Responding to a Time
story published last week which paints a murky picture of the lead-up to the prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman (D), Alabama Assistant US Attorney Steve Feaga tried to minimize secret testimony the magazine unearthed.
According to sensitive documents
obtained by Time's
Adam Zagorin, the Siegelman corruption investigation was sparked by statements made to federal agents by state lobbyist Lanny Young. The documents also revealed that the same lobbyist implicated two other powerful Alabama political figures in bribery schemes, both Republicans--Sen. Jeff Sessions and Session's successor as attorney general, William Pryor, who is now a federal judge--but no effort to investigate those claims was ever initiated.
Feaga, the prosecutor on Siegelman's case explained
that Young's testimony was only relevant in Siegelman's case -- and not in the cases of the two Republicans -- because: "At the time Lanny was detailing having made contributions to other public officials, he characterized these contributions as legitimate. There was no understanding he would get something for them."
And what were these legitimate contributions? From Time
Early in the investigation, in November 2001, Young announced that five years earlier, he "personally provided Sessions with cash campaign contributions," according to an FBI memo of the interview. Prosecutors didn't follow up that surprising statement with questions, but Young volunteered more. The memo adds that "on one occasion he [Young] provided Session [sic] with $5,000 to $7,000 using two intermediaries," one of whom held a senior position with Sessions' campaign. On another occasion, the FBI records show, Young talked about providing "$10,000 to $15,000 to Session [sic]. Young had his secretaries and friends write checks to the Sessions campaign and Young reimbursed the secretaries and friends for their contributions."
Sure, this isn't a cash-for-favor situation, but as Time
notes, such an alleged arrangement could still be illegal political money laundering