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Rep. Heather Wilson (R-N.M.) put out a statement last night in response to our report that, according to a federal indictment, her office played a role in the corruption scheme headed by now-jailed ex-lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

TPMmuckraker reported yesterday that excerpts from emails included in the indictment of Kevin Ring, a former Abramoff crony, identify a Wilson staffer as being actively involved in helping Abramoff's lobbying firm, Greenberg Traurig, retain its contract with the Sandia Pueblo Indian tribe. We also noted that a member of Ring's lobbying team -- likely Abramoff himself -- believed he had the power to influence Rep. Wilson's decisions with regard to a land deal the tribe was seeking, according to the email excerpts, and that the Wilson staffer received tickets to an LA Clippers basketball game from Ring.

In response, Rep. Wilson says in her statement:

I was completely unaware until today of any former staffer's e-mails ... I have not been contacted by the Department of Justice about this matter at any time.

Regarding the March 2003 e-mails between two rogue lobbyists concerning whether they would continue to be retained by the Pueblo, I am not sure whether to be amused or offended that they were operating under the delusion that I would help them retain their contract, or that losing their contract would hurt the Pueblo's longstanding relationship with me. As my constituents, I represent the Pueblo regardless of who they hire to represent them. At no time did I take any action on behalf of Greenberg Traurig with Sandia Pueblo
. In reference to the Clippers tickets, the statement adds: "We have very strict rules in our office on gifts -- including tickets to events. We train our staff about House ethics rules and we enforce those rules up to and including dismissal."

Newsweek reports that in 2005, a judge warned Sarah Palin and her family to stop disparaging Mike Wooten, the state trooper who at the time was undergoing a bitter divorce from Palin's sister and is at the heart of the ongoing Trooper-Gate investigation.

According to court records of the divorce proceedings obtained by the magazine, Judge John Suddock called the attacks on Wooten by the family "a form of child abuse." And an official with the troopers' union told the judge that he had received up to a dozen family complaints against Wooten. The official said he believed the complaints were "not job-related" and that Wooten was being "harassed" by his estranged wife's family.

And in his January 2006 order granting a final divorce decree to Wooten and Palin's sister, now known as Molly Hackett, Judge Suddock threatened to curb Hackett's child custody rights if her family continued to criticize Wooten. It appears that the judge did not ultimately limit those rights.

The Palins' alleged animosity toward Wooten is central to Trooper-Gate. The former state public safety commissioner, Walt Monegan, alleged in July that he was fired by Sarah Palin, who was elected governor in November 2006, because he refused to fire Wooten from his job as a trooper. The state legislature has appointed an independent investigator to look into the matter.

Gov. Palin had at first pledged full cooperation with the probe, but since she was announced as John McCain's running-mate, that cooperation has ground to a halt.

Finally! Congress is back from va-cay, and they've got lots of work to do before years end and House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) is wasting no time.

Tomorrow morning, the Committee is scheduled to consider a citation for contempt for Attorney General Michael Mukasey for his failure to supply documents in accordance with the subpoena issued in late June.

The meeting is set to start at 10:15 EST. We'll be sure to keep you updated on what happens.

The Politico reported Friday that a longtime associate and former gubernatorial aide to Sarah Palin says he was asked to leave the governor's office after the Palins discovered that he was dating the soon-to-be-ex wife of a close friend of Todd Palin.

John Bitney, who grew up in Wasilla with Palin, told the paper cum website:

I wanted to stay with the governor and support the governor -- we're talking about someone who's been a friend for 30 years -- but I understood it, and I have no ax to grind over the whole thing."


Today, the Wall Street Journal added more to the story, reporting that seven weeks after publicly praising Bitney, Palin fired him for what her spokeswoman now describes as "poor job performance."

During that time, Palin had found out from Scott Richter, a friend of Todd Palin's, that Richter's wife, Debbie, was having a relationship with Bitney.

