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March 21, 2015

Mobile license commission gave office email list to candidate for mayor reports: In the days leading up to election night of a hotly contested mayoral race, Mobile County License Commissioner Kim Hastie allegedly leaked thousands of private taxpayer email addresses from a county database to the mayoral campaign of Sandy Stimpson.

Now that Hastie is facing a federal criminal charge on the matter, the architects of Stimpson's winning campaign maintain that their actions were by the book. ...

Five days before the April 2013 mayoral election, Hastie and Yeager met with License Commission employees in August 2013 and Hastie instructed one of them to email "everyone within Mobile's city limits" a statement from her endorsing Stimpson, court records show.

The employee warned Hastie that sending out an email would be "improper" and cautioned her against it, according to court records. Hastie then directed the employee to retrieve and download email addresses of Mobile County residents onto a flash drive. -- 'The list came to the campaign': Stimpson electioneers talk Kim Hastie's alleged last-minute email scheme |

February 28, 2015

Prosecutors lay out some evidence against Hubbard reports: A filing today by special prosecutors cites evidence and emails that portray Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard as a man who, despite wearing the fine cloth of one of the state's most powerful men, teetered on the brink of financial collapse and desperately pleaded with friends, lobbyists and principals for money and jobs in a way that put him on the wrong side of the law.

Hubbard was indicted last year on 23 felony counts of using his office for personal gain. The revelations today come in response to a motion by Hubbard's defense team to more specifically describe the charges against the Speaker.

The filing and the cited evidence indicate Hubbard was facing tremendous financial pressure. After being elected Speaker in 2010, he was laid off by his primary employer, Auburn's IMG Sports Network. His own company, Craftmaster, failed to pay employee withholding taxes to the federal government in 2011, which led to the company defaulting on a $600,000 loan from Regions Bank personally guaranteed by Hubbard. -- Stunning emails paint Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard as desperate for money, favors |

Comment: Lots of emails, checks, business documents, etc. are attached to the story.

February 11, 2015

"Is Hubbard Breaking The Law With Criminal Defense Payments?"

Alabama Political Reporter has this analysis: Over the last year, Hubbard has used around $300,000 in campaign contributions from his personal account to pay his criminal defense team. Hubbard has never publicly addressed this issue, however, several news outlets around the State have noted that he was using the funds in accordance with former Attorney General Bill Pryor's opinion issued in 2000.

In the opinion, Pryor drew the conclusion that, "Excess campaign funds may be used by an incumbent office holder to pay legal fees incurred pursuant to the defense of a criminal indictment if the indictment is related to the performance of the duties of the office held."

There are two parts to this statement by the former Attorney General. First, the funds must be "excess campaign funds." The second, is that the indictment must be "related to the performance of the duties of the office held."

Hubbard is the Representative of District 79, he is also the Speaker of the House; which of the 23 felonies charges against him are related to the performance of the duties of the office? -- Is Hubbard Breaking The Law With Criminal Defense Payments?

February 3, 2015

Hubbard spending campaign funds on criminal defense

AP reports: Indicted Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard has used campaign funds to pay nearly $300,000 in legal fees over the last year as he fights felony ethics charges of using his public offices for personal gain.

Campaign records filed in January show that the Auburn Republican spent about $291,000 in legal fees since December 2013. Most of it, $221,475 was spent on the firm of his lead attorney, Birmingham lawyer Mark White. Hubbard also spent $65,135 with the Pell City law firm of Trussell, Funderburg, Rea and Bell.

White said the payments are in compliance with Alabama law and advisory opinions from the attorney general's office.

A 2000 opinion by the attorney general's office advised that elected officials can pay criminal defense costs out of excess campaign finance funds if the accusations are related to how the person performed in office. Most of the charges against Hubbard relate to his position in the House of Representatives. However, others relate to his time as chairman of the Alabama Republican Party. -- Indicted Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard spent $300,000 in campaign funds on legal fees |

January 16, 2015

"Why Obama Should Pardon Don Siegelman"

Jeffrey Toobin writes in the New Yorker: Since the midterm elections, President Barack Obama has been acting as if he feels liberated from parochial political concerns. After taking action on immigration, Cuba, and climate change, he should take on another risky, if less well-known, challenge by commuting the prison sentence of Don Siegelman, the former governor of Alabama. ...

Through six years in office, President Obama has been especially stingy in granting pardons and commutations. But the power to grant clemency is an important one; it should be wielded with care, but it should be used. Our prisons are nearly full. Not everyone who is there belongs there. Don Seigelman is one person who should not be incarcerated anymore, and the President can and should make sure that he is freed. -- Why Obama Should Pardon Don Siegelman - The New Yorker

December 23, 2014

"Hubbard Files Three Motions To Dismiss"

Alabama Political Reporter reports: Last week, Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard's attorneys filed three motions with the court to have his 23 Felony indictments dismissed.

On December 19, Hubbard asked Lee County Circuit Judge Jacob Walker III to dismiss the charges because he claims the Grand Jury was improperly empaneled, the Grand Jury exceeded its authority in regards to Deputy Attorney General Henry T. "Sonny" Reagan, and that the media had violated the State's Grand Jury Secrecy Act. -- Hubbard Files Three Motions To Dismiss (Motions Provided)

Note: The story has links to the PDF of each motion.

December 5, 2014

"State prosecutors object to Mike Hubbard's request for records of conversations with reporters" reports: State prosecutors have objected to the request by lawyers for House Speaker Mike Hubbard for records of conversations between the attorney general's office and news reporters about the case.

Prosecutors say the defense is not entitled to those records under criminal procedure rules.

Hubbard's defense lawyers filed a motion last month asking for "any written or recorded conversations between any members of media and any members of the Attorney General's office." -- State prosecutors object to Mike Hubbard's request for records of conversations with reporters |

November 27, 2014

Mobile license commissioner indicted for misuse of public funds reports: Mobile County License Commissioner Kimberly Hastie is accused in a federal indictment of using public money to finance her political aspirations.

The indictment alleges Hastie illegally used the money in connection with her effort to be revenue commissioner and run a combined licence and revenue commission office. Deputy Licence Commissioner Ramona Yeager is accused in the indictment of helping Hastie misappropriate the public funds. ...

Neil Hanley, Hastie's attorney, held a news conference Wednesday afternoon outside his Mobile office. He said the allegations against Hastie are not true.

Hanley said money was spent on Hastie's effort to combine her office and the Mobile County Revenue Commission office, but it was done legally.

"Unbeknownst to the County Commission, the defendants instructed a political consulting firm to falsify their invoices and have them contain false and misleading statements," the indictment alleges. "Specifically, the defendants signed off on false invoices knowing they contained lies to trick the County Commission." -- Mobile County license commissioner accused of using public funds to finance her political aspirations |

November 1, 2014

Mike Hubbard "Collides With Ethics Law He Espoused"

The New York Times reports: For a time, it seemed that Michael G. Hubbard and the prosecutors were waging parallel wars.

Both aimed their fire at the state's political establishment: Mr. Hubbard, as a state representative and chairman of the Alabama Republican Party, by focusing intently on defeating the Democrats who controlled the State House until 2010, and federal anticorruption prosecutors by launching a fusillade of investigations.

But this year, on his way to another easy re-election as the most powerful politician in Alabama, Mr. Hubbard and the law collided.

On Oct. 20, Mr. Hubbard, 52, was arrested after a grand jury returned a 23-count indictment, partly on the basis of an ethics law he had championed, accusing him of using his positions as party chairman and speaker of the House to steer thousands of dollars' worth of business to companies in which he had a financial interest. Mr. Hubbard has vehemently denied the charges. -- Firebrand Alabama Republican Collides With Ethics Law He Espoused -

October 26, 2014

"3 local campaigns received funds from Speaker Hubbard, paid thousands to companies he owns"

The Decatur Daily reports: The campaigns of several area legislative candidates received thousands of dollars in campaign funds from entities controlled by recently indicted House Speaker Mike Hubbard and paid thousands to companies he owned.

State Reps. Dan Williams, R-Athens; Terri Collins, R-Decatur; and Ed Henry, R-Hartselle, all entered office in 2010, and all received support from Hubbard. During the same election cycle, each of their campaigns paid money to Hubbard's printing and media companies. Hubbard, R-Auburn, was then chairman of the state Republican Party and House Minority Leader. After the November 2010 election, he became House Speaker.

The lawmakers said they did not know at the time that Hubbard had an ownership in the companies.

"At a minimum, it creates an appearance that this is all just money being laundered through a candidate and back to enrich the originator of the funds," said Meredith McGehee, policy director of The Campaign Legal Center, a nonpartisan campaign-finance organization based in Washington, D.C. "These transactions sound so incestuous. The candidates should have been aware of the appearance this would create, even if there was not an understanding that, ‘I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine.' " -- Financial ties that bind - Decatur Daily: News

"Hubbard indictment hinges on one particular ethical question"

Cameron Smith's op-ed says: During a recent press conference responding to his corruption indictment, Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard asked a critical question "Why does the Attorney General's Office....think it's a crime to do business with anyone you didn't know before you were elected to office?" ...

Outside employment for citizen legislators is not inherently problematic and may actually provide a benefit. For instance, legislators that actively participate in the business community will likely have a better perspective on economic challenges facing the state and the issues impacting their respective industries.

The ethical problem arises when legislators secure business and financial opportunities because of their public office or in exchange for specific favors. Most people are familiar with the "quid pro quo" type of corruption, but the more general use of a public office for personal gain is equally problematic. In that situation, politicians can ask for favors, compensation, or other benefits without agreeing to do anything in return. The implied agreement is that those providing the value to the politician can expect his or her help on their priorities in the future. -- Hubbard indictment hinges on one particular ethical question: opinion |

Contrast that with Kyle Whitmire's column: For instance, Hubbard faces 11 counts of soliciting a thing of value from a lobbyist or principal. (A principal is defined in the law as anyone who employs a lobbyist.) The elements the prosecution must prove are fairly straight forward. Is Hubbard a member of the Alabama Legislature? (Yes.) Did he ask for or receive anything of value from a lobbyist or principal? (If yes, then he's guilty.) -- Is Mike Hubbard going to jail in a gift basket? The consequences of legislate now, litigate later: opinion |

October 25, 2014

Hubbard may have been hoist on his own petard

Kyle Whitmire writes on When the Alabama Legislature passed the state ethics law in 2010, the newly elected Republican majority boasted that the state now had the toughest ethics laws in the nation. ...

Sometimes the consequences can land folks behind bars. Lawmakers rarely have to deal with those consequences themselves, and if some poor sap gets thrown in the pokey? Well, then they can brag they're tough on crime.

But this week it was one of the Legislature's own who fell in the gap.

Fifteen of the 23 counts against Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard are built on new ethics laws passed since 2010. -- Is Mike Hubbard going to jail in a gift basket? The consequences of legislate now, litigate later: opinion |

October 21, 2014

Speaker Hubbard indicted on 23 felony charges reports: Mike Hubbard, speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives and a powerful leader in the state Republican Party, has been indicted by a grand jury and charged with 23 counts, including using his office for personal gain and soliciting things of value.

Late Monday afternoon, Hubbard reported to the Lee County Jail where he was booked.

If convicted, Hubbard faces a maximum penalty of two to 20 years in prison and up to $30,000 in fines for each count. ...

The charges against Hubbard include 23 class B felonies. Those charges include:

Four counts of using of his office as Chairman of the Alabama Republican Party for personal gain;
One count of voting for legislation with a conflict of interest;
Eleven counts of soliciting or receiving a thing of value from a lobbyist or principal;
Two counts of using his office as a member of the Alabama House of Representatives for personal gain;
Four Counts of lobbying an executive department or agency for a fee;
One count of using state equipment, materials, etc. for private gain.
-- Alabama House Speaker Mike Hubbard indicted on 23 felony corruption charges by Lee County Grand Jury |

The indictment is available on Scribd.

October 15, 2014

"Moore Spending Campaign Cash for Legal Defense"

Alabama Political Reporter reports: Indicted lawmaker Rep. Barry Moore, R-Enterprise, is not only spending his campaign donations on his legal defense, he is also hiring "private-eyes" with other people's money.

Moores latest FCPA filing show that he raised $16,000, for the week ending October 10. All totaled, Moore had a beginning balance of $35,351.64. Of that amount he spent $27,157.31 on his legal defense. Moore is charged with two felony counts of making false statements and two felony counts of perjury, in relation to the Special Grand Jury probe into Speaker of the House Mike Hubbard. If convicted, Moore could face a maximum of 60 years in State prison.

But, not only did donors pony-up for lawyers at Baxley, Dillard, Mcknight & James and Motley, Motley & Yarbrough, they paid for the services of Dothan-based M & M Investigation. -- Moore Spending Campaign Cash for Legal Defense

September 5, 2014

Ala. Supreme Court denies Barry Moore's appeal reports: The Alabama Supreme Court today ruled against state Rep. Barry Moore in his effort to have his perjury case dismissed.

The decision was 8-0. The court did not release an opinion to accompany the decision.

Moore, a Republican from Enterprise, is accused of giving false testimony to a special grand jury in Lee County in January. ...

Moore sought dismissal of the case by claiming the prosecutors were not appointed legally and the indictment was improperly written. -- Alabama Supreme Court rules 8-0 against Rep. Barry Moore's move to dismiss case |

August 26, 2014

State drops prosecution of Barron and Johnson reports: The prosecution of former state Sen. Lowell Barron is over.

The Alabama Attorney General's office, which brought a six-count indictment against Barron in 2013, filed a motion Monday in DeKalb County Circuit Court to dismiss the charges.

Trial judge Randall Cole hasn't ruled on the motion filed late Monday afternoon yet but his approval is considered a formality.

Dropping the charges was not unexpected after the Alabama Supreme Court on Friday denied an appeal by the AG's office, upholding ruling by two lower courts on evidence that could be admitted at trial. Based on court documents filed by prosecutors, that decision left the state without a case against Barron. -- Alabama Attorney General's office drops criminal charges against Lowell Barron |

June 3, 2014

"Alabama Republicans offer $1,000 for information that leads to a felony voter-fraud conviction" reports: The Alabama Republican Party isn't just hoping that the state's first use of photo identifications will cut down on fraud at the polls on Tuesday.

They are going one step further and offering $1,000 for information that leads to a conviction for felony voter fraud, according to their Chairman's Corner newsletter.

The use of photo IDs is the first test at the polls tomorrow.

But many Republicans still suspect fraud could occur.

In fact, the Alabama Republican Party has set up a phone number to report fraud. It's 844-AL-FRAUD (844-253-7283). -- Alabama Republicans offer $1,000 for information that leads to a felony voter-fraud conviction |

May 15, 2014

AG says circuit court evidence ruling is fatal to case against former-Senator Lowell Barron

The Montgomery Advertiser reports: The attorney general's office said Wednesday that a trial judge's rulings are fatal to its criminal case against former state Sen. Lowell Barron if they are not reversed.

Attorney General Luther Strange's office filed papers with the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals encouraging it to consider rulings by Circuit Judge Randall Cole. The judge ruled last month that the prosecution couldn't present evidence about whether Barron and a former aide had a romantic relationship. The judge also rejected the attorney general's attempt to keep Barron from presenting evidence about what are ordinary campaign expenditures by candidates.

In the court papers Wednesday, the attorney general's office said, "These rulings, if not reversed, are fatal to the State's case." -- Alabama AG seeks appeals court help in Barron case

May 3, 2014

"Rep. Barry Moore asks for expedited hearing, says charges an attempt to 'undermine electoral process' " reports: State Rep. Barry Moore has asked the court for an expedited hearing in his criminal case and says the charges are an attempt to thwart his re-election bid.

Lawyers for Moore filed the motion on Thursday.

