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

Looks like while Howard Kaloogian was touring Iraq with the truth, his partner at Moving America Forward was signing contracts.

Sal Russo, who's the chief strategist for Move America Forward as well as the chief strategist for Kaloogian's campaign, is also one of the principals of Russo, Marsh, and Rogers, a big-hitting GOP consulting firm. Move America Forward operates out of the firm's offices.

On July 9th, 2005, Kaloogian and his five talk radio hosts went over to Iraq on their trip sponsored by Move America Forward. On July 13th, an item appeared in Jack O'Dwyer's Newsletter, which reports on the PR industry, that Sal Russo's firm had picked up a contract to "to get 'free media' to promote the interests of the Kurds in the post-Hussein Iraq." And that business also extended to the U.S. market - Russo, Marsh, and Rogers were hired to produce ads stateside. The Wall Street Journal described it as a "political-advertising contract with the Kurdish Regional Government in northern Iraq" to produce "advertisements that run in the U.S. seeking investment in Kurdistan."

"I just returned from a 10-day trip to Iraq," begins GOP candidate Howard Kaloogian's Web essay on his experiences visiting troops in the country. The page, part of his campaign Web site, includes photographs and captions which illustrate his point: the situation in Iraq is "absolutely counter" to what the "old-line media" reports.

His web page, like his argument, is loosely knit. And when independent researchers yesterday tugged at one string -- the veracity of a photo caption -- the rest of it has begun to unravel.

A bit of checking revealed Kaloogian did not "just return" from his trip, but in fact got back to California in July 2005. "I talk about my trip that way," Kaloogian told me when we spoke late this afternoon. "I speak to groups that way -- I didn't mean I did it this week. That was my trip last year. . . I took my vacation time to go to Iraq." He wrote the piece late last year, he said, when he launched his candidacy for convicted felon Randy "Duke" Cunningham's old House seat.

Read More →

Hotline is reporting:

Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) punched a U.S. Capitol Police officer today after he mistakenly pursued her for failing to pass through a metal detector.

Howard Kaloogian's "Truth Tour" to Iraq in July, 2005 was sponsored by Move America Forward, a non-profit, "non-partisan" outfit that Kaloogian founded. You might have never heard of them before, but you certainly know their work. It includes:

-- Producing a series of TV ads late last year that claimed Iraq did in fact have WMDs;

-- Shuttling pro-war protestors to Crawford to counter Cindy Sheehan's "Camp Casey" as part of their "You Don't Speak for Me, Cindy" tour;

-- a campaign supporting John Bolton's contentious nomination" for UN ambassador - including financing the ad campaign in Ohio that attacked Sen. George Voinivich (R-OH) for not backing Bolton;

-- backing U.S. detention policies at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, by selling 'I [Heart] Gitmo' bumper stickers."

The "Truth Tour" sent five conservative radio-talk-show hosts to U.S. military bases in Baghdad for "a week of upbeat broadcasts."

And according to the WSJ, the group grew out of the successful 2003 recall effort in California.

The Kaloogian for Congress campaign is no longer making the candidate available for interviews or making comments on the Iraq photo fiasco.

Which is too bad, because we have a few questions. For instance, the page featuring the photo includes text by Kaloogian beginning, "I just got back from Iraq." Yet he appears to have gone there in July 2005 -- several months before he entered the House race, or created the Web site. Was this an oversight akin to the bad Baghdad pic?

And who exactly snapped the photo, anyway? And who approved its use?

We may yet find out, but not from the Kaloogian campaign. Calvin Collins, campaign manager for Howard Kaloogian's bid for Randy "Duke" Cunningham's old House seat, said that the Kaloogian was not available to be interviewed, and no one else was speaking on his behalf. "No one is giving any comments," Collins told me.

It's pretty clear there wasn't just one wrong step here, but a series of doozies. Coming in the middle of a highly-charged debate over what the ground truth in Iraq is, Kaloogian's already facing accusations he's deliberately making this stuff up to support his argument that Baghdad is calm. Why won't he come clean and explain how it all happened?

It now appears California GOP Congressional hopeful Howard Kaloogian was for his misidentified "Iraq" photo before he was against it. (Google cache of photo here -- it's third from top)

In a post on the Democratic Underground web site, "KBlagburn" wrote yesterday of a conversation he had with Kaloogian in which he tried to bring the error to the candidate's attention. Kaloogian stood by the photo and caption, according to KBlagburn.

Kaloogian's campaign did not confirm the conversation but said it was possible. "If that's the case, it's because [Kaloogian] didn't have the correct information," campaign volunteer David Krive told me.

Krive said he first heard Kaloogian admit the error this morning, in a phone conversation with a newspaper reporter.

Fate officially caught up with Jack Abramoff today, as he received his first criminal sentencing. But the Abramoff scandal has created trouble for folks all over Washington -- and Jack's apparently giving plenty of dish to federal investigators from a variety of agencies looking to bring down their own targets.

As Vanity Fair reported a few weeks ago, "[a]llegedly as many as 15 people -- from various branches of the Justice Department (including the F.B.I.), the Department of the Interior, the Internal Revenue Service, and other federal agencies" have spent 200 hours pumping Jack for information. So who could Jack be implicating?

Read More →

Just to be clear about what Howard Kaloogian means could mean when he says "webmaster," we called Allen Valkoun of MDKS, the company that developed the program that runs Kaloogian's website. He said that they "don't have control of the content," and that the images are entered by who he called the "webmaster." In Kaloogian's case, he said he thought it was someone on his staff.

According to the AP. His business partner, Adam Kidan, got the same sentence.

More later.

Update: That was the minimum sentence they could have received according to the plea deal with prosecutors. See our posts here and here for how this sentencing fits in to the broader investigation.

Oops.

Howard Kaloogian, a leading GOP candidate for Randy "Duke" Cunningham's seat in Congress, posted a photo on his Web site of a quiet Turkish suburb. No problem there -- but his site said it was of Baghdad, taken during his trip there. He called it proof that Iraq was calmer than the media was reporting.

Josh tells the story at TPM of how the blogosphere rounded up a posse and proved the pic was a fake -- or rather, the pic was real, but the caption was hooey.

We reached Kaloogian by phone moments ago. Here's what he had to say:

[O]n the way back from Baghdad some of the crew stopped in Istanbul as a layover. We turned all the photographs [from the trip] over to the webmaster, and it appears he took one from the stopover and not from Baghdad. If a mistake happened, we'll correct it.


Kaloogian noted that he brought back "hundreds and hundreds" of photographs from the trip. He declined to identify his webmaster's name, saying only that he was "a member of my staff."

TPMLivewire