March 10, 2008

Post-Dispatch responds to bullying charge

I received the following email from the the Post-Dispatch on Friday;

  • Mr. Fischer: As promised, we have looked into your concerns regarding our story and reporter Paul Hampel. After discussions with the reporter and the subject, we feel both our reporting and our article were accurate, fair and responsible in dealing with a very sensitive and newsworthy topic. We believe the story humanized a current tension point in city halls across the area: the rights of citizens to hold public officials accountable vs. the rights of public officials to attempt to limit that access -- rightly or wrongly -- to ensure public safety. The story in no way cast aspersions on anyone. We will just have to agree to disagree on this one.
    Adam Goodman
    Assistant Managing Editor/Metro
    St. Louis Post-Dispatch

First, these are not my concerns but are the concerns of many people who read the article. My posts on the article, "After Kirkwood shootings, gadflies under the microscope," are by far the most read posts on my blog. ( The following posts are about the article; Post-Dispatch platform is a fraud, Has Post-Dispatch resorted to bullying widows to make news? and Update on Post-Dispatch attack on citizen activism. I have received more comments and emails on this subject than any other issue I have addressed and unfortunately many people have simply given up on our only daily paper.

As to the Post-Dispatch "looking into this article" here is what I know they did. Chris Ave, the editor who approved the story, contacted Ms. Waters. Ave told her he did not see any problems with the story and repeatedly told her there was nothing "factually wrong" with the article. Ave told Ms. Waters it was not his decision whether a retraction would be done or an apology given but that he felt none was needed. He did tell Ms. Waters he was sorry the story upset her.

In regard to the email from Mr. Goodman, notice how the he frames the issue now; "the rights of citizens to hold public officials accountable vs. the rights of public officials to attempt to limit that access -- rightly or wrongly -- to ensure public safety." While that might have been a good article it is clearly not the article which was published. From the headline to the side bar this article accepted as fact the perception by some officials that citizens involved in local government are annoying at best and possibly a threat. Gadfly is not a term of endearment for citizen activists, nor is a psychiatrist necessary to look into their motives.

As to the decision of the Post to stand behind its article, this should come as a surprise to no one. Of course, the paper cares about any attacks on its credibility and for that reason the Post-Dispatch and its owner, Lee Enterprises, have been viewing my site at record numbers. They have also been running Google searches under various themes such as, "hampel and gadfly and post-dispatch." Why? Because, in my opinion, what the Post is really concerned about is that someone with a wider audience then mine will pick up on this story. There isn't an argument to be made that the article written by Paul Hampel was anything other than an unwarranted attack on three citizens who dare to get involved in local government. If the Post were to admit its mistake or if this story was to gain a wider audience, the Post would have to defend the article itself and the decision not to do anything about it. They hope by ignoring this issue, their own little "gadfly" will go away.

March 08, 2008

Is Eddie Curran flat wrong?

Eddie Curran is a reporter with the Mobile Press Register. He claims his stories prompted an investigation of former Gov. Don Siegelman and his administration. An investigation which led to Siegelman being indicted and later found guilty on public corruption charges. However, questions have surrounded the prosecution and conviction of Siegelman and these issues were recently raised in a 60 Minutes piece on the case. Following the piece Eddie Curran wrote a letter to 60 Minutes accusing the show and Doug Jones, one of Siegelman's lawyers, of being "flat wrong" about testimony given by Nick Bailey, a former aide to Siegelman.

Curran sites to the following from 60 Minutes;
  • “Mr. Bailey had indicated that there had been a meeting with Governor Siegelman and Mr. Scrushy, a private meeting in the Governor's office, just the two of them,” says Doug Jones, who was one of Siegelman’s lawyers. “And then, as soon as Mr. Scrushy left, the governor walked out with a $250,000 check that he said Scrushy have given him for the lottery foundation.” “Had the check in his hand right then and there? “ Pelley asks. “Had the check in his hand right then,” Jones says. “That Scrushy had just handed to him, according to Bailey's testimony?” Pelley asks. “That's right, showed it to Mr. Bailey. And Nick asked him, ‘Well, what does he want for it?’ And Governor Siegelman allegedly said, ‘A seat on the CON Board.’ Nick asked him, ‘Can we do that?’ And he said, ‘I think so,’” Jones says.

