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

At least four former aides to Rep. Katherine Harris (R-FL) have now been contacted or interviewed by the FBI as part of a widening investigation into wrongdoing by lawmakers and special interests.

We learned yesterday that Harris' former chief of staff (Fred Asbell) and a top campaign adviser (Ed Rollins) spoke with investigators curious to know more about Harris' involvement with Mitchell Wade, the man who has admitted to bribing former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA). Harris took thousands of dollars from Wade, and attempted to win his company an earmark. (She failed.)

Now, AP reports that two more former staffers -- one from the Hill, one from the campaign -- have been interviewed by the Feds:

[T]he FBI this week called a former congressional staff member and asked if she would talk about Harris. The woman said she would cooperate, but an interview was not scheduled. A former campaign staff member said he also was contacted by the FBI Wednesday, but has not yet been interviewed. Neither wanted to give their names because of the continuing investigation.


Harris continues to maintain she is not a subject of the investigation.

The Feds appear to be encircling a key figure tying the Abramoff scandal to one of the most powerful Republicans of the past six years.

National Journal reports (not available online) that FBI agents have been interviewing former aides to onetime House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) about Ed Buckham, formerly one of DeLay's closest aides. They have also spoken with former advisors to Buckham's sham charity, the U.S. Family Network, about Buckham.

In addition, investigators have subpoenaed an evangelical political fundraising group, America 21, which took money from Abramoff and whose lawyer worked with Buckham at USFN.

Read More →

How badly does Tom DeLay want to avoid running again for his seat? He's taking his case all the way to the Supreme Court: a statement just out from the Texas Republican Party says they will appeal today's ruling by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The full statement is below.

Read More →

The Wall Street Journal article today fingering dirty-tricks firm DCI Group did not evade our notice.

The PR firm's colorful history includes a fake grassroots movement using the personae of dead people, paying $4,000 a head for seniors who would say nice things about the disastrous Medicare discount drug card, and a disingenuous attack on Eric Schlosser's burger-bashing "Fast Food Nation." (They also enjoy the assistance of Swift Boat Veterans' Chris LaCivitas.) Oh, and it's the former dirty-tricks HQ for James Tobin, convicted New Hampshire Phone Jammer.

Now, according to the WSJ, the firm appears to have paid for an anonymous video artist to create an attack video on YouTube that makes meanspirited fun of Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth."

These Eddie Haskells of the right don't pull these stunts for their own amusement, of course; they're bankrolled by very large companies, interest groups, and foreign despots. In this case, the Journal implies they may have used money from big oil companies. (Exxon, however, told the paper they played no role in funding or producing the mini-flick.)

Update: Paul watched the video and declared it "lame."

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed a federal judge's prior decision: Tom DeLay stays on the ballot.

Update: Paul just spoke with DeLay counsel James Bopp. He said he didn't have a statement but would shortly, and it will address the issue of an appeal.

Late Update: From Hotline on Call - "The court held that, at the time DeLay was taken off the candidate slate, there was no firm evidence he had moved to Virginia and no conclusive evidence that he intended to live in VA on Election Day."

Later Update: To quote from the Opinion:

When [Texas Republican Chairwoman Tina] Benkiser reviewed the public records sent by DeLay and concluded that his residency in Virginia made him ineligible, she unconstitutionally created a pre-election inhabitancy requirement. The [Constitution's] Qualifications Clause only requires inhabitancy when that candidate is elected. Given this language, Benkiser could not constitutionally find that DeLay was ineligible on June 7, the date she made her decision. Therefore, her application of the ineligibility statute to DeLay was unconstitutional.

This morning I spoke with the Halliburton lobbyist who gave $1,000 to the Luzerne County (PA) Green Party.

"It was my wife" who made the contribution, Bill Wichterman told me. Wichterman, a well-connected GOP lobbyist, presumably backs Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), his onetime employer.

So, do the Wichtermans have a wacky Dharma-and-Greg thing going on? I asked Bill if his wife was a Green Party member.

"I'm not going to answer any questions about it," he replied.

Well, would your wife be willing to discuss the contribution?

"No, she wouldn't."

The Green Party's Senate candidate in Pennsylvania doesn't mind that his candidacy is completely paid for by Republicans. In fact, he says he was the one who approached them for donations.

In an interview yesterday, the Green candidate Carl Romenelli didn't flinch when I noted his campaign was funded entirely by GOP money. "It's quite possible," he said. "We received a lot of money from Republicans." Romanelli made the ballot, you'll remember, due to a voter signature drive funded by $66,000 from 20 conservative donors. The private company he hired was able to roust up over 90,000 signatures despite there being fewer than 20,000 registered Greens in Pennsylvania.

But Romanelli disputed the notion that he was being used by supporters of incumbent Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) in order to draw votes away from their Democratic challenger, Bob Casey. He said it showed that there was "enough mutual respect" between himself and his donors to have "a free and open debate."

"I respect the fact that people on the complete opposite side of an issue could respect my point of view," he told me. As Justin wrote yesterday, that respect came from an unlikely pool of GOP lobbyists and extremely wealthy donors.

Read More →

Harris Campaign Chief Has History of Lame Shenanigans Rep. Katherine Harris' (R-FL) fourth campaign manager for her Senate bid, Bryan Rudnick, "was involved in a petition controversy in Massachusetts in 2001.

"Then, Rudnick was chairman of Massachusetts Citizens for Marriage, which championed the Defense of Marriage act. His group was accused of tricking voters into signing its petitions for a proposed ban on gay marriage by asking voters to first sign a petition to protect horses from being killed and sold as food, then asking them to sign a second time, on a petition to ban gay marriage." (Roll Call, sub. req'd.)

Read More →

Say it ain't so, Claude! Who put him up to it? The evil twin?

Claude Allen, the former Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy, is set to plead guilty, McClatchy reports. He'll admit to a single misdemeanor: for "fraudulently stealing items worth less than $500 from a Target store." He'll get no jail time - just $850 in restitution to Target Corp. and one month's probation. That's a pretty sweet deal considering police alleged that he stole over $5,000 from Target and Hecht stores. He faced up to 18 months in jail.

So what's next for Allen? Oh, he'll bounce right back:

Friends of Allen, a well-known conservative who rose from a senator's press aide to one of the top jobs in the White House, said Wednesday that the criminal conviction shouldn't keep him from a future in politics.

"You know, people are more forgiving than you generally expect," said Carter Wrenn of Raleigh, N.C., a friend who was a political strategist for Helms and has known Allen since the early 1980s, when the recent college graduate was a spokesman for Helms' re-election campaign.


For those of you who have forgotten the details of Allen's forgivable crimes, he shoplifted from a Target store, and also repeatedly returned items he'd never bought.

I just spoke with Jennifer Marks, the campaign spokeswoman for Rep. Katherine Harris' (R-FL) Senate bid. Responding to my question this morning -- why didn't Harris report her subpoena to the Speaker of the House, as House rules require, Marks gave the following statement:

"It is important to point out that the Department of Justice has informed Congresswoman Harris she is not a target of the investigation. Our campaign has helped the Department of Justice in every way they have asked, and there have been no requests of the congresswoman personally, or of her congressional office, that would require a report to the House Speaker."


Marks repeatedly declined my requests to elaborate beyond that statement.

LiveWire