The Journal notes that Palin's office seems to have had trouble keeping its story straight on the reason for Bitney's departure.
At the time, the governor's office cited "personal reasons" for Mr. Bitney's "amicable" departure, according to contemporaneous news reports. Last week, Sharon Leighow, a spokeswoman for the governor's office, said "John Bitney was dismissed because of his poor job performance." She declined to provide further details.

The Abramoff corruption probe has already snared one GOP Congressman, Bob Ney, and implicated a few more, most prominently Rep. John Doolittle of California. But could there be another to add to the list: Rep. Heather Wilson of New Mexico?

An examination by TPMmuckraker of the indictment of former Jack Abramoff associate Kevin Ring, filed yesterday, suggests that Wilson's office was tied in to Abramoff's corruption network at a level not previously known. And John McCain's 2005 investigation into Abramoff's fleecing of Indian tribes, which McCain conducted as chair of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, made no mention of that fact.

The Ring indictment contains the following statements from prosecutors:

On or about January 30, 2003, a lobbyist at Firm B emailed a staffer for the New Mexico tribe's U.S. Representative, "Sorry I couldn't hangout last night. I greatly appreciate your taking the time to han[g]out with the [New Mexico tribe]. It meant a lot to [K]evin and I [sic]. BTW, you should be all set for the [Los Angeles] Clippers [basketball] game."
And:
On or about February 14, 2003, a lobbyist at Firm B forwarded an email from the staffer for the New Mexico tribe's U.S. Representative to defendant RING in which the staffer had written, "How did Kevin' s meetings with the [New Mexico tribe] go? If you guys lose that contract I would be disappointed."
And:
On or about March 4, 2003, a lobbyist at Firm B emailed defendant RING, "I'm going to kill [the New Mexico tribe] with [its U.S. Representative] if we don't get hired."
And:
On or about March 7, 2003, a lobbyist at Firm B emailed defendant RING, "[ The staffer for the New Mexico tribe' s U.S. Representative] is going to be in the meeting with [the New Mexico tribe] when they come to town. He's going to give the 'are you guys staying with [Firm B] this cycle? They did a great job on . . . legislation . . . and really cleared the path for you guys . . . . . yadda yadda.' He's gonna gather as much intel as possible for us."
It's clear from identifying details in the indictment -- which refers to a New Mexico Indian tribe that hired Abramoff's firm, Greenberg Traurig around March 2002 -- that the tribe is the Sandia Pueblo Indians, who are represented in Congress by Wilson. So in other words, a staffer for Wilson was actively involved in helping Ring and Greenberg Traurig (Firm B, where Ring worked at the time), retain their contract to represent the Sandia Indians. And Ring's Greenberg partner -- most likely Abramoff himself, but certainly a member of Abramoff's team at Greenberg -- believed he had the power to affect decisions made by Rep. Wilson concerning the tribe's interests.

A spokesman for Rep. Wilson declined to comment on the information in the indictment.

We already knew that Wilson had accepted political contributions from both Abramoff himself and David Safavian, a former Abramoff crony and Bush administration official convicted for obstruction of justice as part of the Abramoff probe. But the information in the indictment suggests that her office worked with Abramoff more closely that has yet been reported.

Wilson has been a stalwart supporter and prominent surrogate for John McCain, painting him as a crusader against Washington corruption. Just last night, she appeared on MSNBC's Hardball to make the case for him, and last week she told NPR: "John McCain has chosen a reformer ... to be his running mate and I think that's a perfect complement to who he is and what he's done in his life."

Wilson may have good reason to hold the GOP nominee in high regard. In his 2005 Senate investigation, McCain had access to the Greenberg Traurig email trove, presumably including the ones cited by prosecutors in the Ring indictment highlighted above. But his final report generally avoided focusing on members of Congress, and omitted any mention of Wilson.

The long awaited indictment yesterday of Jack Abramoff associate Kevin Ring contains over 100 mentions of a not-so-mysterious "Representative 5," California Republican Congressman John Doolittle, a long-known crony of Abramoff.