And later in the segment;

  • In this new investigation, prosecutors zeroed in on that vivid story told by Siegelman’s aide, Nick Bailey, who said he saw the governor with a check in his hand after meeting Richard Scrushy. Trouble was, Bailey was wrong about the check, and Siegelman’s lawyer says prosecutors knew it. “They got a copy of the check. And the check was cut days after that meeting. There was no way possible for Siegelman to have walked out of that meeting with a check in his hand,” Jones explains. “That would seem like a problem with the prosecution's case,” Pelley remarks. “It was a huge problem especially when you've got a guy who's credibility was going to be the lynch pin of that case. It was a huge problem,” Jones says.

Curran writes;

  • Jones was actually correct when telling your wide-eyed host Pelley that the check was dated after the meeting. However, it was given to Siegelman at a later meeting. Neither prosecutors nor witnesses at trial, Bailey included, said the check was given by Scrushy to Siegelman at the first meeting. Doug Jones was flat wrong on this point which 60 Minutes thought so powerful that, out of what surely was a much longer interview, it used in the segment.

Curran's claim that the 60 Minute piece stated Bailey testified at trial about the $250,000 check is untrue. I have read the transcript and watched the program and there is absolutely nothing to support Curran's allegation. I will explain his "mistake" below. Curran also wrote;

  • The problem is that there was no testimony that the first $250,000 check was given to Siegelman at this meeting.

Again, Curran is wrong in this statement. The 60 Minutes piece claimed that Bailey "indicated" the $250,000 check was given to Siegelman at the first meeting. And, contrary to Curran's claim, this appears to be true. Legal Schnauzer did some research on what was reported on the trial and found the following;

From the Birmingham News, March 5, 2006;

  • Bailey also admitted his initial recollections to a grand jury were incorrect. He said that, after meeting with Scrushy in 1999, Siegelman showed him a check for $250,000 signed by Scrushy. On the date Bailey recalled, the check hadn't been written, and the check was from a Maryland land company, not signed by Scrushy.

From the Birmingham News, May 4, 2006;

  • Defense lawyers showed that Bailey's initial recollection to prosecutors about the meeting between Scrushy and Siegelman had to be false. Bailey said that after the meeting, Siegelman showed him a check Scrushy had given him, but the check was dated later. Bailey admitted he wasn't sure when the meeting occurred.

Now, to explain Curran's error; Bailey did testify that Siegelman received the check at the first meeting but this testimony was apparently given at the grand jury proceedings not at trial. Siegelman's lawyers used Bailey's grand jury testimony to impeach (attack his credibility) him at trial.

Curran was actually correct when telling his wide-eyed readers that there was no testimony at the trial from Bailey that Siegelman received the check at the first meeting. However, 60 Minutes and Jones never made that claim. Curran either made a major blunder on this point or is intentionally misleading his readers, in any case Curran is the one who is "flat wrong."

In fact, if you watch the 60 Minutes piece, you will see that Bailey's credibility was a major issue at the trial, which is why Bailey's claim that prosecutors made him write out his testimony over 70 times is crucial. These statements were not given to Siegelman's lawyers and this evidence would have been so damaging it is doubtful the prosecutor would have allowed Bailey to testify. Of course, it would also be serious misconduct on the part of the prosecutor to withheld this evidence, a point Curran choose to ignore.

Curran wrote;

  • It is my understanding that 60 Minutes spent months on this story. That you did so and got so wrong this crucial element of the evidence presented to the jury is stunning.

It is my understanding that Curran has spent years covering this story and he even claims his reporting is what led to the investigation. That he made such a major mistake in his letter to 60 Minutes is stunning and should call into question all of his reporting in this case.

Curran also wrote to 60 minutes;

  • I am sure that your sources on the defense teams have the transcript and if you asked, would provide it to you. If not, I will be glad to search my records for appeals briefs or could send you stories by me and other reporters from the trial. The issue is simply not in dispute. Your big witness – Doug Jones – was not at trial and he was totally wrong. I suggest you call him and ask him to provide the documentation to support what he told you with such an impressive degree of authority. Don’t rely on his memory – ask him to provide you with the documentation. This is what real reporters do and what an audience expects of 60 Minutes.

It looks like Mr. Curran has finally found something he and his critics agree on; he is not a real reporter.

