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

Our intelligence czar living the czar's life. From CQ:

On many a workday lunchtime, the nominal boss of U.S. intelligence, John D. Negroponte, can be found at a private club in downtown Washington, getting a massage, taking a swim, and having lunch, followed by a good cigar and a perusal of the daily papers in the club's library.

"He spends three hours there [every] Monday through Friday," gripes a senior counterterrorism official, noting that the former ambassador has a security detail sitting outside all that time in chase cars. Others say they've seen the Director of National Intelligence at the University Club, a 100-year-old mansion-like redoubt of dark oak panels and high ceilings a few blocks from the White House, only "several" times a week....

...there seems to be a new, relaxed John Negroponte. And some close observers think they know why.

He's figured out the job. Which is to say, he really doesn't have much control over the 16 U.S. intelligence agencies.

So Duke Cunningham got 8 years, 4 months. (SDUT) Where does it go from here?

The Washington Post reported Friday that the investigation has spread into the Department of Defense, particularly into an intelligence agency called CIFA (Counterintelligence Field Activity). (Daily Muck)

And as Josh mentioned, the CIA has opened an investigation into Kyle "Dusty" Foggo's ties to Brent Wilkes. Wilkes bribed Duke Cunningham to get contracts - we know that. But Wilkes was much closer to Foggo. How close? From the San Diego Union Tribune:

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Oh, Ralph, what can we say? Best laid plans and all that.

Today's story on Ralph Reed in the Atlanta Journal Constitution reveals that he knew that he was working for an online gambling company named eLottery, Inc. when he helped kill the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act.

He's said, of course, that he did not know.

But really, that just makes him sound sloppy. Let's give the man his due: he very carefully and skillfully obscured his relationship with Jack Abramoff's gaming clients. He knew that it would have been bad for his reputation, and thus for business. So he took a number of key steps to leave no paper trail:

First, the true client's name did not appear on the contract. Nominally, Reed was working for Abramoff's law firm.

Second, he did not register as a lobbyist for the client. The eLottery contract specifically said that none of his activities would "require registration as a lobbyist in any state or with the federal government."

Third, the fees were routed through at least two intermediaries before they reached Reed. In the case of the eLottery work, the money went first to Americans for Tax Reform, then on to a shell organization called the Faith and Family Alliance, and then on to Reed's firm.

Fourth, and here's where you have to admire his restraint, he almost never referred to the client in writing. Hundreds of pages of Abramoff's emails have been released, and he's only gotten burned a few times.

It's a shame that the fifth step, lying to the press, has received so much attention. Reed was the architect of a much larger, more sophisticated effort than that.

In the market for a commode? a piece of history?

Duke's antiques are set to be auctioned off in three weeks.

See the loot here - it's under "Antiques."

Proceeds to benefit the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation branch and the Defense Criminal Investigative Service.

As a professional muckraker, I wouldn't mind so much if this whole lobbying reform effort just passed on by without much more of a fuss. True reform would be bad for business.

But as a citizen, I must admit to some frustration.

Say it with me: There is a bipartisan reluctance to pass strong ethics reform. How does that sound to you? It's true.

Yesterday, Democrats had another chance to help set themselves apart from Republicans on this issue and to really push it. Without getting mired in the specifics, here's the thing: Sens. Collins (R-ME) and Lieberman (D-CT) put forward legislation that would establish an Office of Public Integrity, an external agency to investigate ethics complaints. Sen. Obama put forward something very similar last month and it didn't make much of a splash.

It didn't go over any better this time around. Three Senate Democrats on the committee helped vote it down 11-5.

Now, two of the three Dems - Sens. Akaka (D-HI) & Pryor (D-AR) - who voted against it sit or recently sat on the Senate ethics committee. Apparently they agree with Sen. Voinivich that "The ethics committee is already doing those things." Fine. How many voters think that? Do you?

The Republicans haven't had to stick their necks out on this one yet. Make them fight for their gifts and meals. And make them, again and again, get up in front of cameras and say that the ethics process is working.

If they don't, then nothing meaningful will come of any of this. And the muckraker in me would rejoice.

Something about Rep. Katherine Harris (R-FL) really brings out terribly snarky responses from TPM Readers.

Yesterday, Paul noted the Florida Recount Queen took $50,000 from the infamous Mitchell Wade of MZM, only to miss the deadline to get an earmark inserted for the company.

Reader LB : "This is the same Katherine Harris, if you remember. . . who was such a stickler for deadlines in November of 2000."

Harris was wined and dined by Wade at swanky Citronelle, reader ZK spots in a Sarasota Herald-Tribune report -- a real eyebrow-raiser, since the restaurant's prix-fixe menu starts at $85, well over the Congressional $50 gift limit.

Finally, reader MP warns us to mark our calendars. In two weeks, Harris will be speaking at the Reclaiming America for Christ conference in the holy city of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. Topic: how to "reset the wildly spinning moral compass of our great land."

Perhaps her new lawyer will have some suggestions.

Today's Duke Cunningham Sentencing Day! (USA Today, AP)

And it seems the only appropriate way to celebrate would be with a widening investigation into Pentagon contracts.

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Ah, now the gang's all here.

Here's a rosy-cheeked (and for some reason, overall rosy) Warren RoBold, the latest mugshot from Tom DeLay's bad bunch of money launderers -- okay, okay, alleged money launderers -- down in Texas.



RoBold, a big fundraiser for DeLay, was indicted way back in '04 for his role in funneling corporate contributions to Texas Republicans. He joins John Colyandro and Jim Ellis - and of course the beaming Tom DeLay.

A while back, we posted an email exchange that shows Warren RoBold setting up a fundraiser for DeLay's ARMPAC in Abramoff's skybox.

Well, it's not exactly a bribe menu, but...

Brent Wilkes, whom we'll simply identify as the dirtier of the two defense contractors who bribed Duke Cunningham (see below), had more than one friend in Washington. As we've mentioned before, he was close ($37-million-in-earmarks close) to Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA).

On November 14, 2003, Wilkes hosted a fundraiser for Doolittle at his swanky corporate headquarters - possibly to thank him for the $18 million in earmarks Doolittle had "steered" toward Wilkes' company that year.

You can see the menu here. It comes to us courtesy of Wilkes' wife's catering company's website, which is as far as we can tell the only website left standing of the once-formidable Wilkes empire. It's one of their sample menus; they're understandably proud of their work. And no, pork was not on the menu.

One thing I can't quite figure out though: the ticket theme. Is it meant to symbolize that Doolittle was Wilkes' ticket to government contracts? Or that Wilkes, who along with his cohorts gave Doolittle $85,000 over 3 years, was Doolittle's ticket to a healthy campaign?

Oh, who cares. Mmmm... Applewood smoked bacon wrapped filet...

(Late Update: I stand corrected. TPM reader JB writes "'Actually, pork (bacon) was on the menu. No jokes about "bringing home the bacon?'")

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