President Barack Obama's Justice Department has changed little from the Bush Justice Department because the same people are still running the show, says former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman.
Siegelman is fighting a 2006 corruption conviction he and many observers say was politically motivated and may have even been orchestrated from within the Bush White House. Last week, Raw Storyreported that President Obama's solicitor general, Elena Kagan, is standing by Siegelman's Bush-era conviction, saying prosecutors had proven "corrupt intent."
"There's really been no substantial change in the heart of the Department of Justice from the Bush-Rove Department of Justice," Siegelman, a Democrat, told TalkingPointsMemo's Justin Elliott. "The people who have been writing the briefs for the government are the same people who were involved in the prosecution."
Siegelman was freed on bail in March, 2008, pending an appeal of his 2006 conviction. Federal prosecutors alleged that Siegelman had broken the law in what they described as a pay-to-play scheme that saw Siegelman appoint former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy to a hospital regulatory board after Scrushy had organized $500,000 in donations to Siegelman's campaign to launch a statewide lottery.
Siegelman's lawyers argued the relationship between Siegelman and Scrushy was nothing out of the ordinary, and this fall 91 former attorneys general agreed, and urged the Supreme Court to hear Siegelman's case because it "concerns the criminalization of conduct protected by the First Amendment — the giving and receiving of campaign contributions."
A Raw Story investigative series published in 2007 documents allegations that Siegelman's prosecution was orchestrated from the Bush White House, with White House adviser Karl Rove playing a pivotal role.
"The seeming disconnect between Obama's team and numerous Democrats -- including House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr., who's investigated Siegelman's case -- may be because President George W. Bush's US Attorney in Alabama is still in office," Raw Story reported last week. "Democrats still haven't settled on a replacement, some eleven months after Obama's inauguration."
In his interview with TPM, Siegelman echoed that notion:
While Solicitor General Elena Kagan was appointed by Obama, Siegelman says the DOJ staffers who are giving advice and making decisions on his case are the same people who were at the department under Bush. "The people who have been writing the briefs for the government are the same people who were involved in the prosecution," he says.
If the Supreme Court declines to hear his appeal, or rules against him, the consequences could be grave, Siegelman says.
"We've got a bunch of people in this country -- including President Obama and mayors and members of Congress -- who will be in jeopardy because any rogue prosecutor who wants to target a politician or a donor will be able to do it."