Monday, April 5, 2010

Spirit of Rove and Dubya Lingers in the Department of Justice

If you live in Alabama and care about justice issues, it's as if George W. Bush and Karl Rove never left the White House.

The latest evidence of that came Thursday when federal investigators met with members of the Alabama Legislature and said they are looking into corruption surrounding an electronic-bingo bill that passed the Senate earlier in the week.

Democrats, who tended to favor the bill, immediately pointed a finger at Republican Governor Bob Riley, who has been using a task force and predawn raids to try to shut down bingo facilities in the state. Democrats say Riley's crusade has been driven by the desires of Mississippi Choctaw gaming interests, who reportedly spent $13 million to help get him elected in 2002.

An FBI agent based in Alabama said the bingo investigation is being driven by prosecutors in Washington. But a close examination of the circumstances surrounding the inquiry indicate that almost certainly isn't true. And it shows that President Barack Obama, now that health-care reform has passed, needs to exert control over a Justice Department that remains alarmingly dysfunctional.

Experts in criminal justice said the meeting on Thursday with legislative officials was "virtually unprecedented" and violated standard FBI procedures. "I can't think of a legitimate law-enforcement purpose to do something like this," one said.

That's because the meeting almost certainly was not held for a legitimate law-enforcement purpose--it was designed to intimidate.

Consider a couple of key factors surrounding the latest bizarre events in Alabama:

* The bingo bill passed on a 21-13 vote in the Alabama Senate on Tuesday;

* Federal investigators arrived at 8 a.m. the following day at the home of Jarrod Massey, a lobbyist for the Country Crossing development near Dothan, which includes an electronic-bingo pavilion. Massey, according to his attorney, was harassed and threatened with arrest and told he had until the end of the day to cooperate and "save" himself.

* The bill is set to go to the Alabama House of Representatives, and if OK'd there, would allow voters to go to the polls in November to decided whether to allow electronic bingo.

* According to press reports, representatives from the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama played a key role in Thursday's meeting. Bush appointee Leura Canary, who oversaw the prosecution of former Democratic governor and Bob Riley opponent Don Siegelman, remains in the charge of that office. Alabama's two Republican U.S. Senators, Richard Shelby and Jeff Sessions, have scuttled various Obama nominees for the position, and the White House, so far, has chosen not to fight for the two candidates (Michel Nicrosi and Joseph Van Heest) favored by Democrats.

Canary's lingering presence in office almost certainly is driving the bingo investigation. Angela Tobon, an FBI special agent in Mobile, Alabama, told The Birmingham News that the Public Integrity Section (PIN) of the Justice Department is leading the inquiry. Tobon refused to elaborate when contacted by a reporter from the Montgomery Advertiser.

PIN was a notorious cesspool during the Bush years, playing key roles in the political prosecutions of Don Siegelman in Alabama and Paul Minor in Mississippi. Six lawyers from PIN have been under investigation for failure to turn over evidence in the prosecution of former U.S. Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK).

To make matters worse, PIN has been without a permanent leader since last October, when news broke of probable misconduct in the Stevens case. Jack Smith, a career federal prosecutor out of Brooklyn, New York, was named on March 11 to become permanent head of PIN.

News of Smith's appointment drew positive reaction in the justice community. But he has been serving with the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, and is not likely to take over full-time at PIN for a while.

Does that mean Leura Canary was able to take advantage of a leaderless organization, contacting "loyal Bushies" still embedded in the Justice Department to help get PIN involved in a bogus Alabama operation?

It sure looks that way.

And that appears to be the thinking of lawyers for Jarrod Massey, the targeted lobbyist. They already have filed a complaint with the Office of Professional Responsibility and asked that Canary be prohibited from taking part in the probe. Reports

“We strongly agree that, if there is any evidence of wrongdoing in regards to SB380, then it must be investigated,” Jarrod Massey’s lawyers wrote in a letter to the DOJ, according to The Birmingham News. “However, the investigation should not be performed under the direction of the current U.S. attorney, with her close political ties to Gov. Bob Riley, but rather by Main Justice in order to remove any hint of political influence.”


mikkrikk said...

I have read that certain Senators have been targeted for questioning by the FBI. I am now convinced that there is another purpose of this "investigation" besides the more obvious intimidation of the House members.
Democrat Senators can now be painted as corrupt to their constituents for voting for this "corrupt" bill. Republicans will try and use this issue to get the incumbents thrown out of office. We all know the Alabama Republican Party has a plan to gain a majority in the Senate and House. They will do ANYTHING to achieve their goals. This is just one step in achieving them.

Alan8 said...

This is just the latest instance of a decades-long pattern of Democrats doing nothing about obvious Republican crimes and corruption.

It's as if the Democrats are playing a role as a fake "opposition" party to give the appearance of democracy. Meanwhile corporations continue to degrade our quality of life for their profits.

I refuse to continue voting for either of these two corporate-funded parties, and will instead support the Green Party, which doesn't accept ANY corporate money.

When more people start doing this, we'll have a chance at restoring some sanity to our government.

Tamarah Grimes, whistleblower and FORMER DOJ employee said...

I laughed out loud at the irony of someone asking Public Integrity to place any constraints whatsoever upon Canary or federal prosecutors in the Department of Justice. These people are on the same "team!" Democrat, Republican, it makes no difference when it comes to the machinations of political influence and back room deals.
Based upon my very personal experiences with the Justice Department, Canary and federal prosecutors in Montgomery, such a suggestion is tantamount to asking the fox to guard the henhouse.
Canary continues to serve as U.S. Attorney in the Middle District of Alabama for one reason: she is the protege of Sessions and Sessions is a force with which to be reckoned in DC. No one with any political aspirations - or a desire to maintain career federal employment would challenge the will of Sessions as it is tantamount to career suicide.
Folks, there is only one way to fight back in this situation: Vote! The only way to take back our government is to vote every single political hack incumbent out of office! When it comes time to re-elect, ask yourself: what has this person done for me? How has this person represented my best interests in DC? After all, we are the constituency; it is only the J-O-B of our elected officials to represent our best interests! Would you tolerate someone acting against your interests within your own organization? If not, why should it be tolerated from our elected officials? Just say "No!" to bad representation! We need some fresh blood representing the interests of Alabamians in DC! I know I am not the only one who is sick of smokey back room deals and political indebtedness.
If a Republican can be elected to Ted Kennedy's former office in the Commonweath of Massachusetts, the people of Alabama can take back our state!
Locally, in my opinion, the election of Michel Nicrosi as State AG could be a huge step toward clean up efforts. Ms. Nicrosi knows the score - so much so that Sessions apparently blocked her nomination as U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama.
I have and can provide a copy of a letter which Sessions wrote to me, a whistleblower, after my termination claiming that he protects the rights of persons who bring legitimate whistleblower complaints. Please recall that I provided internal documents to support my claims. It is difficult to get more legitimate than that.
In my opinion, until such time as someone os willing to take a stand against the powerful political machine keeping Canary in office, the proper metaphor to describe the plight of the Alabama constituency involves a river of excrement and a floatation device without any means of propulsion.
Just my humble opinion folks.