Primary Bugs, New Glitches Fueling Jitters In Md. and Va.
"As Maryland and Virginia voters prepared to decide tight races that could hinge on turnout, unusual attention was being paid yesterday to how the votes will be cast and counted, particularly in Maryland, where September's primary was marred by mechanical and human errors.
"In both states, record numbers of voters were continuing to cast absentee ballots. In Maryland, a last-minute fight broke out over the deadline for mailing those ballots. Elections officials across the state delivered electronic voting machines, performed final training for election judges and vowed that the primary problems would not be repeated." (WaPo)
It's a Candidate Calling. Again.
"This year's heavy volume of automated political phone calls has infuriated countless voters and triggered sharp complaints from Democrats, who say the Republican Party has crossed the line in bombarding households with recorded attacks on candidates in tight House races nationwide.
"Some voters, sick of interrupted dinners and evenings, say they will punish the offending parties by opposing them in today's elections. But critics say Republicans crafted the messages to delude voters -- especially those who hang up quickly -- into thinking that Democrats placed the calls." (WaPo, NYTimes)
Feds Seek Earlier Jailing of Abramoff
"Federal prosecutors are pushing for Jack Abramoff to be sentenced as soon as next week on charges of bribery and fraud, fearing that he will stop cooperating with their corruption probes if he is forced to go to prison far from the capital as the result of a related case.
"Abramoffâs lawyers and Justice Department counsels filed a motion last week in the U.S. District Court in Washington to advance Abramoffâs sentencing to Nov. 17, two days after he is to turn himself in on a separate guilty plea in Florida.
"Abramoff was to begin his 70-month sentence in the Florida case in March, having received three delays so he could help the governmentâs investigation of influence-peddling on the Hill. But unless he is sentenced quickly in the Washington case, the federal Bureau of Prisons will recommend that he be housed in Loretto, Pa., instead of a nearby Maryland facility." (The Hill)
Congressman Backs Off Pledge to Make 911 Call Public
"New York Republican Congressman John Sweeney, who faces a tight congressional race, has apparently changed his mind and no longer wants police to make public a 911 telephone complaint in which his wife allegedly said the congressman had grabbed her around the neck and was pushing her around the house.
"According to the Associated Press, Sweeney's attorney advised the congressman not to follow through on his promise to authorize release of the documents." (The Blotter)
Cost of Taking Fuel to Iraq Questioned in New Audit
"A Halliburton subsidiary charged the Iraqi government as much as $25,000 per month for each of as many as 1,800 fuel trucks that were to deliver gasoline to Iraq after the 2003 invasion, but the trucks often spent days or weeks sitting idle on the border, says a report released yesterday by an auditing agency sponsored by the United Nations.
"The agency said in a statement that the auditing firm it hired had found that some of the contract costs that had been questioned earlier seemed to be justified. But the agency said the findings raised new questions about hundreds of millions of dollars billed by the company under a $2.4 billion contract that the Army awarded on the eve of the conflict to KBR, the Halliburton subsidiary formerly known as Kellogg Brown & Root." (NYTimes)
Hearing Ordered in Ala. Corruption Case
"A federal judge on Monday scheduled a hearing to determine if jurors who convicted former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman and former HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy of corruption improperly considered information from the Internet or other outside sources.
"U.S. District Judge Mark Fuller said in an order that he decided to call the Nov. 17 hearing based on a juror's testimony last week that members of the panel violated his instructions while deliberating.
"The two defendants were convicted in June on bribery and conspiracy charges. Prosecutors said Scrushy arranged $500,000 in contributions to Siegelman's campaign for a statewide lottery in exchange for being appointed by Siegelman to a seat on an influential hospital regulatory board." (AP)
Army Recruiters Accused of Misleading Students to Get Them to Enlist
"An ABC News undercover investigation showed Army recruiters telling students that the war in Iraq was over, in an effort to get them to enlist.
"ABC News and New York affiliate WABC equipped students with hidden video cameras before they visited 10 Army recruitment offices in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.
"'Nobody is going over to Iraq anymore?' one student asks a recruiter.
"'No, we're bringing people back,' he replies.
"'We're not at war. War ended a long time ago,' another recruiter says.
"Last year, the Army suspended recruiting nationwide to retrain recruiters following hundreds of allegations of improprieties." (ABC News)
FBI Referrals Going Untried Report Says
"The Justice Department increasingly has refused to prosecute FBI cases targeting suspected terrorists over the last five years, according to researchers who reviewed department records. The government says the findings are inaccurate and 'intellectually dishonest.'
"The report being released today by Syracuse University raises questions about the quality of the FBI's investigations." (Times Wire Reports)
Federal Observers at Polls in 22 States
"Federal poll watchers will be in 22 states Tuesday, safeguarding against fraud or discrimination in election districts marked by tight races, large numbers of minority voters and faulty ballot machines.
"Justice Department monitors and observers are being assigned to Cuyahoga County, Ohio, which has been dogged by problems with computerized touch-screen voting machines. They will be in Bergen County, N.J., a must-win prize for both candidates in the state's Senate race.
"And they will watching more than a dozen counties nationwide where polls are on American Indian reservations and in big cities dominated by black voters." (AP)
TPMm to Open International Bureaus?
"Public sector corruption is rampant in nearly half of the 163 nations included in the annual Corruption Perception Index (CPI) released today by Transparency International, a Berlin-based private sector group that has issued the composite report on pubic corruption data for more than ten years.
"Among industrialized nations with a serious and growing public corruption problem is the United States....
"Bribery scandals, such as the Jack Abramoff case in the United States, often contribute to the perception of corruption, Transparency International noted." (The Blotter)
Marine Enters Plea in Iraqi Case
"A Marine pleaded guilty Monday to aggravated assault and conspiracy to obstruct justice before testifying that his squad executed a known insurgent who turned out to be a civilian.
"Lance Cpl. Tyler A. Jackson, 23, entered the pleas through his attorney, Thomas Watt, at a military court hearing.
"He was the third serviceman to plead guilty to reduced charges in return for his testimony in the case, in which seven Camp Pendleton-based Marines and a Navy corpsman were charged with killing 52-year-old Hashim Ibrahim Awad." (AP)