But King inadvertently sent a different kind of message, becoming the most high-profile Southern Republican to acknowledge that maybe justice has not been so blind under Bush-appointed prosecutors.
King is a gold-plated Republican, and the political world in Alabama remains abuzz over the motivations behind the grand-jury probe. King was appointed by Governor Bob Riley and has worked closely with U.S. Attorneys Alice Martin and Leura Canary. But now King finds himself in the same cross hairs that, for the past eight years, have almost exclusively been trained on Democrats, such as Don Siegelman and Sue Schmitz.
In an updated article by reporter Bob Gambacurta, posted today on the Web site of the Montgomery Independent, King was asked about the possibility that the investigation was driven by politics.
King clearly is familiar with how his fellow Alabama Republicans operate. So did he discount the idea that they could be motivated by politics? Not exactly:
"Obviously you talked to people and you know a lot more about what may or may not be going on that I do," King told the Independent. "But I certainly hope it's not political. If it's not political, then I don't guess I have any reason to be concerned."
King easily could have said something like, "I know Alice Martin, Leura Canary, and Bob Riley well, and I have the utmost respect for their professionalism. I am confident that I will be cleared of any wrongdoing. But I also know that my Republican colleagues will consider only the facts and the law involved. No way politics is involved in this."
That's not quite what our guy Troy said. In fact, in a general way, King seems to be agreeing with fellow Alabama Republican Jill Simpson, the whistleblower in the Siegelman case. Simpson has sworn under oath that the federal justice apparatus in Alabama has been riven with political motivations under the Bush administration.
Now you have another GOP insider pretty much saying, "Yep, she might have been right about that all along."
Of course, King was more than happy to stay silent as long as Democrats were the targets. But now that his conservative fanny is the target, he seems to be saying, "You know, this political prosecution business isn't as much fun as it used to be. I think we need to take a look at it."
Way to show some political courage, Troy.
On the surface, Gambacurta reports, the grand-jury investigation seems to be focusing on three areas: gambling, selective prosecutions, and conflict of interests.
Can you imagine Alice Martin accusing someone of conducting selective prosecutions? What a scream.
Gambacurta clearly suspects that issues other than law and order are in play. He notes that King has made his share of political enemies, including the governor who appointed him--and the governor's omnipresent son:
King was originally appointed Attorney General by Gov. Bob Riley in 2004, but King's perceived lack of loyalty to the governor is said to have angered Riley and his influential son, Rob Riley. Recently, Riley formed a special anti-gambling task force to root-out illegal bingo operations in the state and left King and his staff out of the loop.
Perhaps King just knows that the Rileys are huge hypocrites on gambling, and he has grown tired of playing along with their sanctimonious games.
Montgomery businessman John W. Goff, another one-time Riley booster, became the subject of a federal investigation after he sued the governor and sought information about Riley's connections to Jack Abramoff and Mississippi Choctaw gaming money.
King has publicly disagreed with Riley on gambling issues, and now he is the subject of a federal investigation.
I'm starting to see a pattern here.
The King story has attracted national attention, with Raw Story's Muriel Kane reporting that a number of political bloggers were not surprised to learn of the investigation. Kane notes that rumors of unethical practices and sexual peccadilloes have swirled around King for some time.
The rumors surrounding one King staffer, 24-year-old John W. Godwin, have been particularly appetizing:
Last July, however, even more scandalous rumors began circulating, claiming that the religiously conservative and overtly homophobic King had been caught by his wife in bed with a male aide. These rumors were fueled in part by a Birmingham News article headed "AG King boosts top aides salaries," which reported:
"Not receiving raises has not been a problem for another King employee—24-year-old John W. Godwin. Godwin started working in the attorneys general office as an unpaid intern last summer, when he was a senior at Troy University. Shortly after arriving in Kings office, Godwin was put on the payroll at $10 an hour. Over the next nine months, Godwin rapidly ascended the ladder. In July 2007, King appointed him as a special administrative assistant earning $39,456 a year. He completed his degree in broadcast journalism in December, and on March 27 was named to his current title of executive assistant, a job paying $57,504 annually, according to state records. . . .
For the next several days, rumors of King's impending resignation flew around the Internet. King refused to comment on the story either way and the rumors gradually died down. However, they were reignited in October, when it was reported that King was preparing to run for re-election as attorney general in 2010--rather than for governor, as had been anticipated--raised suspicions that his political prospects had been been damaged by the scandal.
What's the real motivation behind the King investigation? That remains unclear. But by tacitly admitting that the Bush Justice Department might conduct a political prosecution in Alabama, King is a Republican who has confirmed what many of us suspected all along.