Also on Thursday, prosecutors filed a motion asking that the court set a hearing no sooner than May 19.

Moore, a Republican from Enterprise, was indicted by a special grand jury in Lee County on two counts each of perjury and giving false statements. He has denied wrongdoing, and on Wednesday filed a motion to dismiss the charges.

Thursday's three-page motion says the indictment "is being used, by design, to undermine the electoral process in Coffee County, Alabama." -- Rep. Barry Moore asks for expedited hearing, says charges an attempt to 'undermine electoral process' |

May 2, 2014

Criminal Appeals Court may dismiss State's pretrial appeal of evidence rulings in Lowell Barron case reports: The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals today signaled an intention to reject an appeal by prosecutors in its criminal case against former state Sen. Lowell Barron.

The appeals court, in its order issued today, said the appeal "is due to be dismissed because the Appellant is attempting to appeal from a nonappealable order." The court gave prosecutors from the state Attorney General's office 14 days to "show cause why this appeal should not be dismissed." ...

Prosecutors cited three points in its appeal:

  • [DeKalb County Circuit Judge Randall] Cole said comments Johnson regarding a romantic relationship with Barron to a reporter of a Montgomery-based blog could not be introduced at trial, which is an element of motive.

  • Cole said prosecutors cannot introduce evidence of a romantic relationship between Barron and Johnson, which the state said would be a demonstration of motive and intent.

  • Cole said Barron can provide testimony and evidence from other politicians to discuss how campaign funds are spent, ruling against a motion filed by the state. -- Lowell Barron gains apparent victory as appeals court indicates prosecution's appeal may be dismissed |

  • April 6, 2014

    "Is the AEA behind attack mailers against Sen. Bill Holtzclaw?"

    Dale Jackson, a radio talk-show host, has a disjointed attacked beginning with: The Alabama Foundation for Limited Government is not a conservative group...

    Anytime a brand new political group pops up out of nowhere with an absurd amount of money, people should be concerned and careful about what they believe.

    As with most of these groups, we will find out who is behind this later but we already know it’s the AEA. -- Is the AEA behind attack mailers against Sen. Bill Holtzclaw? | Disclaimer: I do legal work for the AEA.

    (Read the comments following this initial rant. There is a lively discussion about the true source of these ads.)

    April 24, 2013

    Former Sen. Lowell Barron arrested for campaign-finance violations reports: Former state senator Lowell Ray Barron, for years a legislative powerhouse in Montgomery, has been indicted on charges of violating the state's ethics and campaign finance laws, the attorney general's office announced. ...

    Former campaign staffer, Rhonda Jill Johnson, was also arrested.

    Attorney General Luther Strange's Special Prosecutions Division presented evidence to a DeKalb County grand jury, resulting in the indictment of Barron and Johnson on April 19.

    Barron and Johnson face six total counts of Ethics Law violations and violations of the Fair Campaign Practices Act. -- Read the whole story --> Former state senator Lowell Barron indicted on campaign finance, ethics charges |

    A press release from the AG's office describes the charges:

    Count 1 charges Lowell Barron and Jill Johnson with violating State Ethics law by converting a $2,000 check written on the Barron for Senate campaign account to Jill Johnson, to personal use;

    Count 2 charges Barron and Johnson with violating State Ethics law by converting a $50,000 check written on the Barron for Senate campaign account to Jill Johnson, to personal use;

    Count 3 charges Barron and Johnson with violating the Fair Campaign Practices Act for improper use of excess campaign contributions for a $2,000 check written on the Barron for Senate campaign account, to Jill Johnson for non-campaign purposes;

    Count 4 charges Barron and Johnson with violating the Fair Campaign Practices Act for improper use of excess campaign contributions for a $50,000 check written on the Barron for Senate campaign account, to Jill Johnson for non-campaign purposes;

    Count 5 charges Barron and Johnson with violating the Fair Campaign Practices Act for improperly transferring campaign property, a 2007 Toyota Camry, to Jill Johnson for non-campaign purposes; and

    Count 6 charges Barron and Johnson with violating the Fair Campaign Practices Act for improper use of excess campaign contributions for a $6,000 check written on the Barron for Senate campaign account, to Jill Johnson for non-campaign purposes.

    August 15, 2012

    Worley still awaiting trial

    The Montgomery Advertiser reports: More than five years have passed since a grand jury indicted former Secretary of State Nancy Worley, and she's still waiting to find out when she will be tried and on what charges.

    The prominent Democrat could face simple misdemeanor charges or more serious felony charges over her 2006 re-election campaign. The decision is up to the all-Republican Alabama Supreme Court. ...

    The case stems from Worley’s unsuccessful re-election campaign in 2006. During the campaign, she sent five employees in the secretary of state’s office a campaign letter, campaign contribution envelope and bumper sticker.

    In March 2007, then-Attorney General Troy King got a Montgomery County grand jury to indict her on five felonies and five misdemeanors. The five felonies accused her of violating state law by using her official position to influence the vote of another person. The five misdemeanor charges accused her of violating a state law against public officials seeking campaign donations from their public employees. -- Read the whole story --> Worley still waiting for trial: Former Alabama Secretary of State was indicted in 2007 | The Montgomery Advertiser |

    July 27, 2012

    Judge Thompson explains why he instructed the jury in the U.S. v. McGregor case

    The Mobile Pres-Register ( reports: The federal judge who presided over the State House vote-buying case said the U.S. Supreme Court needs to address the line between a campaign contribution and an illegal bribe.

    U.S. District Myron Thompson issued an opinion this week noting that there had been "considerable confusion" over exactly what the law requires. Thompson also included his jury instructions during the trial, which showed how he interpreted the issue.

    "The court hopes that its jury instructions and this opinion have helped clarify the case law. Ultimately, the Supreme Court needs to address this issue and provide guidance to lower courts, prosecutors, politicians, donors, and the general public," Thompson wrote

    The difference between donations and bribes has been at the center of two of the state's high-profile public corruption cases. -- Read the whole story --> Federal judge says Supreme Court should clarify bribe/donation line |

    June 3, 2012

    Supreme Court could announce its decision to hear Siegelman case Monday

    The Birmingham News reports: The U.S. Supreme Court might decide as early as Monday whether to accept or reject former Gov. Don Siegelman's request that the justices hear his appeal.

    If they accept, Siegelman and his at­torneys could be standing before the justices later this year arguing that prosecutors incorrectly twisted a regu­lar political contribution into a bribery scheme, posing a criminal threat to all elected officials and their donors.

    If they deny, Siegelman is likely headed back to court in Alabama, where his re-sentencing has been de­layed while his appeal has been pend­ing.

    Siegelman's request, along with one by HealthSouth found Richard Scru­shy, was reviewed by the justices Thursday, according to the court's re­cord, which means Monday is the ear­liest possible day for them to an­nounce whether they want to hear the case. Either way, the outcome could have a far-reaching impact on how public corruption is investigated and prosecuted across the country. -- Read the whole article --> US Supreme Court might accept or reject ex-Gov. Don Siegelman's appeal as early as Monday |

    May 24, 2012

    Bachus defense fund not paying out any funds

    The Birmingham News reports: U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus was cleared in an ethics probe of his personal finances, but his new legal defense fund has yet to show any activity.

    Bachus, R-Vestavia Hills, created the fund Feb. 14, just days after it was revealed that he was under investigation for allegations of insider trading.

    The funds are a common option for members who are facing such charges, and they are used to raise money to pay legal bills associated with their roles as a member of Congress. A quarterly report that Bachus recently filed with the Clerk of the House of Representatives said the fund did not raise or spend any money through March 31. He was cleared by the Office of Congressional Ethics one month later.

    Bachus already paid some legal bills affiliated with the probe by the Office of Congressional Ethics. Reports filed with the Federal Election Commission show Bachus used his campaign account to pay $22,000 in legal fees to a lawyer in December, and another $250,000 for work in February and March. -- Read the whole story --> U.S. Representative Spencer Bachus legal defense fund shows no activity |

    March 19, 2012

    Alabama gets a C- on state integrity

    The Center for Public Integrity reports:
    For years the world has witnessed Alabama through a bleak lens:

    Alabama named worst governed state in America. ... Ex-governor guilty of bribery. ... Casino owner bribes legislator to get his vote for legalized gambling.

    And, the unkindest headline of all: Alabama's new immigration law revives memories of water hoses and dogs used against civil rights marchers.

    But now, led by a reform minded governor and legislature and buoyed by a spate of legislative reforms, Alabama has taken strides to shed its past. The state has approved new investigative subpoena powers for its Ethics Commission, limited spending by lobbyists and pushed to make financial disclosure and other information more easily searchable online.

    Yet ethics reform in this state of 4.8 million residents remains a work in progress. And so Alabama receives a letter grade of C- and a numerical score of 72 from the State Integrity Investigation, ranking it 15th among the states. Not the bottom of the rung rating of the earlier headlines, but not yet near the top, either.

    The study evaluated factors ranging from the public's access to information to political financing rules to ethics enforcement. -- Read the whole story --> Alabama: The story behind the score - State Integrity Investigation

    March 11, 2012

    "Alabama public corruption trials focus on bribes vs. donations"

    The Birmingham News reports: Campaign contributions are the lifeblood of politics. But when exactly does a campaign contribution be­come a bribe? That's been a central question in the state's last two major public corruption trials as prosecutors ac­cused public officials of swapping donations for offi­cial actions. Defense law­yers say the line is fuzzy be­tween what is legal and what is not and say they hope the U.S. Supreme Court will review the bribery conviction of former Gov. Don Siegelman and offer up some clarity.

    But others say that, if the line is drawn too tightly, then it would be nearly im­possible to prosecute poli­ticians for trading official actions for donations. ...

    The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, in upholding Sie­gelman's conviction on the bribery charge, found that, while there has to be an ex­plicit agreement to swap money and action, it doesn't have to be verbalized. Jurors are free to interpret the ac­tions of defendants in deter­mining whether there was a corrupt deal, the court ruled.

    Siegelman's lawyers have argued that loose standards and lack of clarity from the courts are dangerous and could lead to overzealous prosecutions. -- Read the whole story --> Alabama public corruption trials focus on bribes vs. donations |

    March 2, 2012

    Amicus briefs supporting Siegelman cert petition filed

    Rick Hasen comments on and links to two important "friend of the court" briefs filed in the Siegelman case in the U.S. Supreme Court. See Powerful Amicus Briefs Supporting Cert. in Siegelman Case | Election Law Blog.

    February 13, 2012

    "Is it bribery or just politics?"

    George Will writes in the Washington Post: 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. ...

    But if bribery can be discerned in a somehow implicit connection between a contribution and an official action, prosecutorial discretion will be vast. And there will be the political temptation to ascribe unspoken but criminal mental states to elected officials. The Supreme Court can circumscribe this dangerous discretion by affirming the principle that the quid pro quo standard for bribery requires proof, not a mere inference, of an actual communication. In the law’s current, contradictory condition, the line is blurry between the exercise of constitutional rights and the commission of a crime.

    Politics in a democracy is transactional. Candidates routinely solicit the support of interest groups, from unions to business organizations to environmental and other advocacy factions. (“If you vote for me, I will do X for you.”) And many such groups solicit the solicitousness of candidates. (“If we support you, will you do Y for us?”)

    It is not uncommon for wealthy individuals to support presidential candidates lavishly, if not for the purpose of becoming ambassadors, then with the hope that the president-elect will show gratitude for their generosity. The Washington Post of Jan. 19, 2011, reported (“Embassy openings for open wallets”) that President Obama’s political appointees, as opposed to career diplomats, had received 30.05 percent of ambassadorial posts, just below the 30.47 average of the previous five presidents. -- Read the whole column--> Is it bribery or just politics? - The Washington Post

    February 2, 2012

    Siegelman files petition in US Supreme Court (with court docs)

    The Birmingham News reports: Former Gov. Don Siegelman today asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review his 2006 conviction in a government corruption case arguing that there was insufficient evidence to convict him of bribery.

    The petition was filed with the high court today, according to Siegelman lawyer Sam Heldman.

    "By granting review, this court would have the opportunity to right an injustice, to exonerate a man who has committed no crime, and to clarify the law in a manner that will be important to all candidates, elected officials, and politically engaged citizens," Siegelman's lawyers wrote in the petition.

    A federal jury in 2006 convicted Siegelman and HealthSouth founder Richard Scrushy of federal funds bribery on accusations that Siegelman sold a seat on a hospital regulatory board to Scrushy for $500,000 in donations to Siegelman's 1999 lottery campaign.

    A key question before the court, Siegelman's lawyers wrote is what is the legal line between campaign contribution and bribe. -- Read the whole story -->Former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman asks Supreme Court to review conviction |

    Update - The petition was docketed Feb 3 as No. 11-955.

    A copy of the certiorari petition is available below:
    Siegelman v. USA Cert Pet

    January 27, 2012

    Former judge barred for life from the bench

    The Montgomery Advertiser reports: Former Montgomery County family court Judge Patricia Warner and the Judicial Inquiry Commission filed an agreement Friday that forbids Warner from ever serving as a judge in Alabama again.

    Warner has lived in North Dakota since abruptly retiring from the bench last June, a few days before the state Judicial Inquiry Commission brought an ethics complaint against her.

    Under the terms of the agreement, the Alabama Court of Judiciary found that Warner created "the appearance of impropriety" by not recusing herself in a timely manner from a custody case. -- Read the whole story --> Patricia Warner banned from serving as Alabama judge | The Montgomery Advertiser |

    September 4, 2011

    Sen. Ross' "Friends" raising $1.25M to pay his legal fees

    Ross expects more than $1.2M in legal fees | The Montgomery Advertiser |
    The Montgomery Advertiser reports: Although Quinton Ross was found not guilty of the 16 charges against him, the state senator ex­pects to owe more than $1.25 mil­lion in attorney fees and other ex­penses from the federal corruption trial that ended Aug. 11.

    "There's no price that you can put on freedom," said Ross, the Montgomery Democrat. "We thank God for being with us."

    The Friends of Quinton T. Ross Jr., Legal Defense Fund and Trust recently sent a letter, one of which was obtained by the Montgomery Advertiser, outlining the "unwar­ranted prosecution" and the cost to Ross and his family.

    The trustees for the fund re­quested "your contribution of $15,000 or not less than $7,500."
    -- Read the whole story -->

    August 1, 2011

    "Alabama bingo trial: Focus put on vote vs. bribe"

    The Birmingham News reports: The vote-buying trial that could be nearing an end in federal court here has cast a spotlight on the line between supporting state lawmakers with campaign contributions and bribing them, say lawmakers outside the trial and others.

    They said the trial has raised the question of whether some lawmakers crossed the line into bribery by promising to vote for a gambling bill in return for contributions, and whether others crossed the line by offering contributions in return for a vote for the bill.

    Two state senators, two former state senators, VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor, two lobbyists and two other people have been on trial since June, accused of bribery and conspiracy to commit bribery in connection with gambling legislation debated in the Legislature last year.

    Prosecutors and defense attorneys rested their cases last week. Closing arguments are expected Wednesday.

    Observers say the trial has provided yet more proof that politicians actively seek campaign contributions to buy the TV ads and other tools that build name recognition and improve election chances. -- Read the whole story --> Alabama bingo trial: Focus put on vote vs. bribe |

    June 29, 2011

    Campaigning, country music and ... bingo

    The Montgomery Advertiser reports: Country Crossing developer Ronnie Gilley said Monday he offered to pay for high-priced campaign events featuring top country music talent like Alan Jackson and Reba McEntire that could raise $500,000 if the state senators he reached out to supported legislation that would help casinos in the state. One of those senators, Wendell Mitchell, was ill, but Gilley pushed a campaign consultant to get him to the Senate that day for a vote.

