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

Still trying to puzzle out what Rep. Rick Renzi's (R-AZ) paying so much to accountants for. Flipping through old clips and FEC documents, it's clear the guy needs a lot of help keeping those books straight.

From an Arizona Republic report, May 2004:

After having to correct virtually every financial report it submitted to federal officials for two years, U.S. Rep. Rick Renzi's campaign committee thought it finally had mastered the science of accounting for donations received and amounts spent.

But the committee had to redo its latest filing to the Federal Election Commission. It was the 27th time since late 2001, when Republican Renzi first entered the race to represent Arizona's rural 1st Congressional District, that his committee's reports have required amendment.

Read More →

Today's Wall Street Journal piece adds more fuel to the fire under Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-WV), reporting that Mollohan partnered with an old friend of his to buy a 300-acre farm just months after securing an earmark for his friend's company. And it confirms that federal agents are on the case.

Here are the basic facts on the farm deal: sometime in late 2004, Mollohan inserted a $2.1 million earmark for FMW, a company headed by his friend Dale McBride. On May 31,2005, Mollohan and McBride teamed up to buy a $900,000 farm together.

There's no evidence that the money for the earmark kicked back to Mollohan himself, but, as the WSJ reports, "House ethics guidelines warn lawmakers to avoid business deals with those who benefit from their official acts." Mollohan was the ranking Democrat on the House ethics committee until last Friday, remember. One wonders if this forthcoming piece had anything to do with his stepping down - according to the Journal, his spokesman responded to the reporter's questions last Friday, so he knew it was coming.

Perhaps the most newsworthy nugget in the piece is that FBI agents seem to be making the rounds, asking questions:

Federal Bureau of Investigation agents have begun asking questions in Washington and West Virginia about the lawmaker's holdings and whether they were properly disclosed, according to people who have been contacted in recent days.

Although the Journal follows with the caveat that these types of investigations "often end with no charges filed," for the time being it just doesn't look good for Mollohan.

National Journal's Murray Waas drops a big one on Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), the Senate intel committee chair who recently praised the CIA for firing accused leaker Mary McCarthy:

[T]hree years ago on the eve of the invasion of Iraq, Roberts himself was involved in disclosing sensitive intelligence information that, according to four former senior intelligence officers, impaired efforts to capture Saddam Hussein and potentially threatened the lives of Iraqis who were spying for the United States.

Read all about it. . .

Your friendly muckraking update on Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA).

We've been trying to get the House ethics committee on the phone for a week to ask about Rep. John Doolittle's (R-CA) fundraising arrangement with his wife, who gets a 15 percent cut of contributions. Doolittle has claimed that the House ethics committee OK'd the arrangement, but inexplicably won't produce a copy of the opinion.

Well, we finally talked to someone today. They have a policy of not discussing specific cases, but one thing is clear: if Doolittle asked for the committee's opinion, he would have received it in written form. Unfortunately, the committee keeps such opinions confidential. So it's not coming out unless Doolittle publishes it.

And for some bizarre reason he's clinging to that exculpatory piece of evidence. It makes you wonder.

Rep. Bob Ney's (R-OH) not the only candidate spending a ton of his campaign cash on outside advice. Rep. Rick Renzi (R-AZ) spent over $60,000 on accounting fees between January and April. He still owes his accountants, Robert Watkins & Co., $40,000.

On top of that, he's got an outstanding $18,000 bill with his attorneys, the D.C. law firm Patton Boggs. That's a lot of money for a house campaign to spend on professional fees.

We don't know what all that money is buying him -- Renzi's office didn't call us back. It could be related to an old scrape with the FEC: last October, the commission fined Renzi $1,000 for failing to properly report nearly $100,000 in campaign donations the previous year.

Today, President Bush rolled out his brave plan to roll back billions in tax breaks for energy companies. But you wouldn't know from the coverage so far that what he's really talking about is rolling back some of the more disastrous measures of the energy bill he himself signed into law last year.

