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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?

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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."

Jack Abramoff and his partner Adam Kidan are being sentenced for their SunCruz fraud today in Florida. Back in 2000, they faked a $23 million wire transfer to fool other investors into dumping millions into their casino deal.

It might make for a good bit of theater - and Abramoff's lawyer has promised that he'll "name names" today (we'll see) - but keep in mind that Abramoff will also be sentenced later this year in Washington for tax evasion, bribery charges and more fraud (his Indian clients). That sentence will be longer, and since it's part of his plea deal that the two sentences for the two separate investigations will be running concurrently, today's sentence is more or less academic. Abramoff won't find out how long he'll actually be in prison for months.

In the meantime, he's got a lot more cooperating to do.

Abramoff Apologizes for Bad Language in Bad Film

In the 62-page memo crafted by Jack Abramoff's defense team to eke some leniency out of his sentencing judge, Abramoff says he was "appalled" that bad language was used in the film he produced, Red Scorpion. (Raw Story)

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TPM reader RI writes in:

Just called Ryun's office and told the person that answered my name. Then I said that Jim Ryun [who was an Olympic athlete] was a childhood hero of mine, and that I was very disappointed to hear that he had made a kiling in a real estate deal with the US Family Network. I was asked to hold on, and the person then came back on the line to say that Rep Ryun had done nothing wrong and that he is going to produce documentation to back it up. I thanked him and told him that I was looking forward to his announcement.

Sounds like it took calling him as a disillusioned track and field fan to get any kind of statement out of him!


We wait with bated breath.

Here's an update on our report on Rep. Jim Ryun's (R-KS) sweetheart real estate deal.

Yesterday we reported that the U.S. Family Network, a sham nonprofit controlled by former DeLay Chief of Staff Ed Buckham and funded by Jack Abramoff's lobbying clients, sold a Capitol Hill townhouse to Rep. Jim Ryun (R-KS) at a $19,000 loss. Given the hot real estate market in Washington, D.C. at that time, the low sale price raiseed the question of whether transaction was a de facto gift to Rep. Ryun.

To refresh everyone's memory, the USFN bought the house in January of 1999 for $429,000. Almost two years later, they sold it to Ryun for $410,000.

That sounded low to us -- and legions of TPM readers, a number of whom work in real estate, wrote in to agree. So today we spoke to two real estate appraisers who work in the Capitol Hill area to get a sense of just how low that sounded to them.

Don Boucher, an appraiser who focuses on residential properties in the D.C. area, said that the property should have appreciated “about 15% or more” during that time period, meaning that it would have sold around $500,000.

Another appraiser, who preferred to remain anonymous because he often works with members of Congress, said that the townhouse should have appreciated "by $100,000 at least." He said the low sale price "wouldn't make sense at all unless there was a fire and the place was gutted." He added, "It looks like they gave it away."

There's also a question of whether the house was ever actually formally put on the market as opposed to being sold to the Ryun's in a private sale.

The property was not listed in 2000 on the Metropolitan Regional Information System as are most properties when a realtor is involved. The area real estate professionals we spoke to said that members of Congress frequently ask that properties not be listed on the MRIS out of privacy concerns. In this case, though, the seller (USFN) was a nonprofit tied to a lobbying firm, not a member of Congress, which raises the question of why they opted not to list the property and whether the U.S. Family Network pursued competitive bids.

We again contacted Rep. Ryun's office for comment, but our calls were not returned.

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