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

The AP has a report on today's fracas down at the Pennsylvania Department of State. Apparently that earlier report of the arrest of a Green volunteer was incorrect.

The fight broke out early on the fifth day of counting, although witnesses disputed who started it and who broke it up.

Democratic volunteer Alex Hartzler said a Green Party volunteer elbowed a Democratic volunteer, and that another Green Party volunteer threw a punch at a court official, who had moved in to break it up.

Green Party volunteer Charles Sherrouse said the court official was the first to become physical, grabbing another Green Party volunteer to break up the argument. The dispute ended in the hallway outside when Sherrouse and others separated the official and the volunteer, Sherrouse said.

The Green Party is being aided by volunteers who signed in from Santorum's campaign, and the signature counters have been arguing all week, witnesses said. The fight on Friday was the first physical altercation, they said.


Ed Myslewicz, Press Secretary for the Department of General Services, which oversees the Capitol Police, told me that six officers responded to the incident, but that they were able to restore order. No charges have been filed and no one was injured, he said.

The Bush administration hates leaks, especially when they involve classified information. They and their allies have made that abundantly and forcefully clear (Plame affair aside). Attorney General Al Gonzales has mounted an investigation into a classified leak to the New York Times; the president and vice president have said the paper's publishing of classified information has been "very damaging" and "disgraceful." One GOP lawmaker even charged the paper with treason.

That's why my antennae started buzzing when I read this paragraph from an Aug. 12 AP story about U.S. government efforts to trace possible domestic links to the recently-foiled London terror plot:

Two. . . U.S. counterterrorism officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the investigation, said the British suspects placed calls to several cities in the United States before their arrests. At least some of the calls were placed to people in New York, Washington, Chicago and Detroit, one official said. The suspects are all British citizens, mostly men in the 20s and 30s of Pakistani descent.


Now, that appears to be remarkably specific intelligence leaked from within an ongoing terror investigation -- classified information that could not only reveal sources and methods, but also tip off possible suspects before the Feds got to them.

This "liquid terror" plot has been alleged to have been a serious and immediate threat. Yet almost a week has passed without any comment from the administration about this published account. No one's called the AP a bunch of traitors. No investigations have been launched. The White House has not condemned the leak or blamed it for possibly costing American lives.

So, why not?

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We'd heard that things got out of control this morning down at the Pennsylvania Department of State, where Democratic, Republican, and Green volunteers are poring over thousands of contested signatures.

Now we're hearing that a Green Party volunteer was arrested for allegedly taking a swing at a court employee overseeing the process.

It's a heartwarming image -- Greens and Republicans working side by side.

Short of hands to help review thousands of contested signatures as part of the ongoing court battle between Democrats and Green Senate candidate Carl Romanelli, the Pennsylvania Green Party is getting some help from volunteers from Sen. Rick Santorum's (R-PA) campaign.

To resolve Democrats' charges that most of the Greens' 100,000 signatures are invalid, a judge ordered that volunteers from both parties work side by side to establish whether they could agree on the validity of the signatures. The Department of State set up 9 computer terminals for the effort; at each station, a Democratic volunteer was to be paired with a Green volunteer. The effort is expected to take weeks.

But earlier this week, the Greens found themselves short of volunteers. So Republicans have arrived to help fill the gap. It's only natural: since GOP supporters paid for the Green signature drive, and Santorum volunteers helped collect the signatures, they have a vested interest in seeing this through to the end.

And they're not shy about it. This morning's sign-in sheet at the court shows two names, Ben Irwin and Brian Hunt, who identify their organization as "GOP - Santorum '06." All the other volunteers identified themselves as either with the Green Party or the Democratic Party, the two parties in the suit.

Yesterday, at least two of the volunteers were sent by Greg Rothman, a Santorum supporter. Rothman, who runs a real estate firm, told me that he'd asked "a couple college interns" to go "help out if they could." Rothman, who's given $2,000 to Santorum this election cycle, wouldn't tell me who'd asked him for the help.

Lawrence Otter, the lawyer for Green candidate Carl Romanelli, said he didn't know the party affiliation of those who showed up to help with the recount effort. “I don’t ask," he told me. "Why should I?”

