Opinions, Context & Ideas from the TPM Editors TPM Editor's Blog

More on Elizabeth Todd

More on Elizabeth Todd, the San Diego real estate broker who set the wildly-inflated price which defense contractor Mitchell Wade paid for the then-home of Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R).

A local paper -- the North County Times -- confirms a detail we've been trying to nail down for much of the day.

As earlier reports have noted, Todd was paid nothing to set that inflated price. But that isn't the end of the story.

Todd was also the agent of record and bagged a nice commission when Wade later resold the house for $975,000 -- a $700,000 loss. More importantly, she was also the agent for the new house that the Cunninghams turned around and bought with the $1,675,000 Wade paid them for their old house. And the new place went for a cool $2,550,000.

Now, I don't know just what sort of commission Todd would have gotten for sales like that. But I figure it would be a tidy sum. And it sounds like a decent incentive to make sure the whole three-way transaction went off without a hitch.

If youve been following

If you've been following the brouhaha over Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham's amazingly fortunate recent experiences in the residential real estate market you'll know that a real estate broker named Elizabeth Todd was the one who arranged the transaction between Cunningham and defense contractor Mitchell Wade. And, most importantly, she's the one who chose the highly-questionable price for the sale.

In his statement to the press yesterday, in referring to Todd's role in the matter, Cunningham claimed that Wade had "received comparables from an independent source establishing the value of the home."

But how 'independent' was Todd?

As we told you this morning, Roll Call reported that Todd had contributed $3000 to Cunningham's campaign ("Friends of Duke Cunningham") in the 2001-2 cycle.

But after our own review of the records that seems to seriously understate the level of the Todd family's giving.

From July 1997 to May of 2004, the Todd family gave $11,500 in campaign contributions to the Duke's campaigns.

When I say 'family', I'm referring to Elizabeth, her husband Whitney Todd and someone named "Richard B. Todd" who we'll go out on a limb and say is related to them since he lists the same PO Box and is a 'consultant' for the Todds' company.

More to follow.

Canned for falsifying data

Canned for falsifying data about global warming? Or just reporting back to central command after an assignment in the field?

The lede from AP: "A former White House official and one-time oil industry lobbyist whose editing of government reports on climate change prompted criticism from environmentalists will join Exxon Mobil Corp., the oil company said Tuesday."

Did these three grafs

Did these three grafs really appear in the Times? (emphasis added)

Social Security now takes in considerably more money than it pays out in benefits. But as legions of baby boomers retire and begin to collect benefits, instead of paying for them, the retirement system will move toward a deficit. Some actuaries have projected that there will be more money going out than coming in by 2017, although full benefits will be payable for some time because of the surplus being accumulated now. But in 2041, Mr. Bush said, the system will be "bankrupt."

Actually, beginning around 2041 the system would be able to pay about three-fourths of the benefits due retirees, assuming there are no changes in the formula before then. Critics of Mr. Bush's proposals have said there are enough ways, and enough time, to fix the system without a drastic change like a shift to private accounts.

The president drew a laugh when, in arguing that big changes are needed, he spoke disparagingly of "the paper i.o.u.'s in a file cabinet in West Virginia" that make up the $1.7 trillion Social Security trust fund. He did not point out those i.o.u.'s are Treasury securities backed by the full faith and credit of the United States, and that the government has never defaulted on its obligations.


Credit where credit is due: David Stout in today's paper. <$NoAd$>Lucky for him Okrent's not around anymore.

Still no real pick

Still no real pick up of the Randy "Duke" Cunningham home sale of a lifetime story. But when cruising through Google News we did notice that the Duke has this OpEd in today's USAToday supporting the flag burning amendment.

ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero has more on the flag burning amendment today at TPMCafe's Table for One and how close it apparently is to passage in Congress.

Yes, I know, a Randy "Duke" Cunningham -- TPMCafe guest-blog harmonic convergence. But, hey, what can we do.

More later on the Duke's adventures in real estate.

Yet another Randy Duke

Yet another Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R) update ...

San Diego's North County Times has a follow-up on Cunningham's response to the article which appeared over the weekend regarding the questionable sale of his home.

Apparently neither Cunningham or his staff would take calls. But his office did release a statement. And in that statement he cuts to what has to be the central issue: Was $1.675 million a reasonable market value for the house or not?

The fact that it sold again for well under a million dollars less than a year later points strongly to the conclusion that the price was inflated. But was there an appraisal at the <$Ad$>time? And what were the comps?

In his statement Cunningham says: "Mr. Wade was interested in purchasing our home. He received comparables from an independent source establishing the value of the home. He made an offer based on that evaluation. Nancy and I accepted that offer. I have no reason to believe the value of the house was inflated then, and I have no reason to think so today. (emphasis added)"

But other news accounts seem to suggest that the 'independent source' was Elizabeth Todd, who happens to be a major campaign contributor to Cunningham.

Now, just because she gave Cunningham large campaign contributions in the past doesn't mean the comps she assembled weren't legit. And it is probably fair to say that major real estate operators are often contributors to their local member of Congress.

But her independence is certainly open to question.

As far as I know, none of the reports on this question that I've seen have had a look at the actual comps Todd assembled, which suported the $1.675 million purchase price.

Isn't that the next obvious place to go in this story?

We learn today from

We learn today from the Carpetbagger Report that Roll Call has now followed up (sub.required) on the story of Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R) and the apparent 3/4 million dollar favor he got from a defense contractor with business before two of his committees.

We've been doing some of our own reporting on this. And Roll Call reports one detail we were working: the real estate agent who arranged the deal, though handled it as a non-listed private transaction, also happens to be a major campaign contributor to Cunningham. In the 2001-2 cycle, Elizabeth Todd and her husband donated $3000 to Cunningham's campaign.

And we think there's more still to be told.

Given the central role

Given the central role of Ahmed Chalabi in 'unearthing' documents which triggered the UN oil-for-food scandal, can someone tell me why the New York Times still has Judith Miller covering the story?

I know Judy Miller-bashing is a full-time employment for many media critics and bloggers. But this isn't just a swipe at Miller or a throwaway smack at the paper of record. It's a pretty practical point: I'd actually like to follow what's happening in these investigations.

But if you know any of the history of the last five years it's simply impossible to read Miller's articles on this subject and have any confidence that what you're reading is anything that, by any measure, can be considered the straight story.

You're forced to discount all of it.

LiveWire

Clinton Postpones Trip To Charlotte

In a statement released Friday evening, Hillary Clinton's campaign announced that the Democratic nominee…