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

As the AP reported yesterday, James Tobin, the RNC regional political director who helped orchestrate the New Hampshire phone jamming, was in very frequent contact with the White House.

But who at the White House? Tobin was calling one number, a number in the White House's Office of Political Affairs - which was run by Ken Mehlman at the time. Whose number was it?

The AP asked the White House who Tobin was calling, but they were stonewalled .

Tobin's called this number 110 times between Sept. 17 and Nov. 22, 2002. And as I pointed out earlier, it was this number Tobin called on the morning of the jamming, shortly after speaking with someone at the New Hampshire Republican State Committee.

So here's the central question: Who were all these calls to the White House going to? Who was Tobin reporting to in the chain of command?

It's a long shot, but if embattled former House majority leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) can fend off current and any future criminal charges, he could land a sweet gig on K Street, Congressional Quarterly's Shawn Zeller finds:

"What would set him apart is his strategic insight," says Charlie Black, a Republican lobbyist with BKSH & Associates. "He accomplished more in winning votes on the House floor than anyone in the last 20 years."

So does that mean that Black is planning to keep a desk free for DeLay come 2007? "I doubt if I could afford him," he says. "But he can come here and work with us anytime he wants."

Fitzgerald: Bush Put "Bully" in "Bully Pulpit"

The New York Times today looks at the impact on President Bush of the special prosecutor's recent filing in the Libby case, and finds W pitched back into the middle of the fray. The long and short of it, the NYT says via Fitz, is that the White House was out to get Joe Wilson, who went public to debunk the White House's misinformation leaks about Iraq's efforts to get uranium:

Mr. Fitzgerald's filing talks not of an effort to level with Americans but of "a plan to discredit, punish or seek revenge against Mr. Wilson." It concludes, "It is hard to conceive of what evidence there could be that would disprove the existence of White House efforts to 'punish Wilson.' "


For his part, Bush said yesterday he prompted Libby to leak so Americans could know "the truth." "I thought it made sense for people to see the truth. That's why I declassified the document," he told reporters.

Is it no surprise, then, that a president who leaks misinformation to "punish or seek revenge" on a critic, then tells Americans it was for their own good, sees his poll numbers drop to record lows? (New York Times, Reuters)

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James Tobin, the RNC big-wig who helped orchestrate the now-famous New Hampshire phone jamming of 2002, made a lot of calls the day of the crime - but three in particular indicate that his superiors at the White House's Office of Political Operations, then run by Ken Mehlman, may have known what he was up to. They show, in rapid succession on the morning of the jamming, Tobin checking his voice mail, then calling the New Hampshire Republican State Committee (NHRSC), and then calling the White House.

What this means is that Tobin placed his first call to the White House on the day of the crime shortly after speaking with someone at the NHRSC. The NHRSC, you'll remember, was the seat of the conspiracy - Chuck McGee, the Executive Director, had hatched the plan and hired a firm to carry it out. This first conversation between Tobin and whoever he spoke with at NHRSC was very likely to have covered the topic of the jamming, since it had been aborted earlier that morning. And it was right after this conversation that Tobin called the White House.

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The AP has a story this afternoon about James Tobin's contacts with the White House around Election Day, 2002, the day that the New Hampshire GOP jammed the phones for Democratic get-out-the-vote efforts. Tobin was the RNC's New England Regional Political Director at the time, and a key figure in orchestrating the jamming.

As far as details go, there's not much more here than what we learned back in March: that Tobin was in very close touch with the White House's political affairs office around the same time that he helped plan the jamming. As we noted then, he called the White House twelve times on the big day.

Democrats are pressing a civil suit against the GOP in New Hampshire, and they plan to ask a federal judge tomorrow "to order GOP and White House officials to answer questions about the phone jamming in a civil lawsuit alleging voter fraud."

The ranking Democrat on the House Ethics Committee, Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-W.V.) is under investigation. That much is clear. And politically, there can be no question that it's a black eye for Democrats.

But it's not clear from press accounts what Mollohan is under investigation for. Maybe that's because a Congressman misstating financial assets doesn't make for scintillating news copy?

Here's why Mollohan may be in trouble.

Ken Boehm of the National Legal and Policy Center filed an 81 page complaint (along with more than 400 pages of exhibits) with the U.S. Attorney's Office on February 28th. It's principal allegation was that Mollohan had consistently and repeatedly undervalued or failed to report assets on his financial disclosure reports. If true, Boehm says Mollohan would be in violation of two laws:

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"Grandma in Iraq" is ceasing publication.

Amid criticism, the Cincinnati Enquirer-hosted blog on U.S. reconstruction efforts in Iraq, written by Suzanne Fournier, Army Corps of Engineers Public Affairs Officer, is being taken down. Enquirer editor Tom Callinan said he wasn't responding to the bad press; the blog is coming down, he says, because Fournier's tour is ending.

Callinan didn't note precisely when her tour is ending, nor when the blog will cease to publish. Fournier's most recent entry is dated April 6.

Fournier's status as a flack and a newspaper blogger was first noted at TPMmuckraker.

(Via Cincinnati Beacon)

The State Department's top political appointees and other senior officials spend millions in unwarranted first-class air travel, the Government Accountability Office reports.

In its effort to spur "regime change" in Iran, the Bush administration is dumping millions of dollars into exile groups. But the pickings are slim for groups that could actually stage a coup. How slim? The administration may be casting a wayward glance at a terrorist group formerly allied with Saddam Hussein.

In a recent analysis in The New York Review of Books, Christopher de Bellaigue, who lives in Iran, writes that there are hardly any formidable opponents to the current regime. He selects two of the best possible recipients for our millions, and shows that they would be dubious investments, at best.

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There are a number of tactical differences between being Majority Leader and a criminal defendant, but the most important one of all must be that the "Hammer" approach isn't bound to fly too well with prosecutors. As I wrote before, it's not clear DeLay has any leverage with the Justice Department; so his only option may be to make sure he gets a good lawyer and play nice. In the end, all of the venom he spewed toward Texas District Attorney Ronnie Earle didn't seem to win him anything but an indictment.

So who's running the Hammer's federal defense?

Richard Cullen, the recipient of a glowing profile in today's Richmond Times-Dispatch. He's the one who offered the DoJ 1,000 emails from DeLay's office late last year as a "Christmas gift," and the one who carefully stage-managed DeLay's announcement of his retirement last week. And so far he's been able to keep DeLay from saying nasty things about the prosecutors.

DeLay seems to have landed himself a fine tactician. Cullen has a piece of three of the major criminal investigations of the day: he also has clients in the Plame investigation and the AIPAC investigation. Other clients include Boeing and Time Warner. You might say that he's right at the center of American life in these mucky times.

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