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We reported earlier that Rep. Don Young (R-AK) falsely claimed that he was named "Hero of the Taxpayer" by the non-partisan reform group, Taxpayers for Commonsense.

But Taxpayers for Commonsense denies even having such an award, yet alone awarding it to Young, a long-time target of the political watchdog.

As it turns out, Young was named "Hero of the Taxpayer", by the conservative group Americans for Tax Reform, founded and run by Republican lobbyist Grover Norquist.

But now even Norquist is throwing Young under the bus, issuing a press release late this afternoon slamming the Congressman and claiming he "betrays taxpayers."

"Republicans that vote for tax increases are like rat heads in Coke bottles,"Norquist said. "They ruin the Republican brand for all members. It should be readily apparent to a former 'Hero of the Taxpayer Award' recipient that you don't vote for tax hikes."

According to the press release, Young voted for H.R. 2642, the Blue Dog Tax Hike-- a move that makes him ineligible to receive ATR's "Hero of the Taxpayer Award" in 2008.

We called Young's campaign press contact for comment, Mike Anderson, who told us that the bill was a lot more complicated than it looked.

"If you vote for the bill you vote for veterans and Alaska has 75,000 veterans, but you're also colored as pro-increasing taxes, but if he voted against the bill, he's anti-raising taxes but anti-veteran," Anderson told TPMmuckraker. "Young said that he had to take care of the veterans. Veterans have always been very important."

The federal investigation of former Rep. Curt Weldon (R-PA) has nabbed another one.

Pleading guilty in federal court today was Cecelia Grimes, Weldon's very good friend and a former lobbyist.

Grimes admitted to destruction of evidence and could face up to 20 years in prison, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

The case goes back to October 2006, just after the feds began investigating Weldon for alleged nepotism, particularly concerning the lucrative lobbying contracts awarded to his inexperienced daughter.

Grimes admitted today that just a few days after the feds served her with a subpoena, she stuffed a stack of documents into a trash bag and put it on the curb outside her home for pick up. The FBI later retreived those documents, which included records of her travel plans and Weldon's campaign.

She also told a federal judge that she threw her Blackberry into a trash can at a fast food restaurant in Pennsylvania so the FBI could not recover the emails stored on it.

The court documents refer to Weldon only as "Representative A."

Weldon's chief of staff pleaded guilty last year

This federal investigation probably contributed to Weldon's failure to win reelection in 2006, But so far, none of this seems to be getting in the way of Weldon's new career as an international arms dealer.

As we earlier reported, Rep. Don Young (R-AK) has been running a radio ad laying claim to a fictitious award from Taxpayers for Commonsense.

In a statement released this morning, the Young camp responded with an apology in this brief press release:

In recent radio ads, we mistakenly credited the wrong organization with giving Congressman Young the Hero of the Taxpayer Award. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused. Please be assured that the ads are being corrected to reflect that Americans for Tax Reform awarded the Congressman with this award for his commitment to the American taxpayer and his support of legislation to decrease taxes.


The troubling text of the radio ad is transcribed below:

Now that Parnell is in the "Club for No Growth" they're running false ads accusing Don Young of pushing higher taxes on Alaskans when the opposite is true. Don Young was even presented the 'Hero of the Taxpayer Award' by Taxpayers for Common Sense. Sean Parnell ought to be ashamed, Don Young ought to be re-elected.


In our humble opinion, Don Young ought to get a fact-checker.

The more we see of the back-and-forth between the Department of Justice and the CIA regarding the torture program a few years ago, the more it becomes clear that everyone knew it was a little shady.

The American Civil Liberties Union yesterday released three previously undisclosed memos about the torture program from 2002 to 2004, which it obtained as part of its ongoing FOIA lawsuit with the DOJ seeking records on the treatment of prisoners in U.S. custody overseas.

One memo in particular appears to instruct the CIA in what agents should say if anyone raised the specter of criminal charges. For example: "To violate the statute, an individual must have the specific intent to inflict severe pain or suffering. ...absence of specific intent negates the charge of torture."

"It read like an attorney preparing a mob client for a confrontation with the police," said Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University. "Why on earth would you instruct interrogators on the meaning of 'specific intent' unless you wanted to coach them as to what to say when confronted?"

The very existence of this extensive, documented legal exchange between the DOJ and the CIA underscores the intelligence officials' concern about the legality of their own program, said Herman Schwartz, a former civil rights attorney and law professor at American University.

"The CIA people knew this was shaky stuff -- that's why they kept asking for memos from the Justice Department saying this was OK. They were very scared they would have to face up to this in some way later on," Schwartz said in a telephone interview.

An August 2002 memo from DOJ came about the same time the attorney general had laid out a definition of torture so narrow as to only involved things like "organ failure." Specifically, the CIA wanted to know, how does that apply in practice?

Then-Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee wrote to the CIA: "You have asked for this office's views on whether certain proposed conduct would violate the prohibition against torture found ...[in] United States Code."

Virtually all of the "proposed conduct" was redacted with large black marks covering whole pages. In fact, more than 80 percent of the 23 pages released to the ACLU were blacked out, apparently concealing the names of agents involved in the program and the specific techniques in question.