The indictment adds additional information to Doolittle's already thick record with Abramoff. According to the indictment, Ring expensed at least one suite for a sports event, eight concert tickets (including tickets for Dixie Chicks and Faith Hill), and five meals totaling more than $2000 for Doolittle. For Doolittle's staff and his legislative director in particular, Ring bought 29 sports tickets, four concert tickets, nine meals, and one gift from Macy's.

But Ring and Abramoff were well accommodated in return. As the indictment describes, Doolittle proved himself "a good soldier" by chairing a hearing on the Puerto Rico statehood issue for an Abramoff client and held up his opposition to an anti-gambling bill among other favors.

And Doolittle's staff was just as helpful. Doolittle's communications director helped Ring out with tax legislation to "earn [his] Sigs Sushi ;)," and his legislative director was so "tenacious on the appropriations front" that he earned an esteemed compliment from Ring in an email: "You the man."

It's been awhile since Doolittle and his wife Julie have come up, but page after page of gifts and favors in the indictment bring the happy couple back into the muck spotlight.

Julie Doolittle's involvement began when her business records were subpoenaed in 2004 after her "consulting company," Sierra Dominion, was hired by Abramoff. A few years later, in 2007, the FBI raided the Doolittle's home for additional evidence related to their investigation of Abramoff. The same day the raid occurred -- man of the hour, Kevin Ring, a Doolittle staffer prior to his work at Abramoff's Greenberg Taurig -- resigned from his subsequent job at a different lobbying firm.

Meanwhile, Doolittle was having his own problems. After the FBI raid became public, six of his aides were contacted by the feds and others testified before the grand jury related to the investigation.

Together, John paid Julie 15% of the takings from his PAC -- "payment" for money she reportedly raised herself. He also arranged for her hiring by Abramoff, requesting that she be given work, but not "too much," according to an email obtained in Ring's indictment. "Since she has responsibilities at home as a mother and wife." According to the indictment, Abramoff obliged giving Julie a $5000 a month job, as an events planner. As it turned out, all the events that she planned were canceled - but that didn't stop her from getting paid. In the end, Julie was paid $96,000 between 2002 and 2004 by Abramoff's firm.

Despite Republicans clamoring for his resignation, and the downfall of Abramoff and all those around him, Doolittle stood his ground, and until the last moment, maintained he we would run for reelection for his seat in Congress. But in January, he and Julie issued a joint statement, claiming that John would retire after this year, because they were "ready for a change."

Now that Ring pleaded not guilty to ten counts of public corruption, the big player in his indictment -- Representative 5 -- seems like the next tree to fall in the rotting Abramoff forest.

And if legal defense funds are any indication, Doolittle is playing with the big boys. In the last quarter alone he racked up $152,852 in attorney fees.

It appears that they're earning their keep. Doolittle's attorneys released a statement saying that "it is clear that portions of the Kevin Ring indictment were designed to make gratuitous references to the Congressman and his wife. This appears to have been done to titillate the public, with the foreseeable and therefore intended consequence of attempting to embarrass and pressure the Congressman."

Indicted Alaska senator Ted Stevens has said he wants his trial to be completed before he stands for reelection in November. But his lawyers are seeking materials that, according to legal experts, are likely to drag out the case.

The Politico lists some of the materials requested by the Stevens team:

• Secret grand jury transcripts, including testimony from a Stevens aide called before the panel, to find out whether the Justice Department used information that may be privileged under the Constitution's "speech or debate" clause.

• Reports from FBI agents who listened in on 105 of the senator's telephone calls -- a fraction of the more than 2,800 calls agents monitored as part of their Alaska corruption probe.

• Medical records to show whether former VECO Chairman Bill Allen, whose company allegedly provided more than $250,000 in "things of value to Stevens," has suffered from a head injury or any other "cognitive impairments" that might affect his testimony.

