Sunday, October 07, 2007

Mississippi Corruption in the Spotlight

I just did an article about our Governor making unfavorable national headlines, and now I find our state may be in the spotlight again.

I assume you are aware of the Department of Justice scandals where prominent US Attorneys around the country were fired for failing to prosecute cases purely for political purposes, which lead to the resignation of Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, Presidential Advisor Karl Rove, and many others. Now Congress is looking into the opposite scandal: where US Attorneys DID prosecute cases purely for political purposes.

Scott Horton is a contributor to Harper's Magazine and writes No Comment, a legal blog on Harper's website. He is a renowned New York attorney known for his work in emerging markets and international law.

His family has been in Alabama for generations, and one of his relatives there alerted him in June to the prosecution of Democratic Governor Siegelman, which "smelled fishy". He began a series of articles. The New York Times, Time Magazine, and many others have weighed in on this issue. In July, 44 attorneys general petitioned the US Congress demanding a formal inquiry into Governor Siegelman's prosecution. All this activity has culminated in hearings before the US House Judiciary which begin next week. The hearings are restricted to the cases in Alabama and Wisconsin. However, other cases of abuse have been reported in Michigan and Minnesota.

Now, Scott Horton has turned his attention to Mississippi, and it's not pretty - in fact, it is totally disgusting. Perhaps the worse part is that I have to read a New York magazine to find out what is happening in my own state.

He started off with an article on 18 September 2007, wherein he says:

"At this point I believe, based on documents and evidence which have come to me, that the Mississippi prosecutions [like those in Alabama] will also shortly be exposed as being politically motivated and directed."

Prior to the 2003 state elections, FBI agents were all over Mississippi looking into the dealings of prominent Mississippi trial attorneys, who supplied the financial support to Democratic candidates. During the same election, lots of questionable money was coming into Mississippi for Republican candidates, including money tied to Jack Abramoff and his casino interests and the money from the Law Enforcement Alliance from America, a front group for the US Chamber of Commerce - but there was no investigation by the FBI. What probably alerted Horton to this case was that Noel Hillman, from the US Department of Justice, played a leading role in both the Alabama and Mississippi prosecutions.

On 25 July 2003—ninety days before the gubernatorial election between Musgrove and Barbour—the U.S. Attorney in Jackson, Dunn Lampton, secured indictments of Supreme Court Justice Oliver Diaz, his ex-wife Jennifer, Chancery Judge Wes Teel, former Circuit Judge Whitfield, and attorney Paul Minor. In this first article, Horton discusses in detail the case against Diaz, and says:

"Diaz was acquitted twice, but the major objective of the
prosecution—the election of Haley Barbour—was achieved."

Horton's second (3 October 2007) and third (5 October 2007) articles addressed the case of wealthy trial lawyer Paul Minor. If you read these detailed articles about what happened, you will be totally shocked. It's unbelievable the lengths that Barbour, Bush, and their Republican buddies went to in order to destroy Minor, simply because he was a major donor to Mississippi Democrats and was a staunch opponent of tort reform. Obviously, small issues like the law and the Constitution mean nothing to these guys.

There is one especially interesting aspect of this whole sordid tale. The idea of rushing to the defense of the Judges attacked by the Chamber of Commerce started with Richard Scruggs, probably the best known and wealthiest of the Mississippi Trial Lawyers. He did all the things Minor did and was initially under investigation by the FBI. If these trumped up charges against Minor were real, then Scruggs should have been the first one indicted. However, Scruggs contributes to Republicans, whereas Minor contributes to Democrats. In addition, as we all know, Scruggs is Senator Trent Lott's brother in law. According to Horton, Lott was very aggressive in protecting Scruggs. In fact, FBI Agent Matthew Campbell, from the Gulfport office, expressed total disbelief that the case against Minor was pursued, but the case against Scruggs was dropped. Agent Campbell was quickly transferred to Guantanamo. A Republican lackey replaced him. Senator Lott's role in this, if true, is a clear violation of Senate ethics rules, and he may soon find himself under investigation by his colleagues.

Scott Horton is not through. He is promising more installments. This guy is good! He is a true investigative journalist, of which we have very few. He is influential, and people pay attention to him. Mark my words, Mississippi is about to have its dirty laundry exposed in the national spotlight. It's also possible that Trent Lott may be the former Senate Republican Leader again.

