Saturday, May 3, 2008
About Sam Stein
Sam Stein is a Political Reporter at the Huffington Post, based in Washington, D.C. Previously he has worked for Newsweek magazine, the New York Daily News and the investigative journalism group Center for Public Integrity. He has a masters from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and is a graduate of Dartmouth College. Sam can be reached at email@example.com.
A former aide to President Bill Clinton, and current informal adviser to Sen. Hillary Clinton, expressed outrage and shock on Friday after a videotape from 1992 surfaced allegedly showing him describing Indianans as "white n---rs."
Mickey Kantor, who served as campaign chairman during Clinton's 1992 run for the White House and says he has offered help and advice to Sen. Clinton, insisted that the tape was a fraud and that he was exploring legal steps against the individual who posted it online.
"I've never used that word in my entire life, ever, under any circumstance, ever," an angry Kantor told The Huffington Post, citing his and his parent's work fighting for civil rights. "I have listened to [the video] and so have you. You can't tell what it is I'm saying in that second sentence, you can't decipher that."
Indeed, a review of the original copy of the 1993 film The War Room, from which the excerpt was taken (around the 4:40 mark) is virtually inaudible. The sound suggests, if anything, that instead of saying "How would you like to be a worthless white n****r?" Kantor says, "How would you like to be in the White House right now?"
The director of the film, moreover, says that Kantor never uttered those words. "He does not say that. He does not say that," D.A. Pennebaker told Ben Smith.
The cropped video, which spread through the Internet like wildfire on Friday morning, shows Kantor with fellow former Bill Clinton staffers James Carville and George Stephanopoulos discussing results from the general election. In the footage, Kantor approaches the two aides and says, "Look at Indiana -- wait, wait, look at Indiana. 42-40. It doesn't matter if we win, those people are shit." That much seems true, though Pennebaker says Kantor was referring to the George H.W. Bush White House. The alleged "white n****r" line followed.
Kantor, on Friday, insisted that the latter part of his statement never took place and that it made no sense for him to use such language.
"Indiana was not even on our radar screen," he said, "And I was talking about the polling and not the people... If you look at The War Room, this is not the way Carville or George interpreted my statement. This is frankly libelous."
Kantor said he was in the process of contacting "the best" libel lawyers to approach YouTube.com about the process of removing the video from its site. He suggested that The Huffington Post, too, should not print even his defense, as it would be an advancement of a non-story.
"I don't need to be defended," he wrote. "When you write it, what you are doing is extended the libel."
While Kantor said he had no idea who was behind the video or what intent he or she might have, he offered that political motives were at play.
"Many people are subject to this kind of being used in a way to try and stir people up," he said. "I can't say it more clearly, but I had never used that word... My parents would come from the grave and kill me if I used that word."
Update: As reported by Iowa Politics, Marty Parrish signed in to Sen. McCain's health care conference as a HuffPost reporter. Marty Parrish is not a HuffPost reporter or blogger, nor a contributor to HuffPost's OffTheBus. He was not asked to attend the McCain conference on our behalf, nor did he have any contact with HuffPost staff prior to the event.
At a town hall forum in Iowa yesterday, Sen. John McCain was asked about a story from Cliff Schecter's controversial recent book, The Real McCain, which alleges that during a 1992 campaign stop, McCain angrily called his wife a "trollop" and a "c**t" in front of aides and reporters.
Marty Parrish, a business owner in Des Moines, told OffTheBus's Keith Dinsmore that he asked McCain about the incident because he's concerned about how McCain's temper could impact his leadership.
"A guy who would call his wife a trollop and a c--t just because she had ruffled his hair in front of five guys is not only a jerk, but a dangerous hothead if he ever gets his finger on the button."
"And since the mainstream media has decided to give McCain a free pass, I decided to stand up and, if they gave me an open mike, ask the question that the press refuses to touched. Our country is in a serious crisis after nearly eight years of Bush, and America appears to be oblivious to the danger this guy (McCain) poses to our country."
Read the full and extensive interview with Marty Parrish here on OffTheBus, where you can also take a look at the flier Marty passed out at the event.
Here's the exchange from the forum:
Q: This question goes to mental health and mental health care. Previously, I've been married to a woman that was verbally abusive to me. Is it true that you called your wife a (expletive)?
McCain: Now, now. You don't want to... Um, you know that's the great thing about town hall meetings, sir, but we really don't, there's people here who don't respect that kind of language. So I'll move on to the next questioner in the back.
Schecter himself writes about the exchange at FireDogLake.
UPDATE: It turns out the man who asked the question is a Baptist minister worried about McCain's temper:
Clive businessman Marty Parrish was escorted from Sen. John McCain's town hall meeting by Des Moines police and members of the Secret Service after asking McCain if he had called his wife Cindy an expletive in 1992.
Parrish, an ordained Baptist minister who holds a master's degree in political science, was questioned by Secret Service agents before being released. He was not charged in the incident. Parrish asked whether McCain called his wife Cindy an expletive related to the female anatomy, as has been alleged in the book "The Real McCain," written by Dem strategist Cliff Schecter.
McCain's response got him a round of applause from the crowd: "There's people here who don't respect that kind of language, so I'll move on to the next questioner in the back."
In an interview with IowaPolitics.com, Parrish said his intentions were simple in posing the question to McCain. The former Joe Biden campaign worker stressed he is very concerned about the Republican presidential nominee's temperament.
"We have a man whose temper can get the best of him," Parrish said. "What I am worried about is his temper. Our country is in a serious crisis. This election is the most significant one since 1860. It appears America is asleep -- so I stood up and asked the question."
WASHINGTON — A leader of the Democratic Party under Bill Clinton switched his allegiance to Barack Obama on Thursday and urged fellow Democrats to end the bruising nomination fight.
"This has got to come to an end," former Democratic National Committee Chairman Joe Andrew told reporters in his hometown of Indianapolis just days before Tuesday's crucial state primary. He said he planned to call all the other superdelegates he knows and encourage them to back Obama.
Bill Clinton appointed Andrew chairman of the DNC in 1999, and he led the party through the disputed 2000 presidential race before stepping down in 2001. Andrew endorsed Hillary Rodham Clinton last year on the day she declared her candidacy for the White House.
In a lengthy letter explaining his decision, Andrew said he is switching his support because "a vote for Hillary Clinton is a vote to continue this process, and a vote to continue this process is a vote that assists (Republican) John McCain."
"The ship is taking on water right now," Andrew said at the news conference. "We need to patch those holes, heal the rift and go forward to beat John McCain."
Asked for a response to Andrew's decision, Clinton spokesman Phil Singer said, "We support that Democratic process and think that every American should be able to weigh in and support the candidate of his or her own choosing."
Andrew said the Obama campaign never asked him to switch his support, but he decided to do so after watching Obama's handling of two issues in recent days. He said Obama took the principled stand in opposing a summer gas tax holiday that both Clinton and McCain supported, even though it would have been easier politically to back it. And he said he was impressed with Obama's handling of the controversy surrounding his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
Wright's outspoken criticisms of the United States have threatened Obama's candidacy. Obama initially refused to denounce his former pastor, but he did so this week after Wright suggested that Obama secretly agrees with him.
"He has shown such mettle under fire," Andrew said in the interview. "The Jeremiah Wright controversy just reconfirmed for me, just as the gas tax controversy confirmed for me, that he is the right candidate for our party."