March 06, 2008

Top ten jobs offered by Matt Blunt

Apparently, Matt Blunt has come up with a new plan on how to help Republicans win elections, offer Democrats plum positions. However, the positions offered to State Sen. Frank Barnitz, D-Lake Spring (he declined) and 15th District State Senate candidate Kevin Gunn aren't the only offers Blunt has made. In a Wake Up Call Missouri exclusive, below are the top 10 other positions offered by Blunt;

10. Tony Messenger; Biographer for book about Blunt, "Matt Blunt, The Deleted Years."

9. Speaker of the House Rod Jetton; Sneaker of the House

8. Bill Luetkenhaus; Partnership in new real estate company, "The Blunt Team"

7. Jeff Harris; Chief sniffer for new "Blunt Commission on Sniffling CAFO's"

6. Nathan Cooper; Anything he wants, just as long as Blunt doesn't end up his roommate

5. Steve Ehlmann and Peter Kinder; Co-Chairs of Paul McKee Yes Man Committee

4. Colonel Jack Jackson; CEO of new fried chicken restaurant chain. ( This just in; Governor Blunt has announced that he has offered the position to Colonel Sanders instead.)

3. Kit Bond; Chief of Staff for Senator Roy Blunt

2. Mike Huckabee; Bass guitarist in Matt's new band, "Let's Be Blunt"

1. Sarah Steelman, Kenny Hulshof or Jay Nixon; A job in which nothing needs to be accomplished.

Update on Post-Dispatch attack on citizen activism

My two posts on Paul Hampel's story "After Kirkwood shootings, gadflies under the microscope," continue to garner a lot of interest. ( Post-Dispatch platform is a fraud and Has Post-Dispatch resorted to bullying widows to make news? ) A few notes on the posts;
  • I never spoke with Sandy Waters before yesterday and I learned about her experience with Mr. Hampel from someone who reads my blog. That individual explained how Sandy had told her how Hampel mislead Sandy about the reason for his call. Later that evening I called Sandy and spoke with her for over an hour about the article. Sandy believes the Post-Dispatch and Hampel should publicly apologize for their actions. I agree Sandy.
  • I emailed my first story to Hampel along with a note that stated I thought he should apologize for the article (this was before I spoke with any of Hampel's targets) but that I didn't think he would because it was apparent from reading the article he just didn't get it. Hampel responded via email "You strike me as quite rude, Rick. But maybe you're just email-rude. I'll bet you're not a jerk in person." I thought this was rather ironic considering the hatchet job Hampel performed on his three random targets and I responded "I tend to be rude to people who abuse their power, sometimes even in person."
  • After I was told that Waters claimed Hampel mislead her, I emailed Hampel and the Post asking if they cared to comment. Hampel replied "First, you make rude comments to me. Then you reiterate that, even in person, you're a jerk. And now you want me to call you to respond to a nutty, anonymous email? What a clown you are! I'll never waste my time opening another email from you."
  • Adam Goodman of the Post sent me an email stating, "Your note to Arnie Robbins regarding Paul Hampel's story and the anonymous posting on your blog was forwarded to me. I am the assistant managing editor/Metro at the Post-Dispatch. I will look into this. Meanwhile, if you do end up communicating with the anonymous commenter, please ask the person to contact me directly if she has a complaint. Thank you."
  • The person who initially contacted me about Sandy Waters has indicated she prefers to remain anonymous because she doesn't want to be the paper's next victim. Sandy told me Hampel called and left her a message yesterday but she didn't want to speak with him because she did not trust him. And who can blame either one of them.
  • I have received a lot of emails and comments from people who read the article and said that my original post about the story stated exactly how they felt. Some people have forwarded me letters they wrote the paper, some have posted comments but many choose to remain anonymous because they fear reprisal. What a sad statement about the Post-Dispatch.
  • Finally, thanks to an alert reader who tipped me off to an editorial in the Post yesterday, "The temptation to overreact." The editorial discussed a citizen, Dan Sullivan, who filed a lawsuit against the Kirkwood School District over a property tax issue and lost. Sullivan has now decided to run for a seat on the school board and the editorial stated "We encourage his citizen activism." I wonder if the writer of that editorial had a good laugh with Mr. Hampel when crafting that sentence?