UPDATE: I told you this issue would go national. It's on today's editorial page of the New York Times: The United States Attorneys Scandal Comes to Mississippi


Anonymous said...

It is ironic how Republicans claim to corner the market on morals and ethics. It is clear from all of the facts that the only thing republicans corner the market on is greed and power. As John Dean, Republican White House counsel to Richard Nixon has pointed out, the Bush Administration is "Worse Than Watergate."

Anonymous said...

How can you blame anyone but Paul Minor himself, for his legal problems?

Anonymous said...

It is quite amusing to read all your post about alleged Republican scandals, but you post nothing about the Democratic scandals that are just as fraught with corruption.
If you would read something besides or mediamatters, your post would be a little more credible.
But then I guess you would loose your member card if you did.
Keep up the posts as I get a daily chuckle from so much left wing bias coming out of this blog.

for anonymous 9:30pm:
Political ethics....that's a contradiction in terms for both Republicans and Democrats. As there are no morals or ethics in either party.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 5:02 AM: You are missing the point. No one is excusing Paul Minor. The problem is that charges were dropped and investigations halted in cases involving Republican contributors, especially those with close ties to Haley Barbour. The problem is that Democratic contributors and activists were targeted by Republican officials who refused to pursue the same activities by committed by Republicans.

Anonymous said...

It they're guilty, I don't care if it is politically motivated!!! When the Democrats are in power I hope they catch all the Republican thieves and criminals. Clean sweep of the other parties' thieves every four years is fine with me!!!

Republicans just happen to be top dog for now. Democrats just have to wait for their turn. (I hope a while!!!) BWAH!

Anonymous said...

Well said, anonymous 5:26PM, lock up any thief NO MATTER the political party. Also Dickie Scruggs gives money to many more Democrats than he does Republicans. I know he is Lott's brother-in-law, but check the records. He recently completely funded Gary Anderson's campaign. If he is guilty, I hope he gets the same treatment as Minor.

Anonymous said...

How many of you actually read the articles? It's obvious Paul Minor never should have been convicted. Mississippi is operating like a Third World Country. If you oppose the Dictator - off with your head!

Anonymous said...

Obvious to who??? Never should have been convicted. That's crazy, they had him dead to right. Wasn't he convicted in a Federal Court?

Anonymous said...

I'm disgusted by the antics of this recent brand of Republicans ....throwing their judicial weight around and winning political convictions. When will it ever stop? They've been up to this dirty business for a long time but these guys are unspeakably filthy.

I'm not crazy about J. E. Eaves' religious platform but at least he hit the nail on the head about Republicans vs. Democrats. The Democrats care about the rights, the welfare of the disenfranchised...just as Jesus did. So, right on Mr. Eaves. Though foreign to my lips I'll
throw you an "Amen"!

Anonymous said...

If someone is guilty of bribing judges, no matter the party, they should go to jail.

Anonymous said...

They did NOT bribe judges. That is the whole point. Please read before commenting.

legalschnauzer said...

Lots of information on Minor case is available at Legal Schnauzer blog:

My research indicates the Minor case might be an even more flagrant example of a political hit than the Don Siegelman case in Alabama.

Judge Henry Wingate butchered the law on several counts, virtually ensuring a conviction.

As one commentor above noted: Minor could not bribe the judges under these circumstances. The loan guarantees were legal under state law, and the underlying lawsuits were lawfully decided. Minor's clients prevailed because, under the facts and the law, they should have prevailed.

The government's case against Oliver Diaz was laughably weak, and it wasn't much better against Minor, Teel, and Whitfield. But Wingate made sure the government got convictions the second time around.

Anonymous said...


Did you hear anything about Mayor Phillip West, Supervisor Boo Campbell, and local minister Leroy White's attendance at the Haley Barbour Breakfast this morning at the Sports Hall of Fame museum in Jackson? I heard that they traveled on a local church bus to attend the breakfast in support of Haley Barbour's campaign for re-election. What a SHAME!!!!! A democratic mayor, supervisor, and minister supporting Haley Barbour. It is my understanding that they attended because the governor said he needed more blacks active in his campaign. So there you have it...., they use the black folk's church bus and take the black folk (Democrats I am sure) to the meeting for to support the REPUBLICAN governor.

Isn't this sad?

I understand that this took place today, October 16, 2007.

Anonymous said...

Gee, if that is true , then West and Campbell are smarter than I thought they were!!!!