Andrew's decision puts Obama closer to closing Clinton's superdelegate lead. Clinton had a big advantage among superdelegates, many of whom like Andrew have ties to the Clintons and backed her candidacy early on. But most of the superdelegates taking sides recently have gone for Obama, who has won more state contests.
That includes DNC member John Patrick, vice president of the Texas AFL/CIO, who announced his support for Obama Thursday as well.
Obama now trails her by just 15 superdelegates, 248-263. This week, he picked up 12 superdelegates, including three add-on delegates named by the Illinois Democratic Party, while she netted four.
Superdelegates are nearly 800 elected leaders and Democratic Party officials who aren't bound by the outcome of state contests and can cast their ballot for any candidate at the national convention. They are especially valuable in this race since neither Clinton nor Obama can win enough pledged delegates to secure the nomination through state-by-state elections.
Obama now leads in the delegate count overall 1736.5 to 1597.5 for Clinton. A candidate needs 2,025 delegates to win the nomination. About 230 superdelegates remain undecided, and about 60 more will be selected at state party conventions and meetings throughout the spring.
Other party leaders are encouraging superdelegates to pick a side by late June to prevent the fight from going to the national convention in August. Andrews wrote in his letter that he is calling for "fellow superdelegates across the nation to heal the rift in our party and unite behind Barack Obama."
It's the second endorsement for Obama this week that could be influential in Indiana. Rep. Baron Hill, who represents a crucial swing district in the state, endorsed Obama on Wednesday. Clinton has the backing of Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh, who has a vast organization in the state and has been campaigning aggressively with the former first lady.
Obama and Clinton are running close in Indiana and both need a victory there _ Obama to help rebound from a loss to Clinton in Pennsylvania and to prove he can win Midwestern voters, and Clinton so she can overcome Obama's lead in the race overall.Read Joe Andrews' decision to switch on the Huffington Post.
Former journalist Sidney Blumenthal has been widely credited with coining the term "vast right-wing conspiracy" used by Hillary Clinton in 1998 to describe the alliance of conservative media, think tanks, and political operatives that sought to destroy the Clinton White House where he worked as a high-level aide. A decade later, and now acting as a senior campaign advisor to Senator Clinton, Blumenthal is exploiting that same right-wing network to attack and discredit Barack Obama. And he's not hesitating to use the same sort of guilt-by-association tactics that have been the hallmark of the political right dating back to the McCarthy era.
Almost every day over the past six months, I have been the recipient of an email that attacks Obama's character, political views, electability, and real or manufactured associations. The original source of many of these hit pieces are virulent and sometimes extreme right-wing websites, bloggers, and publications. But they aren't being emailed out from some fringe right-wing group that somehow managed to get my email address. Instead, it is Sidney Blumenthal who, on a regular basis, methodically dispatches these email mudballs to an influential list of opinion shapers -- including journalists, former Clinton administration officials, academics, policy entrepreneurs, and think tankers -- in what is an obvious attempt to create an echo chamber that reverberates among talk shows, columnists, and Democratic Party funders and activists. One of the recipients of the Blumenthal email blast, himself a Clinton supporter, forwards the material to me and perhaps to others.
These attacks sent out by Blumenthal, long known for his fierce and combative loyalty to the Clintons, draw on a wide variety of sources to spread his Obama-bashing. Some of the pieces are culled from the mainstream media and include some reasoned swipes at Obama's policy and political positions.
But, rather remarkably for such a self-professed liberal operative like Blumenthal, a staggering number of the anti-Obama attacks he circulates derive from highly-ideological and militant right-wing sources such as the misnamed Accuracy in Media (AIM), The Weekly Standard, City Journal, The American Conservative, and The National Review.
To cite just one recent example, Blumenthal circulated an article taken from the fervently hard-right AIM website on February 18 entitled, "Obama's Communist Mentor" by Cliff Kincaid. Kincaid is a right-wing writer and activist, a longtime critic of the United Nations, whose group, America's Survival, has been funded by foundations controlled by conservative financier Richard Mellon Scaife, the same millionaire who helped fund attacks on the Clintons during their White House years. Scaife also funds AIM, the right-wing media "watchdog" group.
The Kincaid article that Blumenthal circulated sought to discredit Obama by linking him to an African-American poet and writer whom Obama knew while he was in high school in Hawaii. That writer, Frank Marshall Davis, was, Kincaid wrote, a member of the Communist Party. Supported by no tangible evidence, Kincaid claimed that Obama considered his relationship to Davis to be "almost like a son." In his memoir, Dreams from My Father, Obama wrote about meeting, during his teenage years, a writer named "Frank" who "had some modest notoriety once" and with whom he occasionally discussed poetry and politics. From this snippet, Kincaid weaves an incredulous tale that turns Davis into Obama's "mentor."
Kincaid's piece had been previously circulating within the right-wing blogosphere, but Blumenthal sought to inject the story into more respectable opinion circles by amplifying it in his email blast.
In the same piece, Kincaid, expanding his guilt-by-association tactics, also wrote that Obama "came into contact with more far-left political forces," including former Weather Underground member William Ayers. Until a few weeks ago, Obama's tangential connection with Ayers -- whose 1960s anti-war terrorism occurred when Obama was in grade school -- was echoing among right-wing bloggers.
Some Clinton supporters who also knew about Ayers have been discreetly trying to catapult the story out of the right-wing sandbox into the wider mainstream media. On April 9, Fox News' Sean Hannity interviewed fellow right-winger Karl Rove, who raised the Ayers-Obama connection. The next day, ABC News reporter Jake Tapper wrote about Ayers in his Political Punch blog. The following week, on his radio show, Hannity suggested to his guest, George Stephanopoulos, that he ask Obama about his relationship with Ayers at the upcoming Philadelphia presidential debate. Stephanopoulos, who was Bill Clinton's press secretary, replied, "Well, I'm taking notes." The following night during the April 16 nationally televised Presidential debate, Stephanopoulos dutifully asked Obama about Ayers, who is now a professor of education at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
One can only speculate how much influence Blumenthal did or did not have in elevating the Ayers story into the mainstream media and into the national political debate. What is certain is that Blumenthal sought to keep this classic red-baiting controversy alive.
Blumenthal's April 24 email dispatch featured a two-year old article by Sol Stern, published in City Journal, sponsored by the right-wing Manhattan Institute. The article, from the journal's Summer 2006 issue, doesn't mention Obama. Why would Blumenthal resurrect it now? The article, entitled "The Ed Schools' Latest--and Worst--Humbug," was, instead, a frontal attack on Ayers' views on educational theory and policy. Blumenthal obviously wasn't trying to offer enlightenment on educational policy or Obama's positions on school reform as much as he was presumably trying to keep Ayers' name, and his controversial past, in the public eye.
As a follow-up punch, Blumenthal again dipped directly into the "vast right wing conspiracy" by retrieving and circulating an article from the current issue of National Review -- the staunchly conservative opinion journal founded by William F. Buckley. The piece, titled "The Obama Way," was penned by Fred Siegel who, like Sol Stern, is a former 60s leftist who has moved to the opposite end of the political spectrum, serving at one point as a political advisor to Rudy Giuliani. Siegel's piece links Obama to corrupt Chicago machine politics, observing that "Blacks adapted to both the tribalism and the corrupt patronage politics" of Chicago's Democratic Party. In the process, he manages to throw in as many spurious ad hominem attacks on Obama as he can, calling him a "friend of race-baiters" and a "man who would lead our efforts against terrorism yet was friendly with Bill Ayers, the unrepentant 1960s terrorist."
