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

More difficult revelations about Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA), the Appropriations Committee chairman.

In late 2002, Lewis delivered an $11,000 pay cut for one of his top aides -- and a personal family friend. Normally, such a move would be a stinging, painful rebuke -- but not in this case.

Instead, the pay cut allowed the aide, Letitia White, to narrowly dodge a law which would have barred her from lobbying Lewis for one year after leaving, Roll Call reports today. And lobbying Lewis is precisely what she did, just a few months later.

White is now under federal investigation, the New York Times reported in June.

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DNC Chief Stops in Florida to Revive Ailing Harris Campaign DNC chairman Howard Dean gave a fiery speech in Florida yesterday, with at least one zinger aimed at Rep. Katherine Harris that's sure to rile up her weary supporters in the GOP base. "This is not Russia and she is not Stalin," Dean told a crowd of Democratic supporters Wednesday, comparing "Pink Sugar" herself to the infamous autocratic Soviet leader who was responsible for the deaths of millions.

That line gave the Harris campaign what's sure to have been a refreshing change of pace -- a chance to comment on how crazy someone else is. "The people of Florida know that Congresswoman Harris will stand for what is right and not respond in kind to such scurrilous attacks," Jennifer Marks told reporters, responding to Dean's scurrilous attack.

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What a pathetic climax to the days-long controversy following Dana Milbank's column about the "Scarlet Letter" Republican.

As everyone now knows, Milbank wrote a column Tuesday, relating the comments of an anonymous Republican carping about the burden of being a GOPer during Bush's second term. All day Tuesday, bloggers and pundits took turns guessing at the mystery Republican's identity. Finally, on Tuesday afternoon, Michael Steele admitted to ABC News that it was him.

And now, he takes it all back. Bush is his "homeboy," he said during a radio interview this morning. Whereas before (when he was under the guise of an anonymous "GOP Senate candidate") he said that "to be honest," he probably wouldn't want Bush campaigning with him, now he says that "If the president wanted to come and help me in Maryland, he is more than welcome, because I'm not going to turn my back on a friend."

But it gets even better.

Backpedaling furiously, Steele also said this morning that the interview with Milbank and other reporters was supposed to be off the record. That would mean that Milbank wasn't supposed to quote his remarks, anonymously or otherwise.

But it turns out that's just not true. Steele appears to be lying through his teeth. As Milbank clearly stated in his piece, Steele spoke to reporters "under the condition that he be identified only as a GOP Senate candidate."

This afternoon I contacted Milbank to find out what happened and he confirmed that the meeting, done over lunch, was not off the record. "The luncheon was one in a regular series, and they are all on background. It was announced at the start of the lunch that this one, too, was on background," he said.

As proof, Milbank forwarded me an email from Steele's flak Doug Heye, who in response to an email from Milbank checking whether he could run certain quotes from Steele in his story, responded, "since it was a backgrounder, if there are specific quotes you'd like to use, can you email them to me so I could sign off?"

So case closed.

Late Update: Here's the email as forwarded to me by Milbank (I've redacted their email addresses):

From: "Doug Heye" To: "Dana Milbank" cc: Subject: RE: Reconsider? 07/24/2006 03:38 PM

Won't waste your time, and know deadlines are tight.

I'd probably be fine with those you sent, but since it was a backgrounder, if there are specific quotes you'd like to use, can you email them to me so I could sign off?

I can hold off on signing off for other press for the time being, as well.

With the help of numerous readers, the Starbucks Web site and a Washington, D.C.-area barista, we've cracked the code of Rep. Katherine Harris' (R-FL) coffee order -- "Triple Venti, no fat, no foam, extra hot, with pink sugar."

Triple Venti : Likely a latte with three shots of espresso in it. A Starbucks "venti" latte and its smaller cousin, the "grande" latte, both have two shots of espresso; thus a "triple" would add another shot.

No Fat: Skim milk. Should properly be ordered as "non-fat," according to Starbucks. Reporter may have mis-heard.

No Foam: Just what it means. (I should note that some traditionalists believe (rightly, I posit) that a latte should have no foam at all, making this qualifier redundant. Starbucks baristas, however, are ordered to include a "quarter-inch" of foam on their latte creations "to create a delicate first impression," according to the company Web site.)

Extra Hot: I'm not sure Starbucks really has an extra-hot coffee; I believe their machines -- and corporate lawyers -- regulate their temperatures precisely and absolutely. My guess is, baristas hear this and go "uh-huh," because it's easier than fighting with a customer. Especially if, well, the customer terrifies you.

with Pink Sugar: "A fancy way to say Sweet and Low," as one reader commented.

You can say a lot of things, pardner. But you can't say that's a quitter's drink. That's an in-it-to-win-it special.

