Friday, September 9, 2016

Justice Department drops case against Robert McDonnell, while Don Siegelman remains in prison and the future for Democrats looks bleak in South

Robert McDonnell
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has dropped its criminal case against former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, after the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year overturned his convictions on public corruption charges.

That means McDonnell, who (along with his wife) received more than $175,000 in loans and gifts from a supporter, is a free man -- while former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman, who records show did not receive a penny in a similar case -- remains housed at a federal prison in Oakdale, Louisiana.

What are the differences in the two cases? There aren't many; the most important one might be this -- McDonnell is a Republican, and Siegelman is a Democrat.

In legal terms, the major difference involves context -- Siegelman took a campaign donation that the government claimed was a bribe, while McDonnell took . . . well, bribes that the government claimed were bribes. The Supreme Court has decided that's OK, while it has refused several times to even hear the Siegelman case. Here is how we explained such nonsense in a previous post:

America's federal bribery laws are a confusing mishmash, covered under several different statutes, written in language that is largely unintelligible. In fact, the statutes are so confusing that courts often turn to case law to determine what is, and is not, illegal.

The Siegelman case, for example, largely was governed by McCormick v. United States, 500 U.S. 257 (1991). He and (Richard) Scrushy were prosecuted under 18 U.S. Code 666, which is known as the "federal funds bribery" statute and generally applies to cases involving campaign contributions. (Scrushy's donation to help pay down debt for the Alabama Democratic Party, after Siegelman's lottery proposal had been defeated, was considered a campaign contribution.)

McDonnell, however, was prosecuted under 18 U.S. Code 201, a general bribery statute that usually does not involve campaign contributions. On the case-law side, McDonnell invoked Evans v. United States, 504 U.S. 255 (1992), which tends to involve bribery outside the context of a campaign contribution.

The bottom line: In Siegelman, Scrushy gave a campaign contribution. In McDonnell, constituent Jonny Williams showered McDonnell and his wife with gifts, which went directly to them, but he apparently did not make a campaign contribution. That means the two cases are covered by different law -- Siegelman is covered by the 666 statute and the McCormick case; McDonnell is covered by the 201 statute and the Evans case.

Who are the losers in all of this? Obviously, Don Siegelman is on the losing side. I would submit that the U.S. Supreme Court is a loser. Along with Bush v. Gore in 2000, McDonnell gives Americans an additional reason not to trust their high court.

The biggest losers, however, are the American people. The South has produced numerous substantive Democrats over the years, and our country needs those voices to be heard. But will they, and their financial supporters, go into hiding in the wake of what happened to Don Siegelman and Richard Scrushy? Has that process already started?

Karl Rove, and others who engineered the Siegelman prosecution, don't mind a few black Democrats who represent heavily black Congressional districts. But they are terrified of a white Democrat who might succeed on a statewide level, become a national star, and present a challenge to the GOP's stranglehold on the South. Don Siegelman fit that description perfectly, and that's probably the No. 1 reason he had to be stopped. Robert McDonnell, while from a Southern state, is a Republican and did not fit that description. That's probably the No. 1 reason he is a free man.

What does that mean for our country? It's not good, even if you are a Republican. We need two healthy parties who can govern, and the GOP already appears to be in free fall with the rise of Donald Trump.

When is the last time you heard of a really promising white Democrat from the South? Perhaps that is why Bernie Sanders, well into his 70s and from Vermont, was Hillary Clinton's only serious challenger in the 2016 primaries? After all, the Siegelman case sends this message: "If you are a white Democrat in the South -- or a financial supporter of a white Democrat in the South -- you risk personal destruction. Even a Democratic president, like Barack Obama, won't lift a finger to free you. And even a DOJ under a Democratic president will do nothing to investigate and prosecute those who wrongfully sent you to prison."

Democrats might feel secure in thinking that Hillary Clinton will win the White House this year. But who will come after her? It probably won't be a Democrat from the South because their numbers likely will keep dwindling.

That could be the "legacy" of the Siegelman case, and Barack Obama helped cut his party's throat in a region where presidential races often are won or lost.


Anonymous said...

All this love affair with Hilliarrrrrryyyyy for pres will only go to prove, yet again "wolves in sheep's clothing"; those who wanted, got what they voted for , not once, but twice; now once again, not satisfied, wanting to be spoonfed more of same another 4 years by someone who is a habitual liar and most of nation thinks she is untrustworthy to be president. Both political parties have taken this nation up to the very edge of an abyss of no return, that if "we they people" do not get off our asses, no longer complacent and check on who is minding our nation's business; our nation as we know it is doomed to become another rubbled democracy [republic]. Sometimes I get the impression by our nation's actions at intentionally causing unrest and problems reminds me of Moses up on the mount, and his followers running around half naked, making idols of gold for praising, stealing and fighting; if memory serves me right caused them to be turned away from the promised land to years of torments on badlands, I stand to be corrected. As for our nation, time sooner than later is going to meet the smell test.

