Karl Rove has been accused by Republican operative in Alabama of asking her to procure sexually compromising pictures of Alabama’s Democratic governor Don Siegelman. Jill Simpson’s allegations are particularly interesting because Siegelman was eventually convicted for bribery in a case that has drawn considerable criticism that it was politically motivated. However, the case against Siegelman was based on some very damaging testimony of a pay-to-play culture in his office. The new allegations are likely to increase calls for a renewed investigation.
Simpson’s allegations were made to Scott Pelley and CBS 60 Minutes. For the segment, click here. On the program, she recalls a 2001 meeting where Rove asked her to get pictures of Siegelman “[i]n a compromising, sexual position with one of his aides.” Siegelman was obviously a barrier to GOP plans having hold all four elective state offices: Attorney General, Secretary of State, Lieutenant Governor and Governor.
On its face, the bribery charge seemed weak. It was based on his appointment of Richard Scrushy to the Alabama hospital regulatory board. Scrushy is the former HealthSouth chief executive and previously held his non-paying position and there was no personal financial benefit to Siegelman. Siegelman was accused of trading such favors for contributions to his campaign or foundation for 1999 to 2003 and 1995 to 1999. Both Scrushy and Siegelman were convicted.
The trial put him in court shortly before the election, which he lost to the GOP.
The “pay-to-play” scheme included some very damaging testimony from prior aides and associates, including former Siegelman aide Nick Bailey and lobbyist Lanny Young. One witness, toll bridge developer Jim Allen, testified that Siegelman told him during his 1998 campaign for governor that “[i]f you would give me $40,000, I’ll let you pick the next highway director.”
Siegelman ultimately appointed an associate of Allen to the position. There was also testimony of various gifts to Siegelman and his aides.
Notably, prosecutors tried unsuccessfully to try Siegelman in 2004 for a Medicaid fraud case, but a court threw those charges out.
The bribery case against Siegelman as drawn a remarkable amount of criticism from proscecutors and defense attorney as well as Republicans and Democrats. In a letter to Congress, 52 former states’ attorneys general from both political parties called for an investigation.
However, Rove’s alleged involvement adds a new and sinister element to the case. Siegelman hardly seems that a poster boy for good politics. Yet, trawling for dirty pictures would reinforce a view of the case as politically inspired.
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