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The admissions of "multiple affairs" by Congressman Tim Mahoney, must have been an affair or two too many for his wife who filed for divorce today. The two had been married for almost 24 years.

From the the Palm Beach Post:

Terry Mahoney filed papers at the North County Courthouse in Palm Beach Gardens, which said the marriage is "irretrievably broken".

She appeared with her husband, but did not speak last Tuesday when Mahoney made a 2-minute appearance before reporters. In that appearance, the congressman acknowledged causing "pain" in his marriage.

Here's a funny example of how "voter-fraud" hysteria is starting to make some conservatives look kind of foolish.

In a post Friday on the website of the conservative magazine National Review, Jim Geraghty touted the New Mexico GOP's no-longer-operative claim that 28 people had voted fraudulently in a Democratic primary in June.

Then, attacking Adam Serwer of The American Prospect, who in an earlier post had questioned Geraghty's obsession with vote fraud, Geraghty wrote:

Now, unless A. Serwer thinks that there is actually a registered voter named "Duran Duran" in New Mexico, he ought to refrain from sputtering that those who disagree with him are 'racist' and 'paranoid.'

The person who is "Duran Duran" almost certainly voted under their real name, and thus got two votes in the primary. God knows how many of those 27 others exist; for all we know, one person might have cast all of them. Anybody who voted once had their vote diluted by the guy who cheated to vote two to twenty-seven times.

Geraghty sourced the Duran Duran claim, via link, to a column on the conservative web site, which described an Associated Press report that we weren't able to find. (What appears to be the original AP story on the GOP's claims contained no such detail.)

But it looks like what Geraghty and Townhall thought was a cut-and-dried example of fraudulent voting was no such thing. Some time later, Geraghty, was forced to correct the record, crossing out the quote above and adding the following update below his post:
I am floored by the fact that the white pages for Albuquereque, New Mexico has a listing for "Duran Duran." Mea culpa.

And sure enough.

The larger point is that, as we noted earlier, since Friday, ACORN has produced election officials to confirm that the "fraudulent" voters cited by the GOP were in fact valid.

Looks like both Republicans and conservative pundits might want to be a little more careful before throwing around claims of voter fraud. Not that we're holding our breath.

As if you needed any more evidence that the Republican effort to tout voter fraud is less about legitimate claims and more about a political agenda, consider this sequence of events:

Last week, as we noted at the time, the New Mexico GOP had publicly claimed that 28 people voted fraudulently in the Democratic primary, held in June, for a local race.

Then this morning, the RNC sent out a press release announcing a 3pm conference call with reporters "on the recent developments in New Mexico regarding ACORN."

But at 11am, ACORN -- the community organizing group that Republicans have been trying lately to turn into a voter fraud boogeyman -- held a conference call of its own, asserting that local election officials had confirmed that the 28 people in question, mostly low-income Latinos, were valid voters.

So here at TPMmuckraker, we wondered what the RNC's response to this would be. And on the 3pm call, we asked party spokesman Danny Diaz.

Diaz dodged the question. He talked about an incident with ACORN in Washington state, then referred us to an October 9th Wall Street Journal story, which did not address the allegation made last week by the state GOP about fraudulent voting in the Democratic primary. (Instead, it reported that the FBI had opened a preliminary investigation into thousands of fraudulent registration forms submitted in an area near an ACORN office.)

When we tried to follow up, Diaz cut us off and shifted the discussion toward a general attack on ACORN for submitting fraudulent registrations.

In other words, it looks like the RNC had scheduled a call to tout evidence of voter fraud -- not voter registration fraud, mind you, but actual voter fraud -- being perpetrated by ACORN in New Mexico. But when ACORN appeared to come up with compelling evidence that no such fraud had occurred, the RNC held the call anyway, simply shifting the focus to other vague allegations against ACORN -- then refused to address the New Mexico situation when asked.

The Michigan Messenger, whose article on the Michigan GOP's plans to challenge voters on foreclosure lists sparked a lawsuit from Democrats, reports that the two parties have now reached a settlement.