    Gilley also said, on conversations secretly recorded by the FBI, that he was using country stars Randy Owen of Alabama and Jamey Johnson to call senators and push them to vote for the pro-gambling legislation. Owen, who Gilley said was like an ambassador for the project, is a potential witness in the case.

    Prosecutors also, in the ongoing federal corruption trial, played a secretly recorded conversation in which a lobbyist for Gilley said Sen. Larry Means is shaking them down and wants $100,000 for his vote.

    Means, a former Democratic state senator from Attalla, is one of nine defendants in the federal corruption case that accuses gambling interests of bribing state legislators to support pro-gambling legislation.
    -- Read the whole story --> Gilley says he offered campaign events featuring country musicians | The Montgomery Advertiser |

    June 21, 2011

    Former Montgomery judge indicted on 74 charges

    The Montgomery Advertiser reports: Just days after Patricia Warner suddenly stepped down as a family court judge, the Alabama Court of the Judiciary issued a 74-charge complaint that accused her of taking thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from gambling interests and then deciding questionably in a child custody case involving VictoryLand casino owner Milton McGregor's daughter.

    The complaint also mentioned that 27 of 29 of her cases that were appealed were reversed.

    Much of the complaint involved the case of McGregor's daughter in which Warner refused to recuse herself even after the Judicial Inquiry Commission advised her that she should do so for cases in which someone involved in the case has filed a complaint against a judge, and even after she recused herself in other cases where someone filed a complaint against her.

    During Warner's re-election campaign last year, the judge accepted $20,750 in campaign contributions from political action committees that were controlled by John Crawford, who is a lobbyist for McGregor and the father of Warner's staff attorney, according to the complaint. These contributions amounted to more than half of Warner's total campaign contributions last year. -- Read the whole article --> Warner accused in 74-charge complaint | The Montgomery Advertiser |

    "Alabama legislator testifies in bingo trial that Milton McGregor tried to buy his vote"

    The Birmingham News reports: Rep. Barry Mask, R-Wetumpka, testified today that VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor tried to buy his vote for a gambling bill when he promised Mask "significant help" if he voted for the bill.

    But Mask conceded on cross-examination that he was the one who first mentioned his upcoming fundraiser during a conversation with McGregor. He also said the Poarch Creek Indian casino in his district likely benefited from the failure of the gambling bill. ...

    Mask also conceded on cross-examination by McGregor lawyer Joe Espy that he first mentioned fundraising in the conversation with McGregor. Mask testified that before McGregor called he had told a bill supporter that his chief concern was that the gambling bill being considered didn't ban gaming interests from making political contributions. -- Read the whole story --> Alabama legislator testifies in bingo trial that Milton McGregor tried to buy his vote |

    June 14, 2011

    First day of testimony in bingo corruption trial

    The Birmingham News reports: VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor told a state senator last year that he would never regret it if he voted for a gambling bill because McGregor had a habit of supporting friends.

    The comment was caught on a recording that Sen. Scott Beason, R-Gardendale, made as casino owners courted his vote for a gambling bill and that was played Monday to jurors in the State House vote-buying case.

    Beason testified Monday that he believed casino interests were offering to buy his vote. He also said Sen. Harri Anne Smith, I-Slocomb, assured him in an earlier conversation that gambling interests would give him $500,000 for a statewide race.

    "You need some new friends ... and we've got a bad habit of supporting our friends," McGregor tells Beason in one of the recordings played in court.

    McGregor and eight others are on trial on charges of buying and selling votes on a gambling bill in 2010. They are accused of offering legislators campaign contributions, a job and re-election assistance in exchange for yes votes on the legislation. -- Read the whole story --> McGregor on tape in the Alabama bingo trial: 'We don't forget our friends' |

    June 11, 2011

    Bribes or campaign contributions: federal jury to decide in Montgomery

    The Birmingham News reports: VictoryLand owner Milton McGregor is a wealthy man, but he got greedy and bribed state legislators in the hopes of making hundreds of millions more dollars for himself, a federal prosecutor told jurors Friday.

    Justin V. Shur told jurors in opening statements of the highly anticipated corruption trial that McGregor and the other defendants bought and sold State House votes in exchange for campaign contributions and business opportunities. ...

    Prosecutors and defense lawyers in their opening statements painted contrasting pictures of the defendants and campaign contributions at the heart of the case.

    The defendants alternately were described as greedy criminals and honest, upstanding business people. What prosecutors told jurors were bribes and conspiracy, defense lawyers described as legal campaign contributions and legitimate political maneuvering. -- Read the whole story --> Alabama bingo trial revolves around greed, US says |

    May 28, 2011

    Charges reinstated against former Ala. Sec of State

    The Montgomery Advertiser reports: A state appeals court reinstated five felony charges Friday against former Secretary of State Nancy Worley for a second time.

    The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals issued a 4-0 ruling that said prosecutors presented enough evidence for the charges to stand against the former Democratic officeholder.

    The decision means Worley's four-year legal battle is far from over. Her attorney, James Anderson, said he would ask the court to reconsider, and if it doesn't, she would appeal to the state Supreme Court for a second time.

    The charges stem from a campaign letter, contribution envelope and bumper sticker that Worley sent to five employees in the secretary of state's office during her unsuccessful race for re-election in 2006. -- Read the whole story --> Court reinstates charges against Worley | The Montgomery Advertiser |

    May 11, 2011

    Alabama: 2 counts against Siegelman and Schrushy

    The Birmingham News reports: A lawyer for former Gov. Don Siegelman said the governor will appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court if needed following the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals' decision today upholding most of his conviction in a government corruption case.

    The 11th Circuit after reviewing the case for a second time upheld five of the counts against Siegelman and four against former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy. ...

    Among other problems, defense lawyers argued prosecutors could not show the two men had a conversation or other direct communication in which they agreed to swap the appointment for the money.

    Without requiring such direct proof, prosecutors are free to infer a bribery situation anytime a donor receives some favorable action, Heldman said,

    "I continue to think they are wrong about where the line is drawn between campaign contributions and crimes. I believe they've set a standard that, if applied to everyone, would mean our jails would be overflowing," Heldman said.

    The judges said they found no reversible error on that point. -- Read the whole story --> Former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman may ask Supreme Court to review case, attorney says |

    May 6, 2011

    Alabama: district judge hopes for speedy Siegelman decision

    AP reports that Judge Myron Thompson wants a decision in the Siegelman case, so he can rule on the gambling-bribery trial issues. -- Read the whole story --> Judge: Issue in gambling probe same as Siegelman |

    Alabama: is it a bribe or a campaign contribution

    The Birmingham News reports: Prosecutors and defense lawyers in the bingo vote buying case today tangled over where the line is between a legal campaign contribution and an illegal bribe.

    Defense lawyers asked U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson to dismiss federal funds bribery charges against the defendants in the case. Prosecutors have alleged that casino owners used campaign contributions and other things of value to bribe legislators for yes votes on a gambling bill before them last year.

    Sam Heldman, a lawyer representing Victoryland owner Milton McGregor, told Thompson that, for a campaign contribution to be a bribe, prosecutors should have to prove there was an explicit agreement between the donor and the politician that the politician agreed to take some official action in exchange for the money.

    Otherwise, Heldman said, courts run the risk of criminalizing the normal political activity of accepting campaign donations.
    -- Read the whole story --> Defense lawyers in bingo case ask judge to dismiss charges |

    March 17, 2011

    Wilcox County, Alabama: vote-buying charge

    WSFA-TV reports: The Chairman of the Wilcox County Board of Education has been indicted by a grand jury on the charge of vote buying.

    According to District Attorney Michael Jackson, Clifford "Don" Twilley, the Chairman of the Wilcox County Board of Education was indicted by a Wilcox County Grand Jury for vote buying. ...

    The charge stems from an investigation into Twilley's conduct in the June 2010 elections in Wilcox County. -- Read the whole story --> Board of Ed. Chairman indicted for Vote Buying | Crime | Wilcox County News

    November 23, 2010

    Alabama: Iron Bowl tickets as an ethics problem

    The Birmingham News reports: Jim Metrock pulled out a binder. Inside was page after page of contact information for members of the Alabama Legislature, with symbols and codes that only he can decipher. This is how he tracks which legislators plan to accept free tickets to Friday's Iron Bowl. ...

    Legislators get free tickets to other events. But because it was the Iron Bowl, Metrock saw an issue he could use to promote ethics reform.

    Iron Bowl tickets have a face value of $65. StubHub, an online ticket site, reports its average Iron Bowl ticket on the open market is selling for $394, up from $248 a year ago. ...

    Metrock wrote to nearly every legislator and candidate, asking them not to accept free tickets and a parking pass from the University of Alabama. He wrote several times to Alabama, asking it to change its policy. He wrote to and met with the Alabama Ethics Commission, asking members to change their interpretation of the law. -- Read the whole story --> Iron Bowl 75: Crusader Jim Metrock seeks to end free-ticket tradition for Alabama Legislature |

    Alabama: defense funds for indicted senators

    The Montgomery Advertiser reports: Legal defense funds are be­ing established to help defray the legal costs of two state sena­tors indicted for allegedly par­ticipating in a vote-buying scheme in the Alabama Legisla­ture.

    Supporters have already es­tablished a legal defense fund for state Sen. Quinton Ross of Montgomery, and one is in the works for state Sen. Harri Anne Smith of Slocomb.

    Both Ross and Smith were two of the 11 people indicted in an alleged scheme to buy votes in support of a bill that would have allowed Alabama voters to decide whether to legalize electronic bingo. ...

    A group of people calling themselves the "Friends of Sen­ator Quinton T. Ross Jr." estab­lished a defense fund for Ross, but wanted it to be clear that he will in no way be the person so­liciting funds. He does serve on the advisory committee for the fund, according to the its web­site -- Read the whole story --> Defense funds being set up for Ross, Smith | | Montgomery Advertiser

    October 11, 2010

    Alabama: Senators can use campaign funds for criminal defense

    The Gadsden Times reports: The four senators who were indicted in the bingo bribery case can use their campaign money to pay their lawyers.

    An attorney general’s advisory opinion from 2000 said that excess campaign funds may be used by an incumbent office holder to pay legal fees incurred pursuant to the defense of a criminal indictment if the indictment is related to the office holder’s duties.

    Federal prosecutors last week alleged that 11 people, including four senators, solicited or offered bribes in exchange for votes or action on bingo legislation in the 2010 session. ...

    The question is if Means or Smith lose their reelection bids on Nov. 2, can they still use their campaign funds? Same for Preuitt, who is retiring from politics and no longer will be a legislator as of 12:01 a.m. on Nov. 3.

    Attorney general spokesman Chris Bence said the office hasn’t been asked if they can use their money if they no longer are state senators. Read the whole story --> Indicted senators can use campaign money for legal bills |

    September 11, 2010

    Alabama: former Sec of State wins in Ala Supreme Court

    The Huntsville Times reports: The state Supreme Court today handed former Secretary of State Nancy Worley a victory in her battle to overturn five felony charges that accuse her of using her office to influence the votes of five employees in her office in 2006.

    The high court said the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals erred in not reviewing the evidence under the same conditions that Montgomery County Circuit Judge Truman M. Hobbs Jr., did when he threw out the charges. ...

    The felony charges against Worley stemmed from a law that forbids a public official from using his or her authority or position to try to influence the vote or political action of anyone.

    The charges against Worley grew out of campaign letters, campaign contribution envelopes and bumper stickers sent to the five workers.

    In her letter -- on campaign stationery -- Worley wrote, "I will be honored if you will attach the enclosed bumper sticker to your vehicle's bumper or rear window." She also wrote that "if you chose to support another candidate, you have every right to make that decision without any problems from me." Read the whole story --> Ex-secretary of state Nancy Worley wins victory in state Supreme Court ruling |

    October 8, 2009

    Alabama: S. Ala. candidate claims fraud in his primary loss

    The Mobile Press-Register reports: A candidate for the state House of Representatives who lost a primary election last month by margin of 80 percent to 20 percent has asked officials to investigate what he contends was a conspiracy to steal the election.

    Ozelle Hubert sent letters alleging election fraud to everyone from Clarke County's probate judge to the president of the United States. ...

    Primary voters were intimidated and denied the right to vote, while community leaders were offered bribes to support Beech, Hubert alleges. -- Read the whole story --> Defeated primary candidate claims election fraud -

    May 6, 2009

    Alabama: ethics charges against Hale County judge arising from election investigation

    The Tuscaloosa News reports: A Hale County circuit judge has been accused by the state's Judicial Inquiry Commission of ethical violations over how he handled a voter fraud investigation involving three of his relatives.

    The complaint handed down by the commission alleges that Judge Marvin W. Wiggins violated seven of the Alabama Canons of Judicial Ethics in failing to recuse himself 'in a timely manner' once the Alabama Attorney General's Office requested that he do so. ...

    The allegations against Wiggins date to his involvement with the December 2006 empaneling of a grand jury that the attorney general's office requested for its voter fraud investigation.

    During that investigation, the attorney general's office investigated three of Wiggins' relatives: Wiggins' sister Gay Nell Tinker, who served as Hale County Circuit Clerk from 2001 to 2007; state Sen. Bobby Singleton, who was married to Tinker at the time and was Wiggins' brother-in-law; and Wiggins' cousin, Carrie Reaves.

    The state's voter fraud investigation eventually resulted in the August 2007 indictments of Valada Paige-Banks and Rosie Lyles for their alleged criminal involvement in two 2004 elections.

    Tinker was indicted in March 2008 on 13 felony offenses pertaining to voter fraud. -- Judge accused of ethical violations | | The Tuscaloosa News | Tuscaloosa, AL

    Note: The complaint is available from the Alabama Court of the Judiciary website.

    February 25, 2009

    House to take up proposal for study of earmarks and contributions

    Peter Overby reports on Morning Edition: On Wednesday, the House is scheduled to take up a spending package that covers most of the government and is loaded with earmarks, special provisions targeting money for particular projects, places or companies in members' districts. At the same time, lawmakers also will consider a resolution on investigating the links between earmarks and campaign contributions.

    The ethics resolution comes from Arizona Republican Jeff Flake, who has become one of the chamber's most ardent critics of earmarks. "This is not a partisan resolution because this is not a partisan issue. I would implore my colleagues not to treat it as such," he said. -- House Lawmakers Ponder Pork And Campaign Cash : NPR

    October 20, 2008

    RFK Jr: GOP "fixed" the 2004 election

    Robert F. Kennedy Jr. writes in Rolling Stone: But despite the media blackout, indications continued to emerge that something deeply troubling had taken place in 2004. Nearly half of the 6 million American voters living abroad3 never received their ballots — or received them too late to vote4 — after the Pentagon unaccountably shut down a state-of-the-art Web site used to file overseas registrations5. A consulting firm called Sproul & Associates, which was hired by the Republican National Committee to register voters in six battleground states6, was discovered shredding Democratic registrations7. In New Mexico, which was decided by 5,988 votes8, malfunctioning machines mysteriously failed to properly register a presidential vote on more than 20,000 ballots9. Nationwide, according to the federal commission charged with implementing election reforms, as many as 1 million ballots were spoiled by faulty voting equipment — roughly one for every 100 cast10.

    The reports were especially disturbing in Ohio, the critical battleground state that clinched Bush's victory in the electoral college. Officials there purged tens of thousands of eligible voters from the rolls, neglected to process registration cards generated by Democratic voter drives, shortchanged Democratic precincts when they allocated voting machines and illegally derailed a recount that could have given Kerry the presidency. A precinct in an evangelical church in Miami County recorded an impossibly high turnout of ninety-eight percent, while a polling place in inner-city Cleveland recorded an equally impossible turnout of only seven percent. In Warren County, GOP election officials even invented a nonexistent terrorist threat to bar the media from monitoring the official vote count11.

