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“When Top Prosecutors Break Bad”: So What Does It Say About Our Politics That Two Of Them Were Indicted This Month?

In theory, attorneys general are the people who are supposed to catch the bad guys, not be them.

But now two attorneys general from big, important states have been indicted within the space of a few days of each other. One is accused of forgetting to tell investors in an energy project that he had a stake in it, and the other is accused of leaking secret grand jury proceedings to the media to smear political opponents.

The more colorful story comes to us from Texas, where Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton was indicted on felony securities fraud charges. If you’re from outside Texas and Paxton’s name is ringing a vague bell, it might be because a mere two days after the Supreme Court issued its same-sex marriage decision, Paxton came out roaring that judges in the great state of Texas were entitled to deny marriage licenses based on their religious beliefs. I think Alabama may have beaten him to the punch on that one, but that’s about it. Paxton’s move led some other Texas lawyers to start calling for him to be disbarred.

The merest look into Paxton’s track record leaves you shaking your head that the man ever managed to become Texas’s top lawyer to begin with. He’s been in the financial soup before. Back when he was a legislator, he got hooked up in a Ponzi scheme. In that one, he got bilked and lost nearly $100,000. The man who according to the Dallas Morning News perpetrated the swindle had previously established his credibility by being part of an expedition group that claimed to have found the remains of Noah’s Ark in Iran.

Paxton also seems to have lifted a $1,000 Montblanc pen that another man had left behind at a security checkpoint. This wasn’t revealed until after he was elected AG. And now, a grand jury in his home county north of Dallas says he talked friends into investing $600,000 in an energy company while failing to tell them that he was making a commission off their investments. An attorney general!

Paxton’s attorneys have said he will plead not guilty.

In Pennsylvania, the indicted attorney general is Kathleen Kane, who in 2012 became the first female Democrat ever elected to the job. In the Democratic primary, she beat Patrick Murphy, the former congressman and Iraq War veteran.

The Kane indictment has its roots in a 2014 Philadelphia Daily News article about how a different prosecutor bungled an investigation into a local civil rights leader a few years prior. Kane had sparred with that prosecutor, so when people started wondering where the Daily News got its info, thoughts turned naturally toward Kane’s office. Kane acknowledged that her office may have provided the paper with some material but insisted that none of it was bound by secrecy rules. Or maybe that someone in her office did that without her knowledge. Now she’s been charged with perjuring and obstructing administration of law, though she maintains she has done nothing wrong.

Kane is slightly more than just a local Philly story. After beating Murphy, she dispatched the Republican in a landslide. She got talked up for a lot of races. Big future. And she clearly has connections beyond southeastern Pennsylvania. It popped my eyes a little to see that Kane is being represented by Gerald Shargel. Why? Because Shargel is a New York lawyer. And he is, well, not to put too fine a point on it, a mob lawyer. Partly. He does other stuff. He’s a brilliant lawyer, and everybody up to and including John Gotti is entitled to a vigorous defense. It’s just a little surprising.

But Shargel is Clarence Darrow compared to the man Kane had doing her public relations, Washington lobbyist Lanny Davis. On this front, she chose to link arms with Ivory Coast war criminal Laurent Gbagbo and National Football League thought criminal and Washington, D.C., football team owner Dan Snyder, both of whom had been served by this same PR heavy. But about a month before her indictment, Kane’s wiser angels prevailed, and she ended her relationship with Davis. Or maybe he severed ties to her. It’s unclear. In any case, the Allentown Morning Call reports that Davis was her 10th PR adviser in the space of two years.

We’ve all come not to expect much from politicians. And in a lot of places, at the local and state level, when a pol retires after 20 or 30 years without ever having been indicted, that’s something that counts as a legitimate accomplishment. But from attorneys general, who direct huge staffs of lawyers and investigators and can destroy careers and put people in jail, it would be nice to do a little better than this.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, August 14, 2015

August 15, 2015 Posted by | Attorneys General, Kathleen Kane, Ken Paxton | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“Target The Corporate Sponsors”: So Redskins Sponsor FedEx Is OK With That Racist Team Name, Too?

