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

The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports -- with bonus revenge quote from former Harris staffer:

Katherine Harris won't have to worry about her opponents in the U.S. Senate race taking more shots at her during a candidates' "showdown" in Jacksonville today.

They weren't invited.

Although the Florida League of Cities promoted its forum today as one of the first to bring all of the gubernatorial and Senate candidates together, the nonpartisan group didn't invite any of the three Republicans challenging Harris on the Sept. 5 ballot. They did, however, invite Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, who is unopposed in the Democratic primary. . . . Nelson has already said he won't be able to attend.

"It's a one-person debate," said Chris Ingram, a former Harris spokesman, who is now the spokesman for LeRoy Collins, one of Harris' three Republican challengers. "I hope she doesn't lose."

Kline Campaign May Not Understand The Meaning of "Spy" "U.S. Rep. John Kline [R-MN] said that a "double-agent" from the campaign of Democratic challenger Coleen Rowley tried to make an illegal campaign contribution and infiltrate his re-election campaign. Rowley's campaign denied the allegations...[Intern David] Bailey gave his real e-mail address and his real address, which was subsequently used to learn his connection to the Rowley campaign, Kline spokesman Marcus Esmay said. Rowley's campaign manager, Rogers, said, "It doesn't sound like a very secretive operation when you leave your e-mail and address." (AP)

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The Ohio Attorney General has ruled that state Senator Joy Padgett is not precluded by the "sore loser" statute from running for Rep. Bob Ney's (R-OH) seat.

But that was no suprise to Ohio Democrats; Ohio's Attorney General is Jim Petro, who was Padgett's running mate in this year's gubernatorial election.

"The fix is in," Ohio Democratic Party spokesman Brian Rothenberg told me, who added that the party's lawyers would "probably take action" to halt Padgett's bid.

But such action cannot take place until Padgett officially becomes the nominee. And that can't happen until Ney officially withdraws. If Ney waits until August 19th, county party officials would be able to handpick his successor. As of yesterday, Ney still had yet to officially withdraw.

Via Chris Geidner.

As the Washington Post's Walter Pincus noted today, the director and deputy director of the Pentagon's controversial domestic intelligence branch are stepping down simultaneously. In a very understated way, Pincus manages to raise an eyebrow at the fact both men decided to retire at exactly the same time, amid ongoing investigations that threaten to touch their operations.

The organization, known as "CIFA" -- for Counterintelligence Field Activity -- was first in hot water for keeping track of anti-war demonstrators and peace groups. Later, it became known that a company deeply involved in the Cunningham corruption scandal had played an important role in developing the center, and held numerous contracts to provide the center with staff, technology and support. It was created in 2003, largely through efforts by Burtt and James King, a senior executive at the scandal-linked company, MZM.

A friend of the site sent us a copy of Burtt's announcement to CIFA staff, which we've verified as authentic:

From: Burtt, David (GOV)
Sent: Wed 8/9/2006 11:29 AM
To: All_CIFA
Subject: A Message from the Director

For the past four years, I have been privileged to serve as your Director and be part of the CIFA family. It has been an honor to serve in that capacity. I am especially proud of all of you and what you have accomplished for the CI Community, for the overall CI mission, and for your co-workers here at CIFA.

Today, I want to share with you my decision to resign as Director and retire from government service. My last day in the office will be August 31. I did not make this decision without trepidation, but the time is right to move on to the next phase of my career.

Mr. Hefferon has also decided to retire, after over 31 years of federal service.

In the interim, Mr. Dan Baur will serve as Director, CIFA and Mr. John O'Hara will serve as Deputy Director.

Thank you all for your hard work and dedication. -- Dave Burtt

We're told Burtt and his deputy are spending their last days trying to figure out how to spy on their own going-away happy hour. (No, really. That's a joke.)

Since June of 2004, the Bush administration has paid the Blackwater security firm at least $320 million for "diplomatic security" services worldwide, The Nation reports. More striking, the State Department -- who oversees the contract -- can't explain why they've paid the company $100 million more than they contracted for.

The company was supposedly providing increased security for "post-war stabilization efforts" in Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq, and for State Department personnel throughout the Middle East. According to a State Department document quoted by the magazine, the U.S. government "is unable to provide protective services on a long-term basis from its pool of special agents, thus, outside contractual support is required."

Blackwater won the contract, which was originally valued at $230 million over five years. The cost has since exploded, however, and the State Department is unable to explain why. An audit acquired by the Nation reveals that the Blackwater firm was apparently accounting for its profit as an expense -- an unusual trick that, if logically possible, would bankrupt a company while making it wildly rich:

A heavily redacted 2005 government audit of Blackwater's WPPS contract proposal, obtained by The Nation, reveals that Blackwater included profit in its overhead and its total costs, which would result "not only in a duplication of profit but a pyramiding of profit since in effect Blackwater is applying profit to profit." The audit also found that the company tried to inflate its profits by representing different Blackwater divisions as wholly separate companies.

Not a bad trick for a company that only had a quarter million dolllars in government contracts in 2000. Wonder how long they can get away with stuff like that.

As part of their ongoing law suit against the New Hampshire Republicans regarding the jamming of Democratic phone banks on Election Day, 2002, the Democrats alleged a "deliberate cover up" by the GOP in a filing earlier this week. Notes from FBI interviews indicate that that a number of senior officials with the New Hampshire Republican State Committee [NHRSC] knew of the jamming and consciously covered it up, they say.

