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Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA), who's been under federal investigation since May for his ties to his friend, lobbyist Bill Lowery, has spent nearly $800,000 on legal fees since his troubles began.

He dropped $200,000 on a legal retrainer for his high-powered team back in June. Since then, he's paid out approximately $569,000 more, according to his most recent FEC filing.

The amount puts Lewis in the big leagues in terms of legal spending. Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH), for example, who pled guilty earlier this month to accepting bribes from Jack Abramoff, has reported spending less than half as much on his lawyer. Former Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX), by contrast, has run up legal bills exceeding $2 million.

Lewis, of course, can afford to spend his campaign's dollars. He's coasting to reelection despite the investigation, and reports having $1 million in the bank.

The candidacy of Carl Romanelli, the Green who made a run for the Senate in Pennsylvania, may not have succeeded. The Pennsylvania courts ended his bid last month; a disappointment for the Santorum campaign, since that means he won't be siphoning any votes from the Democrat Bob Casey. But at least we've learned about the surprisingly progressive views among his Republican supporters.

When we pored over the contributor list for Romanelli's campaign before, we found a lobbyist for Halliburton and a hotel mogul among the unlikely group. Now Will Bunch has discovered Erik Prince, the owner of Blackwater Security, which has the biggest mercenary security force in Iraq, is another closet lefty. Prince dropped $10,000 for Romanelli's campaign in July. Apparently, when Prince isn't using his connections to get a secret, no-bid contracts from the CIA, he's doing what he can for people power. Who knew?

Rep. John Sweeney (R-NY) joined the Abramoff party today. And his blithe remarks about the lack of apparent mistreatment in the Northern Mariana Islands could mean political trouble.

In 2001, The Albany Times-Union reports, he took a trip to the Northern Marianas (CNMI), Jack Abramoff's infamous client, but failed to disclose that the trip was privately-funded, as Congressional rules require. Sweeney says he thought the trip was paid for by the Marianas government; it was actually paid for by the island's chamber of commerce. Pretty small potatoes for an Abramoff story.

But it gets better. The paper quotes remarks that Sweeney made during his visit to the U.S. territory, which had become notorious stateside for its human rights abuses:

Sweeney was quoted in the Saipan Tribune on Jan. 15 as saying reports of poor working conditions in the CNMI were overblown, and that he had seen worse sweatshops back home in New York. Carlson said Sweeney was "absolutely not" aware of any severe mistreatment of workers or forced prostitution before he made these comments.


The mistreatment of CNMI workers, of course, was no secret. They had been the subject of numerous news stories, Congressional hearings, and federal investigations. And it seems that Sweeney was more aware of the CNMI's reputation than he's letting on:
On Jan. 15, 2001, the Tribune reported Sweeney had indicated in his speech that the CNMI needed to continue efforts to combat its poor image back in the states.

"The reputation of the commonwealth is not really what ought to be," Sweeney said. "I come (sic) here and found that the truth projected to me in Washington was not the truth at all."...


Abramoff viewed these Congressional trips as prime opportunities to raise the islands' profile. Over the years, he ferried dozens and dozens of lawmakers and staffers to see for himself that the so-called human rights abuses over there weren't so very bad. Somehow they never saw what human rights activitists had seen. Rep. George Miller (D-CA), who's worked for more than a decade to improve conditions there, said that "a blind pig could run into the human rights violations and the exploitation of workers on the islands." Abramoff's travellers, of course, ran anything but a blind course.

Some Seek 'Pink Purge' in the GOP "In recent years, the Republican Party aimed to broaden its appeal with a "big-tent" strategy of reaching out to voters who might typically lean Democratic. But now a debate is growing within the GOP about whether the tent has become too big — by including gays whose political views may conflict with the goals of the party's powerful evangelical conservatives.

"Some Christians, who are pivotal to the GOP's get-out-the-vote effort, are charging that gay Republican staffers in Congress may have thwarted their legislative agenda. There even are calls for what some have dubbed a "pink purge" of high-ranking gay Republicans on Capitol Hill and in the administration....

"Some social conservatives deny they are interested in removing gay staffers from the party.

"'We're not calling for what I've heard referred to as a pink purge,' McClusky said. 'We're asking that members [of Congress] might want to reflect on who's serving them: Are they representing their boss' interest?'

"Mears of Concerned Women for America said purging gays from the GOP would not necessarily help the evangelical cause. 'If you get rid of all the homosexuals in Congress and on the staff, you'd still have Republicans like Chris Shays [the Connecticut congressman] and Susan Collins [the Maine senator] pushing the gay agenda.'

"This week, a list that is said to name gay Republican staffers has been circulated to several Christian and family values groups — presumably to encourage an outing and purge. McClusky acknowledged seeing the list but said his group did not produce it and had no intention of using it." (LAT)

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Dr. K.A. Paul, the evangelist who says he convinced House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) to resign over Foleygate, is upset that Hastert's promise didn't stick. So he's calling a news conference:

Leading Evangelist Who Met with Hastert to Hold Major News Conference to Offer Details

Religious Leader Upset Speaker Hastert Broke 7 Day Commitment

News Advisory:

Dr. K. A. Paul, the evangelist who met and prayed with House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) at his home in Plano, Ill., will hold a news conference on Wednesday to outline what Speaker Hastert said to him about a 7-day commitment he made during the meeting.

