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

On Friday we wrote about a Homeland Security Department bulletin warning corporations of "terrorist tactics" used by animal and environmental extremists. Among the groups' repertoire, DHS said, was "tying up company phone lines to prevent legitimate calls."

A number of readers noted the irony that escaped me at the time. As reader KM succinctly put it:

Phone-jamming is a terrorist tool. Ergo, Republicans are terrorists, at least in New Hampshire.


Touche.

Phone Jamming -- Conspiracy Weed Edition

Phone jamming is now a felony in the state of New Hampshire -- on Election Day, anyway. The state senate voted unanimously to make it that way, in response to the simmering scandal over GOP operatives' dirty tricks in the 2002 election. Speaking of which, former NH GOP chair Jayne Millerick again insists she knew nozzing.

"These liberal groups are smoking too much conspiracy weed," said attorney and GOP activist Charles Douglas, one of the lawyers who received some of Millerick's Election Day calls, which have fueled speculation that GOP higher-ups knew of the scam. We assume Douglas and Millerick, by contrast, smoke just the right amount of conspiracy weed -- which would explain Millerick's repeated phone calls to the same people throughout Election Day 2002. "You high?" "Yeah." (later) "You high?" "You just called me." (later) "You high?" Repeat until polls close.

Elsewhere, the New York Times soberly muses on whether the New Hampshire phone jamming scandal is our generation's Watergate. (NH Union Leader, NH Union Leader, NYTimes)

Read More →

It looks like Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA) and his wife are in for a banner year.

You'll remember that Julie Doolittle gets 15 percent of every contribution raised by her husband's political committees. Well, it turns out that they're on a record breaking pace. From today's Washington Post:

Overall, in the 2005-2006 election cycle, according to PoliticalMoneyLine, Sierra Dominion [Julie Doolittle's consulting firm] has collected $82,127 from the Doolittle committees. That is already ahead of the $77,947 in commissions in the 2003-2004 cycle, even with nine months to go until the election.


Impressive! And this is without any contributions in the last year from corrupt defense contractor Brent Wilkes or Jack Abramoff.

When asked by the Post about the propriety of their scheme, Doolittle's spokesman stood by it, saying that it was "consistent with that of other fundraisers" (which is wrong - only one other member of Congress has a similar arrangement) and that it "was designed to avoid the appearance that Sierra Dominion is compensated for anything other than its tireless and effective work." Got that? So it appears to everyone else as if the Doolittles are profiting personally from every single contribution made to his committees, providing a perfect method for funneling bribes, but actually, this setup was chosen to avoid the appearance of impropriety. Oh, the irony.

The House Armed Services Committee is expanding its probe into the work of former member Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA), who is now serving an eight-year sentence in federal prison on corruption charges, Copley News Service reports.

Committee chair Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), a former ally of Cunnigham's, ordered the panel's investigator to review all of the panel's documents from Cunningham's time in Congress, from 1991 to his departure in 2005. Initially, the probe was only for the years 2003 through 2005.

As Copley points out, it's nice but it's not enough. Cunningham appears to have done most of his dirty work not from the Armed Services panel but from the House Appropriations Committee. Yet inexplicably, Appropriations chair Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA) refuses to open any sort of investigation into the disgraced lawmaker's activities.

The drip, drip, drip of incriminating Abramoff details continues.

This time, prosecutors dropped 278 emails that detail the kind of chummy chicanery that fallen superlobbyist Jack Abramoff shared with former General Services Administration official David Safavian.

A sample excerpt, courtesy of WaPo:

On May 14, Abramoff wrote: "Can I host a party for you at Sigs [Signatures, a restaurant Abramoff owned]? Something like cocktails? Let me know if that is allowed. I really want to do it."

Safavian replied: "No, but you can join me for a drink at the happy hour being thrown for me on Monday night at Bullfeathers on the Hill."

Abramoff: "Bullfeathers?! What?! Can you move it to my restaurant?"

The e-mails suggest that the Signatures party never occurred, but 10 days later, on May 24, Abramoff got down to business: "I have a gsa question. There is a facility which is under the control of the GSA in silver Spring Maryland . . . I was wondering if it is possible to get some of the property for a school. Do you know if that is doable and how? Thanks."

I guess everyone has their price. For Grover Norquist, it was $4.3 million.

Two weeks ago, Grover Norquist's non-profit Americans for Tax Reform was exposed in The Boston Globe as a lobbying front - maybe you missed it. The piece had the misfortune to land on a busy news day (Tony Rudy pled guilty), but, man, is it good.

For years, journalists have been trying to get their hands on ATR's donor list, to no avail. But the Globe finally got it, and found, as many have suspected for quite awhile, that "contributors include an array of special interests ranging from tobacco companies to Indian tribes to a Las Vegas casino." ATR is a big-time lobbying firm posing as a nonprofit. But that's not even the good part.

