Davis Asks Congress To Investigate Siegelman Prosecution

Rep. Artur Davis (D-AL) has formally asked the House Judiciary Committee to investigate the circumstances surrounding the prosecution of former Gov. Don Siegelman.  Davis, a member of the committee, sent a letter to Chairman John Conyers yesterday detailing the reasons for his request.

Davis’ request is the first formal move by a member of Congress to publicly take up Siegelman’s cause on Capitol Hill. Davis, a former federal prosecutor, argues Congress has already unearthed a pattern of political meddling.

“A claim of selective prosecution is not implausible in this Justice Department,” Davis said.

…In his letter to Conyers and in an interview, Davis questioned whether Siegelman’s actions were criminal.

“He was prosecuted and convicted for receiving a campaign contribution and turning around and appointing someone to a board,” Davis said. “If that was the standard, we’d have 45 of 50 governors under investigation.” 

He has a point.  Perhaps Gov. Riley and Dr. Swaid Swaid should be getting their affairs in order.  Or not.  If the Justice Department started investigating every case of political contributors receiving cushy appointments, it would have to start with George W. Bush, his Pioneers, and the people he appointed to “reconstruct” Iraq.  Those alone could take years.

I confess to being torn about this case.  I was one of many Alabama citizens who was furious when Richard Scrushy was acquitted of fraud in the HealthSouth trial.  I was right there with a lot of other people who were just tickled when he was indicted again.  I figured at least he’d go down for something.  And I suspect the prosecution in Montgomery was happy to use that anger when it brought the case to trial.  That’s not conspiracy theory; it’s political reality.

I didn’t really have an opinion about Don Siegelman one way or the other.  Yeah, I voted for him in 1998, but he was running against Fob “Chain Gang” James, who claimed the Bill of Rights didn’t apply to Alabama.  I voted against the lottery, not because of some inherent opposition to gambling, but because it seemed like yet another way for the state to dance away from tax reform.  I’d heard some accusations of corruption, but it was hard to say whether there was really something illegal going on or if it was just politics as usual, skating the edge of ethical (BTW, I’ve had no luck finding links to Eddie Curran’s stories in the Mobile Register; if anyone knows where to find them, please let me know).  When he ran for the 2006 gubernatorial nomination, I was actually pretty pissed at what I considered to be a blatant display of chutzpah.

All that said, I have some serious concerns about this sentence.  As I’ve mentioned before, former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-CA), who raised corruption to the level of high art, taking millions in bribes, turning the Defense Department into his personal cash cow, and even having the gall to make lists of the luxury items he wanted in return for exerting his influence, is serving only eight years and four months in prison.  The US Attorney who investigated and brought charges against him was subsequently fired by the Bush administration.  Former Alabama Gov. Guy Hunt (R) was convicted of stealing $200,000 in tax-exempt contributions for his personal use but received no prison time  And just last week, when an appeals court refused to delay Scooter Libby‘s thirty-month prison term, George W. commuted his sentence, assuring he’d never serve a day behind bars (this after Libby was prosecuted and sentenced by Bush appointees).  So — was Siegelman’s sentence too severe, or were the final arbiters too lenient in these other cases?

On another point, I don’t know if Karl Rove had anything to do with Siegelman’s prosecution.  I do know that people who go around saying that Rove knows nothing and cares less about Alabama politics need to pull their collective head out of the sand.  They’re either ignoring history or have failed to do their homework.

Given my prejudices going into this prosecution, I’d likely still be cheering the conviction if this past year hadn’t brought so many revelations of politicization in the US Justice Department.  If Conyers and the House Judiciary Committee decide to investigate this case, the Bush administration has only itself to blame.  This one’s not over.

ADDENDUM: I just saw a comment at Danny’s place suggesting that it would be better to delay a Congressional investigation till after the appeals process is complete.  That may indeed be the best course.

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