Karl Rove and His Mysterious Alabama ‘Lawyer’

S188-27.jpgEditor’s note: This story has been updated. Please see below for Mr. Shuler’s earlier report on this issue.

I reported earlier Wednesday about Karl Rove’s mysterious reference to an Alabama lawyer named McDonald and wondered if it provided any clues regarding the prosecution of former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman.

A source said the reference probably was to Alabama businessman and University of Alabama Board of Trustees member Sidney L. McDonald. But a second source says the reference probably was to Mobile lawyer Matthew C. McDonald.

Several published sources have connected Matthew McDonald to Rove, so it appears Matthew is the “mystery McDonald,” not Sid.

Source No. 2 says Matthew McDonald might be related to Sid McDonald, possibly a nephew. And like Sid, Matthew has solid ties to the University of Alabama. He earned his law degree there and served on the editorial board for the Alabama Law Review.

Matthew McDonald perhaps is best known for his role in the tort-reform movement. He is held in high regard by the Foundation for Fair Civil Justice, which deemed him a “legal reform champion” and stated:

(Matt) has been especially active in the southeastern United States, both as general counsel of the Alabama Civil Justice Reform Committee, and as the widely recognized principal proponent of lawsuit reform laws passed in 1987 and 1999 in a region notorious for massive damage awards.

Matt also worked closely on the successful Alabama Supreme Court races from 1994 through 2002 that saw the election of fair and balanced justices to that court.

That last paragraph says a lot about McDonald’s connections to Rove. Those connections were made clear in a 2007 New York Times article:

An associate of Mr. Rove’s in the state, Matthew C. McDonald, a Mobile lawyer, said Mr. Rove had maintained at least a passing interest in Alabama affairs. The interest dated back to his pivotal role as a political consultant here in the 1990s, when he helped shift the state’s supreme court to the Republicans. Mr. Rove opened an office in Montgomery, and would fly in and out regularly.

Our earlier post was off base about Rove’s testimony and its possible connections to the University of Alabama. This latest information perhaps says something important about Rove’s mindset during his testimony.

Rove appears to have long-standing ties to Matthew McDonald, but “Bush’s Brain” could not recall his Alabama colleague’s first name, or whether he lived in Mobile or Birmingham? Does that say something about Rove’s level of candor throughout his Congressional testimony?

And here is the important point: Rove himself has identified Bill Canary, Kelley McCullough Robertson, and Matthew McDonald as three key contacts in Alabama. If a real investigation ensues, will it include an examination of the phone and e-mail communications of those three folks–along with others in Alabama who probably stayed in touch with Rove?

Do Canary, Robertson, and McDonald have information that will unlock the truth behind the Don Siegelman case–and the abuse of our Department of Justice during the Bush administration?

Below is Mr. Shuler’s report published earlier Wednesday.

One of the most curious moments in Karl Rove’s recent testimony about the Don Siegelman case came when the former Bush White House adviser was asked about his primary contacts in Alabama.

Rove mentioned two familiar names–William Canary, head of the Business Council of Alabama, and Kelley McCullough Robertson, former Southeast political director for the Republican National Committee and state director for Karl Rove & Co.

Almost as an afterthought, Rove threw out a third name–a “lawyer” named McDonald. Strangely, Rove could not seem to remember the person’s first name or hometown.

Which raises this question: Who in the heck is this McDonald person?

A source with strong knowledge of Alabama politics tells Legal Schnauzer that Rove probably was referring to Sidney L. McDonald, a prominent businessman from Town Grove, Alabama, and founder of DeltaCom Long Distance Services, the largest Alabama-owned telecommunications company.

McDonald has served in both the Alabama House of Representatives and the Alabama Senate and was one of the first members of the Alabama Commission on Higher Education (ACHE).

Perhaps of most interest here at Legal Schnauzer is this: McDonald has served on the University of Alabama Board of Trustees since 1992. That’s the outfit that oversees the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). It’s also the outfit that almost certainly either pushed for, or approved of, my unlawful termination in May 2008.

