Bushie Kyle Sampson Claims Ignorance of the Law

It wasn’™t just Monica Goodling who broke the law in the DOJ and appointed career attorneys based on political criteria. Kyle Sampson also broke the law, though in his case he’™s making the usual whiney excuses, such as the notion that he, a member of the Justice Department, didn’™t KNOW the law he was sworn to uphold.

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

Our own Daniel DiRito has an excellent article about the lawbreaking of Bush Justice official Monica Goodling, a marginal lawyer, at best, who was empowered to make huge decisions in the Bush Justice Department under Albert Gonzales. This case will be part of the Bush legacy of both incompetence and politicization of our government’™s functions, a shameful legacy indeed, for surely the Justice Department is designed to serve all Americans, and not just Republicans. But it is the incompetence I write about today, and not Monica Goodling. In separate stories in the Washington Post and the New York Times, Kyle Sampson’™s lawyer, Bradford Berenson, gives a couple whiney excuses for Sampson’™s behavior, excuses that show Sampson himself was incompetent to fill his role in the Bush Justice Department. First, in the Washington Post

Friday, August 5th, 2011 by Richard Blair |

DOJ Drops Case Against Ted Stevens

Was the “fix” in from the very beginning by the Bush administration DOJ, and were the prosecution errors committed on purpose so there was no way that the conviction would ever be upheld? Or was it just garden variety legal incompetence that became a hallmark of Alberto Gonzales’ tenure as US Attorney General?

Commentary By: Richard Blair

In October 2008, Senator Ted “Bridge to Nowhere” Stevens (R-Alaska) was convicted on several charges of official corruption. He subsequently lost his reelection bid in November. Since then, there have been a variety of defense motions to overturn the conviction and have a new trial.

Today, the Department of Justice announced that it’s dropping all charges against Stevens:

The Justice Department said Wednesday it would drop corruption charges against former Sen. Ted Stevens because prosecutors withheld evidence from the senator’s defense team during his trial.

The reversal is an embarrassment for the department, which won a conviction against the Alaska Republican in October and is now asking to overturn it…

Was the “fix” in from the very beginning by the Bush administration DOJ, and were the prosecution errors committed on purpose so there was no way that the conviction would ever be upheld? Or was it just garden variety legal incompetence that became a hallmark of Alberto Gonzales’ tenure as US Attorney General? The conspiracy theorist in me leans toward the former. The pragmatist in me leans toward the latter, because it seems quite hasty for current Attorney General Eric Holder to totally drop the charges, unless the errors were so egregious as to prevent a retrial.

There’s gotta be one hell of a backstory to this case. I wonder if we’ll ever hear it?

Update: Daily Kos has a short diary that explains why AG Holder’s decision was the right one.

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009 by Richard Blair |

Pete Sessions (R-TX) Learns from the Taliban

Pete Sessions compares the Republican obstructionist position concerning the stimulus bill to the insurgency of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Really, he did! Well, we successfully pinned the “culture of corruption” tag on the GOP a few years ago, and Sessions opens us up to coining another tag. How about “The American Talibanskis?”

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

Pete Sessions is a a Representative from Texas. Waco. Maybe that explains it. He’s also Chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee. The other day he likened the House resistance to the stimulus plan to Taliban insurgency. I’m thinking there are no lessons one wants to learn from the Taliban, but Sessions went there, really he did. From Hotline:

Frustrated by a lack of bipartisan outreach from House Democratic leaders, Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said House Republicans – who voted unanimously last week against the economic plan pushed by President Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi – will pitch a “positive, loyal opposition” to the proposal. The group, he added, should also “understand insurgency” in implementing efforts to offer alternatives.

“Insurgency, we understand perhaps a little bit more because of the Taliban,” Sessions said during a meeting yesterday with Hotline editors. “And that is that they went about systematically understanding how to disrupt and change a person’s entire processes. And these Taliban – I’m not trying to say the Republican Party is the Taliban. No, that’s not what we’re saying. I’m saying an example of how you go about [sic] is to change a person from their messaging to their operations to their frontline message. And we need to understand that insurgency may be required when the other side, the House leadership, does not follow the same commands, which we entered the game with.”

