NOTE: The Bollinger referred to is Mark Bollinger, a Democratic operative and friend of Siegelman and Simpson who introduced her to the former governor.
Simpson, as she was to testify, chose to sign and have her affidavit notarized in Georgia because she feared that powerful forces in Alabama might bring trumped up perjury charges against her. On May 21, she called Bollinger and he met her at the office of a lawyer friend in Rising Fawn, Ga. During the drive there she called Richard Scrushy to give him the excellent news that it was a thumbs up all around.
Were there high-fives and hurrahs that Jill had come through? Probably we will never know. However, a chain of possession was decided upon.
“So your understanding is that you gave the affidavit to Mark Bollinger, who in turn would give it to John Aaron, who would then in turn give it to Richard Scrushy?” a Judiciary Committee lawyer asked her months later.
“And also to Don Siegelman,” Simpson responded.
Can’t forget him!
Before June 2007, no one – not even Siegelman -- had connected Karl Rove to his case.
Until Jill Simpson’s affidavit, it was Riley Riley Riley, and the state media had long ceased listening to that song.
After Jill, everything changed. The show went big time. Forget Bob Riley, and for that matter, the Alabama media.
The new story was Karl Rove, and he was far bigger than us.
It was time for the likes of Time magazine, the New York Times, Harper’s and CBS News to bring a fresh set of eyes to the case.
“The prosecution may have been a political hit. A Republican lawyer, Dana Jill Simpson, has said in a sworn statement that she heard Bill Canary, a Republican operative and Karl Rove protégé, say that his ‘girls’ – his wife, the United States attorney in Montgomery, and Alice Martin, the United States attorney in Birmingham – would ‘take care’ of Mr. Siegelman. Mr. Canary also said, according to Ms. Simpson, that Mr. Rove was involved.”
-- From “Selective Prosecution,” an Aug. 6, 2007, editorial in the New York Times, and one of three times the paper’s editorial staff applied the phrase “political hit” to the Siegelman case.
“I was trying to get the tail to wag the dog. Actually, I should have been speaking to the national media the whole time, because I think the national media would have gotten the message earlier and maybe someone like Jill Simpson would have stepped forward earlier.”
-- Siegelman, at April 2008 program in Huntsville featuring Scott Horton.
As Jill Simpson’s Karl Rove fable spread and people asked my opinion, I called upon the fictional town made famous by Andy, Barney and Goober. My Mayberry metaphor goes something like this:
I work for the local paper. Several years back I wrote a load of stories which if I may say so proved that our mayor, his driver/budget officer and a host of dubious others were selling our little town for a song and dance. The feds read the stories, conducted their own investigation, brought charges against the by-then ex-mayor, the case went to trial and a jury of local folk found him guilty.
Then one of our more illustrious citizens filed an affidavit – sworn, as no one tired of saying, under penalty of perjury. Well, not really filed it. Gave it to a couple of big national newspapers. Guess you’d call it a notarized press release, if there is such a beast.
This fine character – by the way, in cahoots with the ex-mayor and his lawyers and friends -- claimed in this “affidavit” that the senior advisor for the President of the United States had it in for the former mayor of Mayberry.
Why the hell this Washington big-shot was supposed to care about Mayberry’s ex-mayor I never could figure. Probably because he didn’t.
But Ernest T. Bass swore he did. And if that wasn’t enough, Otis backed him up 100 percent.
And those big-time national newspapers believed it!
And get this: So did Congress! The U.S. Congress!
You’re Don Siegelman or one of his minions and you’ve got Jill Simpson’s affidavit in hand. Now, how to convince responsible news organizations to report that the White House ordered the prosecution of Alabama’s former governor when all you have is an unfiled affidavit by a person no one has ever heard of?
First, grow a big set of cojones.
Second, don’t take it to the Press-Register, the Birmingham News or anyone in-state with the AP. We knew the territory and we certainly did not know Dana Jill Simpson. An un-filed affidavit handed to any of the above and making allegations that momentous would have faced scrutiny, and, after laughs, a flight into the garbage can.
Neither Time nor the New York Times revealed to their readers how they came to possess the affidavit. I think it fair to assume that Team Siegelman gave it to the above along with a spiel that convinced muddle-headed editors and reporters that it was true and bore reporting.
Still, Simpson needed credibility enhancement. For this the team turned to a pair of sham titles – “Republican operative” and “Republican lawyer.”
In the media, as in everyday conversation, lawyers are not referred to by party affiliation unless they’re known for performing legal work for their respective parties, such as during election disputes. A Nexis review of the phrases “Democratic lawyer” and “Republican lawyer” reflects that it’s the same at the New York Times. Ben Ginsburg, that red-headed guy who was everywhere in Florida trying to prevent Gore from getting votes? He’s a Republican lawyer. In Alabama, it would be accurate to call Bobby Segall a Democratic lawyer, so frequent is his service on party matters.
But Jill Simpson? She’d never represented the GOP on any matter, and barring a major run on talent, never will. Still, the Times, and others, were forever identifying her as a “Republican lawyer.”
It would be impossible to overstate the importance of the pejorative “operative” in the post-trial coverage of the Siegelman case. Its primary uses were to tar Bill Canary as a Republican spy, and, if this makes sense, lend credibility to Simpson. In an effort to bestow irony, the word will from here on be dressed up in italics.
In addition to conferring a stature she lacked, the labels planted Simpson in the right party, for if a Republican squealed on other Republicans, why, the stories simply had to be true.