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Some of the letters

Some of the letters we get ...

Dear J. M. Marshall,

I read the Atlantic's Fallows piece in its entirety and found it a lot of hot air, and somewhat out of date, too. He has a knack of saying nothing fairly elegantly and at great length.

What's happening on the ground is we're getting 4,500 hotline tips a month vs. 500 six months ago, according to Gen. Pace. This means Iraq has "tipped" our way. So do the climbing real estate prices, the firm dinar, the returning emigres, the pathetic selection of soft targets by the remaining bombers, etc. The "victory" campaign just kicked off by Dubya fits this pattern, too. Ask Joe Lieberman...

Don't be surprised if Bush is speaking before a wildly cheering Iraqi parliament next summer, with the country almost totally peaceful. Such an event is not unlikely. And you know what that will do to elections for '06 and '08, don't you. From Alger Hiss to George McGovern to Howard Dean and John Kerry, the Democrats have been (accurately) typed as weak on national security. That is deeply embedded in the public mind. So long as the islamoterror continues, you may never get the majority again.

Many of us have been saying for a long time it would all boil down to what happened on the ground in Iraq. I still think so, and so do most Democrats. But they and you are too incestuous to see what is happening on the ground. It's Bush-Rove uber alles.


I think quantum theory predicts these alternative universes.

Like that songworthy ant

Like that songworthy ant, Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH), well ... he's got high hopes. A week ago back in Cleveland, Ney was asked whether he thought the Abramoff investigation would have any effect on his or other Republicans' reelection prospects next year.

"I don't believe so," said Ney, "As far as any controversy on any member, I don't think that will affect midterm elections. It's a long time off."

Like I said, high hopes. Especially considering, as the Washington Post puts it in tomorrow's paper, "prosecutors have told Ney they are preparing a possible bribery indictment against him over official acts that benefited clients of Abramoff."

And you have to figure the case will be pretty strong. Two of the key principals in the prospective case have already agreed to testify against him. First, was Michael Scanlon, Abramoff's right hand man who handled the quids for Ney's quos. And now Adam Kidan, the once-owner of SunCruz, is agreeing to testify against him too, another guy who gave Ney a bunch of quids.

What law of gravity that I don't know about says this dude isn't finished?

A race to watchFrom

A race to watch?

From The Hill ...

As the political climate has turned sour for Republicans, Rep. Charles Taylor (R-N.C.) finds himself trailing his Democratic challenger by tens of thousands of dollars, dogged by ethics charges and running in an increasingly Democratic district.

Former NFL quarterback Heath Shuler (D) is challenging Taylor, in the 11st District, in rural, western North Carolina.

At the end of the third quarter, Shuler had $248,957 in the bank while Taylor had just $19,369, according to Federal Election Commission reports.

During the same period, Shuler raised $263,642; Taylor took in $134,791.

Taylor, you'll remember, is the fella who couldn't quite come up with a straight story about whether he voted yes or no or even voted at all on CAFTA. Have to imagine Shuler will want to bring up that bizarre story.

Hugh Bancroft III a

Hugh Bancroft III, a member of the Bancroft family that owns Dow Jones & Co., publisher of the Wall Street Journal, buys Duke Cunningham's house for $2.6 million.

The house appreciated a mere 2% over two years.

Back in August, before the bottom fell out, Duke put it on the market for $3.5 million.

In other news of Cunningham's lack of prescience, this article from the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that in 1995 Duke "co-authored a bill called the "No Frills Prison Act" to prevent 'luxurious' prison conditions. The bill prohibited unmonitored phone calls, in-cell TVs, coffee pots or hot pots, viewing of R-rated movies, food better than what enlisted Army personnel get or unauthorized hygiene products or clothing."

It didn't pass.

How did Duke Cunningham

How did Duke Cunningham manage to get so far entangled in an ethics mess that he had to plead guilty to federal charges of accepting bribes without anyone referring his case to the House ethics committee?

Think about that for a second. With all that came out about Cunningham over the last six months and not one Democrat even filed a complaint against him, let alone any Republicans?

One of the big reasons is that Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi made it very clear that she did not want that to happen.

Melanie Sloan explains why.

Give this one a read. It's an important story that is too little understood.

I hear Nancy Pelosi

I hear Nancy Pelosi has just introduced a 'Privileged Resolution on Culture of Corruption Surrounding Prescription Drug Bill' which focuses on what is now the common practice of holding votes open so Reps. can be stronged-armed and de facto bribed as in the Nick Smith case back in 2003. Looks like another raucous night coming in the House.

A portion of the resolution, I'm told, runs as follows ...

Whereas the recurring practice of improperly holding votes open for the sole purpose of overturning the will of the majority, including bullying and threatening Members to vote against their conscience, has occurred eight times since 2003, and three times in the 109th Congress alone;

Whereas on November 22, 2003, the Republican Leadership held open the vote on H.R. 1, the Prescription Drug Conference Report, for nearly three hours, the longest period of time in the history of electronic voting in the U.S. House of Representatives;

Whereas the normal period of time for a recorded vote is 15 minutes, and the Speaker of the House has reiterated that policy on Opening Day of each Congress by saying, "The Chair announced, and then strictly enforced, a policy of closing electronic votes as soon as possible after the guaranteed period of 15 minutes";

Whereas the sole purpose of holding the Prescription Drug vote open was to undermine the will of the House, and reverse the position that a majority of the House of Representatives had taken during the entire vote;

Whereas it was widely reported in the press that former Representative Nick Smith (R-MI) was bribed on the House floor, and the incident was described in Robert Novak's column in the Chicago Sun-Times, November 27, 2003: "Nick Smith was told business interests would give his son $100,000 in return for his father's vote. When he still declined, fellow Republican House members told him they would make sure Brad Smith never came to Congress. After (Rep.) Nick Smith voted no and the bill passed, (Rep.) Duke Cunningham of California and other Republicans taunted him that his son was dead meat";

Whereas the cost of the Prescription Drug bill was a critical factor in determining the votes of many Members of Congress and Richard S. Foster, the chief actuary for the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services, conducted numerous estimates indicating the cost to be much higher, including a June 11, 2003 analysis of a similar plan in the Senate which

More on this momentarily ...