The memo spells out a legal logic that rests not on the facts of what may occur during interrogation, but the "defendant's" state of mind (the defendant being anyone who may actually get charged with torture).

...If a defendant acts with good faith belief that his actions will not cause such suffering, he has not acted with specific intent. A defendant acts in good faith when he has an honest belief that his actions will not result in severe pain or suffering.


So, hypothetically, an interrogator gets up in front of a grand jury and tells them he had the "good faith" belief that a few hours of waterboarding was not going to cause "severe pain or suffering."

What if a jury doesn't buy it? The memo goes on to say: "Although an honest belief need not be reasonable, such a belief is easier to establish where there is reasonable basis for it."

About six months later, Tenet sent a memo to the Department of Justice's Office of Legal Counsel informing them that the interrogators were keeping copious records.
"In each interrogation session in which enhanced Technique is employed, a contemporaneous record shall be created setting forth the nature and duration of each technique employed, the identities of those present."


Turley called that a "C-Y-A memo."

It wasn't long after that that then-Attorney General John Ashcroft rescinded the key 2002 memos that provided hte legal foundation for the torture programs.

Maybe the most important question raised by these new memos involves the records of torture sessions that Tenet referred to.

"We know there are records of what happened. Then the next question is: Will they come to light and to what extent?" Schwartz said. "I have to wonder what would be the significance of a Democratic president? If he puts his person in as head of the CIA and he puts his person in at head of DOJ? Will they as most executives are likely to do, continue to cover up what happened because of bureaucratic imperative? Or the alternative -- to provide this to Congress?"

As we mentioned yesterday, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman called-off a hearing on the White House interference with EPA decision-making when EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson refused to testify.

Today, Leahy released a letter he sent to William A. Roderick the Deputy Inspector General of the EPA.

In it, Leahy requested Roderick examine the issues that would have been heard before the committee, as well as the applicability of the claim of executive privilege:

I ask you to investigate. Please include in your investigation: Whether EPA has complied with its responsibilities to provide information to Congress and the American people on environmental issues, including public health and other risks from global warming. Whether EPA's decision with respect to California's waiver from the Clean Air Act was made in accordance with the technical and legal conclusions of EPA's own staff or whether the White House improperly interfered with EPA decision-making. Whether Administrator Johnson's testimony to Congress regarding the California waiver decisions and other matters related to global warming was accurate and truthful. Finally, to the extent information has been withheld from Congress on the basis of a claim of executive privilege, please determine the factual basis for all claims of executive privilege.


So will the investigation take place The EPA Inspector General's office told TPMmuckraker, that they would "review the Chairman's request and reach out for discussion" in the near future.

Rep. Don Young (R-AK) has been called many things in his day, but we're pretty sure a "Hero of the Taxpayer" isn't one of them.

But according to a new radio campaign ad being run by Young, he was given just such a title in an award given to him by the watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense.

This seemed a little odd to us, as we're pretty familiar with Taxpayers for Common Sense, and pretty sure Don Young is probably the last person to receive such a dubious honor.

And sure enough according to the group named in the ad, Young's claim is patently false.

"I wish people would let us know when we give them awards," Steve Ellis, Vice President for Taxpayers for Common Sense told TPMmuckraker. "We don't even have a 'Hero of the Taxpayer' award to start out. But we did scrub through our records and we found out that we had given him an award-- the 'Golden Fleece' award in 2003 for the Bridge to Nowhere."

According to Ellis, "The Golden Fleece Award" is given for "extreme cases of wasteful government spending."

But as it turns out, Young's claim isn't completely without merit. He was in fact named a "Hero of the Taxpayer," a few weeks ago, but not by Taxpayer for Commonsense. Americans for Tax Reform, an interest group founded by Republican lobbyist Grover Norquist, honored Young with that distinction in late June.

We've captured the radio audio for the ad. Note that Don Young "approves this message."



The relevant portion starts at about 33 seconds. The transcript is here:

Now that Parnell is in the "Club for No Growth" they're running false ads accusing Don Young of pushing higher taxes on Alaskans when the opposite is true. Don Young was even presented the 'Hero of the Taxpayer Award' by Taxpayers for Common Sense. Sean Parnell ought to be ashamed, Don Young ought to be re-elected.


We'll call the Young camp as soon as it's morning in Alaska.

Late update: The Young campaign released a statement that apologized for the mix-up in the attribution of the award and said they would duly revise it.

Four aides to former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer have been cited by the N.Y. State Commission on Public Integrity, with misusing the New York State Police. The citations stem from a highly contentious relationship between Spitzer and former New York Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno and the manipulations of state police records for political gain. (Times Union)

Salim Hamdan, Osama bin Laden's former driver and the first detainee to have a military commission at Guantanamo, claimed Thursday that the U.S. let bin Laden's bodyguard go free from Guantanamo after Hamdan identified him. This information was revealed by Hamdan on the fourth day of his war crimes trial. (McClatchy)

Dickie Scruggs and his son Zach have received their prison locations, and their hopes of being locked up together have been dashed. Dickie is heading to Kentucky for his 60 months, while his son Zach is heading to Florida for his 32. Both men pleaded guilty for their roles in a plot to bribe a circuit judge. (Daily Journal)

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Publicly, the U.S. State Department said it was discouraging U.S. oil companies from forging deals with Iraqi Kurds last year.