What this is is a pouty Republican whine gone wrong. No, I don’t think Sessions means that the Republican Party is just like the Taliban, but it is clear he has learned the lessons of the Taliban, lessons the Bush Administration did not learn, thus failing to wipe them out. Maybe Sessions sees himself as a glorious freedom fighter who when he takes charge will force women into bhurkas. Heck, I don’t know. The guy really pulled a stupid one here.

But this really is just a whine. His poor party was not invited to control the legislation. Barack Obama invited all sorts of Republican leaders to the White House, travelled to and made unprecedented trips to the House and Senate to consult with Republicans, and Sessions is whining that he and his fellow insurgents couldn’t control the election. Hey, maybe if they hadn’t supported Bush as he trashed the constitution, ran up record budget deficits, ruined the economy (I could go on), then Sessions and his cohorts wouldn’t have lost so many seats in the House and Senate. After all, that’s the real reason they aren’t controlling the legislative agenda. That’s how it works in our democracy, after all, the ones who got the votes run things. Hey, Pete – tough!

But let’s be clear. Sessions’ statements about running his Party as if it were the Afghanistan-based Taliban insurgency is in fact the new core value of the Republican Party. Obstruction is the word of the day, and has become the core ethic for the GOP. As Eric Cantor describes it, it is the political strategy of “Just say NO!” Here it is from the Washington Post:

Three months after their Election Day drubbing, Republican leaders see glimmers of rebirth in the party’s liberation from an unpopular president, its selection of its first African American chairman and, most of all, its stand against a stimulus package that they are increasingly confident will provide little economic jolt but will pay off politically for those who oppose it.

After giving the package zero votes in the House, and 0with their counterparts in the Senate likely to provide in a crucial procedural vote today only the handful of votes needed to avoid a filibuster, Republicans are relishing the opportunity to make a big statement. Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Tex.) suggested last week that the party is learning from the disruptive tactics of the Taliban, and the GOP these days does have the bravado of an insurgent band that has pulled together after a big defeat to carry off a quick, if not particularly damaging, raid on the powers that be.

“We’re so far ahead of where we thought we’d be at this time,” said Rep. Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.), one of several younger congressmen seeking to lead the party’s renewal. “It’s not a sign that we’re back to where we need to be, but it’s a sign that we’re beginning to find our voice. We’re standing on our core principles, and the core principle that suffered the most in recent years was fiscal conservatism and economic liberty. That was the tallest pole in our tent, and we took an ax to it, but now we’re building it back.”

The second-ranking House Republican, Rep. Eric Cantor (Va.), put it more bluntly. “What transpired . . . and will give us a shot in the arm going forward is that we are standing up on principle and just saying no,” he said.

We succeeded in the last several years in attaching the phrase “culture of corruption” to the GOP brand. Now it is time to find a new phrase. The “Architects of Obstruction?” There’s a good one. But I’m thinking you all can do better. Think of it as thinking up a band name for a punk rock group. It has to be offensive and descriptive at the same time. “The American Talibanskis” might be a good name. But I’m never any good at this. You all feel free to come up with some suggestions, willya?

Monday, February 9th, 2009 by Steven Reynolds |

GOP Culture of Corruption to Infect Michael Steele Next?

It was refreshing that the Republicans came up with a black man as RNC Chair, but in other ways Michael Steele carries on the traditions of the GOP, and it appears we can count corruption into the bargain. Micheal Steele is being investigated for fraud in his 2006 US Senate campaign, and his finance guy at the time is the one testifying.

