Posted 04/11/2007 @ 01:04am
The question of whether any of the 85 U.S. Attorneys who were not fired by the Bush administration may have engaged in political prosecutions blew open Tuesday, when key members of the Senate Judiciary Committee demanded files pertaining to a botched prosecution in Wisconsin.
Ultimately, the big story of the scandal at the Department of Justice will not be that of the eight fired prosecutors. It will be that of the 85 who were not fired, and of what they did or did not do to keep their jobs.
Committee chair Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, and five other senators have asked Attorney General Alberto Gonzales for documents dealing with the case of a Wisconsin state employee who was tried in a case that played out during the course of the 2006 gubernatorial race in that state. Republicans used the prosecution as part of a television attack campaign aimed at defeating Democratic Governor James Doyle.
U.S. Attorney Stephen Biskupic obtained an election-season conviction of the state employee, Georgia Thompson, on charges that she steered a state contract to a Doyle donor. But a federal appeals court last week overturned that conviction with a stinging decision that complained about a lack of evidence. One of the appeals court judges said Biskupic's case was "beyond thin."
Biskupic, who also investigated Republican-pushed charges of "voter fraud," which proved to be without validity, was not one of the eight U.S. Attorneys fired by Gonzales in what appears to have been an attempt to purge prosecutors who refused to use their positions to advance the agenda of White House political czar Karl Rove and other GOP operative.
Rather, Biskupic was one of the 85 U.S. Attorneys who met the standards applied by Gonzales and the Bush White House.
At issue, of course, is what those standards required of the federal prosecutors who retained their jobs. Were they expected to conduct politicized prosecutions? More importantly, did any of them conduct prosecutions on a schedule designed to benefit Republican electoral prospects?