    Any election, of course, will have anomalies. America's voting system is a messy patchwork of polling rules run mostly by county and city officials. "We didn't have one election for president in 2004," says Robert Pastor, who directs the Center for Democracy and Election Management at American University. "We didn't have fifty elections. We actually had 13,000 elections run by 13,000 independent, quasi-sovereign counties and municipalities."

    But what is most anomalous about the irregularities in 2004 was their decidedly partisan bent: Almost without exception they hurt John Kerry and benefited George Bush. After carefully examining the evidence, I've become convinced that the president's party mounted a massive, coordinated campaign to subvert the will of the people in 2004. Across the country, Republican election officials and party stalwarts employed a wide range of illegal and unethical tactics to fix the election. A review of the available data reveals that in Ohio alone, at least 357,000 voters, the overwhelming majority of them Democratic, were prevented from casting ballots or did not have their votes counted in 200412 — more than enough to shift the results of an election decided by 118,601 votes13. -- Was the 2004 Election Stolen?

    September 29, 2008

    Report on removal of US Attorneys

    The Department of Justice's Office of Inspector General has released the report on the firing of the U.S. Attorneys. Of interest to election lawyers will be the following:

    Page 176 (all page references are to the PDF pagination) begins a section on "Iglesias’s handling of voter fraud and public corruption matters, which we concluded was the real reason Iglesias was removed as U.S. Attorney [for New Mexico]." There is also a timeline on page 166.

    Page 273 begins a section on the Washington State gubernatorial election and complaint's about McKay's handling of voter-fraud cases. The timeline is on page 267.

    The report is on the DOJ website.

    August 29, 2008

    Alaska: "Senate might have final say if Stevens convicted"

    An AP report begins: U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens' political fate could be up to his colleagues if a jury decides the Senate's longest-serving Republican has violated the law.

    Stevens is to go on trial after being accused of failing to disclose more than $250,000 in home renovations and gifts from executives at oil services contractor VECO Corp. Stevens has pleaded not guilty.

    If Stevens is convicted in his federal trial next month, his name will still appear as the Republican candidate for Senate on Alaska's November election ballot.

    And if the 84-year-old Stevens then wins his seventh full term and refuses to resign, it could fall to his colleagues to decide whether he should be expelled. -- Senate might have final say if Stevens convicted - Yahoo! News

    July 20, 2008

    Pennsylvania: email will be part of the proof in 'bonusgate' prosecution

    The Morning Call reports: The year 2004 was a busy one for state lawmakers: a budget showdown, of course. But also passage of a law allowing slots casinos. And a short but intense fall session capping the two-year legislative cycle.

    That November Mike Manzo, the top aide to the top House Democrat, e-mailed to the No. 2 man a ''comprehensive list of suggested year-end bonuses.'' In it Manzo referred not just to the legislative agenda, but also ''outside activities'' that include special elections, a general election and a ''Nader effort.'' ...

    Now the party's over: Attorney General Tom Corbett recently charged Manzo, Veon and 10 others with theft, conspiracy and conflict of interest in a burgeoning scandal known as Bonusgate. They're accused of using tax dollars for campaign work, which is illegal. Among their targets: Getting Independent Ralph Nader off the 2004 presidential ballot in Pennsylvania.

    To help make the Bonusgate case, Corbett's agents combed through thousands of e-mails between staffers, lawmakers and others within the legislative branch. -- Capitol scandal has e-mail trail

    It just goes to prove the aphorism quoted by a friend of mine: "Never speak if you can nod. Never nod if you can wink. And wink as little as possible."

    July 13, 2008

    Pennsylvania: 12 pols and staffers charged in "Bonusgate" arrests, some for work on anti-Nader case

    The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports: Grand jurors here [Harrisburg] and in Pittsburgh cataloged what they described as a culture of corruption that allowed former state Rep. Michael Veon, current Rep. Sean Ramaley and 10 current and former Democratic staffers to divert millions of dollars in state resources, including more than $1 million in illegal pay bonuses.

    The jurors said Mr. Veon and the staff members conspired to arrange hefty year-end pay bonuses to House employees who worked on political campaigns over a three-year period, while Mr. Ramaley is accused of working full-time on his 2004 House campaign in Beaver County while drawing a taxpayer salary as a member of Mr. Veon's staff.

    The findings ran from the political to the salacious.

    It found that tax money was used to bump third-party candidates Ralph Nader and Carl Romanelli from the Pennsylvania ballot in 2004 and 2006. Grand jurors said state money was used to provide a no-work job to a high-ranking House aide's mistress. -- 12 face charges in bonus scandal

    Lancaster Online reports: The Harrisburg Patriot-News previously reported that all four legislative caucuses paid nearly $4 million in bonuses to state employees over the last few years. The grand jury investigating the allegations, dubbed Bonusgate, found that House Democrats paid the most — $1.2 million in bonuses for campaign activities from 2004 to 2006. ...

    According to the grand jury, Paul Resch, of Columbia, Darlene Zerbe, of Lancaster and Jonathan Price, of Clay Township, were among at least 36 caucus employees who worked to challenge independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader's nominating petitions in 2004. The three local Democrats were not charged.

    Democratic challenges resulted in Nader being knocked off the ballot, giving Democratic nominee John Kerry a better chance at winning the state that year. The grand jury report says none of the supervisors of a "veritable army of caucus staffers" ever asked the workers to take unpaid leave, and that the bulk of the research was done in the Capitol complex and in Veon's Beaver Falls district office.

    The grand jury said Resch and Zerbe received unspecified bonuses for the Nader work; Price did not. Elsewhere in the report, the grand jury says Price, a Clay Township supervisor, was one of about 17 caucus employees assigned to work against state Senate candidate Mike Diven, a "thorn in the side" of Veon, in a 2005 special election in Allegheny County. -- Scandal touches 3 other Demos

    July 4, 2008

    Alaska: Rep. Young spending big bucks on lawyers

    AP reports: With an election-year corruption investigation looming, Rep. Don Young has tapped his campaign war chest to pay not only his own million-dollar legal tab but also to hire lawyers for his campaign manager, who is also under FBI scrutiny.

    The Alaska Republican spent more than $35,000 between October 2007 and April on lawyers for longtime campaign manager Steven Dougherty. That's more than Dougherty himself made during that period and nearly as much as the campaign spent on political polling, according to campaign finance reports.

    The payments, which are legal under federal law as long as they are associated with the candidate's official duties, are another indication of how the FBI investigation has become a drag on the congressman. Instead of coasting to a 19th term, Young is shelling out money to pay his bills and Dougherty's even as he faces a well-funded opponent in August's Republican primary. ...

    Dougherty has worked for Young's campaigns since 1996 and became campaign manager in 2000. Employers may pay legal bills for their employees during criminal investigations as long as there aren't competing interests — if Dougherty wanted to cooperate with authorities investigating his boss, for instance. -- Rep. Young taps campaign

    June 6, 2008

    Alabama: AG seizes voting records in Perry Co.

    The Birmingham News reports: The Alabama attorney general s office has seized Perry County voting records related to Tuesday s election.

    Attorney General Troy King said in a press release that the action was taken because of allegations of improprieties in Tuesday s election.

    Subpoenas served on Circuit Clerk Mary Cosby Moore, Sheriff James Hood and Probate Judge Eldora Anderson sought any and all records regarding: June 3, 2008 election, including, but not limited to, applications for absentee ballots, poll list, identification accompanying absentee ballots, affidavits accompanying absentee ballots, record of elections, ballot accounting sheets, sign in sheet from each polling place, and clerk s book for each polling place. -- State AG s office seizes Perry voting records-

    May 27, 2008

    Embezzlement a problem for campaign committees

    The New York Times reports: In Republican circles, Christopher J. Ward was the go-to guy for politicians who needed help managing their campaign finances. As a staff member at the National Republican Congressional Committee and its treasurer since 2003, Mr. Ward was so valued that more than $360 million in donations to the committee passed through his hands — with few questions asked. ...

    Eventually, he was named treasurer for 83 other Republican committees, including leadership political action committees for members of Congress and campaign committees for prominent Republicans. He regularly managed the finances of presidential dinner fund-raising committees, and was even a partner in a private company that advised politicians on complying with federal campaign finance laws. ...

    He is now the focus of a Federal Bureau of Investigation inquiry prompted by the disclosure of the National Republican Congressional Committee that hundreds of thousands of dollars was missing and presumed stolen by Mr. Ward, who was fired from the committee in January.

    Investigators are examining what may have been a sophisticated embezzlement scheme involving forged audits and multiple wire transfers from political groups to Mr. Ward’s personal bank accounts. -- Awash in Contributions, Campaigns Offer Tempting Targets for Thieves -

    May 8, 2008

    Office of Special Counsel was investigating the voter registration fraud case

    The Project On Government Oversight POGO Blog: Internal Draft Document Reveals Bloch-Headedness
    The Project on Government Oversight Blog reports: POGO has gained access to an extraordinary internal DOCUMENT from the Office of Special Counsel, an independent federal agency charged with protecting whistleblowers from reprisal. Clearly marked DRAFT, it is a memo dated January 18, 2008, to Special Counsel Scott Bloch from the members of a special task force. The task force was created, according to the memo, in May 2007, to pursue certain complex and high profile investigations, such as the firing of the U.S. Attorneys and the political presentations given by the White House Office of Political Affairs OPA . The stated subject of the memo is Summary of Task Force Activities and Recommendations, but it reads at times like an anguished cry from investigators charged with an important mission but virtually every recommendation they make is countermanded by their boss. If they recommend going forward with an inquiry, Bloch says no. If they say they lack evidence or jurisdiction, he orders them to go forward.

    The inescapable conclusion reached from poring through the contents of this 13-page memo is that Bloch was deliberately creating the impression of a huge ongoing multi-faceted investigation of the White House--at the same time that he himself was being investigated by another arm of the White House for various forms of misconduct. ...

    Voter Registration Fraud Case:
    Indictments were filed against four individuals associated with a liberal organization, ACORN, for engaging in election fraud. ACORN had reported the fraud itself and had fired the individuals, but a senior Justice official in Washington rushed to file the indictments a few days before the 2006 election, despite clear DOJ policy against bringing such actions right before an election because of the possibility of influencing the outcome.

    The task force wrote a memo "outlining the reasons that the Hatch Act case investigating this matter should be opened.” The Hatch Act expressly forbids any Executive Branch official from taking actions that might influence an election. The task force was told they were "not authorized to open up this file." The task force protested strongly:

    Because the facts raise the strong possibility of violations of two Hatch Act provisions, the TF requests that a case file be opened into these allegations. OSC is the only agency charged with enforcement of the Hatch Act…it could be perceived that the Office of Special Counsel was abdicating its responsibility to enforce the Hatch Act if we were to take no action in this matter. More importantly, [if the actions were]…an attempt to affect the results of an election, this would constitute one of the most egregious violations of the Hatch Act.

    -- Internal Draft Document Reveals Bloch-Headedness

    The draft document is here.

    Hat-tip to Left in Alabama for the link to this extraordinary document.

    March 27, 2008

    Alabama: Siegelman released pending appeal

    The Birmingham News reports: A federal appellate court today ordered former Gov. Don Siegelman released from prison while he appeals his 2006 conviction, but denied co-defendant Richard Scrushy s request to be released.

    Siegelman attorney Vince Kilborn said Siegelman would be released sometime Friday morning. His wife and his daughter, Dana, are driving out to get him, Kilborn said.

    Scrushy attorney Art Leach said he had been told the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals denied Scrushy s request, but had no more details this evening.

    Siegelman has been in an Oakdale, La., prison camp for nearly nine months. A federal jury in 2006 convicted Siegelman and Scrushy of federal funds bribery. Prosecutors alleged Scrushy bought a seat on a state board with a $500,000 donation to Siegelman s lottery campaign.

    The judges wrote that Siegelman met both requirements for an appeal bond: He is not a flight risk and his appeal raises a substantial question of law or fact likely to result in reversal or an order for a new trial. -- Siegelman to be released from prison, Scrushy must stay in - Breaking News from The Birmingham News -

    March 19, 2008

    Alabama: Hale County ex-clerk indicted in absentee vote fraud

    The Birmingham News reports: Former Hale County Circuit Court Clerk Gay Nell Tinker has been indicted on multiple vote fraud-related charges.

    A Hale County grand jury issued a 13-count indictment against Tinker after receiving evidence from the Attorney General s Office.

    Investigators for years have been looking into voting irregularities in the west-central Black Belt county, and grand juries have indicted others on vote-fraud charges. ...

    According to King's office, the indictment charges Tinker with nine counts of second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument, an absentee voter affidavit; two counts of promoting illegal absentee voting by intentionally soliciting or otherwise promoting illegal absentee voting, and two counts of first-degree perjury by falsely certifying who signed an absentee voter affidavit. -- Former Hale County circuit clerk indicted-

    February 26, 2008

    Colorado: comprehensive gift ban will go into effect, for now

    The Rocky Mountain News reports: A Monday court ruling on Amendment 41, the controversial law that limits gifts to government workers, failed to clarify the measure and leaves the door wide open for more court challenges.

    The state Supreme Court reinstated the gift ban and ordered a lower court to remove an injunction it issued in June.

    But in its ruling, the court declined to comment on the larger issue of whether the gift ban is constitutional. ...

    The state's high court said it's too early to challenge the state constitutional amendment, approved by voters in November 2006, because an ethics commission charged with enforcing the measure hasn't completely formed yet. ...

    Amendment 41 was designed to reduce the influence of lobbyists and interest groups on government. It bans all gifts from lobbyists and limits other gifts and services to no more than $50 per year. Elected officials, state and certain local government workers and their children and spouses are subject to the law. In addition, elected officials cannot take lobbying jobs until two years after leaving office. -- Gift ban restored, but ruling leaves much unsettled : Updates : The Rocky Mountain News

    February 22, 2008

    Arizona: Renzi indicted

    ABC News reports: A federal grand jury in Arizona has indicted three-term Republican Congressman Rick Renzi and two of his business associates on charges that include wire fraud, money laundering, insurance fraud and extortion.

    The 35-count indictment alleges that between December 2001 and March 2002, Renzi embezzled $400,000 in insurance premiums from a company that he owned and transferred the money to his congressional campaign.

    Renzi transferred ownership of the company, called Patriot Insurance Agency Inc., to his wife in 2004.

    The lawmaker is also accused of enriching himself by compelling a copper mining interest, referred to as "Company A" in the indictment, to buy a parcel of land from his associate James Sandlin in exchange for his sponsorship of legislation sought by Company A.

    When negotiations for the sale were stalled, Renzi allegedly told Company A "no Sandlin Property, no bill." -- ABC News: Congressman Indicted for Fraud, Extortion

    November 18, 2007

    Mississippi: the prosecution of Judge Wes Teel

    Casey Ann has a long impassioned post at Cotton Mouth about the conviction of Judge Wes Teel in Mississippi. I won't even attempt to summarize it. Just read it.

    Adam Lynch has a long story about the same set of prosecutions in the Jackson Free Press.

    November 2, 2007

    Alabama: state senator and circuit judge accused by AG in vote fraud case

    The Montgomery Advertiser reports: The state attorney general filed court papers Thursday naming state Sen. Bobby Singleton, D-Greensboro, and others as suspects in a voter fraud investigation in west Alabama.

    The court papers also accuse Circuit Judge Marvin Wiggins of trying to impede the Hale County investigation to "protect members of his family," including Singleton.

