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:

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

Beltway Secrecy

In five easy lessons

From the April 2015 issue

Company Men

Torture, treachery, and the CIA

Six Questions October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm

The APA Grapples with Its Torture Demons: Six Questions for Nathaniel Raymond

Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.

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

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

February 2016

Isn’t It Romantic?

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Trusted Traveler

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Trouble with Iowa

The Queen and I

Disunified Front

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

We Don’t Have Rights, But We Are Alive

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
Isn’t It Romantic?·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“He had paid for much of her schooling, something he cannot help but mention, since the aftermath of any failed relationship brings an ungenerous and impossible impulse to claw back one’s misspent resources.”
Illustration by Shonagh Rae
Article
The Trouble with Iowa·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“It seems to defy reason that this anachronistic farm state — a demographic outlier, with no major cities and just 3 million people, nine out of ten of them white — should play such an outsized role in American politics.”
Photograph (detail) © Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Article
Rule, Britannica·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“This is the strange magic of an arrangement of all the world’s knowledge in alphabetical order: any search for anything passes through things that have nothing in common with it but an initial letter.”
Artwork by Brian Dettmer. Courtesy the artist and P.P.O.W., New York City.
Article
The Queen and I·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Buckingham Palace is a theater in need of renovation. There is something pathetic about a fiercely vacuumed throne room. The plants are tired. Plastic is nailed to walls and mirrors. The ballroom is set for a ghostly banquet. Everyone is whispering, for we are in a mad kind of church. A child weeps.”
Photograph (detail) © Martin Parr/Magnum Photos
Article
We Don’t Have Rights, But We Are Alive·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“If I really wanted to learn about the Islamic State, Hassan told me, I ought to speak to his friend Samir, a young gay soldier in the Syrian Army who’d been fighting jihadis intermittently for the past four years.”
Photograph (detail) by Anwar Amro/AFP/Getty

Amount by which the number of government jobs in the U.S. exceeds the number of manufacturing jobs:

5,129,000

The sound of mice being clicked may induce seizures in house cats.

In Turlock, California, nearly 3,500 samples of bull semen were stolen from the back of a truck.

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

HARPER’S FINEST

Two Christmas Mornings of the Great War

By

Civilization masks us with a screen, from ourselves and from one another, with thin depth of unreality. We habitually live — do we not? — in a world self-created, half established, of false values arbitrarily upheld, largely inspired by misconception, misapprehension, wrong perspective, and defective proportion, misapplication.

Subscribe Today