|Jay Town and Mark Crosswhite|
Reports that federal prosecutor Jay Town met with Alabama Power CEO Mark Crosswhite before the North Birmingham Superfund bribery trial in summer 2018 -- and, in fact, took steps to ensure power-company officials were protected from prosecution, even scrutiny -- raises a profound question: Did Town's protective efforts extend beyond the power company to prominent political figures who have helped bolster his career?
By prominent political figures, we mean Richard Shelby, Jeff Sessions, and Luther Strange.All three were connected to the Superfund scandal but managed to escape with hardly a scuff mark on their reputations. Did Town make sure that happened? Well, let's consider the power-company angle to this story.
Were Crosswhite's discussions with Town fruitful, essentially making sure Alabama Power would be a non-entity at the trial? The answer appears to be yes, according to a report from banbalch.com, titled "Secret Deal? Alabama Power was “Unmentionable” During Corruption Trial":
During the criminal trial of Balch and Bingham partner Joel I. Gilbert and Drummond executive David Roberson in July of 2018, criminal defense attorneys were allegedly instructed not to mention Alabama Power or their ties to the money laundering entity Alliance for Jobs and the Economy (AJE) without first clearing it with Alabama Power’s criminal attorney.
If you think that emits a foul odor, consider these news items that surfaced well before the trial began and essentially presaged that something fishy was afoot:
* Alabama assistant DA, Jay Town, tapes a 2016 campaign ad for U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby
Is Jay Town a brazen political animal? Consider evidence that he purchased his federal position from Richard Shelby, as outlined in this report from al.com:
An Alabama assistant district attorney taped an ad for the re-election campaign of Sen. Richard Shelby that aired during Monday night's College Football Playoff national championship game.
Madison County assistant DA Jay Town, identified in the commercial as a former major in the United States Marine Corps, spoke in the commercial about Islamic terrorists and how Shelby is keeping watch over President Obama.
"We have radical Islamic terrorists killing people all over the world," Town said in the ad. "And President Obama keeps talking sweet to them, doesn't want to offend them. Where's the sense in that?"
Later in the commercial, Town said, "We have another year to put up with Obama. But thank God we have Richard Shelby standing over him, trying to keep him in line."
Can we say "political pandering"? Jay Town clearly knows that game.
* Watchdog group calls for Jay Town's recusal from Superfund case because of ties to politicos
In August 2017, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) noted Town's conflicts related to the bribery scandal and released a letter that called for him to step down from the case: The reason? Town's ties to certain Alabama political figures. From the letter:
On June 22, 2017, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Alabama, under the leadership of an acting U.S. Attorney, publicly announced an ongoing public corruption investigation that involves the law firm Balch Bingham, the coal company Drummond, and their alleged role in bribing a state legislator in Alabama to block the expansion of an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Superfund site in Birmingham. That state legislator has admitted to taking bribes from Balch and Drummond.
POGO’s reason for calling upon you to recuse yourself is that three key officials who are your political allies and supported your appointment as U.S. Attorney—Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Senator Luther Strange, and Senator Richard Shelby—all have deep political, financial, or personal ties to Balch and Drummond. Furthermore, Senator Strange has been linked to the bribery scandal.
What about details on Town's connections to Sessions, Strange, and Shelby? POGO provides them:
In Alabama, there have been public allegations that Senator Strange was present when bribes were offered related to the Birmingham Superfund site (Senator Strange disputes these allegations). As Alabama Attorney General, Senator Strange filed letters with the EPA in October 2014 and January 2015 declaring that the state would not provide any funding for the cleanup of the Birmingham Superfund site, located in a poor African American neighborhood. The Drummond Co. donated $25,000 to his campaign two weeks before the first letter in October 2014 and another $25,000 a month after the second letter in January 2015. A POGO report provides further details.
You twice advised Senator Strange in political campaigns. He subsequently supported your nomination for U.S. Attorney. Senator Strange is now alleged to be involved in a bribery scandal under investigation by the office of which you are now in charge.
Another public supporter of your nomination as U.S. Attorney is Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Balch and Drummond were, respectively, Senator Sessions second and third largest sources of campaign funding during his Senate career—and through their political action committees and employees have contributed an approximate total of $300,000 to his campaigns since the late 1990s.
As you may be aware, several Balch attorneys have worked in Senator Sessions’ office through the years. Currently, his high-profile deputy —Jeffrey H. Wood, the acting Assistant Attorney General of the Environment and Natural Resources Division—was a Balch partner up until he joined the Justice Department the day President Trump was inaugurated. Mr. Wood has recused himself from any matter involving Balch and has specifically listed the Superfund site in Birmingham in his recusal list. You should follow Mr. Wood’s lead and recuse yourself as well. We have also requested that Attorney General Sessions recuse himself.
Finally, Senator Richard Shelby, another principal sponsor of your nomination as U.S. Attorney, and for whom you appeared in a television campaign commercial in 2016, is a longtime recipient of campaign money from Balch and Drummond. According to public records, Senator Shelby has received approximately $110,000 from Balch and $155,500 from Drummond over his last three election cycles (1999-2016).
Bottom line: Jay Town was compromised up to his eyeballs in the Superfund case, and no one took calls for his recusal seriously? Is that because Town was committed to protecting his political benefactors, as he was to protecting Alabama Power?
From our vantage point, the answer appears to be yes.