A judge was supposed to hear arguments from the Obama campaign's lawsuit against the RNC, MI GOP and Macomb County Republican party. At the last minute, parties settled the lawsuit and issued the following statement:

"Obama for America, the Democratic National Committee and individual Macomb County residents have alleged that the Republican National Committee, the Michigan Republican Party and the Macomb County Republican Party were planning to use foreclosure lists to challenge certain voters on Election Day. The Republicans have denied the allegations and have stated that they never intended to challenge voters based on any such list. To clarify the matter for all voters, all parties are pleased that they agree that the existence of a person's address on a foreclosure list does not provide a reasonable basis for challenging the person's eligibility to vote and that none of these parties will challenge any voter's eligibility on that basis."

We'll have more on this as it develops.

Since the news was reported last week that the FBI, less than three weeks before the election, is launching a voter-registration-fraud investigation into ACORN, we've seen a number of former top DOJ voting-rights officials --as well as former US attorney David Iglesias -- denounce the probe as an inappropriate politicization of the department.

Add Joe Rich to the list. Rich, who from 1999 until 2005 ran the voting section in the department's civil rights division, and is now at the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, told TPMmuckraker this morning that the ACORN investigation is "much worse than what happened in 2006."

Rich was referring to an indictment for voter fraud against four ACORN voter-registration workers, filed by Bradley Schlozman, an interim US attorney in Kansas City, just five days before a close Missouri Senate election. Schlozman later was investigated for possible perjury after testifying to Congress that he was "directed" by main DOJ to pursue the indictment, then filing a "clarification" in which he took "full responsibility" for the prosecution.

Noting that the Bush administration appears to be using the Department of Justice to pursue politically motivated voter-fraud investigations, even after getting caught red-handed doing so in the scandal over the US attorney firings, Rich added: "There is no shame."

For all the outraged Republican claims of rampant voter fraud we've seen in the last few weeks, it's worth noting that authorities have had enough evidence to arrest only a tiny number of people in connection with the problem, almost all of whom were street-level canvassers suspected of duping their supervisors with phony registration cards in order to boost their bonuses.

But over the weekend, a professional political consultant, who owns a firm that's been registering hundreds of thousands of voters and gathering petition signatures, was added to the list. The only problem: it's a Republican firm that had contracted with the California GOP.

The LA Times reports:

State and local investigators allege that Mark Jacoby fraudulently registered himself to vote at a childhood California address where he no longer lives so he would appear to meet the legal requirement that all signature gatherers be eligible to vote in California.

This is the second black eye for Jacoby and his firm, Young Political Majors (YPM) in the last few days. Last week, the same paper reported claims by dozens of Californians that they were asked by YPM canvassers to sign a petition to toughen laws against child molesters, then later found they had been duped into registering as Republicans. YPM, which was paid $7-12 for every Californian it signed up for the Republican party, denied the allegations.

The paper adds:
YPM has been accused of using bait-and-switch tactics across the country. Election officials and lawmakers have launched investigations into the activities of YPM workers in Florida and Massachusetts. In Arizona, the firm was recently a defendant in a civil rights lawsuit.

Ironic that, for all the GOP-generated sturm und drang over ACORN in the last few weeks, it looks like it's in fact a Republican firm against whom there's actual evidence of systemic fraud.

Picking up from where we left off on Friday, Sen. Ted Stevens is back on the stand this morning, in the midst of cross-examination.

The AP reports that Stevens is "dour" and "sparring curtly" with the prosecutor, in what is expected to be the last day of testimony in the historic trial.

We'll be bringing you more throughout the day, so stayed tuned as we continue our round up.

Trying to fire up the Senator Edition . . . 11:30am: The AP expands their story with some direct quotes from the cross. Perhaps most notably, he's outright denied that VECO had any involvement at all in the renovation of his house.

