They've got muck; we've got rakes. TPM Muckraker asked its five-member board of advisers to weigh in on the success or failure of the 109th Congress, and how its record will affect the upcoming midterm elections.

Big surprise, only one mentioned the unfolding congressional scandals. Of the five professional analysts -- David P. Rebovich, Lawrence Jacobs, Charles S. Bullock III, Susan A. MacManus and Bruce E. Cain -- only Cain brought up the issue of corruption and lobbying reform:

The absence of lobbying reform is no plus for the Republicans, but apparently not a minus so far either. Perhaps a few more revelations and indictments will help generalize the issue, but until then, the effects of the Abramoff scandal will be isolated to specific races, such as Katherine Harris, Ralph Reed, Conrad Burns etc.

We're mad as hell -- but we're happy to take it a little more?

Lawsuit Seeks to Void CA-50 Busby-Bilbray Results "A lawsuit filed yesterday asks a judge to toss out results of the June 6 special election that saw Republican Brian Bilbray defeat Democrat Francine Busby to finish the remaining term of disgraced former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham. The lawsuit, filed at Superior Court in downtown San Diego by lawyer Paul Lehto of Everett, Wash., also asks for a recount of all ballots cast in the election in the 50th Congressional District.

"Lehto says there is no way to ensure that the voting machines used by county elections officials were not tampered with, which Registrar of Voters Mikel Haas vigorously denied. " (SD Union-Tribune)

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What's the charge, officer?

Earlier, I reported findings from an unreleased draft of a document written by Ranking Member John Conyers (D-MI) of the House Judiciary Committee. The document summarized a much lengthier report, also under wraps, detailing Bush administration transgressions.

We've posted the draft copy we obtained in the TPM Document Collection; you can read it for yourself by clicking here.

If early accounts are accurate, Tom DeLay's likely to remain a GOP congressional candidate, despite his or his party's best efforts.

DeLay and the GOP have been trying to get courts to allow them to remove his name on the ballot in the race for Texas' 22nd District. But The Houston Chronicle reports the judges at the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals were particularly critical in their questioning today.

The Republicans are trying to get the three judge appeals panel to reverse a federal judge's earlier ruling that Tom DeLay must stay on the ballot. The suit stems from a Democratic complaint that DeLay and the Republicans schemed to circumvent candidacy laws by moving to Virginia.

If DeLay loses this round, he'll either be forced to run again or let the Democrats take the seat without Republican opposition.

A decision is expected sometime within the next couple weeks.

Russ Tice, the former NSA employee who's said he spoke with the New York Times about the NSA's domestic spying efforts, was subpoenaed last week to testify before a grand jury on Aug. 2. A quick letter from a decent lawyer has now won Tice an indefinite postponement, according to the advocacy group National Security Whistleblowers Coalition.

Meanwhile, another group argues that the federal investigation into who leaked the NSA program to the NYTimes may itself be illegal. According to federal law, “Until the government demonstrates that any properly classified information has been released, it is illegal to spend federal funds investigating Mr. Tice," said Government Accountability Project legal director Tom Devine in a press release today.

The AP reveals today that the Florida Republican Party did all they could back in May to convince Rep. Katherine Harris (R-FL) to drop her bid for the U.S. Senate -- even sent her a letter revoking its support. Harris, of course, was undeterred.

From the AP:

Party Chairman Carole Jean Jordan made a last-ditch attempt in the confidential May 7 letter to force Harris out of the race for the nomination to challenge Democrat Sen. Bill Nelson (news, bio, voting record).....

The letter was also signed by national committeewoman Sharon Day and national committeeman Paul Senft.

"Katherine, though it causes us much anguish, we have determined that your campaign faces irreparable damage," the letter said. "We feel that we have no other choice but to revoke our support."

"The polls tell us that no matter how you run this race, you will not be successful in beating Bill Nelson, who would otherwise be a vulnerable incumbent if forced to face a stronger candidate," it said...."

The state Republican Party confirmed the letter's contents Monday. In a statement, Jordan said she was "disappointed" that the private letter had been made public but added that "our concerns about the race and Congresswoman Harris' campaign still exist."

The Bush administration may have broken over two dozen federal laws and regulations -- some of them multiple times -- according to an unreleased report from the House Judiciary Committee Democrats.

"The misconduct I have found is not only serious, but widespread," reads a draft summary of the report by Ranking Member John Conyers (D-MI):

The laws implicated by the Administration’s actions include federal laws against making false statements to congress [sic]; federal laws and international treaties prohibiting torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment; federal laws concerning retaliating against witnesses and other government employees; Executive Orders concerning leaking and other misuse of intelligence; federal regulations and ethical requirements governing conflicts of interest; the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act; communications privacy laws; the National Security Act; and the Fourth Amendment.

The document, an update to the Democrats' December 2005 report, "A Constitution in Crisis," will be released later this week, according to knowledgeable sources. It is several hundred pages long, with over a thousand footnotes.

In earlier days such a report would be easily ignored. But with the looming possibility of Democrats taking control of the House of Representatives in November, Conyers' charges pose a potentially serious threat to the Bush administration. After all, it takes only a simple majority vote in the House to impeach a sitting president.

On their face, the laundry list of alleged wrongs form a natural basis for impeachment proceedings -- but Conyers has insisted he has no intention of rushing to impeach. No, a slow walk to possible impeachment (preferably down a path that includes months of hearings) is more what the would-be chairman envisions, he has said.

My call to the White House was not immediately returned.

CQ's Jeff Stein makes a neat catch: the State Department's top Asia official told Congress recently that Iranian officials were in North Korea to observe its missile test firings this July 4. Headlines ensue. Days later, Hill quietly retracts the claim:

“Hill . . . told reporters he could not confirm reports that Iranian officials had witnessed the July 4 launches,” the AP said. “He said he misspoke when he earlier told lawmakers that he could confirm such reports."

Experts Stein spoke with agreed: it wouldn't be unheard of for Iran to watch a North Korean test -- in fact, they did so in 1993. Perhaps Hill was confused about the dates. Perhaps he spoke out of class. Or perhaps the intelligence doesn't actually exist.

However you read it, CQ's national security editor concludes, the lesson is grim: either U.S. intelligence doesn't know what's going on, a top State official can't keep life-or-death facts straight, or the administration is again attempting to mislead on national security matters.

TX 22: DeLay Ballot Issue Heads Into Appeals Court "The 5th Circuit federal appeals court in New Orleans on Monday will become the latest venue for the partisan legal battle over whether Tom DeLay — the former House majority leader who resigned from Congress under a cloud of ethics controversies June 9 — must remain on the ballot this November as the Republican nominee in Texas’ 22nd District." (CQ, AP)

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