When Blumenthal worked in the White House, a big thorn in Bill Clinton's side was the Weekly Standard, the right-wing magazine edited by William Kristol and owned by Rupert Murdoch. But in mid-February, Blumenthal's email attack featured an article, "Republicans Root for Obama," written by Weekly Standard executive editor and Fox News talking head Fred Barnes. That same month, Blumenthal also offered up a piece by Scott McConnell, titled "Untested Savior," that appeared in The American Conservative (a magazine founded by Pat Buchanan) claiming that Obama "would probably lead them [Democrats] to disaster in November."
When Blumenthal isn't relying directly on anti-Obama smears from the extreme right, he's pumping up more traditionally sourced material, from the Washington Post, New Republic, and other publications, to question and damage Obama's character and electability. On several occasions, Blumenthal has circulated articles from the Chicago Sun Times and the Chicago Tribune about Obama's ties to developer Tony Rezko, a relationship Obama has said he regrets. In one email, Blumenthal wrote: "The record on Obama's fabled 'judgement'? So how would he conduct himself in those promised summits without preconditions with Ahmadinejad, Kim Jong Il, Chavez, Castro, and Assad? Let's look at how he did with Tony Rezko."
Earlier this year, one theme pushed by Clinton supporters and buoyed by Blumenthal's efforts, was that Obama's appeal was similar to that of a messianic cult leader. Obama's capacity to inspire people was reframed as a kind of malevolent force, as though his followers would somehow willingly drink poisoned Kool-Aid if Obama so demanded. In his February 7 Time magazine column, "Inspiration vs. Substance," writer Joe Klein, who, like Blumenthal, worked on the Boston alternative paper, The Real Paper, in the 1970s, wrote: "There was something just a wee bit creepy about the mass messianism -- 'We are the ones we've been waiting for' -- of the Super Tuesday speech and the recent turn of the Obama campaign." That same morning, Blumenthal sent the Klein column to his email list. Later that day, in his Political Punch blog, ABC News reporter Jake Tapper wrote, "The Holy Season of Lent is upon us. Can Obama worshippers try to give up their Helter-Skelter cultish qualities for a few weeks?" (Update: In response to OffTheBus, Tapper is categorical in denying that he in any way relied upon Blumenthal or was influenced by Blumenthal in the production or in the writing of this story or his reports on William Ayers or the Obama "cult")
The following day, in the Los Angeles Times, columnist Joel Stein wrote: "Obamaphilia has gotten creepy. What the Cult of Obama doesn't realize is that he is a politician."
After this idea had bounced around the media echo chamber for a few days, the liberal watchdog group Media Matters for America, run by David Brock, posted a summary on February 8 of the sudden outbreak of "cult" references about Obama. It was headlined: "Media figures call Obama supporters' behavior 'creepy,' compare them to Hare Krishna and Manson followers." The next day, Blumenthal sent the Media Matters piece to his email list. A few days later, the New York Times' Paul Krugman, a Clinton supporter, weighed in with a column, "Hate Springs Eternal," in which he wrote, "I'm not the first to point out that the Obama campaign seems dangerously close to a cult of personality." Nor would he be the last. Four days later, Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer, an arch conservative, penned a column entitled, "The Audacity of Selling Hope" in which he simply quoted Klein, Tapper, Stein, and Krugman.
One of Blumenthal's associates scoffs at the notion that there's anything vaguely conspiratorial about these emails and that a number of the people on the list-serve are also the authors of the pieces he sends out. "They're just Sid's friends," he told me. This is, in fact, the very definition of an echo chamber. People in the opinion-shaping business also seek to influence other opinion-makers, who then bounce their ideas through their overlapping outlets -- newspapers, magazines, talk shows, websites, blogs, and social and political fundraising circles. The connections are so incestuous that it's hard to untangle where the "feedback loop" begins and ends.
Among those whose names show up as recipients of Blumenthal's emails are writers and journalists Craig Unger, Edward Jay Epstein, Thomas Edsall (Politics Editor of the Huffington Post), Joe Conason, Gene Lyons (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette columnist and author of The Hunting of the President: The Ten Year Campaign to Destroy Bill and Hillary Clinton), John Judis, Eric Alterman, Christine Ockrent, David Brock, Reza Aslan, Harold Evans, and Josh Marshall; academics and think tankers Todd Gitlin (Columbia U sociologist), Karen Greenberg (NYU law school), Sean Wilentz (Princeton historian), Michael Lind, William M. Drozdiak, and Richard Parker; and former Clinton administration officials John Ritch, James Rubin, Derek Shearer, and Joe Wilson.
Not all of Blumenthal's recipients, or those who, like me, receive the emails second-hand, are Clinton supporters.
Before and after his service in the Clinton White House, Blumenthal wrote for the New Yorker, New Republic, Washington Post, the Guardian, and Salon, where he was often accused of engaging in partisan journalism.
In the Clinton administration, Blumenthal was primarily a behind-the-scenes strategist, but often found himself speaking in front of the cameras and on the record. In both roles, he was known as a committed Clintonista who played hardball. He's demonstrated those same traits since joining Hillary's campaign as a senior advisor last November.Presidential politics can get down and dirty, and Blumenthal is a master at the game. Some Obama supporters might even wish that his campaign would resort to similar tactics. If it did, there would be no shortage of anti-Hillary screeds by the "vast right-wing conspiracy" activists and writers, such as surfacing the photo of Rev. Jeremiah Wright with Bill Clinton at a prayer breakfast at the White House in 1998, invited by the president in the midst of his Lewinsky scandal. Indeed, the right-wingers probably hate Hillary more than they dislike Obama. But so far the Obama camp has avoided slinging the right-wing mud, at least with any of the enthusiasm and diligence demonstrated by Sid Blumenthal.
I have been inspired.
Today I am announcing my support for Senator Barack Obama for President of the United States of America. I am changing my support from Senator Clinton to Senator Obama, and calling for my fellow Democrats across my home State of Indiana, and my fellow super delegates across the nation, to heal the rift in our Party and unite behind Barack Obama.
The hardest decisions in life are not between good and bad or right and wrong, but between two goods or two rights. That is the decision Democrats face today. We have an embarrassment of riches, but as much as we may love our candidates and revel in the political process that has brought Presidential politics to places that have not seen it in a generation, we cannot let our family affair hurt America by helping John McCain.
Here is my message, explained in this lengthy letter that I hope is perceived as a thoughtful analysis of how to save America from four more years of the misguided polices of the past: you can be for someone without being against someone else. You can unite behind a candidate and a vision for America without rejecting another candidate and their vision, because in real life, opposed to party politics, we Democrats are on the same side. The battle should not be amongst ourselves. Rather, we should focus our efforts on those who are truly on the opposite side: those who want to continue the failed policies of the last eight years, rather than bring real change to Washington. Let us come together right now behind an inspiring leader who not only has the audacity to challenge the old divisive politics, but the audacity to make us all hope for a better America.
Unite the Party Now
I believe that Bill Clinton will be remembered as one of our nation's great Presidents, and Senator Clinton as one of our nation's great public servants. But as much as I respect and admire them both, it is clear that a vote for Hillary Clinton is a vote to continue this process, and a vote to continue this process is a vote that assists John McCain.
