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

If you can't stand the heat, get off the ethics committee.

Rep. Alan Mollohan (D-WV) is stepping down from his post as Ranking Member on the House ethics committee, Roll Call's John Bresnahan reports this afternoon, quoting anonymous sources.

Mollohan informed House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) of his decision in a letter today, and Pelosi "has accepted his decision," a Democratic source said.

Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA) will take the spot, Bresnahan says.

Mollohan's been under scrutiny for numerous allegations of financial misrepresentations on his disclosure forms.

Another Conrad Burns earmark - maybe the best one yet.

Burns tried to push $20 million in federal funds to a company in which Ed Buckham, Tom DeLay's former chief of staff and a close associate of Jack Abramoff's, had a financial stake.

The $20 million earmark, which Burns inserted into an appropriations bill in early 2003, was to fund Guam's contract with a company called Map Roi, a software firm. Map Roi was hawking their program called GForce, which is advertised on Map Roi's website as (I kid you not) "Your complete system for winning government business."

So why was Burns (a human GForce in his own right) so eager to see Guam get more government money?

Map Roi was founded by the son-in-law of Guam's former governor Carl Gutierrez, who is himself a stockholder. And even though the company's business is getting government money, on May 1, 2003, they signed up with Alexander Strategy Group, Buckham's lobbying firm, to help them land some government contracts. As payment, they offered ASG an option on 500,000 shares in the company. The lobbying disclosure filings don't show a significant amount paid in cash fees that year.

Map Roi signed up with ASG on May 1. On May 13, 2003, the Governor of Guam boasted to his island that Guam would be the beneficiary of Burns' generosity:

Working closely with Sen. Burns, I was successful in including Guam with the state of Virginia to be part of the appropriations budget for 2004 that develops a revolutionary nationwide program called MAP ROI. MAP ROI provides data on government procurement, available federal grants, market intelligence and business development tools ... to help companies turn marketplace knowledge into increased sales...

It also helps our government and private citizens obtain more grants and assistance. This economic stimulus package will provide approximately $20 million extended over five years to the University of Guam to house and train technical personnel to implement this program.

So it would seem that no sooner had Buckham received his stake in the company that Burns went to work drumming up big business.

Burns' spokseman didn't return our call seeking an explanation. The Burns response to the LA Times piece, which briefly mentioned the $20 million contract, was that the project was not funded. And Guam never signed up with Map Roi, according to the Pacific Daily News.

So somewhere along the line, the deal fell apart, but it wasn't for lack of Burns' trying.

Late Update: Be sure to see Burns' response to the story here.

Keeping the pressure high on Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA), The Washington Post ran an editorial today on his wife's 15% cut of campaign contributions for "fundraising" services. The verdict:

The arrangement couldn't smell more.

And they add one more detail to the fray:

We've been reluctant to criticize congressional spouses whose related careers -- as lobbyists or campaign consultants, for example -- predate their marriages. Mrs. Doolittle does not appear to present such a case. Mr. Doolittle points to a 2001 Federal Election Commission advisory opinion that permitted the wife of Rep. Jesse L. Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) to be hired as a Jackson campaign consultant. In that case, though, Sandi Jackson had extensive political experience and a written contract with her husband's campaign. Asked if Mrs. Doolittle has a contract, a representative of her husband's office declined to answer specific questions. Similarly, Mr. Doolittle's office says he's been told by the House ethics committee that his arrangement is permissible, but his office did not provide any documentation.


FOX News' Brit Hume brings us the latest McKinneyana: the police report detailing the assault by Rep. Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) of a Capitol Police officer says she hit the man with her fist. Earlier news accounts said she had used her cell phone.

Meanwhile, the president of the Fraternal Order of Police -- who earlier said he wanted to make sure the punched officer could "look at his legal recourses" -- is denying that he was urging the officer to sue McKinney. "[S]everal media accounts are misleading and state that I urged the officer to sue Representative McKinney. That is not the case," FOP chief Chuck Canterbury said in a statement last week. "I am not an attorney and did not recommend any specific legal action."

