TPM refers to Tim Russert’s “run of shame” last night over Louis Farrakhan’s unsolicited support for Obama… this was my reaction as well. Russert looks eternally for a headline, no matter how disgusting a thing he has to do to get one… this was low, even by his lack of standards...
Blogger Alan Breslauer (guest posting at BradBlog) brought Karl Rove a present as he was preparing to give a speech in LA.
Maybe Rove didn’t like it, but I hope they have internet access at the federal facility in Louisiana where Siegelman is incarcerated. It might make the day go a bit easier.
Here’s the BradBlog transcript of Rove’s denial that he asked an Alabama operative to follow Siegelman and attempt to get compromising photos of him:
Question: It’s basically a widespread belief that
when it comes to politics you play it rough. They
have accused you of outing CIA agent Valerie
Plame, planning the dismissals of US attorneys on
political grounds, collusion with Jack Abramoff and
most recently plotting the downfall of Don
Siegelman. Do you play rough?
Rove: Ah, you know, in each one of those
instances things have proven to be or turned out to
be either non-existent or not true. But if there is no
evidence for it, Rove is responsible. It’s like the 60
Minutes thing on Don Siegelman…
Question: Did you see it?
Rove: Yeah I did, you know, this woman says that
she was a longtime Alabama operative and I asked
her to get pictures of Governor Siegelman with –
naked pictures of him with his aides - and, ah, that
this is a number of requests I’ve made to her.
The fact of the matter is that I never met with this
woman. I never made this request of her or
anybody else. If she was a political operative she
wasn’t involved in any of the campaigns that I was
involved in in Alabama. I’ve never met the woman.
And I frankly thought it was really unusual, you
know, there was CBS – this woman says she met
with me in 2001 – I’m at the White House, where
did we meet? You know, she was an opposition
researcher, ah, who paid her? When did I start
making these requests? I mean, I, I, the woman
lied. I don’t think I’ve ever met the woman. I know
I’ve never taken a meeting with her.
And yet the CBS – look, I’m a myth I’m not a
human being. I may appear to be flesh and blood
but I’m a myth.
It will be interesting to find out whether Rove's blanket denial holds up. Did Rove meet the operative, work on any campaign she worked on (Rove worked several Alabama campaigns), etc?
Scott Horton, who has written extensively about the Don Siegelman prosecution, believes that 60 Minutes producers who interviewed him repeatedly for the piece, which aired on Sunday, have much more footage on the judge in the case.
…they have much more on the inexplicable
conduct of federal Judge Mark Fuller, appointed by
George W. Bush, a former member of the Alabama
G.O.P.’s Executive Committee, and a man who
publicly stated that Siegelman had a grudge
against him—but who refused to recuse himself
from the case.
What Horton wants to see explored in more detail are both this aspect and the conduct of US prosecutor Leura Canary and her husband Billy, the former campaign manager for Siegelman rival and current Alabama Governor Bob Riley. According to Horton and other accounts of the case, the “Canary team” formed the center of the ground effort to get Don Siegelman, at the direction of Karl Rove.
Horton urges viewers of the CBS piece to write to the producers and tell them to follow up in a future story about the dangling issues left open in their piece about the underbelly of the Siegelman case. The link to do so is a the very bottom of this page, where it says, “Contact Us.” CBS has resources to follow up on this explosive story that few journalists can match— and has already extensively interviewed most of the relevant players.
I urge readers who are interested in learning more about the Don Siegelman case to read Scott Horton’s “No Comment” blog from last night and search it for more about the rogue prosecution of the former Alabama Governor.
THIS ITEM RETRACTED- (see new post) Note that the Bass family blocked airing of CBS’s “60 Minutes” story in northern Alabama last night, pulling it from their CBS affiliates there. There’s a lot to hide from the citizens of Alabama about how Karl Rove and the local US Attorneys took away their political alternatives. It’s not surprising that those with much at stake don’t want them to see this:
D. Cupples updates a previous post over at Buck Naked politics about Scott Pelley’s CBS 60 Minutes piece on Don Siegelman’s prosecution. The story had reportedly been postponed after Republicans challenged the credibility of one source, but is now running tonight— and the details are explosive.
According to one interview, Karl Rove asked Jill Simpson, a Republican operative, to get pictures of Don Siegelman in a sexually compromising position with one of his aides for “opposition research.” After months of tracking the Democratic governor of Alabama, Simpson found no evidence of infidelity. Simpson was also quoted in the past as having heard in a Republican conference call about Rove's plans to neutralize Siegelman.
