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Rove Linked to Prosecution of Ex-Alabama Governor |

Rove Linked to Prosecution of Ex-Alabama Governor

Friday, Jun. 01, 2007 By ADAM ZAGORIN/WASHINGTON Karl Rove
Gerald Herbert / AP
Article ToolsPrintEmailReprints In the rough and tumble of Alabama politics=
, the scramble for power is often a blood sport. At the moment, the state's=
former Democratic governor, Don Siegelman, stands convicted of bribery and=
conspiracy charges and faces a sentence of up to 30 years in prison. Siege=
lman has long claimed that his prosecution was driven by politically motiva=
ted, Republican-appointed U.S. attorneys.=20

Now Karl Rove, the President's top political strategist, has been implicate=
d in the controversy. A longtime Republican lawyer in Alabama swears she he=
ard a top G.O.P. operative in the state say that Rove "had spoken with the =
Department of Justice" about "pursuing" Siegelman, with help from two of Al=
abama's U.S. attorneys.

The allegation was made by Dana Jill Simpson, a lifelong Republican and law=
yer who practices in Alabama. She made the charges in a May 21 affidavit, o=
btained by TIME, in which she describes a conference call on November 18, 2=
002, which involved a group of senior aides to Bob Riley, who had just narr=
owly defeated Siegelman in a bitterly contested election for governor. Thou=
gh Republican Riley, a former Congressman, initially found himself behind b=
y several thousand votes, he had pulled ahead at the last minute when dispu=
ted ballots were tallied in his favor. After the abrupt vote turnaround, Si=
egelman sought a recount. The Simpson affidavit says the conference call fo=
cused on how the Riley campaign could get Siegelman to withdraw his challen=
ge.


According to Simpson's statement, William Canary, a senior G.O.P. political=
operative and Riley adviser who was on the conference call, said "not to w=
orry about Don Siegelman" because "'his girls' would take care of" the gove=
rnor. Canary then made clear that "his girls" was a reference to his wife, =
Leura Canary, the U.S. attorney for the Middle District of Alabama, and Ali=
ce Martin, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Alabama.=20

Canary reassured others on the conference call - who also included Riley's =
son, Rob, and Terry Butts, another Riley lawyer and former justice of the A=
labama supreme court - that he had the help of a powerful pal in Washington=
Canary said "not to worry - that he had already gotten it worked out with=
Karl and Karl had spoken with the Department of Justice and the Department=
of Justice was already pursuing Don Siegelman," the Simpson affidavit says=
Both U.S. attorney offices subsequently indicted Siegelman on a variety o=
f charges, although Leura Canary recused herself from dealing with the case=
in May 2002. A federal judge dismissed the Northern District case before i=
t could be tried, but Siegelman was convicted in the Middle District on bri=
bery and conspiracy charges last June.=20

William Canary called the allegations "outrageous" and "the desperate act o=
f a desperate politician." Terry Butts said, "I do not recall this telephon=
e conversation - this whole story must have been created by a drunk fiction=
writer." A White House spokesman told TIME that since the case of former G=
overnor Siegelman remained before the courts, it would have no comment.=20

Rob Riley said, "I do not recall making the statement attributed to me." He=
added: "Neither I nor anyone on our campaign staff have been involved...in=
a conspiracy to bring a criminal case against Don Siegelman." Lewis Frankl=
ing, who prosecuted Siegelman, said he did confer on several occasions with=
Justice Dept. officials in Washington, but that "nobody ordered me to brin=
g this case, and we handled it just like any other."

Canary was appointed by President George H. W. Bush to serve in the White H=
ouse as special assistant for intergovernmental affairs, and then named chi=
ef of staff of the Republican National Committee. Later in the 1990's he al=
so worked closely with Karl Rove in a successful series of campaigns to get=
Republicans elected to Alabama's state courts.=20

In an interview with TIME, Simpson confirmed that the "Karl" cited in her s=
worn statement was Karl Rove. "There's absolutely no question it was Karl R=
ove, no doubt whatsoever," she said. She also said she has phone records to=
back up the date and duration of her phone calls.=20

Though Simpson's legal work primarily involved research for companies seeki=
ng federal government contracts, she says she also did "opposition research=
" on Siegelman as a volunteer in Riley's campaign in 2002. A lifelong G.O.P=
supporter, she says she has long been friendly with Riley's son, Rob Rile=
y, whom she met at the University of Alabama and worked with on various leg=
al cases.=20

In her interview with TIME, Simpson said the participants in the conference=
call expressed growing concern that Gov. Siegelman would refuse to give up=
his challenge to the vote count. According to Simpson, Rob Riley said, "Si=
egelman's just like a cockroach, he'll never die, what are we going to do?"=
At that point Canary offered reassurance by citing Rove's news from Justic=
e Department.=20

Simpson said she had long been troubled by the conference call conversation=
, and even consulted an official of the Alabama State Bar Association to de=
termine whether she could disclose it publicly without violating her obliga=
tions as a volunteer working for the Riley campaign. She was told, she said=
, that she was free to speak of the matter.=20

Simpson said she grew more concerned about the matter after Siegelman's con=
viction last June. She says she told several friends about the conference c=
all ; one of them, Mark Bollinger, a former aide to a Democratic attorney g=
eneral in Alabama and in the Alabama Bureau of Investigation, has given his=
own affidavit, obtained by TIME, swearing that Simpson had told him of the=
conference call and Rove's alleged statements.=20

The federal investigation of Siegelman culminated in a criminal prosecution=
that became public not long after Siegelman announced that he would run ag=
ain for governor of Alabama in 2006. Partly because of the investigation, S=
iegelman failed in his bid for the Democratic nomination.=20

Siegelman, together with former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy, was convic=
ted on bribery and conspiracy charges and faces sentencing June 26. Lawyers=
for Siegelman and Scrushy told TIME they were considering whether to use S=
impson's affadavit in expected motions to dismiss charges against their cli=
ents, or in some other phase of what is likely to be a protracted appeals p=
rocess.=20

Siegelman was convicted of appointing Scrushy to a hospital regulatory boar=
d in exchange for a $500,000 contribution to a campaign for a state lottery=
to fund education. Defense lawyers have argued that Siegelman drew no pers=
onal financial benefit from Scrushy's donation to the lottery campaign, and=
they note that Scrushy had served on the hospital regulatory board under t=
hree previous governors, before Siegelman reappointed him. The reappointmen=
t, they have argued, offered little of value to Scrushy except more work.=
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