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More Texas fun.

Either Texas Governor Rick Perry laundered state funds through a secret, possibly illegal lobbying contract, or Comptroller Carole Strayhorn, who's running against Perry for governor, is deliberately misconstruing the facts in order to make Perry look bad. Either way, it's a good story.

As I noted yesterday, Strayhorn halted the state's lobbying contract with Cassidy & Associates, a $15,000/month arrangement through Texas' Office of State-Federal Relations. Todd Boulanger, formerly of Team Abramoff, was the lead lobbyist for Cassidy. She wouldn't say why she'd stopped it, only that her audit had raised "enough questions."

Enough questions? We've been asking plenty of questions about the contract - about, for example, how it's a bald attempt to route taxpayer money to Republican lobbyists. But Stayhorn, in her few comments, raised a new, much more serious question.

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What's going to happen to the Washington Post's new blogger? We're trying to find out ourselves, but folks who know have gone to ground.

The blogosphere put on its research hat yesterday and dug up at least half a dozen instances of apparent plagiarism by Ben Domenech, the conservative blogger whose recent hiring by the Washington Post sparked a firestorm in the blog world.

DailyKos has some examples, and then some; Atrios has a few more -- oh, and more.

We've been calling the to find out what its thinking on their new hire is, but they haven't gotten back to us. Domenech himself has not yet replied to our email.

The has, however, gone ahead and launched his page. Be forewarned -- all the biting comments take a while to load.

The Post's Howard Kurtz mentioned the brewing fiasco in an article this morning, but treaded lightly:

Late yesterday, the liberal Web sites Daily Kos and Atrios posted examples of what appeared to be instances of plagiarism from Domenech's writing at the William & Mary student paper. Three sentences of a 1999 Domenech review of a Martin Scorsese film were identical to a review in Salon magazine, and several sentences in Domenech's piece on a James Bond movie closely resembled one in the Internet Movie Database. Domenech said he needed to research the examples but that he never used material without attribution and had complained about a college editor improperly adding language to some of his articles.

Look up -- does anybody see another shoe, and does it appear to want to drop?

According to a Washington Post article this morning, Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Stephen Cambone has ordered an internal Pentagon review ostensibly to find out how MZM got its contracts to work in CIFA, DoD's highly classified domestic counterintelligence office.

MZM had other Pentagon contracts, however. has learned that the company, once owned by admitted felon Mitchell Wade, provided staff to an unidentified ops center within the Pentagon's homeland defense operations.

According to unclassified govenrment documents, MZM provided at least three "watchstanders" and two administrative assistants to the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Homeland Defense Paul McHale. Watchstanders work in operations centers, monitoring reports and sounding alerts when necessary, according to a GSA description of the position.

Our calls to McHale's office were not immediately returned.

This isn't the only MZM-Pentagon contract in which Cambone has little interest; MZM did work for the Army's National Ground Intelligence Center, which does not appear to be part of Cambone's internal investigation. We'll be following this closely.

At PA Religious Group, HHS Grants Go In, Campaign Help Comes Out

Here's a neat trick, courtesy Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA): earmark $250,000 over three years to your favorite quasi-religious abstinence charity; come election time, they can work your get-out-the-vote efforts. God helps those who help themselves. (Philly Daily News)

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James Tobin, the RNC's regional political director in 2002, was convicted for his part in orchestrating a scheme to jam Democrats' phone lines on Election Day, 2002. Turns out he was in more or less constant contact with the White House Office of Political Affairs through much of that day. You figure the phone jamming effort ever came up in their many conversations?

Tobin's and his fellow conspirators' phone records were introduced as evidence at his trial, and for a long time, the Senate Majority Project has been busily analyzing them to figure out just who Tobin was speaking to.

They're not done yet. But here's what we can tell you from their preliminary analysis. Tobin called the White House Office of Political Affairs, which was run by now-RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman, more than 75 times from Sept. 30 to Nov. 22 of 2002. That much was reported today in New Hampshire's Union Leader. You can see the analysis that was based on here. He was also in touch with the White House on the day the phone-jamming was taking place.

First, a bit of backstory to catch everyone up. Chuck McGee, the Executive Director of the New Hampshire Republican Party, hatched the plan in October of 2002 and brought in Tobin for help in carrying it out. Tobin brought in Allen Raymond of GOP Marketplace, who arranged for an Idaho call center to call Democratic phone lines and hang up repeatedly from 7:45 AM until 9:10 AM.

The question has always been if the scheme went any higher than that. As we mentioned earlier this week, the government thought that Tobin's superior at the RNC, Terry Nelson, knew enough that he was placed on their witness list. And these phone records show that Tobin was very closely tapped in with the White House.

He called the White House twelve times on the day of the phone jamming, the first time at 11:20 AM -- not long after Verizon intervened to shut down the scheme. The conversation was five minutes long. Do you think it ever came up?

Prosecutors are continuing to build their case against Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA).

A grand jury has subpoena'd documents from his daughter's old law firm, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

Jefferson is under investigation for cutting dirty deals involving new telecommunications businesses in Africa, and trying to get his family members in on the action.

Prosecutors have known of the law firm's involvement in Jefferson's deals -- it even drew up papers for one of them, and the work was probably done by Jefferson's daughter, Jamila.

Prosecutors have known all that for some time. So this request for paper is either to nail down a detail of their case -- or put the screws to Jefferson's daughter, in an effort to get him to talk.

Dispatch from the field. from Los Angeles, Calif., reader AP reports on today's auction of booty belonging to disgraced former lawmaker Randy "Duke" Cunningham. Apparently, deals were had:

Cunningham's loot sold for a total of $92,725 by my count, ranging from a $10,000 rug (real nice) to a $225 folding screen (junk). It seemed to my inexperienced eye that nice antiques were going for well under market value. The hall was crawling with press but all of the bidding was serious except for one goofball in a bad tux with an American flag bowtie who tried to bid with a pingpong paddle with a picture of Stephen Colbert instead of his bidder's number. I think the auctioneer was rather amused.

You heard it here first, folks. It sounds like we may even have scooped the Colbert Report.

See our post yesterday for pictures of the booty.

Texas Comptroller Carole Strayhorn is turning off the spigot on Gov. Perry's money hose.

Today, there's news from Texas that Strayhorn, who's running as an independent against Perry for governor, has halted the state's contract with a Washington lobbying firm, Cassidy & Associates. There are a number of very interesting facts to note about this.

First off, Strayhorn's discovered that in addition to running contracts through Texas' office in DC (called the Office of State-Federal Relations), which we've known about, in 2004 Perry funneled money straight from the governor's office to Cassidy & Associates - at a rate of over $100,000 a month.

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Your GOP market update.

Online investors are betting Tom DeLay (R-TX) won't go down on money laundering charges. "The market's at 29 to 30 percent probability that he will be found guilty of consipiring to launder money," Mike Knesevich of online futures trading company Intrade told me.

However, the market for House Republicans is plummeting, in no small part due to ethics scandals that have ensnared DeLay and others.

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