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

Where does a muckraker go on his summer vacation?

I had a few days off last week, and decided to go to a place that should be almost a spiritual home to us rakers: Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. That's the charming seaside town where a lifeguard and a waitress met each other, fell in love -- and appear to have triggered a chain of events that led to the biggest scandal to shake Capitol Hill in decades.

From the beginning: In 2002, Michael Scanlon was making millions as GOP superlobbyist Jack Abramoff's "evil elf," as he has since been described. He had earlier left a job under Tom DeLay, where he was known as the former House majority leader's "dirty tricks guy."

Every summer from 2002 to 2005, he took a break from throwing elections, laundering cash and pulling other stunts for Abramoff to be his own man, working as a lifeguard in Rehoboth Beach -- for $11.35 an hour.

In 2002, Scanlon was engaged to Emily Miller, a press secretary for DeLay. But at Rehoboth's Big Fish Grill, another woman caught his eye: 24-year-old waitress Brandy McMahon.

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If Tom DeLay was hoping to draw a panel of friendly conservative judges for his appeal, he didn't get what he hoped for. The three-judge panel from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals who'll be hearing DeLay's case has been named - and it consists of two Clinton appointees.

One of the GOP's first strategic moves in the case was to move it from state to federal court, where it could be heard by a judge they thought was reliably conservative. But in a harshly worded opinion, the George H.W. Bush-nominated Sam Sparks ruled against them.

A decision is expected sometime in the first two weeks of August.

Last week we learned the Feds have hit up Rep. Katherine Harris (R-FL) for information about her dealings with Mitchell Wade, the fraudster who's confessed to giving fraudulent "straw" donations to Harris, former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA), and a third lawmaker: Rep. Virgil Goode (R-VA).

Bad news hit Goode's re-election campaign this weekend, when an employee of Wade's old company, MZM, pleaded guilty to making fraudulent contributions to Goode's campaign, and agreed to cooperate with investigators. To date, Justice has stated only that they do not have any indication Goode was aware the donations were fake. But the plea deal from senior MZM exec Richard Berglund raises the question: what if he knows something?

Duke's in jail, of course; and Harris is clearly an object of scrutiny for the Feds. But Goode, who took something close to $90,000 from Wade and other employees of his company, MZM -- and helped win them a sweet deal for a Defense Department facility in Goode's district -- insists the Feds have yet to reach his doorstep.

"He has not been" contacted by the DoJ, Goode spokesman Linwood Duncan told me this morning. That's about as flat a denial as one could ask for. Duncan had been more shaded in his comments to reporters this weekend, saying only that "as far as I know, nothing has changed" since March, when Goode had that he hadn't been contacted by investigators.

It sounds like some GOPers are wheeling out a new wishful deus ex machina to keep their hopes alive for the Florida Senate race: Harris might drop out as soon as she wins the GOP primary. Courtesy of the Bradenton (FL) Herald:

An interesting rumor floating around both local and D.C. political circles has a little bit of intrigue and one big hole.

If Katherine Harris can win the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate, and then drop out, then the Republican Party of Florida would be permitted to enter a candidate of its own choosing against Democrat Bill Nelson who, one year ago, was referred to as vulnerable, but is now cruising with a 30-point lead in the polls.


Hm. Sound familiar?

(The aforementioned "hole" in the rumor is, of course, that Harris shows no sign of getting out, despite months of overt and covert pressure from her party.)

Specter Prepping Bill to Sue Bush ""We will submit legislation to the United States Senate which will...authorize the Congress to undertake judicial review of those signing statements with the view to having the president's acts declared unconstitutional," Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., said on the Senate floor. Specter's announcement came the same day that an American Bar Association task force concluded that by attaching conditions to legislation, the president has sidestepped his constitutional duty to either sign a bill, veto it, or take no action." (AP)

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What would happen if Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) let his talented investigative team loose on the DoD?

As part of our continuing series of guest posts from muckrakers, here's Laura Rozen of the muckraking blog War & Piece on what we might have to look forward to:

The Democrats may not pick up the House or the Senate come November, but there’s likely to be some penetrating investigations emanating from the Hill come January anyway. That’s when Sen. John McCain is scheduled to assume the chair of the Senate Armed Services committee – and he’s bringing his chief Indian Affairs Committee investigator Pablo Carrillo with him; Carillo, you will remember, led the investigation that helped methodically take down the house built by Jack Abramoff (See their final report here).

