There wasn't any doubt to Tuesday's Democratic presidential primary - not with John Kerry's Florida victory and party nomination a foregone conclusion. It was Democrats using the day as a trial run for November and setting their sights on making George Bush a one-term president.
"What happened four years ago is not going to happen again. We have every intention of following through and making sure it doesn't. And we want every vote counted this time, which didn't happen last time," said Carol Ann Loehndorf, chairman of the Palm Beach County Democratic Party. Palm Beach was the site of one of the most contentious presidential recount battles in 2000.
Despite several counts of the Palm Beach County ballots four years ago, Democrats were not satisfied they had received fair treatment. Nor were they convinced when two separate media consortiums, one involving the Los Angeles Times, Washington Post and Palm Beach Post, the other involving USA Today and the Miami Herald, concluded that Bush would have likely beat Democrat Al Gore in Florida even if the U.S. Supreme Court had not stopped another recount.
"We still feel that they did not count all the votes and we still feel that the election was stolen back in 2000, but you have to put the past in back of you and you have to go forward and make sure it doesn't happen in the future," Loehndorf told CNSNews.com .
However, Mark Levin, director of the Landmark Legal Foundation, said the ongoing investigation of Limbaugh is proof that at least one Democrat in Palm Beach County, State's Attorney Barry Krischer, is seeking to use the famous conservative talk show host to settle a political score.
"Nothing else can explain the kind of attention, resources and focus that this Democrat prosecutor, who's up for re-election, is putting on what is really a ridiculous case," Levin said.
Limbaugh's case first went public last October when his former maid, Wilma Cline, told the National Enquirer supermarket tabloid that she and her husband had supplied Limbaugh with thousands of narcotic-strength pain pills. Soon thereafter, the radio host admitted to his listeners that he had become addicted to the pills while battling chronic back and ear pain and was about to enter a drug rehabilitation facility in Arizona for five weeks of treatment.
Later, Krischer offered immunity to the maid and her husband David Cline, an ex-con who had served time for selling cocaine, in exchange for the couple providing information about Limbaugh's alleged illegal drug purchases.
But Levin has joined Limbaugh's attorney, Roy Black, in alleging that the Clines were blackmailing Limbaugh before they took their case to the National Enquirer and Krischer.
"I think what happened is this guy Krischer - he gave immunity to drug dealers before knowing all the facts. He's embarrassed, he's a bumbler and he's an ideologue. It's a dangerous combination," Levin said.
An assistant to Krischer Tuesday said the prosecutor would be unavailable to comment for this story. A message left for Krischer's spokesman, Mike Edmondson, was not returned as of late Tuesday. But Krischer has maintained that he has evidence from pharmacy records to charge Limbaugh with more than ten felony counts of doctor shopping, the practice of lying to get more than one doctor to prescribe the same medication. Black insists Limbaugh broke no laws and is the victim of a double standard being imposed by Krischer.
Levin accuses Krischer of leaking false information about Limbaugh being involved in money laundering and drug rings. He's also filed an ethics complaint against Krischer and a subordinate for allegedly using deception to get the Florida Bar and the state attorney general's office to sign off on the release of documents pertaining to plea bargain discussions in the case.
Five months after Limbaugh's drug addiction became public, the case is now in the hands of Florida's Fourth District Court of Appeals, which must determine whether Limbaugh's medical records can be unsealed, as Krischer has requested.
Levin told CNSNews.com the matter should have been closed once Limbaugh completed his drug rehabilitation, but is being stretched out by Krischer to embarrass Limbaugh as long as possible.
"It's obvious that the most articulate and most widely listened to spokesman for conservatism is Rush Limbaugh. And it's his misfortune to be located now in [Palm Beach] County, Levin said. "And so, I believe that all of these tactics by this prosecutor are intended to sully [Limbaugh], to smear him and ultimately to silence him. This is truly a government effort to kill free speech."
According to Black, Krischer has received hundreds of letters and emails from constituents urging him to prosecute Limbaugh. But Loehndorf denied that the Palm Beach County Democratic Party had anything to do with the effort to persuade Krischer.
"I absolutely, categorically, have never called the prosecutor about Limbaugh and nor am I going to. As far as I'm concerned, they can prosecute it if they feel they need to. If they feel that there isn't any evidence, then drop it. It's totally up to the prosecutor as far as I'm concerned," Loehndorf said.
She also rejected the idea that Limbaugh is being subjected to a double standard because he's a conservative.
"I feel that he is not being treated any differently. There's no reason to," Loehndorf said.
But Levin said all signs point to Limbaugh's case being used for political gain.
"They realize that [Limbaugh] is the backbone of the conservative movement," Levin said. "Mr. Krischer is not an independent prosecutor. He's not appointed by some independent commission, he's a partisan Democrat who seeks elective office every four years. And he's seeking it again. I didn't fall off the tuna boat yesterday. It's quite obvious to me what's going on here."
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