March 05, 2008

False statements continue in Koch Road scandal

I posted yesterday about the decision that was handed down by the Missouri Court of Appeals yesterday on the Koch Road scandal. In the post I mentioned three things the decision did not do, namely;
  • Find that the decision of the County to vacate Koch Road was proper.
  • Address the fact the the conditions under which Koch Road were to be vacated have never been met.
  • Change the fact that Koch Road was illegally torn out by the developer and builder.

I posted those things because I knew others involved in the litigation would attempt to mislead the public about what the court said. And they did. Let's start with McBride & Son CEO John F. Eilermann, who stated in the Post-Dispatch that the ruling "confirms what we have said all along: the suit had no merit. This, most importantly, confirms the homeowners have clear title, and the road vacation was proper."

Maybe Mr. Eilermann will correct these false statements tomorrow since McBride people have been reviewing my blog today, hopefully in an attempt to learn the truth. But just in case they still don't get it, the court's opinion stated that my clients did not have the right to question the vacation of Koch Road, and does not condone the County's action. The Circuit Court judge ruled the County's vacation of Koch Road was unlawful and the Court of Appeals did not say this decision was wrong but instead said that the court did not have jurisdiction to overturn the vacation, even if it was illegal.

However, even more troubling is the following comment from John Sonderegger who said county officials feel vindicated that they made the right decision, but they wish the matter had been resolved before homes were built. Sonderegger made a career misreporting at the Post-Dispatch before he was rewarded for his years of service to the builders/developers by County Executive Steve Ehlmann. However, Sonderegger's ability to mislead the public may also have been a consideration since he did such a fine job of it in his comment. The court did not vindicate the county as noted above and if the county was worried about the homes being built they could have stopped it if they followed the law. Or wanted to represent the citizens rather than special interests.

In any event, maybe the county will now correct its actions in filing the paperwork to finalize the vacation of Koch Road since they were put on notice in court that their actions were based on false information provided by O'Fallon. Are you going to ignore this Mr. Ehlmann? Hmm, the word conspiracy comes to mind, but only in a legal sense Steve.

Has Post-Dispatch resorted to bullying widows to make news?

My story yesterday, Post-Dispatch platform is a fraud, has drawn more interest than anything I have posted before. And it should. The post was about a story written by Paul Hampel, who apparently had a bad day and decided to take it out on citizens who dare to question their local governments. Actually, after speaking with one of the people Hampel attacked, it appears it wasn't simply a bad day on Hampel's part, but rather a planned attack.

Sandy Waters is a 64 year old widow who has lived in St. Peters for over 34 years. She has been a trustee in her subdivision for over 20 years, a job that comes with no pay but a lot of headaches. She managed her son's baseball team when he was younger because no else wanted to do it. Sandy did all this while working part time in between being a mother and wife full time.

While she followed local politics, Sandy had never spoken at a St. Peters council meeting until 2005. What made her take the time to get involved? Sandy was watching a city workshop one night at home when Alderman Jerry Hollingsworth mentioned an idea in which St. Peters citizens could help out the community by paying for a street sign which read, "Keep Kids Alive, Drive 25". Sandy thought it was a good idea and that night went up to the council meeting and publicly volunteered to pay for such a sign. Her alderman, Patrick Barclay then followed Sandy's lead and also pledged to pay for a sign. Since then Sandy has been a semi regular at the meetings, sometimes praising the city for its actions, sometimes criticizing St. Peters but always caring about her city.

If you read the Post-Dispatch's Platform, you would expect them to celebrate and encourage citizens like Sandy rather than compare them to a murderer, but that is exactly what Paul Hampel and the Post did. Hampel called Sandy about ten days ago and left a message that he was with the paper and would like to talk to her. At first Sandy was hesitant since she had no idea who Hampel was or why a reporter would want to talk to her, but after talking with a friend she decided to call him back.

Sandy says that Hampel told her he covered local government and that Tim Bryant, a Post-Dispatch reporter who covers St. Peters, had said she was very educated on issues involving property values and taxes and that is what he wanted to talk to her about. Sandy thought that was odd and told Hampel the only reason Bryant might have said that is because she once spoke about issues regarding property values at a public meeting but she didn't consider herself an expert by any means.

Hampel followed up by asking Sandy about speaking at St. Peters city meetings without ever telling her what he really intended to write about. In fact, Sandy says when she would tell Hampel about some of the reasons she was involved, such as a statement made by former alderman David Hayes that "There's no free speech in this chamber," Hampel would act shocked that such things really happened. As Hampel reeled Sandy in he got more personal, asking her if she was married, and Sandy opened up to him explaining she lost her husband in 2003 and that she would always miss him.

