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

You knew that we'd gone a little too long without any new muck on Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA). Well, today's San Diego Union-Tribune delivers.

Through his wife, Doolittle pocketed nearly $15,000 from his campaign contributions from Brent Wilkes, a key figure in the Cunningham bribery scandal, the SDUT is reporting this morning.

From his seat on the Appropriations Committee, Doolittle helped steer $37 million in contracts to one of Wilkes' companies for a technology the Pentagon never asked for -- in return, Doolittle got a hefty amount in contributions: $118,000 from Wilkes and his associates between 2002 and 2005. That's more than Wilkes steered toward any other member of Congress, including Cunningham.

Doolittle is also under investigation for his connections to the Abramoff scandal. And it's beginning to look like it's going to be a really close call on which scandal ends up worse for Doolittle - Abramoff or Cunningham. More soon.

Some days it's hard to catch a break.

Just ask former GOP operative James Tobin, recently convicted on charges stemming from a scheme to jam the NH Democratic party's phones in 2002. On Friday, Tobin's lawyers argued to have his harrassment conviction thrown out -- but the judge has so far declined to do so.

As you recall, on the eve of the 2002 election Tobin and other New Hampshire GOP campaign workers jammed the state Democratic party and the local firemen's union get-out-the-vote phones.

Three men, including Tobin, have already been convicted. A fourth has yet to be indicted -- federal prosecutors have said they know just the fellow who deserves it, but so far haven't named him.

This morning, the Washington Post reports conclusively that Secret Service personnel did not falsely portray themselves as journalists while doing advance work in a Mississippi town Bush was set to visit. An earlier article from a local paper suggested this was the case.

No, it was instead "two government employees" who first impersonated journalists from FOX News, and then impersonated the Secret Service.

Jerry Akins, the Mississippean who was the butt of the joke, had told the Biloxi Sun-Herald two days ago that he had "assumed" the two men were Secret Service, after they showed him "blue porcelain lapel pins" and a third man confirmed they were "with the Presidential entourage."

Akins' recollection seems to have improved since then. As he tells the Post now, the two men said they were Secret Service:

"[A]fter everything was over with, [the two "journalists"] approached us and they were laughing, and they said: 'You know, we really weren't with Fox. We're government, Secret Service men.'"


Now, impersonating a journalist is highly unethical and puts working journalists in jeopardy. But impersonating a federal officer -- a Secret Service agent -- is, I believe, a federal offense.

The Post quotes a White House spokesperson who assures us the administration "will discipline two government employees who masqueraded as journalists[.]" What will it do if they did in fact pose as Secret Service members?

Tom DeLay's replacement as House Majority Leader has spent nearly six months on privately-funded trips over the past six years.

According to a new study by the nonpartisan Center for Public Integrity, Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) flew 45 times on corporate jets whose owners had business before Congress.

The Washington Post reports further:

Boehner accepted 42 privately sponsored trips from January 2000 to December 2005. That put him on the road to other countries and "golfing hotspots," often with his wife, Debbie, for about half a year, "only nine days of which he listed as being 'at personal expense,' " the center said.


However, to travel in the manner of a Fortune 100 CEO, Boehner had to forego earning a bucket of frequent flyer miles with his favorite commercial airlines -- a "personal expense" the CPI study doesn't include.

Remember, those miles aren't just redeemable for air travel anymore. You can get spa treatments, luggage`-- even Starbucks gift cards. That's not easy to give up!

The Defense Department built a giant database of "geospatial" information, including data on churches, mosques, schools and other locations in the United States, Knight Ridder reports tonight from its Washington bureau.

The work was performed by MZM Inc., the company once owned by Mitchell Wade, who has admitted to several felony counts of bribery and conspiracy in the Randy "Duke" Cunningham scandal.

The Pentagon built the database at its Counterintelligence Field Activities office, known as CIFA, which has made headlines for recording protest activities by U.S. citizens. Its mission is to protect defense facilities against foreign terrorists and spies.

As we reported on March 7th, crooked defense contractor Mitchell Wade's MZM, Inc. got three contracts from the White House for "intelligence services" in 2004. That seemed odd to us, since this was with the Executive Office of the President, i.e. the White House complex, whose budget requirements generally reflect the logistical needs of a large office. What "intelligence services" did they want that couldn't be fulfilled by the various intelligence and security agencies designed to provide them?

One question in particular stood out: how common is this? Just how many contracts has the White House given out for "intelligence services?"

The answer? Four. And three were to Mitchell Wade's MZM.

Our search of the Federal Procurement Data System, going back to the beginning of the Bush administration, returns only one other contractor who got a contract for "Intelligence Services" from the White House.