McDonald now is an emeritus member of the board. But he was president pro tempore when the board hired current UAB president Carol Garrison in 2002. Garrison, of course, was in charge at UAB when I was unlawfully terminated and also has seen a lengthy string of human-resources problems surface on her watch.

Interestingly, Garrison was hired in the aftermath of a major HR headache–the forced resignation of previous UAB president W. Ann Reynolds, who wound up suing the Board of Trustees for age and gender discrimination. McDonald said at the time that discrimination played no role in Reynolds’ ouster. But Reynolds wound up receiving a nifty $475,000 settlement for her troubles.

One other note: McDonald also played a major role in the hiring of Malcolm Portera, the current chancellor of the University of Alabama System. Portera just happens to be a proud member of the Business Council of Alabama’s board of directors, which is run by Karl Rove’s close friend and ally, Bill Canary.

Our source notes that McDonald is not a lawyer, but he is close to the Alabama Republican Party and almost certainly is the person to whom Rove was referring.

If our source is correct, let’s consider what that might mean for our Legal Schnauzer story:

* A trusted source for Karl Rove serves on the University of Alabama Board of Trustees;

* Said source hired a chancellor who now serves on Bill Canary’s business-council board;

* Said source was president of the board when it hired Carol Garrison as UAB president;

* Your humble correspondent, a 19-year UAB employee at the time, happened to be writing a blog critical of the Bush Justice Department (on my own time), which we now know was hugely and corruptly influenced by Karl Rove;

* Carol Garrison, a virtual lapdog for Karl Rove’s trusted Alabama source, OKed my unlawful termination.

So Karl Rove’s Congressional testimony raises a number of questions that hit awfully close to home:

* Is the University of Alabama Board of Trustees essentially run by a bunch of Rove-influenced right wingers?

* Did Karl Rove’s apparent ties to Sid McDonald have something to do with my unlawful termination?

* If Karl Rove is found to have corruptly influenced the Don Siegelman prosecution, did a member (or members) of the University of Alabama Board of Trustees play a role in it?

* Will Congressional investigators present followup questions to Rove in order to determine the exact identify of this “McDonald” individual?

* If it is Sid McDonald, will investigators check his phone and e-mail records to see what communication he might have had with Rove regarding the Siegelman case and other matters? Could Sid McDonald be called to testify before government investigators?

* Would such an investigation reveal a right-wing conspiracy that runs throughout the University of Alabama System?

* Exactly how much influence do Karl Rove and Bill Canary have on the University of Alabama Board of Trustees?

As you can see, these questions are serious–they are not amusing in the least. But reading the testimony where Rove let the McDonald name slip is downright comical. It’s almost as if “Bush’s Brain” got bored or lazy or both and inadvertently tossed out a name that wasn’t supposed to be revealed. Then Rove immediately began to back track, suddenly unable to remember McDonald’s name, hometown, gender . . . you name it.

Here is the “McDonald” segment of Rove’s testimony:

Q Now you referred a few moments ago to contacts through friends and associates in Alabama, who would those be?

A Well, the person who ran my firm in 2000, Kelley McCullough, now Kelley McCullough Robertson, who came to Washington. She did not live in Alabama, but kept in touch in Alabama politics, and a lawyer in Birmingham — or in Mobile, named McDonald, you know, friends. I might have talked to Bill Canary, who is the president of Alabama Business Association, but I can’t recall.

Elliot Mincberg, counsel for the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, let the McDonald reference slide right on by. Maybe it’s time somebody checks into it.

Roger Shuler resides in Birmingham, Alabama. A 1978 graduate of the University of Missouri, Shuler worked 11 years as a reporter and editor for the Birmingham Post-Herald before working 19 years in several editorial positions at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). He blogs at Legal Schnauzer.

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2 Responses for “Karl Rove and His Mysterious Alabama ‘Lawyer’”

  1. Collin says:

    Thank you for your article and sharing links.

  2. Of course Elliot let the reference slide right by.

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