But privately, Bush administration officials may have sent different signals.

Now the State Department's Inspector General has launched an investigation into what exactly was said to whom.

The New York Times reports:

The State Department's internal watchdog division will investigate allegations that department officials did nothing to prevent a Texas oil company with close ties to President Bush from concluding an oil deal with the Kurdistan regional government that undermined both American policy and the Iraqi central government.

The Kurds' deal last year with Hunt Oil Company of Dallas -- and similar contracts between the Kurds and other energy companies -- have infuriated the Iraqi government, which has called them "illegal" attempts to usurp Baghdad's authority.

American officials have also stated publicly that the contracts undermine Baghdad's fragile central government and that they have discouraged such deals until the Iraqi government passes a national oil law.

But earlier this month a Congressional committee released internal e-mail messages and documents from the State Department and Hunt Oil that suggested that State Department officials did not try to dissuade Hunt Oil from signing the deal with the Kurds.

This week, the acting inspector general of the State Department, Harold W. Geisel, disclosed in a letter to lawmakers, which was also provided to The New York Times, that he had "initiated a review of the responses provided to the Congress recently on the issues surrounding oil contracts, oil field development and U.S. policy in Iraq."

It's been a slow burn at the hearing on the 2004 elections at the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties. With two separate panels, Hans von Spakovsky didn't get around to testifying until 5:00 PM ET.

But Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN) made it all worth it.

Ellison threw tact to the wind in questioning von Spakovsky, berating him for the disenfranchisement of a group of a dozen elderly nuns and battering him with inquiries on his communications with U.S. attorneys on voter fraud prosecutions. We have video coming, but to tide you over, here's the transcript:

ELLISON: Now here's something that happened on the May 7th Indiana election. A dozen nuns and another unknown number of students were turned away from the polls Tuesday in the first use of Indiana's stringent voter ID law since it was upheld last week by the United State Supreme Court. Mr. von Spakovsky, you wanna stop nuns from voting?

VON SPAKOVSKY: [silence]

ELLISON: Why don't you want nuns to vote, Mr. von Spakovsky?

VON SPAKOVSKY: Congressman Ellison, uh-

ELLISON: I'm just curious to know.

VON SPAKOVSKY: Those individuals, uh, were told, were- knew that they had to get an ID, they could have easily done so. They could have voted, uh, by absentee ballot- uh, nursing homes under the law are able to get-

ELLISON: . . . Mr. von Spakovsky, are you aware that a 98-year old nun was turned away from the polls by a-

VON SPAKOVSKY: They all had passports-

ELLISON: Excuse me.

VON SPAKOVSKY: They had expired passports which meant that they could have gotten-

ELLISON: Mr. von Spakovsky, do you know a 98-year old nun was turned away from the polls by a sister who's in her order and who knew her, but had to turn her away because she didn't have a government-issued ID? That's okay with you?

VON SPAKOVSKY: Yes. . .


And once he was done making von Spakovsky look like a guy who won't help an old lady across the street to get to her polling place, Ellison started in on his communications with the U.S. attorneys. All that and more, after the jump.

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A story in the New York Times today reports that the U.S. is planing to buy a new fleet of F-16 jet fighters for Pakistan.

Apparently the Bush administration wants to use nearly $230 million in "counter-terrorism money." That's an awfully broad definition of counter terrorism.

Nevertheless, the report underscores how U.S. relations with Pakistan have come around 180 degrees since Sept. 11, 2001, when the U.S. still had harsh words and economic sanctions for the country that had tested a nuclear bomb in 1998. Back then we used to consider President Pervez Musharraf a military dictator who'd overthrown a democratically elected government.

It was a small team of lobbyists who helped lead Pakistan back into our good graces. We told you last week that Stephen Payne was among them. And we were reminded this week that Randy Scheunemann, Sen. John McCain's top foreign policy adviser, was also helping out a few years ago, too.

Scheunemann was head of the two-man lobbying shop called Orion Strategies back in 2002 when they signed on to lobby for International Business & Energy Development Corp., a firm run by Payne.

According to lobbying disclosure reports, Scheunemann was "monitoring" a bill providing assistance to Pakistan.

Specifically, the bill -- which ultimately passed -- said any law that "prohibits direct assistance to a country whose duly elected head of government was deposed by decree or military coup shall not apply with respect to Pakistan."

These days, Scheunemann likes to talk tough about dealing with the "situation" in Pakistan.

Between 2001 and 2003, Scheunemann's firm was paid about $80,000 for its work for International Business & Energy Development Corp, lobbying disclosure reports show.

Scheunemann stopped working for Payne on Pakistan-related issues in 2003, according to Senate lobbing disclosure reports.

TPMLivewire