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It's hard to say exactly where all the trouble started for Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann (D), because there's so much trouble.

But Dann's says he's not going anywhere. That's despite a virtually unanimous call from Ohio elected officials, including the Democratic governor, that he resign. Dann's resolve is firm. Now state lawmakers are mulling impeachment, though not everyone agrees on that course of action. As one Dem lawmaker put it, "I don't know whether we should impeach somebody for being stupid." So Dann might survive after all, the many, many very embarrassing details notwithstanding.

If you had to pinpoint the source of Dann's downfall, it would have to be Anthony Gutierrez.

Gutierrez is a heavy drinking lecher and the world's worst pickup artist. He is also an old friend of Dann's. So when Dann was elected the state's attorney general in 2006, he put his buddy Tony in charge of the AG's general services.

Dann also moved into a condo in Columbus with Gutierrez and another buddy, Leo Jennings III, who became Dann's communication director. The mens' wives did not move with them, remaining in faraway Youngstown.

And there they lived the bachelors' life without incident. Until September 10th.

That night, Gutierrez succeeded in convincing Cindy Stankoski, a 26 year-old staffer in the office, to go out drinking with him. They went to one bar, and then another, and then another. He drank Crown Royal and ordered Grey Goose vodka for her. The next step was to get her back to the condo. He bragged about the power he wielded in the AG's office and told her that his relatives back in Youngstown had Mafia ties. He rang up Dann, who urged Stankoski to come on over. They'd even get Hawaiian pizza for her. Gutierrez pushed, telling her that she'd be OK with "the big dogs." She relented.

At the condo, there was pizza and tequila. Another female staffer from the office, oddly enough, was there too. Stankoski felt awkward and very drunk. She sent a string of text messages to a friend: "im at marc dann's place..." then "pick me up" then "Girl...im in a weird situation.. iem w marc dann...." then "drunnnnk."

When she asked to lie down, Gutierrez directed her to his bedroom. She awoke several hours later to find three of her buttons on her pants undone. Gutierrez was lying besides her in his underwear.

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Since 2005, Special Counsel Scott Bloch, whose office is charged in part with protecting federal whistleblowers, has been under investigation for retaliating against whistleblowers in his own office and generally politicizing the OSC.

Now government watchdog POGO says they've discovered evidence that Bloch's apparent motivation for launching a very well publicized probe was to make himself invulnerable:

An extraordinary document obtained by the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) from inside the Office of Special Counsel (OSC) reveals that Special Counsel Scott Bloch created a special task force to investigate sensitive and high-profile matters and then ignored virtually every recommendation made by it. The document lends support to POGO's theory that Bloch used the task force to launch an investigation of the White House, issuing demands for documents termed by his own task force as "overly broad," to create the appearance of a conflict of interest with an ongoing investigation into allegations that Bloch himself had engaged in misconduct.


POGO has posted the document here (pdf). As they say, the document shows that Bloch worked to maximize the probe of Karl Rove and other White House aides against the recommendation of his own advisors. You might say that shows he was just being aggressive, but his task force evidently thought they were wasting their time by getting into matters the OSC had no authority to investigate.

Some more detail in this morning's papers on that raid yesterday at the Office of Special Counsel that involved two dozen FBI agents serving subpoenas on 17 employees in a raid that lasted more than five hours. All indications remain that this is a probe focused on Special Counsel Scott Bloch, but Government Executive reports that the scope is surprising:

But OSC employees said the grand jury subpoenas seek a wide range of information that goes beyond Bloch's deletion of computer files or treatment of agency employees.

Investigators have demanded all files on OSC's investigation last year into allegations of improper political activity by Lurita Doan, the former head of the General Services Administration, who was forced to resign last week by the White House.

In addition, investigators demanded documents related to OSC's investigation into allegations that Secretary of State Rice used federal resources to travel to campaign appearances supporting President Bush's re-election in 2004. Bloch's office closed the case, finding no violation by Rice.


Oh, and don't forget the towels:

An official present during the raid yesterday said federal agents asked for access to computers and e-mail messages from Bloch and from the mid-level workers who received subpoenas. Investigators also sought credit card receipts, an agency employee said. Some staff members had complained that Bloch used agency funds to buy for his office restroom $400 hand towels decorated with a special OSC seal, according to another person familiar with the raid.


The towels were a legit perk, a spokesman told Justin at ABC:

"Scott, as a presidentially-appointed, Senate-confirmed member of the administration gets an allowance for things," spokesman Jim Mitchell explained. "He paid about $300 for some towels that had the OSC seal on it. He took a couple home, which he paid for himself."

It's gotten to be pretty routine. An EPA official goes up to Capitol Hill and straight-facedly insists that the agency is all about transparency and science, and Democratic senators respond by calling it a lie.

