A glimpse into a day in the life of a Duke Cunningham staffer.
Roll Call tracked down Cunningham’s former chief of staff, David Heil, who’s referred to in the Justice Department’s filings against Cunningham as a senior aide who confronted Duke over his shady dealings. Heil, "one of the few ethical bright spots" in this tale and now a lobbyist with the firm McKenna Long & Aldridge, is unique in that he’s apparently one of a small number of Cunningham staffers who hasn’t run as far as he could from the Hill:
…although he keeps in touch with some of his former Capitol Hill colleagues, Heil described an overwhelming feeling of disenchantment and bitterness among some of Cunningham’s former aides. Several have left politics or sought a future outside of Washington.
Heil gives an idea why:
At one point in late 2004, after a showdown with his boss, Heil threatened to quit unless Cunningham himself left Congress — either by resigning or announcing his retirement….When Cunningham balked at Heil’s ultimatum, Heil quit.<snip>
“How else do you define when someone looks you in the eye and lies to you on several occasions?” Heil asked. “But then again, he did that to everybody.”<snip>
…in 2003, Cunningham bought a 1999 Suburban truck from Wade for only $10,000. Heil said he became worried about the price, which was thousands of dollars below the market value. According to the Justice Department, when Heil, who was not named in any official document, “raised the matter with the Congressman, Cunningham furiously slammed his hand on his desk, twice, and yelled at the staffer to ‘Stay the f— out my personal business.’”
John Thune – Senator/Lobbyist
The NY Times reports that Sen. Thune (R-SD), who worked as a lobbyist before he was elected to the Senate, has continued to do some fine work for his former clients. "As a lobbyist in 2003 and 2004, Mr. Thune earned $220,000 from the Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad, a small but ambitious company in South Dakota."
Come 2005, and suddenly Thune was in a position to really help his clients: "Last year, his first in the Senate, Mr. Thune wrote language into a transportation bill expanding the pot of federal loan money for small railroads, enabling his former client to apply for $2.5 billion in government financing for its project."
Says Thune: "I don’t apologize, and never will."
When Reformers Attack
Last week, Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) led the publication of a report called "America for Sale," which detailed four pieces of legislation that were derailed by mucky behavior. Now the GOP is going after her, saying that the report "violated the chamber’s ethics rules prohibiting the use of House resources for campaign or political purposes."
“It is … deeply ironic that the NRCC would have the audacity to suggest that a detailed, fact-based report documenting the collapse of our legislative system would constitute unethical behavior,” Slaughter said in a statement, “while at the same time, top Republican officials … have willingly undermined ethical behavior in our House.”
Reform – Obama Ignored
Ah, the Democrats. From The Hill:
Senate Democrats have declined to support legislation proposed by Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) to reform lobbying, even though he is their point man on the issue.
Good-government groups have made enforcement of the ethics and lobbying rules their top priority, and they consider Obama’s proposal the strongest means of enforcement. But lawmakers appear to view the medicine as too strong.<snip>
Democratic leaders tapped Obama to take a leading role on ethics reform when they unveiled their Honest Leadership and Open Government Act last month.
They launched the initiative that would have created a Senate office of public integrity, which would have focused solely on lobbyists. It did not touch lawmakers.
When that initiative was launched, at a rally in the Library of Congress, Obama took center stage with Reid, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Rules Committee ranking Democrat Louise Slaughter (N.Y.). Forty Democratic senators co-sponsored the bill.
Obama’s bill would go further by expanding the scope of enforcement to include lawmakers. It appears to have been ignored.
Roll Call reports that House GOP leadership is considering a one-year moratorium on privately-funded travel.
The LA Times looks to the states for examples of how lobbying reform might take shape – and can’t find a good model.
The Supreme Court Weighs in on Muck
In other Supreme Court muck news, today the Court hears arguments about a Vermont law that limits candidate spending. The GOP backed challenge to the law saws it violates the 1st Amendment.
Linder’s Abramoff Problem
Raw Story reports that Rep. John Linder (R-GA) flew to Puerto Rico on the dime of an Abramoff client, the Future of Puerto Rico, and failed to disclose the trip on House travel forms.
Abramoff and Guam
In Other Muck
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