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

This time the corruption does not seem to involve Mr. Abramoff. It involves Michael Steele, newly elected Chair of the Republican Party, and money his campaign paid to a company owned by his sister, evidently eleven months AFTER his sister folded the company. Money paid for services that could not possibly be rendered? Gee, that seems odd. Maybe we should investigate. A Republican US Attorney is doing just that. From the Washington Post:

Michael S. Steele, the newly elected chairman of the Republican National Committee, arranged for his 2006 Senate campaign to pay a defunct company run by his sister for services that were never performed, his finance chairman from that campaign has told federal prosecutors.

The claim about the payment, one of several allegations by Alan B. Fabian, is outlined in a confidential court document. Fabian offered the information last March as he was seeking leniency for himself during plea negotiations on unrelated fraud charges. It is unclear how extensively his claims have been pursued. Prosecutors gave him no credit for cooperation when he was sentenced in October.

Let’s see, a Republican US Attorney is investigating, and would not do so if he didn’t think this was a complete waste of time. Meanwhile the Republican Party thinks it is just peachy letting this guy make decisions about millions of dollars of its money.

Well, if they looked for someone free of corruption to run the RNC, they’d be looking for a long time.

Hey, this Washington Post article is well-researched and lengthy. That in itself does not make Mr. Steele guilty, but it outlines some shoddy practices at the very least. Gee, it’s either dishonesty or incompetence. . . isn’t that the Republican way? To that end, Michael Steele seems perfect to run the GOP.

Saturday, February 7th, 2009 by Steven Reynolds |

Sarah Palin Hates Those Nasty Bloggers!

Some fun quotes in the latest Esquire interview of Sarah Palin, one of which shows that she has a certain contempt for bloggers. Hey, aren’t bloggers citizens, too? And shouldn’t they point out facts like Sarah’s own husband being held in contempt by the Alaska legislature? Sounds fair to me. But Sarah Palin would rather whine about bloggers.

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

That’s what she said to Esquire:

Bored, anonymous, pathetic bloggers who lie annoy me.

Hey, Sarah! Yoohoo! Bloggers are regular folk from Main Street, just like you. If they object to your imperious ways and ignorant speech patterns, then tough. You’re the one who entered the political arena, and if you abuse the system, well, having your husband Todd held in contempt may be the least of your worries.

That said, see you in 2012, Sarah!

Saturday, February 7th, 2009 by Steven Reynolds |

$559 Million Worth of Bribery

Halliburton was caught bribing foreign officials for business, and now is trying to settle with the US government rather than see several of its executives go to jail.

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

The offer of a fine as a settlement of the bribery and corruption charges has not been accepted as yet. Of course, such massive bribery can only come from the company that gave us Dick Cheney. Halliburton. Better Living Through Corruption, Oil and War.

From Reuters:

Halliburton Co will pay a $559 million fine to end an investigation of its former KBR Inc unit if the U.S. government approves the settlement, the largest penalty against a U.S. company for charges of bribery under federal law.

Halliburton, once headed by former Vice President Dick Cheney, said it was awaiting final approval from the U.S. Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission to settle claims that KBR violated anti-bribery laws by paying kickbacks to Nigerian officials.

Under the settlement, Halliburton would pay $382 million to the Department of Justice and $177 million to the Securities and Exchange Commission in “disgorgement.”

KBR did not comment on the proposed settlement. Halliburton said in regulatory filings last July that it was in settlement talks with the government.

Dan Newcomb, a partner at law firm Shearman and Sterling in New York who specializes in Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) law, said it was likely more companies involved in anti-corruption cases would settle with the U.S. government.

Under the FCPA, it is illegal for U.S. companies or their agents to use bribes to win foreign business.

I suppose nobody expects this settlement will make Halliburton a fine corporate citizen.

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009 by Steven Reynolds |

Grand Jury Probing Latest GOP Culture of Corruption Suspect

More Republican corrupt politicians is always an entertaining thing, though in Florida this case might end up as small potatos. Or oranges, or whatever. Still, it will likely harm the Republican brand in the state as they fight to keep the Mel Martinez Senate seat in two years.