Crooked Contractor Paid $2,800 for Dinner with Katherine Harris

Former MZM, Inc. briber-in-chief Mitchell Wade paide a $2,800 tab for dinner with Rep. Katherine Harris (R-FL). It appears they ran up the tab by downing a couple bottles of $1,000 wines.

Harris' campaign had earlier stated she had paid for the meal. Here's how she and her campaign handled today's revelation:

Harris acknowledged for the first time that Wade had paid for the dinner at Citronelle, reversing a statement from her congressional spokeswoman earlier this year.

But in the interview, Harris also said her campaign had, at some point, "reimbursed" the restaurant.

When asked how she could have reimbursed a business that was owed no money -- Wade paid the bill that evening -- she abruptly ended the interview and walked off.

Her spokesman called back an hour later and asked a reporter not to publish anything Harris had said Wednesday night about the dinner.

It seems her former strategist, longtime GOP operative Ed Rollins, went on the record to dish this morsel to a reporter. How on the outs with the GOP establishment do you have to be in order for your former employees to hit you on the record? (Orlando Sentinel)

Read More →

Just got a call back from Brian Walsh, spokesman for Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH), who gave a lengthy and impassioned defense of his boss' legal bills.

"Frankly, it's an unfortunate commentary on the justice system that someone has to spend a lot of money simply to clear their name and set the record straight in what is in this case completely false allegations," Walsh said.

"The bottom line is, the congressman is doing everything possible and moving as quickly as possible to put these allegations to rest and clear his name.

"Washington lawyers are obviously very expensive," he added.

I got a chance to chat with Mark Tuohey, Ney's lawyer, also. He politely declined to talk about the work that he's doing on Ney's behalf, or the number of lawyers involved. "That's generally something I don't comment on," he told me.

TPMm Reader MK has an inspired thought:

Doesn't it make it worse that Taylor claims the meeting was not a fundraiser, yet still collected money from Team Abramoff? I think it makes it more look like a straight up bribe.

So I guess it's up to Taylor which way to spin it. He met with a bunch of lobbyists and walked away with $6,000 dollars in contributions - a fundraiser or just another successful meeting?

How's this for a sign of serious trouble: For every campaign dollar Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) spent last quarter, 40 cents went to cover his "legal fees."

From January to March of this year, Ney spent $96,500 in legal fees to the law firm of Vinson & Elkins, FEC documents show. (V&E partner Mark Tuohey is Ney's attorney.) That's nearly 40 percent of his total campaign spending for the period -- $250,098.

Is the guy running for Congress, or running from jail? What do his supporters think?

Ney was notified last October that he was the target of a federal investigation for allegedly taking bribes from Jack Abramoff and his crew. Since then, he's spent over $230,000 in legal fees to Vinson & Elkins, according to his FEC filings.

In the last three months of 2005, Ney's campaign spending actually dropped by 50 percent -- apparently because his lawyers didn't send him a bill.

Neither Ney nor Tuohey immediately returned our calls on the matter.

At what point does a guy admit to his funders that they're not paying to keep him in the race, they're keeping him out of prison?

As we mentioned before, Rep. Charles Taylor (R-N.C.) was treated to thousands in campaign contributions from Jack Abramoff's team of lobbyists at an event held at Signatures, Abramoff's restaurant, in April of 2003. But he's tied himself in knots denying that it was a "fundraiser."

On a hunch, we checked his FEC disclosure records - and sure enough, he never declared the fundraiser as a campaign event, nor reimbursed reimbursed Signatures, Greenberg Traurig, or anyone else for the expense of hosting the fundraiser, as campaigns are supposed to do.

So if Taylor continues to have such trouble distinguishing a friendly lunch from a fundraiser, we're sure the FEC's lawyers could help puzzle it out for him.