I ask Hoosiers to come together and vote for Barack Obama to be our next President. In an accident of timing, Indiana has been given the opportunity to truly make a difference. Hoosiers should grab that power and do what in their heart they know is right. They should reject the old negative politics and vote for true change. Don't settle for the tried and true and the simplistic slogans, but listen to your heart and dare to be inspired. Only a cynic would be critical of Barack Obama inspiring millions. Only the uninformed could forget that the candidate that wins in November is always the candidate that inspires millions.
I ask the leaders of our Party to come together after this Tuesday's primary to heal wounds and unite us around a single nominee. While I was hopeful that a long, contested primary season would invigorate our Party, the polls show that the tone and temperature of the race is now hurting us. John McCain, without doing much of anything, is now competitive against both of our remaining candidates. We are doing his work for him and distracting Americans from the issues that really affect all of our lives.
We need to be talking about fixing the economy, not whose acquaintances once said what to whom. We need to be talking about stopping the attacks in Iraq, not stopping the attacks in Indiana. We need to be talking about policy, not politics.
Barack Obama is the Right Candidate for Right Now
While I am a longtime critic of our Party's rules that created so-called super delegates, we have the rules we have and we must live with them. I am humbled and honored to be a super delegate, and I understand the seriousness of the duty it entails. I recognize that this is a difficult decision for super delegates like me, who owe so much to President Bill Clinton. It is right to be loyal, to be grateful and to be consistent. But it is also right to acknowledge the inevitability of change, right to dare to dream for a better world, and right to know what in your heart is the right thing for the future even if your friends and family disagree. Good things, just like good people, can disagree. But as Democrats, we must disagree with dignity, debate with admiration of each other, and in the end, go forward with mutual respect.
President Clinton and Vice President Gore gave me the opportunity to serve as the Chair of the Democratic Party. I pledged my loyalty to them, and I will never forget Al Gore putting ego aside, gently demurring, and simply asking me to put our country ahead of politics. It is a lesson I will remember forever, and it is what guides me now in this decision. What is best for our Party and our country is not blind loyalty, but passionate support for the candidate who can best correct the misguided policies of the last eight years.
We need a candidate who will re-invigorate the economy and keep good jobs here in America. We need a candidate who will end the war in Iraq. We need a candidate who will provide health coverage for our 45 million uninsured neighbors. We need a candidate who will end our addiction to high-priced foreign oil by investing in renewable energy here at home.
That candidate is Barack Obama.
What was best for America sixteen years ago was electing Bill Clinton. What would have been best for America eight years ago was not only electing Al Gore, which we did, but allowing him to serve as President of the United States. Imagine how the world would be different if Al Gore and not George Bush, would have been President of the United States. Let's seize the opportunity and vote for someone who like Al Gore, was against the war from the beginning, and who brings a new energy, a new excitement, and a new politics to our country.
Let's put things right.
Time to Act
Many will ask, why now? Why, with several primaries still remaining, with Senator Clinton just winning Pennsylvania, with my friend Evan Bayh working hard to make sure Senator Clinton wins Indiana, why switch now? Why call for super delegates to come together now to constructively pick a president?
The simple answer is that while the timing is hard for me personally, it is best for America. We simply cannot wait any longer, nor can we let this race fall any lower and still hope to win in November. June or July may be too late. The time to act is now.
I write this letter from my mom's dining room table in Indianapolis, Indiana. Four generations of my family have argued and laughed around this table. But what I humbly believe today is that we, as Democrats and as Americans, face what Dr. King characterized and what Senator Obama reminds us is the fierce urgency of now. As a nation, we are at a critical moment and we need leaders with the character and vision to see us through the challenges at hand and those to come. I can't guess what will happen tomorrow, so I can't tell you what kind of experience our next President will need to have to deal with those challenges. But I can tell you what kind of character and vision they will need to have -- and that is what inspires me about Barack Obama.
As Democrats, however, we risk letting this moment slip through our fingers. We risk ceding the field to the Republicans and allowing the morally bankrupt Bush Agenda to continue unabated if we do not unite behind a single candidate. Should this race continue after Indiana and North Carolina, it will inevitably become more negative. The polls already show the supporters for both candidates becoming more strident in their positions and more locked into their support. Continuing on this path would be a catastrophe, as we would inadvertently end up doing Republicans work for them. Already, instead of the audacity of hope, we suffer the audacity of one Democrat comparing John McCain favorably to another Democrat. When that happens, you know it is time for all of us to stop, take a deep breath and unite to change America.
We must act and we must act now.
The Problems of the Process: 2000 and 2008
When Al Gore got a half million more votes than George Bush in 2000, yet the Electoral College elected George Bush President, we saw the absurdity of any system that does not elect the person who gets the most votes. That is why the Democratic Party's nomination process is flawed. I will continue to fight for a 2012 process where there are only primaries, and which ever Democrat gets the most votes becomes our nominee. Delegates should decide the party platform -- voters should decide who our nominee is.
But we are struck with this absurd system for 2008, and, flawed though it may be, we must work within it without betraying the voice of the people. No amount of spin or sleight of hand can deny the fact that where there has been competition, Senator Obama has won more votes, more States and more delegates than any other candidate. Only the super delegates can award the nomination to Senator Clinton, but to do so risks doing to our Party in 2008 what Republicans did to our country in 2000. Let us be intellectually consistent and unite behind Barack Obama.
A New Era of Politics
My endorsement of Senator Obama will not be welcome news to my friends and family at the Clinton campaign. If the campaign's surrogates called Governor Bill Richardson, a respected former member of President Clinton's cabinet, a "Judas" for endorsing Senator Obama, we can all imagine how they will treat somebody like me. They are the best practitioners of the old politics, so they will no doubt call me a traitor, an opportunist and a hypocrite. I will be branded as disloyal, power-hungry, but most importantly, they will use the exact words that Republicans used to attack me when I was defending President Clinton.
When they use the same attacks made on me when I was defending them, they prove the callow hypocrisy of the old politics first perfected by Republicans. I am an expert on this because these were the exact tools that I mastered as a campaign volunteer, a campaign manager, a State Party Chair and the National Chair of our Party. I learned the lessons of the tough, right-wing Republicans all too well. I can speak with authority on how to spar with everyone from Lee Atwater to Karl Rove. I understand that, while wrong and pernicious, shallow victory can be achieved through division by semantics and obfuscation. Like many, I succumbed to the addiction of old politics because they are so easy.
Innuendo is easy. The truth is hard.
Sound bites are easy. Solutions are hard.
Spin is simple and easy. Struggling with facts is complicated and hard.
I have learned the hard way that you can love the candidate and hate the campaign. My stomach churns when I think how my old friends in the Clinton campaign will just pick up the old silly Republican play book and call in the same old artificial attacks and bombardments we have all heard before.
Yet, despite the simple and overwhelming pressure to do anything and everything to win, Barack Obama has risen above it all and demanded a new brand of politics. People flock to Senator Obama because they are rejecting the hyperbole of the old politics. The past eight years of George Bush have witnessed a retreat from substance, science, and reason in favor spin, cronyism and ideology. Barack Obama has dared not only to criticize it, as all Democrats do, but to actually reject playing the same old game. And in doing so, he has shown us a new path to victory.
Uniting for Victory
The simple fact is that Democrats need to be united in November to win, and Clinton supporters, in particular, will be vital to victory. We will not convince Clinton supporters to join the Obama campaign, however, by personally criticizing them. We must welcome everyone and avoid doing Republican work for them. It is therefore incumbent on all of us who once supported Senator Clinton to welcome the thousands who should now switch their support to Senator Obama. Similarly, a necessary part of the healing process for our Party is for those who supported Senator Obama early to have the grace and good sense to broaden the tent and welcome newcomers into the fold.
