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

Now that the British are grabbing headlines for busting an operational terrorist plot, administration officials are starting a push to expand U.S. law enforcement powers to match those of our former colonial overlords.

"Frankly," Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said on Fox News Sunday, "[British law enforcement's] ability to hold people for a period of time gives them a tremendous advantage.”

Now, Chertoff's appetite for long-term detentions is well-established. He was, after all, the man at the Justice Department behind the massive roundup and detention of aliens in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. But that episode didn't end well -- for Chertoff, and especially for the detainees. In 2003, an internal Justice probe found serious problems with the detentions, noting that while the Justice Department followed Chertoff's plan to "hold these people until we find out what’s going on," it was also physically and verbally abusing many of the detainees. Terrorism charges were never brought against any of the detainees.

If that isn't reason enough to question the petitioner, there's this: Chertoff is now the head of the Homeland Security Department. But DHS doesn't have the lead on domestic terrorism investigations. (That belongs to the FBI.) So why is he pushing for powers that would mainly be used by another branch? More to the point, where's the FBI on this?

Despite word of at least a handful of meetings between senior White House adviser Karl Rove and fallen GOP superlobbyist Jack Abramoff (and the fact that Rove hired Abramoff's personal assistant), so far Rove has been relatively successful in squelching reports that he and Abramoff were friendly.

But a forthcoming book from James Moore and Wayne Slater, the authors of Bush's Brain, will add more detail to the Abramoff-Rove relationship:

...Information provided to us for the book by an eyewitness and participant in Rove and Abramoff meetings gives lie to Rove and the White House's claims that Abramoff was barely known by the administration. Karl has always known who has money to spend on politics and how to use those people. Our witness, who also told the same story to federal investigators, details meetings between Rove and Abramoff that show the two were using each other for their own political ends.


Rove, unsurprisingly, is unhappy about the book and has denied the meetings occurred. We look forward to the details.

In Wake of Plot, Justice Dept. Will Study Britain’s Terror Laws Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales on Monday ordered a side-by-side review of American and British counterterrorism laws as a first step toward determining whether further changes in American law are warranted.

"Newly revised British counterterrorism laws, for instance, allow the authorities to hold a suspect for 28 days without charges, where American law generally requires that a suspect held in the civilian court system be charged or released within 48 hours.

"'[F]rankly. . . their ability to hold people for a period of time gives them a tremendous advantage,' [Homeland Security Secretary Michael] Chertoff added.'” (NYTimes)

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A letter to the editor in yesterday's Philadelphia Daily News reads:

I was one of the 100,000 Pennsylvanians who signed the "Romanelli petition" in an attempt to get him on the ballot for the November election, and I am revolted by Bob Casey's efforts to block his candidacy.

I think it is appalling when the first real action of a Senate candidate is trying to remove another candidate from the ballot, as has been the case with Bob Casey Jr. Not only has Casey remained silent on the issues, but now attempts to silence another voice seeking to join in the democratic process.

One hundred thousand Pennsylvanians have signed petitions to get Mr. Romanelli on the ballot, and Casey would just as soon see that they are cheated out of their efforts. This is the move of a career politician and someone who does not have the best interests of Pennsylvanians in mind.


The letter is signed by an Edward Smith of Flourtown, Pennsylvania.

It will surprise no one who's followed this story that an Edward Smith of Flourtown gave $500 to George W. Bush in 2003, according to FEC reports.

But maybe it's another Edward Smith? Maybe. But Flourtown has a population of approximately 5,000 and a search of 411 only turns up one Edward Smith there. And the letter does remarkably avoid any mention of the writer's political philosophy.

So it appears that not only did Republicans fund the Green candidate's signature drive and help staff that drive, but now they've taken to writing outraged letters to newspapers on his behalf.

Thanks to TPM Reader DB for catching this.

Late Update: TPM Reader JS points out that an Edward Smith is on the Montgomery County Republican Committee -- Flourtown is in the east part of Montgomery County.

Did PBS use a White House appointee to discuss administration policy as an unaffiliated "conservative commentator," failing to tell their viewers her real ties?

The Washington Post's Al Kamen uncovered some strange goings-on out of the Department of Labor: a senior appointed official for years has been ducking out to do media appearances as a conservative pundit, without disclosing her affiliation to the Bush administration.

Since being tapped in 2001 to serve as senior adviser to Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, Karen Czarnecki has been appearing semi-regularly on the PBS show, "To the Contrary," as a conservative commentator, Kamen reported. She has appeared elsewhere, Kamen said, but PBS appears to be her main gabber gig. (See also ThinkProgress.)

Kamen checked the details of Czarnecki's behavior against federal ethics rules and didn't come up with much. She did it on her own time, and away from federal property.

But PBS may not get off so easily. A review of transcripts of her appearances reflects that the government-supported network used Czarnecki as a commentator on labor issues -- with nary a mention that she enjoyed a White House appointment to serve among the senior ranks of the Labor Department.

A PBS spokeswoman told me her network adhered to a sound policy. "She's not speaking as a spokesperson for the Labor Department, so the policy is, if it's somebody speaking for themselves, we identify them according to political spectrum," Carrie Johnson told me.

In at least one instance, Czarnecki defended a specific Bush administration policy.

