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

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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Abramoff: a "Selfless Patriot" Scarred by Early Life in Beverly Hills

The defense team for disgraced GOP superlobbyist Jack Abramoff is pulling out all the stops as his first trial enters its sentencing phase.

They found over 260 people who would still admit to knowing the guy, and got them to write letters expressing varying degrees of support of the man who has come to personify Beltway corruption. In one of the letters acquired by AP, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) tells the judge that Abramoff, who bilked millions from Indian tribes and funneled millions of dollars through a labyrinth of fraudulent charities for personal gain and political leverage, was a "selfless patriot, most of the time I knew him."

In another effort to gin up sympathy for the convicted felon, Jack's defense constructed a farcical hagiography of the guy which stretches both facts and credulity. For instance, when his family moved to Beverly Hills, the defense writes Jack was ''among the non-upper class in a land of spoiled kids." Ah, the poor, destitute non-upper class of Beverly Hills.

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Recently, the Washington Post and have been reporting on the DeLay-Buckham front group, U.S. Family Network. Ed Buckham, you'll remember, was Tom DeLay's Chief of Staff until he left the Hill to open up his lobby shop, Alexander Strategy Group. USFN purported to be a grassroots activist group pushing causes dear to social conservatives. In fact, it functioned as a slush fund and all-purpose political favor mill through which Jack Abramoff clients (Russian tycoons, Marianas sweatshop owners and the Mississippi Choctaw Indian tribe) funneled money to Buckham, his lobbying shop and other DeLay causes.

One thread of the USFN story was the townhouse it bought near Capitol Hill. Called the "Safe House" by former Majority Leader Tom DeLay's aides, it was the headquarters for DeLay's ARMPAC, Buckham's lobby shop, Alexander Strategy Group, and of course it even had a little office for the USFN itself.

By 2000 the FEC was starting to look into the USFN, and the USFN's Capitol Hill neighbors had begun to complain that it was a business operating in a residential area in violation of local zoning laws. In their big piece on the U.S. Family Network yesterday, the Washington Post reported that when Buckham's USFN had to part with the beloved "Safe House" in late 2000 it took a $19,000 loss.

Now, that got us to wondering. A loss of that scale is far from Duke Cunningham territory. But the DC housing market was pretty hot back then and the USFN held the property for just about 2 years.

So who got such a good deal?

The buyer was Rep. Jim Ryun (R-KS).

D.C. property records show that the townhouse was sold to Ryun for $410,000 on December 15, 2000. According to the Post, the USFN purchased the townhouse for $429,000; the deed was signed January 12, 1999.

(To confirm that this was the same Jim Ryun, we found this 2004 FEC contribution listing in which a Jim Ryun who identifies his profession as "congressman" lists the former "Safe House" address, 132 D Street, as his place of residence. Roll Call, it turns out, briefly noted Ryun's purchase on June 4th 2001, but long before the scope of Buckham's and Abramoff's bad acts had come to light.)

Property sold to a member of Congress at substantially under market value can, in some instances, be construed as a de facto gift. In this case, that would be from the Buckham-controlled and Abramoff-client-funded front group USFN to Rep. Ryun.

Naomi Seligman of CREW told that Ryun's house deal should prompt a House Ethics Committee investigation. "Who else in America has lost money on a real estate transaction except [Cunningham contractor felon] Mitchell Wade?"

According to Ryun spokesperson Michelle Schroeder, Rep. Ryun was on a plane Monday and unavailable for comment.

The AP is reporting that the newest indictment in the New Hampshire phone jamming case is Duane Hansen, the former co-owner of the Idaho telemarketing firm that executed the jamming of Democratic phone lines on Election Day, 2002.

Hansen was basically the low-level enforcer - so it looks like we'll have to wait a little longer to see if the investigation bags any more heavies like RNC New England political director James Tobin. As we noted last week, Tobin was in close contact with the White House on the day of the jamming.

An exoneration for Ralph Reed in Texas...sort of.

Texas Travis County Attorney David Escamilla has just released a statement saying that he will not pursue a formal criminal investigation into Ralph Reed's lobbying activities in Texas. Not because Reed didn't break any laws - actually he says quite the opposite - but because there is a two-year statute of limitations for prosecuting misdemeanors in Texas. So Reed gets off the hook.

Reed was facing a possible investigation for not registering as a lobbyist in Texas in 2001 and 2002 while he was working there for Jack Abramoff. As I pointed out before, Reed didn't register because he wanted his work for Abramoff to be as much off-the-books as possible.

Texas law generally requires people to register as lobbyists "if they receive more than $500 a quarter to directly communicate with a state official on public policy." It was evident from emails released as part of the Abramoff investigation that Reed had done a lot of traditional lobbying - contacting public officials and the like. And Reed was certainly getting a lot more than $500 a quarter. So Common Cause Texas, Public Citizen Texas, and Texans For Public Justice filed a complaint with Escamilla's office and asked for an investigation.

But they were too late. It just took too long for all this to come to light.

Here's what Escamilla had to say about it:

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For those of you who didn't get a chance to read through yesterday's Post story on the U.S. Family Network, the Post had a handy graphic that broke down the money going in and out of the fund. It is, simply put, the finest example of a GOP slush fund that you'll ever hope to see.

There's been a lot of focus on how Ed Buckham, Tom DeLay's former chief of staff who ran the network, was getting rich off of it. But the point of such a slush fund is not just to get rich (although that's certainly part of it) - it's also to feed the political machine.

Russian oil, sweatshop labor, Indian casino, big tobacco, and political committee money goes in... and where does it go?

First, there are the general expenses of running a political machine. It financed attack ads against Democrats, paid for the townhouse used by Ed Buckham's lobbying firm and Tom DeLay's PAC (which in turn spread money to Republican congressional candidates throughout the country), and helped pay for Abramoff's skyboxes.

And then there's just straightforward personal enrichment. $1 million to Buckham and his wife, his travel costs, a Salvador Dali print, etc.

Jack Abramoff had a handful of these types of organizations (Capital Athletic Foundation, Grassroots Interactive, Eshkol Religious Academy, Toward Tradition, and the American International Center), but it seems to me that none of them were quite as successful as the U.S. Family Network. And all of them were formed later - which makes me wonder if the U.S. Family Network was his inspiration.

Here's the graphic. Enjoy.

"The systems that exist right now wouldn't be able to handle it."

That's what current Citizenship and Immigration Services director Emilio Gonzalez said of President Bush's proposed temporary guest worker program.

He said it last October, before he was confirmed as CIS head. Now he's got a different line -- something out of George Bush's old cheerleading days. "Can we do it? Yes we can," he told reporters earlier this month about the administration's proposal.

There are reasons to doubt his new enthusiasm. Many of them came from Michael Maxwell, Gonzalez's former chief of investigations, who became so disgusted by the rampant security problems at CIS that he quit his post and blew the whistle to Congress.

Why would Gonzalez strike back? Maxwell had some pretty startling revelations. Among them:

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