Attorney General Gonzalez has brought this upon himself and his party - with his ghastly handling of the Eight Men Out firings, he has created the environment in which Democrats can exploit every case with political overtones.
The latest "outrage" occurred in Wisconsin - let's have the NY Times editors set the stage with their simple and unresearched opinion:
As Congress investigates the politicization of the United States attorney offices by the Bush administration, it should review the extraordinary events the other day in a federal courtroom in Wisconsin. The case involved Georgia Thompson, a state employee sent to prison on the flimsiest of corruption charges just as her boss, a Democrat, was fighting off a Republican challenger. It just might shed some light on a question that lurks behind the firing of eight top federal prosecutors: what did the surviving attorneys do to escape the axe?
Ms. Thompson, a purchasing official in the state’s Department of Administration, was accused by the United States attorney in Milwaukee, Steven Biskupic, of awarding a travel contract to a company whose chief executive contributed to the campaign of Gov. Jim Doyle, a Democrat. Ms. Thompson said the decision was made on the merits, but she was convicted and sent to prison before she could appeal.
The prosecution was a boon to Mr. Doyle’s opponent. Republicans ran a barrage of attack ads that purported to tie Ms. Thompson’s “corruption” to Mr. Doyle. Ms. Thompson was sentenced shortly before the election, which Governor Doyle won.
The Chicago-based United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit seemed shocked by the injustice of her conviction. It took the extraordinary step of releasing Ms. Thompson from prison immediately after hearing arguments, without waiting to issue a ruling. One of the judges hinted that Ms. Thompson may have been railroaded. “It strikes me that your evidence is beyond thin,” Judge Diane Wood told the lawyer from Mr. Biskupic’s office.
So the basic theory seems to be that Mr. Biskupic brought an absurdly weak case to please his zealous, politicized overlords in Washington and ensure his own job security. That theory was fine-tuned a bit in a subsequent AP story covering the request by Senate Judiciary Democrats for more info:
The Senate Judiciary Committee asked Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to provide documents related to the prosecution of a former state worker in Wisconsin whose bid-rigging conviction was overturned last week by a federal appeals court.
Committee chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and five other Democratic senators said in a letter sent Tuesday that they were "concerned whether or not politics may have played a role" in the case against Georgia Thompson.
And why was Biskupic vulnerable and eager to please? Apparently he was not tough on vote fraud:
The senators asked Tuesday for documents that would show whether Biskupic was considered for dismissal and replacement after Bush's re-election. Reports of voter fraud in the 2004 presidential election had prompted a federal investigation, but Biskupic reported in 2005 that the probe found no evidence of partisan efforts to sway the outcome. Democratic candidate John Kerry narrowly carried the state.
The senators also asked for communications between the Justice Department and the White House or outside parties regarding possible voter fraud in Wisconsin, the case against Thompson and Biskupic's handling of those cases. The committee said it wanted the documents by the end of the week.
So let's see - Biskupic was a stand-up guy who announced in late 2005 that he wouldn't be prosecuting vote fraud in his district. Just as with New Mexico's US Attorney Iglesias, who drew fire from his home state Senator, Biskupic found himself under pressure from the two Wisconsin Senators, Democrats Kohl and Feingold... OK, maybe not.
But Biskupic knew he needed something! So in Oct 2005 he announced that, in cooperation with the Democratic State Attorney General Lautenschlager and the Democratic Dane County District Attorney, he would cooperatively investigate allegations of corruption in the governor's travel office:
Federal, state and Dane County authorities have launched a joint investigation into a travel contract given to the company of a major contributor to Gov. Jim Doyle, officials said Thursday.
The investigation will be conducted by both the FBI and the state's Division of Criminal Investigation, which is supervised by Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager. Dane County District Attorney Brian Blanchard also will play a role in the process.
"By working together, we want to avoid any accusations of bias," said U.S. Attorney Steven M. Biskupic in Milwaukee.
They want to avoid any accusations of bias? Ooops!
Well. Ms. Thompson was indicted in January of 2006; a verdict was returned in June and she was sentenced in September. The Times finesses this timeline by telling us that Ms. Thompson was "sent to prison on the flimsiest of corruption charges just as her boss, a Democrat, was fighting off a Republican challenger". However, various Dem bloggers are a bit overexcited - here is The Carpetbagger (my emphasis):
We do know, however, that shortly before a close election, Biskupic brought extremely thin criminal charges against a top Doyle administration official who apparently did nothing wrong.
"Shortly"? To a geologist, it was the blink of an eye, but in politics, January to November isn't "shortly".
The Brad Blog also staggers on this:
...see the letter from Leahy for more details on the heels of a surprise Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals decision that issued an order immediately overturning a case brought by Biskupic against Georgia Thompson, an aide to Wisconsin's Democratic governor, Jim Doyle. Just in time for the '06 election we might add. (It didn't help; Doyle won anyway.)
"Just in time"? Inventory managers are swooning at this nine month "just in time" concept.
Well. Dem theorists will want to explain why Biskupic, in cooperation with two Democrats, brought a laughably weak case in January, then risked repudiation and humiliation by going to trial in the late spring. Surely if the case was this weak and motivated simply by politics, he would have announced the indictment in the fall and been shamed in court over the winter.
But wait! Biskupic won convictions on two counts! Not only did he seem to believe in his case, but he managed to push it past a jury.
I will have more, but that is a start. My Bold Prediction - Biskupic comes through this unscathed, or, as Yogi Berra might have said, there is no "there" here.
A BIT MORE: Two Dems to the defense:
Two Democratic prosecutors who were consulted during Biskupic's probe of the Doyle administration defended Biskupic against the charges.
"I in no way see the decision by U.S. Attorney Biskupic to pursue charges against Georgia Thompson as a political one," said former Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager, who often feuded with Doyle.
Dane County District Attorney Brian Blanchard, a Madison Democrat, called Biskupic "a respected, apolitical career prosecutor."