-- On a Bush administration proposal which, unions claimed, would eliminate overtime for millions of nurses, paralegals, store managers and other hourly workers:

"No, it's not true. There's a huge misinformation campaign out there. . . . [I]t's only a proposed rule right now, and it's going to take the next three months to come out of OMB. But the bottom line is this, nurses, firefighters, policemen, and first responders won't be affected by this. . . . [U]nion workers aren't affected by this. And this is strictly white collar workers we're talking about, people typically in the workforce." (4/11/04)


In others, she took positions friendly to the White House and its legislative goals:

-- On whether government-funded family and medical leave was a good idea:
"No, creating flexible workplace options for families is preferable to federal mandates any day." (3/13/05)


-- On the Family and Medical Leave Act:
"There have been a lot of abuses. . . . For example, somebody who has a hangover -- somebody whose husband has a hangover can claim to stay home under the Family Medical Leave Act right now saying they have to take care of a family member." (3/13/05)


-- On why women, on average, earn less than men:
"The bottom line, you don't have women going into the fields, the high tech fields, and the science and engineering, where it pays. . . . women do choose the more compassionate fields, which don't pay as much, and that's got a huge -- that has a lot to do with it." (3/13/05)


-- On a new study showing working women over 50 were more likely than their male counterparts to be working for someone else, instead of being their own boss -- even though the pay was half as much:
"Oftentimes women in their fifties need to interact with other adults. . . they really like the camaraderie in the workplace." (12/19/05)


"It's a balanced discussion program, regardless of the topics," PBS' Johnson said, noting that Czarnecki was one of four commentators in every panel discussion. "The others from the left and conservative commentators are able to speak their opinion. Her thoughts don't go unchallenged."

According to ABC News' investigative blog, The Blotter:

A Texas hotel owner says his medical condition led him to unintentionally defraud the federal government over Katrina disaster relief claims.

Daniel Yeh, the owner of the Flagship Hotel in Galveston, Texas, had enrolled in a FEMA program that reimbursed hotels for providing free lodging for Katrina evacuees. Yeh is accused of filing false claims totaling over $200,000 for guests who were not evacuees.

Yeh is facing trial for 22 counts of wire fraud and 17 counts of filing false claims. But Yeh's attorney, Robert Bennett, said his client's judgment at the time was severely impaired by a pre-existing brain tumor that led him to misunderstand the rules of the FEMA program. According to Bennett, "The brain tumor affected his frontal lobe, the center for rational thought -- essentially all executive decision-making."


Beats former Bush adviser Claude Allen's excuse by a mile.

On Friday, Green Senate candidate Carl Romanelli was left alone as the sole statewide Green Party candidate after the other two, running for Governor and Lt. Governor, dropped out. They say they don't have the money to fight a lawsuit by Democrats alleging that more than 69,000 of the signatures gathered to get them on the ballot were fraudulent.

But although he admits his campaign is "out of money," Romanelli says he'll find the money one way or the other. He won't be dropping out. "This is America," he told me, "money is like air. It's out there. You just have to be tenacious enough to go get it."

Romanelli raised $66,000 from conservative donors to fund the original signature drive. Rick Santorum's staffers also hit the pavement to gather signatures for him. In return, conservatives expect that Romanelli will be able to draw some votes away from Santorum's Democratic challenger, Bob Casey.

When I asked whether he'd be tapping the same well of deep pockets as before, he only said that he'd be writing letters and making phone calls, "just like any other campaign."

We thought he didn't, but maybe he does! Nearly two weeks after we reported Rep. Katherine Harris' (R-FL) failure to notify House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) of her federal subpoena, conservative pundit Robert Novak picks up the item for his syndicated column:

Katherine is silent

Rep. Katherine Harris, the embattled Republican Senate candidate in Florida, did not make the required notification to House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert when she was recently subpoenaed by the Justice Department in a campaign contributions case.

House rules require that any member, when subpoenaed, must notify the speaker, who then announces this development from the chair. There is no sign of how Hastert will respond to this failure by Harris.

Justice's investigation involves a campaign contribution to Harris by Mitchell Wade, president and CEO of MZM, a high-tech national security firm based in Washington.

Harris is alleged to have broken the law in reimbursing MZM employees for cash they gave to Harris for contributions.

[Ed. note: to our knowledge, nobody (but Novak, maybe) believes Harris reimbursed MZM employees for donations they made to her campaign. Wade, however, has confessed to reimbursing MZM employees for their donations to Harris.]


As is his usual practice, Novak declined to identify us as his source for the item. Hey, it's cool, we believe in protecting sources too. Anyway, Bob, I hope you bookmark us -- we're the place to come for all this stuff. If you didn't already know.

From the AP:

Rep. Bob Ney formally requested Monday that his name be removed from the November election ballot, ensuring that a special primary election will be held to replace him as the Republican candidate.

His letter officially notifying election officials ends a week of speculation about whether he would wait until after Aug. 19, when party leaders would have been able to appoint a replacement.


The special primary election will probably take place in mid-September. And state Sen. Joy Padgett remains the frontrunner for the Republican nomination, so there still might be a legal challenge. Don't put your popcorn away just yet.

Since learning that Rep. Katherine Harris drinks Starbucks lattes, we've put the word out to our network of Washington informants: if you see anyone important ordering coffee, we want to know.

The Muckphone rang a little after nine this morning: Recently deposed CIA chief Porter Goss was just in a Starbucks on Capitol Hill, a reliable tipster told me. I saw him order a grande latte.

Fascinating. The former GOP House intelligence committee chairman, hand-picked by Bush to bring the CIA to heel, sips Starbucks?

Interesting trivia, to be sure. But with two prominent GOP partisans quaffing Starbucks brew -- and big ones, at that -- let me put this question out there: isn't it about time to put to rest this canard that only liberals sip lattes?

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