    Attorney General Troy King asked the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals to force Wiggins to step aside from one part of the voter fraud investigation because his sister, former Hale County Circuit Clerk and absentee election manager Gay Nell Tinker; his brother-in-law and former bailiff, Sen. Singleton; and his first cousin, Carrie Reaves, "are suspects in the instant investigation and are directly benefiting from the court's quashing of the search warrant and subpoenas." ...

    In August, an investigation by the attorney general's office led to former Greensboro City Council member Valada Paige Banks and Rosie Lyles of Greensboro being arrested on charges of possessing a forged absentee voter affidavit and four counts of promoting illegal absentee voting. The women have pleaded not guilty. -- :: Legislator suspect in vote fraud

    October 10, 2007

    Alabama: lawyer testifies that Siegelman dropped 2002 contest after GOP promised to stop investigation of him

    The Birmingham News reports: A Rainsville lawyer who first suggested White House influence in the prosecution of former Gov. Don Siegelman told congressional lawyers last month that Siegelman dropped his 2002 election contest after Alabama Republicans promised to end the federal investigation of him.

    Jill Simpson told lawyers for the U.S. House Judiciary Committee that Rob Riley, the son of Gov. Bob Riley, told her that Siegelman ended his challenge of Riley's gubernatorial victory after receiving assurances that "they would not further prosecute him with the Justice Department."

    The statement by Simpson, included in a transcript of her Sept. 14 testimony, is a significant addition to an earlier sworn affidavit of hers that Siegelman supporters used to demand a congressional investigation of his prosecution. ...

    Simpson added other disclosures in her congressional testimony given under oath, including that Gov. Riley met with former White House strategist Karl Rove to discuss Siegelman's prosecution; that Rob Riley had frequent contact with Rove; and that Rob Riley and others discussed Rove's direct involvement in the Siegelman prosecution in a conference call she previously said included only references to Rove's interest in the case. -- Lawyer adds to her affidavit on Siegelman-

    July 13, 2007

    Tennessee: state senator pleads guilty to taking a "gratuity"

    AP reports: A veteran state senator pleaded guilty to bribery Thursday, admitting he took $3,000 in FBI money during a statewide corruption investigation.

    Sen. Ward Crutchfield, 78, was one of five current and former state lawmakers charged in the FBI sting code-named Tennessee Waltz, and the only one to remain in office. His trial was scheduled to begin Monday.

    In return for the Chattanooga Democrat's guilty plea, a more serious charge of extortion was dropped by federal prosecutors. ...

    Defense attorney William Farmer characterized the money that Crutchfield admitted taking as a "gratuity" rather than a bribe.

    "They gave him a gratuity - thanks for all your help - long after he had already agreed to support this bill," Farmer said outside court. -- Tenn. Lawmaker Pleads Guilty to Bribery

    Comment: I don't know which is worse -- taking the money or trying to explain it away as only a "gratuity."

    March 26, 2007

    Office manager indicted for embezzlement from the Women's Campaign Fund

    The Washington Times reports: The office manager for a D.C.-based political committee has been indicted on charges of embezzling more than $80,000 and covering up the theft by destroying financial records.

    Monica J. Cash, when office manager of the Women's Campaign Fund, wrote 58 checks to herself, then forged signatures before funneling the money into her bank account or cashing the checks, according to a recent indictment in federal court in the District. Miss Cash was arrested Wednesday and has been released on bond. ...

    The group was not accused of wrongdoing. However, the purported theft resulted in the group apparently misstating expenditures in mandatory disclosure statements on file with the FEC, according to the indictment. -- Fund's ex-staffer indicted in fraud - Metropolitan - The Washington Times, America's Newspaper

    March 4, 2007

    New Mexico: CREW will file ethics complaint against Sen. Domenici

    CREW states on its website: Hearings on the firing of the U.S. Attorneys start next week. David Iglesias from New Mexico will be testifying. As first reported on TPM Muckraker, CREW will file an ethics complaint against any members who Iglesias testifies pressured him. -- Citizens Blogging for Responsibility and Ethics In Washington

    Expect something soon, since Sen. Domenici has now admitted calling U.S. Attorney Iglesias: I called Mr. Iglesias late last year. My call had been preceded by months of extensive media reports about acknowledged investigations into courthouse construction, including public comments from the FBI that it had completed its work months earlier, and a growing number of inquiries from constituents. I asked Mr. Iglesias if he could tell me what was going on in that investigation and give me an idea of what timeframe we were looking at. It was a very brief conversation, which concluded when I was told that the courthouse investigation would be continuing for a lengthy period. -- Domenici: "I Regret Making That Call and I Apologize"

    February 16, 2007

    North Carolina: Speaker Black resigns, pleads guilty

    The Fayette Observer reports: Former state House Speaker Jim Black admitted in federal court Thursday that he took cash payments in secret meetings with chiropractors, contradicting months of denials that he had committed wrongdoing.

    Black, 71, pleaded guilty to a single felony count of receiving personal payments while working as an official for a state that receives federal funds. He was released from court pending sentencing in about 90 days. He faces 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

    U.S. District Judge James Dever III read much of the government’s charge, including details about cash payments from chiropractors and favorable legislation that helped the chiropractic industry. ...

    The charge says that between 2000 and 2002, Black told two chiropractors that “cash payments would be more helpful than campaign contributions made by check.” Those two recruited a third chiropractor who also made cash payments. -- - Current Article Page

    January 19, 2007

    Mississppi: Ike Brown's lawyer cross-examines DOJ government witness

    AP reports: Attorneys for Noxubee County Democratic Party official Ike Brown continued a rigorous cross-examination of a government witness Thursday in an attempt to find flaws in the witness' testimony.

    Theodore Arrington, a University of North Carolina political science professor testifying for the U.S. Justice Department, examined the politics of Noxubee County and found that Brown and the county's Democratic Executive Committee are disenfranchising white voters.

    He took the witness stand early Wednesday morning and finished at 4 p.m. Thursday after sometimes heated exchanges with Brown's defense attorney. ...

    Brown's attorney, Wil Colom, closely questioned Arrington on Thursday about his earlier testimony and his investigative documents. Of the six election complaints cited by Arrington, five were overturned. The one upheld was the only election that took place under Brown's supervision as head of the executive committee.

    Colom asked Arrington, the former vice chairman of the Republican Party in Charlotte, N.C., to give specific proof of ballot fraud and that coercion took place at the polls. A clearly frustrated Arrington could not. -- The Sun Herald | 01/19/2007 | Expert cross-examined in voting trial

    Virginia: 18 months for vote fraud

    The Kingsport Times-News reports: Retired mail carrier Don Estridge was sentenced to 18 months in jail by Wise County Circuit Judge Tammy McElyea on Thursday for Estridge's role in an Appalachia election fraud plot.

    The judge, however, balked at a recommended two-year jail sentence for former Appalachia Mayor Ben Cooper, considered the "kingpin" of a conspiracy to steal the 2004 town elections.

    A jury found Estridge guilty on Oct. 12 on three of four counts, including conspiracy to prevent others from exercising their right to vote, conspiracy to steal absentee mail ballots, and aiding and abetting violations of Virginia's absentee ballot procedures.

    Estridge, the only one of 14 original defendants to proclaim his innocence throughout what has been nearly a yearlong legal ordeal, did so before the court again on Thursday. All the other defendants - including Cooper - forged cooperation and plea agreements with the special prosecution team of Tim McAfee and Greg Stewart. -- Tri-Cities, Tennessee Personal News and Media Center

    November 28, 2006

    Mississippi: Minor's re-trial delayed to January

    AP reports: The second judicial bribery trial of attorney Paul S. Minor and two former judges has been postponed until January.

    Minor and co-defendants former Chancery Judge Wes Teel and former Circuit Judge John Whitfield had been scheduled to stand trial on Nov. 16. A federal court granted the postponement Monday after Minor's attorneys said they were concerned about the trial occurring during the holiday season.

    Minor, who will remain in custody, is accused of bribing Whitfield and Teel. Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz Jr. was acquitted of bribery charges after a three-month trial last summer, but the jury was unable to reach a verdict on some charges against Minor, Teel and Whitfield. -- The Sun Herald | 11/06/2006 | Minor's judicial bribery trial now scheduled for January

    October 30, 2006

    California: Rep. Jerry Lewis' legal bills top half million in latest quarter

    CREW's blog reports: Earlier this month, Citizens Blogging broke the news that Congressman Jerry Lewis spent a whopping $551,419.43 on legal fees in the third quarter of 2006. That brought his total to $751,419.43 according to FEC reports. Lewis, who chairs the powerful House Appropriations Committee, paid those funds from his campaign account.

    The latest FEC filing from Lewis, covering the period from October 1 - October 18, 2006, adds another $51,638.98 in legal expenses. That brings spending on his legal fee for 2006 to $802,059.41, so far. -- Citizens Blogging for Responsibility and Ethics In Washington

    Comment: Maybe I have a different viewpoint, but I always see politicians actually paying their legal bills in a positive light. You'll get that way when you are stiffed by several pols.

    September 7, 2006

    Alabama: Worley accused of ethics violation

    AP reports: A leader of the state voter registrars' organization has filed an ethics complaint against Secretary of State Nancy Worley, which she said is a baseless attempt to damage her in an election year.

    Lester Sellers of Equality, legislative chairman of the Alabama Association of Boards of Registrars, accused Worley of not making a proper accounting of money received from the federal government to update Alabama's voting records and voting equipment.

    The ethics law bars public officals from using their office for personal financial gain, and Worley questioned whether anything in the complaint fell under ethics rules. ...

    In Sellers' complaint, he accuses Worley of not being a good steward of public funds by:
    # Using federal money to appear in "voter education" ads on TV before she stands for election.
    # Traveling the state at state expense to present checks to counties to buy voting equipment and then using the events to get her picture in newspapers. -- Voter registrar complains against secretary of state

    March 3, 2006

    Virginia: 300-page indictment against mayor of Appalachia plus 13

    The Briston Herald Courier reports: It had nothing to do with pork rinds.

    It was about 14 people who schemed to put Ben Cooper in charge of the town of Appalachia and its police department, prosecutors said Thursday.

    With Cooper firmly entrenched as mayor, town manager and head of the police department, some would get town jobs and others could engage in unchecked criminal behavior, according to a 269-count election fraud and conspiracy indictment returned by a Wise County grand jury.

    The 300-page indictment outlines an alleged conspiracy to fix the Town Council race so the 14 people charged Thursday would benefit in various ways.

    For the scheme to work, they had to help Cooper retain his Town Council seat and get Owen Anderson Sharrett III and another man elected so Cooper would be tapped as mayor, the indictment alleges. -- - News - It had nothing to do with pork rinds

    January 25, 2006

    Alabama: witness testified that Scrushy traded a campaign contribution for a board appointment

    AP reports: Former HealthSouth Corp. CEO Richard Scrushy threatened to fire the company's investment banking firm if it didn't provide money for Gov. Don Siegelman's campaign for a state lottery, a former executive told a grand jury.

    The grand jury testimony of former HealthSouth Chief Financial Officer Mike Martin was among several documents unsealed by a federal judge handling the government corruption charges against Siegelman, Scrushy and two former members of Siegelman's Cabinet. The judge has set their trial for May 1 in Montgomery.

    Scrushy and Siegelman repeatedly have said they are innocent, and Scrushy has predicted that prosecutors will be embarrassed at trial.

    In an appearance before the grand jury in August 2004, Martin said Scrushy initiated the push for a $250,000 donation. Prosecutors contend the money was part of a plan for Scrushy to provide $500,000 in lottery donations for Siegelman in return for influence on a state hospital regulatory board. -- montgomeryadvertiser.comďż˝::ďż˝ Scrushy threat to firm alleged

    January 24, 2006

    Alabama: trial date set for former Gov. Siegelman and Richard Scrushy

    AP reports: A federal judge on Monday ordered the government corruption trial of former Gov. Don Siegelman and three co-defendants to begin May 1, which means Siegelman should have a verdict before he runs in the Democratic primary for governor on June 6. ...

    The indictment against Siegelman and Hamrick, Siegelman's former chief of staff, accuses them of violating racketeering laws, with Siegelman accused of soliciting more than $1 million in payoffs.

    The indictment alleges Scrushy made disguised payments totaling $500,000 to Siegelman's campaign for a state lottery in return for getting appointed to a key state hospital regulatory board. -- Judge sets Siegelman case trial for May 1

    A list of 2005 corruption charges

    The Kansas City infoZine has a list of statehouse corruption investigations: Investigations into political corruption and ethics violations roiled statehouses in 2005 and could cloud 2006 elections in several states. -- Kansas City infoZine - Rundown of Statehouse Ethics Scandals - USA

    January 21, 2006

    Pennsylvania: Allegheny county coroner Cyril Wecht indicted

    TalkLeft reports: High-profile Allegheny county coroner Cyril Wecht has been indicted on 84 counts of mail fraud, wire fraud and related offenses arising from his alleged use of government resources to benefit his private practice.

    And quotes an AP report: [The charges include] using county employees to campaign for him and handle his private lab work. The indictment also accuses Wecht of trading unclaimed bodies stored by the county coroners office, which he headed, to a Pittsburgh university in exchange for use of a laboratory there for his private practice....[it] accuses him of using county employees to run private errands and do work for his private practice between 1996 and December 2005.... [they include] mail fraud, wire fraud, theft of honest services and theft from the county coroner's office. -- PA Coroner Cyril Wecht Indicted - TalkLeft: The Politics of Crime

    January 19, 2006

    Minnesota: city councilman indicted for seeking bribe to pay his redistricting legal bills

    AP reports: A former Minneapolis City Council member who portrayed himself as a champion of the downtrodden was indicted Wednesday for allegedly using his position to solicit cash and favors from developers seeking help with their projects.

    A federal grand jury indicted Dean Zimmermann on three counts of accepting cash and one count of soliciting property — a retaining wall he wanted built at the home of his former girlfriend.

    The indictment alleges that Zimmermann, a member of the city's zoning committee, accepted $5,000 from the developer of the Chicago Commons condo and retail complex, who was seeking a change in zoning rules to allow more retail space. ...

    According to an FBI agent's affidavit filed in September, the exchanges between Zimmermann and the Chicago Commons developer were recorded on audio- and videotape. The FBI agent said Zimmermann wanted the $5,000 to help pay for his legal fees in a lawsuit against the city over a redistricting plan. The affidavit said the $1,200 and $1,000 payments were donations to Zimmermann's re-election campaign. -- Former council member indicted

    Poor guy. He had a monkey lawyer on his back.

    January 10, 2006

    Alabama: Jordan and Woodward deny improper use of criminal database

    The Birmingham News reports: Former Jefferson County Sheriff Jim Woodward and attorney Albert Jordan told jurors in their federal trial Monday they did not conspire to illegally run criminal history checks on absentee Bessemer voters for Woodward's election contest.

    Woodward, testifying in his own defense, said he gave Sheriff's Department employees authorization to conduct background checks using restricted federal databases as part of a legitimate investigation into allegations of voter fraud in Bessemer.

    His office started receiving more calls about voting irregularities following the Nov. 3, 1998, general election, he testified. ...

    Woodward said he sought Jordan's assistance because of his past expertise in challenging voter fraud.

    "He was my attorney," Woodward said. "I thought I could provide my attorney with anything." -- Ex-sheriff, attorney deny conspiracy

    November 28, 2005

    California: Duke Cunningham resigns, makes a plea bargain

    The Washington Post reports: Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.) pleaded guilty today to fraud, conspiracy to commit bribery and tax evasion. Shortly after entering his plea, Cunningham announced that he is immediately resigning his seat, though he had already announced that he would not seek reelection next year.

    According to The Associated Press, Cunningham admitted "he took $2.4 million in bribes to steer defense contracts to conspirators." The defense contracting firm at the center of the scandal is MZM Inc., which is run by Mitchell Wade. -- Rep. Cunningham Enters Guilty Plea, Resigns

    The story has links to the charges and the plea agreement as well as the schedule for the special election.

