As many folks focused on Sunday night's 60 Minutes segment about the prosecution of former Alabama governor Don Siegelman, Sam Stein of Huffington Post was preparing to break a story that sheds much light on how the Siegelman case came to be.
Stein's scoop should go way beyond the borders of Alabama. In fact, it should become a major issue in the presidential campaign because it casts presumptive Republican nominee John McCain in a most unfavorable light.
For good measure, Stein's story also touches on our Legal Schnauzer case.
McCain led a 2006 Senate investigation into the activities of disgraced Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff. But Stein reports that McCain left information out of the report that detailed how Alabama Governor Bob Riley was targeted by Abramoff's influence-peddling scheme.
Huffington Post obtained a copy of a 2002 e-mail in which Abramoff explains to an aide what he would like to see Riley do in return for the "help" he received from Abramoff's tribal clients:
An official with the Mississippi Choctaws "definitely wants Riley to shut down the Poarch Creek operation," Abramoff wrote, including his announcing that anyone caught gambling there can't qualify for a state contract or something like that."
McCain and his staff had access to this information before issuing their report--showing a direct link between Abramoff and Riley. But McCain's committee sat on the information.
Stein notes the political implications of the committee's failure to expose the Abramoff-Riley connection. Word leaked prior to the 2002 election that Siegelman was under federal investigation, and he lost the Alabama gubernatorial race to Riley by fewer than 3,000 votes.
Riley took office in January 2003 and won re-election in 2006, while McCain kept the Abramoff connection safely under wraps.
Would the prosecution that landed Siegelman in prison have ever happened if McCain had not provided cover for Riley? That is one of many interesting questions raised by Stein's story.
The tie to our Legal Schnauzer case, as often happens in our tale of intrigue, is provided by Alabama GOP "consultant" Dax Swatek. Swatek's ethically challenged father, Pelham, Alabama, attorney William E. Swatek, filed the fraudulent lawsuit against me that is at the heart of this blog. And Alabama Republican judges made numerous unlawful rulings in the case, making sure that Bill Swatek was not held accountable for filing a lawsuit that had no basis in fact or law.
Dax Swatek, after serving as Bob Riley's campaign manager in 2006, was hired as an advisor for McCain's exploratory committee in Alabama. Swatek wound up getting dumped when the McCain campaign had financial difficulties. (Interestingly, Dax Swatek also was campaign manager for the failed 2000 judicial race of Alice Martin, now U.S. attorney in Alabama and the first prosecutor to go after Don Siegelman.)
Now that the resurgent McCain appears headed to the GOP nomination, the Arizonan's ties to Bob Riley and Dax Swatek merit special scrutiny. Not surprisingly, those ties appear to involve questionable ethics.
Here's the irony in all of this: Evidence strongly suggests that Bob Riley and Alice Martin, along with Republican judges, have taken steps to protect Dax Swatek's father from the repercussions of filing a bogus lawsuit in Alabama state courts. That sounds very similar to the kind of cover John McCain provided for Bob Riley back in 2002.
Covering one another seems to be a prime hobby of Alabama Republicans. Now we know that John McCain is part of a pretty sleazy crowd.