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

The GOP Culture of Corruption Grand Jury target is Ray Sansom, Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives. He’s accused of funnelling money to Northwest Florida State College while he held a $110,000 job at the same institution. The original story broke on January 7th in Florida Today, and we reported about it then. But there’s new developments today, as the Grand Jury has decided to investigate. From the Miami Herald:

A grand jury decided Monday to look into allegations that House Speaker Ray Sansom abused his position by taking a six-figure job at his hometown college.

“From this point on, we’ll be calling witnesses,” State Attorney Willie Meggs said at the Leon County Courthouse. “I don’t know what we’re going to find until we look. We will get the people who have this information and present it to the grand jury.”

Sansom, R-Destin, took the unadvertised $110,000 a year job at Northwest Florida State College on the same day he became speaker of the House two months ago.

Sansom, though he denies all charges, has lawyered up, according to the Miami Herald Blog. Florida tends to be a pretty corrupt state, so maybe he won’t be charged or convicted, but this is going to play badly for the Republicans as they prepare to take the Senate seat abandoned by Mel Martinez.

Monday, January 26th, 2009 by Steven Reynolds |

The Bush Legacy of Racist Politicization of Justice

Did Bradly Schlozman politicize the DOJ Civil Rights Division? Evidently there is not enough evidence to bring him to trial for that or for lying to Congress. But the report gives us the evidence that is ugly, especially in the injection by Schlozman of racism into the very Division of the DOJ charged with combatting racism in the US.

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

The biggest triumphs of our system of justice in the last 100 years, I would argue, were in the 50′s and 60′s, and dealt with the civil rights movement. In America we recognized the racism in our past and went a good, if long ways towards correcting that racism that was nearly hard-wired into our institutions. The United States Department of Justice is housed in the Robert F. Kennedy Department of Justice Building, and RFK himself was instrumental in leading the DOJ in civil rights issues. The Civil Rights Division was founded in response to Civil Rights legislation and is charged with enforcing the Civil Rights Acts of 1957, 1960, 1964 and 1968, among other statutes. The Division is a testament to what is good in our system of government, perhaps one of the most important testaments to the good of our system of governmetn. It is now clearer than ever that the Bush Administration has made a mockery of this, one of our most important institutions.

First, the Civil Rights Division under Bradley Schlozman clearly participated in illegal, politicized hiring practices. From McClatchy:

A former acting Justice Department civil rights chief illegally favored conservative job applicants as “real Americans,” kept liberal lawyers off key cases and lied in Senate testimony to conceal his misconduct, internal investigators say in a report made public Tuesday.

Bradley Schlozman privately dubbed liberal department lawyers “commies” and “pinkos” and told a subordinate that the Civil Rights Division shouldn’t be limited to hiring “politburo members” who belong to some “psychopathic left-wing organization designed to overthrow the government,” the department’s inspector general and Office of Professional Responsibility found.

Last March, officials from the two offices asked the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia to investigate whether Schlozman had committed perjury in June 2007 Senate testimony and written follow-up responses. Federal prosecutors decided last week not to bring charges.

The 70-page report, the last to be publicly released on four joint internal investigations stemming from the 2007 scandal over politicization of the Justice Department, was completed in July but had been kept secret pending the outcome of the criminal inquiry.

It concludes that Schlozman kept tight control over hiring in five key sections of the Civil Rights Division and “improperly used political or ideological affiliations” in assessing applicants for experienced and entry-level career jobs, violating the federal Civil Service Reform Act and department policy.

Of 65 lawyers whom Schlozman hired from 2003 to 2006 and whose political affiliations were evident, 63, or 97 percent, were Republicans or conservatives and only two were Democrats or liberal, it said.

When Schlozman was approached by a lower-level manager or fellow department political employee about a job applicant, he sometimes blurted, “Conservative?” or “What’s his view of the world?” the report says.

