Don Siegelman, former Democratic governor of Alabama, is out of federal prison while he fights his conviction on corruption-related charges. At the heart of the Siegelman case was a charge that he received a campaign contribution from a supporter and then took actions that benefited that supporter.
As Siegelman's case works its way through the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, it is becoming more and more clear that a contribution of this sort does not constitute federal-funds bribery and the case never should have been prosecuted.
But here is what's most striking about the aftermath of the Siegelman case: His successor, Republican Bob Riley, took a campaign contribution from a supporter and then helped steer millions of state dollars toward that contributor--resulting in a new biotechnology center in Huntsville, Alabama. This transaction took place even though Alabama already has a vibrant biotech infrastructure at UAB and Southern Research Institute in Birmingham.
Representatives from the Huntsville biotech center recently traveled with Riley to Brazil to examine processes used there to turn sugar cane into biofuels. Evidently they plan to take knowledge picked up in Brazil and return to Alabama to make bucket fulls of cash.
Are Riley's supporters benefiting from their contribution to his campaign? Sure looks like it. Is the "deal" involving Siegelman substantially different from the "deal" involving Riley? Not that we can see. Does the Bush Justice Department, which was so eager to go after Siegelman and supporter Richard Scrushy, show any signs of going after Riley and the Huntsville biotech crowd? Not on your life.
In real life, that's called a double standard. In terms of justice, it's called selective prosecution. And that's why the U.S. House Judiciary Committee needs to keep a close eye on Alabama as it investigates the politicization of the Justice Department under George W. Bush.