Hampel seized upon this opening to ask Sandy if the reason she went to St. Peters meetings was to fill this void. (In the article Hampel quoted a psychiatrist who said "gadflies" often attended public meetings because this "is their only dynamic, if you will, in which they're interacting with people.") Sandy was insulted by the question because it insinuated her involvement in the community was some kind of a mental illness and that this involvement could replace her husband. As Sandy became suspicious of Hampel's true intentions he followed up with a question about whether she could ever become violent over the actions of the city. (In the article Hampel indicates he asked another of the "gadflies" if he could see himself committing an act of violence like Charles "Cookie" Thornton, who killed five people at a Kirkwood council meeting last month.)

At this point Sandy was growing even more suspicious of Hampel's motives and he finally mentioned the Cookie Thornton killings in Kirkwood before informing her that he had to go. It was only after she got off the phone that Sandy first suspected Hampel was going to try to compare her to Thornton and her suspicions came true when the article came out Monday.

Hampel's article was titled "After Kirkwood shootings, gadflies under the microscope." Hampel wrote "Often called gadflies, they see themselves as champions of freedom and watchdogs of local government. But post-Kirkwood, a conflict has arisen between security and First Amendment rights. Where these critics may once have been seen as annoying, if sometimes right, some are now being looked at as possible threats."
Gadfly is a term the Post has used in describing Thornton ("Charles 'Cookie' Thornton was the town gadfly", "It's not that Plummer thought the town gadfly....") And it is also the term Hampel used to describe this 64 year old widow whose only crime appears to be that she loves her home town and wanted to get involved.

According to Sandy, that is exactly what St. Peters Mayor Len Pagono told Hampel when he spoke with him. Pagano called Sandy and told her that he spoke with Hampel before the article ran and told him how she loved her city and her neighborhood, that she was civic minded and that he had known her for 25 years and considered her a friend. However, don't look for Pagano's kind words about Sandy in the article because they are no where to be found. Bullies like Hampel have no need to let the truth get in the way of their attempt to make 64 year old civic minded widows like Sandy Waters look dangerous.

Bad news for Premier 370 and St. Peters

A Missouri Court of Appeals decision out of the Western District, could be a big blow to St. Peters and its financing of Premier 370, a development in a flood plain off of Highway 370. The decision reverses a judgment entered in the Circuit Court of Cole County granting St. Peters Motion for Summary Judgment against claims brought by various entities and individuals (plaintiffs) challenging St. Peters usage of tax increment financing (TIF) on the development.

A Motion for Summary Judgment asks a court to enter a judgment against a party based upon undisputed material facts in the case. The "facts" in the motion are presented to the courts in various ways (such as affidavits, documents or deposition testimony) but the court does not here live testimony.
The Court of Appeals decision is not a ruling in favor of the plaintiffs but instead states that the Circuit Court was incorrect in entering a judgement on behalf of St. Peters based on the "undisputed facts" presented in the motion. This means the case can go forward and allows for a trial.
According to an article in the Post-Dispatch, St. Peters officials stated the court's comments about "a full-blown court trial to review municipal decisions rather than summary proceedings are very troubling." I have to agree with St. Peters on this one, allowing evidence to be presented in public about how the city makes its decisions could be very troubling for St. Peters as well as some of its elected officials and administrators, past and present. But then sometimes the truth can be troubling.

March 04, 2008

Post-Dispatch platform is a fraud

  • "I know that my retirement will make no difference in its cardinal principles, that it will always fight for progress and reform, never tolerate injustice or corruption, always fight demagogues of all parties, never belong to any party, always oppose privileged classes and public plunderers, never lack sympathy with the poor, always remain devoted to the public welfare, never be satisfied with merely printing news, always be drastically independent, never be afraid to attack wrong, whether by predatory plutocracy or predatory poverty." statement by Joseph Pulitzer, April 10, 1907

  • "What a bunch of crap." statement by Rick Fischer, March 4, 2008

I just ran across an article in yesterday's Post-Dispatch titled, After Kirkwood shootings, gadflies under the microscope. It is one of the most insulting, condescending, hateful articles I have seen in the Post in the last day. Lets start with the headline which describes those who participate in local government as gadflies-a person who stimulates or annoys especially by persistent criticism. Right off the bat the Post is telling its readers what it thinks of citizens who take the time to get involved, "we thought they were nothing more than annoying pests but now we have to consider whether they are dangerous!"

