Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

Dan Bice
Dan Bice
Questions on Thompson case won't quit

Sept. 12, 2007

The federal case against Georgia Thompson is long dead, and she is back to work in her state job.

But questions about the feds' failed prosecution of Thompson just won't go away.
And with good reason.

Take a look at the recent release of a couple dozen documents by U.S. Justice Department officials on the case. A jury convicted the state civil servant on charges that she steered a contract to a company with political ties to Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle. But in strong language, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals threw out that verdict, freeing Thompson from prison.

The records show that Milwaukee U.S. Attorney Steve Biskupic made a key error in describing the case when he informed his superiors in Washington, D.C., that the conviction had been overturned.

"Georgia Thompson, a Wisconsin state official working in the Governor's Office, was responsible for evaluating the awarding of a state travel contract," states the memo from Biskupic on April 6.

But Thompson never worked in Doyle's office. She was not a Doyle appointee. Rather, she was a civil servant who worked in the state Department of Administration and was hired under Republican Gov. Scott McCallum.

The mistake is repeated in an "urgent report" from Biskupic to then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and then-Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty on April 26, a few days after the appeals court released its written decision.

Were Biskupic and/or his staff fudging the facts for his bosses so Thompson appeared closer to the second-term Democratic governor than she actually was?

Not at all, Biskupic said this week.

"Obviously, we know she didn't work in the governor's office," he said. "It was an erroneous drafting."

Even so, the new records show, the folks in D.C. were not impressed with the case, particularly after it was tossed.

"Here's the 7th Circuit's Georgia Thompson opinion," writes Raymond Hulser, a Justice Department official, in a May 3 e-mail to another staffer. "It is not good news."

Replies Craig Donsanto, head of the agency's election crimes branch: "Bad facts make bad law. How in heck did this case get brought?"

Good question, even if the pair was engaging in some Monday morning quarterbacking. Perhaps more important, what was everyone saying before and just after the charges were brought?

Justice officials declined to provide records showing any of that, and House Judiciary Committee members sent out a follow-up letter Tuesday accusing the agency of failing to fully comply with their records request.

Brian Benczkowski, a ranking official in the U.S. attorney general's office, did volunteer to have Biskupic provide the legislative panel with an "untranscribed briefing" on the Thompson case.

In his interview this week, Biskupic took it a step further.

"If they want to hear from me, I'm happy to do it."

Even if the testimony is transcribed and under oath?

"It really doesn't matter to me."

Georgia Thompson
Police/Prosecutor Misconduct

Truth in Justice