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

Life after Jack...

Six years ago, a bill that sought to ban Internet gambling went down in flames due to Jack Abramoff's (and by extension Ralph Reed's) efforts. Now that Jack's safely restrained in handcuffs, the bill is back.

Tom DeLay, who opposed the bill last time around, has remarkably flipped this time. Anyone want to ask Ralph Reed what he thinks now? The excuse for opposing the measure last time around was that there was an exception to horse racing in the bill, and thus it was "soft on gambling." The exemption is still there. What's he think now?

According to the Wall Street Journal, the bill has a lot of momentum, with 100 co-sponsors. But that's not all. Rep. George Miller (D-CA) is planning to again push legislation to improve working conditions in the Mariana Islands. His efforts were thwarted for nearly a decade by Abramoff and the House leadership. Now seems like the perfect time to try again. Oh, when the cat's away...(WSJ)

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Call off the dogs!

Rep. Virgil Goode (R-VA) -- "Representative A" in Mitchell Wade's plea agreement -- issued a statement today saying he has done nothing wrong and is not hiring a lawyer. He also said neither he nor his staff have ever been contacted by the Feds.

In Wade's plea two weeks ago, the crooked contractor idenified Goode as a recipient of illegal campaign contributions from his company, MZM. Wade also pegged Rep. Katherine Harris (R-FL) -- "Representative B" -- for the same.

Unlike Goode, Harris lawyered up last week, as fans will recall, hiring ace campaign finance shark Ben Ginsberg. (More on Ginsberg's colorful history later.)

Mark your calendars...

The judge for Jack Abramoff's SunCruz fraud case in Florida has pushed back his sentencing there to Wednesday, March 29th. His business partner Adam Kidan will be sentenced the same day. It's earlier than the two had wanted, because they're busily talking to prosecutors and worried that doing some of that talking in public might hurt their plea deal. Or as Abramoff's lawyer put it:

"We will name names. We will provide the public with evidence of what is going on out there."

Can't wait.

Katherine Harris abruptly canceled five campaign stops, the Lakeland (FL) Ledger reports.

The paper says her campaign is in "full crisis mode," as questions mount over her involvement with crooked contractor Mitchell Wade.

They're not calling the game yet - but no one's saying those skies don't look like rain.

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.