The biggest contributor to ATR was Richard Scruggs, a Democratic lawyer from Mississippi. He put in $4.3 million. What was he after?

Scruggs' law firm had won a $1 billion fee for their work on a lawsuit that resulted in a $246 billion settlement against tobacco companies (some of whom were also ATR donors). He wanted to keep his money. But Republicans were making noises in Congress of passing legislation that would limit legal fees. So:

Scruggs decided that he needed to hire a prominent Republican antitax activist to fight what he viewed as a tax on legal fees. "'There is an expression, 'If you need a thief, take him from the gallows,' " Scruggs said.


And just so there was no ambiguity about what the money was for, here's what Scruggs wrote as a bookeeping note when he made the $4.3 million transfer:



Did Scruggs get his money's worth? The Globe tersely notes, "The effort to reduce legal fees never became law. It is unknown what, if anything, Norquist did to help Scruggs."

Hmm... one would imagine that there was at least some understanding between Norquist and Scruggs of what this money was for. Norquist is probably not too accustomed, after all, to being the recipient of a multimillion dollar donation from Democrats.

Says Scruggs: "I paid a lot of money.... I thought that was the way the game was played."

As Josh has mentioned, the GOP is claiming that Democrats have voted to make illegal immigration a felony crime. Exactly the opposite is the case. Ken Mehlman's RNC is even running ads based on this lie.

Here's what happened: Late last year GOP Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) wrote and sponsored a bill that makes illegal immigration a felony. It's currently a civil offense.

After he got the bill out of committee, it caused such a hue and cry that Sensenbrenner tried to backpedal, and offered an amendment to soften his language, and make illegal immigration just a misdemeanor crime. (That's still worse than a civil offense.)

Over 190 Democrats joined 65 Republicans in voting against that amendment because they didn't think it should be criminalized at all.

The bill went to the floor with the felony language included; it passed on overwhelming Republican support.

The RNC wouldn't return my calls, and Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist's (R-TN) office was closed. When I reached a spokesman for House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL), he told me that the GOP claim was based on the committee's vote on the amendment: "It was based on the 191 dems voting on the Sensenbrenner amendment to change it from a felony to a misdemeanor."

So while a GOP Chairman came up with the idea of making immigration a felony, introduced a bill to make it a felony, and pushed it through the House on Republican votes, the Democrats' refusal even to make it a misdemeanor means they're the ones who want to make it a felony.

On the topic of the RNC footing James Tobin's legal bills, remember that their support didn't stop there. Tobin was also tapped to be the New England chairman of the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign, run by Ken Mehlman.

And he remained in that position until he was forced to resign, shortly after his role in the scheme was made public.

This despite the fact that the RNC knew, at least as early as the summer of 2003, that Tobin was mixed up in the jamming - that's when the two other key players pled guilty and fingered Tobin, who was being represented by an RNC lawyer at the time.

A new piece from Murray Waas reveals yet another leak of a classified document to discredit Joseph Wilson. This document was a March 2002 CIA report, a "debriefing of Wilson by the CIA's Directorate of Operations after Wilson returned from a CIA-sponsored mission to Niger to investigate claims."

Cheney directed the leak on July 12, 2003 says Waas. This is in addition to the September 2002 National Intelligence Estimate, which was leaked with President Bush's authorization.

Read all about it.

The RNC has been paying James Tobin's legal bills for going on three years now - at least $2.8 million to date. Why?

The official line - that they believed his innocence - doesn't fly. They've known for quite awhile just what Tobin had done. And Tobin has never disputed the central fact of his involvement. He's argued that he didn't commit a crime, which is something altogether different.

Listen to how it's been spun. Here's the official line, courtesy of The Boston Globe:

Republican Party officials say they are handling his legal bills because the charges arose from his official actions, and because he has maintained his innocence.


And here's the "love is blind" defense, courtesy of Hotline's Marc Ambinder:

...we've talked to several Republican officials and party insiders who believe that the RNC and Tobin's friends in the White House accepted his explanation(s) without applying the requisite skepticism. That's a human reaction, certainly.


So what was Tobin's explanation that was so credulously received? And what do RNC officials mean when they say "innocence?"

First, you have understand what James Tobin's role in the scheme was. According to Tobin's indictment and Chuck McGee's testimony, McGee, the Executive Director of the New Hampshire Republican State Committee, came to Tobin with the idea to tie up Democrat's phones. Tobin, rather than condemning McGee's plan, gave McGee the number for a telephone services vendor (Allen Raymond's GOP Marketplace) to carry out the scheme. That's it. That's the key piece of Tobin's involvement.

Now, Tobin's innocence in this case to you or me would mean that Tobin had no part in this. Maybe McGee was lying, or there was some confusion, or whatever. But certainly for Tobin to be innocent in the common sense of the word, he could not have known the gist of what McGee was asking him to help with.

Read More →

LiveWire