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

I wish we could all get away with stuff like this.

The Homeland Security Department announced yesterday it would conduct background checks on U.S. port workers to make sure they aren't illegal. "We will not tolerate the employment of illegal workers at our ports," DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff said announcing the initiative.

Well, that's a crock. We've been tolerating the employment of illegal workers at our ports for years. Since 9/11, the main reason we've been putting up with it is because DHS couldn't get its act together to issue tamper-proof ID cards and a background-check system to make sure only legal, non-terrorizing people help load and unload our ships.

In fact, just last month ten House Republicans lambasted Chertoff publicly for being so behind-schedule on the worker ID effort.

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Just a quick update: I spoke with Mark Feldstein, the journalism professor who's handling the archives of legendary journalist Jack Anderson. Since news stories came out over a week ago about the FBI's ham-handed efforts to review the old muckraker's documents, he hasn't heard a peep from the bureau, he said. Let's hope it stays that way.

Fitzgerald Tells All -- To High School Paper

Libby prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is notoriously tight-lipped with the media -- but his old high school's newspaper, The Owl of Regis High School in New York City, apparently caught him in an unguarded moment, scooping the major dailies on Fitzgerald's inner life.

What does Fitz divulge? He likes to "go hiking," and he's "a longtime Seinfeld fan." As for his job, "Every day is new and every day is interesting," Fitzgerald told the paper. "I love being a prosecutor; it is a great job, and it is very engaging."

No details on the Libby case, unfortunately. But who knows -- we'll be checking the Owl's web site regularly, just in case they post a follow-up. (The Owl, AP)

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Oh, ick. Here's David Safavian, the former chief of staff for the General Services Administration, writing to Jack Abramoff in 2000:

Tell me when we can get together. Given how busy you must be, I will clear my decks for a few minutes of your time. After all, you are the most watched lobbyist of the new generation. [I can only hope to follow suit someday ;-) ]

That bit of sycophancy comes to you courtesy of the U.S. Attorney's Office, who have just released another stack of the emails between Abramoff and Safavian. Safavian is due up for a May 22nd trial on charges of lying to GSA ethics and Senate investigators about his dealings with Abramoff.

We've posted a couple more of the emails for your enjoyment.

In another one, Safavian writes, "I hope to have something this afternoon for you...uh...I mean... for Ms. Capito." He's referring to Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), whose chief of staff was running a little errand for Abramoff by asking for the specifications of a GSA property Abramoff was eyeing.

And in yet another, we have a little bit more of the correspondence surrounding Abramoff's scheme to land a properly outfitted drug dealer's limo, or a bit of the "druggies bounty," as Abramoff puts it.


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.

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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.