So Chainsaw Danny Snyder is digging in his heels again. This time, after the federal government determined this week that his football team’s name disparages Native Americans, he trotted out his trademark lawyer, Robert Raskopf, to yawn at the decision and assure racists and idiots everywhere that he’d seen this movie before and knew how it ended, which is the opposite of how most Redskins’ games end—in victory.

At least we were spared hearing anything from the execrable Lanny Davis, another of the execrable Snyder’s execrable henchmen. Lanny, a quick Google reveals, has had plenty on his plate lately anyway, the kinds of items one would expect of the ur-Fox Democrat: Writing for HuffPo that Jeb Bush would be a great candidate, whacking Obama on Fox News over the Bowe Bergdahl deal. Thank God it’s an election year. This is like choosing between water torture and nipple clothespins, but I’d much rather have to hear Davis lecture us about how he has regretfully come to conclude that the Democrats deserve to lose the Senate than listen to him bray about the grand tradition of the Washington football club’s name.

Snyder and Raskopf, alas, have a case—not an irrefutable case, but a case—on First Amendment grounds. But that question, remember, has never been tested. When a federal court in 2003 overruled the Patent and Trademark Office the last time that office declared the team’s name disparaging, it did not do so on free-speech grounds. It tossed the case mainly on the grounds that the plaintiffs had waited too long to file suit.

Presuming that the plaintiffs won’t make that mistake this time (and they apparently have not), we might someday soon have a court decide the question on the merits. That will be interesting. As I say, Snyder has an argument. Thursday morning on the radio, I heard Bruce Fein, the estimable conservative-but-heterodox constitutional scholar, say it was basically an open-and-shut First Amendment claim: Just as the American Nazi Party was allowed to march in Skokie, Illinois, in the 1970s (a heavily Jewish Chicago suburb full of Holocaust survivors), so Chainsaw Dan is entitled to call his team whatever he wants to call it.

First of all, Snyder, who is Jewish, ought to give some serious reflection to the notion that an expert defending his position had to reach deep enough into the constitutional barrel to haul out the American Nazi Party. But second, while I can’t claim to match Fein on constitutional bona fides, as the good citizens of Carrboro, North Carolina, would no doubt attest based on the night I debated him there, I would venture that his analogy is pretty inexact. The First Amendment is not absolute. There’s the clear and present danger exception. The fighting words exception. The libel and slander exception. The time, place, and manner exception. Read of them here. Obviously, a federal judge so inclined could very easily find that the offensive name constitutes fighting words or slander. In fact, I find it difficult to imagine that a federal judge who isn’t a knuckle-dragging hellspawn of the Federalist Society could find in 2014 (or 2015 or whenever the case is decided) that the name Redskins isnt slander.

But that’s for down the road. For now, what should happen? It seems to me, decent and like-minded citizens who are leading this fight, that your next target is FedEx. The delivery giant has, of course, paid the Snyder organization since the late 1990s to have its name plastered on the stadium. FedEx is paying the team $7.6 million a year through 2025. Only—and this is really odd, but true—Royal Phillips Electronics pays more per year for naming rights, shelling out $9.3 million per annum to the Atlanta Hawks for the naming rights to Phillips Arena. Most naming rights run in the $1 million to $3 million a year range.

FedEx is probably already locked in for this fall’s season. But suppose enough pressure could be placed on the corporation that by next fall, or the next, it is willing to say: We no longer wish to be associated with this team. The company will say that if it is made to feel that its association with the team is bad for business. Into the bargain, FedEx would save itself—and cost the Redskins—something on the order of $75 million over a decade. FedEx is public. It has stockholders. Like pension funds and universities. You follow?

Imagine the blow that would be: “FedEx Withdraws Name From Stadium Over Redskins’ Name.” Sure, some other whorish corporation would step in. Maybe Sambo’s restaurant! There still is one. Redskins’ Field at Sambo’s Stadium. In a perverse way, I’m almost for it.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, June 20, 2014

June 22, 2014 Posted by | National Football League, Racism | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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