Wednesday, January 18, 2006

What did I tell you about Atlanta?

The judge in the trial of former Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell said yesterday, "I think we're slipping into a hole where down is up and up is down."

On the opening day of jury selection Tuesday, several potential jurors said they think Campbell hurt the city's image. Some went so far as to say they think he's guilty.
Others said they have little use for testimony from witnesses who have made deals with the prosecution and are expected to be a key part of the government's case against Campbell. One man said he couldn't believe anything an Internal Revenue Service official said.
The man, who felt persecuted by an IRS audit, was excused by the judge at the defense's urging.
U.S. District Judge Richard Story indicated that the trial, expected to take at least six weeks, may be a long, strange journey, noting that it was the defense, not the prosecution, asking to excuse a potential juror who had strong feelings against an agency that investigated Campbell. "I think we're slipping into a hole where down is up and up is down," Story said.


This gives you some indication of why Campbell was smiling and confident as he arrived for the start of his trial on federal corruption charges. The jury pool in Atlanta, as in any major American city, is going to be full of people with the "stop snitching" mentality, who consider it a bad thing to cooperate with the law enforcement system.

Campbell arrived Tuesday morning with his wife, Sharon, and his attorneys. He had a faint smile as he greeted about a dozen supporters — several of them elderly — who remained with him for part of the day. Just before entering the courtroom, Campbell and his supporters gathered in a circle, held hands and prayed.
A seven-count indictment alleges that Campbell, now 52, managed City Hall as a criminal enterprise during his two terms, accusing him of racketeering, accepting bribes and tax evasion. Campbell has pleaded not guilty.
After the proceedings Tuesday, the Campbells waited outside the courthouse's back entrance as the former mayor's ride approached. "I believe in the jury system; I feel positive about the opportunity to clear my name," he said. "I have been waiting for this for four years."


The guys who already copped pleas in this case couldn't afford Campbell's lawyers. They didn't have his political profile. He's a black celebrity in Atlanta, and it was clear on Day One that his lawyers were trying to find an O.J. jury that would acquit, no matter how damning the evidence:

The judge questioned 28 potential jurors, 19 of whom were white, nine black. Of the 17 who were qualified to remain in the jury pool, nine were white and eight black. Story reserved rulings on two others.
Campbell's lawyers moved to strike 11 potential jurors for various reasons. All were white.

Hmmm. If you reconcile this with the earlier part of the story, it seems apparent that the anti-IRS juror -- the one who said he wouldn't believe a word an IRS agent said -- was white. So, even though the guy exhibited an overt hostility to an agency whose witnesses will provide key evidence against their client, Campbell's lawyers didn't want the white guy on the jury.

Hmmm. So, even though Campbell is a wealthy graduate of Vanderbilt and Duke Law (indeed, a former federal prosecutor) and a companion of millionaires and power brokers, now retired to a resort community in sunny Florida, it sounds like his lawyers are hoping to get an all-black jury and portray their client as another "victim of The Man." Beautiful.

-- MCCAIN

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Atlanta mayor goes on trial today

Nobody can reasonably argue that Atlanta city government has been anything but a cesspool of corruption in recent years. Bill Rankin of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (not exactly a right-wing rag) freely admits it:

City Hall was awash in dirty money, influence peddling and favoritism during Bill Campbell's tenure as Atlanta mayor. A long string of guilty pleas and jury verdicts has made that clear. The question before a federal court this week is whether the corruption extended to Campbell himself. The former mayor's trial will begin with jury selection Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Atlanta. The defiant Campbell, who once claimed that the only correct thing in the federal indictment against him was "the spelling of my name," will face a dogged prosecution and a parade of former cronies now poised to testify against him. Campbell is expected to raise the stakes by taking the witness stand himself.

Now, I'm a native Atlantan. Last year, while trying to find how to spell the name of a member of Outkast who'd just won a Grammy, I discovered that he and I were born in the same hospital, Georgia Baptist, which my hip-hop-loving daughter thought was real cool. (Shout out to my homeys.)

