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Thursday, October 27, 2005

Siegelman Indictment: 2.0

As he, myself, and almost everyone in the state expected, Don Siegelman has received another indictment. At least some of the indictments were actually filed in May, but have been sealed until now (as a source told me, and I told you last month). Siegelman was indicted along with Richard Scrushy and two former aides (Paul Hamrick and Gary Mack Roberts).

There are over 30 separate charges involved in the series of indictments, but the ones specifically pertaining to Siegelman are racketeering, bribery, mail and wire fraud, extortion, and obstruction of justice. The basic premise of the government's case (which is completely unrelated to Siegelman's first set of indictments) is that Siegelman accepted personal and political bribes in return for favorable assistance in securing state contracts. Phillip Rawls, of the AP, has the details on the various dirt involved.

The political impact is a little murky as of now. But this is certainly a dark day for Don Siegelman's political aspirations. Even though it is no surprise, the fact that the hammer has come down on him once again makes a political comeback even more difficult. I didn't see any details on the trial schedule, but this will no doubt drag into next year and cloud not only his own efforts, but also the Democratic primary as a whole.

And for that reason I think this indictment is bad news for Alabama Democrats, and not just their ex-Governor. First of all, these indictments reflect poorly on the Siegelman administration and on the party as a whole. Especially in comparison to the current administration. Whether or not you think Riley has been a good governor, he has presided over an administration relatively free of scandal or corruption charges.

Secondly, these indictments can have two potential impacts on the Democratic primary. It will either permanently end Siegelman's career and allow Baxley to coast to the nomination. Or Siegelman could beat the charges (again) and ride a wave of redemption to garner the Democratic nod.

The first scenario is probably more likely than the latter and while most Democrats would be glad to see Baxley cruise in the primary, I am not sure that is unabashedly positive. The Baxley campaign seems seriously adrift at the moment, yet she has done little to confront the fundamental problems slowing her down (see my "memo" to Lucy for more detail). But a vigorous primary where she has to do more than speak at the local Lion's club would do wonders for her campaign structure, message, and skill. If she could best a viable Don Siegelman in the primary then she'd be well prepared for a general election matchup with the victor on the GOP side.

And of course if Don Siegelman is somehow able to triumph in both his legal case and the primary, Democrats will be left with a nominee with a truckload of baggage and sky-high negatives. There is a small possibility that an exonerated Siegelman can rally Democrats to his cause, but I think he is probably too damaged to win the support of the electorate as a whole. I suppose it is possible that the Riley/Moore primary could be so negative that it would leave the eventual winner too bloodied and broke to recover, but baring that unlikely event I think these indictments have, fairly or not, rendered Don Siegelman's political career over.

The full political fallout from these indictments will be determined in the coming months in the press and in the courtroom. But at this juncture Don Siegelman's political career, already in critical condition, is now on life support. It will indeed be a difficult for Siegelman to win the Democratic primary, but for Don Siegelman to actually be elected to office again would truly take a minor miracle.


Blogger Altoid said...

What is so funny is that Siegelman is trying to blame the GOP for this, but I PROMISE you they want him in the race, because like you said, win or lose he is a liability. I don't care if he is guilty or not, I have lost a lot of respect for him as his respect for our party has diminished.

6:05:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

everybody in montgomery has known he is a crook for years. But try striking a racially balanced jury in montgomery county. Soon as Siegelman sings a james brown, mahalia jackson or ancient slave spiritual, his crooked soul will skate through hades into martyrdom.

11:19:00 AM  
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