In the wake of Tom DeLay's messy exit, local Republican leaders have been scrambling to find a replacement. Last night, a meeting of Republican precinct chairmen selected Dr. Shelley Sekula-Gibbs to be their chosen write-in candidate.

But another prominent local Republican, David Wallace, also filed as a write-in candidate and earlier this week vowed to run regardless of the meeting's outcome, deriding the process as "something that may have worked in Moscow." (Sekula-Gibbs said she'd drop out if the party elders didn't choose her.)

So it looks like Republicans, already severely disadvantaged by lacking a legitimate official candidate on the ballot in Texas' 22nd District, will have the added handicap of having two GOPers running as write-in candidates. As the AP points out, only four men have ever been elected to Congress as write-in candidates.

Will Wallace stick to his guns? We hope to hear soon. With the disarray among Republicans in the district so great that some have publicly endorsed the Libertarian candidate, Democrat Nick Lampson is sitting pretty.

Update: TPM Reader AG chimes in:

Quick thought - Everything else being equal, wouldn't a 'John Smith' have a better chance of being written in than a 'Shelley Sekula-Gibbs?' Is the actual name of the candidate any part of the calculus that the Republicans are thinking of? I know it sounds stupid, but I was living in the Bay Area in 1999, when Tom Ammiano almost won as a write-in candidate for mayor of San Francisco, and I recall there being some confusion as to how close to his name you had to write on the ballot. Just a thought.

Contractor Profited While FBI Computer Upgrade Failed "Because of an open-ended contract with few safeguards, [government contractor] SAIC reaped more than $100 million as the [FBI's technology upgrade] project became bigger and more complicated, even though its software never worked properly. The company continued to meet the bureau's requests, accepting payments despite clear signs that the FBI's approach to the project was badly flawed, according to people who were involved in the project or later reviewed it for the government." (Washington Post)

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From The New York Times:

A North Carolina jury today convicted a former Central Intelligence Agency contractor of felony assault for severely beating an Afghan prisoner who died soon after.

The contractor, David A. Passaro, 40, a former Army Special Forces medic who went to work for the C.I.A. in Afghanistan in 2003, is the first civilian to be convicted as a result of numerous allegations of prisoner abuse in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and in the broader campaign against terrorism. He faces a maximum of 11½ years in prison.

It looks like it's going to be a crowded race up in Ohio.

Eight Republicans have filed (although they haven't yet been certified) to replace Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) as the Republican on the ballot in Ohio's 18th District according to Tuscarawas County election officials.

Today was the filing deadline for the September 14th primary. The frontrunner so far had been Ney's handpicked successor state Senator Joy Padgett, but she'll have to compete against Dover Mayor Rick Homrighausen, Holmes County Commissioner Ray Feikert and five others: Samuel Firman, John Bennett, Ralph Applegate, Gregory Zelenitz, and James Brodbelt Harris, who challenged Ney in the primary.

Update
: More from CQ.

Late Update: And then there were seven. Mr. Zelenitz's signatures apparently weren't up to snuff.

Thomas Greene of The Register walks through the steps a terrorist would have to take in order to concoct the necessary amount of the explosive TATP onboard an airplane -- the supposed plot of the suspects apprehended last week in the U.K.

His conclusion: "Certainly, if we can imagine a group of jihadists smuggling the necessary chemicals and equipment on board, and cooking up TATP in the lavatory, then we've passed from the realm of action blockbusters to that of situation comedy."

Thanks to TPM Reader RW.

AP reports:

"Three times this year, a lobbyist sought help from Rep. Christopher Cannon [(R-UT)] for his clients and got it. The lobbyist was the congressman's brother, Joseph Cannon.

"The Utah lawmaker acknowledges helping his brother's clients, including pressing Congress last month to intervene in a business dispute over an Internet contract estimated to be worth as much as $1.3 billion. . .

"Cannon has a financial interest in his brother's success: The lobbyist owes him more than $250,000, according to the lawmaker's financial disclosure reports."


Rep. Cannon denies the aid he gave his brother's clients was improper. "The rules really come down to disclosure," he told AP. "It's easy to make the connections you made between me and my brother."

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