The old players of the old political game will claim that I am betraying my old friend Senator Evan Bayh by switching my support to Senator Obama. I believe that Evan Bayh would be a great President, and therefore a great Vice President. I will continue to argue that he would be a great choice to be on the ticket with Barack Obama. Evan Bayh is uniquely positioned as a successful governor with executive experience who is now a U.S. Senator with foreign policy experience and who is young enough to not undercut the message of vitality and hard work that Barack Obama represents. Part of healing the Party may be to have a Clinton supporter on the ticket, let alone someone who would help with Indiana, Ohio and the moderate Midwest in the general election.
Being for Evan Bayh, however, does not mean that you have to be for Hillary Clinton. The important message to Hoosiers, and to super delegates, is that being for someone does not mean that you agree 100 percent of the time. Regardless of whether Evan Bayh and I support different candidates, I will support Evan Bayh.
We must reject the notion that we have to beat the Republicans at their own game -- or even that the game has to be played at all. It is so easy for all of us involved -- candidates, campaigns and the media -- to focus on the process and the horse race that we forget why we got into it in the first place. Barack Obama has had the courage to talk about real issues, real problems and real people. Let's pause for a second in the midst of the cacophony of the campaign circus and listen.
In 1992, I was inspired by Bill Clinton because he promised, and delivered, a framework for addressing America's problems. President Clinton ended a long-running left-right debate in our Party, and inspired millions. He drew giant crowds and spoke passionately for a generation of Americans who often disenfranchised and rarely participated in governing. Today, Barack Obama does the same thing. Winners redefine the game. Winners connect with the American people and not only feel their pain, but inspire them to take action to heal the underlying cause. Barack Obama is that kind of candidate and that kind of leader, which is why he will win in November.
Welcoming Everyone into the Party
We face significant challenges as a nation and as a Party, but time and again, Americans have shown the resilience and determination necessary to overcome even the highest obstacle. We have a difficult road ahead, but I have complete confidence that Barack Obama is the candidate who can lead our Party to victory and the President who can guide us to even greater heights.
Many Democrats know me for one short speech I gave over and over again in the 2000 Presidential campaign. That speech was about welcoming people into our Party and welcoming undecided voters to our campaign to elect Al Gore. Today, we need to welcome Clinton supporters, undecided voters, and all Americans to join Barack Obama's cause to fight for a better America. My speech ended with these words, which are even more relevant today:
The difference between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party is that you are always welcome in the Democratic Party.
Because Democrats don't care if you are black or white or brown or a nice shade of green, you are welcome in the Democratic Party.
We don't care if you pray in a church or a synagogue or a temple or a mosque, or just before math tests, you are welcome in the Democratic Party.
We don't care if you are young or old, or just don't want to tell your age, you are welcome in the Democratic Party.
We don't care what gender you are, or what gender you want to hold hands with; as long as you want to hold hands, you are welcome in the Democratic Party.
We don't care about the size of your bank account, just the size of your heart; and we don't care where you are today, just where you dream you want to be tomorrow.
That is your Democratic Party.
That is Barack Obama's Democratic Party.
That is the Party that will win in November.
NEW YORK (CNN) -- A little more than a month after New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer announced his resignation, Penguin Group imprint Portfolio will be publishing a book about his career "from start to finish," president and publisher Adrian Zackheim told CNN.
New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer resigned from office in March, saying he wants to "atone for his personal failings."
Peter Elkind, editor-at-large at Fortune and author of a 2005 profile of the governor called "Satan or Savior?" in that magazine, will be collaborating with filmmaker Alex Gibney to produce a book and documentary which will be released together, according to Penguin spokeswoman Allison McLean.
Spitzer resigned in March after allegations that he was linked to a prostitution ring ensnared in a federal investigation. Spitzer has not been charged with any wrongdoing.
Elkind's last book, "The Smartest Guys in the Room," in which he and co-author Bethany McLean retraced Enron's downfall, was a best-seller in 2003.
Zackheim said that when Elkind suggested the book, he and the company were "very interested" and "very excited about the book."
"He's a fantastic reporter and I know that he's going to write a great book," Zackheim said.Elkind and Spitzer were college classmates. Elkind graduated from Princeton the year before Spitzer did.
Boris Johnson has won the race to become the next mayor of London - ending Ken Livingstone's eight-year reign at City Hall.
The Conservative candidate won with 1,168,738 first and second preference votes, compared with Mr Livingstone's 1,028,966 on a record turnout of 45%.
He paid tribute to Mr Livingstone and appeared to offer him a possible role in his new administration.
Lib Dem Brian Paddick came third and the Greens' Sian Berry came fourth.
Mr Johnson is expected to stand down as MP for Henley, triggering a by-election.
After signing his official declaration of office at City Hall, he urged people to help build upon the "very considerable achievements of the last mayor of London".
In his victory speech, he described Mr Livingstone as "a very considerable public servant".
FIRST AND SECOND PREFERENCE VOTES
Boris Johnson: 1,168,738
Ken Livingstone: 1,028,966
He added: "You shaped the office of mayor. You gave it national prominence and when London was attacked on 7 July 2005 you spoke for London."
Mr Johnson also paid tribute to his "courage and the sheer exuberant nerve with which you stuck it to your enemies, especially in New Labour".
Mr Johnson told Mr Livingstone he hoped to "discover a way in which the mayoralty can continue to benefit from your transparent love of London".
He said he would work to earn the trust of those that had opposed him, or who had hesitated before voting for him.
"I will work flat out to repay and to justify your confidence. We have a new team ready to go into City Hall.
"Where there have been mistakes we will rectify them, where there are achievements we will build on them, where there are neglected opportunities we will seize on them."
He promised to focus on crime by promoting 24-hour policing, transport, including promoting cycling, green spaces, affordable homes and getting value for money for taxpayers.
Mr Johnson's victory crowns the Conservative Party's May Day local election wins in England and Wales.
FIRST PREFERENCE VOTES
Boris Johnson (Tory): 1,043,761
Ken Livingstone (Lab): 893,877
Brian Paddick (Lib Dem): 236,685
Sian Berry (Green): 77,374
Richard Barnbrook (BNP): 69,710
Alan Craig (Christian Choice): 39,249
Gerard Batten (UKIP): 22,422
Lindsey German (Left List): 16,796
Matt O'Connor (Eng Democrats): 10,695
Winston McKenzie (Ind): 5,389
He said he hoped it showed the party had changed "into a party that can be trusted after 30 years with the greatest, most cosmopolitan, multi-racial generous hearted city on earth".
Mr Livingstone's defeat ended what Gordon Brown called a "bad" day for Labour, in which it suffered its worst council results for 40 years.
Asked by the BBC what his views were on the poor Labour showing, Mr Johnson said: "The smart thing for Labour to do would be to quietly to remove Gordon Brown and install [Foreign Secretary David] Miliband, is my view, but I don't think they'll do it."
In his speech after the result was declared at City Hall, Mr Livingstone thanked the Labour Party for all its help with his campaign.
"There is absolutely nothing that I could have asked from the Labour Party that it didn't throw into this election, from Gordon Brown right the way down to the newest recruit, handing out leaflets on very wet, cold days.
