TPM News

The easily de-railable federal corruption trial of Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) was thrown off course briefly yet again -- this time by questionable head movements. Judge Emmet Sullivan chastised the personal attorney of former VECO CEO Bill Allen for allegedly signaling to his client by making "nodding" motions at Allen to tell him to answer a question either with a yes or no while he was testifying. The government, Allen, and the attorney in question denied that any "nodding" -- or as Judge Sullivan called it "borderline obstruction of justice" -- was taking place. (Roll Call)

Your company's so close to the red that it receives an $85 billion bailout and what do you do to recoup? Go to the spa, of course. Shortly after the Fed gave the go ahead to rescue American International Group, company executives beat it to the swanky St. Regis resort, spending nearly half a million dollars -- and $23,000 at the spa alone. In the words of an incredulous Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD): "They spent another $10,000 dollars for -- I don't know what this is, leisure dining. Bars?" (The Gavel)

Seventeen Guantanamo detainees were ordered to be set free yesterday, a mere four years after a judge first declared them safe for release. The U.S. had said it could not return the Uighur Muslim prisoners to China because they might be tortured. The detainees will be released in the U.S., into the care of supporters. (New York Times)

Read More →

We're starting to get a little more information about the raid on ACORN's Las Vegas offices conducted by Nevada authorities earlier today.

FoxNews.com reports that, according to Bob Walsh, a spokesman with the Nevada Secretary of State's office, the raid was prompted by ongoing complaints that ACORN, which works to register low income voters, was submitting registrations with erroneous information, including non-existent and false names, and duplicates.

But it's still unclear how many of these fraudulent forms were submitted.

Secretary of State Ross Miller told Fox that the flawed registrations included the names of Dallas Cowboys football players. "Tony Romo is not registered to vote in the state of Nevada, and anybody trying to pose as Terrell Owens won't be able to cast a ballot on Nov. 4," Miller said.

Miller added that no ACORN employees or canvassers have been arrested or charged in connection with the raid.

A month ago, state and federal authorities launched a joint task force to investigate voter-fraud complaints.

Last week, the chair of the Macomb County Republican Party in Michigan filed a defamation suit against the Michigan Messenger, over a story in which he is quoted as stating his party plans to challenge voters whose names and addresses appear on foreclosure lists.

We got our hands on a copy of the suit, and we invite you to take a look. We'll be continuing to bring you updates on this story as it develops.

Does Senator Norm Coleman pay for any of his personal expenses?

In what is becoming a clear pattern, reports show that his political contributors have paid for an array of Coleman's basic expenses, including his rent, his utility bills, his trips to the Bahamas, and -- in the latest revelation -- even his clothes.

From Harper's:

I've been told by two sources that [local businessman and political contributor Nasser] Kazeminy has in the past covered the bills for Coleman's lavish clothing purchases at Nieman Marcus in Minneapolis. The sources were not certain of the dates of the purchases; if they were made before Coleman joined the Senate in 2003, he obviously would not be required to report it under senate rules. But having a private businessman pay for your clothing is never a good idea if you're a public official (Coleman was mayor of St. Paul from 1994 to 2002).


Oddly, the Coleman camp didn't issue a denial to Harper's inquiries, stating only, "[a]s required, any gift Norm Coleman has received from his friends has been fully reported."

Late update: Coleman gave a slightly more heated denial to the Kazeminy clothing question to a Pioneer Press reporter, who caught the incumbent senator as he was heading out of a cafe in Fergus Falls, MN:

"First of all, every gift I've ever received has been reported, ok. But the idea of responding to the things bloggers throw out is something I'm not going to get into. There are very awful things that are said about people on the blogs," he said.

[Reporter Dave] Orrick then asked for a simple yes or no answer on the suit question. "That's the answer, period. You can read it in the answer," he said.

Nevada investigators today raided the offices of ACORN -- a group that works to register minorities and low-income people to vote -- looking for evidence of voter fraud, reports the Associated Press.

The Association of Community Organizations for Reform (ACORN) is accused of submitting multiple voter registrations with false and duplicate names, according to a spokesman at the office of Secretary of State Ross Miller, a Democrat.

Two months ago, state and federal authorities formed a joint task force to pursue charges of election fraud in Nevada.

We're looking into the question of how much credible evidence exists of ACORN's involvement in significant voting fraud, and will keep you posted.

With the juicy audio recordings between Sen. Ted Stevens and former VECO CEO Bill Allen concluding Allen's direct testimony, the once-close-friend of the 84-year-old senator took the stand for cross examination.

From Roll Call:

Under cross-examination by Stevens' attorney Brendan Sullivan, Allen acknowledged that the week after he was first contacted by the FBI, he sold VECO for about $380 million to contracting giant CH2M Hill. He also acknowledged that his plea agreement with the government suggested that prosecutors would view his cooperation as VECO's cooperation.