And frankly, I kind of liked Bill Campbell -- he was pro-business and pro-growth like such of his predecessors as Andrew Young and William Hartsfield, and not an angry egotistical loudmouth like Maynard Jackson. Atlanta has always been the most enthusiastic Chamber of Commerce pro-business city on the planet (OK, Hong Kong might be close). It seems to be the destiny of Atlanta to suck up every corporate headquarters in the world, and keep paving and building until it annexes everything from Chattanooga to Valdosta. So the only real yardstick for Atlanta mayors has been: Are they pulling in the Yankee dollars? Did they pave their share of what's left to pave? And by that yardstick, Bill Campbell was a champ. He brought in the Olympics, oversaw a huge expansion of the airport, etc. Good mayor, as Atlanta judges such things, and I'm going to stick my neck out and say no Atlanta jury would ever convict him of jaywalking.

But there are federal charges, and as Rankin say, lots of people have already been convicted for their part in the crimes that Campbell is alleged to have been party to:

The seven-count indictment alleges that Campbell, now 52, managed City Hall as a criminal enterprise, and it accuses him of racketeering, acceptingbribes and tax evasion. As mayor from 1994 to 2002, the indictment contends, Campbell raked in more than $160,000 in payoffs and collected $137,000 in illegal campaign contributions. It also charges that city contractors bankrolled a trip to Paris for Campbell, sent him on gambling junkets and installed a heating and air-conditioning system in his Inman Park home. ...

On cross-examination, Campbell's defense is expected to grill Michael David Childs, a former Atlanta strip club owner who paid arsonists to torch clubs owned by competitors. Childs also once told a government informant that he would pay $20,000 to have Campbell injured for reneging on a purported pledge to protect liquor licenses at Childs' clubs - after Childs allegedly bribed Campbell to do so. In a secretly recorded conversation in November 1999, Childs told the informant that he wanted Campbell hurt after he left office. "I want a, uh, a statement to the next one," he said referring to the next mayor. (Campbell was succeeded by Mayor Shirley Franklin.) Childs, a nephew of former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young, has assisted in several federal investigations. In exchange for his cooperation against Campbell and others, he received a reduced sentence of three years in prison for arson, bribery and income tax fraud. The federal charges allege that Campbell accepted about $50,000 in bribes from Childs, who passed the money through Dewey Clark, Campbell's special assistant. Clark lived in Campbell's Inman Park basement apartment and later worked at Childs' strip club. Clark allegedly handed over some of Childs' payoffs to Campbell in the basement apartment and in a private restroom inthe mayor's office at City Hall. Clark also is a prosecution witness. The racketeering count allows the prosecutors to present allegations of several more corrupt acts, such as the home heating and air conditioning system, the trip to Paris and allegedly illegal campaign contributions. The prosecutors also will present testimony accusing Campbell of illegal behavior that is not charged in the indictment, in order to try to prove a pattern of criminal activity.

Well, we shall see. As I say, before all the scandals started breaking, Campbell had a reputation as a good mayor by Atlanta standards. He was smart, charming, and a telegenic booster of the city -- which is all that mattered to the Atlanta establishment. I really can't see an Atlanta jury convicting him of anything serious. But undeniable and pervasive corruption in Atlanta city government happened on his watch, so it's kind of like the Tom DeLay/Abramoff thing: The GOP loved DeLay as an effective leader who did the job they wanted done, yet if the prosecutors think they can prove he's broken the law, he's going to have to face the charges.

One more thing: A quid pro quo is a very difficult thing to prove. You may be able to show the "quid" (the favor or gift to the politician) and the "quo" (the policy favorable to the donor), but it can be quite a trick to show the "pro" part -- the agreement that proves that this exchange is an outright bribe. That's why successful bribery cases usually involve some documentary evidence (an e-mail in which the recipient implicates himself, for instance), or some kind of secret surveillance recording involving an undercover informant.

