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

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.

Woe betide the Democrat who violates ethics laws. Especially if he was trying to land a blow on the GOP's top lawmakers.

In 1996 -- that was back when we all used Mosaic browsers on the World Wide Web -- Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) leaked to the press an illegally-taped phone call of several GOP lawmakers, including then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA).

The men were coordinating media strategy for how Gingrich could best weather his ethics problems -- after Gingrich had promised the ethics committee not to do just that.

Current House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH), then a higher-up in Gingrich's revolutionary cadre, was on the call, and sued McDermott for violating his privacy rights. (Ironically, Boehner voted for the surveillance-happy Patriot Act in 2002; McDermott voted against it.) McDermott lost the case and appealed; yesterday, he lost the appeal, too.

Now he's been ordered to pay Boehner $60,000 in damages and over $600,000 to cover Boehner's legal fees.

And McDermott's trouble still isn't over! Roll Call reports the House Ethics Committee is expected -- at long last -- to create a special subcommittee to investigate him.

You may remember that a couple of months ago, Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) said on Air America that there had been day-traders working out of Rep. Tom DeLay's (R-TX) and Sen. Bill Frist's (R-TN) offices.

Well, today's Wall Street Journal reports that Slaughter and Rep. Brian Baird (D-WA) are introducing legislation to stop the practice. Although they're still quiet about who in Frist's office was doing this (and Frist has an entirely separate insider trading investigation to deal with), they've named one culprit: Tony Rudy, DeLay's former deputy chief of staff. According to the WSJ, he "bought and sold hundreds of stocks from his computer in the U.S. Capitol in 1999 and 2000."

If Rudy's name sounds familiar, it's because he's already been implicated in the Jack Abramoff investigation. Among other things, he's accused of taking $50,000 in payments through his wife in exchange for helping Abramoff's clients on two key pieces of legislation. He left DeLay in 2000 to go work for Abramoff.

So Rudy's already in trouble.

But it looks like what he's accused of here wasn't actually illegal. Classic insider trading is when someone uses non-public information obtained from inside a company. That's not the case here, which is why Slaughter and Baird are introducing the bill. Apparently the practice of this brand of insider trading is so widespread that there's a whole industry built up around exploiting insider news about forthcoming legislation that will effect a stock price. So the bill also "would require that companies register with Congress if they sell information about congressional activity to Wall Street investors."

Here's what Rudy was up to while working for DeLay, according to today's WSJ:

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President Bush said last night: "I kind of like being on the same platform as Senator Burns because he makes me sound like Shakespeare. I like a plain-talking fellow."

Now, we've spent a lot of time here at TPMmuckraker laying into Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT), Jack Abramoff's favorite senator, but we're prepared to acknowledge his positives too, and it is true that he has a talent for "plain-talking."

So in honor of what may very well be Senator Burns' last campaign, TPMMuckraker offers a compilation of his most colorful comments on Abramoff and the heat he's been taking over the guy:

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The fallout from the Dubai ports deal continues.

The senior exec for DP World, the company at the center of the brouhaha, has asked to withdraw his nomination to head the U.S. agency which overseas ports.

If you recall, critics used President Bush's pick of David Sanborn, director of operations for DP World in Europe and Latin America, to criticize the White House's closeness to the company. Well, you won't have David Sanborn to kick around anymore.

There are good questions to ask about Joshua Bolten, who's replacing Andrew Card as President Bush' s new chief of staff. Over at TPMCafe, Todd Gitlin has one: Would you buy an economic analysis from this man?

A continuing theme in the Jack Abramoff investigation, and one that seems to interest investigators very much, has been the use of wives to channel money to key players. So as a kind of public service, here's a rundown of which wives were on the take.

Rep. Tom DeLay's (R-TX) former chief of staff, Ed Buckham, seems to have been something of a trailblazer with this scheme. As early as 1997, his wife Wendy made $43,000 in "commissions" on contributions to Buckham's sham non-profit the U.S. Family Network. The contributions came from Jack Abramoff's clients - all very eager to win DeLay's favor. I'll let you judge how hard she had to work to win these "commissions."

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