Folks on the right side of Alabama's political spectrum seem to be latching on to an Associated Press story with the headline: "Siegelman aides contradict main part of Simpson affidavit."
The article states that most of Simpson's affidavit is devoted to matters other than possible wrongdoing by GOP operatives in the prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman. The affidavit, AP states, primarily deals with a possible Democratic party dirty trick (placing Bob Riley signs at a KKK rally) and how the threat to expose the scheme forced Siegelman to concede the 2002 election to Riley. Simpson quotes Terry Butts as saying he would confront Siegelman about the dirty trick and get him to withdraw.
AP's story goes on to quote two former Siegelman aides, Joe Espy and Rip Andrews, saying they don't recall any discussion of a KKK rally. Espy says he recalls Siegelman dropping the election challenge for several reasons. Espy gives no indication that a threat to expose the Democrat dirty trick had anything to do with it. Siegelman himself, in a separate article, has said he dropped out because he did not want a repeat of Al Gore's challenge to the 2000 presidential race.
A few thoughts on these latest developments releated to the Simpson affidavit:
* The AP article appears to have grown out of the nine-page press release issued last week by Louis Franklin, acting U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama. Franklin asserted several times that even the Siegelman side contradicted portions of the Simpson affidavit.
* The AP article states that Simpson's affidavit deals mostly with the KKK-related dirty trick. In terms of space devoted to one subject in the affidavit, the AP is correct. But the KKK-related dirty trick is hardly the main intellectual point of the affidavit. The main point is summed up in the final statement in Simpson's affidavit: That she believes everyone has a sixth-amendment right to have an attorney who does not have a conflict, and she believed Terry Butts did have a conflict in the Siegelman matter.
* The headline on the AP story is misleading. Neither Espy nor Andrews truly contradicts the Simpson affidavit. They simply say they do not remember any discussion in their circles about a Klan rally. Andrews goes on to say that he doesn't discount the substance of Simpson's affidavit. The headline makes no mention of this.
* Both the AP and Franklin's press release indicate that Simpson's affidavit says something it does not say. In her affidavit, Simpson says she was called by Rob Riley on November 18, 2002, and told Terry Butts had talked with Siegelman and that Siegelman would be resigning before the ten o'clock news. She goes on to state that Siegelman gave up his election contest that night. Simpson states that she called Art Leach, an attorney for Richard Scrushy, and "told him why I believed Don Siegelman had conceded and Mr. Butts role in getting Mr. Siegelman to concede." Simpson is stating what she believes happened regarding Siegelman's concession, based on what she has heard from people involved in the conference call that is at the heart of her affidavit. Recall that Simpson was (and apparently still is) a Republican, on the opposing side of Siegelman. She never claims to have first-hand knowledge of what was happening on the Siegelman side. But she does have first-hand knowledge of Butts' conflict, and that is the point of her affidavit. She never claims to know what caused Siegelman to concede.
* I have to give credit to Louis Franklin. My guess is that he hoped his press release would muddy the waters and somehow discredit Simpson's affidavit. And the press release evidently accomplished that, at least in the minds of some. But if you read what Simpson's affidavit actually says, and what the former Siegelman aides actually say in the AP story, there is no contradiction taking place.
* In terms of matters to which she had first-hand knowledge, Simpson's affidavit still looks rock solid from here. By the way, the Simpson affidavit is available here.
* Until someone truly contradicts the key points of Simpon's affidavit--that Terry Butts had a conflict and a conference call involving Republican operatives indicated that the Siegelman prosecution was politically motivated (with ties to the Bush White House)--folks on the right might want to keep looking for something of substance to latch on to.