Gulag Comes To The USA
A Political Prisoner: The Don Siegelman Case:
By Ernest Partridge
30/01/08 "ICH" -- -- 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
one of the few journalists to investigate this case in depth,
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," 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 to destroy 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 elements:
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 prosecuted.
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, describes it,
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
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
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.
Scott Horton reports, in a sworn affidavit Ms. Simpson,
Riley’s campaign attorney,
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.
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 course.
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
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 question.
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
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
Perhaps the next President, once in office, will surprise us
with inspired leadership qualities not now apparent. It has
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
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
It will be a long and arduous road to follow. But it is the only
road worthy of our dedication and effort.
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
Video. (Move ahead, past opening news reports).
Copyright 2008 by Ernest Partridge
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