The Gulag Comes to America:
The Don Siegelman Case
The Crisis Papers.
January 29, 2008
A Political Prisoner
Today, Don Siegelman, former
governor of the state of Alabama, sits in a federal prison,
sentenced to a seven year term for bribery.
Every day that Siegelman remains in prison every American
citizen who openly dissents from the policies and protests the
criminality of the Bush/Cheney regime is less free and more
vulnerable to politically motivated prosecution.
For the plain fact of the
matter is that Don Siegelman is, in effect, a political
prisoner. The formal charge against him was bribery. But,
practically speaking, his offense was his political success as a
Democrat in a “red” Republican state. When Siegelman indicated
an interest in reviving his political career, one of his
accusers was heard to say, “[We’re] going to take care of
Siegelman.” And so they did.
Larisa Alexandrovna, one of the few journalists to
investigate this case in depth, writes:
For most Americans, the very concept
of political prisoners is remote and exotic, a practice that is
associated with third-world dictatorships but is foreign to the American
tradition. The idea that a prominent politician – a former state
governor – could be tried on charges that many observers consider to be
trumped-up, convicted in a trial that involved numerous questionable
procedures, and then hauled off to prison in shackles immediately upon
sentencing would be almost unbelievable.
Less "unbelievable," perhaps, if we reflect upon a dominant
Republican mind-set: politics
as warfare, the Democrats as
"evil" and "the enemy," and not as "the loyal opposition." "You are either
with us or with the terrorists," said George Bush -- no compromise, no
alternatives, and no middle ground. Thus the goal of the GOP warrior is
not merely to defeat the
Democrats; the goal is todestroy them.
This was the objective of those who brought charges against
Don Siegelman, in a case that stinks from top to bottom of political
vendetta and manipulation. It’s a rather complicated story, which I cannot
recount in detail here. Those details may be found in the Raw
Story (Alexandrovna et al)
series and the DemocracyNow Scott
Horton interview, listed and linked below. However, these are the essential
The bribery charge rose out of Siegelman’s appointment of Richard Scrushy to
the Alabama hospital regulatory board, a non-paying position that Scrusky
had held under two previous governors. The appointment followed Scrushy’s
donation of a half million dollars to a Siegelman foundation and gained
Siegelman no financial advantage whatever. Of course, political favors to
donors is routine in both state an federal government, as numerous
ambassadorial appointments will testify. Moreover, clearly illegal campaign
contributions were received by Alabama Republican Senator Jeff Sessions and
Federal Judge William Pryor, who have not been investigated much less
Siegelman held the distinction of serving all four elective state offices:
Attorney General, Secretary of State, Lieutenant Governor and Governor.
With his prestige, popularity, and name-recognition, he was a persistent
threat to the well-oiled Alabama GOP political machine. As his daughter, Dana,
The men and women behind this
conspiracy have a lot against my dad. My dad wanted an education
lottery, brought jobs to the state, made big businesses pay their taxes,
sought to completely change Alabama's constitution, raised teachers'
salaries, gave African Americans jobs that Caucasians had supremacy over
for years, helped in fundraisers for other Democrats, supported the
arts, was well-respected on a national level, etc... It was a battle
against a truly liberal leader, not some moderate Democrat. He held the
highest offices in the state and was Alabama's longest running
politician. Republicans wanted their state back, and they got it.
“They got it” through a stolen election. In 2002, Siegelman
appeared to have won re-election against Republican challenger Bob Riley.
But then, in Baldwin county, Republican election supervisors (no Democrats
allowed), locked the doors and “discovered” a “computer glitch” that tilted
the election to Riley, whereupon the GOP Attorney General, William Pryor,
put the kibosh on Siegelman’s appeal for a recount by sealing the ballots. (Siegelman
gives his account of the theft here).
While Siegelman vowed “to come back and fight another day,” the GOP was
determined to see to it that he was at last down for the count.
Enter Bill Canary, Republican kingmaker, friend and confidant of Karl Rove,
campaign advisor to William Pryor and Bob Riley, and, not coincidentally,
husband of U.S. Attorney, Leura Canary. It was Mrs. Canary, along with U.S.
Attorney Alice Martin, who brought the case against Siegelman.
Enter next, Dana Jill Simpson, a rare and endangered political animal: a
republican political operative with a conscience and an allegiance to the
rule of law that trumps partisan loyalty. As
Scott Horton reports, in a
sworn affidavit Ms. Simpson, Riley’s campaign attorney,
provide[d] a detailed specific account
of what transpired, starting with [Bill] Canary’s statement “not to
worry about Don Siegelman that ‘his girls would take care of him.’” Then
Riley’s son asked Canary if he was sure that Siegelman would be “taken
care of,” and Canary told him not to worry that he had already gotten it
worked out with Karl and Karl had spoken with the Department of Justice
and the Department of Justice was already pursuing Don Siegelman.” “His
girls” were Canary’s wife Leura Canary, who as U.S. Attorney in the
Middle District of Alabama, did in fact start the investigation, only
dropping off when objections were raised by Governor Siegelman’s counsel
due to her obvious political bias and the U.S. Attorney in Birmingham,
Alice Martin. Ms. Simpson, who gave the affidavit, is a lifelong
Republican and was a worker in the Riley campaign against Siegelman, and
her account has been contemporaneously corroborated.
While communicating with Siegelman’s attorney prior to
releasing her affidavit, Simpson’s house was demolished by a mysterious
fire, and Simpson herself was forced off the road. Mere coincidences, of
The judge at Siegelman’s trial, Mark Fuller, a Bush appointee and a former
member of the executive committee of the Alabama Republican party, had a
well-known grudge against Siegelman. Fuller refused to recuse himself from
the case, denied bail, immediately put Siegelman in shackles and ordered him
to the Atlanta federal prison. After seven months Judge Fuller, in
violation of the law, has refused to release the trial transcript without
which the defendant can not appeal his conviction.
