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

"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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What was up with that $90,000 in the freezer? You -- along with the Justice Department -- are just going to have to keep on waiting to find out: a judge today decided to keep a bevy of Jefferson's documents on ice, just like his cash.

For weeks, federal prosecutors have wanted to get their mitts on the documents seized from Rep. William Jefferson's (D-LA) congressional office by the FBI. The files are thought to contain the final pieces of evidence they need to complete their indictment of Jefferson.

It seemed likely to happen after a federal judge ruled that the raid was constitutional. But Jefferson has appealed the decision, and today the appeals court said that the DOJ will have to keep sitting on its thumbs while they consider Jefferson's appeal.

From a Washington Post editorial today, "A Blank Check to Spy":

In an op-ed in these pages Monday, [Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen] Specter described his proposal as a compromise with President Bush to ensure judicial review of the NSA program, which he called "a festering sore on our body politic." Yet his legislation would essentially respond to this festering sore by shooting the patient. . . .

Under Mr. Specter's bill. . . [Congress] would be explicitly acknowledging an alternative source of authority for snooping. It would thereby legitimize not only whatever the NSA may now be doing but lots of other surveillance it might dream up.

In his op-ed piece, Mr. Specter challenged critics of his bill to present "a better idea for legislation that would resolve the program's legality." Ironically, several better ideas are already out there, from legislators who, unlike Mr. Specter, have actually been briefed on the NSA program. These proposals vary a lot, from more modest authorizations of the program to efforts to streamline FISA and provide resources so that authorities could get warrants more quickly. Remarkably, none of the legislators who have received detailed briefings has put forward a proposal as dramatic as Mr. Specter's. That should tell senators something.

New polls are out for the Florida Senate race, and they show support for Rep. Katherine Harris dropping -- among the hardcore GOP voters, especially.

Brad Coker, managing director of Mason-Dixon Polling & Research, said "it is apparent" that the Harris campaign has "gone into a free fall."

A new Strategic Vision poll, meanwhile, puts Nelson up by 38 points. It has a margin of error of 3 percentage points.

But perhaps more striking than Nelson's lead is the crumbling of support for Harris, R-Longboat Key, among party members likely to vote in the GOP primary.

Just 36 percent now say they would vote for Harris, down from 72 percent four months ago, according to Mason-Dixon.


As usual, the view from inside Harris' campaign is markedly different from the one outside.

Inside: Harris spokeswoman Jennifer Marks dismissed the poll numbers, saying Harris had a "history of gracefully rebounding despite negative predictions and questionable polls."

Outside: "I've never seen a candidate implode in slow motion, like she has," said Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics. "She's become this walking, talking political time bomb, and she lit the fuse herself."

Surveilling Arlen Specter "Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) has begun to resemble a living bookend to Frank Capra's fictional Mr. Smith, the naive everyman who went to Washington with an incontrovertible aversion to compromise. For Specter, "compromise" has become another term for victory, not defeat. . . .

"'On the one hand, he seems to know that [the NSA domestic spying program] is wrong,'" explains Lisa Graves, a lobbyist for the American Civil Liberties Union who previously worked on the Judiciary Committee's Democratic staff. "But on the other hand, he is unable to stop himself from helping to ratify it.'" (Salon)

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From the AP:

Citing national security, a federal judge Tuesday threw out a lawsuit aimed at blocking AT&T from giving telephone records to the government for use in the war on terror.

"The court is persuaded that requiring AT&T to confirm or deny whether it has disclosed large quantities of telephone records to the federal government could give adversaries of this country valuable insight into the government's intelligence activities," U.S. District Judge Matthew F. Kennelly said.

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