How the Hammer Fell on His Own Party
"The legacy of the once powerful Republican Tom DeLay of Sugar Land cast a long shadow over last week's elections, in which voters shrank the ranks of a party accused of being too partisan, too cozy with special interests and too fond of big spending. . . .
"'When Tom and his bunch first ran, they campaigned against the cesspool in Washington. After a while they looked around and said, "Hey, this isn't a cesspool, it's a hot tub," ' said seasoned conservative activist Richard Viguerie. (As a state lawmaker, DeLay was nicknamed "hot tub Tom" because of his penchant for enjoying the good life)." (Houston Chronicle)
Warrantless Wiretaps Unlikely to Be OK'd
"Legislation aimed at President Bush's once-secret program for wiretapping U.S.-foreign phone calls and computer traffic of suspected terrorists without warrants shows all the signs of not moving ahead, notwithstanding President Bush's request this week that a lame-duck Congress give it to him.
"Senate Democrats, emboldened by Election Day wins that put them in control of Congress as of January, say they would rather wait until next year to look at the issue. "I can't say that we won't do it, but there's no guarantee that we're going spend a lot of time on controversial measures," Democratic Whip Richard Durbin of Illinois said Thursday.
"In Senate parlance, that means no." (AP)
Waxman Set to Probe Areas of Bush Gov't
"The Democratic congressman who will investigate the Bush administration's running of the government says there are so many areas of possible wrongdoing, his biggest problem will be deciding which ones to pursue.
"There's the response to Hurricane Katrina, government contracting in Iraq and on homeland security, political interference in regulatory decisions by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration, and allegations of war profiteering, Rep. Henry Waxman [D-CA] told the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce.
"'I'm going to have an interesting time because the Government Reform Committee has jurisdiction over everything,' Waxman said Friday, three days after his party's capture of Congress put him in line to chair the panel. 'The most difficult thing will be to pick and choose.'" (AP)
Torture Not Widely Discussed During Midterm Election Cycle
"The October issue of Theology Today, a scholarly journal published by the Princeton Theological Seminary, featured a series of articles on torture. 'It is a matter of shame,' writes one of the contributors, Jeremy Waldron, a professor of law at New York University, that 'we have no choice but to conduct a national debate about torture.'
"That debate, Professor Waldron continues, is not about stopping torture by 'corrupt and tyrannical regimes' but about whether the American people and the American nation want 'to remain part of the international human rights consensus that torture is utterly beyond the pale.'
"There were few if any signs of such a debate in the midterm election campaigns. That cannot simply be because of the governmentâs insistence that the United States abhors torture and does not practice it. The government insists on many things â about the war in Iraq and economic prosperity, for example â that its political opponents do not hesitate to challenge and challenge vociferously.
"Torture is different. It is such a stain on personal and national character that nothing but appalling photographs could have forced the subject to the fore. When it comes to pressing the question of official complicity, no stack of equivocating documents can have similar force. In a season of shameless attack ads, torture is still too shameful to be debated." (NY Times)
Democrats May Use Probes to Force Policy Shifts
"The new Democratic leaders in Congress are likely to move quickly to use their investigative powers as a key lever to force changes in the administration's policies on the Iraq war and domestic spying, according to congressional staff members.
"Despite the conciliatory language this week between the White House and the new leaders of Congress, Democrats expect to launch probes into the administration's use of prewar intelligence on Iraq and its domestic wiretapping program and into Vice President Dick Cheney's energy task force, current and former aides said.
"The goal, they said, will be to force changes by shedding light on problems with the existing policies." (Boston Globe, LA Times)
Cleric Claims He Was Tortured While Under U.S. Jurisdiction
"A Muslim cleric has claimed to have been tortured with electric shocks, left in a cell where rats crawled on him and threatened with rape after he was allegedly kidnapped from a Milan street by CIA agents three years ago.
"The claims of Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, appeared in an affidavit provided to Milan prosecutors investigating his alleged abduction in February 2003, the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera reported yesterday.
"Prosecutors say that the cleric, who was formerly suspected of links to terrorism, was driven to the Aviano military air base and flown via Germany to his native Egypt before being secretly interrogated for six months." (The Daily Telegraph [U.K.]}
Dems Pledge to Sever Ties to Lobbyists
"On Day 1 of the next session of Congress, newly empowered Democrats are promising restrictive rules to 'break the link between lobbyists and legislation.' The city's veteran lobbyists know what to expect on Day 2: requests for political donations from the Capitol's new stewards.