Morris pressed Stevens to acknowledge that he knew the foreman and other workers were VECO employees. But Stevens said that's not how he viewed it.

"He did work for VECO, yes, but when working at my house, he's working for me," Stevens said. "VECO was not involved in renovating my house."

The Politico reports that Stevens is less "combative" than he was on Friday, though the prosecutor keeps trying to bring out the Senator's famed temper.

Re-Gifting Edition. . . 12:23pm: We wonder what exactly Sen. Ted Stevens thinks he's on trial for, if it's not for his failure to disclose things on his financial disclosure forms. Roll Call has the exchange:

[Stevens] argued that there is a distinction between Allen as the personal friend who provided laborers for the house and Allen as the CEO of VECO.

That led Morris to ask, "You don't have to disclose gifts from a human?"

Stevens replied, "This has nothing to do with disclosure."

And back when Stevens' wife, Catherine, was on the stand, she spent a great deal of time lamenting the $250,00 worth of free upgrades that Bill Allen made to the house, especially furniture that he replaced. The prosecution brought the furniture back up, reading from an e-mail that Stevens had sent to Allen, saying that he was planning to re-gift the furniture to his son, The Hill reports. Stevens didn't respond well to this line of questioning:

Morris questioned why the senator kept that leather furniture set for more than seven years. She pulled out a Sept. 2005 e-mail where Stevens indicated to Allen that he would give the gift to his son.

Stevens grew agitated and tried to dodge the question.

"Just answer her question, sir," directed Judge Emmet G. Sullivan of the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia.

"You are actually trying to re-gift the furniture that is so hideous to your son. Is that correct?" Morris asked.

"No," Stevens shot back.

There's no universal meaning of gift Edition . . . 1:07pm: Was it a gift? Was it a loan? In the Stevens' trial, it all depends on who you talk to.

Stevens talked his way around the fancy massage chair he received from Allen, reported the AP:

He said he considered that chair a loan.

"And the chair is still at your house?" prosecutor Brenda Morris asked.

"Yes," Stevens said.

"How is that not a gift?"

"He bought that chair as a gift, but I refused it as a gift," Stevens said. "He put it there and said it was my chair. I told him I would not accept it as a gift. We have lots of things in our house that don't belong to us."

Playing to the jury, Morris appeared confused.

"So, if you say it's not a gift, it's not a gift?" she said.

"I refused it as a gift," Stevens replied. "I let him put it in our basement at his request."

And that was it for the Stevens' testimony. The defense rested and closing arguments are scheduled for tomorrow.

Food for thought Edition . . . 4:15pm: TPM Reader BK points out that under the Senate Disclosure Rules, claiming something was just "a loan" isn't much of an excuse:

Uh, someone should remind Senator Stevens that the Senate Rules define the term "gift" to mean "any gratuity, favor, discount, entertainment, hospitality, loan, forbearance or other item having monetary value."

Senate Rule 35, Paragraph 2(b)(1). Or, to put it another way, Senator Stevens just incriminated himself.

The questions surrounding Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, already the subject of an FBI probe, now extend to his wife, Patti Blagojevich, whose real estate dealings some say could represent the kind of quid pro quo politics that has brought her husband scrutiny in the past. Patti Blagojevich's firm, River Realty, received $100,000 in commissions from a developer, whose family's company witnessed a spike in state payments after Blagojevich was elected governor. The reports surfaced in the course of the FBI's investigation of Tony Rezko, an Illinois fundraiser connected to the governor and convicted in June of fraud. (Chicago Sun Times)

The House Ethics Committee is considering an investigation of Rep. Tim Mahoney (D-FL), whose affairs with two women--both connected to his congressional work--became public last week. Mahoney inherited his Florida district from Republican Mark Foley, whose political career was also felled by a sex scandal. (Press Release)

The corruption trial of Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) is set to close today, after lawyers wrap up examination of the man known as "Uncle Ted" to his constituents and as a "mean, miserable S.O.B." to his colleagues. Meanwhile, defense attorneys made a last ditch effort to have the case dismissed, filing another motion that claims the prosecution has mishandled evidence. (Roll Call)

Read More →

A former top Department of Justice voting rights official -- who once worked with John McCain in defense of the senator's campaign-finance reform bill -- has added his name to the growing chorus that is denouncing the department's investigation of ACORN as a shameful and inappropriate politicization of Justice along the lines of the US attorney firings.