Other reports detailing the political bias and extremism at the Civil Rights Division under Schlozman can be found at The Hill and at the Washington Post. That’s devastating, of course, but worse is that the Schlozman tenure of the Bush DOJ Civil Rights Division was marked by blatant racism on Mr. Schlozman’s part. Yes, blatant racism on the part of Bradley Schlozman reported today by Rolling Stone:

The report is shocking. But even moreso in a topic it touches on only tangentially – racism in the Civil Rights Division of the Bush DOJ. Schlozman tried to have one “Democrat in hiding” that he oversaw exiled because she: “wrote in Ebonics,” “was an idiot,” and “was an affirmative action thing.”

(The attorney in question graduated magna cum laude from a top law school and was repeatedly praised in her performance reviews for her strong writing and analytical skills.)

There is also this email exchange between Schlozman and John Tanner, the Voting Rights division chair who infamously asserted that Voter ID requirements that disadvantage the elderly have no impact on minorities because, “minorities don’t become elderly the way white people do. They die first.”

Tanner and Schlozman are discussing how they like their coffee, with Tanner writing that he took his “Mary Frances Berry style – black and bitter.”

Berry, an African American, chaired the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights for nearly a decade, ending her service in 2004.

There may be no more lasting shame that will stick to the Bush Administration than the institutionalization of racism in the Civil Rights Division of the US Department of Justice. But the report that came out this week has failed to recommend prosecution for Schlozman, and his own lawyer is interpreting that as vindication in what appears to be the usual whiney Republican fashion. Their line is that since they were not charged with a crime there is no moral taint, but reasonable observors will see moral taint all over the Bradley Schlozman tenure at the DOJ. There is no other way of interpreting Schlozman’s tenure than that it corrupted the fine work of the Civil Rights Division, an institution that was one of our proudest over the last half of the 20th Century.

Yes, Katrina tars Bush, as does torture and Abu Ghraib and Gitmo and the list goes on and on and on. His ugliest legacy is the institutionalization of racism, via his man Bradley Schozman, in the very agency charged with combatting racism. We do not expect Mr. Bush or Mr. Schozman to admit any of the shame that drips from their actions, because we know that it is vital to the Republican Brand never to admit wrongdoing or shame. We must instead make everyone aware of this promotion of racism by Republicans, and console ourselves int he knowledge that virtually every demographic of color is now avoiding the Republican Party as if they were wearing white sheets. As if? Given the revelations yesterday one wonders if “as if” is an appropriate turn of phrase.

In the interest of full disclosure, my wife and I are in the process of adoption, and the child we adopt will likely be African American. We don’t pat ourselves on the back for this, as we know we will benefit far more than the child will by the opportunity for parenting. But civil rights and race issues are definitely on the front burner for us as we go through this process. As a further aside, this adoption could happen very soon, though out of caution I would say in the next couple of months.

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009 by Steven Reynolds |

Bicycle Enthusiasts are Terrorists

The Washington Post ran a stellar report yesterday about illegal surveillance by the Maryland Police, which stooped to investigating people advocating for bicycle lanes in cities. Oh, the HORROR! Bicycle lanes. A coincidence that the Maryland government at the time was run by Robert Ehrlich and Michael Steele, both Republicans? No.

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

In Maryland that was evidently the case, according to an article by Lisa Rein and Josh White in yesterday’s Washington Post. More complete details are now out about the suveillance program conducted by the Maryland State Police, and it is shocking the kinds of citizens groups that agency decided to infiltrate and report on, on the slim rationalization that the groups might be harboring terrorists. This is a mighty report, that’s for sure. Here’s the lead, from the Washington Post:

The Maryland State Police surveillance of advocacy groups was far more extensive than previously acknowledged, with records showing that troopers monitored – and labeled as terrorists – activists devoted to such wide-ranging causes as promoting human rights and establishing bike lanes.

Intelligence officers created a voluminous file on Norfolk-based People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, calling the group a “security threat” because of concerns that members would disrupt the circus. Angry consumers fighting a 72 percent electricity rate increase in 2006 were targeted. The DC Anti-War Network, which opposes the Iraq war, was designated a white supremacist group, without explanation.

