Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Was Siegelman Prosecution Connected to Air Force Tanker Deal?

The prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman was driven partly by efforts to secure a massive Air Force tanker contract for a European company, according to a new report at Huffington Post.

According to an article by veteran attorney and journalist Andrew Kreig, Siegelman was prosecuted as part of a broad, Republican-driven campaign to land the $35-billion contract for the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Co. (EADS).

How did Siegelman get caught up in a heated competition that pits EADS against U.S.-based Boeing? If it wins the contract, EADS has pledged to build a large assembly plant near Mobile, Alabama. And Kreig's sources say "pro business" forces in Alabama decided the state would stand a better chance of landing the assembly plant if a Republican was governor instead of Siegelman, a Democrat.

The Republican turned out to be Bob Riley, who defeated Siegelman in 2002 when votes for the Democrat mysteriously disappeared overnight in heavily Republican Baldwin County, near Mobile.

Why was the Riley victory important for EADS supporters? Kreig provides insight:

In political circles, Siegelman was . . . regarded as less adept than his Republican rival Bob Riley in the international clout needed to ensure an EADS victory and its commitment to an Alabama assembly plant.

Riley had been a leader in House military appropriations before narrowly defeating Siegelman in 2002 gubernatorial election. As a congressman and then as governor, Riley cultivated contacts with Russian and French suppliers who are major advocates of EADS.

Conservatives still were concerned about the EADS deal--and Siegelman--when Riley came up for re-election. Siegelman was considered a strong candidate to defeat Riley and reclaim the governor's office in 2006. But federal prosecutors had other ideas. Kreig spotlights the pivotal role played by Leura Canary, a Bush appointee as U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Alabama:

In 2006, federal authorities working through Canary's office convicted Siegelman, the major Democrat in the state. His main convictions were for seeking donations from a businessman for a non-profit that advocated for better school funding. Prosecutors and jurors found corruption in Siegelman's reappointment of the donor to a state board on which he'd already been serving under previous governors.

Did Leura Canary have a few conflicts of interest in the Siegelman prosecution? Were there about 35 billion reasons that she was under pressure to get Siegelman out of the way? Oh yes, writes Kreig:

Another major advocate for EADS is the Business Council of Alabama, whose CEO/president is the prosecutor Leura Canary's husband, William Canary. Also, he's the former campaign manager for Riley in his 2002 victory against Siegelman and a former Republican National Committee chief of staff.

So Leura Canary's husband stood to make major financial and political gains if the EADS plant came to Alabama. And Don Siegelman was seen as a possible impediment to the consummation of that deal. Could that have been a driving factor behind Leura Canary's decision to prosecute Siegelman--and remain involved in the case, even after she had publicly announced her recusal?

Kreig's sources say the answer is yes.

The EADS vs. Boeing rivalry has been boiling for almost 10 years--and it still could have huge implications for Alabama and beyond. After recent talks between President Barack Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy, the Pentagon announced that it was extending its deadline for bids to July 9.

Boeing officials have said there is no legitimate reason to extend the deadline. EADS reportedly hopes to extend final decision-making past the U.S. midterm elections, when Republicans are expected to make gains in Congress.

Why does this contract matter so much in business and political circles? Why was it considered important enough to possibly spark a bogus political prosecution against a Democratic governor in Alabama? As usual, Kreig writes, money talks:

The contract's value is estimated at $35 billion, one of the largest in American history. But the true value could be vastly higher because the contract winner gets vital momentum for similar deals with other nations around the world.

Could greed have caused America's justice system to be corrupted in a grotesque fashion during the George W. Bush administration? And could such greed be corrupting the decision-making process in the Obama White House? What could this mean for "regular folks" in the U.S.? Kreig provides some alarming perspective:

Let's hope the Obama administration this week delayed its deadline for picking the next generation of Air Force tankers for good reason, as claimed--not as a cave-in to those who want U.S. taxpayers to fund European jobs.

To kowtow to Europe's EADS and their mostly Republican U.S. allies for the wrong reasons would only hurt the U.S. economy and encourage the scandalous conduct that's been occurring on both sides of the nearly decade-long EADS rivalry with Boeing over tanker contracts.


Robby Scott Hill said...

Leura & Bill Canary met on a People to People mission to Russia. An old friend of mine was on the train with them when it crossed the border between Finland & Russia

James Greek said...

They decided not to build the plant after all.