"I'm sorry I couldn't get an extra few points that would take us to victory and the fault for that is solely my own. You can't be mayor for eight years and then if you don't at third term say it was somebody else's fault. I accept that responsibility and I regret that I couldn't take you to victory."
However, Justice Secretary Jack Straw said Labour as a whole should shoulder the blame for Mr Livingstone's loss.
He told BBC News: "I disagree with Ken in one particular only, that we all share the responsibility for the defeat that he suffered yesterday."
Mr Straw admitted that the row over the 10p tax rate had left some voters "understandably very upset".
The government would get behind Londoners' decision at the polls, he added.
Conservative Party leader David Cameron praised Mr Johnson for a "serious and energetic campaign" and said his party was "winning the battle of ideas".
Liberal Democrat candidate Brian Paddick paid tribute to Ken Livingstone as "an amazing mayor" and indicated that he would not be interested in working with Mr Johnson.
He said he would be talking to Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg about his future and what he could do for the party.
The data, provided by the Army, Navy and Department of Veterans Affairs, show that about five times as many troops sustained brain trauma as the 4,471 officially listed by the Pentagon through Sept. 30. These cases also are not reflected in the Pentagon's official tally of wounded, which stands at 30,327.
The number of brain-injury cases were tabulated from records kept by the VA and four military bases that house units that have served multiple combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
One base released its count of brain injuries at a medical conference. The others provided their records at the request of USA TODAY, in some cases only after a Freedom of Information Act filing was submitted.
The data came from:
• Landstuhl Army Regional Medical Center in Germany, where troops evacuated from Iraq and Afghanistan for injury, illness or wounds are brought before going home. Since May 2006, more than 2,300 soldiers screened positive for brain injury, hospital spokeswoman Marie Shaw says.
• Fort Hood, Texas, home of the 4th Infantry Division, which returned from a second Iraq combat tour late last year. At least 2,700 soldiers suffered a combat brain injury, Lt. Col. Steve Stover says.
• Fort Carson, Colo., where more than 2,100 soldiers screened were found to have suffered a brain injury, according to remarks by Army Col. Heidi Terrio before a brain injury association seminar.
• Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, where 1,737 Marines were found to have suffered a brain injury, according to Navy Cmdr. Martin Holland, a neurosurgeon with the Naval Medical Center San Diego.
• VA hospitals, where Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have been screened for combat brain injuries since April. The VA found about 20% of 61,285 surveyed — or 11,804 veterans — with signs of brain injury, spokeswoman Alison Aikele says. VA doctors say more evaluation is necessary before a true diagnosis of brain injury can be confirmed in all these cases, Aikele says.
Soldiers and Marines whose wounds were discovered after they left Iraq are not added to the official casualty list, says Army Col. Robert Labutta, a neurologist and brain injury consultant for the Pentagon.
"We are working to do a better job of reflecting accurate data in the official casualty table," Labutta says.
Most of the new cases involve mild or moderate brain injuries, commonly from exposure to blasts.
More than 150,000 troops may have suffered head injuries in combat, says Rep. Bill Pascrell, D-N.J., founder of the Congressional Brain Injury Task Force.
"I am wary that the number of brain-injured troops far exceeds the total number reported injured," he says.
About 1.5 million troops have served in Iraq, where traumatic brain injury can occur despite heavy body armor worn by troops.
MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA – In two states where US attorneys are already under fire for serious allegations of political prosecutions, seven people associated with three federal cases have experienced 10 suspicious incidents including break-ins and arson.
These crimes raise serious questions about possible use of deliberate intimidation tactics not only because of who the victims are and the already wide criticism of the prosecutions to begin with, but also because of the suspicious nature of each incident individually as well as the pattern collectively. Typically burglars do not break-into an office or private residence only to rummage through documents, for example, as is the case with most of the burglaries in these two federal cases.
In Alabama, for instance, the home of former Democratic Governor Don Siegelman was burglarized twice during the period of his first indictment. Nothing of value was taken, however, and according to the Siegelman family, the only items of interest to the burglars were the files in Siegelman's home office.
Siegelman's attorney experienced the same type of break-in at her office.
In neighboring Mississippi, a case brought against a trial lawyer and three judges raises even more disturbing questions. Of the four individuals in the same case, three of the US Attorney’s targets were the victims of crimes during their indictment or trial. This case, like that of Governor Siegelman, has been widely criticized as a politically motivated prosecution by a Bush US Attorney.
The main target of the indictment, attorney Paul Minor, had his office broken into, while Mississippi Supreme Court Justice, Oliver E. Diaz Jr., had his home burglarized. According to police reports and statements from Diaz and from individuals close to Minor, nothing of value was taken and the burglars only rummaged through documents and in Minor’s case, also took a single computer from an office full of expensive office equipment.
The incidents are not limited to burglaries. In Mississippi, former Judge John Whitfield was the victim of arson at his office. In Alabama, the whistleblower in the Don Siegelman case, Dana Jill Simpson, had her home burned down, and shortly thereafter her car was allegedly forced off the road.
While there is no direct evidence linking these crimes to the US Attorneys’ office targeting these individuals, or to the Bush administration, there is a distinct pattern that makes it highly unlikely that these incidents are isolated and unrelated.
All of these crimes remain unsolved.
A FIRE IN ALABAMA
On Feb. 21, 2007, a private residence located at 1429 West Main Street in Rainsville, Alabama caught fire. The house belonged to whistleblower Dana Jill Simpson, a long-time Alabama Republican lawyer and political opposition researcher who was then preparing to come forward in connection with the conviction of former Alabama Democratic governor Don Siegelman and his co-defendant, Republican fundraiser and businessman, Richard Scrushy.
According to the police report obtained by RAW STORY, the east side of the building was completely damaged and the entire structure sustained damages of roughly 30 percent. (See attached report.) The cause of this fire is unknown and there has been no formal investigation to date. Simpson was not home at the time of the incident.
According to Simpson's attorney in Montgomery, Alabama, Priscilla Duncan, the timing of the fire at Simpson's home should raise questions.
Jill "was talking to Siegelman's attorneys about what she was witness to, discussing going public," said Duncan in a conversation late last week. "On February 15 she also sent a letter to Art Leach [Scrushy's attorney]."
Six days after Simpson sent the letter to Leach, her house caught fire.
According to Simpson's subsequent May 7, 2007 affidavit and her sworn testimony before the US House Judiciary Committee Sept. 14, Siegelman's prosecution was allegedly orchestrated by senior officials in the Bush administration, primarily former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove.
Simpson testified that two weeks after the November 2002 election in which Siegelman was defeated by Republican Bob Riley, Republican operative Bill Canary -- who was serving as Riley's campaign advisor -- held a conference call with Riley's staffers about "how to handle Siegelman." As reported in Part I of RAW STORY's investigative series, Simpson alleges that during this call, Canary stated that "his girls" would "take care of Siegelman."
Simpson says she understood "his girls" to be a reference to Canary's wife, Leura Canary, the US Attorney for the Middle District of Alabama, and the couple's long-time friend, Alice Martin, the US Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama. Both women had been appointed by George W. Bush in 2001 and had been investigating Siegelman since taking office. Siegelman would later be indicted in Leura Canary's district.
Karl Rove has publicly denied any involvement in the investigation and prosecution of Siegelman but refuses to testify to this under oath. Neither Bill nor Leura Canary has offered a comment for any of our articles in the investigative series.
