Paul Minor, the former Mississippi attorney turned political prisoner, is set to file a petition to the U.S. Supreme Court to address the central issue in his case - whether a U.S. citizen can be convicted and imprisoned for donating to a political campaign without the court requiring any evidence of an explicit quid pro quo agreement between the candidate running for elected office and the campaign contributor.
This may be the most important case of the 21st century. If the court decides against Paul Minor, then every U.S. citizen - even corporations, despite the inherent fallacy of corporate personhood - could be convicted for bribery and thrown in jail simply for donating to a political campaign.
Just let that sink in for a moment. Every single donor - and even the candidates themselves - could be accused, tried, convicted and jailed simply for taking part in democratic elections. This isn't happening in the Soviet Union or a repressive Middle Eastern dictatorship. It is happening right here in the United States, in plain sight, although very few people seem to understand the repercussions given the mainstream media's lack of coverage of Mr. Minor's plight.
Adding insult to injury, the Wayne Madsen Report revealed today that:
"it was White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel who made the decision to nix any White House backing for new trials for the southern Democratic officials involved -- former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman, former Georgia state Senate leader Charles Walker, and Mississippi attorney Paul Minor."
Let that sink in for a moment, as well. With friends like Rahm Emanuel, who needs Karl Rove to destroy the Democrats? Rove is widely reported to have been the mastermind behind the politically-motivated criminal cases brought by the Bush administration against three top Democrats in the South - Paul Minor, Don Siegelman and Charles Walker - and many more nationwide.
Assuming the Wayne Madsen Report is accurate, we now know that Rahm Emanuel is a willing accomplice in that distortion of justice, turning a blind eye to the shameless political prosecutions waged by the Bush administration. Why?
We now also know that President Obama's top legal advisers were ready and willing to review Paul Minor's case, that is until Rahm Emanuel put his foot down to unilaterally stop the White House from urging the Justice Department to review the case of Paul Minor and the others.
From The Wayne Madsen Report:
"WMR has learned from sources close to ousted White House chief counsel Greg Craig that it was not President Obama's top legal adviser who balked at ordering the Justice Department to review the politically-motivated criminal cases."
While it was widely reported that Craig was ushered out of the White House over disagreements with Rahm Emanuel regarding the fate of Guantanamo Bay, there was more to the story than that.
"Craig and Emanuel also differed over Bush-era Justice Department prosecutions of Siegelman, Walker, and Minor, with Craig favoring a Justice Department review of the cases and possible new trials."
Let that sink in for a moment, too.
Paul Minor was sentenced to 11 years in federal prison camp in Pensacola, Florida. What heinous crime did Paul Minor commit that warranted this severe prison sentence? He gave campaign contributions to Democratic candidates running for state judgeships in his home state of Mississippi.
While Minor's contributions were entirely legal under state law, and the same type of fundraising activity was widely practiced by Republican donors in Mississippi, Minor was targeted for prosecution by overzealous Bush Justice Department attorneys.
Beholden to the political agenda of Karl Rove, Bush administration lawyers launched investigations into a list of prominent Democratic funders nationwide, hoping to strike fear into anyone who dared to fund Democrats running for public office. As I have written extensively here before, Paul Minor was Exhibit A. As the largest contributor to Democrats in the state of Mississippi, and a successful trial lawyer who helped take down Big Tobacco and challenged the anti-democratic "tort reform" efforts of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Minor was a marked man.
During his first trial in 2006, the jury was properly instructed that the government must prove that a quid pro quo agreement existed between Minor and the judges whose campaigns he supported in order to convict them. With that correct instruction, the jury acquitted Minor on certain charges and hung on the rest. The Bush Justice Department then immediately reindicted Minor, but in his second trial, the partisan U.S. attorneys succeeded in getting the Reagan-appointed judge to incorrectly instruct the jury that it was not required to find proof of a quid pro quo agreement to convict Minor and the judges.
In December, the Fifth Circuit overturned the bribery convictions against Minor and his co-defendants, but several fraud-related convictions remain, all based on the controversial honest services statute.
In a sense, it is actually fortunate that Paul Minor's case is headed for the U.S. Supreme Court right now, since members of the Court have repeatedly questioned the constitutionality of the honest services fraud statute, castigating its use in no uncertain terms during a December 2009 hearing. Similarly, the Supreme Court again raised concerns about the constitutionality of the honest services statute in its recent March 1st oral argument in former Enron president Jeffrey Skilling's case.
Paul Minor's appeal to the Supreme Court represents an incredibly significant moment in the history of participatory democracy. It is critical for the Supreme Court to enforce the requirement for proof of an explicit quid pro quo in cases involving campaign contributions.
If the Supreme Court Justices provide that clarity by ruling the honest services statute unconstitutionally vague, or even simply enforcing the quid pro quo requirement, then Paul Minor must be freed.
In any event, if the Supreme Court fails to require a clear quid pro quo agreement, then every campaign contributor - citizen and corporation alike - should be concerned about his or her freedom to participate in our democracy. Whether it's an ExxonMobil or U.S. Chamber of Commerce executive, a wealthy trial lawyer, or even Rahm Emanuel, nobody deserves the injustice endured by Paul Minor. Let his be the last partisan political prosecution to tarnish our democracy, and set him free to be with his children.
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