Late Update: We've just posted the whole document here at the TPM Document Collection.

Alright were making one

Alright, we're making one more big push for our TPM Muckraking Fund fundraiser. It ends next week. And we want to do everything we can to get to 3000 contributors. We're now right about 2000. So we've got a ways to go.

For everyone who's contributed thus far, a very sincere thank you.

We've explained a few times what we're raising the funds for. But let me briefly cover the main points again.

As you can see from a slew of the posts below, there's just no end of scandals, investigations and -- generally speaking -- muck to be raked nowadays. So we're setting up a new website -- TPMmuckraker.com. As it's name implies, the site will be dedicated to the proud tradition of journalistic muckraking, particularly, and for the foreseeable future, to the expanding web of public corruption scandals enveloping Washington today.

Many of the topics and style of reportage will be what you've come to expect from this site. But there's only so much one person can do. Every day plenty of leads I get go unfollowed up just because other subjects need to be written about or through plain shortage of time. So we're hiring two full-time reporter-bloggers who will dig into all these stories, report them out, dig through public records to find the scoops others are missing and -- more than anything else -- put the whole story in context.

What is it Jack Abramoff is accused of exactly? Or Bob Ney? How do Abramoff's high-profile dealings with Tom DeLay and other DC powerbrokers connect to this bizarre casino boat case down in Florida? What's all this business about sweatshops in the Marianas islands and what does it have to do with members of Congress who represents me?

Believe me, I spend all day on it and half the time I can't even remember.

It's our premise, based on extensive reporting, that these often complicated and seemingly unrelated scandals are much more closely connected than most people realize. They are all part and parcel of the political machine DeLay, Abramoff and others created to take and hold political power in Washington.

The problem is that there are so many details and just so much going on, that it's really hard to keep track of. The daily press, by the very nature of the medium, has a hard time following these stories in any way but episodically. So the big picture is always in danger of being missed, something the bad actors involved would very much like to see happen.

That's where we think we can find a niche, with two full-time reporter-bloggers working with the our existing two-person TPM team, digging into the details, breaking news and putting it all together in an accessible and comprehensible way so the big picture doesn't get missed.

That's what we want to do. To a great degree, it's an experiment in a new form of journalism but one rooted in the same sort of dogged pursuit of stories and uncompromising dedication to the facts. We plan on hiring our two reporter-bloggers before the holidays and launching the site late next month. If you want to be part of what we're doing, you can help us by chipping in a few dollars toward our reporter-bloggers' salaries.

Let the bamboozlement beginThis

Let the bamboozlement begin!

This just out from The Hill ...

The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) is planning a public-relations offensive tying leading Democrats to lobbyist Jack Abramoff in an effort to neutralize accusations that Republicans have been embroiled in a “culture of corruption.”

This is choice stuff. But as we saw with the recent example of a Washingtonpost.com editor intentionally distorting a scandal story to make it more 'balanced', there's a real appetite for this sort of mumbojumbo among a lot of reporters and editors.

So it'll make sense for everyone to keep their eyes open.

And as long as we're on the subject. Lobbyists give money to lots of people. They only commit crimes with some of them. If this is such a non-partisan thing, why is it that the only members of Congress targetted by the Abramoff investigation just happen to be Republicans? And that from a Republican led Justice Department?


Not quite sure what

Not quite sure what to make of this.

According to today's LATimes, Brent Wilkes (owner of Duke Cunningham) contributed more than $70,000 to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's various campaigns and campaign committees. He then got two gubernatorial appointments once Arnold became governor.

Unfortunately, appointments for big contributors is hardly out of the ordinary. With ambassadorial appointments abroad it is almost considered a given, though President Bush has done it a lot more than most.

In any case, what catches my eye is that both of Wilkes appointments were tied to the regulation of gambling, particularly horse racing tracks. Is there more here than meets the eye?

Statement just out from

Statement just out from Sen. Feingold ...

I will do everything I can, including a filibuster, to stop this Patriot Act conference report, which does not include adequate safeguards to protect our constitutional freedoms. The version of the Patriot Act that was signed today is a major disappointment. I appreciate that it includes four-year sunsets on three controversial provisions, but merely sunsetting bad law is not adequate. We need to make substantive changes to the law, and without those changes I am confident there will be strong, bipartisan opposition here in the Senate.

This isn't about stopping Patriot Act reauthorization. The President could sign Patriot Act reauthorization legislation into law tomorrow if the House would just take up and pass the compromise Senate bill that was approved unanimously in the Senate earlier this year – a bill that includes important and reasonable privacy protections. The conference committee had the opportunity to fix many of the provisions of the Patriot Act to which Americans across the political spectrum have voiced their opposition over the last four years. Unfortunately, they decided not to listen. This battle is not over.

Let me take this opportunity to remind everyone that Sen. Feingold will be guest-blogging next week at TPMCafe's Table for One, where he'll be discussing the Patriot Act reauthorization and other issues as well as responding to your questions.