Watchdog Group Disputes FBI's Claims on E-Mails
"The watchdog group that first provided the FBI with suspicious e-mails from then-Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) said yesterday that FBI and Justice Department officials are attempting to cover up their inaction in the case by making false claims about the group....
"...unidentified Justice and FBI officials told reporters that the e-mails provided by CREW were heavily redacted and that the group refused to provide unedited versions to the FBI. One law enforcement official -- speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation -- also told The Washington Post the FBI believed that CREW may have received the e-mails as early as April and that the group refused to tell the FBI how they were obtained.
"Melanie Sloan, CREW's executive director, said copies of the original e-mails she sent to an FBI agent show those assertions to be wrong. Sloan said the agent called to confirm receipt of the e-mails and to ask if one of the parties was Foley.
"Sloan said the group sent unedited e-mails to the FBI because 'we wanted them to commence an investigation. We're sort of outraged that they're saying anything differently.' The group has asked Fine's office to look into the FBI's assertions." (WaPo)
Hastert: I Will Survive
"J. Dennis Hastert, who was installed as House speaker eight years ago through backroom maneuvering in a moment of crisis for his party, has no distinct power base in Congress, not much of a national reputation and, in an age of television politics, little polish in front of the camera.
"But Mr. Hastert has survived and survived to become the longest-serving Republican speaker. And on Thursday, standing outside his district office in Batavia, Ill., he made it clear that he did not intend to become a casualty of the Mark Foley scandal, saying he expected to win re-election to his seat and run for speaker again when the new Congress convenes in January." (NY Times, WSJ, Chi Trib)
With a Little Help From His Friends, Like President Bush
"A week into a sex scandal involving teenage House pages, President Bush called House Speaker Dennis Hastert on Thursday to thank the embattled Republican leader for how he has handled the situation.
"In a phone call lasting several minutes, Bush expressed support for Hastert, under fire from conservatives unhappy with what he did and didn't do about former Rep. Mark Foley's sexually suggestive messages to teens.
"'The president thanked him for going out and making a clear public statement that said the House leadership takes responsibility and is accountable,' White House deputy press secretary Dana Perino said." (AP)
House Ethics Panel Hands Out Subpoenas
"The House ethics committee approved nearly four dozen subpoenas Thursday as its investigation of a page sex scandal sprang to life with a promise by its leaders to go 'wherever the evidence leads us.'...
"According to public statements and an internal review by Hastert's office, a likely list of those who had some involvement in events and could be summoned include: Hastert aides Tim Kennedy, Mike Stokke, Ted Van Der Meid and Scott Palmer; former Clerk of the House Jeff Trandahl; Rep. Rodney Alexander [R-LA], who became aware that Foley sent questionable e-mails to a page he sponsored; Rep. Tom Reynolds [R-NY] who spoke with Alexander about Foley; Majority Leader John Boehner; and Rep. John Shimkus [R-IL] chairman of the board that oversees the page program." (AP, LAT, WaPo)
Ethics Chair Hastings' Job Just Got Much Harder
"As the chairman of the House of Representatives ethics committee, Rep. Doc Hastings finds himself at the center of the congressional page scandal and allegations that Republican leaders, including House Speaker Dennis Hastert, may have handled the case improperly....
"'It's an extremely difficult task for him,' Norm Ornstein, a respected political analyst with the American Enterprise Institute, a policy-research center, said of Hastings' role in the looming investigation. 'If he doesn't do it the right way it will destroy him.'" (McClatchy Newspapers)
Ethics Panel Counsel Elicits Respect
"Washington lawyer William O'Reilly specializes in complexity. Defending corporations in price-fixing cases and other sorts of complex litigation is all in a day's work.
"Good training, perhaps, for facing the firestorm that has engulfed Capitol Hill: the congressional page scandal." (AP)
Path Is Risky for Gay GOP Politicians
"Early in Foley's congressional career, friends and associates say, he took measures to deflect attention from his sexual orientation. He showed up at parties with a woman on his arm, made references to girlfriends, and used photos of himself with his sister and niece in campaign literature. Many voters assumed the photo showed him with a wife and daughter.
"In Florida, Foley had a host of glamorous and wealthy female companions, including Petra Levin, a former model and philanthropist, and Nancy Jean Davis, the Miami heir to the McArthur Dairy fortune.
"'He always had a knockout woman on his arm,' said Jack Furnari, president of the Boca Raton Republican Club. 'People would say, 'See that woman Mark was with?' and chuckle. It was all a show.'" (LA Times)
Gay Republicans Wonder Why They're Republicans
"Less than 24 hours after Rep. Mark Foley resigned in disgrace, some 50 gay Republicans gathered at a friend's house in Virginia. They were in a brittle mood. Foley -- one of their own, in terms of sexual orientation and party ID -- had, by his misconduct, exposed them to personal and even professional recrimination. And they feared a backlash. A close friend of Foley's summed up the situation this way: 'It is a disgrace. It's a disgrace for the party, and it's a disgrace and a disaster for all of us.'...
