They've got muck; we've got rakes. TPM Muckraker

Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA) is the next name to surface as a subject of scrutiny by federal investigators, Roll Call reports today. Late last month, the FBI pulled his financial disclosure records from Congress. The paper says the inquiry is an outgrowth of the Cunningham investigation.

Calvert told Roll Call he welcomes the inquiry. “I assume the FBI is just doing their due diligence in looking at government agencies and officials from our area. I have not been contacted by the FBI,” he told the paper in a statement.

Calvert accompanied former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham on a trip to Saudi Arabia in December 2003. He got some bad press recently from the Los Angeles Times, which revealed he had profited from land deals whose value increased as a result of his legislative actions. The FBI searched his financial records eight days after that story broke, Roll Call reports.

The probe is particularly bad news for Calvert, because he was widely considered to be the top choice to replace soon-to-be-former Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) on the House Appropriations Committee.

The paper also found that the FBI had looked at financial disclosure records for House Appropriations Chair Jerry Lewis (R-CA), Lewis' wife and staff director, Arlene Willis, and his two aides-turned-lobbyists, Jeffrey Shockey and Letitia White.

To date, five congressmen have been identified as subjects of investigators' interest as part of the Cunningham probe: Lewis, Calvert, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), DeLay, and Cunningham himself. All are Republicans; all but DeLay represent California districts.

Lawmakers Ask Judge to Call Jefferson Search Unconstitutional House leaders from both parties asked a federal judge Wednesday to declare the late-night search of Rep. William Jefferson's office violated the Constitution, a move that could undermine part of a lengthy bribery investigation of the Louisiana Democrat. In a 43-page court filing, the House leaders accused the FBI and Justice Department of conducting a heavy-handed search of Jefferson's office May 20-21 and threatening the balance of power in government in the process. (AP)

Read More →

Oh, it's coming.

A couple of weeks ago, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) asked Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA) to resign from his seat on the Ways and Means Committee. He said no. And there things have stood. But no more.

Yesterday afternoon, the Congressional Black Caucus voted -- for the second time in three weeks -- to the "involuntary removal" of Jefferson from the Ways and Means Committee.

And later in the afternoon, the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee met with Jefferson. That committee has the power to forcibly remove him from his seat. Jefferson reiterated his refusal to step down.

According to
Roll Call, the members agreed Tuesday night "that the process of unseating Jefferson from Ways and Means should begin, possibly as early as Thursday." It's not clear that Jefferson's appearance did anything to change their minds.

If the Steering Committee votes to oust Jefferson, "CBC sources have insisted the group will loudly close ranks behind Jefferson if Democrats try to take steps against him before an indictment."

More bad news for Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA). Tonight, Tom Casey, former CEO of now-defunct software company Audre Inc., told NBC News that in 1993 Lewis asked for stock and favors for his friend, lobbyist Bill Lowery, in exchange for a multi-million-dollar earmark:

Casey tells NBC News that after he made campaign contributions to House members of both parties, Lewis informed him the Pentagon would get $14 million for the testing, and that Casey even could write the language.

Lisa Myers: You were allowed to write language for an appropriations bill yourself?

Casey: Yes, I did. That was Congressman Lewis' suggestion.

Casey says Lewis repeatedly urged him to hire a lobbyist, former U.S. Rep. Bill Lowery, Lewis' close friend, and when that didn't happen, pressed for another favor.

Casey: Congressman Lewis asked me to set up stock options for Bill Lowery in our company.

Casey says Lewis suggested he issue the stock options in Canada — in someone else's name.


Lewis and Lowery both deny wrongdoing.

A curious detail: Tom Casey hired Brent Wilkes (who is accused of bribing Duke Cunningham, throwing hooker parties at the Watergate, etc.) as a consultant in 1992. Wilkes reportedly pushed Casey to aggressively pursue earmarks. Wilkes is also known to have had close ties with Bill Lowery as far back as the early 1980s. It seems like Wilkes' name should be a part of Casey's story to NBC -- but somehow he isn't mentioned.

