Justice Integrity Project
On Jan. 24, a young writer for the widely read blog Mashable.com listed former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman as No. 1 on a list of the most corrupt governors in recent American history.
Colin Dailleda, a Columbia Journalism School grad formerly employed at the liberal blog Think Progress, erroneously stated that Siegelman had pocketed campaign contributions.
That error led him to write that Siegelman was number one on a list of the most corrupt governors of modern times.
The blogger gave his readers no hint of the nationwide outcry against Siegelman's prosecution, which has been described as a political frame-up by many commentators (including here). This week, however, Alabama blogger Cliff Sims leveraged the Mashable.com smear to describe Siegelman as the most corrupt governor in American history – an outrageous, near-nonsensical exaggeration.
Let's reflect on such performance and the readily available facts.
Why, I wonder, do we even bother to read the news or care about it? If we learn something important most of us cannot do much that is useful in response.
This column proposes a novel, bottom-up solution to the problems arising from a misinformed and powerless public.
First, let's examine the Mashable.com story more closely.
Siegelman is far from alone in thinking his treatment unfair. For example, 113 former top law enforcers from more than 40 states concluded that Siegelman's key actions in 1999 in asking a wealthy man to donate to a non-profit did not constitute a crime.
Never in American history has such a bipartisan coalition ever protested a conviction in this fashion. That's the real story.
Furthermore, the blogger omitted the prosecution's police state tactics and the years of mind-boggling judicial scandals that perverted the case's outcome. An independent look at the facts shows that the nearly two-decade probe, prosecution and imprisonment will be a bipartisan disgrace that will taint the legacy of both President Obama and President Bush.
I have shared that truth face-to-face as nicely as possible to President Obama's first two White House counsels, both well-connected VIPs, during chance encounters in Washington, where I work. One, Gregory Craig of Skadden Arps, has taken on a Siegelman appeal pro bono.
But the appeal is likely to be an exercise in futility in a kangaroo court procedure that has helped frame the defendants since the beginning of their two trials apiece. As background, my group is non-partisan, and does not represent Siegelman, his co-defendants, supporters, or anyone similarly situated.
The defendant's ordeal is deeply shocking, as is the devastation inflicted by an out-of-control government on totally innocent colleagues, Republican and Democratic co-defendants, witnesses, and their family members.
Piling on for apparently partisan purposes, however, an Alabama-based blogger used the Mashable.com article Jan. 27 as the basis for a headline: Siegelman bribes named worst scandal ever by an American governor. For good measure, the Alabama blogger cited Mashable.com as the nation's most influential social media blog -- as if that settled Siegelman's guilt.
Thanks to technology and a misinformed public, our civic life is increasingly chronicled by such neophytes and partisans who parrot government spin as gospel.
For nearly three decades, I have researched hyped-up or suppressed news stories. The topic inspired my first book 25 years ago, shown at right, Spiked: How Chain Management Corrupted America's Oldest Newspaper. "The technique is the Big Lie, and make it come true," one outraged newspaper reader told me at the time about a pseudo-scandal hurting his community.
My latest book, Presidential Puppetry, reveals major political stories of great national importance that are unreported or under-reported by the major media, which promote slogans about honest news but do not dare authorize their reporters to ask the truly powerful tough questions about their secrets.
In view of such developments, I floated a big picture question to an accomplished and friendly editor of many years experience as we relaxed recently at a DC restaurant. Through the decades, he had worked his way up from cub reporter to important news management posts.
Even with success, he still enjoyed swapping colorful tales of scoops, political intrigues, and dare-devil reporting.
"What do you think, " I asked, "is the real purpose of the news industry?"
"To make money," he responded cheerfully, "for those who are in it!"
Surely, there must be additional purposes.
Misconduct allegations mounted over the weekend against embattled New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie despite his attempt to blame the George Washington Bridge scandal on underlings.
New Jersey's U.S. Attorney office met Jan. 19 for several hours with Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer regarding her claim against two top Christie aides. Zimmer has alleged that the aides threatened last spring to hinder federal relief for her city's Hurricane Sandy damage unless she supported Christie's picks among Wall Street investors for a Hoboken redevelopment plan.
