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

Why is Rep. Charles Taylor (R-N.C.) getting a free ride on his shilling for Jack Abramoff?

Yesterday's AP story about Abramoff's work for the Saginaw Chippewa had some damning stuff.

In 2002, Abramoff's team was trying hard to land their client, the Saginaw Chippewa of Michigan, a $3 million grant to build a new school. Here's where Taylor came in. First, Taylor wrote a forceful letter prodding reluctant Interior officials to endorse the grant. Then he helped Abramoff bypass a troublesome member of his own staff, who was holding up the deal. In return, Abramoff put on a fundraiser and threw some contributions his way.

Read More →

Brian Bilbray's a funny guy. I don't mean funny ha-ha -- I've never met the man. But he's got a spotty history with lobbyists and lobbying that make him an odd fellow for the GOP to run for Congress -- in California's 50th, anyway.

Bilbray was the top GOP vote-getter in last night's special election in the district, once represented by Randy "Duke" Cunningham. Bilbray will face off against Democrat Francine Busby in a special election this June. So we'll be seeing more of him.

During his recent years as a lobbyist, and his earlier Congressional career representing California's 49th District in the late 1990s, Bilbray made some questionable choices.

Read More →

Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald issued a correction today of his filing last week. Apparently Scooter Libby didn't actually say that he'd been told to tell Judith Miller of the New York Times that a key judgment of the National Intelligence Estimate had been that Iraq was "vigorously trying to produce uranium." You can read Fitzgerald's letter here.

Why's this a big deal? Because that finding wasn't a key judgment. So Libby would have been lying if he'd said that. The NY Times, relying on Fitgerald's version of Libby's testimony, wrote a piece pointing that out.

The original filing read: "[Libby] understood that he was to tell Miller, among other things, that a key judgment of the NIE held that Iraq was 'vigorously trying to procure' uranium.'"

But Fitzgerald has amended the sentence to read: "[Libby] understood that he was to tell (then-New York Times reporter Judith) Miller, among other things, some of the key judgments of the NIE (National Intelligence Estimate), and that the NIE stated that Iraq was 'vigorously trying to procure' uranium." (my emphasis)

So I guess you can subtract one data point of mendacity from the administration leading up to war.

Despite attempts by some Republicans to soften reform efforts, Rep. Bob Ney - that's Rep. #1 to you and me - is pushing for a hard line.

The House Republicans have been steadily dialing back expectations for lobbying reform since January, but there seemed like there was one measure they could all agree on: cutting off pensions to former House members convicted of a crime.

Apparently such a measure seemed needlessly draconian to Rep. Vernon Ehlers (R-MI). But Rep. Bob Ney (OH), seeing an irresistible opportunity to seize the mantle of ethics reform, intervened.

From Roll Call:

What in the world was House Administration Chairman Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.) thinking? During his panel's markup of lobby reform legislation last week, Ehlers was all ginned up to offer an amendment that would have weakened the bill so that pension benefits would be denied to Members convicted of public corruption charges only during their period of imprisonment. Once out of jail - voila! - their retirement pay would resume.

Read More →

The Hotline on Call is an outstanding blog with good information and seasoned reporters. But yesterday they made a comment that struck me as a bit too forgiving towards the Republican National Committee.

In an post explaining why Republicans at the national level probably didn't know about the New Hampshire GOP's jamming of phones used by Democratic volunteers to get out the vote, the Hotline blog wrote:

. . .[T]he Republican National Committee, out of perhaps commendable (and perhaps foolhardly) loyalty to one of their own, has paid for Mr. [James] Tobin's legal bills.


Tobin was a regional political director for the RNC-affiliated National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee at the time he assisted with the phone jamming.

But his bills have been significant -- they now top $2.5 million, according to news accounts. Tobin is receiving the services of a team of lawyers from Williams & Connolly, among the whitest-of-the-white-shoe firms D.C. has to offer.

In an election year that could see the GOP lose several seats in Congress, that's a lot of money to divert to the legal defense of a campaign worker who engaged in patently undemocratic behavior. It's hard to look at that figure and not wonder if there's a political calculation behind it.

The Lie of the Mobile Labs

A secret team of experts dispatched by the Pentagon reported conclusively that two trailers captured in the early days of the Iraq war could not have been used as "biological laboratories," but the Bush administration repeated the false claim for more than a year, the Washington Post reports this morning. They give a great timeline.

The CIA wouldn't talk to the Post's Joby Warrick for the story. Also mum: former CIA director and Medal of Freedom recipient George "Slam Dunk" Tenet, who continued to push his analysts' trumped-up mobile labs theory as "plausible" even after David Kay's Iraq Survey Group debunked the myth -- a second time -- a year after the secret group filed its report.

We assume this was all "in the public interest." (Washington Post)

Read More →

In a prepared statement, Republican National Committee chief Ken Mehlman responds to brewing storm over New Hampshire phone jamming scandal:

"As White House political director during the 2002 election cycle, my staff and I regularly communicated with competitive Congressional campaigns and Republican Party organizations. One of the most competitive was the Senate race in New Hampshire and throughout the election season and Election Day, Alicia Davis, my deputy responsible for the Northeast, frequently communicated with the New Hampshire State Party, the RNC and others.

"To be clear, none of my conversations nor the conversations of my staff, involved discussion of the phone-jamming incident. While I have profound policy disagreements with Chairman Dean, I have always tried to maintain what he and I discussed when we were first elected: keep it to the issues."


Two points to the Hotline for picking Alicia Davis as Tobin's frequent Election Day conversationalist.

Was Jack Abramoff involved somehow in the New Hampshire phone jamming? New details discovered by TPMmuckraker.com strengthen the case.

It's been widely reported that two of Abramoff's tribal clients made contributions to the New Hampshire Republican State Committee shortly before Election Day. The contributions had been reported to total $10,000 - but the tribes actually gave at least $15,000, according to records obtained by TPMmuckraker.com.

And now there are new details that show that two of Abramoff's business associates, Michael Scanlon and Ralph Reed, had both hired GOP Marketplace, the consulting firm hired to do the jamming, to do election work during the same year. According to a source close to the case, GOP Marketplace's work for Scanlon had related to the Lousiana Coushatta's election for tribal chairman. The Coushatta were an Abramoff client.

Read More →

AP reports:

A Republican Party official and Jack Abramoff's lobbying team bluntly discussed using large political donations as a way to pressure lawmakers into securing federal money for a tribal client, according to e-mails gathered by prosecutors.

The e-mails detail how Abramoff's team worked to leverage assistance from the White House, Congress and the GOP to get a reluctant federal agency and a single Republican congressional aide to stop blocking school construction money for the Saginaw Chippewa tribe. The e-mails were obtained by The Associated Press.

Abramoff's team ultimately prevailed when the congressional aide was overruled, several lawmakers pressured an Interior Department agency and Congress itself set aside the money for the tribe. Lawmakers who helped got thousands of dollars in fresh donations from Abramoff's team.

LiveWire