But this morning, it wasn't EPA chief Stephen Johnson who made the trip. This time the EPA sent Assistant Administrator for the Office of Research and Development George Gray instead. Why couldn't Johnson make it? Gray didn't seem sure, but explained to an angry Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) that Johnson had been having back problems. In March, Boxer implied that Johnson had planned an official trip to Australia in order to avoid having to attend in Congressional hearings in April. Maybe all that flight time wasn't good for his back.

But the Democrats didn't hold up on Gray. Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Boxer went round and round with him, as he continued to insist that "transparency is key" to the EPA's decision process and that the administrator's decisions were based on science. Boxer was most direct, saying at the end of his testimony that Gray's insistence that only science had been considered "is a big lie.... You've tried to defend the indefensible, and you have failed as far as this senator is concerned."

Gray proved himself a fine substitute for Johnson, however. When the senators pressed him on why Johnson had gone along with the White House and overruled the recommendation of the agency's Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee in setting a higher level for smog-forming ozone in the air, Gray wanted everyone to understand that it was "actually a very good example" of the "way in which the uncertainty of science plays an important role in decisions." Gray counseled that "science does not give us a single or precise answer."

But Whitehouse didn't seem to be buying it. "The people that you chose to be the experts unanimously supported this recommendation.... These were the best scientists in the country and you ignored them." Gray responded that Johnson hadn't "ignored" them -- he'd just come to a different conclusion. He did allow, however, that in addition to "scientific considerations," there had been "science policy considerations," which are a "part of moving the scientific process forward." But the EPA wouldn't discuss it's communications with the White House, he said, saying that it was important to keep "discussions with the rest of the federal family" private.

The Environmental Protection Agency says there is a "distinct possibility" that the agency will not cleanse contaminated drinking water of the toxin perchlorate, a rocket fuel ingredient that has been found in water of 35 states. Perchlorate affects the thyroid and can cause health risks in fetuses. The EPA claims that fixing the problem may not do any good and, instead, may issue a health warning. (Associated Press)

Attorneys of detainees held at Guantanamo Bay believe their phones have been bugged by the U.S. government, they claim in court filings that seek an answer on possible surveillance. The Justice Department did not comment on the allegations, but have said as recently as March that they could neither confirm nor deny spying on detainees' lawyers because saying so would compromise U.S. intelligence sources and methods. (New York Times)

White House e-mails from a critical three-month period that includes the March 23, 2003, invasion of Iraq are missing, White House officials say. The Bush administration says the files may be found on computer backup tapes due to the way they were dated and are hoping an archiving system could possibly recover the lost e-mails. (Washington Post)

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Nobody does compromise quite like the Bush administration.

If you're a regular reader of TPM, you're familiar with Hans von Spakovsky and in particular, Spakovsky's remarkable track record at the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division. It is because of that record -- one of ignoring, marginalizing, and intimidating career lawyers in order to institute restrictive voting laws all over the country, a pattern amounting to "institutional sabotage" as one former career attorney there put it -- that Senate Democrats (Barack Obama and Russ Feingold in particular) opposed his nomination to the Federal Election Commission.

Spakovsky was one of four nominees -- two Dems and two GOPers -- to the commission. The other three were uncontroversial. Senate Republicans insisted that all nominees be voted on together, and the Democrats objected: Spakovsky would have to get his own vote. The Republicans refused, and there things have stood for more than four months. Without the necessary number of commissioners, the FEC has essentially shut down.

It is a problem that has a relatively simple solution: if the White House were to submit another nominee, that nominee would more than likely be quickly confirmed without much trouble.

Instead, the Bush administration proposed something different yesterday.

Spakovsky remains a nominee. Instead, the administration has submitted a new nominee to replace the current chairman, David Mason. Mason is one of the only two seated commissioners, and it just so happens that he's been creating a whole lot of trouble for John McCain lately.

In February, the McCain campaign notified the FEC that it was withdrawing from the public financing system for the primary. Although McCain had once opted in, his campaign said that it had never received public funds and so could opt out. The move meant that McCain would not be bound by the $54 million spending limit for the system.

But Mason balked. McCain couldn't just opt out -- the FEC had to approve his request before he could. And Mason also indicated that a tricky bank loan might mean that McCain had locked himself in to the system. That would be disastrous for the campaign, since the Dem nominee would have a tremendous spending advantage through August. So McCain's campaign has continued to spend away, far surpassing the limit already. The Democratic Party has filed a complaint with the FEC and has also taken the matter to court.

And now Mason is getting the boot.

So where's the compromise, exactly? A White House spokeswoman tells The New York Times that Republicans are now willing to have a separate vote for Spakovsky. Whether that actually is the case, we shall see. If so, that means Democrats will have the chance to actually vote down Spakovsky once and for all.

But there is no shortage of cynicism about the White House's move. As Fred Wertheimer of Democracy 21 put it: "The only apparent reason for President Bush to drop Commissioner David Mason at this stage, an FEC candidate he had twice proposed for the Commission, is to prevent him from casting an adverse vote against Senator McCain on important enforcement questions pending at the Commission. The questions deal with Senator McCain's request to withdraw from the presidential primary public financing system and the consequences of a loan the McCain campaign took out and the collateral provided for the loan."

