Conservative commentator George Will published a nationally syndicated column Feb. 12 urging the Supreme Court to reconsider the corruption convictions of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman. The column by Will, at left below, represents a breakthrough in the national media’s treatment of Siegelman’s 2006 convictions.

SiegelmaGeorge F. Willn, at right, was AlabDon Siegelmanama’s governor from 1999 to 2003 and the state’s most prominent Democrat until the eve of his convictions in a second federal trial. He, his supporters and our Justice Integrity Project have ascribed his investigation by Republicans beginning in 1999 largely to a politically motivated frame-up. Alabama Republicans controlling their state's Attorney General’s office started it and worked closely after 2001 with the Bush Justice Department in a process now being carried forward by co-opted successors in the Obama administration.

Sidestepping
the most explosive claims in that debate, Will’s column focuses more generally on the vast potential for injustice when federal prosecutors can selectively determine which political contributions are bribes, and ignore the vast number of similar situations. Will warns against excessive powers for prosecutors when, as in the Siegelman conviction, scant evidence exists of an “explicit” deal. In a column appearing in the Feb. 12 print edition of the Washington Post and nationally, Will wrote:

All elected officials, and those who help finance elections in the expectation that certain promises will be kept — and everyone who cares about the rule of law — should hope the Supreme Court agrees to hear Don Siegelman’s appeal of his conviction. Until the court clarifies what constitutes quid pro quo political corruption, Americans engage in politics at their peril because prosecutors have dangerous discretion to criminalize politics.

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The hard-hitting author and investigative reporter Greg Palast is the featured guest Feb. 9 on my MTL Washington Update radio show discussing his latest book, Vultures Picnic: In Pursuit of Petroleum Pigs, Power Pirates, and High-Finance Carnivores.

The New York Times-bestselling author shares at noon (ET) insights from his globetrotting, private-eye style investigations that blow the lid off the oil and banking industries -- and the governmental agencies that don't adequately regulate either of them. Daring sleuth-work took him from scrambling for investigative leads in a remote dictatorship to a luxury Manhattan suite, where he heard a fearful, fabulously wealthy oil tycoon gripe that BP short-changed him out $184 million by only giving him only $92 million.

Greg Palast Cover

As we explore how some obtain such riches and others die as ignorant innocents trying to survive amidst pollution, join MTL founder Scott Draughon and me at noon (ET) on the My Technology Lawyer (MTL) radio network that's carried our weekly public affairs for nearly six years nationwide -- live! The show may be heard by clicking here and later by archive. Listener questions: Call (866) 685-7469 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Mac users need “Parallels.” Scott and I begin the show with commentary on national news, this week notable for three impressive Rick Santorum victories in GOP nomination contests.

Then Palast will tell the story of the corporate vultures whom he portrays as feeding on the weak -- and ruining our planet in the process. The most personal of his books, Vultures' Picnic reveals the strange passion that drives Palast and others on his small, New York-based investigative team to risk everything for their stories.

Palast, who spoke in compelling fashion in December at the National Press Cub in Washington, comes across as especially offended by the evidence he gathered in his years as a real-life private eye probing the oil industry in the 1990s. He says BP was primarily responsible for the Exxon Valdez oil disaster in Alaska, but largely escaped blame. He says BP intentionally and callously neglected the similar safety features in the Gulf of Mexico, and is therefore primarily responsible for the fatal 2010 oil disaster. Palast holds a master's degree in business administration earned studying at the University of Chicago under the iconic free-market economist Milton Friedman. Palast brings that kind of expertise to attacking as grossly inadequate the federal Gulf victim fund and claims procedure supervised by Kenneth Feinberg, the special master jointly appointed by BP and Obama administration.

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Louis ManzoA hearing in New Jersey's federal court Feb. 7 follows a hard-hitting filing Jan. 26 by former Jersey City mayoral candidate Louis Manzo, who alleges that corruption charges against him in 2009 were part of a plot by holdover Bush federal prosecutors to elect Republican Chris Christie as governor of New Jersey. Manzo, a Democrat, argues that both Republican and Democratic prosecutors, including some in career posts, have closed ranks to support Christie's misguided prosecution because of institutional loyalty -- and the vast financial and career opportunities. U.S. District Judge Jose Linares said he expected to rule next week on the arguments.

Update: A federal judge dismissed all charges Feb. 17 in a 60-page opinion, vindicating Manzo. See details below.

Christie was the Bush administration's Republican U.S. attorney from 2001 to the end of 2008. Before winning election as a crime-fighter, he awarded tens of millions of dollars in no-bid federal contracts to former Republican prosecutors. Recipients included former New Jersey U.S. Attorney Herbert Stein and Attorney General John Ashcroft. Upon election as governor, Christie hired for state jobs a dozen former subordinates in the U.S. attorney's office for key posts, including top executives who implemented the dragnet capturing Manzo after Christie put the sting in motion.

