Thursday, April 12, 2007

Is the Heat on Biskupic Really Shocking?

The hubbub over the appeals ruling on the Georgia Thompson conviction is a good reminder of how fast things can change in politics.

It's remarkable how quickly the fortunes of those directly involved in the case changed, particularly Thompson's, but also very much Biskupic's. While most still consider Biskupic to be a straight-shooting career prosecutor, that doesn't exclude legitimate questions about his decision to investigate and prosecute this case.

It's also remarkable how quickly tunes can change regarding when to aggressively investigate matters of possible political corruption.

Here's Jeff Wagner in January 2006 when the Thompson indictment came down: "[The difficulty of proving the case] suggests to me that there is a lot of fire to go with all the smoke. It also suggests that this may very well only be the tip of the iceberg."

And here's the title of Wagner's post from yesterday: "Time For The Biskupic Attack Dogs to Chill."

That's quite a transformation from "a lot of fire to go with all the smoke" to just "chill."

Rick Esenberg, who is probably the most adept local conservative blogger when it comes to framing issues, strikes a similar note as Wagner and makes the following reasonable comment about why Biskupic looked into the Thompson case:
What we had here was people within the procurement process saying that a civil servant said that "her bosses" wanted the contract to go to a firm whose principals were campaign donors and that they thought she steered the process in that firm's direction. It doesn't shock me that the US Attorney was interested in that.
If you want to boil the case down into those simple terms, Esenberg has a point. There is absolutely no reason for the US Attorney not to take an interest in a case like that (actually prosecuting it and asking for prison time at sentencing, of course, are different questions).

But can't the same be said about those who are looking into the matter now that Biskupic's case was absolutely shredded by the appellate court?

Those who are entrusted with the authority to look into possible cases of federal prosecutorial misconduct -- that is, the Senate Judiciary Committee -- are doing just that: They're looking into it.

And why shouldn't they? The Thompson case was clearly used for political reasons, even if it turns out it wasn't explicitly undertaken for political reasons. Plus:
  • Strong evidence shows that politics played a role in which US attorneys were fired by the Bush administration and which ones were deemed "loyal Bushies" and allowed to stay.
  • Biskupic's office was identified by White House officials as a place of concern for its supposed hesitancy to prosecute alleged voter fraud in Milwaukee -- a label that evidence suggests may have put him on a short list of US attorneys to be fired.
  • New evidence shows that those concerns about Biskupic's office were taken to the White House by the state GOP in Wisconsin -- the same group that clearly used Biskupic's case against Thompson for political reasons.
Taking all that into account, is it really all that shocking that the Senate Judiciary Committee is interested in looking into this case?

The stance that Biskupic's office is taking is that no one from the Bush administration explicitly told him to prosecute Georgia Thompson.

But that's not the purpose of the Senate Judiciary Committee inquiry. According to the letter signed by members of the committee: "We are concerned whether or not politics may have played a role in a case brought by Steven Biskupic, the U.S. attorney based in Milwaukee, against Georgia Thompson."

That's a different standard for the oversight inquiry than the defense that's currently being put up by Biskupic's office.

And if this oversight inquiry results in a case against Biskupic that's beyond thin, then it should be dropped.

I bet Georgia Thompson wishes Biskupic would've felt that way about his case against her.

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