-- MCCAIN

Knee-deep in the Big Muddy

Rep. William Jefferson, Louisiana Democrat, says he is "perplexed" that one of his aides, Brett Pfeffer "pleaded guilty to conspiracy and aiding and abetting the solicitation of bribes" last week. Since some Democrats seem to believe that all accusations against Democrats are part of a "Vast Right Wing Conspiracy," let's instead take the word of a corrupt Democrat:

Brett Pfeffer, 37, told U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III that a congressman, identified in court only as "Representative A," lobbied high-ranking officials in Nigeria and Ghana to use technology developed by a small U.S.-based telecommunication company and pressed the Export-Import Bank of the United States to approve loan guarantees. In exchange, Pfeffer said, the congressman demanded a share of the new company created to facilitate the deal. ...

"The congressman told me he would require 5 to 7 percent ownership of the company for his family. ... He would work with officials in Nigeria to help the business along and get it funded."

The guilty plea is the biggest development in the criminal investigationsince FBI agents raided Jefferson's homes in Washington and New Orleans inAugust 2005. At the same time, agents raided the Maryland home of NigerianVice President Atiku Abubakar with warrants seeking documents connectingAbubakar and his wife to Jefferson and the business deals. ...

Pfeffer faces up to 20 years in prison and $500,000 in fines. He was released on $50,000 bond and is expected to be sentenced in March. The Justice Department hailed the plea as a step toward ensuring public i ntegrity of elected officials. "Today this defendant admitted to a crime which, at its core, is a bribery scheme involving a public official," said Alice Fisher, head of the department's Public Integrity Section. "Such schemes deprive citizens of the integrity and the honest services expected of our government."

I suppose that once a corrupt Democrat gets caught and turns "snitch," he then becomes party to a partisan witch hunt, and he's no longer considered a Democrat, right? And this no doubt explains the perplexity of Mr. Jefferson:

"I am disappointed and in some ways perplexed by the developments. I can say to you as a matter of general fact I've been in public life for 25 years. I have never required, demanded, or accepted on behalf of myself or any member of my family or any third party, anything to perform a service for which I have been elected."

Yes, we can understand this disappointment, after Mr. Jefferson's heroic service to the people of New Orleans during the Katrina crisis. As documented by notorious right-winger Jake Tapper of ABC News:

Amid the chaos and confusion that engulfed New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina struck, a congressman used National Guard troops to check on his property and rescue his personal belongings -- even while New Orleans residents were trying to get rescued from rooftops, ABC News has learned.
On Sept. 2 -- five days after Katrina hit the Gulf Coast -- Rep. William Jefferson, D-La., who represents New Orleans and is a senior member of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, was allowed through the military blockades set up around the city to reach the Superdome, where thousands of evacuees had been taken.
Military sources tells ABC News that Jefferson, an eight-term Democratic congressman, asked the National Guard that night to take him on a tour of the flooded portions of his congressional district. A five-ton military truck and a half dozen military police were dispatched.
Lt. Col. Pete Schneider of the Louisiana National Guard tells ABC News that during the tour, Jefferson asked that the truck take him to his home on Marengo Street, in the affluent uptown neighborhood in his congressional district. ...

Jefferson defended the expedition, saying he set out to see how residents were coping at the Superdome and in his neighborhood. He also insisted that he did not ask the National Guard to transport him.
"I did not seek the use of military assets to help me get around my city," Jefferson told ABC News. "There was shooting going on. There was sniping going on. They thought I should be escorted by some military guards, both to the convention center, the Superdome and uptown."
The water reached to the third step of Jefferson's house, a military source familiar with the incident told ABC News, and the vehicle pulled up onto Jefferson's front lawn so he wouldn't have to walk in the water. Jefferson went into the house alone, the source says, while the soldiers waited on the porch for about an hour.
Finally, according to the source, Jefferson emerged with a laptop computer, three suitcases, and a box about the size of a small refrigerator, which the enlisted men loaded up into the truck.
"I don't think there is any explanation for an elected official using resources for their own personal use, when those resources should be doing search and rescue, or they should be helping with law enforcement in the city," said Jerry Hauer, a homeland security expert and ABC News consultant.
Jefferson said the trip was entirely appropriate. It took only a few minutes to retrieve his belongings, he said, and the truck stayed at his house for an hour in part to assist neighbors.
"This wasn't about me going to my house. It was about me going to my district," he said.


