Sunday, July 15, 2007

A Matter of Public Integrity

Scott Horton of Harper's provides more outstanding reporting and analysis related to the Don Siegelman case.

Horton connects the case to Noel Hillman, former head of the Public Integrity Section in the U.S. Justice Department and now a federal judge in Camden, New Jersey.

The Siegelman case was developed in the Public Integrity Section when Hillman was director. Hillman also was noted for leading the investigation into the Jack Abramoff Republican fund-raising scandal. That case probably made many moderates and liberals (including me) think Hillman was a noble and honest public servant.

Horton paints a different picture. He shows that while Abramoff and Michael Scanlon (former aide to Alabama Governor Bob Riley) pled guilty, Hillman actually kept the case under wraps for the GOP and protected numerous Republicans from the fallout. In short, Horton says, Hillman kept the Abramoff scandal from being much worse than it could have been for the GOP.

Hillman, Horton reports, was rewarded by the Bush Administration with his federal judgeship. But now that Democrats are in charge of Congress, Hillman seems to be falling out of favor. He was lined up to be appointed to a coveted seat on the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals. But the Bush Administration mysteriously pulled the nomination.

Is this because of Hillman's connections to the growing U.S. Attorneys scandal? Are the Bushies concerned that Hillman would be asked about that in confirmation hearings for the appellate seat? The answer appears to be yes.

This all hits close to home for me. I had read about Hillman's role in the Abramoff scandal and figured I should notify his office about the corruption I had witnessed on the part of Republican judges in Alabama. Like a clod, I actually thought Hillman was an upstanding guy and his office might do something about my situation.

Horton's piece helps me understand that I shouldn't have been surprised to receive no reply from Hillman's office. I didn't know it at the time, but it was an early sign of the politicization of the justice department under Bush.

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