Defendants have an extremely difficult time proving selective prosecution. Therefore, Manzo's extensive filing if successful in Newark's federal court would be a legal landmark nationally. Manzo has said the indictments ruined his life, and that he will never give up and plead guilty. He's said also that he could not have found the ability to continue without the coverage of his fight by the Justice Integrity Project. That's because, he says, prosecutors tend to have such influence with the mainstream media and have unlimited taxpayer funds to crush defendants who lose their jobs and friends upon indictment. This was particularly true in the early stages of his case before he started winning court battles and several local columnists reported questions about the prosecution.

Chris ChristieChristie's spokesman called Manzo's allegations "total nonsense," and has denied irregularities in the 2009 "Bid Rig III" corruption probe whereby the New Jersey U.S. attorney's office arrested 46 defendants on corruption charges in July 2009 in a sting congruent with Christie's campaign theme that he was fighting corruption by dishonest Democrats. Earlier, Christie, at right, and his successors worked closely with government informant Solomon Dwek to entice defendants into crime. Dwek was a New Jersey developer who admitted to a $50 million bank fraud and running a cruise ship brothel. He's sought leniency and huge living expenses by helping Christie and his successors obtain indictments of others. For about half of the arrests, Dwek used taxpayer funds to offer campaign contributions to local candidates, with all but one of the political targets a Democrat. Manzo has vowed to fight the charges. He won dismissal of two indictments because prosecutors attempted to ensnare him with an expanded reading of bribery laws in order to cover candidates when the law permits prosecution only of office-holders.

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Editor’s Note: Former Alabama Congressman Artur Davis denounced fellow Democrats in a long interview with the Alabama political blog Lagniappe on Jan. 24,  the same day he authored a column for the National Review Online, "Draft Jeb Bush: A charismatic and accomplished governor can save the Republican Party." Excerpted also is the Davis  interview with Lagniappe reporter Jeff Pool -- Davis regrets questioning Siegelman prosecution -- and other relevant commentary, including our weekend column, Setting the Stage for a Jeb Bush Draft in Tampa. Update: Don Siegelman asks U.S. Supreme Court to review bribery conviction,

Also, we provide a guest column by Alabama attorney Dana Jill Simpson, a former Republican. In 2007-2008, she was primarily responsible for turning the Bush administration’s federal corruption conviction of DemocratiJill Simpsonc former Gov. Don Siegelman into a nationwide human rights scandal. Shown in a CBS 60 minutes interview at right, she provided documentary and sworn evidence that Republican prosecutors, business officials and the trial judge were framing the defendant by such means as $300 million in federal business to a contracting company that the judge controlled as by far its largest shareholder.  Those named have denied her allegations. Among them are former White House Senior Advisor Karl Rove, Middle District U.S. Attorney Leura Canary, her husband, Business Council of Alabama CEO Bill Canary, and Chief U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller. A graphic below illustrates their alleged relationships.

The Obama administration seeks to imprison the former governor with a lengthy term. Simpson, at right in a 2008 CBS 60 Minutes interview, urges Davis to return to his initial skepticism about the prosecution when he was a member of the House Judiciary Committee in 2007 before he resigned the committee to focus on his failed gubernatorial race in 2010 as a Democrat.

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Jeb Bush

Republicans face a drawn-out nomination fight that could shred the party’s chances even against a vulnerable President Obama and Democratic under-ticket. But to the rescue last week came former Alabama Congressman Artur Davis, a four-term Democrat who urges Republicans to nominate former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

Republicans are contending under new rules this year that increase the likelihood of a brokered convention when delegates assemble Aug. 27 in Tampa, Florida. Delegates are
selected this year on a more proportional basis than the winner-take-all formulas previously. They must vote only on the first ballot for pArtur Davisrimary and caucus winners, creating the potential for the kind of "brokered" conventions that were common in the past.

Two developments last week suggest that Bush is well-positioned to unite the party for a November ratification of the next stage of the Bush Dynasty:

First was a column by Davis, left, Alabama's most prominent Democrat until he lost his race for governor in 2010 amid suspicions he was getting too cozy with the state's business and Republican power brokers. On Jan. 24, he published in the National Review Online, "Draft Jeb Bush: A charismatic and accomplished governor can save the Republican Party."

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Peter Van BurenA U.S. State Department employee who presided over vast waste of taxpayer dollars in Iraq raises a powerful question: Why can’t some of that money spent on worthwhile purposes in the United States?

The answer, says author Peter Van Buren, is that our political system freely provides spending with scant accountability for military-oriented and "democracy-building" foreign affairs projects but not for parallel domestic purposes. Van Buren is a 23-year-veteran of the State Department who spent a year implementing aid programs in Iraq from 2009 to 2010 before publishing last fall a memoir, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People.  He shared his recollections Jan. 25 in a lecture at the National Press Club, and will amplify Feb. 2 on my weekly public affairs radio show “Washington Update” at noon (ET) on the MTL network live nationwide.

Among the situations he describes are building expensive chicken and milk processing plants of virtually no value to the local communities, and then scrambling to pretend that the projects were successful. In one instance, he recalls,

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