Now, of course, maybe officers of the Louisiana National Guard are all liars and Jake Tapper is just a pawn of the VRWC, and none of this actually happened. And, if you believe that, maybe you also believe Mr. Jefferson when he says, "I have never required, demanded, or accepted on behalf of myself or any member of my family or any third party, anything to perform a service for which I have been elected." In which case it's entirely possible that Jefferson's former aide has been convicted of soliciting a bribe that "Representative A" never accepted.

Anything is possible, right? But if you'll excuse me, I'm running late for a fact-finding mission to St. Andrews, Scotland, to research Native American tribal sovereignty issues and raise money for the Rehoboth Beach Lifeguards Association. Yeah, that's the ticket! And I'm taking along my lovely wife, Morgan Fairchild ...

-- MCCAIN

Welcome, Atrios fans!

Big hat tip to Duncan Black, for helping boost our traffic by directing so many Democrats to our site. With your help -- and Nancy Pelosi’s nutty “culture of corruption” campaign strategy -- maybe we’ll sell so many books that we’ll be as rich as … well, as rich as Nancy Pelosi.

And it’s very kind of Mr. Black to urge his friends to “be nice,” although as the first round of comments suggest, some Democrats’ ideas of being nice include threats of violence, obscenities, ad hominems, insulting non sequiturs, fallacies of construction and just about every other forensic error one might care to name. (I was a notorious goof-off in college, but did manage to ace “Introduction to Logic.”)

And now that J.C. has taken back his mistaken interpretation of events, I've had second thoughts about the brilliant rant that was here. But I'm sure Duncan kept a copy (hopefully, after I'd edited out the silly typos), and so now you know why my friends never say, "Gee, Stacy, why don't you tell us how you really feel?"

-- MCCAIN

(P.S.: Despite my middle name being "Stacy," I am male, married and the father of 6 children, so the commenters offering "slut/whore" type of ad-hominem are kind of silly.)


UPDATE: We're here to promote Donkey Cons, not Michelle Malkin's Unhinged, but it's easy to see the same syndrome at work. Of course, Democrats never tire of portraying Republicans as racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. But if you make Democrats angry, they'll unleash every slur in the book at you. So Mrs. Malkin -- a devoted mother of two, who graciously let me invite myself to lunch when I interviewed her at her family's home -- is slammed with vile, demeaning epithets by Democrats who seem obsessed by her race (she calls them "misogynistic moonbats with Asian whore fixations" ), and also gets the occasional anti-Semitic remark because her husband Jesse is Jewish.

Meanwhile, having convinced themselves that I'm some kind of David Duke wannabe, Atrios readers who accuse me of being an evil racist see no irony at all in using anti-Asian and homophobic slurs to blast me as working for a "Moonie" newspaper. Commenter "djangone" posts: "You got any kind of problem earning your from donations to Sun Myung Moon? When you spend it, do you say a little prayer for the undying sould of the glorious one? What an enviable position you have, official tea-bagger to a yellow-skinned cult leader. Must make your parents so proud."

Come on, Dems, which is it? Are you going to hate me because you think I'm a Nazi, or are you going to hate me because you think I perform homosexual acts with Asian-American religious activists? Or are you saying that it's a good thing to be an "official tea-bagger to a yellow-skinned cult leader"? Because I'm pretty sure that if I said such things, I'd be accused of racism and homophobia. But maybe I've misunderstood. I'm sure future commenters will clarify the Atrios-reader principles of rhetoric.

-- MCCAIN 1/18/06

UPDATE: Yep, you were right. It was only a matter of time before we had to disable the comment fields. Moonbats will henceforth have to use their own bandwidth to smear the book. But thanks for the lesson, guys. Always glad to be a scarecrow to divert attention away from the VRWC's secret weapon, that notorious hater Fred Barnes. (Remember: In-tay oil-fay!)

-- McCAIN 1/23/06