Mon Apr 09, 2007 at 10:53:26 AM PDT
As we all know, the Bush Administration fired a number of US Attorneys for political reasons that emanated from the White House, then the AG and others tried to cover it up, and pretend that they didn’t know anything about it.
As Congress investigates this widening scandal, a question that needs to be asked is: Who DIDN’T they fire – and why?
We’ve heard that the Bush White House may have told US Attorneys, in essence, to go full-tilt after Democrats at all levels if there was the slightest hint of scandal, while going easy on Republicans.
In one case in Wisconsin, where there is smoke there may be fire. Just before the election for Wisconsin governor, US Attorney Steven Biskupic – a Bush appointee – prosecuted a Wisconsin state government civil servant to the full extent of the law. And this story has a surprising ending . . .
Shorthand: The case involved a purchasing bid for a travel contract for Wisconsin state government. A Wisconsin state employee, Georgia Thompson, was on the bid review committee, and it was alleged that she tilted the contract toward a certain company that had donated money to the reelection campaign of Democratic Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle.
Doyle’s Republican opponent, former Rep. Mark Green, has been described as a close friend of the Bush family. Ms. Thompson was sentenced to federal prison (bypassing any appeals on her part) shortly before the Governor’s election last fall. For his part, Rep. Green used the case repeatedly in advertisements alleging the Doyle administration was corrupt.
The civil servant (this means she was a career government employee – NOT a political appointee), Ms. Thompson, was prosecuted as if her real name were Alice Capone.
I followed the case pretty closely, and still have not heard, read or seen one smidgen of real hard evidence showing any influence placed on her or any hint of a connection to either the travel company or to Gov. Doyle’s re-election campaign.
Ms. Thompson lost her job, her house, her life savings, and her good name. She was put through the wringer and spent the last five months in federal prison for, some say, doing her job. Many of her co-workers at the Department of Administration have spent the last two years on edge, wondering if they will be the next to end up in federal prison for using judgment on the job.
Last Friday – ironically, Good Friday in the Christian world – the 7th district federal appeals court of three judges (two appointed by Republicans) took one look at this case, said the evidence was "less than thin," threw out the conviction, and IMMEDIATELY set Ms. Thompson free - based on a day of oral argument and prior to even issuing a written decision. The Wisconsin Governor offered Thompson her state job back, with back pay and benefits. Legal observers were startled by this nearly unprecedented development, and Wisconsin media are still in a state of shock.
Here's one news story.
All of this speaks for itself, loudly and clearly, about a potential connection to the US Attorneys scandal we have been hearing about for the last few weeks. How is it that a government employee could be caught up and nearly destroyed in this case? Could she have been a mere pawn in the larger game of "get Democrats, protect Republicans" directed by the White House using US Attorneys as their field commanders in their political warfare of personal destruction?
Over Easter Weekend, I said this case MUST be looked at very closely by Congress for any evidence of malfeasance by the Bush Administration, to see if there was an effort to try to tilt the Wisconsin Governor's race to Bush family friend, Mark Green. (By the way, Gov. Doyle was re-elected handily.)
For his part, US Attorney Biskupic has been strangely silent since the Good Friday decision. Despite his high-profile prosecutorial zeal last year, he was absent in the courtroom on Friday (one of his assistants was dispatched to receive the court's rebuke) and his office issued a brief statement that simply congratulated Ms. Thompson’s lawyers. There is no indication that the US Attorney will appeal the reversal. That’s it?
This morning, the New York Times referred to this very case in a damning editorial this morning, urging Congress to investigate it (and others) as part of the widening US Attorneys scandal. Excerpt:
As Congress investigates the politicization of the United States attorney offices by the Bush administration, it should review the extraordinary events the other day in a federal courtroom in Wisconsin. The case involved Georgia Thompson, a state employee sent to prison on the flimsiest of corruption charges just as her boss, a Democrat, was fighting off a Republican challenger. It just might shed some light on a question that lurks behind the firing of eight top federal prosecutors: what did the surviving attorneys do to escape the axe?
The Chicago-based United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit seemed shocked by the injustice of her conviction. It took the extraordinary step of releasing Ms. Thompson from prison immediately after hearing arguments, without waiting to issue a ruling. One of the judges hinted that Ms. Thompson may have been railroaded. "It strikes me that your evidence is beyond thin," Judge Diane Wood told the lawyer from Mr. Biskupic's office.
Ms. Thompson's case is not the only one raising questions about whether prosecutors tried last year to tilt close elections toward the Republicans. New Jersey's federal prosecutor conducted an investigation of weak-looking allegations against Senator Robert Menendez that was used in Republican ads.
Congress should look into both cases to determine whether partisan politics played a role — and whether they were coordinated with anyone at the Justice Department or the White House.
How many similar cases are there like this, around the nation? Will Congress take a closer look at cases like this? Who WASN'T fired? And why?