Monday, April 16, 2007

Looking At Those Who Weren't Fired

One of the interesting but under-reported issues in the firings of eight US Attorneys scandal has to do with those who weren't dismissed. What was it about their job performance that kept them safe. Adam Cohen, writing as an "editorial observer" for the NY Times, looks at one of those job keepers.

Opponents of Gov. Jim Doyle of Wisconsin spent $4 million on ads last year trying to link the Democratic incumbent to a state employee who was sent to jail on corruption charges. The effort failed, and Mr. Doyle was re-elected — and now the state employee has been found to have been wrongly convicted. The entire affair is raising serious questions about why a United States attorney put an innocent woman in jail.

The conviction of Georgia Thompson has become part of the furor over the firing of eight United States attorneys in what seems like a political purge. While the main focus of that scandal is on why the attorneys were fired, the Thompson case raises questions about why other prosecutors kept their jobs.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, which heard Ms. Thompson’s case this month, did not discuss whether her prosecution was political — but it did make clear that it was wrong. And in an extraordinary move, it ordered her released immediately, without waiting to write a decision. “Your evidence is beyond thin,” Judge Diane Wood told the prosecutor. “I’m not sure what your actual theory in this case is.”

Ms. Thompson's "crime" as a state employee was to award a travel contract to the lowest bidder who just happened to have made a sizeable campaign contribution to Democratic Governor Jim Doyle.

While Ms. Thompson did her job conscientiously, that is less clear of [US Attorney] Biskupic. The decision to award the contract — the supposed crime — occurred in Madison, in the jurisdiction of Wisconsin’s other United States attorney. But for reasons that are hard to understand, the Milwaukee-based Mr. Biskupic swept in and took the case.

While he was investigating, in the fall of 2005, Mr. Biskupic informed the media. Justice Department guidelines say federal prosecutors can publicly discuss investigations before an indictment only under extraordinary circumstances. This case hardly met that test.

The prosecution proceeded on a schedule that worked out perfectly for the Republican candidate for governor. Mr. Biskupic announced Ms. Thompson’s indictment in January 2006. She went to trial that summer, and was sentenced in late September, weeks before the election. Mr. Biskupic insisted in July, as he vowed to continue the investigation, that “the review is not going to be tied to the political calendar.”

One of the biggest weaknesses in the case against Ms. Thompson was that to commit the crime she was charged with she had to have tried to gain personally from the contract, and there’s no credible evidence that she did. So Mr. Biskupic made the creative argument that she gained by obtaining “political advantage for her superiors” and that in pleasing them she “enhanced job security for herself.” Those motivations, of course, may well describe why Mr. Biskupic prosecuted Ms. Thompson.
[Emphasis added]

Recent revelations (including those published by the NY Times) make it clear that the DOJ made prosecuting voter fraud (especially against Democrats) a top priority for the US Attorneys. Those US Attorneys who complied with the new priority guidelines kept their jobs, even if the prosecutions were flimsy pieces of partisan crap. Those who didn't got fired.

Fortunately, in this case, the prosecution didn't have its intended effect. Gov. Doyle was re-elected. Unfortunately, Ms. Thompson spent several months in prison and lost her home in the process.

Some justice, eh?

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

A person I once considered a friend, and no longer can say so, works for a defense industry subcontractor in Wisc.

Veeeeeery red slanted media.

Look up what you can on Tutwiler while there. One of them works on the OVP's Senate Staff. It might connect some dots...

4:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Biskupic's groundless investigation and prosecution did have some of its intended effects: Friends of mine, who are usually well informed, told me early on that they "knew" that Doyle was corrupt and they could no longer work for his reelection.

My friends, pretty liberal/progressive Dems, felt that by working for Doyle--which they had done to get him elected the first time--they would be condoning bad behavior.

Nice, huh?

7:35 AM  

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