"Contacted by National Journal, many declined to comment, and those who did speak asked that their names not be used. A few expressed the fear that any article about powerful gay Republicans could trigger a witch hunt. Indeed, in the wake of Foley's resignation, an e-mail purporting to identify gay Republican staff members circulated on Capitol Hill. Some presumably heterosexual Republicans whispered to reporters that a 'gay subculture' had penetrated the highest ranks of the party and had protected Foley at the expense of their majority." (Hotline)
Hastert Donated to GOPers on Ethics Committee
"Both Republicans on the House ethics subcommittee investigating the Mark Foley scandal have financial ties to Speaker Dennis Hastert, whose handling of the former congressman's lurid Internet messages to House pages is under scrutiny....
"Fred Wertheimer, president of the watchdog group Democracy 21, said the Hastert contributions undermine the subcommittee's credibility. 'They should have brought in an outside counsel,' he said." (USA Today)
More Bad Polls for GOP in Wake of Foley Scandal
"Sixty-one percent (61%) of American adults believe that Republican leaders have been 'protecting [Mark] Foley for several years.' A Rasmussen Reports national opinion survey conducted Tuesday and Wednesday nights shows that only 21% believe that the leadership 'just learn[ed] about Foleyâs problems last week.'
"The data supports speculation that this issue could have a devastating impact on Republican prospects at the polls this fall. Even among Republicans, 31% believe the GOP leadership has been protecting Foley. Just under half (46%) of the GOP faithful believe that Congressional leaders just learned about the problem." (Rasmussen Reports)
And Yet More Dismal Numbers
"...CQPolitics.com pays particular attention to the bipartisan Battleground Poll, a periodic survey conducted jointly by a respected Democratic firm (Lake Research Partners) and a respected Republican firm (The Tarrance Group) under the sponsorship of The George Washington University in Washington, D.C....
"...in a year when almost all indicators are trending badly for the Republicans, the most recent Battleground poll â released Thursday â did not provide much grist for vigorous debate between Democrat Celinda Lake, the president of Lake Research Partners, and Republican Brian Nienaber, a vice president at Tarrance.
The data enabled Lake to proclaim, and Nienaber to concede, that the Democrats could win one or both chambers of Congress this fall." (CQ Politics)
Roy Blunt Downplays Opportunity for House Advancement
"House Majority Whip Roy Blunt discouraged speculation Thursday that the scandal that's rocking congressional Republicans could be an opportunity for him to move up the leadership ladder....
"'Those who are trying to create the appearance of disunity between myself and the speaker should know: There is not, and has not been, any daylight between the speaker and me,' Blunt said.
"The statement came one day after Blunt said that had he known about former Rep. Mark Foley's improper messages to underage pages, he would have handled it differently." (McClatchy Newspapers)
More Pages Report Sexually Explicit Foley Messages
"Three more former congressional pages have come forward to reveal what they call "sexual approaches" over the Internet from former Congressman Mark Foley....
"All three pages described similar instant message and e-mail patterns, with remarkably similar escalations of provocative questions." (The Blotter)
Election Attorney : No Foley Notice Should Be Mailed with Absentee Ballots
"The attorney for the statewide group of elections supervisors said this morning that his clients should ignore a recent memo from the state Division of Elections suggesting that a notice about Mark Foley's resignation be mailed with absentee ballots....
"On Tuesday, Division of Elections Director Dawn Roberts e-mailed the eight elections supervisors in the 16th Congressional District suggesting that this notice be mailed with absentee ballots: 'Due to a withdrawal of a candidate after the Primary Election which resulted in the substitution of a new candidate by the respective party. In the race for Representative In Congress, District 16, any vote cast for Mark Foley (REP) shall be counted as a vote for Joe Negron (REP).'" (Palm Beach Post)
Victims Say Foley Should Name Abuser
"Former Rep. Mark Foley's refusal to identify the clergyman he says molested him as a boy is reckless and could put other children at risk, say victims' advocates and a former priest who knows the ex-congressman....
"'To simply say, 'I can't tell you the name,' in my judgment, that's despicable,' said William Brooks, a former Roman Catholic priest at Cardinal Newman High School in Lake Worth where Foley was briefly a student in 1969. 'It casts a dark cloud of suspicion over all the clergy who worked during those days. I just think it's wrong.'...
