustrated because his major outlet, a well-known conservative newspaper, would not print it. Among the veteran reporter's findings, never published, that was the existence of a so-called "Hairy Bear Club" purportedly involving well-known conservatives who liked hairy men. Those involved were said to have given themselves a nickname with confidence that such secrets remain hidden forever from their base of family values voters.
Compared to that, the Bill Pryor gay-porn scandal seems almost quaint. But Kreig says it has serious implications, beyond the titillation factor. For one thing, Kreig says word of Pryor's ties to gay porn are not new:
The public risks blackmail or other undue pressure on officials who may be compromised by hidden scandals. Reports have circulated for years in elite Alabama legal circles that Pryor was compromised by "badpuppy.com" photos held by well-connected Republicans with interests before the courts. I received a copies of several such photos -- purportedly of Pryor -- more than two years ago from a reliable source.
Pryor has denied, both to me and in an official statement to Kreig, that the young man in the photo is him. The judge, however, has refused to grant interviews on the subject, and Kreig reaches this conclusion: "My opinion is that the photo is Pryor, more likely than not, despite his denial."
Kreig counters Pryor's claim that the gay-porn story originated with a "widely discredited blogger"--and that, of course, would be me. From Kreig's piece:
[Shuler's] columns allege serious legal, financial and other wrongdoing in Deep South courts. With the collapse of the traditional newspaper industry, his research is often the last hope of those who believe they cannot find justice in the courts. A typical recent column was headlined, Cases Of "Ken Nowlin And Penni Tingle In Mississippi Raise Red Flags About Criminal Defense Lawyers."
Many of his columns are republished on websites for more national audiences than his Legal Schnauzer site. The site is named after the couple's late pet, Murphy, a breed known for its digging prowess. . . .
Cision, a Chicago-based social media/marketing firm, compiled an annual ranking of "The Top 50 Independent Law Blogs in North America." It listed Legal Schnauzer at No. 37, with few of the others undertaken by a lone writer without corporate or non-profit group support.
Several of his recent investigative crusades have probed disgraceful financial and sexual by central figures in Alabama's power structure. These include many columns reporting that married officials were having affairs that indicated financial or other skulduggery hurting taxpayers.
Pryor, in labeling me a "widely discredited blogger," is both wildly inaccurate and arrogant. The term seems designed, in part, to heap disdain on the numerous victims of judicial abuse I've covered in these pages. Kreig picks up on that theme:
I am not in a position to retrace and affirm all of Shuler's reporting on these and hundreds of other blogs. But I have worked with him on a number of sensitive columns for more than four years in which our reporting overlapped on at least two dozen published columns, including those involving Siegelman, witnesses in that case, and Karl Rove. In my opinion, Roger Shuler is an exceptionally capable, courageous, and public-spirited reporter.
For many litigants in Alabama especially, he is one of their last hopes for justice if they encounter an overzealous or other unjust prosecutor or judge.
It's heartening to read such words from a journalism peer, of course, but Kreig goes "outside the lines" to show how the Pryor story fits into Alabama's dysfunctional legal/political environment. We have entered an age of one-party rule, and that helped set the stage for gross injustice, perhaps best represented in the political prosecution of former Governor Don Siegelman. Kreig shows that conservatives, who have come to dominate in Alabama and other Southern states, are not two-faced just about sexual matters. It can extend to the courtroom, as Don Siegelman and his supporters discovered in the critical year of 2006:
At the Justice Department in Washington, the stage was being set for the era of "loyal Bushie" prosecutors who could retain their jobs by bringing politically oriented criminal prosecutions, we now know from reports about the scandal.
The real motivation for this was money, my research has indicated. Behind a veneer of rhetoric about good government, the goal is taxpayer-paid government contracts awarded on a political basis and business deals with foreign potentates. The well-connected could enjoy fabulous success. Token opposition leaders among Democrats could enjoy more modest prosperity so long as they muted criticism of the power structure.
Even with a black Democrat in the White House since January 2009, white Republicans have trampled basic constitutional rights in Alabama, Mississippi, and other deep red states:
President Obama has catered for the most part to the state's powerful Republican senators, Jeff Sessions and Richard Shelby, by making timid presidential appointments. Among the most shameful was Obama's choice of George Beck . . . , defense attorney for Siegelman's main accuser Nick Bailey, to continue the Siegelman cover-up in effect as Canary's successor as U.S. Attorney.
Why? In my view, the president and his top team, including Attorney General Eric Holder, have many dirty, dark secrets of their own that are well-known to Republican power-brokers like Rove but almost entirely unknown to the general public. The leverage keeps national leaders in line -- or in "puppet" status as I describe it -- while the gravy train rolls ahead for insiders.
Such an environment helped produce Bill Pryor as a justice on the U.S. Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, even though he had no previous judicial experience. That, Kreig says, is one reason the gay-porn photos at badpuppy.com matter:
The controversy regarding Pryor and the photo is far more important than passing embarrassment to either the judge or the reporter, if proven wrong. Shuler purports to use this matter as a window into a sinister world of judges who lie in an unaccountable manner that ultimately hurts the general public.
In a largely independent manner, that's a similar conclusion I have reached in my new book, Presidential Puppetry, as have many others in Alabama and elsewhere horrified by corruption in the legal and political systems. The stakes are high enough so that I suggest learning the truth about the "badpuppy" photos is worth the effort.
In his official statement, Pryor pointed to an FBI background check as evidence that his personal history includes nothing unsavory. But Kreig has followed the Senate confirmation process closely and found investigative standards to be lax:
In view of that rubber-stamp process, I suggest that Pryor would have more credibility if he would release his confirmation records to clear the air on the quality of the FBI/Senate investigation. Shuler has already asked for these documents, and reports that the judge has refused to supply them. They are public for the most part anyway.
Beyond that, Pryor could always sue Shuler and let the public learn the truth via discovery and courtroom verdict. That assumes, of course, that legal procedures fairly result in truth and justice. But there's always hope.