They've got muck; we've got rakes. TPM Muckraker

Here's a curious story, courtesy of Harper's new investigative blog, which adds a new star to our firmament of muck: Rep. Pete Visclosky (D-IN).

Last year, four defense firms moved into a new "business incubator" based in Merrillville, Indiana, of all places, Harper's Ken Silverstein reports.

At first blush, that's quite a coincidence -- four defense firms relocating to the same spot, right in middle of nowhere. What are the odds? But it gets weirder.

Silverstein says all four companies hired the same Washington, D.C. lobbying firm to help them win defense contracts, a shop called the PMA Group.

He also found that they all gave lots of money to the same congressman to help pry government money loose. (That's right, Pete Visclosky.)

It is no surprise, then, that Merrillville is smack dab in the middle of Visclosky's district. Or that Visclosky built the business center that houses those firms with $7 million in earmarks. Or that his former chief of staff, Richard Kaelin, is now a lobbyist with the PMA Group.

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Here's an interesting in-depth profile of a woman at the center of the DeLay empire who has remarkably escaped notice (until now): Susan Hirschmann, one of DeLay's top aides from 1997 to 2002. She was at the center of the scandal: she went on the infamous Scotland junket in 2000, as well as the Russia trip in 1997. Yet she's not a target of Justice investigators.

Maybe she's clean. In the many stories of scams that cut through DeLay's office, none have yet mentioned Hirschmann. But many of the characters who perpetrated those scams worked for Hirschmann when she was chief of staff, so she must have been aware, to some degree, of what was under her nose.

It raises an interesting question: Did Hirschmann cooperate with Justice folks from the early days of the scandal? The profile -- from the Influence section of Legal Times, which tracks the lobbying world -- doesn't directly touch on the matter. But it would certainly explain how a figure as central as Hirschmann could stay so far behind the scenes, while her former colleagues face harsh public scrutiny.

(Ed. note: Updated 4:54 P.M.)

Both MSNBC and the AP agree that Karl Rove has appeared today to discuss why he failed early on in the investigation to tell prosecutors about a conversation he had with Time reporter Matt Cooper.

Apparently another Time reporter, Viveca Novak, was aware of the conversation between the two men and mentioned it to Rove's lawyer, Robert Luskin. But it wasn't for several months later that Rove himself fessed up to prosecutors.

So the question would be: why the lag time?

Novak told prosecutors that she'd told Luskin about the Cooper conversation, and since then they've been anxious to hear from Rove why they got the information second-hand -- and several months late.

This, then, would be the "loose end" Rove supporters are talking about.

Trying to wrap your head around the events behind the New Hampshire phone jamming?

Whose idea was it? Which national political operative called which consultant when? When were those calls to the White House?

This should help: the TPM New Hampshire Phone Jamming Timeline. Check it out - and as always, we welcome reader feedback on corrections or additions.

The trial of the White House advisor who confessed to shoplifting charges has been postponed indefinitely. Claude Allen had been slated to appear in court tomorrow; the Maryland Attorney General's office said the judge agreed to a motion to delay the trial. A new date hasn't been set, but conventional wisdom puts it in June sometime.

Just saw John King on CNN a few minutes ago, relating the significance of today's testimony. According to those in Karl Rove's camp, who apparently have King's ear, today's appearance, Rove's 5th before Fitzpatrick's grand jury, really is good news - since Rove is being provided the opportunity to "tie up a few loose ends."

Transcript below.

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It was winter 2003: the lightning raid on MZM headquarters by federal agents was a year and a half away. Then-Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA) was out of jail, still had his boat and antiques, and ate fancy meals with his favorite briber, MZM chief Mitchell Wade, at the Capitol Grille. In short, it was a happier time.

We got our hands on what appears to be an internal company newsletter from that time. Ah, 12 pages of golden memories:

- Mitch and his wife dancing at the MZM holiday party; - Senior company exec Jim King accepting National Security Medal from then-CIA Director George "Slam Dunk" Tenet; - Wade, chumming with Rep. Virgil Goode (R-VA) and former VA Gov. Mark Warner (D); and - Timeless advice on Mad Cow Disease, Hep A and SARS.

Sepcial Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald is meeting with the grand jury in his Plame leak investigation, the AP reports. It's not yet clear what the purpose is, but it's fueling speculation that we may soon learn Karl Rove's fate.

Update: Rove to meet with grand jury this afternoon.

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