The writer, Paul Hampel, then discusses three "gadflies" in an attempt to make anyone who dares to follow local government seem clinically insane. In fact, the writer talks to a psychiatrist about what is wrong with these people and whether they could be dangerous.

  • "Our ability in behavioral medicine to predict violence on the part of the average citizen is very, very poor," said Dr. Paul Packman, a psychiatrist at St. John's Mercy Medical Center. "We don't understand at what point does someone decide, 'OK, this is it.'"

  • For some people, such meetings constitute a social life, said Packman, the psychiatrist." Being a committed gadfly is their only dynamic, if you will, in which they're interacting with people," he said. Others, he said, may attend because they failed to get elected and see meetings as their only avenue of influence. For some, public forums are entertainment. And then there are those who feel a great sense of responsibility that is out of proportion to their ability to affect change."These are people who feel very strongly as do-gooders, but these types tend to fall out of such systems when they realize that they have very little impact," Packman said.

Even worse, here is how the reporter frames the issue in speaking about Arnie Dienoff, a regular at meetings in Bellfontaine Neighbors; "Dienoff, who denies he would ever hurt anyone..." What was Hampel, who denies he would ever plagiarize, thinking? While Hampel, who denies he is an arrogant pin head, does everything to convince his readers Dienhoff is odd, there is no hint of any violence in Dienhoff's actions.

Hampel, who denies being a fascist, then asks the "gadflies" if they might be violent. To the best of my knowledge, the tragedy in Kirkwood was the first time a "gadfly" has gone on a shooting rampage in the area in...forever, but we do have a whole lot of politicians who are corrupt. Do you think Mr. Hampel, who denies having a clue, would write, "Senator Bond, who denies being a corrupt politician..?" Or conduct an interview in which he asked, "Now Senator McCaskill, could you ever see yourself taking kickbacks or bribes?" Of course not, because that would be a) stupid, b) poor journalism and c) stupid. But Hampel, who denies being a poor journalist and stupid, thinks nothing of it when covering the silly people who dare to keep an eye on local government.

Maybe if the Post and Hampel started covering local politics and reporting on it truthfully, he would have less of an elitist view on the subject. In fact, maybe a good place for him to start would be if he read the paper's platform and do something no one at the Post seems to be willing to do, follow it!

Koch Road decision handed down

The Court of Appeals handed down their opinion today on the Koch Road scandal. The Court ruled that my clients (I am co-counsel for the group of residents which challenged the County's decision to vacate Koch Road) lacked standing in which to challenge the County's decision. Standing is a legal term which relates to the right to bring an action and the Court's ruling states that a group of residents do not have the right to challenge an illegal vacation of a County Road unless those residents have some injury different than the public as a whole.

This decision does not;
  • Find that the decision of the County to vacate Koch Road was proper.
  • Address the fact the the conditions under which Koch Road were to be vacated have never been met.
  • Change the fact that Koch Road was illegally torn out by the developer and builder.

Stay tuned.

March 03, 2008

Obama's ties to Chicago developer could cause problems

Chicago developer Tony Rezko's trial on federal corruption charges was scheduled to began today. Rezko was indicted back in October of 2006 for allegedly using his influence with Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich to seek kickbacks and campaign donations from firms going after state business. While Barack Obama's name may surface from time to time in the trial he is not expected to be a major player. However, Obama's relationship with Rezko, including a questionable land deal, is certain to become a bigger issue in his campaign.

The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Robert Novak and TPM, to name just a few, all had stories on Obama's relationship with Rezko today. With the trial scheduled to last several months, you can be sure this relationship is going to continue to haunt Obama on the campaign trail.

Who would have guessed that a developer, a questionable land deal and a politician would become an issue in a campaign? If Obama ever needs a break from the controversy all he needs to do is pay a visit to St. Charles County where such actions get you buildings named after you rather than investigated.