About $70 million of the sale price was held back because of concerns about legal liability the company might have faced because of the ongoing investigation, as well as potential tax and environmental issues that are more routine in such sales, Allen said.


We already knew that the defense would be making this argument. Just a few weeks ago, they claimed that Allen's government cooperation would mean he received a windfall of $40 million from the company that bought Allen's oil pipeline company, VECO. The claim was disputed by the company itself in subsequent filings.

But, in general, Allen's soft fall from grace, despite guilty pleas on conspiracy and bribery have been well documented.

In response to concerted requests from Republicans, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), who chairs the House Oversight Committee, announced today that the committee will hold hearings into the failure of mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Waxman's low-key announcement -- "the request we've received from the minority will be pursued," he said -- came at a hearing with executives of AIG, as part of a committee investigation into the failed insurer. Yesterday, GOP members of the committee launched a campaign to discredit Waxman's broader investigation into corporate misdeeds, including at AIG.

Republicans had also called on Waxman to look into Fannie and Freddie, who, unlike many other corporations implicated in the current financial crisis, have closer ties to Democrats than to the GOP, by some assessments.

At a hearing yesterday, Rep. Tom Davis of Virginia, the ranking Republican on the committee, said of Fannie and Freddie: "They seem to be at the epicenter of the crisis, and yet the chairman continues to focus on issues, such as executive compensation, that generate headlines but neither get to the root of the problem nor move us any closer to a solution. We'd hate to think the millions of dollars Fannie and Freddie executives contributed to Democratic congressional candidates also contributed to the reluctance to investigate this aspect of the crisis."

Republicans also called, at this morning's hearing, for Attorney General Michael Mukasey to appoint a special prosecutor to look into Fannie and Freddie.

The Wisconsin attorney general's office is standing firmly by its claim that Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen's suit against the Government Accountability Board is not political -- despite an audio recording discovered yesterday of Van Hollen promising action on voter fraud to a Republican audience, weeks before he filed suit.

"It's a very good and compelling speech that reiterates what he's been talking about for two years," Kevin St. John, a spokesman from the AG's office told WisPolitics.com, the site that originally discovered the audio of Van Hollen's speech at the Republican National Convention on Sept. 4.

"You'll be hearing much more from the Department of Justice in the coming months about doing what we can to make sure that those people who have illegally and illegitimately registered to vote, don't have the opportunity on election day to show up and take away your vote by casting one that is not legal," Van Hollen says in the audio recording from the RNC.

St. John pointed to a letter (pdf) Van Hollen sent to the GAB -- which oversees state elections -- on August 27, which states that he will be pushing for the board to meet HAVA compliances in demanding that they verify all of the voter registrations filed since January 2006.

"The Attorney General has given many public statements about the right to vote and to enforce the law," St. John said to WisPolitics.com. "Illegal voting is wrong and the Attorney General's office should work within the powers of the office to enforce the law and protect the right to vote."

The Federal Communications Commission has initiated an investigation into the possibility that media networks and military analysts broke identification sponsorship rules to present a rosier picture of the Iraq war. A New York Times article last April showed that media military commentators were frequently fed information in private meetings with top White House and Pentagon officials. Two democratic congressmen sent letters to the F.C.C. requesting a probe last spring. (Wall Street Journal)

The Securities and Exchange Commission may have unfairly conducted an insider trading investigation, according to a federal report. During the investigation of the hedge fund Pequot Capital Management, an S.E.C. lawyer was axed after he tried to interview a top executive connected to the case. The report recommends disciplinary action against the commission's director of enforcement and two supervisors. The S.E.C.'s record is already under fire from critics who say it lapsed in its oversight role, leading to the current Wall Street collapse. (New York Times)

Democrats have joined the chorus of critics of new F.B.I. rules governing when the agency can lay the groundwork for an investigation. Under the new regulations, scheduled to go into effect Dec. 1, agents do not need supervisor approval or evidence of a crime to launch an assessment. Watchdog groups have said that the new rules would also permit widespread racial profiling. Democrats, including House Judiciary Chair John Conyers (D-MI) have asked that implementation be delayed to allow the new administration to evaluate them. (UPI)

Read More →

So it looks like Todd Palin will answer questions in the Alaska legislature's Trooper-Gate investigation after all. But there's a catch.

According to representatives of the McCain-Palin campaign speaking at an Anchorage press conference last night, the First Dude will respond to questions from independent investigator Steve Branchflower, but only in writing, and with the answers funneled through his lawyer.

The campaign argued that his written responses would satisfy the subpoena issued by the legislature to Todd Palin. In response, Sen. Hollis French, the Democratic lawmaker overseeing the probe, told the Anchorage Daily News that the full Senate would decide whether Todd Palin is really off the hook. Resisting a subpoena can be punished with jail time.

It was announced over the weekend that seven other subpoened witnesses, all of whom work for the Palin administration, will testify in person this week.

Branchflower is expected to wrap up his investigation late this week, and release a report shortly thereafter.

TPMLivewire