In the ongoing spectacle of obfuscation, idiocy and probable perjury that is the ongoing Alberto Gonzales congressional-testimony trainwreck, it’s easy to forget what set off this particular round of Bush-Administration bloodletting in the first place. In case you’ve forgotten, it all began with nine little U.S. attorneys, scattered across this great nation of ours, who were capriciously kicked out of their respective offices for seemingly random (or insidiously Machiavellian) reasons.
Now, at first it seemed that the average Virginia political junkie didn’t really have a dog in this fight—all we could do is sit back, pop some Orville Redenbacher and watch the burgeoning scandal unfold. But then we discovered the irrepressibly chipper Monica Goodling—Regent University graduate, one-time "special" assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and Gonzales’ relentlessly efficient White House liaison—and things began to perk up. Then it was revealed that the original firing list drawn up by Gonzo’s brat pack numbered not nine, but 30—and, at one point, actually included the Bush-appointed U.S. attorney for the Western District of Virginia, John L. Brownlee—and we started to hope against hope that maybe, just maybe, our quiet little backwater might yet find its way to the center of this juicy imbroglio.
Richmond-based insurer Reciprocal of America and all its Enron-esque activity appears to have a friend in the Department of Justice under Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez.
Well, it looks like our prayers have been answered: Yet another patent-leather lawyer’s shoe has dropped, and it’s a good ‘n’. As recently detailed by the intrepid scribes at McClatchy Newspapers’ Washington Bureau, it looks like all sorts of backstabbing and suspect case management has been going on inside Virginia’s Eastern District U.S. Attorney’s Office, lending even more credence to the view that, under Gonzales, the DOJ operates as little more than a political arm of the Bush White House.
It all started way back in January 2003, when Virginia state insurance auditors swarmed into the offices of Richmond-based insurer Reciprocal of America, hustled all 300 employees into a conference room, and told them that the company was under investigation for all sorts of Enron-esque activity—most notably, working up a portfolio of secret deals to hide its massive losses from regulators, even as executives from the company took boating trips (dubbed "Chesapeake Audits") aboard a swank yacht called the Scottish Lass.
Fast forward to May 2006, when a dogged federal prosecutor named David Maguire was hot on the trail of General Reinsurance, a company that had helped Reciprocal implement their devious deals. After three years and $2 million worth of prosecutorial effort, Maguire was telling colleagues that he’d uncovered corporate malfeasance "far worse" than that of Arthur Anderson, the notorious Enron-enabling (and now defunct) accounting firm.
Unfortunately, according to internal Justice Department documents obtained by McClatchy, certain business-friendly DOJ lawyers weren’t so keen on indicting the firm, despite the fact that the president and executive vice president of Reciprocal (General Reinsurance’s partner in white-collar crime) had already pleaded guilty to felony fraud charges. And so, in a scenario that has become all-too-familiar within Alberto Gonzales’ criminally inept Justice Department, Maguire was yanked from the case and replaced with a less tenacious assistant U.S. attorney—one who, within weeks, called General Reinsurance’s lawyers and told them that no charges would be brought against the company.
Ironically, that inexplicably lenient attorney was none other than Michael R. Gill, the very same fellow who is now in charge of prosecuting Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick for allegedly running a dogfighting ring-slash-carnival of cruelty out of his Virginia home. And call us crazy, but something tells us that Gill will show far more enthusiasm and prosecutorial vigor in this high-profile case of animal abuse than he did against the corporate misdeeds of a low-profile (but high-dollar) reinsurance company. Guess it’s just one more example of how our current joke of a Justice Department is, quite literally, going to the dogs.