Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Sarah Palin-Alice Martin Matrix

The more we learn about Sarah Palin, the more she reminds me of Alice Martin, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama.

Both women, not surprisingly, are in the news today.

Here in Birmingham, Martin announced that former Jefferson County Commissioner Mary Buckelew agreed to plead guilty to an obstruction of justice charge connected to county sewer-bond deals. Buckelew admitted to lying to a special grand jury about receiving $4,000 worth of gifts--designer shoes, a purse, and a spa treatment--from an investment banker whose firm received millions of dollars in fees from sewer-bond deals.

The Buckelew story is filled with intrigue and irony:

* Buckelew is a Republican. But something tells me her relationship with Martin must have been frosty. Just about everyone on the commission has come under scrutiny during Martin's reign except for commission president Bettye Fine Collins, a known Martin ally. Hmmm.

* Several Democrats on the commission had kind things to say about Buckelew. That adds to the evidence that Martin would not see Buckelew as part of the Bush "home team."

* Not to excuse Buckelew's behavior, but isn't $4,000 an awfully small amount for which to sell your influence? Is it possible that Buckelew mainly is being strong-armed in order to get her testimony against someone else?

* Could that someone be Larry Langford, Birmingham's black and Democratic mayor. Langford, by the way, called Buckelew an "exceptionally good person" in today's paper. I wonder how much longer the mayor will hold that view.

* Even Martin seems to admit that the Buckelew plea is part of a larger picture. "The important thing is to move on to the bigger target," Martin said. Hmmm, again.

* Regular readers, of course, will detect the rich irony in Alice Martin charging anyone with lying under oath. It's well established that Martin herself lied under oath in an employment-related case involving former assistant U.S. attorney Deirdra Brown Fleming. The Bush Justice Department has let Martin get away with this little crime we call perjury.

As for Palin, she just seems like a Northern Exposure version of our gal Alice.

The Public Record Web site remains one of the go-to sources for information on Palin, John McCain's surprise choice as a running mate. Reporter Jason Leopold notes that Palin has portrayed herself as a reformer who believes no one is above the law. (Shades of Alice Martin.)

But Leopold reports that investigators have solid evidence showing that members of the Palin camp might have violated the law by trying to deny state trooper Mike Wooten worker's compensation benefits due to a back injury.

Leopold also reports that Palin's husband, Todd, could be looking at an arrest on contempt charges after the first of the year, stemming from his refusal to testify in the Troopergate investigation.

An earlier Public Record investigative piece shows that Sarah Palin, Todd Palin, and senior aides collaborated in an effort to deny worker's compensation benefits for Wooten.

Finally, we have one other disturbing similarity between Alice Martin and Sarah Palin. It is well established that Martin has a history of using racial politics in the investigations she chooses to pursue.

Now we have a report that Palin allegedly said she would not hire blacks in her cabinet or for her staff.

Ah, Sarah and Alice. Just the kind of leadership we need for America's future.

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