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

So it looks like we're going to have one more round of journalists fighting subpoenas in the Plame case. The Times reports today that Scooter Libby's attorneys have subpoenaed Judy Miller and Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times, Matt Cooper of Time, and Tim Russert of NBC. According to the Times, Miller's lawyer will be fighting her subpoena.

Lost in all of the reporting about former domestic policy advisor Claude Allen's trouble with the law is his remarkable political career, which got going with his work as spokesman for Sen. Jesse Helms' re-election campaign in 1984 and reached its height with his position as the abstinence czar in the Department of Health and Human Services during Bush's first term. Much more on that later in the day.

But back in 1984, when Allen was still a freshfaced GOPer, he hadn't quite mastered the art of understatement, code-speak and spin that a right-wing operative needs to do his work. During the campaign in '84, a reporter from the Greensboro News-Record called to ask him about Helms' strategy; he replied that Helms' opponent was vulnerable because of his links "with the queers." He went on:

We could expound on and undertake a campaign against Jim Hunt's [Helms' opponent] connections with the homosexuals, the labor union connection, the radical feminist connection, the socialist connection.... We could go back and do the same thing with the queers.


Now, Allen went up for a judgeship in 2003, and during the hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Feingold (D-WI) used the opportunity to ask him about this little indiscretion. Allen's defense? This may sound familiar - it was all a big misunderstanding. He'd been misquoted:

"I said, 'I'd been on the campaign for two years and I have seen a lot of very strange, abnormal, out-of-the-ordinary individuals and groups working across the campaign, sir.'

And, in fact, I did use the word queer. I used the word queer, in my mind, I think at the time, in the dictionary, it was described as odd, out of the ordinary, unusual. I did not use the word as a pejorative; I did not use the word to denigrate any individual or any group.


More later on Allen's political career.

Over on Talkingpointsmemo.com, Josh noted that the administration is being pushed to hire former Congressman Fred Thompson, whose gravitas and experience could stabilize a White House that's begun to list sharply.

Thompson's gravitas and experience are already in use, however -- on the hit television series Law and Order, where he plays District Attorney Arthur Branch. And as was noted previously, one of the Law and Order shows (Criminal Intent) is going to be investigating the brutal murder of a Secret Service agent, which spreads into an investigation of the Abramoff affair, although it's TV so they don't call it the Abramoff affair.

Conflict of interest? Thompson doesn't actually act on Criminal Intent, so any information discovered in the course of shooting the show (photos of TV-Abramoff and TV-Bush?) probably aren't relevant. And he would not have to TV-recuse himself from any TV-prosecution that might touch the TV-White House.

But he's got one possible disqualifier: Having become accustomed to Law and Order's "ripped from the headlines" scripts, Thompson is probably used to working with material that's more closely based on reality than the stuff the White House reads off of, most days. Could he make the transition?

Jefferson, Bloody but Unbowed

Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA) may be under federal investigation for swapping favors for African telecommunications companies in exchange for stock and jobs for his family members. But he's carrying about his business as normal, Roll Call assures us. (Jefferson has said he is "disappointed and somewhat perplexed" by the allegations.)

In the last few weeks, Jefferson has held a fundraiser at the DNC, spoken at press conferences, even led a congressional delegation to his home district, the paper reports. (Roll Call)

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On FOX News Channel's Hannity and Colmes, Rep. Katherine Harris (R-FL) tells America she's not just staying in her Senate race, she's staking millions from her personal fortune on it.

"I'm in this race, and I'm going to win," she tells host Sean Hannity, who interviewed the Congresswoman sans his liberal sidekick, Alan Colmes.

Raising the image of her father's death -- "Sean, you were there that day," she tells Hannity -- Harris says, "he gave us a legacy of living a life of integrity."

Harris said she was putting everything - her future, her reputation, "my father's name" and "legacy," $10 million of her inheritance, into her campaign.

Harris hired a top-gun lawyer two weeks ago, after she was named as a recipient of illegal campaign donations from MZM Inc. CEO Mitchell Wade, who has pleaded guilty to bribery and conspiracy. Harris attempted to insert a funding earmark that would benefit MZM -- but she missed the deadline to get it included in the appropriations bill.

On H&C, Harris says she is spending her complete inheritance on the race in order to create "a referendum on reform and ethics."

Of Wade's contributions, Harris says "I didn't [know]" they were illegal. "He was a bad guy."

Do you remember back in January when there was all that hysteria about that Jack Abramoff character? The House Republicans rushed to the microphones (beating the Democrats by a couple of days) in order to present their lobbying reform plan. Speaker Dennis Hastert said serious things like:

I think we need to tighten even further the gift rules. A Member of Congress should be able to accept a ball cap or a t-shirt from the proud students at a local middle school, but he or she doesn't need to be taken to lunch or dinner by a lobbyist... I think members can probably function very well in this town without having to go out lunch with a lobbyist or to dinner with a lobbyist. They can pay for it for themselves, they have means to be able to do that, if that's what we have to do.