Developer Welfare

Last week I posted about how Matt Blunt and the State Senate reappointed Bill Luetkenhaus to the Missouri Housing Development Commission (MHDC) without mention of a questionable land deal involving Luetkenhaus and developer Jeff Smith. This land deal drew attention to the standards and rules under which the MHDC operates, however, all of that is apparently forgotten. Despite calls for stricter standards and a review of the conflict rules, the MHDC has done nothing. Of course, this might be because MHDC Chairman Richard Baalmann named Luetkenhaus to lead a committee to rewrite the standards. No, I'm not joking. The guy whose land deal was the reason the MHDC was looking into changing it's standards, Luetkenhaus, is in charge of changing those standards. Not surprisingly, Luetkenhaus' committee has not made any changes.

Anyway, Sunday's Columbia Tribune took a look at how the MHDC helps line the pockets of developers with taxpayer money. Since all of this is being done in the name of affordable housing for senior citizens I guess we are not supposed to question this expenditure. Take a look at the Tribune article and let me know what you think.

Karl Rove's America Update

For those interested in reading about the Don Siegelman case, there is an update on Legal Schnauzer. In a post titled On Siegelman, 60 Minutes, and History, information is provided from various view points. While Legal Schnauzer believes that there are serious questions regarding the prosecution of Siegelman, the blog offers opposing views and is a good resource for anyone who wants more information on this disturbing case.

One of the things I have noticed is that Republicans (at least those who want this story to go away) seem to be employing the tactics of Morton Blackwell who teaches Republicans how to "Handle Negative Information" at his Leadership Institute. And yes, Karl Rove is a proud graduate of Mr. Blackwell's school.

March 02, 2008

Karl Rove's America, Part II

Remember Scooter Libby? The guy who was convicted of lying to the feds about his involvement in the Valerie Plame case? The guy who received a pardon from George W. Bush shortly before he was set to begin serving his sentence? The guy who claimed he was a scapegoat to protect Karl Rove? That last part kind of got lost in the trial but that is exactly what Libby's lawyers said they would prove in their opening statements.

Here is a little refresher from a January 23, 2007 article in the New York Times;

  • Mr. Wells (Rove's lawyer) told the jury that the unnamed White House officials wanted to protect Mr. Rove because they believed his survival as President Bush’s political adviser was crucial to the health of the Republican Party.
    Mr. Wells Jr. said his client, known by his nickname, “Scooter” was innocent and that a decision was made that “Scooter Libby was to be sacrificed.”
    It was important to keep Mr. Rove out of trouble, Mr. Wells said, because he was Mr. Bush’s right-hand man and “was most responsible for seeing the Republican Party stayed in office. He had to be protected.”

In fact, Libby's lawyers even stated Vice President Dick Cheney agreed with Libby's belief he was being set up as a scapegoat;

  • But his most startling comment was his assertion that Mr. Libby became enmeshed in legal difficulty because of White House efforts to protect Mr. Rove.
    Mr. Libby, Mr. Wells said, complained to Mr. Cheney that he was being set up as the fall guy. The Vice President supported that view, Mr. Wells said, and wrote a note by hand saying: “Not going to protect one staffer + sacrifice the guy who was asked to stick his neck in the meat grinder because of the incompetence of others.”
    He offered his interpretation of the note, explaining that “incompetence” was a reference to the fact that the C.I.A. had mistakenly allowed the White House to use inaccurate information in Mr. Bush’s State of the Union speech about Iraq’s efforts to obtain uranium in Africa. The staff official, he said, was Mr. Rove. Mr. Libby had been assigned to speak to reporters to straighten out the confusion from Mr. Bush’s speech, a chore Mr. Cheney likened to sticking his head in the meat grinder.

Opening statements are not evidence but instead an opportunity for a lawyer to provide the jury an outline of what evidence will be presented on behalf of his client. However, every good lawyer knows that if you tell a jury you are going to present evidence you better follow through because the jury is going to be expecting it, especially when you make claims such as Wells did. And, of course, Libby had good lawyers, very good lawyers. Which is why many were surprised when they didn't follow through on presenting evidence to support their theory that Libby was a scapegoat to protect Rove.

So why would Libby's very able legal team not present the evidence on Rove? The answer lies in their opening statement; Karl Rove was so important "he had to be protected." As soon as Libby's lawyers threatened to spill the beans on Rove the pardon was a done deal, all Libby had to do was keep his mouth shut. Just another example of how Karl Rove and his George W. Bush have taken our justice system hostage.