Best of #StateReads: Former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman's Political Career Ended with a 'Mighty Fall'

  • August 08, 2012
  • By Jake Grovum

This week's collection of #StateReads covers a former Alabama governor's “mighty fall,” that ended with a five-year prison sentence, California lawmakers suffering from the foreclosure crisis and a look at the man who's successfully engineered every anti-gay marriage campaign in the states since 2008.

These examples of extraordinary journalism about state government were recommended in tweets using the #StateReads hashtag on Twitter and in email submissions to dvock@stateline.org.

“Former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman's political career ended with a ‘mighty fall'” – The Birmingham News

Over the course of a 30-year career in politics, former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman held four of the state's top elected posts and was seen as one of the state's dominant political figures. But as The Birmingham News' Kim Chandler (@bhamnewslegis) recounted on Sunday, Siegelman's storied political career came to a harsh ending last week when a judge sent him back to prison for more than five years on charges stemming from a federal bribery probe. Siegelman had been released on an appeal bond in 2008 after serving just nine months of an 88-month sentence. On Friday, he was ordered to serve his remaining 69 months in prison. "I never expected to be in this kind of place,” Siegelman said after the sentencing. “I never expected my career in public service would end in a federal courtroom.”

“Real estate bubble bursts for lawmakers too” – The Los Angeles Times

Average homeowners in California aren't the only ones suffering from the state's real estate bubble bursting and subsequent foreclosure crisis. As The Los Angeles Times' Patrick McGreevy (@McGreevy99) found, a number of California lawmakers are underwater or taking losses on their Sacramento-area properties. As McGreevy reports: “Unlike some predecessors who made handsome profits on second residences in Sacramento or in their districts before the downturn, these lawmakers have found themselves unable to pay their mortgages or stuck with homes that would sell at a loss, or both. At least five have endured foreclosures or short sales. The others have hung on; to do so, at least three have depended on people who work for them — and in [one] case, on a campaign donor as well.”

“Prison experts say PR battle distracting from real flaws in corrections system” – Illinois Watchdog

There's a new wrinkle in the ongoing fight over Illinois' management of its prison system. As Illinois Watchdog's Jayette Bolinski (@jayette) reports, longtime corrections observers say the increasing public relations battle between the state and the corrections workers union is threatening to distract debate from the significant issues facing the system. “They are creating an environment of scare tactics and fear mongering,” Laurie Jo Reynolds, the organizer of Tamms Year Ten, an education campaign about the effects of prison isolation, told Bolinski. “They're creating such a polarized political environment, it's not good for the dialogue and it's also not good for the policies.”

“Concerns arise on school contracts” – The Indianapolis News

This week marked the “dawn of a new era” in Indiana education, The Indianapolis News reported on Sunday. Five public schools in the state were starting their academic year under the management of private and nonprofit companies on contract with the state. But as reporter Scott Elliott (@ScottElliott_IN) wrote, there's a glaring omission from the state's $30 million contract: how much the companies can keep for themselves and how much must be spent in the classroom. That, Elliott reports, has some concerned. “A child is not a pawn to be used for somebody's profit,” Indiana State Teachers Association Vice President Teresa Meredith said.

“Winning streak on the line for marriage crusader” – The Minneapolis Star Tribune

Frank Schubert has an untarnished record. Since 2008, he's successfully led campaigns against same-sex marriage in states across the country. And, as The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports, Schubert is now hard at work in Minnesota looking to keep his streak alive as voters there prepare for a constitutional amendment vote on same-sex marriage this November. Reporter Baird Helgeson (@BairdStrib) writes, “Gay marriage proponents here have launched the most visible pushback of any state yet... By contrast, Schubert's template is simple, yet has proven remarkably effective. He works stealthily, through churches and sympathetic groups for most of the race, waiting till the end, when he unleashes a blitz of television ads.”

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