Speaking to TPMmuckraker, Gerry Hebert described the investigation, word of which was leaked off the record to the Associated Press less than three weeks before the election, as "a continuation of injecting DOJ into what has clearly become a political issue."

He continued: "That's really not the proper role for the DOJ, and why their policies counsel otherwise."

To demonstrate that point, Hebert provided TPMmuckraker with a copy of the department's Manual on Federal Prosecution of Election Offenses.

Under a section headlined "Investigative Considerations in Election Fraud Cases", the manual reads:

When investigating election fraud, three considerations that are absent from most criminal investigations must be kept in mind: (1) respect for the primary role of the states in administering the voting process, (2) an awareness of the role of the election in the governmental process, and (3) sensitivity to the exercise of First Amendment rights in the election context. As a result there are limitations on various investigative steps in an election fraud case.

In most cases, election-related documents should not be taken from the custody of local election administrators until the election to which they pertain has been certified, and the time for contesting the election results has expired. This avoids interfering with the governmental processes affected by the election

Another limitation affects voter interviews. Election fraud cases often depend on the testimony of individual voters whose votes were co-opted in one way or another. But in most cases voters should not be interviewed, or other voter-related investigation done, until after the election is over. Such overt investigative steps may chill legitimate voting activities. They are also likely to be perceived by voters and candidates as an intrusion into the election. Indeed, the fact of a federal criminal investigation may itself become an issue in the election.

Although it is unclear whether the FBI has taken information or interviewed voters, Hebert argued that the new ACORN investigation clearly violates the manual's guidelines, both in terms of its timing -- initiated so close to election day -- and in terms of the off-the-record leak by which it was publicized.

Hebert served 21 years at DOJ's civil-rights division, including a stint as acting head of the voting rights section.* He left in 1994 and now heads a public interest legal non-profit. In 2003, he represented McCain and Sen. Russ Feingold, when the campaign-finance reform legislation authored by the two senators was challenged by conservative activist groups.

Hebert, noting that he had been at DOJ during the administrations of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, added: "During the twenty-one years I was there, even though there were political appointees who I worked with, never did we inject partisan considerations into our law-enforcement responsibilities. That has clearly not been the case in recent years under this administration. And it's going to take a long time to cleanse the Department of Justice."

The Obama campaign, House Judiciary chair John Conyers, and, in an interview with TPMmuckraker, former US attorney David Iglesias, have all also connected the FBI's ACORN investigation to the kind of politicization exposed in the firings saga.

* This sentence has been corrected from an earlier version.

Rep. Tim Mahoney has admitted to having "at least two" affairs, but maintains that he broke no laws, the AP reports.

"I can understand why people would feel that way and for those people, all I can say is, 'I'm sorry I let you down,'" Mahoney told the Associated Press in his first set of interviews since reported Monday that he had a sexual relationship with an ex-staffer, Patricia Allen, who he agreed to pay $121,000 to in an out of court settlement.

Mahoney also admitted to a second affair, initially reported Wednesday by the AP, with a county official in his district. The affair reportedly was carried on, while he was lobbying the federal government for FEMA funds for the official's county.

So is this his full confession? Mahoney wouldn't say, but confessed to "multiple affairs."

"You're asking me over a lifetime? I'm just saying I've been unfaithful and I'm sorry for that," he said.

And what about his infamous predecessor, Mark Foley?

"With respect to the former congressman, I think that his situation is different from my situation," Mahoney said. "I don't want anyone to misinterpret that as me saying somehow I'm saying I'm more proud. I'm not saying that at all."