Friday, March 23, 2007

Partisan and Racial Politics In Memphis Are The Same Thing

Federal investigators are justifiably thin-skinned when faced with widespread criticism in the black community that their prosecutions are racially-biased. African-Americans are equally justified in questioning whether just is really blind, particularly color blind.

This transcript of a conversation between an FBI agent investigating the “Tennessee Waltz” and a suspect does raise some interesting questions.

One thing we do know: this is one conversation you'll never hear in federal court.

FBI Agent:
We would be interested if you can tell us anything about Democrats involved in payoffs or corruption.

When you say Democrats in Memphis, it’s the same as saying black. Is that what you’re saying?

Well, we’re asking about Democrats. Can you tell us anything about them taking money from developers or anyone else? We think they’re taking payoffs, but we need someone to wear a wire or give us information.

Well, if you’re asking about Democratic officials, it’s the same as asking about African-American officials. While you’re chasing blacks for taking a few hundred under the table, there’s millions being exchanged by whites right in front of you, and you don’t even seem to see it.

While the conversation had seemed like just a footnote to recent investigations here, in light of recent news coverage about the dismissal of U.S. Attorneys for possibly being too even-handed in their investigations of Democrats and Republicans, it indicates that questions about local prosecutions being racially based might more accurately focus on whether they are partisan based. Of course, here, that ends up being the same thing.

A study of reported federal investigations published in conjunction with Congressional hearings into the firings of the federal prosecutors turned up this interesting fact: from 2001-2006, 79 percent of the 379 elected officials and candidates who’ve been investigated were Democrats. Only 18 percent were Republicans.

Perhaps our local news media would calculate the percentages for Memphis, because on first blush, it looks like they would be even more unbalanced than the national ones.


Anonymous said...

This was the exact point made in the comment section of Thaddeus Matthews blog over a week ago. It even mentioned how Democrats were 7 times as likely to be prosecuted as a Republican.
So if your John Ford's lawyer, do you try for jury nullification. That's a big deal sure to get national headlines. The uncle of a black democrat who ran a close race for US Senate in the South. The lawyer has statistics about bias in prosecutions and a reasonable political context.
Now almost every reasonable person knows John Ford is guilty, but so was OJ.

Anonymous said...

I have been thinking this same thing. I have been tempted to ask Otis Sandford how these new revelations about the Justice Dept. affect his contention that the political corruption indictments here have not been influenced by improper motives,esp. race. The local media have got to address this issue. I, for one, was more than a little surprised (and suspicious) that Terry Harris left the US Attorney's office for FedEx. Mmmm. Wonder if that FedEx job was a reward for being such an effective partisan hitman.

Anonymous said...

And while he's at it, Otis Sandford needs to explain why his newspaper never reported on Terry Harris' legal opinion that killed the investigation into Jim Rout. Even the FBI was mad about it, and a few months later, he gets the big job at FedEx. said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

You're exactly right. This is about Democrats and Republicans, and somebody has to call them out on it. The new U.S. Attorney won't make any difference because this is called by the Justice Department in Washington, D.C.

Anonymous said...

Can SmartCity tell us whether there is anyway of verifying the authenticity of this interview? Is it a part of the public record, was it filed in one of the Waltz indictments? Steve Cohen is on the House Judiciary Committee that is investigating the US Attorney firings. I have to believe this is something that he would be interested in.

Smart City Consulting said...

This has not been filed as part of the Waltz, but it has been verified to our satisfaction.

Anonymous said...

Have I missed anything? I have yet to see any mention of the facts recited in this post on any broadcasts or in any publications. Is this too hot to handle?

bob said...

Let's be clear, not coy. Are you alleging that such a conversation actually took place, exactly as you have quoted it?

If so, how good is your sourcing?

Smart City Consulting said...

Bob: If we didn't have confidence in the sourcing, we wouldn't have posted it. We took it down to confirm the stats, not to confirm that the conversation took place.

Anonymous said...

Smartcity is definitely onto something here. These Memphis prosecutions are a part of a larger plan to out Dems on the local level. Check out this post from Andrew Sullivan, no liberal conspiracy theorist for sure:

Anonymous said...

I finally got around to reading the Cragan and Shields report at, and I browsed the attached appendices. They have really taken on a big project. I understand that they are asking for updated info on political investigations. Do you know whether they have gotten updated info on Memphis? The appendix only lists about 5 Memphis pols as being under investigation for corruption, but it doesn't include Peete, Edmund Ford, Lee, or either of the Hooks men.

Anonymous said...

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