    As usual, Josh Marshall is all over the story -- and the story behind the story. Start here and keep reading the later stories.

    November 9, 2005

    Michigan: AG accuses opponent of blackmail

    AP reports: Attorney General Mike Cox on Wednesday tearfully acknowledged having an affair a number of years ago and accused trial lawyer Geoffrey Fieger of threatening to expose the indiscretion.

    Fieger, a former Democratic nominee for governor who became famous for representing assisted suicide advocate Jack Kevorkian, wants to challenge Cox, a Republican, in the 2006 attorney general election. ...

    Cox said he came clean publicly because a Fieger associate threatened to expose the affair if Cox didn't stop investigating Fieger for campaign finance violations. Fieger said the person Cox is accusing is not an associate of his.

    "Something sounds absolutely insane about what's going on here," Fieger told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "How could the attorney general have so many skeletons in his closet that he could be blackmailed? Why is he subjecting his wife to this humiliation?"

    Fieger said Cox should resign. -- Attorney general acknowledges affair, says Fieger blackmailed him

    I had think a moment about the category for this story. I thought about "campaigning." When I read Fieger's response, the word ""chutzpah" came to mind (assuming, of course, that Fieger actually had something to do with the alleged blackmail).

    October 22, 2005

    Miers nomination: another uh-oh moment for the nomination -- this one involves lots of money

    Knight Ridder Newspapers reports: Supreme Court nominee Harriet Miers collected more than 10 times the market value for a small slice of family-owned land in a large Superfund pollution cleanup site in Dallas where the state wanted to build a highway off-ramp.

    The windfall came after a judge who received thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from Miers' law firm appointed a close professional associate of Miers and an outspoken property-rights activist to the three-person panel that determined how much the state should pay.

    The resulting six-figure payout to the Miers family in 2000 was despite the state’s objections to the "excessive” amount and to the process used to set the price. The panel recommended paying nearly $5 a square foot for land that was valued at less than 30 cents a square foot.

    Mediation efforts in 2003 reduced the award from $106,915 to $80,915, but Miers, who controls the family’s interest in the land, hasn’t reimbursed the state for the $26,000 difference, even after Bush appointed her to the Supreme Court.

    The case raises new questions about Miers’ judgment at a time when her nomination is troubled by doubts about her qualifications for the nation’s highest court and accusations that she was chosen mostly because of her close friendship with President Bush.

    Nothing indicates that Miers sought out the judge or engineered the appointments to the panel, but there’s also no indication that she reported the potential conflicts of interest in the case or tried to avoid them. -- Miers family received 'excessive' sum in land case

    Lots of detail in the story. It might be useful to have a pencil and paper to draw yourself a chart of all the connections between the dramatis personae.

    August 18, 2005

    Ohio: Tafts pleads no contest, fined $4,000 reports: Ohio Governor Bob Taft was found guilty and fined $4,000 for violating state law by not disclosing golf outings and other gifts, becoming the first governor in state history to be convicted of a crime.

    Taft, the son and grandson of U.S. senators and the great- grandson of the 27th U.S. President, William H. Taft, pleaded no contest to four criminal misdemeanor charges. Franklin County Municipal Judge Mark S. Froehlich imposed the maximum fine on Taft and spared him jail time.

    ``The message is simple and clear; No one is above the law in the state of Ohio,'' Froehlich said during the sentencing hearing. ``Even the governor can be charged and convicted of a criminal offense.''

    Taft, a Republican, announced in June that he hadn't properly disclosed golf outings he played in, and began turning over information about the events to the state ethics commission. He failed to report about $6,000 of golf outings and other gifts. -- U.S.

    The phony "rights group"

    David Edwards writes on the Brad Blog: As our readers know, The BRAD BLOG has been a leading source for investigations and reports into the nefarious (and possibly illegal) actions of high-level GOP Operatives that have established a tax-exempt, 503(c)(3) organization called the American Center for Voting Rights (ACVR). The group, since its creation, has released false and misleading information intended to advance GOP plans to disenfranchise millions of voters via legislation calling for national voter registration databases and a demand for photo IDs at the polls.

    Increasingly, the mainstream corporate media and independent media sources have caught on to the "dirty tricks" being used by these GOP operatives though the cynically named ACVR. -- THE BRAD BLOG: "Phony 'Voting Rights' Group Exposed by Mainstream Media"

    Edwards quotes extensively from this article in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

    August 17, 2005

    Ohio: Taft indicted

    Toledo Blade reports: Gov. Bob Taft today became the first Ohio Governor charged with a crime. The four misdemeanor counts stem from failing to report 52 gifts including golf games, meals, and professional sports tickets. ...

    The charges were announced this afternoon at a news conference with Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O'Brien and Columbus City Attorney Richard Pfeiffer. The gifts were worth nearly $6,000 and occurred from 2001 through 2004, records show.

    Mr. Taft, 63, the great-grandson of William Howard Taft, the 27th president, is Ohio’s first sitting governor to be charged with a crime. The maximum penalty for a first-degree misdemeanor is a $1,000 fine and/or six months in jail.

    The charges are the result of a two-month investigation by the Ohio Ethics Commission into the governor’s alleged infractions. Although time behind bars in considered unlikely, the charges could lead to Mr. Taft’s impeachment under the Ohio Constitution.

    Mr. Taft has said the errors and omissions were inadvertent. He has characterized any items he failed to disclose as “not purposeful.” -- Taft is first Ohio governor to be charged with crimes in office

    July 27, 2005

    Mississippi: judges testify that Minor was just being nice without expecting a return

    AP reports: A deceased judge and a member of the state Court of Appeals have testified that Gulf Coast attorney Paul Minor secured loans for their political campaigns and never asked for anything in return.

    Minor is accused of providing cash, loans and gifts to Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz Jr., former Circuit Judge John Whitfield and former Chancery Judge Wes Teel in exchange for favorable decisions. All four defendants have pleaded innocent to bribery and fraud charges, and Minor has pleaded innocent to an additional count of racketeering.

    On Tuesday, the testimony of former Appeals Court Judge James Thomas, who died in July 2004, was read by a defense attorney after U.S. District Judge Henry T. Wingate advised jurors that Thomas was deceased.

    Thomas said Minor secured a $20,000 loan for his 1994 judicial campaign. He testified that he used $9,000 of the money and paid it back. -- AP Wire | 07/26/2005 | Judges testify Minor expected nothing in return for help raising money

    July 25, 2005

    Impeachment charges against Pres. Arroyo

    AP reports: Philippine opposition lawmakers filed an impeachment complaint today against President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, accusing her of vote-rigging and other wrongdoing.

    The filing against Arroyo, a staunch U.S. ally, claims she "stole, cheated and lied" to obtain power and hold it. Her aides have moved to block the complaint on a legal technicality.

    A summary of the complaint seen by the Associated Press accuses Arroyo of 10 major crimes including election fraud and corruption. It claims she can be impeached on at least four grounds.

    Arroyo has denied manipulating the May 2004 ballot by discussing vote counting with an election official before she was declared the winner. She has said she is ready to face an impeachment trial to clear her name and has announced a "truth commission" also will probe the accusations. -- Philippines leader faces more charges

    July 22, 2005

    Kentucky: county executive serves from jail

    AP reports: A conviction and 16 months in federal prison for vote fraud and evidence of violation of campaign finance laws are not enough to force Knott County Judge-Executive Donnie Newsome out of office - at least not yet.

    The Kentucky Court of Appeals on Friday said Newsome's opponent in the 2002 Democratic primary waited to long to challenge the outcome.

    Mike Hall, who lost to Newsome defeated in the bitter 2002 Democratic primary by 520 votes, filed suit to have Newsome removed under a normal election challenge suit. But a unanimous three-judge appellate panel said the lawsuit was filed too late. ...

    [Judge Rick] Johnson noted that after Newsome was incarcerated, he began cooperating with federal authorities and testified that he received $8,000 in campaign contributions that were not properly reported. -- AP Wire | 07/22/2005 | Appeals court: Convicted judge-executive may stay in office

    July 19, 2005

    San Diego: 2 convicted for bribery

    The Los Angeles Times reports: Acting Mayor Michael Zucchet and Councilman Ralph Inzunza were convicted Monday of trading political favors for campaign contributions from a strip-club owner — adding to the political turmoil gripping the city where the mayor has resigned and the pension system is under federal investigation.

    Prosecutors charged that the two men, both 35-year-old Democrats, took $23,000 from the owner of Cheetahs Totally Nude club and his associates and, in exchange, agreed to work to ease a city law that prohibits nude dancers from touching their customers. ...

    Jerry Coughlan, Zucchet's attorney, said the contacts between the council members and the strip-club owner's lobbyist were identical to those carried on daily between officeholders and contributors seeking favors.

    "There isn't a single public official in the country that hasn't done the same thing," he told reporters outside the federal courthouse.

    The only difference, Coughlan said, is that the conversations of Zucchet and Inzunza were secretly recorded by the FBI and played for a jury. "Maybe this is a call for public financing [of campaigns] and getting rid of the current system," he said. -- 2 San Diego Officials Guilty in Strip-Club Graft Scandal

    July 12, 2005

    Mississippi: Final prosecution witness in bribery trial

    AP reports: Federal prosecutors in Mississippi's judicial bribery case put on a final witness Tuesday to guide a jury through the myriad of checks and loan documents key to the case against a prominent lawyer and a member of the state Supreme Court.

    Gulf Coast attorney Paul Minor is accused of providing cash, loans and gifts to state Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz Jr., former Circuit Judge John Whitfield and former Chancery Judge Wes Teel in exchange for favorable decisions. All four have pleaded innocent to bribery and fraud charges, and Minor has pleaded innocent to an additional count of racketeering.

    On Tuesday, Kim Mitchell, a financial analyst with the U.S. attorney's office, began her testimony with the financial transactions involving Whitfield.

    Past testimony and records have shown that Minor guaranteed two loans for Whitfield in the amounts of $40,000 and $100,000. One was for campaign expenses and the other was for a down payment on a home, according to testimony. -- AP Wire | 07/12/2005 | Prosecution calls final witness in judicial bribery case

    June 17, 2005

    California: FBI investigates Cunningham's house sale

    AP reports: Questions over Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham's home sale to a defense contractor spilled into his own district Friday as protesters beat drums and chanted slogans outside the congressman's $2.55 million mansion in America's wealthiest community.

    "Two, four, six, eight, shame on Duke in Mansiongate," protesters chanted at the bottom of the palm-tree lined driveway that led to Cunningham's secluded home.

    The eight-term Republican sold his previous home in Del Mar in 2003 to Mitchell Wade, president of the contracting firm MZM Inc., who took a $700,000 loss on it a year later. Around the same time, little-known MZM Inc., based in Washington, D.C., began getting large government contracts.

    The San Diego Union Tribune, citing an unnamed Justice Department official, reported Friday that the FBI has opened a preliminary inquiry into the sale. -- AP Wire | 06/17/2005 | Anger over congressman's home sale spills into home district

    June 13, 2005

    Congress: Follow the money (again)

    Josh Marshall wonders: I'm really curious to see whether this story (noted below) about Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R) gets much pick up or not in the press.

    From the plain facts of the matter, as reported by the San Diego Union-Tribune yesterday, it seems like there's a pretty strong case that this defense contractor, Mitchell Wade, gave a congressman a personal gift of almost three-quarters of a million dollars and hid it in the form of home sale. And this was a congressman who was in a position to -- and by his own account apparently did --help the contractor secure numerous defense and intelligence contracts valued in the tens of millions of dollars. -- Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall: June 12, 2005 - June 18, 2005 Archives

    The "noted below" is a link to an earlier post two items below this one. Read both. Josh has his tongue firmly planted in his cheek on the earlier one.

    June 4, 2005

    Georgia: state senator convicted

    The Augusta Chronicle reports: A federal jury has convicted state Sen. Charles Walker on 127 of 137 criminal counts including mail fraud and conspiracy. ...

    Mr. Walker was indicted on 137 counts of conspiracy, mail fraud and filing false tax returns. ...

    In the 66-page document, Mr. Walker was accused of running five alleged schemes that bilked advertisers of his weekly newspaper, the Augusta Focus, of defrauding two public hospitals, of dipping into his campaign funds for personal reasons and of stealing from the CSRA Classic charity event he co-founded in 1993. -- Latest News: Charles Walker found guilty on nearly all counts 06/03/05

    May 31, 2005

    Deep Throat Revealed

    The Washington Post reports: The Washington Post today confirmed that W. Mark Felt, a former number-two official at the FBI, was "Deep Throat," the secretive source who provided information that helped unravel the Watergate scandal in the early 1970s and contributed to the resignation of president Richard M. Nixon.

    The confirmation came from Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the two Washington Post reporters who broke the Watergate story, and their former top editor, Benjamin C. Bradlee. The three spoke after Felt's family and Vanity Fair magazine identified the 91-year-old Felt, now a retiree in California, as the long-anonymous source who provided crucial guidance for some of the newspaper's groundbreaking Watergate stories. -- Washington Post Confirms Felt Was 'Deep Throat'

    And analyzes here: W. Mark Felt always denied he was Deep Throat. "It was not I and it is not I," he told Washingtonian magazine in 1974 in the same month that Richard M. Nixon resigned the presidency in disgrace after a lengthy investigation and threat of impeachment, aided in no small part by the guidance Felt had provided to The Washington Post.

    It was a denial he maintained for three decades, until today. Throughout that period, he lived with one of the greatest secrets in journalism history and with his own sense of conflict and tension over the role he had played in bringing down a president in the Watergate scandal: Was he a hero for helping the truth come out, or a turncoat who betrayed his government, his president and the FBI he revered by leaking to the press? -- The Motives That Drove Felt to Talk

    May 27, 2005

    Mississippi: Diaz jury seated

    The Clarion-Ledger reports: A jury of ten women and two men was selected today for the judicial bribery trial of Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz Jr., a wealthy Gulf Coast attorney and two former judges.

    U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate says opening arguments will begin June 1.

    Attorney Paul Minor is accused of buying favorable decisions from Diaz, former Circuit Judge John Whitfield and former Chancery Judge Wes Teel. ...

    Prosecutors have alleged, among other things, that Minor guaranteed a loan for approximately $75,000 and provided checks and cash to Diaz. The government also has identified amounts they claim were given to the other judges.

    Attorney Abbe Lowell of Washington, Minor's attorney, has maintained that the payments were campaign contributions, which were similar to those made by other Mississippi attorneys. Lowell says U.S. Attorney Dunn Lampton singled Minor out because Minor won a large settlement from a business owned by one of Lampton's relatives. He has also claimed Lampton set his sights on Minor because of political differences. -- Jury seated in bribery case of Supreme Court justice - The Clarion-Ledger

    May 19, 2005

    Alabama: vote fraud alleged in Perry County

    AP reports: The Perry County District Attorney's office is investigating a high school student's claim that her ballot was changed after she was driven from the lunchroom to the precinct by a candidate in a recent special legislative election.

    District Attorney Michael Jackson said his office is checking out 18-year-old Cynthia Davis' claim that she was driven to her polling place by Albert Turner Jr. and that a woman wearing a Turner campaign shirt switched her vote to Turner when she tried to vote for his opponent.

    Turner lost to Ralph Howard in the May 3 vote for the House District 72 seat. -- AP Wire | 05/17/2005 | DA investigating voter fraud complaint in Perry County

    May 5, 2005

    Kentucky: State Senator indicted for vote fraud

    AP reports: State Sen. Johnny Ray Turner and two others were indicted Thursday for mail fraud and conspiracy to rig his 2000 campaign with bought votes and phantom contributors. ...

