Attorney General

House to Probe Governor’s Prosecution

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A congressional committee will investigate whether political considerations played a role in the prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, who is serving a sentence of more than seven years for corruption.

“The case could become the centerpiece of a Democratic effort to show that the Justice Department engaged in political prosecutions,” the New York Times reports in its story on the probe.

The House Judiciary Committee will hear testimony this week from Alabama lawyer Jill Simpson, who contends she overheard a GOP political operative connect the prosecution to Karl Rove, who recently resigned as White House deputy chief of staff. Rove has asserted executive privilege in a different congressional investigation into the firings of nine U.S. attorneys.

Forty-four former state attorneys general have signed a petition asking for the investigation. Siegelman was convicted in June 2006 of accepting $500,000 from HealthSouth’s then-CEO, Richard Scrushy, in exchange for appointing him to a hospital licensing board. The money was intended to retire a debt incurred by Siegelman’s campaign in support of a state lottery.

Some experts told the Times it’s unusual to prosecute a politician who doesn’t personally pocket payments. “It seems to me the conduct in this case was similar to a lot of what we take as normal for politics,” said law professor David Sklansky of the University of California at Berkeley.

Others disagreed and took issue with the suggestion that politics played a role. Louis V. Franklin Sr., the acting U.S. attorney in Montgomery, said his sole motivation was his “firmly held belief, supported by overwhelming evidence and the law, that former Governor Siegelman had broken the law.”

Mike Hubbard, chair of the Alabama Republican Party, said Simpson’s allegations are “a bunch of hogwash.”

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