WASHINGTON – Forty-four former state attorneys general have asked Congress to investigate whether politics at the Justice Department influenced the prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman on corruption charges.
Siegelman, a Democrat, was convicted last year of bribery and other charges. He was sentenced last month to more than seven years in prison.
Democrats have long maintained that his prosecution was politically motivated, and recent allegations that White House officials were steering decisions at the Justice Department have added weight to the claims.
Last month, a Republican lawyer who worked on the campaign of Siegelman's opponent in 2006 signed a sworn affidavit saying that she overheard conversations among GOP operatives suggesting that the White House was involved in Siegelman's prosecution.
"The only way to convince the public that the governor is not the victim of a politically motivated double-standard is for Congress to investigate all aspects of the case thoroughly," the former attorneys general wrote to the chairmen of the House and Senate judiciary committees.
The group includes Democrats and Republicans and is led by Jeff Modisett, an Indiana Democrat, Bob Abrams, a New York Democrat, Bob Stefan, a Kansas Republican, and Grant Woods, an Arizona Republican.
Congressional Democrats already are investigating whether the White House ordered the firings of several federal prosecutors last year for political reasons. President Bush and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales have denied any wrongdoing, maintaining that federal prosecutors are political appointees who can be fired by the president for almost any reason.
Bush has, however, acknowledged that Gonzales poorly handled explaining the administration's policy to Congress.