    The indictment alleges Turner and his coconspirators funneled money from Harris through straw contributors and illegally paid people to vote and hid it by claiming to pay them for driving voters to the polls during the 2000 Democratic primary.

    The charges also allege Turner filed false reports to the Kentucky Registry of Election Finance.

    "Vote hauling," as it is known and widely practiced, has long been acknowledged as a way to influence elections. But paying vote haulers is not illegal in Kentucky.

    [U.S. Attorney George F.] Van Tatenhove said Turner's campaign never expected or received legitimate services for the payments. -- AP Wire | 05/05/2005 | State senator indicted for mail fraud relating to campaign

    Now we see that Turner was not accused of "vote hauling" but of NOT vote hauling.

    May 4, 2005

    Kentucky: What is "vote hauling"?

    The Cincinnati Post carried this editorial in January 1998: For those unfamiliar with the practice, money - $50 to $100 a day - is paid by campaigns to individuals to ''haul'' voters to the polls. Payment must be made by check and a report must be made. Outside of that there are no other restrictions.

    More often than anyone knows or would ever admit, those paid to haul voters actually only hauled themselves or maybe their spouse to the polls to vote. In some cases, people who were paid for vote-hauling in 1996 didn't even own a car or have a driver's license. The reality is ''vote-hauling'' is just legalized voter fraud - the money buys votes.

    In some parts of the state, like Eastern Kentucky and in other rural areas, vote hauling is a tradition.

    But Republicans note that vote hauling was a major thrust of the Democrats' get-out-the-vote effort in Jefferson County during the 1995 gubernatorial election. That effort in the Louisville area remains under investigation by a grand jury. -- Editorial: Thinly disguised fraud

    May 3, 2005

    Kentucky: Senator to be indicted for "vote hauling"

    AP reports: A federal grand jury is expected to indict a Democratic Senate leader from eastern Kentucky for election fraud, his attorney said Tuesday.

    Sen. Johnny Ray Turner of Drift is expected to be charged with mail fraud and conspiracy to commit voter fraud, his attorney, Brent L. Caldwell of Lexington, said in a written statement. The charges relate to the campaign finance reports he filed in connection with his 2000 campaign, Caldwell said. ...

    Turner defeated 20-year incumbent Benny Ray Bailey in a bitter primary election in 2000. Turner, a high school basketball coach and a political newcomer with strong local ties and a well-known name, defeated Bailey by about 1,500 votes out of 20,000 cast.

    Vote hauling played a big part in the surprising victory. The practice of paying people $50 or $100 to take voters to the polls has long been common in many eastern Kentucky counties, and has often been criticized as tantamount to buying votes.

    According to campaign finance reports, Turner doled out about $34,000 to pay more than 650 people to haul voters or perform other campaign work. Bailey spent $16,700 to pay more than 330 people to take voters to the polls. -- AP Wire | 05/03/2005 | Senator likely to be indicted, lawyer says

    So, when will Bailey be indicted?

    February 26, 2005

    Michigan: suit claims dead lawyer breached attorney-client privilege

    The Macomb Daily reports: An indicted real estate agent in a high-profile corruption case is suing a deceased lawyer and some of his law firm associates, for an alleged breach of attorney-client privilege.

    Ralph Roberts and his wife, Kathleen, seek damages of $10 million or more in a lawsuit filed Friday in Macomb County Circuit Court against an estate for the late William E. Bufalino II and his law partner, Frank Palazzolo, along with an associate or affiliated attorney named Eric Biretta.

    At issue is a February 2003 conversation Bufalino allegedly had with former Macomb County Chief Trial Attorney Eric Kaiser about recorded telephone conversations that Roberts had turned over to the law firm involving himself and then-Prosecutor Carl Marlinga. Kaiser then mentioned the tapes to federal agents who seized them and used them in a subsequent federal indictment against both men.

    "As a direct result of the betrayal of confidentiality, and of Biretta's improper and inadequate advice concerning (a subsequent FBI) interview, Roberts was indicted for campaign finance law violations," the lawsuit states. "Palazzolo owed a duty to (the Robertses) to provide competent legal advice (and) to properly assign and oversee those client matters he referred to other attorneys in the law firm."

    Roberts, 48, of Clinton Township, and co-defendants Marlinga, 57, of Sterling Heights, and state Sen. James Barcia, D-Bay City, together face a nine-count federal indictment for conspiracy and fraud against the "honest use" of the prosecutor's office, false statements to federal investigators and skirting federal election law that sets limits on campaign contributions. -- Macomb Daily : Ralph Roberts sues his deceased lawyer 02/26/05

    February 13, 2005

    Texas: another round of the "protect DeLay" game

    The Los Angelse Times reports: Late last year, Republican leaders in Washington caused a stir, even among some allies, when they tried to protect House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas by revoking an ethics rule that would force him to step down if indicted.

    Now, Republican leaders in Texas are pushing a measure that watchdogs call a junior version of the Washington effort.

    A bill filed this week by a veteran state GOP lawmaker would give the Texas Ethics Commission — whose members were appointed by the three top elected officials in the state, all Republicans — the power to quash the prosecution of a politician.

    Critics call it a brazen attempt to protect GOP leaders who might become entangled in an ongoing criminal investigation into whether illegal fundraising paved the party's rise to power in the state. ...

    State Rep. Mary Denny, who filed the bill, said in an interview Thursday that she was attempting to add oversight, not remove it. She said it never occurred to her that the legislation could be used to protect Republican leaders who might become targets of the fundraising investigation. -- Texas GOP Trying to Gut Ethics Inquiry, Critics Say

    November 19, 2004

    Bell rebuked; DeLay claims vindication

    The New York Times reports: The House ethics committee has ruled that a Democratic lawmaker exaggerated in the accusations he brought in June against the majority leader, Representative Tom DeLay.

    Mr. DeLay invoked the finding to claim vindication Friday despite having been admonished by the committee after its inquiry into the complaint.

    In a letter issued Thursday night, the two leaders of the bipartisan ethics panel told the accuser, Representative Chris Bell, like Mr. DeLay a Texan, that his charges violated a committee rule that prohibits "innuendo, speculative assertions or conclusory statements'' in accusations against a colleague.

    "This is a serious matter,'' the senior members told Mr. Bell, who lost his seat in a March primary as a result of a redistricting plan that Mr. DeLay helped devise. They said that "the fact that the committee ultimately determined to issue a letter of admonition to Representative DeLay'' did not lessen Mr. Bell's violation.

    In his complaint, Mr. Bell made a number of broad accusations, including bribery and use of government resources for partisan purposes. But the letter said that the facts "did not even come close to supporting this extremely serious claim'' of bribery and that other allegations had turned out to be unsupported as well. -- The New York Times > Washington > Foe of DeLay Rebuked by House Ethics Panel

    The committee's letter is here.

    November 1, 2004

    Kentucky pol convicted in election fraud case

    AP reports: A former state senator and his wife were found guilty Monday of mail fraud for submitting false campaign reports in an eastern Kentucky election fraud case.

    John Doug Hays, 60, and his wife, Brenda Hays, 47, were acquitted on a separate charge of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and buy votes stemming from the race for Pike County district judge in 2002.

    A federal jury in the monthlong trial deliberated 27 1/2 hours over four days before returning the verdict. ...

    Prosecutors claimed Hays was a key figure in the election fraud case while defense attorneys contended he was the unwitting beneficiary of a wayward political activist. -- Jury finds former state senator guilty of mail fraud in election (AP via

    October 22, 2004

    Some "get upset if they're not offered money for their vote"

    BBC News reports on West Virginia: In the state's deep coal-mining valleys and small towns full of old style barber shops and "gun and loan" stores, money still changes hands every election year.

    According to several people I spoke to, the going rate for a vote these days is $15 or a pint of whisky.

    "There's still folks in these parts that's get upset if they're not offered money for their vote," Big Daddy Ellis says. -- Campaign column: The price of a vote (BBC NEWS)

    Thanks to Steve Minor of SW Virginia Law Blog for alerting me to this story.

    October 1, 2004

    House Ethics Committee "admonishes" DeLay for quid pro quo offer

    The Washington Post reports: The House ethics committee admonished Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) last night for offering a political favor to a Michigan lawmaker in exchange for the member's vote on last year's hard-fought Medicare prescription drug bill.

    After a six-month investigation, the committee concluded that DeLay had told Rep. Nick Smith (R-Mich.) he would endorse the congressional bid of Smith's son if the congressman gave GOP leaders a much-needed vote in a contentious pre-dawn roll call on Nov. 22. ...

    According to the report, Nick Smith told ethics committee investigators that DeLay approached him on the House floor during a series of votes leading to the final showdown on the Medicare bill. Smith told the panel that DeLay "told him that he would personally endorse Representative Smith's son in the Republican primary" if Smith "voted in favor of the Medicare legislation." According to Smith's version, DeLay added, "that's my last offer," and the congressman "teared up" at the majority leader's offer. The exchange lasted "about eight seconds," Smith said.

    The report said DeLay testified to the committee "that he did say words to the effect of: 'I will personally endorse your son. That's my final offer.' " DeLay recalled that the exchange took place before the three-hour roll call on the bill's final passage, the report said.

    DeLay told the investigators that Smith "first raised the subject of his son's campaign," and DeLay believed Smith was "fishing to see what I would say."

    DeLay had brushed aside a similar overture from Smith several weeks earlier, but this time offered to endorse the son in exchange for Smith's vote, the report said. DeLay told investigators that if Smith had voted for the Medicare bill, then the majority leader "would have made good on his promise and endorsed Brad Smith." -- Ethics Panel Rebukes DeLay (

    Roll Call add these details: Reps. Kenny Hulshof (R-Mo.) and Mike Doyle (D-Pa.), chairman and ranking member, respectively, of the four-member investigative subcommittee that handled the Smith probe, “deliberated extensively” on whether the Majority Leader had broken House rules by offering his endorsement in exchange for Smith’s vote. They acknowledged that is normal practice for a “Member’s conditioning support” for legislation in return for “future consideration” by party leaders or their colleagues, and admitted that it is one way for senior lawmakers to maintain “party discipline.”

    But in this case, the subcommittee felt DeLay may have strayed over the line of acceptable behavior, although the full committee voted not to pursue the matter any further. “The promise of political support for a relative of a Member goes beyond the boundaries of maintaining party discipline, and should not be used as a basis of a bargain for Members to achieve their respective goals,” the report stated.

    However, the ethics committee admitted it was treading on unexplored ground in reviewing DeLay’s interaction with Smith during the Medicare vote. “The issues raised by the conduct of the Majority Leader in this matter are novel and the implications of such conduct have never before been addressed or resolved by the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct,” according to the report. “Indeed, the Majority Leader’s testimony indicates that he did not believe that he acted improperly under House rules during his encounter with Representative Smith.” -- Ethics Panel Admonishes DeLay, Michigan's Miller and Smith (Roll Call)

    Thanks to Trevor Potter for sending me the Roll Call article (since I don't have a subscription).

    June 27, 2004

    "Explanations ordered in bribery case"

    A judge told prosecutors Friday to explain to defense attorneys how they concluded allegations against their five clients in Mississippi's judicial bribery case rose to the level of federal crimes.

    U.S. District Judge Henry T. Wingate's order came after lawyers for Gulf Coast attorney Paul Minor and former Gulf Coast Judge John Whitfield argued prosecutors failed in their indictment to show federal crimes were committed. They wanted the charges dismissed.

    Wingate told prosecutors to submit explanations to lawyers for Minor, Whitfield and the other co-defendants — Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz Jr.; Diaz' ex-wife, Jennifer; and former Gulf Coast Judge Wes Teel.

    Wingate said he will rule on the motion to dismiss and other motions in the case before a July 8 status hearing.

    Minor, the Diazes, Teel and Whitfield are accused of participating in a scheme in which Minor allegedly provided cash, loans and gifts to the judges in exchange for favorable decisions. Wingate earlier refused to dismiss charges against Diaz and his former wife. -- Explanations ordered in bribery case (Clarion-Ledger)

    June 22, 2004

    House ethics committee will review complaint against DeLay

    The House ethics committee said Tuesday that it will review a complaint from a Texas congressman that accuses House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, a fellow Texan, of "serious criminal acts."

    The committee said Democratic Rep. Chris Bell met House rules for filing such a complaint. The decision is largely procedural and does not address the merits of the allegations.

    DeLay, a Republican, has called the complaint, which was filed last week, the product of a disgruntled lawmaker. Bell, a freshman, lost his re-election bid in Texas' March primaries after Republicans redrew his Houston district.

    The committee's decision triggers a 45-day review of the complaint. -- House ethics panel to review Delay complaint (AP via

    June 19, 2004

    GOP trying to squelch Bell complaint against DeLay

    House Republicans are trying to block U.S. Rep. Chris Bell's ethics complaint against House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, with Democrats saying the GOP is trying to silence any criticism of its chief.

    Republicans denied they were trying to muzzle allegations against DeLay. But in the escalating partisan warfare touched off by investigations into DeLay's political dealings, Republicans' maneuvers may prevent Bell's complaint from being examined by the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct.

    U.S. Rep. Ray LaHood, R-Ill., took steps Thursday to throw out the complaint by Bell, a Democrat whose Houston-area district borders DeLay's.

    LaHood said that because Bell is a lame-duck congressman, after losing the Democratic primary this year in his freshman term, he "has no stake in the institution" and should be disqualified from filing the charges. Bell's term expires at the end of the year. -- GOP moves could silence complaint against DeLay (

    I tried to think of something snappy to say in response to this, but words fail me.

    May 30, 2004

    Former Alabama Governor indicted

    Former [Alabama] Gov. Don Siegelman and his chief of staff conspired to rig bids and steer a multimillion-dollar contract to care for poor pregnant women to a Siegelman supporter in Tuscaloosa, according to a federal indictment returned Thursday in Birmingham.

    A grand jury indicted Siegelman and Paul Hamrick, along with Tuscaloosa physician Phillip Kelley Bobo, on charges of conspiracy, health care fraud and theft from a federally funded program.

    Bobo faces additional charges of perjury, making a false statement to the FBI, wire fraud and witness tampering.

    Siegelman and Hamrick are accused of having $550,000 moved from the Special Education Trust Fund to the State Fire College in Tuscaloosa so Bobo could attempt to use that money through bogus contracts to offer payoffs to a competitor in the Maternity Care Program bid process. ...

    The charges stem from an earlier prosecution against Bobo on charges he conspired to fraudulently secure a contract to provide maternity care, using means similar to those described in the current indictment. Bobo was convicted in 2001 and sentenced to 27 months in prison.

    A federal appeals court tossed out the conviction, saying the government's indictment lacked specifics on what prosecutors contended was criminal about Bobo's conduct. Bobo's medical license subsequently was restored.

    Bobo's lawyers called the new charges "outrageous," and said the indictment "primarily follows the same script and scenario used previously, which the 11th Circuit rejected on appeal."

    "Much of the charge contained in the new indictment is due to be thrown out under the principle of double jeopardy," his lawyers said. -- Siegelman indicted (Birmingham News).

    See also TIMELINE: Building a case against a governor

    Here is the indictement and the prosecutor's press release.

    Siegelman and I were friends in college and have remained friends to this day.

    May 26, 2004

    Virginia GOP asks dismissal of eavesdropping suit

    Lawyers for the Republican Party of Virginia asked a federal judge Wednesday to dismiss the party from a lawsuit Democratic lawmakers filed over eavesdropping on Democratic conference calls by key GOP operatives.

    The Republican Party officials involved in the intercepts were not carrying out party policy or practices when they illegally monitored the Democrats, the attorneys said. Nor are they associated with the party any longer, they said.