The FBI's 2003 interview with NHRSC Executive Director Chuck McGee is especially revealing in this regard [we've posted it here]. McGee, who has said he originally hatched the plan to jam Democrat's phones, told the FBI that he'd discussed the jamming before Election Day with the NHRSC's Chair, the Vice Chair, Finance Director, and four other senior level Republican staffers in the state. McGee pled guilty for his role in the jamming and has already served his time.

McGee said that the Party's Chairman John Dowd gave him the go-ahead the night before the election [Dowd, for his part, admitted to The New Hampshire Union Leader that McGee told him of the plan, but said he did not authorize it]; that the Vice Chair gave him the number of the Manchester Professional Firefighters Union, one of the jamming's targets; and that the Financial Director, who signed the check to pay for the jamming, disclosed to the FEC that the money was for "GOTV" (Get Out the Vote efforts) when she knew what it was really for [she corroborated this in her interview with the FBI].

Despite the apparent widespread knowledge within the NHRSC about McGee's plan, the NHRSC has tried to portray themselves as "the innocent victim of a single rogue employee acting alone," the Dems write in their motion.

The seven-page motion, filed August 7th, seeks to unseal documents pertaining to an NHRSC internal investigation regarding the jamming. Counsel for the Republicans was not immediately available for comment.

As we know, Conn. Democratic Senate candidate Ned Lamont has flatly and repeatedly denied allegations by Sen. Joe Lieberman's (I-CT) camp that he or his campaign were in any way responsible for what Lieberman is calling a hacker attack on his Web site and email.

Yesterday, two experienced D.C. consultants spoke with me about questions some have raised about the professionalism of Lieberman's technology consultants. The campaign hosted its site on a "shared" server with over 70 other sites, when it should have had its own machine, skeptical observers have charged; the level of traffic the site could receive was capped, so heavy traffic would allegedly shut it down; some said the software used by the consultants was nonstandard and indicitave of less-than-expert personnel; others faulted the campaign's dependence on companies which were not large, established organizations.

Was Lieberman really hacked? There's evidence that something happened to Lieberman's internet services, but days later, it's not clear what occurred or why. (Lieberman's spokesman acknowledged to on Tuesday that, despite comments made by Lieberman's campaign manager Sean Smith (who was fired yesterday), they had no evidence Lamont or his campaign was behind the troubles.)

Lieberman's technicians stand by their original diagnosis: the campaign's site,, and its email were interrupted because of malicious tampering by an outsider.

I spoke with senior executives from two of the top internet consulting firms in Washington, D.C. to get their opinions on Joe's setup.

Todd Zeigler is senior vice president of the Bivings Group. His company has produced Web sites for such prominent GOP outfits as the Republican National Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee. (Both men said their firms have no involvement in the Connecticut U.S. Senate race.)

From the other side of the aisle, Justin Pinder is chief technology officer for EchoDitto, a Democratic firm which has handled high-profile internet campaigns for the likes of Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm (D), and Montana Democratic Senate candidate Jon Tester -- though their most high-traffic site, by far, is Rosie O'Donnell's blog.

Would you host a site for a campaign of this magnitude on a shared server?

Ziegler: For a site of this profile, we would always recommend a dedicated server. Having a secure server makes it much easier to protect yourself from these sorts of attacks, and respond effectively [if] an attack takes place.

Pinder: As EchoDitto's best practice, we'd never host a campaign [site] -- one so high-volume, especially a week before the primary -- on a shared host like that. It doesn't seem like a particularly grand idea.

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Round 1 of the emerging legal battle in Ohio. From The Cleveland Plain Dealer:

Ohio Republicans have asked Attorney General Jim Petro to determine whether his former running mate is eligible to replace Republican Rep. Bob Ney on the November ballot for Congress.

Democrats said it's a conflict of interest for Petro to decide a question about State Sen. Joy Padgett, who ran for lieutenant governor this spring on Petro's defeated gubernatorial ticket.

"If anyone believes that Jim Petro is not going to do what he can to help his former running mate, they are being politically naive," said Ohio Democratic Party spokesman Brian Rothenberg.

Petro spokeswoman Kim Norris denied that the request presents a conflict for her boss, and said it would be handled by career civil servants whose work is widely respected.

"The attorney general is the statutory authority who gives opinions on this issue," said Norris, predicting an opinion could be issued as early as today.

Yes, Justice Antonin Scalia did stab Tom DeLay in the back -- it must be hard for DeLay to see it any other way. And he isn't happy.

From an interview with Byron York:

...courts up to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected DeLay’s arguments, and then Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who handles such matters for the Fifth Circuit, rejected DeLay’s argument in a matter of hours. I asked DeLay if he had a problem with Scalia’s handling of the case. “Yes, I do,” DeLay said. “He obviously spent no time looking at what’s happening in the court in which he has oversight. Within three hours, he denied this stay.”

“You can always count on the judiciary to make stupid rulings,” DeLay told me. “Not only stupid, but dangerous.”

And there's another gem from the interview. In Tom DeLay's statement withdrawing from the race, he explained that his move to Virginia was "irrevocable" -- there was simply no way he was ever going to reenter the race in Texas, no matter what a handful of federal judges said. It would have been "sheer hypocrisy," he said.

But, well, that irrevocability wasn't the real reason DeLay finally bowed out. He was still polling badly:

Before he made up his mind, DeLay commissioned a poll of voters in the 22nd District. “My negatives were still high,” he told me, even though he retained a sizable core of strong supporters. The poll also found that several other Republican candidates would have a better chance against Democrat Nick Lampson. Even though DeLay believed he could still win if he mounted a vigorous campaign, the poll reinforced his belief that getting out was the right thing to do.