Christie is shown at left with President Obama in a photo courtesy of Wikimedia as they toured flood damage in 2012 just days before Obama's re-election. Christie's joint appearance and thanks to Obama were widely reported as bipartisan cooperation, but angered some conservatives.
The new allegations and the media blitz parallel those that Christie orchestrated previously in his career against others. He created a public image as a GOP corruption-fighting legislator and U.S. attorney on his way to winning his state's governorship in 2009.
Update: Rob Kall writes on OpEdNews, Governor Rod Blagojevich's Defense Attorney Compares Chris Christie's Situation to Blago's... and It's Not Pretty.
I discussed that history with New Jersey radio host Bob Carson Jan. 19 in an hour-long interview on his public affairs show, Carson's Corner, which can be heard here, among other places. In 2009 and 2010, we had examined these same Christie tendencies in previous Carson's Corner shows at a time when virtually all of the rest of the state's media had bought into Christie's image as a blunt-talking reformer fighting for the ordinary citizen.
We focused then as now on the unfairness and duplicity in Christie's overblown "Big Rig III" probe. As New Jersey's U.S. attorney under the Bush administration, Christie's groundwork for the probe swept him to the governor's office.
Christie hired more than a dozen of his former federal colleagues from the U.S. attorney's office for state posts, thereby illustrating how the so-called "loyal Bushie" brand of political back-scratching flourished under his supervision.
The Justice Integrity Project also reported evidence that the more than 40 indictments had been packaged by federal prosecutors to help him win office, not as impartial justice, as described in previous stories excerpted below.
More currently, a state legislative chairman issued 20 subpoenas last week for Christie associates and their organizations to describe why authorities inflicted traffic gridlock on Fort Lee for four days last September on the New Jersey side of the bridge across the Hudson River to New York City.
One of those ordered to testify is David Samson, a Christie appointee who heads the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey that controls bridge operations.
Samson hired for protection Michael Chertoff, right, a former U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary and former New Jersey U.S. Attorney. Among other jobs, Chertoff is founder of the Chertoff Group, which received a $1.2 million security contract from the Port Authority.
So he has close experience in cozy arrangements, as described in a special section about Chertoff's career in my new book, Presidential Puppetry: Obama Romney and Their Masters. Chertoff is also an attorney with Covington and Burling, and it is in that role that he is representing Samson.
MSNBC host Steve Kornacki has reported that the Christie administration used its Port Authority appointees to pressure developers to increase their support for the GOP governor's 2013 re-election campaign and future prospects. Kornacki also broke the Zimmer story.
An Alabama judge imposed a 90-day sentence Jan. 14 on corruption-fighting Alabama blogger Roger Shuler.
Shuler, shown above, was puffy-faced in his mug shot following his arrest Oct. 23 in his garage in a suburb of Birmingham. Authorities have jailed Shuler indefinitely since then on a contempt of court charge for alleging a sex scandal involving a prominent attorney.
Meanwhile, the New York Times reported Jan. 12 that Shuler's jailing in the libel case threatens press freedom. The Times headlined its story, Blogger’s Incarceration Raises First Amendment Questions. Separately, a California federal appeals court overturned a $2 million libel verdict against a blogger, as described in Blogger gets same speech protections as traditional press.
The Times story underplayed the court system's outrageous confiscation of Shuler's rights -- and the damage to the public. The kangaroo court proceedings set back the state's image more than 50 years to the time of the segregationist "Jim Crow" era when libel and contempt of court proceedings were used to crush the civil rights movement.
These days, the Shuler case illustrates how a court system can destroy targeted individuals and businesses by selectively ignoring basic due process protections typically expected in the legal system.
I have researched Alabama's system for five years. Victims include not just bloggers and other individuals like Shuler, but business CEOs and other executives of both parties who stand in the way of the political machine.
Karl Rove and his allies have used Alabama and Texas courts as tools to advance deal-making benefiting political insiders. Thus, my column today is not just about libel, sex scandal, or even politics.