How times have changed. Now the Abramoff investigation seems to be in a lull, the public is concentrating on other things, and so today the House Republicans revealed their new and improved lobbying reform proposal. No more talk of banning gifts and meals - now the tough measure is that lobbyists would be responsible for disclosing them. And they've hit on the genius stroke of using this opportunity to go after 527 organizations, political groups like MoveOn that have been very effective for the Democrats (and for Republicans - think Swift Boat Vets - though less so). As the AP puts it, "More recently, Republicans strategists have expressed concern about the efforts by Soros and others to boost Democratic prospects in the congressional midterm elections."

So they've done away with one of the pillars of their reform effort they made so much noise about in January and tacked on a measure that's a transparently political gambit. Crafty. Let's see if that's noticed in any of the papers' coverage tomorrow morning.

As I mentioned yesterday, the pressure's building on Grover Norquist, an even more significant player in the Republican machine than Jack Abramoff.

But I didn't go into detail on how he collected his fees for laundering money for Jack's tribal clients (why the laundering? Because Ralph Reed didn't want it to be known who he was working for). Norquist's non-profit, Americans for Tax Reform, made a pretty penny on the transactions - at least $60,000 that we know of.

There's one transaction that's particularly sketchy, and which Norquist has never adequately explained. In early 2000, Abramoff was trying to funnel money to Reed in order for him to start one of his anti-gambling jihads down in Alabama - the Mississippi Choctaw were footing the bill. The Choctaw's money went to Reed (through ATR) in three payments of $300,000. Of the first $300,000, Abramoff wrote Reed in an email, "I need to give Grover something for helping, so the first transfer will be a bit lighter." ATR then wrote a check for $275,000 - so $25,000 was Grover's fee. But it seems Abramoff thought that fee would apply for the total of the money funneled through ATR, so when Grover took another $25,000 off the second payment of $300,000, Abramoff wrote to himself in an email, "Grover kept another $ 25K!" If Abramoff wasn't totally expecting Grover to keep this money, it's hard to believe that the Indians were.

When Time asked him about this last year, Norquist vaguely replied that he had permission: "He says a Choctaw representative--he can't remember who-- instructed him on two occasions to keep $ 25,000 of the money for his group."

If the CREW complaint results in an IRS investigation, and the Senate Finance Committee really starts asking questions in their investigation of Abramoff's shenanigans with non-profits, Norquist is going to have to sharpen up his answers. From the pieces out today, it appears that he's decided to hunker down and wait out the storm following the complaint. Usually talkative, he didn't respond to requests for comment, although ATR has promised an "official" reaction later. Can't wait.

Here's an interesting -- but overlooked -- detail of the Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA) saga: one of the crooked contractors who bribed the Duke Stir was apparently involved in a Total Information Awareness-like data-mining operation that looked at U.S. citizens' data.

Mitchell Wade, former CEO of MZM Inc., pleaded guilty to several conspiracy and bribery charges a few weeks ago in connection with the Cunningham scandal. But a little-noticed piece of his history goes into one of the most sensitive domestic spying operations we have heard of to date: the Pentagon's Virginia-based Counterintelligence Field Activity office (CIFA).

Wade got over $16 million in contracts with CIFA by bribing Duke Cunningham, who forced earmarks in to Defense appropriations bills on his behalf. Furthermore, Wade's second-in-command was a consultant to the Pentagon on standing up the operation.

In its brief life -- it was created in 2002 -- CIFA has had trouble keeping its nose clean. Despite the ink that's been spilled on the center, little is actually known about what it does, and how MZM serviced it.

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On Monday, we noted that RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman had killed an appointment in the State Department as a favor to Jack Abramoff, and yesterday we lavished you with several examples of Mehlman's scorn for corruption and rank hypocrisy exhibited by...people like himself. But here's another that's particularly galling: during an interview in January, Mehlman was asked about a meeting Bush had with the President of Gabon, Omar Bongo, in 2003. The details have never been quite nailed down, but it is known that Bongo had been in negotiations with Jack Abramoff to procure such a meeting for the fee of $9 million.

Here's how Mehlman responded when asked:

"That's absurd," he tells me, waving his hand dismissively. "Utterly absurd. I have worked with George W. Bush from 1999 to 2004. The notion that anyone could set up a meeting is ridiculous."


Of course, we do know that the Prime Minister of Malaysia was able to do just that through Abramoff for the fee of $1.2 million. And Prime Minister Mahathir was a very happy customer - and a little more candid about how things are done in the Bush White House:

"I did not touch the money at all. In the US, it is a practice that if you want to meet their leader, you have to go through a lobbyist and the lobbyist has to be paid... That is their system. It is not corruption at all and it is very open, but they don't reveal names."

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