Right now, William Jefferson is meeting with members of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee to plead his case for keeping his seat on the powerful Ways and Means Committee. The committee is a group of 50 Democrats who make recommendations to the Democratic Caucus about committee assignments.

We should hear sometime tonight how it went. The body has the power to forcibly remove Jefferson from his post if he won't go willingly.

The San Bernardino Sun has confirmed the seventh recipient of a subpoena from federal investigators probing ties between House Appropriations Chair Jerry Lewis (R-CA) and the Copeland Lowery lobby firm: the desert town of Yucca Valley.

The other six, confirmed earlier by the Sun and Roll Call, are: the California counties of San Bernardino and Riverside; the cities of Redlands, Loma Linda, and Twentynine Palms; and Cal State University-San Bernardino. All are clients of the Copeland Lowery lobbying firm.

Among the documents released to investigators by Yucca Valley are "correspondence from Copeland Lowery lobbyists and former Lewis staffers Jeff Shockey of Redlands and Letitia H. White," the Sun reported yesterday.

Somewhat mysteriously, a 2002 Justice Department report that warned of the national security risk posed by the weak immigration standards in Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands never saw the light of day.

And as Bloomberg reported last October, the two officials who completed the report were reassigned - and Members of Congress never saw it.

Probably not coincidentally, Jack Abramoff was representing the Marianas at the time.

Well, now that Abramoff is spending his long days cooperating with Justice Department prosecutors, the report has finally been released. You can read it here.

It's no mystery why Abramoff would have wanted the report suppressed: his job was to keep the federal government's hands off the islands -- even, he apparently believed, at the cost of his country's safety. And the report is unequivocal in its recommendation that the U.S. should have its hands very much on the islands, which the authors deemed a national security risk.

Rep. George Miller (D-CA), who was Abramoff's great enemy on the Marianas for many years, released the report today. He's taken the occasion of DeLay's retirement to reintroduce legislation to reform labor and immigration laws on the Marianas - legislation DeLay and Abramoff were able to foil for a decade.

In the past 24 hours I've written a lot about a little house at 114 3rd St. SE, here in Washington, D.C., that seems to be in the middle of a big mess. So I thought I'd go down and see it for myself.

The house -- co-owned by a former aide to House Appropriations chief Jerry Lewis (R-CA) and a defense contractor who's won earmarked money from Lewis' committee -- is the registered headquarters for a Political Action Committee run by Lewis' stepdaughter.

There was no sign outside identifying the building as the Small Biz Tech PAC headquarters, or even a discreet brass plaque. But I checked the address, it was the same as on the deed I found yesterday. So feeling bold, I went up to ring the doorbell and talk to whomever might be available.

Except the state of the doorbell wasn't what I expected:



So I knocked, and waited. No one answered. I knocked again, loudly, and waited some more. There was no answer. Perhaps everyone was at lunch. Or, perhaps no one was there at all.

Read More →

From the AP:

Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay urged colleagues Wednesday to "stand on principle" and ignore the media in a farewell speech to fellow House Republicans at their weekly private meeting....

Several rounds of applause and cheers could be heard from behind the closed doors. When they were opened to let a congresswoman in, members could be seen on their feet, cheering and applauding.

After the nearly one-hour meeting, DeLay related some of his comments to reporters. He said he advised GOP House members: "Don't listen to you guys in this town" and to "stand on principle."

"We have been able to make history for 12 years and we'll do it again," DeLay said he also told colleagues. He called the response heartwarming.

"I couldn't get 'em to sit down. The love is great," DeLay said.

Such a small world.

Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA), the powerful House appropriations chief who's under investigation, hired a lawyer by the name of Barbara Bonfiglio to be treasurer of his own political action committee, Future Leaders PAC.

And who was the treasurer who helped found the Small Biz Tech PAC, run by Lewis' stepdaughter, Julie Willis-Leon? That's right: Barbara Bonfiglio.

Read More →

LiveWire