    "They were not acting within the scope of their employment," John Holloway, an attorney for RPV, told U.S. District Judge James R. Spencer. ...

    The lawsuit, filed March 19, seeks unspecified damages against the party and other former top Republicans, including the state party's former executive director, Edmund A. Matricardi III. -- GOP asks to be dismissed from Democrats' eavesdropping lawsuit (AP via

    May 7, 2004

    Former N.C. official sentenced for state campaign finance violations

    Former state Agriculture Commissioner Meg Scott Phipps, already serving a four-year federal prison sentence for campaign finance violations, was sentenced Friday to as much as 20 months in prison on related state convictions.

    Phipps, the daughter and granddaughter of former governors, is serving her federal sentence at the Alderson, W.Va., Federal Prison Camp for women.

    Wake County Superior Court Judge Donald Stephens sentenced Phipps to 16 to 20 months in prison and ordered that the sentence be served concurrently with the federal sentence. ...

    According to the federal charges, Phipps accepted two illegal cash contributions. One, totaling $10,000, was received in the spring of 2002; the other was $2,000 that a state fair food concessionaire gave to Phipps at the 2001 state fair.

    Federal and state indictments said Phipps took the illegal contributions in exchange for midway contracts at the North Carolina State Fair. Phipps also acknowledged that some of that money was converted to her personal use, and that she falsely testified to state elections officials. -- Phipps sentenced in state court for campaign scandal (AP via Winston-Salem Journal)

    Feds disclose some of their case against Paul Minor

    Federal prosecutors in court papers filed this week said defense lawyers' claims that the government is engaging in a vindictive and selective prosecution of prominent [Mississippi] trial lawyer Paul Minor are based "upon nothing more than unsupported and inaccurate speculation." ...

    Media coverage about the selective prosecution argument led two lawyers to step forward with the extortion allegations, federal prosecutors said. The lawyers, Bobby L. Dallas and Brad Sessums, were contacted by Minor shortly after Diaz had written an opinion upholding a $9 million verdict for their client and solicited $20,000, the government alleges. The government identified the lawyers only by their initials in its indictment, but The Sun Herald determined their identity from state court records.

    "Minor provided detailed, inside information to the two attorneys regarding defendant Diaz's role in the decision of the case," federal prosecutors said in the court papers.

    "He informed them that the vote on their case could have gone either way in the Supreme Court and that Justice Diaz had helped swing the vote in favor of their client. Minor went on to discuss the fact that defendant Diaz would be voting on a motion for rehearing that had been filed in the case... There was nothing subtle about the extortion." -- The Sun Herald | 05/07/2004 | Prosecutors: Minor used inside info in extortion scheme (Biloxi Sun Herald)

    The campaign had confused books; the candidate on trial

    Mobile County [Alabama] Commissioner Freeman Jockisch was not repaid more money than he was entitled to from his campaign fund, his finance chairman testified.

    John Gavin testified Thursday at Jockisch's trial on four counts of filing false tax returns and two dozen counts of mail fraud in connection with his campaign fund and the sprinkler company, Reed Fire Protection.

    Billy Kimbrough, Jockisch's lead attorney, called Gavin, a former stockbroker, to rebut testimony from a state investigator who testified Jockisch had repaid himself and his family at least $19,000 more from his campaign fund than he should have.

    Gavin said he did his own analysis of the campaign fund at Jockisch's request and concluded the campaign still owed "$38,651 and change" to the commissioner. -- Finance chairman says Jockisch wasn't overpaid by campaign (AP via

    April 27, 2004

    Michigan prosecutor arraigned for contribution/bribery case

    Macomb County Prosecutor Carl Marlinga pleaded innocent Tuesday to federal charges that he intervened in criminal cases in exchange for contributions to his failed 2002 congressional campaign. ...

    The nine-count indictment says Marlinga and others used his office to commit conspiracy, fraud, campaign violations and mail and wire fraud.

    The federal investigation into Marlinga was triggered by complaints from Republicans who claimed Marlinga intervened in an appeal filed by convicted rapist Jeffrey Moldowan in exchange for contributions. The indictment lists $34,000 in contributions to his campaign. -- Macomb County prosecutor pleads innocent to federal fraud charges (AP via Detroit Free Press)

    The Michigan Democratic Party denied Monday that it improperly funneled money from a contributor into the congressional campaign of Macomb County Prosecutor Carl Marlinga. ...

    The contribution, the indictment says, came from a lawyer who already had contributed the maximum allowable to Marlinga’s campaign and defended two rape victims at the heart of the charges.

    The lawyer, whom Marlinga identified as Dennis Johnston, was trying to avoid the individual contribution limit of $2,000, the indictment says. -- Dems deny funneling money to Marlinga (Detroit News)

    April 26, 2004

    Ex-chairman of Virginia GOP moves to dismiss eavesdropping suit

    The former chairman of the [Virginia] state Republican party asked a federal court Monday to dismiss a civil suit filed against him and other former GOP officials over eavesdropping on Democratic strategy calls two years ago.

    Gary R. Thomson, who pleaded guilty in August to a misdemeanor related to the controversy and resigned his post, said in his response that he did not reveal the contents of one of the calls to Anne P. Petera, the top staffer for Republican Attorney General Jerry Kilgore. ...

    Attorney Joel D. Bieber, who is representing Thomson in the civil case, said Monday that further litigation in the matter was "mean-spirited."

    "We've accepted responsibility for what was done," Bieber said. "(The plaintiffs) are saying it's time to bring a Washington, D.C., law firm into Virginia to do the job the FBI did not do." ...

    Democrats have said that money was not the object when they filed suit. The main hope, they say, is that more information will come out over who was involved in the scandal beyond Matricardi and Thomson. -- Former state GOP head requests eavesdropping suit be dismissed (AP via Hampton Rhodes Daily Press)

    April 16, 2004

    Justice Diaz moves to dismiss charges against him

    A Gulf Coast attorney and a Mississippi Supreme Court justice on Friday asked a federal judge to dismiss new charges in a judicial bribery case.

    The motions on behalf of attorney Paul Minor and Justice Oliver Diaz Jr. and his ex-wife Jennifer, were filed in U.S. District Court in Jackson. ...

    In the dismissal motion filed for Diaz and his ex-wife, Jackson attorney Robert McDuff said the allegations in the new indictment do not properly charge any federal crime. ...

    "The federal government is attempting not only to overstep its bounds and prosecute a purported campaign finance violation, which would be a misdemeanor under Mississippi law, but transform it into a federal felony charge.

    "If this indictment is allowed to stand, it will stretch the bounds of federal law so that almost any alleged state campaign finance violation can be made into a federal felony case, requiring citizens to stand trial for their liberty on cases the federal government has no business prosecuting," the motion said. -- Minor, Diaz ask federal judge to dismiss judicial bribery charges (AP via Biloxi Sun Herald)

    March 25, 2004

    DeLay might step aside if indicted

    Aides to House GOP leader Tom DeLay denied a report that DeLay is discussing temporarily leaving his post if he is indicted for campaign finance abuses.

    Roll Call, a Capitol Hill newspaper, reported Thursday that DeLay, R-Texas, has begun quiet talks with a handful of colleagues about the possibility of stepping down, which would be required under Republican conference rules.
    Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, a Democrat, has been investigating whether Texans for a Republican Majority, a non-profit group and related political action committee with ties to DeLay, broke Texas law during the 2002 state legislative elections by using corporate donations.

    Even if he is indicted, DeLay could return to his leadership post if he is cleared of the allegations, the charges are dismissed or reduced to a non-felony. -- Probe may force DeLay to step down - (United Press International via Washington Times)

    I love this story. They give the denial first and contradict their own headline.

    March 12, 2004

    Molly Ivins on the Texas Speaker investigation

    Gosh, we are having such a swell time here in Texas. For starters, once again the speaker of the Texas House is under investigation by a grand jury. We're so proud. We have nothing against this guy personally, we're just rooting for an indictment as a matter of Texas tradition. This would make five out of the last six House speakers indicted for one thing or another, and you must admit, that's some record.

    (As a matter of strict accuracy, I should note that there was one speaker in there who was not indicted, but rather was shot to death by his wife. However, she was indicted -- although not convicted, because in Texas we recognize public service when we see it.) -- Molly Ivins: We're having a grand old time here in Texas (Creators Syndicate)

    Molly Ivins on the Texas Speaker investigation

    Gosh, we are having such a swell time here in Texas. For starters, once again the speaker of the Texas House is under investigation by a grand jury. We're so proud. We have nothing against this guy personally, we're just rooting for an indictment as a matter of Texas tradition. This would make five out of the last six House speakers indicted for one thing or another, and you must admit, that's some record.

    (As a matter of strict accuracy, I should note that there was one speaker in there who was not indicted, but rather was shot to death by his wife. However, she was indicted -- although not convicted, because in Texas we recognize public service when we see it.) -- Molly Ivins: We're having a grand old time here in Texas (Creators Syndicate)

    March 6, 2004

    The bail bondsman and the judges

    Louis Marcotte III, the bail bonds mogul whose ties to Jefferson Parish judges sparked a 4 ˝-year federal investigation of courthouse corruption, has agreed with prosecutors to plead guilty to an expansive racketeering charge implicating several judges, defense attorneys monitoring the inquiry said Friday.

    They said Marcotte signed an agreement with the government to confess to a charge under the powerful Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act, known as RICO, and to cooperate with the investigation at the 24th District Court in Gretna. Marcotte would face what one source called "a substantial" prison term.

    Court observers said a plea from Marcotte would give the government its biggest break so far in an investigation that already has netted ex-Judge Ronald Bodenheimer and five other defendants, because Marcotte is in a position to testify against more judges.

    "This is a typical wheel-and-spoke conspiracy," said Shaun Clarke, a former federal prosecutor. "Marcotte is at the center of the wheel, while Bodenheimer was just a spoke. This is definitely the largest break in the case." -- Bail bondsman to enter guilty plea on RICO charge (New Orleans Times-Picayune)

    March 4, 2004

    Texas GOP wants to strip Ronnie Earle of the power to investigate state officials

    The Republican Party of Texas has launched a petition drive in hopes of stripping Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle and his Public Integrity Unit of his power to investigate state officials.

    The call to strip the DA of his power comes after months of revalations concerning the Texas Association of Business and the political action committee Texans for a Republican Majority, both of which are accused of illegally using corporate contributions to directly assist political candidates, which is illegal in Texas. -- Political State Report

    Ronnie must really be getting close to the bone.

    March 2, 2004

    Phipps sentenced to four years

    A judge sentenced former state Agriculture Commissioner Meg Scott Phipps to four years in federal prison Tuesday for her role in taking more than $82,500 in illegal campaign contributions from state fair carnival operators.

    U.S. District Judge Malcolm Howard also ordered Phipps, 48, whose father and grandfather were North Carolina governors, to pay a $25,000 fine and serve two years of supervised probation following her release.

    Phipps, a Democrat, previously had agreed to forfeit $25,000 that the government said she received illegally. -- Phipps sentenced to four years for campaign finance scandal (AP)

    February 28, 2004

    "It's very difficult to run a campaign and keep an eye on your rear end"

    Mobile County [Alabama] Commissioner Freeman Jockisch illegally took more than $19,000 from his campaign fund and used it for personal gain, according to an updated indictment returned against him Friday by a special federal grand jury.

    The document adds eight counts of mail fraud to the 16 mail fraud counts and four counts of filing false tax returns that Jockisch already faced in federal court, charges that accuse the commissioner of hiding and failing to pay federal taxes on more than $93,000 of income.

    The latest allegations stem from the same paperwork issues that led a Mobile County Circuit Court grand jury to indict Jockisch last month on a single state charge of illegally using campaign funds. That indictment did not divulge how much money state investigators believe Jockisch took or how he did it. ...

    "If they've done nothing else, they've certainly interfered with his opportunity to be re-elected," said Jockisch's lawyer, Billy Kimbrough. "It's very difficult to run a campaign and keep an eye on your rear end all at the same time."

    Jockisch, a three-term Republican, is seeking re-election. He is set for trial on the federal charges in May, days before the June 1 primary, in which he will face at least two opponents. -- Federal grand jury adds charges against Jockisch (Mobile Register)

    February 25, 2004

    "Being called ugly by a frog"

    With Republican campaign-spending practices under investigation in Austin, U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay blasted Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle on Tuesday for using his power for "vindictive" ends.

    "This is nothing more than a vindictive, typical Ronnie Earle process. The district attorney has a long history of being vindictive and partisan," Mr. DeLay said at a weekly session with reporters, responding to a question about a grand jury investigation being run by Mr. Earle.

    "This is so typical. This is criminalizing, or an attempt to criminalize politics. We have a runaway district attorney in Texas," Mr. DeLay said.

    Mr. Earle said of the leader's comments: "Being called partisan and vindictive by Tom DeLay is like being called ugly by a frog." -- DeLay blasts DA in spending inquiry (Dallas Morning News)

    And the plot thickens ...

    A statement made by an ally of U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay is raising questions about some Republican National Committee contributions to seven Texas House candidates whose fund raising is part of a state criminal investigation.

    The contributions totaling $190,000 were sent two weeks after Texans for a Republican Majority Political Action Committee contributed $190,000 to an arm of the national Republican group. The money given to the Texas PAC was donated by corporations, which are prohibited by state law from donating directly to candidates.

    Officials with the Texas PAC and the Republican National Committee have repeatedly called the identical amounts a coincidence.

    But John Colyandro, executive director of the Texas PAC, said in a deposition that he directed an accountant to send a blank check to another DeLay aide, Jim Ellis, the day before Ellis met with the Republican committee, the Austin American-Statesman reported Wednesday. -- Blank check raises questions in Texas GOP fund raising (AP)

    February 23, 2004

    Background on the investigation of the Texas speaker

    News 8 in Austin explains the background for the investigation now going on in Texas over the election of the Speaker of the House.

    Until now, District Attorney Ronnie Earle has worked within the confines of murky and confusing campaign finance laws in which crimes are often difficult to prove.

    But the investigation widened significantly last week when a series of news stories broke tying Speaker Tom Craddick into the delivery of potentially laundered corporate dollars to his supporters.

    Suddenly, the axis of the investigation shifted from campaign finance laws to something called the Speaker statute.

    Once upon a time, the chemical industry, the railroads and the manufacturers routinely anointed Speakers of the Texas House. Finally, in the spirit of reform, the Legislature passed a very restrictive and specific law about what was and was not permitted in a Speaker's race.

    For instance, campaign contributions to House members based on their support or opposition of a specific speaker candidate is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in the penitentiary.

    February 22, 2004

    Justice Diaz faces new charges in Mississippi

    A federal grand jury added extortion and attempted bribery charges Friday against Justice Oliver Diaz Jr. and trial lawyer Paul Minor, postponing their March 1 trial.

    Minor's lawyer, Abbe Lowell of Washington, D.C., called the new charges outrageous, saying his client will plead innocent to them.

    "After investigating for two years and on the eve of trial, they bring new charges only after our motions have revealed the U.S. attorney's conflicts of interest and political affiliations," he said in a statement. "This smacks of retribution that is not allowed under the law." ...

    The new charges allege Minor in 2001 tried to extort $20,000 for Diaz from trial lawyers representing Dawn Bradshaw, who was awarded $9 million after poor hospital care led to pneumonia and brain damage.

    The high court upheld the $9 million verdict Oct. 11, 2001. According to the indictment, 14 days later, Minor told two unnamed lawyers that Diaz "helped swing the vote ... in favor of their client, Dawn Bradshaw, and that the vote could have gone either way but for ... Diaz's influence," pointing out the justice would soon be voting on the motion for rehearing their case. -- Diaz, Minor face additional counts (Jackson Clarion-Ledger)