Late Update: Starbucks does indeed make "extra-hot" lattes for those who request one, according to a company spokesman. "[T]hey will receive a beverage at approximately 180 degrees. Starbucks milk-based beverages are normally prepared at temperatures between 150-170 degrees," Alan Hilowitz told me in an email.

Reader HD, a barista, chimes in: "We call drinks like hers 'princess drinks' at my store."

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) released a final draft of his anti-signing-statement bill this afternoon -- yes, the one that other GOP senators are already saying they won't support.

Full text after the jump. Legal eagles, what do you think?

Update: We've uploaded the bill as a pdf here.

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"Triple Venti, no fat, no foam, extra hot, with pink sugar." I'm not kidding.

Update: Pink sugar?

Late Update: My astute colleague Paul notes that Starbucks has been a source of friction between Harris and her staff in the past. ("Everything is someone else's fault," Ed Rollins, a strategist who left the campaign in April, told the Lakeland (Fla.) Ledger earlier this month. "If there's not a Starbucks coffee house within distance, it's someone else's fault.")

Also, Paul wonders, what's a "Triple Venti"? Is that three Ventis? Wouldn't that require, like, a wheelbarrow?

Late, Late Update: Reader LM thinks he's solved the "pink sugar" mystery: "Surely, she must be referring to Sweet N Low, which comes in a pink-colored packet."

In response to questions from Congressional Quarterly about whether he would support Sen. Arlen Specter's (R-PA) bill to counter the President's use of "signing statements," McCain said this:

“I think the president will enforce the law."

That sounds pretty faint -- but if you consider the context, it just sounds lame.

The point of the signing statement, of which Bush has made unprecedented use, is for the President to declare that he will not enforce part or all of a law.

McCain knows this -- Bush used the gambit to gut the Vietnam War veteran's own torture ban legislation. As one law professor described Bush's move to the Boston Globe:

"[Bush's] signing statement is saying 'I will only comply with this law when I want to, and if something arises in the war on terrorism where I think it's important to torture or engage in cruel, inhuman, and degrading conduct, I have the authority to do so and nothing in this law is going to stop me.... 'They don't want to come out and say it directly because it doesn't sound very nice, but it's unmistakable to anyone who has been following what's going on."

McCain -- himself a former torture victim -- worked hard to assemble veto-proof majorities in both houses of Congress to pass a torture ban only to see the president undermine it in an instant.

So how can he say he doesn't think the President's abuse of signing statements is a problem?

It has been nearly five months since Justice Department prosecutors working the Duke Cunningham corruption case first requested information from three key House committees. To date, they haven't got a scrap of paper in return, nor a single interview with a staffer, Roll Call's John Bresnahan reports today.

In May, if you recall, anonymous Hill denizens whined to the media that if they really tried to comply, Congress would "shut down."

DoJ wants information stretching back to 1997, and requests that broad could lead them to knock on many new doors. Independent reports have already confirmed that as offshoots of the Cunningham probe, the DoJ is looking into Reps. Jerry Lewis (R-CA), Duncan Hunter (R-CA), Ken Calvert (R-CA), Katherine Harris (R-FL), and possibly others, as well as former Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) -- and, of course, Cunningham himself.

What would ten years of records and information about a corrupt congressman uncover? Apparently, that's for Congress to know, and the rest of America to wonder about -- for a while. Congress' August recess is coming up, which provides another reason for them to do nothing. Will Justice let them get away with it?

Think Congress should sue the president? Yeah, maybe not this time, finds CQ today. Senate GOPers are putting the kibosh on Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter's bill to allow Congress to do just that, in an effort to curb the White House's practice of using "signing statements" to dodge laws it doesn't like. (courtesy Raw Story.)

The perfect lobbyists?

The lobbying firm at the center of the federal investigation into Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA) had an astonishing record of success in delivering federal money to its clients. One client actually received nearly a hundred-fold return on the fees they paid the firm, ultimately winning more than $67 million in federal dollars over the past seven years.

What's more, the firm brought home the money by landing nearly every single earmark they requested -- at or near the amount of money they asked for. Such success, experts say, is virtually unprecedented.

While the firm finds itself under Justice Department scrutiny, our review of documents relating to its work for the client, Cal State University-San Bernardino (CSU-SB), turned up no evidence of illegal activity. Only the work of lobbyists who were diligent, experienced -- and, apparently, very lucky.

Of course, boosting that luck may be the longtime friendship which the firm's lead partner, Bill Lowery, shares with Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA), who oversaw all defense spending from his perch atop the powerful House Appropriations Committee. Two of Lewis' closest aides -- Jeffrey Shockey and Letitia White -- worked for the firm during this period of tremendous success.

Documents released to investigators by CSU-SB show that since 1999, the Copeland Lowery firm won at least 21 earmarks for the school, mostly from the Pentagon's budget.

"It’s like an ATM," said Keith Ashdown of Taxpayers for Common Sense, who said he was "shocked" by how effective the firm was. "You put money in, you get a lot more out," he said.

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