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The Daily Muck

Specter Blasts Cheney on NSA Lobbying
In a terse and highly unusual letter to Vice President Cheney, Senate Judiciary Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) today rejected the Bush administration’s insistence that a secret wire tapping program being conducted on U.S. civilians by the National Security Agency is legal, complaining that efforts by the White House to stonewall Congressional inquiries into the program “denigrates the constitutional authority and responsibility of the Congress and specifically the Judiciary Committee to conduct oversight on constitutional issues.” Specter’s anger peaked Tuesday after he learned that Cheney had been lobbying Republican members of the committee to “oppose any Judiciary Committee hearing, even a closed one” that involved telephone companies that have cooperated with the NSA. (Roll Call, AP, USA Today, KR)


More Questions Surface About House Approps Chief

The Los Angeles Times and San Diego Union-Tribune pick up the story of how Jerry Lewis' stepdaughter runs a PAC that lobbies his committee on behalf of defense contractors, some of whom are clients of Lewis' ex-aides-turned-lobbyists. How do they find this stuff? (LATimes, SDUT)

Katherine Harris, Holy Warrior
When people marvel at Harris's determination to suffer through all the abuse she takes, they may not appreciate just how religious she is--and the role religion seems to play in her political life. (TNR)

Ex-Ohio Official Pleads Guilty to Charges
A former top official at the Ohio workers' compensation fund pleaded guilty Wednesday to taking kickbacks from brokers and others who wanted to handle the fund's investments. Terrence Gasper, the former chief financial officer, was charged in a scandal that has shaken the state's Republican-dominated government and led to ethics charges against Gov. Bob Taft, who pleaded no contest to failing to report gifts. Gasper, 59, pleaded guilty in federal court in Akron to racketeering and in state court to laundering money and failing to report gifts. (AP)

Judge Orders Army to Release KBR Records
U.S. District Court Judge Ricardo Urbina late last week ordered the Army to release nearly 100 pages of records it had attempted to withhold from a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request sought by Judicial Watch, which announced the development yesterday. The documents are in connection with a multibillion-dollar, no-bid contract awarded in 2003 by the Army to KBR, a subsidiary of Halliburton Co., to fight oil-well fires in Iraq and restart oil production. (The Hill)

Contractor Close to Letitia White Got Earmarks from Lewis - But Not a California Firm
A source points out that Trident Systems Inc., the defense contractor whose owner bought a $1 million Capitol Hill property with a former top staffer to the House Appropriations committee chairman, and which received this year a $2 million earmark from that chairman, Jerry Lewis (R-Redlands CA), doesn't have any business in Lewis' destrict -- or in the whole state of California. The source, knowledgeable about the process, says that is very unusual. (War&Piece)

Democrats Question Handling of Data Breach
Democrats on Wednesday accused the Bush administration of incompetence amid revelations that the recent loss of computer data from the Department of Veterans Affairs involved far more active-duty military people than was originally thought. (NY Times)

Lobbyist Said Set Up DeLay Wife's Account
A lobbyist and former staffer of outgoing Rep. Tom DeLay set up a retirement account for the Texas congressman's wife, but similar accounts were available to all employees, DeLay's lawyer said Wednesday. Richard Cullen said the account was a retirement benefit, created by lobbyist Ed Buckham, that has been publicly disclosed. "There's absolutely nothing new in this," Cullen said. (AP)

William Jefferson: Tollbooth Operator on the Road to Africa
Africa's tragedy is that its great resources have been used to enrich a tiny number of colonizers, post-colonial strongmen, and their foreign friends. That may well turn out to be the real story of the Jefferson affair. (Harpers)

Burns Frames Race against Tester
Almost immediately upon easily overcoming a primary test and learning that he will face Democrat Jon Tester in November, Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) began trying to regain whatever base support he might have lost in recent months, casting the race as part of a large-scale battle against Democrats. (The Hill)

House Ethics Committee Solicits Input in Rare Hearing
Often criticized as secretive and stalemated, the House ethics committee took a leap into transparency yesterday with a landmark open hearing that asked frequent sponsors of private congressional trips — and one government watchdog — how the chamber should change its travel standards. (The Hill)

Democrats Renew Push for Mariana Labor Bill
House Democrats led by Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) introduced legislation today to extend key federal controls over a U.S. territory in the western Pacific, renewing an effort that was blocked for years by lobbyist Jack Abramoff and once-powerful Texas Republican Tom DeLay. (WaPo)