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Seigelman’s Legacy of Corruption

By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the appeal of Alabama’s disgraced former Governor, Don Siegelman (D).   The decision by the high court limits the former Governor’s legal options.  This means that Gov. Seigelman will likely spend time in prison when he is eventually resentenced.  It also puts an exclamation point on a once promising political career than will be forever remembered more for its corruption than for any actual legislative achievements it accomplished.

In 1986 Cullman County (R) Probate Judge Guy Hunt was elected as the first Republican Governor of Alabama since Reconstruction.  He repeated that unlikely election victory in 1990.  In 1994 former Governor Fob James switched to the Republican Party and the Republicans declared victory for the third gubernatorial election in a row.  While Fob struggled to deal with the Democrat controlled state legislature, Don Seigelman served as Lieutenant Governor.  In 1998, Don Seigelman (aided by Republican primary feuding) ended Republican dominance of gubernatorial elections.

From the beginning, Seigelman’s term as governor was consumed by fundraising. He allowed gaming interests to operate even though gambling (many believed) was illegal in the state.  Under Seigelman, numerous contracts were awarded to cronies and contributors.  Even Democrats were underwhelmed by how little legislatively the Democrat Governor got accomplished in that first term.  In 2002, the Republicans would unseat Seigelman.  Congressman Bob Riley from Clay County narrowly defeated the controversial Democrat and the investigations began.

The George W Bush (R) Justice Department targeted Seigelman for alleged corruption.  They threw everything they had at him; but that first case was ultimately dismissed in federal court.  Similarly disgraced Healthsouth CEO and founder Richard Scrushy was found not guilty by a Birmingham jury despite what seemed to be a mountain of evidence that Scrushy had falsified his company’s financial statements for years to lure unwary investors.  Ultimately the DOJ indicted the both of them in a landmark corruption trial.  Scrushy had funded Seigelman’s failed campaign to implement a state lottery.  Federal prosecutors argued that this largesse was payment to Seigelman for appointing Scrushy to the state hospital board.  Scrushy used his position on the board to get the board to approve Healthsouth’s new digital hospital on Highway 280 in southern Birmingham.  The jury agreed and both Seigelman and Scrushy went to federal prison.  They appealed.  Gov. Seigelman went on ‘60 Minutes’ and testified before Congress.  His defense was that asking for funds for his campaigns was not a crime because he did not directly from the money.  Many in the public were convinced that his prosecution was political.

In 2008, President Barack H. Obama was elected.  The Democratic President appointed partisan Democrat Eric Holder to be his Attorney General.  Most political observers believed that the liberal Democrat would drop the federal prosecution of the prominent Alabama Democrat.  They were wrong.  Prosecutions against Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford and Seigelman Cronies Bill Blount and Al Lapierre continued and the Obama Justice Department vigorously defended the Bush DOJ convictions.

There is no political reason for Obama to “persecute” a Democratic former governor in a state where he has no chance of winning.  The only logical conclusion is that Gov. Seigelman is guilty of everything he has been convicted of.  Federal appeals courts have upheld most of his convictions.  Monday’s decision by the Supremes not to hear Seigelman’s appeal was just the final exclamation point on what everybody already knew: Gov. Don Seigelman’s four years as governor were remarkable only in how many sleazy, unethical, and even illegal deeds were committed by his administration.

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Brandon Moseley is a former reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter.



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