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As you probably know

As you probably know, we've spent a bit of ink over the last few months knocking around Mark Graul. He's the campaign manager for Rep. Mark Green (R) who's now running for Governor of Wisconsin. And Graul's name popped up in a series of Team Abramoff emails getting tickets for various events in DC in 2000 and 2001 at Jack Abramoff's skyboxes.

In most cases the emails were to or from Jennifer Calvert, another lobbyist at Abramoff's then-firm, Preston Gates who worked with Abramoff on Native American issues. (She's now at another shop called Washington Strategies.)

There've been a series of back and forths in posts here and in article in the Wisconsin press about this. But today I finally got a chance to chat with Mark.

So which of the events did he go to and how did it all shake out?

"I went to the one Bucks game with Jennifer Calvert," said Graul. "I didn't go to the other events. I wasn't even in DC. Jennifer said it was a perfunctory matter. She may not have even asked me. And I certainly wasn't available to go."

That's pretty much what Graul told the Journal-Sentinel last week.

Now, we said this in our initial posts. But let me take this opportunity to restate some key points. What we know about Mark Graul, Jennifer Calvert and all this ticket business is all bounded within the four walls of the half dozen emails we published here back in October.

In one of the emails Calvert tells Jack Abramoff's executive assistant, Susan Ralston, that she "got a request from Mark Graul" for tickets to the NBA all start game. Another email has a docket of who was given tickets for a professional wrestling event. Graul's name shows up for two. The other four emails are each one permutation or another of Calvert writing to Abramoff or Ralston and asking (this is a paraphrase, of course), 'Hey, can I get this or that number of tickets for Mark Graul?'

Now, here's the key point. Do I know whether Calvert picked up the tickets from Abramoff's office? No. Do I know whether she actually gave them to Graul? No. If Graul got them, do I know he went to the event? No idea.

If Graul says he only went to one of the events, there's nothing in the emails to prove otherwise. And I take him at his word.

I'm not trying to be overly cute about this. I'm just trying to be precise. The emails are there to read. You're in as good a position to interpret them as I am.

Thats original. Sen. Conrad

That's original. Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT) says Democrats are responsible for all those reports saying he's in trouble in the Abramoff investigation.

Rep. Sherrod Brown D-OH

Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) is our guest this week at TPMCafe's Table for One. And he's just done his second post this morning. Drop by and take a look.

One point I wanted to mention regarding Rep. Brown's visit. There's an active primary race between Rep. Brown and Paul Hackett for the Democratic nomination to square off against Sen. Mike DeWine this November.

We're not taking sides. A month or so back, after we scheduled Rep. Brown, I contacted the Hackett campaign, explained to them that Rep. Brown would be joining us and that we wanted to allow our readers to hear from both campaigns since we thought interest would be high. We had a good conversation. They expressed interest. And, while nothing was scheduled, I think there's a good chance we'll be scheduling a visit from Hackett at some point as the year unfolds.

In any case, point being, for those of you who are Hackett-backers, rest assured our invitation is out to both candidates. And we hope to get both of them in for a Table for One.

With all that aside, go check out Brown's new post. It's a good one.

When you want to

When you want to clean up the neighborhood, there's generally very little you can accomplish until you get the actual criminals off the streets. Once that's done, you can knock down the abandoned buildings, reseed the park, refound the neighborhood watch organization, whatever.

But the true, immediate and overriding problem with a crime-infested neighborhood is the criminals.

Congress, and thus the country, faces a similar predicament.

The talk of the day now in DC is 'lobbying reform', which Mark Schmitt aptly pillories over at TPMCafe. We may need new laws to curb the power moneyed interests now have over policy-making. In fact, I think we do.

But that's not the problem in Washington. The problem is a network of criminal activity stretching from the House of Representatives (and, to a lesser degree, the Senate) to K Street and then into the Executive Branch -- a network of bribery, money-laundering and fraud all aimed at selling public policy and official actions not in exchange for political contributions but money rewards to members of Congress, administration officials and their families.

It's not an abstract problem or a merely a few politicians lining their pockets or high-speed log-rolling. As Schmitt puts it, it's a betrayal-of-public-trust, a group of high-ranking politicians who've committed crimes against their constituents and a Republican establishment that wasn't against it then and can't bring itself to turn the folks in even now.

To date, the president hasn't even pledged to cooperate with the investigation, despite the fact that one member of his administration is already under indictment, another is under active investigation and another member of the White House staff was a principal participant in many of the scams about which Jack Abramoff has now agreed to testify.

Pretty much the same applies to Denny Hastert.

In Congress, these aren't backbenchers. It's the former Majority Leader, several of his key allies, at least one committee chairman, probably two or three more, and various officials in the executive branch.

Consider that now the two key lobbying outfits of Tom DeLay's Washington have both been engulfed and destroyed -- first, of course, Jack Abramoff's operation at Greenberg-Traurig, and just today, Alexander Strategies Group, which will shut down at the end of the month.

ASG and Abramoff weren't corrupt because of lax lobbying laws. And they didn't corrupt Tom DeLay. DeLay is the one, in truest sense, who set them both up.

This is a scandal of the people running the show.

And as long as we're discussing it, does anyone notice that every corruption case we're now talking about -- Abramoff, Cunningham, and pretty much all the rest -- either started or shifted into high gear right about the time that George Bush was elected?

Think about it.

Since Ariel Sharon was

Since Ariel Sharon was felled by a massive brain hemorrhage there have been a number of press reports that the blood thinners he had been prescribed were probably unnecessary as treatment for his first, minor, stroke, but probably precipitated the second and far more devastating event.

Now there seems to be more evidence pointing to this conclusion.

According to this new article in Ha'aretz, doctors have now ascertained that Sharon was suffering from a disease called cerebral amyloid angiopathy, a disease of the blood vessels of the brain. According to the article, had doctors made the correct diagnosis during Sharon's initial hospitalization, they almost certainly would have refrained from prescribing blood thinners.

The story is based on the account of an unnamed doctor who has apparently been involved in Sharon's treatment. He describes the failure as a "screw up". Other information in the article suggests the condition is difficult to diagnose.

Im looking at a

I'm looking at a list of who was on President Bush's 2000-2001 Department of Interior transition team. It's not just Jack Abramoff who's on the list. Deputy Secretary of the Interior James Steven Griles is on there too. He's also apparently a target of the Abramoff investigation. And there's David Safavian on the list. He was the first guy indicted in the Abramoff scandal, the top procurement official at the Office of Management and Budget until a couple of days before he was arrested at his home in Alexandria, Virginia.

It must have been quite a party.