THE CAR ACCIDENT
Less than two weeks after her house caught fire, Simpson's car was allegedly forced off the road. She was rushed to Marshall Medical Center South and was treated for bruising on her arms and chest. According to the police report of the accident, Simpson was heading northbound on U.S 431 when a "non contact" vehicle made an improper lane change into her lane. Simpson swerved to avoid hitting the vehicle, almost going into the ditch, and struck a car parked in a driveway. (In the police sketch of the accident below, Simpson's car is marked #1. The parked car is marked #2.)
According to the police report, the driver of the non-contact vehicle was Mark Roden of Rainbow City, Alabama.
Ms. Simpson told RAW STORY several weeks ago that a state trooper interviewed Mr. Roden at the scene of the accident, and "when the trooper asked him for his employment information, Mr. Roden said that he was a officer with the Attalla police department. He was then allowed to leave without a citation."
The city clerk for the city of Attalla, Alabama confirmed to us that Mark Roden was indeed a former police officer with the Attalla Police Department, but she could not provide additional information. Calls left for the Attalla police chief were not returned.
Repeated attempts to reach Mark Roden at the residence listed on the accident report have been unsuccessful.
According to Priscilla Duncan, on the day of the car accident Simpson had met with Richard Scrushy, the co-defendant in the Siegelman case, to discuss coming forward as a whistleblower.
"It is definitely coincidental," Duncan said.
FORMER GOVERNOR'S PRIVATE RESIDENCE BURGLARIZED -- TWICE
Simpson was not the only one involved in the Siegelman case to fall victim to crimes. According to Governor Siegelman's daughter, Dana Siegelman, their family returned home from a summer trip in 2004 to find the house unlocked and the doors open. Nothing had been taken, although the home contained computers, stereos, and jewelry. Ms. Siegelman explained that the only things disturbed were in Siegelman's office, including his papers, which seemed to have been rifled and were in disarray.
Ms. Siegelman says that her family experienced this once more in the summer of 2004 and that the timing of the two burglaries appeared strange, because it was during this period that charges were brought against her father by the office of US Attorney Leura Canary.
According to Siegelman's daughter, the family did not report these incidents to the police at the time because they already felt targeted by the US Attorney's office and the FBI, as well as being uncertain as to what had actually occurred.
"It was only later, when we realized how deceitful our government really could be," Dana said, "that we suspected our house might have been bugged or Dad's files had been sifted through -- when the same thing happened to his lawyer, Susan James."
SIEGELMAN'S ATTORNEY'S OFFICE BROKEN INTO
Don Siegelman was sentenced to over seven years in a state penitentiary in June 2007. He was not allowed out on bail during his appeal, but was immediately shackled, manacled and moved out of state without his lawyers being informed. The severity of the sentence prompted 44 former state attorneys general of both parties to write a letter to Congress, asking them to investigate Siegelman's prosecution, which they describe as having "sufficient irregularities as to call into question the basic fairness that is the linchpin of our system of justice."
Montgomery attorney Susan James immediately prepared to file an appeal on Siegelman's behalf with the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. James had handled much of the sentencing part of Siegelman's case and was now part of the appeal team.
On July 1, 2007, James' office was broken into. As with Siegelman's home, no computers or office equipment were taken or anything of any value. James told the Associated Press, "They went through our client files."
James expanded on the break-in in a recent interview with RAW STORY. She said the burglars went through several file cabinets with documents filed under the letter "S," which might have included Siegelman's files if she had not moved them earlier after a previous break-in.
"This burglary is unusual," said James. "File cabinets were left open. Drapes were closed and the blinds were pulled down."
James said that the only reason that someone would need to close the drapes and pull down the blinds was if they wanted to turn the lights on to look for something. She asserted that the office next door to hers was not burglarized, even though it also had computers and equipment.
When asked what she made of the cases described in this article, James said she'd not been aware of the number of break-ins and the similarities between them.
"The entire scenario appears to be a pattern unrelated to just random burglaries and random crimes," James said. "Our break-in was treated as a routine burglary but when you add the facts of what appear to be other similar burglaries together, this is something that definitely bears further investigation."
Dana Siegelman says that her family now has "little doubt as to why or who was behind it," but did not elaborate.
ALABAMA BUSINESSMAN'S OFFICE APPEARS BURGLARIZED - WHILE HE IS UNDER INVESTIGATION BY US ATTORNEY
Sometime between Sunday, March 2 and early the next morning, the office of Montgomery insurance executive and life-long Republican, John Goff was vandalized by persons unknown.
"We came in to work one day and the window was knocked out," Goff told Raw Story in a phone interview. Goff explained that the $400 window described in the police report was the sliding glass front door of his office. According to the police report obtained by Raw Story (See attached report.), a large pane of glass was smashed.
At the time the of the incident at his office, Goff was the subject of what he alleges is a politically motivated prosecution orchestrated by the US Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Alabama, Leura Canary, in retaliation for a politically embarrassing lawsuit he filed against the State's well-connected Republican governor, Bob Riley, last year.
Leura Canary’s husband, Bill Canary, served as a campaign advisor to Riley when he ran against Siegelman in the 2002 election. In essence, the US Attorney appears to bringing charges against the perceived enemies of her husband’s client.
A month after the incident at Goff’s office, a grand jury indicted Goff on charges of embezzlement, mail fraud, and conspiracy. The charges stem from a dispute between Goff and two reinsurance companies over insurance premiums Goff collected from clients. The original dispute was settled by arbitration and litigation several years ago. The arbitration panel agreed that Goff had failed to pay what he owed.
Goff reached a settlement with the Alabama Department of Insurance for complaints arising from the same dispute in the spring of 2005.
It is not clear why federal prosecutors decided to revisit the matter in 2007 and launch a criminal investigation against Goff, indicting him in 2008.
Goff and his lawyers maintain that federal prosecutors with close ties to Riley are rehashing settled business in order to punish Goff for blowing the whistle on an alleged attempt at extortion by lobbyists for Riley.
They alleged that US Attorney Leura Canary has a conflict of interest because her husband, Bill Canary, is on the list of witnesses to be deposed in Goff’s lawsuit against Riley and others in his administration.
The US Attorney's Office for the Middle District of Alabama did not return repeated calls and emails seeking comment.
MISSISSIPPI SUPREME COURT JUSTICE'S HOME BROKEN INTO
The break-ins and arson are not, however, restricted to Alabama. In Mississippi, there was another alleged political prosecution, a bribery case brought by the Bush-appointed US Attorney for the Southern District, Dunnica Lampton, against attorney Paul Minor and three judges, including Mississippi Supreme Court Justice Oliver E. Diaz Jr., Minor and two of the judges have also fallen victim to break-ins and arson.
On May 14, 2004, while Judge Diaz and his family were out of town, a neighbor noticed an intruder and called the police. According to the police report, the front door of the Diaz home appeared to have been kicked in and a window broken. (See attached police report.)
In a striking similarity to the Alabama cases, the Diaz burglars appeared not to have been interested in valuables of any sort.
"Our door was kicked in and our documents were rummaged," Diaz said in an extensive interview for Part V of our investigative series. "Televisions, computers and other valuables were not taken, despite the fact that we were out of town for several days and the home was left open by the burglars. We could not figure out a motive for the burglary and reported it to the Biloxi Police Department. The crime was never solved."
A FIRE IN MISSISSIPPI
In the early morning of Sept. 15, 2003, the Biloxi, Mississippi office of another of the defendants in the Paul Minor case, former Mississippi judge John Whitfield, was set on fire.