That one went to Pushkin Operational Consultants, Inc. (POC), a small contractor based in Pembroke Pines, Florida owned by Matthew Pushkin. POC's contract for $247,060 was signed August 13th, 2004 and lasted through May 31st of 2005. The only other indication of the nature of the contract is that POC classifies its industry as "Administrative Management and General Management Consulting Services."

Several factors suggest that POC may have been working with MZM on the same project. Wade's contracts with the White House, for instance, worth a total of $254,437, started about the same time as Pushkin's - all in the Summer of '04. And one of Wade's 3 contracts also ended the same day as Pushkin's - May 31st, 2005.

Making their collaboration more likely, POC's business, like MZM's, was information systems. The Federal Procurement Data System shows that POC's other work (3 contracts worth $687,140.13) was for the Federal Technology Service, a government agency that provides IT and telecommunications services to various federal agencies.

He did not return our calls seeking comment.

So what does this tell us?

MZM's intelligence work for the White House, which began in the summer of 2004 and ended on July 22nd, 2005, just after Wade's involvement in the Cunningham scandal broke, was close to unprecedented. The Bush White has a history of 'stovepiping' intelligence and generally going outside proper channels in the field of intelligence. Given Wade's status as a convicted felon, his unique role as an intelligence contractor directly to the White House certainly raises questions.

As we've been telling you, Wade's company, MZM, was involved in some pretty shady stuff. Just what was this contract for? Was it related to the Iranian Democratization Foundation Wade established shortly before he received the contract? And how did MZM, whose owner is known to have bribed at least one congressman to obtain contracts, land this contract?

In Gautier, MS, U.S. Secret Service agents posed as FOX journalists when doing advance security surveillance in preparation for a presidential visit, the Biloxi Sun-Herald newspaper reports. They sure fooled local homeowner Jerry Akins!

Akins said he saw no problem with what happened and the government agents laughed about their fooling him. In the long run, he said, he'd rather have had a visit from the president than be on a segment of Fox News, anyway.


Oh, ha ha. Ashton Kutcher would be proud.

Update: Reader WV points out no one could positively identify the men as Secret Service, and there is a chance they could be volunteers, White House staff, or some other civilian component of the president's entourage.

The ink's not dry on Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne's nomination papers to be Interior Secretary, and folks are already cracking wise on the man who bounced a $111 check for a haircut.

"Now that's what I call FANCY!" writes reader KM. And from reader KC: "Do you mean to say that the hair cut displayed in your picture of Gov. Kempthorne is what $111 buys in Boise? Dude, go to the Hair Cuttery in DC! For $14 you can't possibly look worse."

And my favorite: "You mean he paid $111 to get a haircut? Which one?"

All right, nobody sent that one in. It's just my favorite haircut joke.

As in Florida, government prosecutors in D.C. and Jack Abramoff's defense lawyers have agreed that he needs much more time to tell the government what he knows - only this time the judge has said OK. According to court documents, a status conference that had been set for March 24th has been pushed back to June 6th, when Abramoff should find out his sentencing date for the bribery investigation. In the meantime, he's talking away....

He's due to be sentenced for the SunCruz fraud March 29th. That should be a good show, and possibility a glimpse of what's to come. Remember his lawyer promised that he'll "name names."

It can be no surprise that President Bush has selected someone wtih an incredibly dismal environmental record to head up the Department of Interior. But it appears that he's gone one step further and found someone who will follow through on Gale Norton's legacy of overseeing a department that was rife with muck.

Norton's Interior was Jack Abramoff's personal playground. Now, Kempthorne doesn't have any ties to Abramoff as far as I can tell (and you never know), but he does know how to creatively entertain a special interest or two.

Somehow missed in all the news reporting about Kempthorne's career as governor of Idaho was a scandal there back in 2003 over his use of corporate campaign contributions for extra perks. Here's how it went: there was a loophole in Idaho law that allowed donors to exceed the contribution limit by donating to Kempthorne's "office account." It was supposed to be for general expenses. But eight corporations all chipped in and, beyond the $5,000 each had already paid to his campaign, paid him a total of $23,000 for this special "office account."

But this didn't go to staplers, paper clips and water coolers, no. He used the money for "restaurant meals, travel, National Governors Association activities, flowers, books and a haircut." And at least one of those donors, Qwest, got a lot of help from Kempthorne on a key piece of legislation that year.

After an uproar in the Idaho press and legislature, the Idaho Attorney General moved to pass a law that closed the loophole.

And it seems that Kempthorne really suffered for it. Last year, he bounced a $111 check paying for a...haircut.

Hmm...I wonder who it will be covering Kempthorne's haircut now that he's at Interior?

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