Don Siegelman has since been shuttled back and forth among several federal
prisons out of touch with his attorneys and not allowed access to the
internet or to press interviews. This treatment has prompted an
unprecedented demand by forty-four former state attorneys general for a
Congressional investigation of the Siegelman case.
The Purge in Progress
The Siegelman Saga puts a human face on a widespread
politicization of the U.S. Department of Justice. In a similar case in
Wisconsin, Georgia Thompson, a purchasing official in the state government,
was convicted of corruption in a case that worked to the advantage of a
Republican candidate for governor. The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals was
so shocked by the injustice of her conviction that they ordered Thompson’s
immediate release, even before issuing a ruling. The evidence against her,
said Judge Diane Wood, was “beyond thin.”
The December, 2006, firings of eight Republican U.S. attorneys, who insisted
upon conducting their offices without partisan bias, has brought national
attention to the political corruption of the Justice Department and has
caused many to wonder about the behavior of the remaining eight-five U.S.
attorneys that Alberto Gonzales saw fit to retain. It is a troubling
A study by Donald
Shields and John Cragan, two
professors of communication, may supply an answer: “the offices of the U.S.
Attorneys across the nation investigate seven times as many Democratic
officials as they investigate Republican officials, a number that exceeds
even the racial profiling of African Americans in traffic stops.” (The
numbers: 298 Democrats, 67 Republicans, 10 “Others”).
This apparent partisan purge of Democrats, combined with amnesty for
Republicans, hits close to home. It is reported that Carol Lam, one of the
eight sacked U.S. Attorneys, was hot on the trail of my Republican
Congressman, Jerry Lewis. I’ve heard nothing more about this investigation,
so it appears that Lewis is off the hook.
So now we have in place a thoroughgoing corruption of the federal justice
system. The blindfold has been torn off the face of lady justice, as the
Department of Justice becomes, in effect, an extension of the Republican
Party, and possession of a public office by a Democrat becomes a de
facto crime, should the
hounds of the Department of Justice decide to go after said official.
The Democratic Congress has been remarkably complacent about all this. True,
they have called a few young graduates from Pat Robertson’s Regent U. Law
school to testify, they have heard from the fired U.S. attorneys, and the
Democrats have promised hearings on the Siegelman case. But its all show – a
bark without a bite – as the White House and the Department of Justice
steadfastly refuse to recognize subpoenas or allow the key players to
testify under oath. These offenses, by the way, were included among the
articles of impeachment against Richard Nixon.
Unsurprisingly, these outrages by the Department of Defense have not excited
much interest in the mainstream media, with the honorable exception of Keith
Olbermann and Dan Abrams of MSNBC. Abrams series, “Bush League Justice,”
which was broadcast last December, was magnificent, and he promised that
“we're not going to let this go away... We are going to be watching very
closely." Six weeks later, we are awaiting the follow-up. In addition, rumor
has it that 60 Minutes is preparing a segment on the Siegelman case.
Two Roads Diverge.
The fate of Don Siegelman may reflect the fate of our
republic. We are at a crucial crossroads, one road leads to a restoration of
the rule of law, and the other road leads to despotism.
If Don Siegelman's persecutors have their way and he serves out his term of
seven years, and if the culprits who stole his re-election and railroaded
him to federal lockup enjoy the fruits of their villainy and escape
punishment, then the rule of law is dead in Alabama and in critical
condition in Washington D.C. Then the gangrene of lawlessness in Alabama
may spread until it destroys the entire body politic.
I seem to recall a comment by some Bushie to the effect that “we’re pushing
the limits until someone or something stops us.” To date, those limits have
extended well beyond the Constitution and the rule of law. Acts of Congress
are nullified by signing statements, Congressional oversight is blinded by
“executive privilege” and a refusal to recognize subpoenas. Elections have
been privatized and are unverifiable. All that’s left to the Congress to
contain this burgeoning power of “the unitary executive” is impeachment, and
impeachment, as we all know, is “off the table.”
Someone, somehow, must draw a line in the sand and say “no further!” And
then, push back – and back -- and back.
“Just wait,” we hear, “in less than a year there will be a new president and
a new day dawning.” If so, then this new day will require a new leader with
qualities and capacities that are not conspicuous in any of the present-day
contenders for that office.
Perhaps the next President, once in office, will surprise us with inspired
leadership qualities not now apparent. It has happened before.
But the restoration of freedom never simply “trickles down” from great
leaders. It must also “percolate up” from the people. And I don’t see much
reason for hope in the American public today. But extraordinary crises have
a way of summoning extraordinary virtues.
If, somehow, we follow the road to restoration of democracy and the rule of
law, we should see at the beginning of that journey the release and
exoneration of Don Siegelman, the disgrace and punishment of his tormenters,
and the end of political prosecution.
It will be a long and arduous road to follow. But it is the only road worthy
of our dedication and effort.
Copyright 2008 by Ernest Partridge
For more Information About the Seigelman Case and the Corruption of Justice:
“Bush League Justice:” Dan Abrams, MSNBC.
Scott Horton interviewed by Amy Goodman and
Juan Gonzales on Democracy Now.
(Move ahead, past opening news reports).
Ernest Partridge's Internet Publications
Conscience of a Progressive: A
book in progress.
Partridge's Scholarly Publications. (The
Dr. Ernest Partridge is a consultant, writer and lecturer in
the field of Environmental Ethics and Public Policy. He has taught
Philosophy at the University of California, and in Utah, Colorado and
Wisconsin. He publishes the website, "The
Online Gadfly" and co-edits
the progressive website,"The Crisis
Papers". His e-mail is: firstname.lastname@example.org .