"Ethics watchdog groups are hopeful as incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi [D-CA] readies the Democrats' 'Honest Leadership and Open Government' initiative for opening day in January. The plan includes a list of changes designed to clean up what the party calls "a culture of corruption" in Washington....
"Fred Wertheimer, president of the ethics watchdog group Democracy 21, acknowledged there's no magic cure, but added: 'There's a difference between doing nothing and doing something. We've got a real shot here of doing something important.'
"Pelosi says Democrats will end the culture that allowed one-time super lobbyist Jack Abramoff to hand out perks in return for lawmaker favors for his clients, and that led to the jailing of former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham [R-CA] for accepting $2.4 million in bribes." (AP)
Pelosi Positioned to Bring S.F. Dollars
"Tip O'Neill secured down payments for Boston's Big Dig. Sam Rayburn sent gushers of cash back to Texas, along with tax breaks that helped its oil industry. Hospitals, schools and nonprofits in Dennis Hastert's hometown of Aurora, Ill., have seen millions roll in during his reign. Now Rep. Nancy Pelosi [D-CA] of San Francisco is poised to follow them as speaker of the House â a perch predecessors used to channel big cash to pet projects back home.
"Pelosi, a Democrat, will be the first Californian to hold the post, and congressional watchdogs say they'll be observing her new spending clout with great interest." (AP)
Warrantless Eavesdropping Claim Rejected
"A federal judge has dismissed claims that prosecutors illegally built their case against a convicted al-Qaida supporter on information obtained from the Bush administration's warrantless eavesdropping program.
"Truck driver Iyman Faris, 37, of Columbus, Ohio, is serving a 20-year prison sentence after admitting in a plea bargain that he conspired with al-Qaida on an aborted plot to bring down the Brooklyn Bridge by cutting its suspension cables. But Faris sought to have his sentence set aside, in part because of suspicions that the government's eavesdropping program tainted the case.
"The ruling by U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema, filed earlier this week, is under seal, so it is unclear why she dismissed the claim." (AP)
Menendez Still Under Investigators' Scrutiny
"Three days after the election of New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), FBI agents are preparing to serve another round of subpoenas in a case involving Menendez's financial relationship with a community organization that received federal funding with Menendez's help.
The new subpoenas, from the U.S. Attorney's Office in New Jersey, will be served on a circle of people 'associated with the senator and his office,' a senior government source told ABC News. Sen. Menendez is not considered a formal 'target' of the investigation at this point, according to investigators who describe him only as 'a person of interest' in the federal investigation." (The Blotter)
Pelosi Backs Murtha for Majority Leader
"Rep. Nancy Pelosi [D-CA], in line to become speaker of the House, stepped into a postelection power struggle among fellow Democrats on Sunday with a letter of support for Rep. Jack Murtha in the race to pick a majority leader....
"Murtha, a former Marine who is respected for his knowledge of defense issues, gained national attention last year when he said U.S. troops should be withdrawn from Iraq.
"Murtha announced last fall he intended to run for majority leader if Democrats won control of the House, a pre-election jab at Hoyer at a time the Marylander was pledging support for Pelosi." (AP)
Titus calls for outside probe of Gibbons case
"Saying the 'credibility of the whole case is shot,' state Sen. Dina Titus on Thursday called for an independent investigation into allegations that Republican Gov.-elect Jim Gibbons assaulted a woman and tried to force himself on her sexually.
"'If ever there was a case where you could make a call for an independent investigator, this would certainly be one,' the defeated Democratic gubernatorial candidate told the Sun. 'I think people see it that way, too, just from the average man on the street.'" (Las Vegas Sun)
Anti-Foley Blogger Speaks Out
"Lane Hudson had no idea he would bring down a congressman when he sat in his living room and turned on his laptop one Sunday morning nearly seven weeks ago.
"The former congressional aide, who is gay, had been railing for weeks on his anonymous blog against congressmen who sexually preyed on young people. That day in late September, he decided to post a series of suggestive e-mail exchanges between Rep. Mark Foley and a male former congressional page." (LATimes)