"[Foley's attorney David] Roth said that the announcements were part of Foley's "recovery" and that Foley would not disclose the name of the alleged abuser until after he is released from treatment, in 30 days, at the earliest." (AP)
Frank on Foley
"Rep. Mark Foley isnât the first member of Congress to deal with a scandal involving young men. Former congressman Gerry Studds admitted in 1983 to having sex with a 17-year-old male page, and Rep. Barney Frank, the longest serving of the current three openly gay members of the House of Representatives, dealt with his own scandal involving a male prostitute in 1989. While Studds and Frank went on to successful careers in the House, that obviously wonât be the case for Foley, who abruptly resigned last Friday after his lurid e-mails and instant messages to male pages were disclosed. On Tuesday, Foley announced, through his lawyer, that he is gay and in alcohol rehabilitation. Foley's attorney added that the congressman never had any physical contact with a page. NEWSWEEK's Matthew Link spoke with Frank about the Foley revelations and what life is like for out and closeted gays in Washington." (Newsweek)
Confessions of a Page
"The best part of the program is the access. Pages are right in the middle of the action, and brushes with the most powerful, prominent and infamous people in the country come as a standard perk of the position. On the afternoon of Jan. 27, 1987, I surreptitiously stacked copies of the Congressional Record along the back wall of the House chamber so I could stand on them that evening and watch Ronald Reagan deliver his State of the Union address."...
"I hope that the partisan politics surrounding the Foley resignation and investigation will make way for a stronger, bipartisan Page Board that can provide consistent oversight and guidance. At its core, the page program embodies the American dreamâthe idea that any kid in the country can aspire to serve our nation. We shouldnât rob future generations of an opportunity that young people have had almost since the founding of Congress itself." (Newsweek)
Abramoff's Downfall Helps Push Through Anti-Gambling Legislation
"PartyGaming, SportingBet and other online gaming companies paid millions of dollars to Washington lobbyists linked to Jack Abramoff, the notorious super-lobbyist, to help them thwart US anti-gambling legislation....
"The passage by Congress of the Unlawful Gambling Enforcement Act has drawn accusations of US protectionism and the suggestion that the law was driven through by conservative Republicans....
"The demise of Mr Abramoff and his colleagues substantially weakened the gambling companies' political hand in Washington, paving the way for the bill's passage." (Financial Times)
Pirro Steered D.A. Contract to Kerik
"While she was Westchester district attorney, Jeanine Pirro steered a no-bid contract to Bernard Kerik and Rudy Giuliani's security firm, rebuffing protests about the arrangement, The Post has learned.
"The 2004 contract was ordered despite Pirro being warned by a lawyer in the DA's Office that it might be illegal or unethical to award a contract in that way. It also came in the face of protests over the cost of the deal by the private company that had to pay Kerik and Giuliani, a source close to the case told The Post." (NY Post)
Cunningham Briber Wilkes Taken to Civil Court
"What may be his last contract with the federal government has run out. Most of his employees have quit or been laid off. He owes hundreds of thousands in back property taxes on his company's multimilllion-dollar Poway headquarters, a 97,000-square-foot building he is negotiating to sell.
"And in the latest blow to defense contractor Brent Wilkes ---- one of the men identified as an alleged co-conspirator of Randy "Duke" Cunningham in the bribery scandal that put the former congressman in prison ---- the Poway resident is being sued by two companies accusing him of breach of contract." (North County Times)
Murtha Accused of Bribe Cover-Up
"Rep. John P. Murtha's Republican challenger has accused him of negotiating a $50,000 bribe and of trying to cover it up for 26 years.
"A recently released FBI video recorded in 1980 shows the Pennsylvania Democrat talking with an FBI agent posing as a representative to an Arab sheik who offers Mr. Murtha $50,000 in cash in exchange for private immigration legislation.
"'When you see the video, there was every intent of taking the bribe,' said Diana Irey, a Washington County, Pa., commissioner who is running to unseat Mr. Murtha. 'For 26 years, John Murtha has been living a lie.'" (Washington Times)
Former FBI Agent Says No-Fly List is Not Effective
"60 Minutes, in collaboration with the National Security News Service, has obtained the secret list used to screen airline passengers for terrorists and discovered it includes names of people not likely to cause terror, including the president of Bolivia, people who are dead and names so common, they are shared by thousands of innocent fliers....
"[Former] FBI agent, Jack Cloonan, knew the list that was hastily assembled after 9/11, would be bungled. 'When we heard the name list or no-fly list â¦ the eyes rolled back in my head, because we knew what was going to happen,' he says. 'They basically did a massive data dump and said, 'Okay, anybody that's got a nexus to terrorism, let's make sure they get on the list,"' he tells Kroft.
"The 'data dump' of names from the files of several government agencies, including the CIA, fed into the computer compiling the list contained many unlikely terrorists. These include Saddam Hussein, who is under arrest, Nabih Berri, Lebanon's parliamentary speaker, and Evo Morales, the president of Bolivia. It also includes the names of 14 of the 19 dead 9/11 hijackers." (CBS News)
North Dakotans Relieved of Robocalls from RNC
"The Republican National Committee agreed to stop making recorded-voice calls to the homes of North Dakota GOP supporters after the Republican attorney general said the calls were illegal.
"Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem's Democratic challenger complained about calls made over the weekend in which the recorded voice of RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman thanks contributors. The state's do-not-call law bans recorded calls to homes, unless the recorded voice is introduced by a live operator." (AP)