This story, in my view, is ultimately about government-influenced financial deals and other money-making schemes of vast scale and impact on taxpayers and others involved in community affairs.
The full story involves a long and largely hidden history. Also, as an update to this column, I include a response from New York Times reporter Campbell Robertson to my critique of his coverage.
This gist from the Times writer was "I stand by that reporting." He described his research as speaking with "many, many people...some of whom were well-trusted sources with whom I'd worked on sensitive cases amid a hostile establishment, such as the state's immigration law and a politically charged federal investigation into the legislature." His more detailed amplification is below in an appendix.
Let's start with the basics in Shelby County, shown above in red on the Alabama map. The county's pleasant-looking courthouse is portrayed at right.
Now for a darker picture:
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is a big winner so far in the political scandal and cover-up engulfing New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
Bush, shown in his official photo, can remain comfortably in the background for the 2016 presidential race, and thereby avoid the kind of scrutiny imposed on front-runners like Christie.
Christie, Bush's leading center-right rival for the Republican nomination, faces grave political wounds from a horrendous four-day traffic jam his top aides inflicted last September on Fort Lee, a commuter suburb of New York.
Christie, right, staved off political disaster by a nearly two-hour press conference Jan. 9 in which he denied involvement and fired two top political advisers. One was Deputy Chief of Staff Bridget Anne Kelly. The other was Bill Stepien, his 2013 campaign manager who helped achieve Christie's re-election victory with 60 percent of the vote.
In rambling responses to 94 questions, Christie portrayed himself as more of a victim than a perpetrator of the scheme. "I am not a bully," said a politician famous for his blunt style.
For the foreseeable future, Christie is going to surprise most opponents with his resiliency, according to a Louis Manzo, author of the forthcoming Christie biography, Ruthless Ambition: The Rise and Fall of Chris Christie. [Editor's note: The book title has changed since this column first appeared.]
"I think he's going to survive," Manzo told me in a phone interview Jan. 11. Shown at left, Manzo is a former state assemblyman from Jersey City.
"He's found a patsy, this woman Kelly," Manzo continued. "Christie and his team are going to make her the scapegoat, and blame just about everything on her."
As U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, Christie set in a motion an indictment of Manzo and more than 40 others on corruption charges that helped win Christie his state's governorship in 2009. But Manzo prevailed over federal prosecutors, who were forced to drop their case after Manzo vehemently denied the allegations and showed other serious problems with the prosecution. Manzo has spent five years researching his book, which is scheduled for publication in June and will include this year's revelations on the bridge scandal.
Christie aides are implicated in closing two of Fort Lee's three access ramps to the George Washington Bridge, the nation's heaviest-trafficked bridge.
The national headlines from the scandal overlook three matters about Christie and Bush that I have researched in-depth for the Justice Integrity Project and for my new book, Presidential Puppetry: Obama Romney and Their Masters.
- Christie and Bush have each hidden scandals far more serious than what is being called "Bridgegate" in Fort Lee.
- Thus, Bush greatly benefits from keeping a weakened Christie prominent as a prospective 2016 nominee while Bush remains above the party battles -- and scrutiny.
- Because the Bush dynastic ties overlap with Christie's power base Bush can readily overwhelm Christie and his presidential aspirations later in the 2016 race.
Update: A Washington Post poll announced in the paper's print edition for Jan. 30 showed Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, Bush, and Christie as favored by 20, 18 and 13 percent of Republicans respectively for the 2016 nomination.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!
The Justice Integrity Project thanks our readers for your interest and inputs. We share our hopes for a happy holiday season and a New Year of health and happiness in a just, prosperous and peaceful society.
To that end, we are going to be describing shortly a plan for readers to enhance effectiveness in fighting for justice. This draws on proven methods so that we can together spend more time during 2014 in success for the reform goals we share, and less time chronicling injustice.
A promising omen was a review of my new book, Presidential Puppetry, that syndicated columnist and intrepid reporter Andy Thibault published Dec. 31 in the Journal-Register consortium of Connecticut newspapers. His column, Kreig’s ‘Presidential Puppetry’ gives road map to master manipulators, argued for a path to reform via investigative reporting and blunt commentary, much as we seek to achieve via this site.
