I keep learning more about the various connections in the Don Siegelman case, and here’s an interesting person we’ve barely discussed: Alabama Senator Richard Shelby (a Republican, though first elected as a Democrat). You might remember Shelby from the 2004 leak investigation, where, as was reported in the Washington Post,
federal investigators concluded that in 2002 he had “divulged classified intercepted messages to the media when he was on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, according to sources familiar with the probe.”
Ultimately, Justice Department investigators decided that Shelby had leaked information:
Federal investigators concluded that Sen. Richard C. Shelby (R-Ala.) divulged classified intercepted messages to the media when he was on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, according to sources familiar with the probe.
Specifically, Fox News chief political correspondent Carl Cameron confirmed to FBI investigators that Shelby verbally divulged the information to him during a June 19, 2002, interview, minutes after Shelby’s committee had been given the information in a classified briefing, according to the sources, who declined to be identified because of the sensitive nature of the case.
Around this time, rumors swirled that Shelby’s leakees might have included not just Fox News, but also favored contractors who could use the information to bolster their prospects of being awarded contracts. That’s an issue which has figured notably in a number of investigations of late, particularly the case that prosecutor Carol Lam built against Dusty Foggo out in San Diego–which may just have cost her job in the U.S. attorneys scandal. But Shelby had little to worry about. After all, he was the Republican vice chair of the Intelligence Committee, and the Bush Justice Department was hardly going to pursue a case against him, whatever the merits.
In addition to having a hard time keeping a secret, Shelby is on the Senate appropriations committee, and according to a September 2006 Bloomberg News article he’s a master of earmarks, having sent $50 million to the state and $10 million “to military projects benefiting a company owned by one of his largest campaign contributors.” According to that article:
Shelby, a senior Republican on the Appropriations Committee, has inserted the funds into legislation at the request of Huntsville-based COLSA Corp., a privately held space-and missile- defense company. Its owner, Francisco J. Collazo, has known Shelby for 20 years and has contributed more than $400,000 to his campaigns and committees since hiring a former Shelby aide as a lobbyist in 1996.
The former Shelby aide to whom this article refers is G. Stewart Hall, who was Shelby’s legislative director until 1996. Hall organized a consulting and lobbying firm called the Federalist Group.
Alabama’s G.O.P. delegation prides itself on bringing home the bacon. In fact, a just-out study by the Sunshine Foundation tells us that on a per capita basis, only three states outrun the ‘Bama delegation in getting contract dollars for their states: Alaska, Hawaii and West Virginia. In a sense of course this is exactly what a good member of Congress is supposed to do: promote the interests of his district and help his constituents get a leg up in dealing with the bureaucracy. The questions, of course, arise when private and public affairs become conflated, and when public advocacy leads to private profit. This is why the great Roman orator Cicero always rose to his feet in the Senate and put the question: “Cui bono?” Whom does this benefit? Time was when the media put that question. But of late it’s grown rather lax. And the Alabama mainstream media seems a particularly incurious, pampered and self-satisfied breed.
So now let’s look at another prominent Alabama government contractor with a recent streak of politically-linked successes: Doss Aviation. On Shelby’s own website, there’s a press release from February 2006 in which Shelby says “I am disappointed that the Air Force did not choose Selma as the site for their Introductory Flight Training program . . . ” It sounds like the story of an earmark gone wrong. But there at the end of the press release there’s this: “It was announced today that the program was awarded to Pueblo, Colorado, teamed with Doss Aviation.”
I’ve written about Doss Aviation before. It’s a Texas corporation (offices in Colorado) in which, as related by a motion for recusal filed June 2007, Alabama Federal District Court Judge Mark Fuller was (and presumably is) the major shareholder, with (as of 2003) a 43.75% interest. Fuller, who presided over the trial that sent former Alabama governor Don Siegelman to jail, was a member of the Republican Executive Committee, a campaign contributor to Shelby (but small-fry compared to donors like Collazo–he only gave a few thousand dollars), and in 2002 was nominated by George W. Bush, and then backed by Shelby and the other Alabama Senator, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, for a seat on the federal bench.
Today, Fuller and Shelby even have offices in the same building–One Church St. in Montgomery. That’s also where Doss Aviation was
registered, with Mark Fuller listed as the company’s president, from 1999-2002.
Sure, it was peculiar that Fuller listed a government building as the registered address of a private company that contracts with the government. But what’s also peculiar is that the offices for Fuller’s previous gig as District Attorney for the 12th Circuit, were at 98 North Edwards in Enterprise (see also). I have no idea why Doss Aviation, with Fuller as president, was registered at One Church Street (the home of numerous government offices including the office of Senator Shelby) years before Fuller became a federal judge. But it does raise a very curious question: who, exactly, was picking up that mail?
The hallmark of Doss Aviation seems to be that it has the government and partisan political interests on every end. And that’s passing strange.
In any case, looking back at that press release from 2006, I think Shelby was shedding crocodile tears. He may not have delivered for Alabama, but he delivered for a contributor who is also a federal judge and a building-mate. What more could you ask from a master earmarker?