No Comment — July 11, 2007, 2:37 pm

Update on Siegelman

More DOJ Malicious Mischief Congress prepares for hearings which will look into the White House-directed vendetta that resulted in the prosecution and conviction of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman, the Department of Justice is about to announce a decision to move Gov. Siegelman from the Georgia facility where he is now being held to another in Texarkana, on the Texas-Arkansas frontier. Why? This will make it much more difficult for Siegelman to confer with his family and attorneys as preparations are launched for the Judiciary Committee proceedings. Again, the Justice Department’s conduct is driven by pure malice—and this time a desire to obstruct a Congressional inquiry.

There’s No News in the ‘Birmingham News’ Back in the eighties, I used to train aspiring young Kremlinologists in the art of reading and understanding Soviet newspapers. As they used to say “there’s no truth in Pravda (truth), and there’s no news in Izvestia (news),” but actually you could learn a lot studying their weasely distortions of fact. The most revealing thing was often not what was said, but rather was left unsaid. Today’s Birmingham News offers a piece in the best tradition of Pravda, showing us that the old Communist journalism may have gone to its grave in Moscow, but it’s thriving in the Heart of Dixie. Robin DeMonia of the News editorial board pens an attack on former federal prosecutor, now Congressman Artur Davis for his calls for a hearing on selective prosecution in the Siegelman case.

“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.”

But that’s not the whole story of the case. True, Siegelman was convicted of taking a campaign contribution as a bribe.

Except that the News has a severe problem with the truth. There was no evidence offered or accepted that Siegelman received a campaign contribution as a bribe. The allegation was that a contribution was made to an organization engaged in lobbying for an education lottery. That measure, of course, failed, and the result was that Alabamians put their lottery money (great gobs of it) into funding education in some of their neighboring states, rather than in Alabama. The News doesn’t want to deal fairly with the facts; they prefer simply to sling around falsehoods.

As I have noted elsewhere, the News’s reporting in this area has been an amazing web of half-truths and outright deceptions. It has engaged in aggressive peddling of the message of the state’s GOP establishment and its two joined-at-the-hip sister publications in Mobile and Huntsville have joined right in. Even now, the News suggests to its readers that the only indication of abusive prosecution comes in the affidavit of Dana Jill Simpson. But of course, the evidence is pilled up everywhere in front of us now. How, I wonder, will the News cope tomorrow with the stonewalling by a key White House staffer in her testimony (rather her refusal to testify) today about the White House’s manipulation of U.S. attorneys? Likewise, the News’s failure to look into how this prosecution came about and its stunningly different treatment of the millions of dollars that flowed into the campaign chest of current Alabama Governor Riley through Jack Abramoff’s manipulation of casino gambling tells the story.

It is true that America’s process of campaign financing is a disgrace, opening the door to enormous corruption. On the other hand, the Siegelman case shows us how this system can be further corrupted through selective prosecutions, designed to send a message that donations to one particular party will be scrutinized and criminalized, but donations to the party in power are just fine. That’s not justice. It’s how to convert a democratic process to a tyranny.

Now it appears the News is engaged in damage control. It knows this whole house of cards, which it constructed hand in glove with the prosecutors, is about to come tumbling down. In the end, this affair will have to be viewed as much as a failing of the press in Alabama—which owed Alabamians a duty to serve as good civic watchdogs—as of the corruption of the machinery of justice. The wheels of justice ground slowly, and they ground fine, as Dickens said. But often enough justice is being ground, rather than being done. Against that we must be on our guard.

Share
Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

Conversation August 5, 2016, 12:08 pm

Lincoln’s Party

Sidney Blumenthal on the origins of the Republican Party, the fallout from Clinton’s emails, and his new biography of Abraham Lincoln

Conversation March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm

Burn Pits

Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.

Context, No Comment August 28, 2015, 12:16 pm

Beltway Secrecy

In five easy lessons

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

December 2016

Separated at Birth

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Priest in the Trees

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Lightness

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

With Child

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Standing Rock Speaks

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Prose by Any Other Name

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
With Child·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. 'Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.'"
Photograph (detail) by Lara Shipley
Article
Swat Team·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"As we shall see, for the sort of people who write and edit the opinion pages of the Post, there was something deeply threatening about Sanders and his political views."
Illustration (detail) by John Ritter
Article
Escape from The Caliphate·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"When Matti invited me on a tour of the neighborhood, I asked about security. 'The message has already been passed to ISIS that you’re here,' he said. 'But don’t worry. I guarantee I could bring even you in and out of the Islamic State.'"
Photograph (detail) by Alice Martins
Article
In This One·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. 'Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.'"
Illustration (detail) by Shonagh Rae
Article
“Don’t Touch My Medicare!”·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"Medicare’s popularity, however, comes with almost no understanding of what the program is and how it works."
Illustration (detail) by Nate Kitch

Estimated number of people who watched a live Webcast of a hair transplant last fall:

8,000

A rancher in Texas was developing a system that will permit hunters to kill animals by remote control via a website.

A man in Japan was arrested for stealing a prospective employer’s wallet during a job interview, and a court in Germany ruled that it is safe for a woman with breast implants to be a police officer.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Who Goes Nazi?

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

By

"It is an interesting and somewhat macabre parlor game to play at a large gathering of one’s acquaintances: to speculate who in a showdown would go Nazi. By now, I think I know. I have gone through the experience many times—in Germany, in Austria, and in France. I have come to know the types: the born Nazis, the Nazis whom democracy itself has created, the certain-to-be fellow-travelers. And I also know those who never, under any conceivable circumstances, would become Nazis."

Subscribe Today