The U.S. Capitol is portrayed at left in an arrangement at the U.S. Botanic Gardens on the Washington Mall in a photo courtesy of a friend of the Justice Integrity Project.
In the spirit of our mission, we convey also below several compelling holiday messages.
The first is a column by my friend Jeanne Bishop. She describes in powerful terms her visit to the prisoner who murdered her sister, brother-in-law and their unborn child in what was undoubtedly Chicago's most notorious crime two decades ago when I met Jeanne.
The second is the holiday message by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. He sacrificed his future to try to bring the gift of privacy to the United States and world population. His message was conveyed by a British television station, Channel Four.
Next we have holiday messages from the best-known United States political prisoner, former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman (1999-2003). He is serving a long prison sentence centered on his 1999 reappointment to a state board of a major donor to the non-profit Alabama Education Foundation.
Another column is by former Alabama Republican political operative Jill Simpson, who blew the whistle in 2007 on the Republican frame-up Siegelman, her state's best-known Democrat.
She interrupted her honeymoon in Europe with her husband and co-author, Jim March, to write with him about the ongoing injustice of Alabama's continued jailing of the corruption-fighting journalist Roger Shuler. An arrogant judge who disregarded settled law about libel law jailed Shuler on contempt charges for failure to spike his stories involving the son of Siegelman's gubernatorial rival in Alabama.
We at the Project helped break the Shuler story in October. Appended below is recent coverage by others of his plight in the context of the world's second worst year on record for jailing journalists globally.
Fifty years ago yesterday, Dec. 22, former President Harry Truman warned the public against the Central Intelligence Agency's excessive powers.
Truman, who led the way for the agency's founding, wrote a Washington Post column entitled, "Limit CIA Role To Intelligence."
Truman, right, timed his column to be exactly one month after the assassination of President Kennedy, whose death has long been suspected in private by top-level Washington insiders as being linked to the agency and the foreign policy goals of the agency's private sector patrons.
Truman's arguments failed to generate much government or media attention upon the powerful spy agency. Neither did the public focus on the CIA's far more secret sister, the National Security Agency (NSA), which was also founded in the 1940s by Truman and Congress as part of their Cold War effort against Communists.
The Post, whose owners worked closely behind the scenes with CIA executives during that period, deleted Truman's words from the newspaper's final editions, according to Ray McGovern, shown below left. He served during a 27-year as an Army infantry/intelligence officer and CIA analyst under nine directors in all four of the agency's main directorates, including operations. He helped prepare the daily intelligence briefings of two presidents.
In retrospect, Truman's fruitless efforts to reform spy agencies after Kennedy's then-mysterious murder helped enable a long string of abuses. These include the assassination, torture, Iran-contra, Benghazi, drone, and surveillance scandals of recent years.
It was on Dec. 22, 1974, for example, that investigative reporter Seymour Hersh revealed in the New York Times that the CIA had undertaken a long list of global assassinations in violation of Truman's intentions that its primary purpose be intelligence advice to the president, not secret operations.
Disclosures since then have shown that the agency and such sister spy agencies as the NSA have engaged in vast domestic propaganda and surveillance operations -- including manipulation of JFK assassination news coverage and surveillance of members of Congress such as then-Sen. Barack Obama. These are exactly the kinds of unsupervised adventures that Truman had tried to protest in the Washington Post.
This history extends to ongoing revelations of recent days. Presidents, Congress, courts and the press have proven highly ineffective for the most part in their watchdog roles -- doubtless because the same dynastic elites who staff and guide the top levels of the spy agencies also control all branches of the federal government and the elite media. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and his younger brother, CIA Director Allen Dulles, juggled government posts during their careers with interludes as Wall Street lawyers working with the nation's greatest dynasties.
In that vacuum, the public must protect itself by the guidance of our first three Cold War presidents -- Eisenhower, Truman and Kennedy -- and not that of their craven, fearful or complicit successors.