The Sun-Times called the meeting a "serious security breach," but a spokeswoman for the Capitol Police, which is responsible for Speaker Hastert's security, said "this wasn't a security breach," according to the Capital Hill newspaper, Roll Call.

With the midterm elections next month, Paul has launched a crusade to save America from the wrath of God and Republicans abusing their power and mired in scandal. Paul has been supported and endorsed by major Republican and evangelical leaders across the country. He prayed with President Bush and mobilized thousands of voters in Florida to help him win the 2000 presidential election and has counseled more than 60 heads of state around the world.

DATE: Wednesday, Oct. 18

TIME: 10 a.m.

PLACE: Hilton Towers Joliet Room, 720 South Michigan Ave., Chicago, Ill.

PARTICIPANTS:

Dr. K. A. Paul, evangelist and president, Global Peace Initiative

Dorothy Brown, clerk, Cook County Circuit Court

Dr. Jacob Agepog, Archbishop-elect

The widespread assumption in the media has been that investigators probing Rep. Curt Weldon (R-PA) and his daughter's company are concentrating on three- or four year-old crimes, first reported in the Los Angeles Times in 2004. Weldon used that assumption yesterday to buttress his argument that the investigation was an October surprise engineered by conniving liberals.

But the revelation today in the Washington Post that investigators have been gathering evidence on Weldon over at least the past four months -- including wiretaps of "Washington area cellphone numbers" -- suggests that the suspected crimes have been ongoing. And if Karen Weldon's work for her clients over the past couple years has been under the radar, it's by design.

"The investigation focuses on Weldon's support of the Russian-managed Itera International Energy Corp., one of the world's largest oil and gas firms, while that company paid fees to Solutions North America, the company that Karen Weldon and [her partner, Charles Sexton] operate," The Washington Post reported today.

The LA Times broke the story of the 29 year-old Karen Weldon's booming little company back in February 2004. Since then, very little has been heard from her. Around the time that thestory came out, both Weldon and Sexton ceased to register as lobbyists for their clients.

Weldon told The Philadelphia Inquirer earlier this year that his daughter no longer lobbies. But that doesn't mean her company hasn't been busy. It may even have continued to do business with Itera, the Russian energy giant and focus of the probe, until recently. It's impossible to tell.

There's a glaring question that Weldon and his daughter have yet to answer: if Solutions North America (or Solutions Worldwide, as they seem to go by now) isn't a lobbying firm, what do they actually do? The Philadelphia Inquirer, in their piece today, refers to them as a PR firm. For a PR firm, they keep a remarkably low profile: they have no website.

From the AP:

Colorado authorities have opened a criminal investigation into whether an attack ad run by GOP Rep. Bob Beauprez against his opponent for governor illegally used confidential information from a federal law enforcement database.

Democrat Bill Ritter's campaign has suggested the information was taken from the computerized crime records.

But John Marshall, the congressman's spokesman, said Tuesday that the details came from an informant he refused to identify. He said the campaign is cooperating with investigators....

The governor has asked the Colorado Bureau of Investigation to expedite its investigation. Use of the federal criminal database for any purpose other than law enforcement is a crime punishable by fines and up to a year in prison.

Yesterday, Rep. Dale Kildee (D-MI) revealed that the House Page Board had discussed allegations of improper behavior toward pages by a second lawmaker.

It's Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-AZ), the AP reports. More:

Overseers of the House page program this week discussed a camping trip that Rep. Jim Kolbe, R-Ariz. took with two former pages and others in 1996 — an outing now under review by the Justice Department, a congressional source said Tuesday.

The House Page Board, consisting of three lawmakers and two senior House officials, did not have any new information beyond recent news stories on the Kolbe trip. The source is familiar with the discussions but is not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.


Last week, NBC reported that the FBI had started a "preliminary assessment" of the trip.

The top Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence released a summary of the panel's probe into how Duke Cunningham used the panel's staff and resources to forward his corrupt ways.

You can read the summary here.

The probe, ordered last December, found what looks like new dirt on former CIA #3 Kyle "Dusty" Foggo, who's been drawn into the Cunningham investigation. But the report concluded that the panel itself was clear of wrongdoing in Cunningham's case.

Indeed, one of Duke's main bribers, Mitchell Wade, even tried to cozy up to staffers, but he kind of weirded them out, according to the five-page executive summary released by Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), the panel's ranking member.

The report identified three troubling activities, and recommended they be referred to the Justice Department or national security agencies for further investigation:

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New details are popping up about the Feds' interest in Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA) for his ties to Jack Abramoff. But Doolittle is doing his best to put as bright a face on that as possible.

In a statement yesterday, Doolittle said that he "has no reason to believe that he is the target of an investigation."

As we've noted here before, the "not a target" line is a beloved one for mucked-up pols (Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT) used it just last month). It is, of course, a relatively meaningless statement that sounds exonerating. Subjects of an investigation typically only receive target letters from prosecutors as a prelude to indictment. So Doolittle might as well be bragging that he hasn't been indicted yet.

We've known that Doolittle was under investigation for approximately two years. In 2004, investigators subpoenaed the records for his wife's consulting company (Julie Doolittle worked for Abramoff for two years). And since last November, Doolittle has consistently made the short list of lawmakers reportedly under investigation for their ties to Abramoff (as to why, see here).

Doolittle, via his spokeswoman, also revealed to The Sacramento Bee Monday that his lawyer has spoken several times with the Justice Department.

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