Anonymous said...

Front-page of latest Economist issue:

Issue also contains article on McDonnell.

What would Ralph do?

legalschnauzer said...

Thanks for sharing, @12:53. Sounds like both are articles are worth a look.

Anonymous said...

Sad story about Obama, how he has ignored Siegelman and protected Rove. Imagine if Rove and other GOP criminals had been prosecuted--and I feel certain the prosecutions would have been successful. Clinton would be a shoo-in as president, and the House and Senate would be cinches for the Dems. The GOP would be destroyed, facing a rebuild mode, and that would be good for them and the country. Repugs need a cleansing, and Obama should have given to them.

Robby Scott Hill said...

Tim Kane needs to build support among Republicans for Hillary in Virginia & neighboring states. Alabama is "safe Trump" & will not be contested. Hillary & Kane cannot afford to alienate red state Congressional Delegations by supporting the release of Siegelman. If they do that, imagine nothing in the Senate getting past holds by Senators Shelby & Sessions. Imagine debates in the House where the Speaker will be happy yield the balance of time to one of the "Gentlemen from Alabama" who are well equipped to speak for hours on end about the "Will of God" & the "Moral Foundation of Law" like they were King John before the Magna Carta & shit to prevent the debate from ever ending. I can see the poor pages rushing to order pizza before midnight & it getting cold while everyone on Aderholt's staff & their counterparts continue their rush to produce more pages of the movie script for CSPAN. Hillary is too seasoned for that to happen. Don will remain behind bars so the White House & Congressional Staffers can eat warm pizza & produce compromises while an innocent man sits in prison. Baseball is not really the National Pastime. That's another game called "Go Along to Get Along" & Don didn't go along when Representative Riley & Governor Bush asked him to not run for Governor. So, Don won't be getting along very well will he?

Anonymous said...

Here is an article from 2008 about a Rove protege digging up dirt on Obama. I'm betting this campaign yielded something that has put the president in a state of being a lapdog.

legalschnauzer said...

Thanks for the URL, @4:34. Here is an LS post from 2010 about the Bush administration gathering information to blackmail Obama:

From the post:

"According to a new article at the Wayne Madsen Report (WMR), Obama and prospective chief of staff Rahm Emanuel were included in surveillance that led to the indictment of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. The operation apparently yielded damaging information about Team Obama, including Emanuel's ties to the Chicago gay community. But the Obama administration took steps to ensure that the information gathered under Bush-appointed U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald would focus on Blagojevich and not them.

"Was the Bush effort at blackmail successful? Does it explain the Obama administration's reluctance to investigate justice-related matters, such as the political prosecutions of Don Siegelman in Alabama and Paul Minor in Mississippi? The answer, according to WMR, appears to be yes. Reports Wayne Madsen:

'Bush and his team, according to WMR's sources sought to obtain information on Obama and Emanuel that could be used to "blackmail them" in order to ensure that there would be no investigations of the Bush administration's complicity in torture, political prosecutions throughout the United States of Democrats, and other illegal activities.'

legalschnauzer said...

Thanks for your insights, Rob. Did Gov. Bush and Rep. Riley confront Siegelman about this, and I assume it was before the 98 election. Any idea what grounds Bush/Riley gave for Siegelman not to run? Did they threaten him for some reason?

What led to the Bush/Riley alliance? Seems strange that a Gov. from Texas and a U.S. Rep. from Alabama would be aligned on such a matter. Of course, Karl Rove connections might explain it.

Robby Scott Hill said...

I call them Governor Bush & Rep. Riley because those were the highest offices they held as the result of a clean election. Riley said he told Siegelman to not run in 2006. I think the cite will be on if it's still there. I assume the Bush Administration's guilt by material association, i.e. the federal prosecutions & meant to refer to the Administration & not George W. personally. So, allow me to clarify, I'm not so sure President Bush himself knew anything about the Siegelman situation & maybe that's why Rove got fired.

Robby Scott Hill said...

Let's be honest. Knuckle dragging rednecks in Alabama are gonna keep voting GOPers into office until the end of time, but these Republican Jesus worshipping assholes are them votes in places like Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia & Florida where people actually get a real education. Two-thirds of the 11th Circuit is quickly becoming Democratic because educated people in Georgia & Florida are scared shitless that Trump will appoint someone like Bill Pryor to the Supreme Court & replace him on the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals with someone like Mike Joiner & have Governor Bentley replace him with someone like Luther Strange & replace him with someone like Jessica Garrison, etc., etc. until every public office in America is filled with these Republican Jesus people. "You were hungry & thirsty. So, I eliminated funding for Meals on Wheels & food banks. You were a stranger, so I vilified you & demanded that you be deported. You were naked, so I called you an evil liberal who hates conservative family values. You were sick, so I repealed your only hope for health care. You were in prison, so I tortured you. You were being evicted, so I broke your arm". -Republican Jesus, Matthew 25:31-46, Conserative Bible