• Detailed information on all potential government witnesses: their criminal histories, plea deals and immunity agreements, as well as any information the Justice Department may have about their abuse of drugs or alcohol.

• The photographs of Stevens' Girdwood, Alaska, home taken by FBI agents during a search in July 2007. Stevens' lawyers are suggesting that photos the government wants to introduce into evidence were taken with "wide angle lenses or other optics that distorted the perspective in the photos" to make some of the rooms in the house look larger than they really are.


Politico notes the contradiction at the heart of Stevens' defesne: "While Stevens has put a priority on getting the case done quickly, his lawyers seem determined to present the most aggressive defense possible. Those two interests may collide as the trial date draws near."

Stevens is charged with failing to report gifts from supporters worth hundreds of thousands of dollars on financial disclosure forms.

Three out of eight defendants in the supposed plot to blow up trans-Atlantic airplanes were convicted in London Monday of conspiracy to commit murder. However, none of the defendants was convicted of the more serious charge of conspiracy to use liquid explosives on airplanes. The alleged terrorist plot was uncovered in August 2006. (New York Times)

Former Haliburton executive and KBR chief Albert Stanley has agreed to cooperate with prosecutors after pleading guilty last week to bribery for deals in Nigeria. Federal officials believe that Stanley's cooperation could lead to further indictments in the oil industry in cases involving the bribery of foreign governments. (ProPublica and PBS' Frontline)

Vice President Dick Cheney is being sued by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington [CREW]. The liberal watchdog group is seeking a court order to ensure that Cheney complies with the post-Watergate Presidential Records Act and eventually releases records publicly. CREW's lawsuit expresses the concern that Cheney will try to skirt the law by claiming he is not a member of the executive branch. (AP)

Read More →

If you think you're hearing a lot about Sarah Palin, just imagine the poor folks over at the Wasilla City Hall, which must be why they set up a one-stop-shop for documents relating to their former mayor on their webpage.

We're looking through them now, but we'd love your help in raking. We've set up this thread for you to post to for items you find interesting. There are over a dozen documents, so in order to keep them straight we've devised a simple shorthand. To let us know which document you're referring to or quoting from, use the capital letters of the title of the document and the year (if there is one), and then the page number.

So a quote from page 6 of the "Certified Annual Financial Report -- FY2000" would be : CAFR2000:6.

The documents are here, good luck raking!

We learned on Friday that seven witnesses last week cancelled their scheduled depositions in the Sarah Palin Trooper-Gate investigation. This came after Palin's lawyer asserted in a court filing last week that the governor would not herself testify unless the probe were taken out of the hands of the legislature.

But there's additional evidence of a centralized effort to protect Palin. Another possible witness in the case, Palin aide Ivy Frye, has hired Thomas Van Flein, the lawyer representing Palin herself. Asked by TPMmuckraker this afternoon about her role in the inquiry, Frye, described in news reports as a "special assistant" to Palin, responded: "You can call my attorney if you'd like," and named Van Flein.

Palin's office has claimed executive privilege on a group of emails sent this spring between Palin aides, including Frye. Van Flein did not immediately return a request for comment.

As for the seven witnesses who cancelled their depositions last week, we already knew that one of those seven was Frank Bailey, the Palin aide who was heard in a recorded phone conversation telling a trooper official that Palin was wondering why Trooper Mike Wooten -- the figure at the center of the case -- still had a job.

And on Saturday, the Anchorage Daily News reported the names of the other six:

• Annette Kreitzer, Palin's administration commissioner.

• Kris Perry, a Palin confidant who managed her gubernatorial campaign and now manages her Anchorage office.

• Nicki Neal, state personnel and labor relations director.

• Karen Rehfeld, the governor's budget director.

• Brad Thompson, state risk management director.

• Dianne Kiesel, a state human resources manager.


Update: When asked about the cancellation of his deposition, Thompson told TPMmuckraker, "no comment." The rest did not immediately return calls.

TPMLivewire