At approximately 3:30 am, Whitfield's secretary, Michele Herman, was awakened by a call from the fire alarm company informing her that the office was ablaze. Herman was the first of Whitfield's associates to arrive at the scene. Her boss and other colleagues joined her soon after.
Herman described what happened after she arrived.
"I rushed to the office to watch the fire department put the fire out. It was contained to my office because we close doors between offices when we leave," Herman wrote in an email. "Just about everything I had was destroyed -- over 20 years worth of my research and books and photos and paintings and such."
From the outset, the Biloxi fire and police departments treated the fire as a case of arson. Agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms were also involved, as were investigators from the US Attorney's office. However, the only suspect in the arson case was Whitfield himself.
"It was us, me and John [Whitfield] and a former cop that worked with us, and Mike [Crosby, Whitfield's attorney] that kept telling the fire officials that it looked like something was splashed all over the wall of the outside of the house that we used as an office," Herman stated. "They ignored us until John hired an independent fire inspector/arson expert."
According to Herman's recollection, local authorities announced that same day that they intended to confiscate files and documents that had survived the blaze. Whitfield's lawyer, Mike Crosby strongly objected to this, since he was concerned that privileged information -- including Whitfield's defense file and the case files of his clients -- would fall into the hands of the FBI and the ATF and be used against Whitfield in his upcoming trial.
In a letter obtained by RAW STORY, dated Sept. 19, 2003, Crosby wrote to the judge overseeing the seizure of files and hard drives to register his strenuous objections. The files and disks contained information that was critical to the operation of Whitfield's law practice as well as his defense file for the Diaz/Minor case. Crosby explained that he'd offered to make copies of all the materials for the investigators, if only he could have the originals back. The authorities refused. (See attached letter.)
Repeated attempts to reach Crosby for comment have been unsuccessful.
"No one has ever been charged with the crime, as far as we know," Herman added. "They dropped it after they investigated John -- he was their suspect, you know. Only problem was, he didn't own the building, had nothing to gain -- no motive for destroying the building."
YET ANOTHER MISSISSIPPI BREAK-IN
Also charged by US Attorney Dunnica Lampton was Paul Minor, a successful trial lawyer and the largest individual Democratic campaign donor in Mississippi. Minor was convicted of bribery and mail fraud and is now serving time in a federal penitentiary in Florida.
In the summer of 2003, Minor's Biloxi, Mississippi law office was allegedly broken into. According to his secretary, Janet Miller, a brick was used to shatter her office window and the break-in targeted only her office.
"I panicked because they took my whole computer -- it had all of my bookkeeping on it and I had an old back up that I had not updated since March," Miller said.
"It had a lot of Paul [Minor]'s personal stuff on it, his business, and of course it had all of the accounting for the law firm on it from 2000 forward."
Miller said that files were also rummaged through, but she could not say for sure if anything was taken because it was so chaotic. No other office in Minor's suite of offices were disturbed.
This crime, like the others, remains unsolved.
HISTORY REPEATING ITSELF?
John C. Villines, ICPS, CPP, has studied crime causation and crime prevention for 30 years. As a security consultant, he has provided services to private industry, the United States Government, law enforcement agencies, community organizations and others. He is the Director of John C. Villines LLC, often appears as an expert witness criminal cases, and was up until recently the Chairman of the Georgia Board of Private Detective and Security Agencies.
Villines was asked in the most general terms what he makes of this series of crimes. He was not provided with the names of the individuals or any information that would identify the Alabama and Mississippi cases.
"I would avoid drawing conclusions based upon the amount of information you have provided," Villines wrote in an email response. "But it would be reasonable to expect that the burglar or burglars is seeking information."
RAW STORY asked Villines if these crimes could be identity theft-type crimes or something similar.
"Certainly, identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the United States," Villines responded. "However, a series of burglaries and arsons such as you have described would not be the primary crimes I would expect to see associated with attempts to steal personal identifiers."
"It would seem more reasonable to expect that the burglar(s) have targeted information related to specific individuals, and that the value of the information is related to a personal motivation (either on the part of the burglar(s) or someone who has contracted their services, as in the famed Watergate burglary). Possible motives (speculation): acquire damaging information about a third party, or recover personal information to keep it from being discovered by others."
The pattern of break-ins and other crimes in Alabama and Mississippi and the serious questions surrounding possible intimidation tactics are not without precedent. From the 1960's to the 1980's, similar tactics were used by the Nixon and Reagan administrations to spy upon and demoralize their political opponents.
In 1971, a group of anonymous activists broke into FBI headquarters in Media, Pennsylvania and made off with more than a thousand documents, which were then mailed to major newspapers and politicians. The documents revealed the existence of a secret counterintelligence program -- known as COINTELPRO for short -- dedicated to investigating, undermining, and discrediting anti-war and civil rights groups. As part of this program, violent attacks against activists by right-wing groups were sometimes allowed to go forward or even incited by FBI informants within those groups.
The death of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover in 1972 and strict new guidelines passed by Congress in 1976 were believed to have put an end to such abuses. Two high FBI officials were even convicted in 1980 of having ordered agents to break into the homes of friends and relatives of members of the Weather Underground, including the sister of Bernadine Dohrn.
These safeguards, however, broke down during the administration of President Ronald Reagan, who pardoned the two officials and had their convictions expunged. The FBI was once again a political tool, which not only investigated liberal members of Congress, such as Rep. John Conyers and Sen. Christopher Dodd, but also paid right-wing groups, including the followers of Reverend Moon, to spy upon and disrupt individuals and organizations opposed to the Reagan administration's support for right-wing dictators in Latin America.
Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter Ross Gelbspan wrote in Break-ins, Death Threats and the FBI (1991) about "the mystery of the little-publicized epidemic of low-grade, domestic terrorism. It includes break-ins, death threats, and politically motivated arson attacks which have plagued hundreds of activists and organizations across the country for the past seven years. While the FBI has repeatedly denied any role in these activities, the Bureau has, at the same time, refused scores of requests to investigate what is clearly an interstate conspiracy to violate the civil liberties of the victims.
"From 1984, when the first reports of mysterious political break-ins and death threats began to surface, the list of such episodes has continued to escalate. ... Of nearly 200 political break-ins and thefts of files reported by Central America and Sanctuary activists, not one has been solved."
Whether or not the recent cases in Alabama and Mississippi actually represent the reemergence of COINTELPRO tactics from the past remains unclear. There is no solid evidence tying any of the cases to one another. But there does appear to be a common pattern, both in who is being targeted and also in how the burglars have conducted their operations.
Larisa Alexandrovna is the Managing Editor of Investigative News for Raw Story and regularly reports on intelligence and national security matters. She has been covering the US Attorney Scandal for over six months. Her essay on the Siegelman case appears in a newly published anthology, Loser Taker All: Election Fraud and The Subversion of Democracy, 2000-2008, edited by New York University professor Mark Crispin Miller, which features a collection of essays from prominent journalists, activists, and scholars. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Lindsay Beyerstein is an investigative reporter for Raw Story, regularly covering national issues relating to civil liberties, corruption, and women’s rights. She writes regularly for other publications, such as In These Times, and her photography has been published in The Austin Chronicle, Aftenposten (Norway's second largest newspaper), and Earth Island Journal. Lindsay can be reached at email@example.com
Muriel Kane is the Research Director for Raw Story Investigates.
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