No Comment — August 20, 2008, 9:17 pm

More Prosecutorial Mischief in Mississippi

Washington pundits anticipate significant Democratic pick-ups in the upcoming senate races in which a largely Republican class faces a hostile electorate. One of the surprising vulnerabilities for the Republicans is in Mississippi. Senator Trent Lott resigned his seat before his term expired, with his resignation closely linked in time to the announcement of charges against his brother-in-law Dickie Scruggs. To fill out the remaining year of Lott’s term, Governor Hailey Barbour tapped Roger Wicker, who is now seeking to win the seat in his own right. He’s being challenged by former Governor Ronnie Musgrove, who is given strong odds at picking off the seat for the Democrats.

But Wicker has a very powerful ally. His name is Jim Greenlee, and he is a prior donor to Wicker’s congressional campaign. Curiously, Greenlee neglected to note his position when he made the donation. He is the U.S. Attorney appointed by President Bush in northern Mississippi. But as the campaign season opens in earnest, it seems that no one is providing Wicker’s campaign with more valuable support than Greenlee.

The Greenwood (Mississippi) Commonwealth reports:

This past week’s developments in the four-year-old investigation into the failed Mississippi Beef Processors plant seem timed to help derail Democrat Ronnie Musgrove’s bid to snatch one of the state’s two U.S. Senate seats from Republican hands. Three Georgia businessmen, one by one over the course of four days, entered guilty pleas to federal charges arising out of the Yalobusha County beef plant’s quick and costly demise.

The three, all executives with The Facility Group of Smyrna, Ga., were largely left off the hook on the more serious charges that they had swindled the state out of at least $2 million and had left the plant’s vendors and contractors holding the bag. Instead, they were allowed in a plea bargain to confess to trying to buy influence with Musgrove by steering $25,000 to the then-governor’s unsuccessful re-election campaign in 2003.

The orchestrated guilty pleas — and the prosecutors’ suggestion that more indictments could be forthcoming — are a boon to the campaign of Republican Roger Wicker, who was appointed to the vacant Senate seat in December but is considered vulnerable. They leave a cloud over Musgrove in voters’ minds and provide more fodder for negative campaign ads from the G.O.P. camp, even though Musgrove has not been charged with any wrongdoing and there’s nothing in the court records to document he did anything illegal.

The editor of the Commonwealth, Tim Kalich, notes that for the last year he has greeted claims of politically motivated prosecutions by the Bush Justice Department with skepticism. But careful study of this case caused him to change his mind. There is simply no explanation for the bizarre course charted by the prosecutors except partisan political manipulation.

The Mississippi Daily Journal came to the same conclusions:

The political cronyism at the Department of Justice under the Bush administration has been well documented. Even the current U.S. attorney general concedes it has taken place. A federal appeals court was so concerned about claims that the prosecution and conviction of former Democratic Gov. Don Siegelman of Alabama was political in nature that it released him from prison while the issue is being explored… Federal prosecutors have an obligation not to use their office to try to influence an election.

In other states, fired U.S. attorneys have said that is exactly what they were asked to do.

Federal prosecutors in the Northern District of Mississippi should want to avoid even the appearance of impropriety. If they have a case against a public official – particularly Musgrove, who is in the middle of a heated campaign – they should proceed with due haste. If they don’t, they should admit it.

The Daily Journal points out that if the campaign contribution to Musgrove was prosecutable, then most of the state’s Republican office holders would be facing prosecution as well. It notes the curious pattern of selection in the Mississippi U.S. attorney’s offices that consistently investigate and target only Democratic candidates and usually right in the middle of an election cycle.

In his speech last week to the American Bar Association, Attorney General Mukasey delivered this promise:

If anyone… is found to be handling or deciding cases based on politics, and not based on what the law and facts require, there will be a swift and unambiguous response.

The developments in Mississippi show exactly what Mukasey’s promise is worth.

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

October 2016

Psychedelic Trap

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Hamilton Cult

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Held Back

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Division Street

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Innocents

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Quiet Car

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
The Hamilton Cult·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"The past is complicated, and explaining it is not just a trick, but a gamble."
Illustration by Jimmy Turrell
Article
Division Street·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"Perfectly sane people lose access to housing every day, though the resultant ordeal may undermine some of that sanity, as it might yours and mine."
Photograph © Robert Gumpert
Article
Held Back·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"'We don’t know where the money went!' a woman cried out. 'They looted it! They stole our money!'"
Artwork by Mischelle Moy
Article
The Quiet Car·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Flor Arely Sánchez had been in bed with a fever and pains throughout her body for three days when a July thunderstorm broke over the mountainside. She got nervous when bolts of light flashed in the sky. Lightning strikes the San Julián region of western El Salvador several times a year, and her neighbors fear storms more than they fear the march of diseases — first dengue, then chikungunya, now Zika. Flor worried about a lot of things, since she was pregnant.

Late in the afternoon, when the pains had somewhat eased, Flor thought she might go to a dammed-up bit of the river near her house to bathe. She is thirty-five and has lived in the same place all her life, where wrinkled hills are planted with corn, beans, and fruit trees. She took a towel and soap and walked out into the rain. Halfway to the river, the pains returned and overcame her. The next thing Flor remembers, she was in a room she didn’t recognize, unable to move. As she soon discovered, she was in a hospital, her ankle cuffed to the bed, and she was being investigated for abortion.

Photograph by Joshua Lutz
Article
Innocents·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"The next thing Flor remembers, she was in a room she didn’t recognize, unable to move. As she soon discovered, she was in a hospital, her ankle cuffed to the bed, and she was being investigated for abortion."
Photograph © Nadia Shira Cohen

Amount the town of Rolfe, Iowa, will pay anyone who builds a home there:

$1,200

Ancient Egyptians worshiped some dwarves as gods.

In Italy, a judge ordered that a man who paid for sex with a 15-year-old girl must buy her 30 feminist-themed books, including The Diary of Anne Frank and the poems of Emily Dickinson.

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

HARPER’S FINEST

Mississippi Drift

By

Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'

Subscribe Today