In 2002, Siegelman was defeated for re-election in the closest race in Alabama history by Republican Bob Riley—in a race that Rove reportedly prioritized nationally.
Next, the local US Attorney, Leura Canary, a Republican and the wife of Riley’s campaign manager, prosecuted Siegelman on bribery charges, but the case was thrown out of court for lack of solid evidence in 2004. Then Siegelman decided to run for governor again— and was again indicted in 2005. Siegelman was convicted of a quid pro quo involving a donation to an issue campaign. The 60 Minutes piece tonight promises to explore the quality of the evidence in this prosecution as well.
Siegelman is now serving time in Louisiana.
Since his conviction, 52 former state Attorneys General have written to Congress to say that the Siegelman prosecution should be investigated and have urged Congress to take up his case. To date, the Bush Administration has refused to cooperate with a House Judiciary Committee inquiry into the prosecution.
For more context on the contradictions coming up to John McCain’s version of the Paxson story, see yesterday’s WaPo article on Lowell "Bud" Paxson’s version. He remembers that not only did he meet with McCain before the Senator wrote to the FCC on his behalf, but that “probably” Iseman was there too.
It seems the only things wrong with McCain’s story are the facts. His lawyer, Bob Bennett sees no problem here, "We understood that he [McCain] did not speak directly with him [Paxson]. Now it appears he did speak to him. What is the difference?"
During McCain’s press conference on the NY Times story about his relationship with lobbyists— and in particular with telecommunications lobbyist Vicki Iseman, he said, “I’ve never done any favors for anybody — lobbyist or special interest group — that’s a clear, 24-year record.”
The Senator’s statement turns out to be, well… ridiculous. The Times reports today that McCain wrote a threatening letter to the chairman of the FCC on behalf of Iseman client Glencairn Ltd. In 1999. The relationship between Glencairn and Sinclair Broadcasting at the time was an important one for both companies, through which Sinclair was able to avoid an FCC ban on owning multiple television stations in one city. McCain’s letter to the commission chair tied a favorable opinion on Glancairn directly to his own Senate Committee’s power to overhaul the FCC.
So here we have McCain bluntly denying do any favors for any lobbyist, while apparently having written blunt threats to the head of a federal commission on behalf of an obscure marketing relationship, This particular marketing relationship is exactly what lobbyist Iseman was hired to protect, at the time when she and McCain were reported to have been close.
Then there’s the matter of other little facts that keep getting in the way of his denials of the Times story:
—McCain’s campaign says he never spoke with the head of another Iseman client company, Paxson Communications, before writing a letter to the FCC on it’s behalf. Unfortunately, McCain’s own sworn deposition in a 2002 matter directly contradicts his campaign on this point. Newsweek reports that McCain then said, “I was contacted by Mr. Paxson on this issue. He wanted their (the FCC’s) approval very bad for purposes of his business. I believe that Mr. Paxson had a legitimate complaint."
—McCain claimed not to have spoken to the Times about its story before it was published, yet the story itself details a conversation between McCain and Times editor Bill Keller on the subject.
—McCain claimed not to have attempted to quash the story when it first came up in December, but all accounts agree that his campaign had gone to great lengths to do so.
This story will continue to perk as long as McCain’s denials continue to be forceful—and inaccurate.
Oh, and by the way… John McCain seems to have laid down a Gary Hart sort of challenge to the media today...
Whatever one thinks about today's story in the Times... by denying all aspects of the piece, even as we read that the head of the FCC had responded to his 1999 letter on behalf of Vicki Iseman’s client, Paxson Communications, expressing “concern” about his intervention…well it’s... at the minimum, an invitation to investigate all aspects of the Iseman story.
Give it another week, then we’ll have a real idea about whether the Times was premature in running the story.
Either their reporting will die an ignominious death or it will be the undoing of the McCain candidacy. It’s frankly hard to believe they didn’t see the response coming to running it, so one has to wonder if they’ve got more…
The McCain story in today’s NY Times will no doubt revive discussion about the Keating Five scandal and McCain’s re-invention of himself as a reformer in its wake. McCain’s career has a number of back and forth paths to and from real campaign finance reform, as does his current campaign, which didn't take public funds until it almost self-destructed in 2007. His relationships with the right-winger preachers he eschewed back in 2000 are the polar opposite now in 2008.
There’s a lot to discuss about McCain’s reputation as a reformer. The guy who ran opposing Washington special interests in 2000 is not the guy who managed to emerge ahead of the pack in 2008. He's developed a detente with many of the interests that opposed him then.