One of the possible “crimes” in the file police opened on Amnesty International, a world-renowned human rights group: “civil rights.”

According to hundreds of pages of newly obtained police documents, the groups were swept into a broad surveillance operation that started in 2005 with routine preparations for the scheduled executions of two men on death row.

The operation has been called a “waste of resources” by the current police superintendent and “undemocratic” by the governor.

I’m willing to bet, based on the fearmongering inherent in these actions, and the incompetence the officers showed in choosing who to monitor, that every single one of the officers who hatched this illegal and unconstitutional surveillance program were Republicans. Though he was not implicated in any of this wrongdoing, the Governor of Maryland at the time, Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr., is a Republican. Micheal Steele, current GOPAC Chair and candidate for the Chair of the RNC, was Lietenant Governor of Maryland when these ugly crimes took place. Alas, Republicans will counter that they are not crimes since no charges have been filed, but I value the constitution far more highly than they do.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am a bicycle enthusist, and log ten to forty mile trips quite often throughout the spring and summer. I have even joined an advocacy group here in PA, the Friends of Schuylkill River Park. Thankfully I live in Pennsylvania, and there is no evidence, as yet, that police or others gone wild in their zeal to perform Homeland Security tasks have targeted that organization.

Monday, January 5th, 2009 by Steven Reynolds |

Katherine Harris and Another Steaming Cup of GOP Culture of Corruption

The gift that keeps on giving is the culture of corruption Karl rove, George Bush and the GOP built over the last 20 years or so. Mitchell Wade is about to be sentenced, and there’™s some information in the documents related to his sentencing that indicates Katherine Harris and a couple others may be the next targets. Isn’™t that sweet?

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

The sentencing memorandum on behalf of Mitchell Wade is in, and there’™s some indications that he’™s told some stories about yet more Republican office holders who accepted illegal campaign contributions. Among those office holders is Katherine Harris, she of the Florida vote recount that was so pivotal to giving us the failure that is George Bush in 2000. Seth Hettena has the story, as does Politico. Here’™s a bit from Seth:

Mitchell Wade, the man who bribed Randy ‘œDuke’ Cunningham and then did much to speed the congressman’™s spectacular fall, is asking a judge to sentence him to a year of home detention for all the help he provided the government. Prosecutors don’™t dispute that Wade was helpful, but they believe that four years in prison is more appropriate for $1.8 million in bribes.

Would Cunningham ultimately have been convicted without Wade? Probably, but Wade made it happen much, much faster. He was debriefed 23 times by government investigators and supplied them a searchable electronic database of 150,000 documents, including the infamous ‘œbribe menu.’ And Wade’™s cooperation didn’™t stop with Cunningham. He provided damaging evidence against several others, including his testimony at the bribery trial of his former boss, Brent Wilkes, who’™s now serving time in prison.

A 42-page sentencing memo filed by Wade’™s attorneys says he aided the government in its investigation ‘œof at least five other members of Congress’ who were under investigation for ‘œcorruption similar to that of Mr. Cunningham.’ These no doubt include Virgil Goode and Katherine ‘œPink Sugar’ Harris. Wade wanted to open facilities in their districts and made $78,000 in ‘œstraw’ contributions to grease the wheels. Neither Harris nor Goode has been charged with wrongdoing.

Prosecutors drop tantalizing hints about an even bigger, ongoing investigation. Wade was debriefed in 2006 and provided ‘œmoderately useful’ background information in another ‘œlarge and important corruption investigation’ that also has not yet resulted in any charges.

‘œLarge and important corruption investigation?’ Man, this Duke Cunningham, Wilkes, Wade thing is the gift that keeps on giving. Sure, we all expect that there will be Republicans who escape the culture of corruption web they wove, but I’™m sure we’™re all hoping Katherine Haqrris gets caught in this one. This would be true justice in pursuit of voter fraud, eh?

Saturday, November 29th, 2008 by Richard Blair |
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