Earlier this week, I noted an excerpt from the new book by Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, where he told how Donald Rumsfeld had ordered a report by the Joint Warfighting Center of the bungled occupation of Iraq, but when Rumsfeld got the results, he'd ordered it squelched.

Sanchez writes that he was told by one of the people who'd done the study that when they'd presented their findings to Rumsfeld, he'd "just shut us down" and said "This is not going anywhere." According to Sanchez, the report validated his account that the entire Pentagon leadership knew that he'd had inadequate support when he'd been in command of the U.S. forces in Iraq after the fall of Hussein. It also showed that Gen. Tommy Franks had discarded the original plan, which called for a twelve-to-eighteen-month occupation deployment.

Sanchez added: "From that, my belief was that Rumsfeld's intent appeared to be to minimize and control further exposure within the Pentagon and to specifically keep this information from the American public."

Susanne Moore, media operations chief at the Joint Forces Command, told me today that the report actually had been finished and published in late 2006 -- but that it "was and remains classified."

So why is a historical report classified? "It has all the earmarks of an abusive classification," Steve Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists' Secrecy Project, told me. "The report has been publicly characterized as an embarrassing document, and an allegation has been made by an informed source that the motive for withholding was to avoid embarrassment and disgrace, which of course is not a legitimate use of the classification system. So it demands further investigation by Congress to get to the bottom of it."

From The Wall Street Journal:

Federal Bureau of Investigation agents raided the Office of Special Counsel here, seizing computers and documents belonging to the agency chief Scott Bloch and staff.

More than a dozen FBI agents served grand jury subpoenas shortly after 10 a.m., shutting down the agency's computer network and searching its offices, as well as Mr. Bloch's home. Employees said the searches appeared focused on alleged obstruction of justice by Mr. Bloch during the course of an 2006 inquiry into his conduct in office.

The independent agency, created by Congress in the wake of the Watergate scandal, is charged with protecting federal employees and deciding whether their complaints merit full-scale investigation -- a first line of defense against fraud and mismanagement in government. It also enforces a ban on U.S. employees engaging in partisan political activity.

The Wall Street Journal reported last year that Mr. Bloch had used "Geeks on Call," an outside computer-service firm, to erase his computer and those of two former staff members in December 2006....

The computer erasures became part of that investigation and are one of the reasons behind today's raid, employees said.


To refresh your memory, Bloch's agency is a little known one that is charged with investigating whistleblower complaints, Hatch Act violations, and the like -- but who is himself being investigated for retaliating against whistleblowers and politicizing his office. The Office of Personnel Management's inspector general has been conducting that investigation since 2005. The feds are apparently investigating whether Bloch tried to obstruct that investigation by deleting his hard drive, among other things.

To give you an idea how fraught this investigation is with unique issues, Bloch is not only busily investigating the White House for political briefings Karl Rove and his aides made to various agencies, but he's also conducting an investigation of the politicization at the Department of Justice and issues related to the U.S. Attorney firings -- a probe that he complained was being blocked by the DoJ. Of course, he can't do much to block the DoJ investigation of him.

Update: NPR, also reporting on the raid, reports that the entire's office email system was shut down this morning.

Talk about bad timing! Just as CACI International was ramping up for its book tour -- the company's CEO has penned "Our Good Name," which according to the flap copy is "CACI's story of facing one of the biggest scandals in recent history...and coming out honorably with its head high" -- an Iraqi man has sued CACI, saying that employees tortured him when he was held in Abu Ghraib.

Cruelly, the lawyers for Emad al-Janabi, which include lawyers from the Center for Constitutional Rights, have used CACI's own book against the company. The suit alleges that the book reveals that CACI's internal investigation failed to include any interviews of detainees or of a former employee whistleblower. The suit was filed in Los Angeles in order to target former CACI contractor Steven "Big Steve" Stefanowicz.

Note: For those looking for another beach read this summer from the same genre (self glorifying autobiography by an infamous contractor's CEO), there's also Erik Prince's "We Are Blackwater."

Earlier this morning, the House Judiciary Committee authorized a subpoena for David Addington, Vice President Cheney's Chief of Staff, to testify about the administration's torture policy.

And now the AP reports that John Yoo, probably the most infamous of the infamous characters that walked the halls of the Justice Department during the Bush administration, has agreed to testify as well without compulsion. That's a departure from his original position, when he said that he could not testify about his role in authorizing the use of torture because he had not received the green light from the DoJ.

The AP adds: "Former Attorney General John Ashcroft, former Under Secretary of Defense Douglas Feith, and former Assistant Attorney General Dan Levin have also agreed to give testimony at a future hearing. Former CIA Director George Tenet is still in negotiations with the committee."

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