Here's the key snippet from his speech today:

Record oil prices and large cash flows also mean that Congress has got to understand that these energy companies don't need unnecessary tax breaks like the write-offs of certain geological and geophysical expenditures, or the use of taxpayers' money to subsidize energy companies' research into deep water drilling. I'm looking forward to Congress to take about $2 billion of these tax breaks out of the budget over a 10-year period of time. Cash flows are up. Taxpayers don't need to be paying for certain of these expenses on behalf of the energy companies.

The 2005 energy bill included $14.5 billion in tax breaks. It's not clear just which "unnecessary tax breaks" in particular he's talking about repealing, but he'll be hard pressed to find any that he himself didn't sign into law.

The only measure that he mentions specifically here, the "use of taxpayer money to subsidize energy research into deep water drilling," refers to former Majority Leader Tom DeLay's pet project, a $1.55 billion boondoggle to benefit the Texas Energy Center in Sugar Land that DeLay inserted into the energy bill. It was part of the bill that Bush signed, but now that DeLay's out of the picture, Bush can safely cut it out.

So what other "unnecessary" measures will Bush find in his own one-year old bill? Stay tuned.

Boy, does this guy know how to choose his battles.

Even by Congressional standards, Rep. Charles Taylor (R-NC) is a world champion waffler and equivocator. Rather than take a stand on the controversial CAFTA vote, he came up with the lame excuse that his voting card had failed. And rather than admit that he'd gotten special attention from Jack Abramoff, he quibbled over whether a group of lobbyists all getting together to give him money was indeed a "fundraiser."

But when the families of the passengers and crew of United Airlines Flight 93 want a federal grant to build a memorial, Taylor's there to be seemingly the only man in government standing in the way. Why?

For Taylor, a large landowner in the mountains of western Carolina, the issue comes down to principle: The federal government is already the largest landowner in the country, and he believes that no additional tax dollars should go to more land buying for this or any other memorial.

The requested sum is $10 million, which would be used to build the memorial in the field near Shanksville, PA where the plane crashed.

Remember that this is the guy who inserted a $3 million earmark for Abramoff's client the wealthy Saginaw Chippewa to build a new school. The tribe needed the money so badly that they've since refunded it.

But $10 million to the victims of 9/11? Naw. Do they even have a lobbyist?

Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL), the main Democratic co-sponsor of a controversial bill that would give control of the Internet to big phone companies, is in AT&T's pocket, critics are charging.

Over the past five years, the phone giant has given $1 million to a charity tied to Rush, funding the construction of the "Bobby L. Rush Center for Community Technology," the Chicago Sun-Times reports this morning.

"It is a clear conflict of interest for Rep. Rush to weigh in on this bill," Sheila Krumholz, acting executive director of the nonpartisan watchdog Center for Responsive Politics, told the paper. "People can disagree about where to draw the line on contributions and abstaining from votes, but $1 million is definitely over that line."

Both Rush and his wife, Carolyn, are board members of the Rebirth of Englewood CDC, which took AT&T's money, the Sun-Times says. Rush's son, Flynn, works for the center.

Oddly, the technology program has yet to get off the ground, the paper finds. But it is "now expected to open in the next 12 months."

The Washington Post is as excited as we are about the upcoming trial of Claude Allen, the former White House adviser who confessed to shoplifting thousands of dollars in merchandise from stores in the D.C. area.

"The Enigmatic Man" headlines the paper's mega-takeout on Allen this morning. Already it's bad: don't expect much insight from a profile that uses "enigma" in its headline. But it's got a couple choice nuggets.

Allen, of course, didn't talk for the article, nor did his lawyers. A lot of old friends and co-workers talked, mostly about how he was a decent guy but there seemed to be part of him they couldn't know. So the article is really several thousand words on how little we know about the guy.

There's a great anecdote from the executive director of the Virginia NAACP, King Salim Khalfani. In 2000, his group threatened the state of Virginia with a boycott if then-Gov. James Gilmore didn't end the state's recognition of "Confederate History Month." Claude Allen -- then the state's secretary of health and human resources -- was tapped to help smooth things out.

What was his ploy? He gave Khalfani a poster portrait of Confederate leader Gen. Robert E. Lee.

One other bit of information stood out: as we recall, he has an identical twin brother, Floyd. What I didn't know, but the Post reported, was this: Floyd works in retail security. That's an interesting twist, no?