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Florida update: Katherine Harris now says she is selling off all her assets and putting those proceeds towards her floundering Senate campaign.

Dems cheer: Make her spend it all! (via PoliticalWire)

I frankly find this unbelievable.

Monday, we reported that John McCain's new senior aide Terry Nelson had a checkered past - he was involved with Tom DeLay and his co-defendants in their effort to get around Texas campaign finance laws and tied to the New Hampshire phone jamming scandal.

Yesterday, as part of his tour out West, McCain visited talk radio host John Carlson in Seattle. And one intrepid caller (a TPMmuckraker reader?) used the opportunity to get McCain on the record. You can listen to the audio of the call here, for which we have the blog TalkCheck to thank.

CALLER: Thanks, I had a question for the senator. For a reformer, I'm kind of curious why he would hire a guy like Terry Nelson as a senior advisor.

Here's a guy who was actually in the indictment of DeLay on his money laundering charges. When he was at the RNC, he agreed to take the corporate contributions from DeLay's PAC and then recycle them back into the Republican congressional races.

And he was also, this guy Nelson was also the supervisor of James Tobin, who was the guy convicted last year for helping jam the Democratic get-out-the-vote lines in New England a couple years ago.

So I'm curious why would you hire someone with such a shady background?

MCCAIN: None of those charges are true.

CALLER: You don't believe what was actually written in the indictment from Texas?

MCCAIN: No.

CARLSON: All right.

[nervous laughter]

MCCAIN: I will check it out. But I've never heard of such a thing. I know that he was a grassroots organizer for President Bush year 2000 and 2004, and had a very important job in the Bush campaign as late as 2004, but the other charges I will go and look and see if any of them are true, but I've never heard of them before.


You might be skeptical that McCain was actually ignorant of Nelson's past, but when I spoke to Carlson's producer Dave Carson, he said that McCain seemed "surprised" by the call and that afterwards he "started asking his handlers" what all this was about. So that might be true.

I'm not sure what would be worse - if McCain actually was ignorant or just pretending. In either case, it would be yet another page out of the Bush playbook.

Back in January, the leadership of the House Intelligence Committee vowed to thoroughly review all of former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham's (R-CA) dealings in their committee. Since then we've heard bupkus. What's the deal?

I called the committee's spokesman, Jamal Ware, who assured me the "thorough and far-reaching" review was moving along. But the details he provided weren't so assuring.

The probe is essentially a one-man show featuring Nick Stern, a senior aide on loan from the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs' investigative subcommittee. Stern is slowly plowing through documents and interviewing members and their staff about Cunningham's indelicacies.

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Rep. John Sweeney (R-NY), like Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA), paid his wife on commission for campaign fundraising, a highly unusual arrangement that means that the Sweeneys benefitted personally from every contribution. Ethics experts we spoke to earlier this week about Doolittle's wife said that they'd never heard of a similar arrangement. Well, we found one. And it might explain why the Justice Department recently examined Sweeney's financial records.

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Noting Ralph Reed's poor showing in the polls down in Georgia, Josh wonders how many political careers are floundering because of Jack Abramoff. So let's count heads.

He counts Bob Ney, Conrad Burns, and Ralph Reed. But really it ought to be mentioned that Ney and Reed are still alive and kicking. Ney doesn't seem to have a serious challenger, either from the Republicans or Democrats. If it wasn't almost certain that he'll be indicted before November, I wouldn't be surprised if he won that race. And Reed still stands a good chance of taking the Republican primary for Lt. Governor. Burns is the only one who seems in immediate danger, but even he's in a dead heat.

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Just a reminder of what's at stake today down in Texas. DeLay and his co-defendants, Jim Ellis and John Colyandro, are awaiting decisions from the Court of Appeals. If things go well for them, the decisions could lead to all charges being dropped against DeLay. If things go poorly, DeLay will find himself facing a conspiracy charge in addition to the money laundering charge. So it's a big day. We'll have word to you as soon as we hear what's happened.

At War and Piece, Laura Rozen finds more indicators that MZM's contracts with the White House were for three professional staffers on the Robb-Silberman WMD commission.

First, the MZM contracts list their "place of performance" as Arlington, VA -- where the commission's offices were -- not Washington, D.C., where the White House is known to be. Second, Rozen found similar arrangements between the White House and other intelligence contractors, including Booz-Allen Hamilton and SAIC. Laura and I have both confirmed various staffers worked for SAIC.

Those companies have increased their intelligence business in recent years, thanks to U.S. spy agencies struggling to spend even greater budgets on new hires and new technology.

If Laura's right, she makes me wonder: is that arrangement usual? I don't recall the 9/11 Commission contracting out for staff.

Further, is it appropriate? Should the nation's private intelligence contractors -- which stood to gain the most from the report's recommendations to expand powers and operations -- be working for the commission?

Duke's Haul, Like The Duke, to Be Sold to Highest Bidder

The ill-gotten gains of former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA) are going on the block today. The proceeds will go to the Treasury Department's Asset Forfeiture Fund, which will divide it amongst the various agencies which investigated the "big chinchilla." (MSNBC, AP, San Diego U-T)

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We spent some time yesterday digging into Rep. John Doolittle's (R-CA) nifty little arrangement with his wife, where she was paid a 15 percent commission on contributions that came into Doolittle's campaign and leadership PAC. She's known to have bagged $180,000 since late 2001.

First, let us say that we valiantly tried to get a comment from Doolittle's office, but that our calls were not returned.

Now, a number of other members of Congress have family members doing fundraising for them, but they are all paid a flat fee; the Doolittles were getting a cut of every contribution that came in to his campaign. The ethics experts we spoke to said that sounded at least unethical and possibly illegal.

One question that stood out was just how unusual it was for a political fundraiser to charge a 15 percent commission. So we spent some time today calling around to fundraising consultants to find out just how remarkable that arrangement was.

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The Wall Street Journal has a good story today about how an Exxon-funded nonprofit appears to have goaded the IRS into auditing Greenpeace.

What does the IRS say?

Eric L. Smith, an IRS spokesman, said that under federal law, he can't discuss the Greenpeace case. He said a nonpartisan IRS panel of career professionals reviews allegations against nonprofit groups to determine whether an audit is warranted.


If that sounds familiar, that's because it is: it's what the IRS told us about the audit it was prompted to conduct of Texans for Public Justice, the group which hounded former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) about his questionable fundraising practices.

TPJ filed for -- and received -- all the IRS documents pertaining to its audit. Guess what? There was no evidence their case had been considered by this "panel of career professionals," even though all of the panel's decisions are supposed to be recorded on paper.

So we called Greenpeace and spoke with their legal department. It turns out that they too requested and received all IRS documents pertaining to their audit. And, you guessed it -- there's not a scrap that shows their case was considered by a panel before the audit was begun. Curious, no? Where are these records?

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