Over at Armed Services, what’s there that McCain might want to investigate? Not clear, but the committee oversees the Department of Defense, the organization with the single largest budget in the world. McCain’s Senate website publicizes his recent support for an independent review of Army Corps projects, and for more transparency in federal funding, including a searchable database that would list each entity receiving federal funding.

And the former POW in Vietnam and prospective 2008 GOP presidential candidate has led Senate opposition to fuzzy Bush administration guidelines on detainee treatment issues, and in that regard, has held his ground pushing back against the Vice President office’s expansive view of executive power. Interesting revelations may await, and more healthy tensions between the executive and the Congress.

It's hard to be tough on crime when you're short on office supplies.

Here's a head shaker of a story: Reps. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and John Conyers (D-MI) sent a letter (pdf) today to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales about the severe budget shortages in U.S. Attorney offices across the country.

Their survey of a dozen major U.S. Attorney offices show that staffing shortages are widespread, such as in Los Angeles, where 40 of the 190 assistant U.S. Attorney positions in California's Central District are vacant.

A number of offices have started pinching pennies to compensate for the tight budget. Two of the offices have started charging defendants for copies of documents. Perhaps most pathetic is one U.S. Attorney's office, where an electronic lock has been placed on the supply closet, requiring prosecutors to fill out requisition forms "in order to get supplies like paper clips."

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It looks like the crowded field for the Democratic nomination for Senator in Maryland just lost one candidate.

David Dickerson is one of 18 Dems seeking the nomination. But he was arrested by Baltimore County police on Saturday on charges of repeatedly raping and assaulting his 19 year-old Latvian wife.

According to Corporal Mike Hill, Dickerson, who's 43, met his wife in Latvia when she was 16 and took her back to the States to marry her when she was 18. She shortly thereafter got pregnant. She has told police that Dickerson starved her, denied her the ability to call her mother, and repeatedly beat and raped her. She eventually left for Latvia, she told police, but returned when Dickerson threatened her and her family, saying that he "could have anybody bring her back."

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Despite a series of salvos from prominent Connecticut Republicans, GOP Senate candidate Alan Schlesinger will not be dropping out, he told me today, calling the attacks "silly."

Schlesinger, you'll remember, has been dogged for weeks by revelations about his gambling habits. First, news broke that he used to gamble under an assumed name, and once got the boot from a casino for card counting. And on Friday, The Hartford Courant reported that Schlesinger had twice been sued by casinos to collect unpaid gambling debt.

A recent Quinnipiac poll showed Schlesinger widely trailing the two Democratic candidates in a head to head match up: Joe Lieberman 68 to 15 percent and Joe Lamont 45 to 22 percent. And even though Connecticut's Republican governor has urged Schlesinger to consider dropping out, Republicans cannot force him off the ticket.

This morning, Rep. Nancy Johnson (R-CT), in the course of an interview during which she praised Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) as "good for Connecticut," said that Schlesinger would have "to search his soul to see if he can be a successful candidate with this personal weakness."

“I’ve searched my soul," Schlesinger told me. "I did absolutely nothing wrong. Period.”

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Ever since neocon Amir Taheri was caught red-handed fabricating a story about an Iranian law that forced Jews to wear a yellow stripe, we vowed to keep an eye on him. Sure enough, just two weeks after his bamboozle was revealed, he visited the White House with other Middle East "experts" to advise the President.

And lo! If you happened to peruse the pages of The London Times yesterday, under a headline alarmingly titled "God's Army Has Plans To Run the Whole Middle East," you would have found Taheri proclaiming that "The mini war that is taking place between Israel and Hezbollah is, in fact, a proxy war in which Iran’s vision for the Middle East clashes with the administration in Washington."

"The real issue," Taheri wants us to know, "is who will set the agenda for the Middle East: Iran or America?"

As James Wolcott points out, Taheri's column was promptly picked up by the National Review Online and other conservative high traffic sites. Missing in those enthusiastic posts, however, was any mention of the column's author.

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