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It's official: Ayad Allawi is no longer represented by Barbour Griffith & Rogers, the White House-connected lobbying firm he retained to sell the U.S. government on his "parliamentary coup" to become Iraq's next prime minister. Well, sort of.

Allawi doesn't want to disclose who's paying BGR's $300,000 fee. But since Allawi admitted on CNN that he's not paying the bill himself, BGR has to either disclose to the Justice Department which "agent of a foreign principal" it receives money from or violate the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Disclosure, however, is for amateurs.

Yesterday, BGR took an anticipated third option: changing its filing with DoJ so that BGR no longer represents Allawi, but rather his political party, the Iraqi National Accord. Christina Davidson reports for IraqSlogger (sub. req.) that since political parties aren't required to disclose their sources of funding under FARA, "BGR has managed to pull an easy sidestep in order to maintain the anonymity of Allawi's backer."

Not every aspect of the GAO study on the Iraq benchmarks contradicts the administration line. Indeed, on one unfulfilled benchmark -- the persecution of Sunni military commanders -- the White House and the GAO see eye to eye. But the response amounts to the same thing. Instead of insisting that the benchmark is met and the strategy is working, the White House admits that it's not, but curiously insists that it doesn't need to do anything differently. We just need to stay the course.

The benchmark measures sectarian interference with security operations. According to the GAO, Shiite politicians have pursued groundless accusations of wrongdoing against Sunni officers that the U.S. considers trustworthy. In some cases, "questionable judicial warrants" against officers are issued by "the Office of Commander in Chief" -- otherwise known as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. The persecution means that the Iraqi security forces' "formal command structure is compromised by influential sectarian leaders linked to the security ministries."

Funny thing: the White House doesn't disagree.

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Where do you find a job after lobbying for a (potentially) corrupt failure of a subprime mortgage company? You go work for Gov. Jim Gibbons (R-NV) as commissioner of the state's Mortgage Lending Division, of course!

Gibbons just tapped Joe Waltuch, who served as legislative counsel to New Century Financial, which filed for bankruptcy protection in April (after predicting it wouldn't cover its weekly payroll) and is now under scrutiny by federal prosecutors in California and the Securities Exchange Commission.

Not surprisingly, some officials are pretty shocked by the choice, the Las Vegas Review Journal reports:

"I'm in total disbelief that the governor would appoint a former executive for a company that's under federal criminal inquiry, bankrupt and caused countless people to lose their homes," said Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas. "This company is a poster child for what not to do in mortgage lending. And now the appointee is supposed to watch out for consumers? Unbelievable."

We've noted Gibbons' decision-making skills here before, but he'd been laying low for awhile. The move is particularly surprising as both the House and the Senate are starting to probe the subprime mortgage industry now that an estimated 1.2 million people may lose their homes.

The Alaska-Veco scandal just got sexier -- sort of. Now all it needs is rock and roll.

According to court documents, the FBI recorded former Alaska House Speaker Pete Kott and former Veco CEO Bill Allen talking about sleeping and sexual enhancement pills Allen gave Kott. Unfortunately for Kott, he seemed to get the pharmaceuticals confused:

"Man, I've been having a hard time sleeping," Kott complained to Allen.

"So that worked pretty good," Allen said, laughing.

"Which ones are which?" said Kott.

"Goddamn it, I told you now, just use the white ones ... to sleep," Allen reminded him. "And the the goddamn, ah, brown or whatever they are, that's for (explicit language for sex), and the other one is for sleeping."

"Yeah, I thought I was taking the sleeping pill. Took the wrong one. Still got the white one," Kott said.

"You're something else," Allen said, laughing. "You're something else, Pete."

Kott wants the evidence kept from the jury.

If you're bidding for a spot at the Bush Justice Department, you better come ready to field a barrage of questions. And not the variety you might expect. If you're not prepared, you might just leave feeling like you ran into a buzz saw.

Jack Goldsmith, in his new book The Terror Presidency, provides a first hand account of his interview at the White House to be the chief of the Department's Office of Legal Counsel in 2003. The OLC position is among the most important at the Department, since its legal opinions bear directly on government policy. As Goldsmith explains, the OLC has the power to essentially offer "advance pardons" for dubious administration conduct.

So Goldsmith expected to spend the interview talking about his views on the law and the Constitution. Instead, he writes, this is how it began:

Sitting in chairs around [Deputy White House Counsel David] Leitch's desk as I entered the room were [then-White House Counsel Alberto] Gonzales and [Dick Cheney's counsel] David Addington. I had met both men briefly before, but I had never had an extended conversation with either. I shook everyone's hand and was settling in on the couch at the opposite end of the room when Leitch kicked off the interview.

"Who's Henry Perritt?" he asked in a slightly accusatory tone.

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The Iraqi government fully met only three out of 18 benchmarks, according to the GAO. Among them: the parliament has rules in place to protect the rights of ethnic and religious minority members. Sure, it's not the sexiest benchmark -- it's no militia demobilization or constitutional reform -- but in a multiethnic country without a democratic tradition, it's important.

Only one problem: the GAO felt compelled to point out -- over the objections of the State Department -- that minority protections don't exist outside the parliament hall.

According to the United Nations, attacks against religious and ethnic minorities continued unabated in most areas of Iraq, prompting these communities to seek ways to leave the country. The conflicts reportedly bear the mark of sectarian polarization and "cleansing" in neighborhoods formerly comprised of different religions.

Now, that's not part of the benchmark, which just looks at minority protections within the government. Why include general information about the plight of Iraq's minorities here?

[W]e believe it is important to provide some context of minority rights in Iraq. Iraqi legislators we interviewed insisted that the situation in their communities has a direct bearing on their work in the legislature, their freedom of movement to and from the legislature, and their ability to engage fully in Iraq [sic] political life.

That sounds a lot like GAO is saying the benchmark is a hollow one.

One question: how is it that GAO can judge sectarianism in attacks on ethnic and religious minorities but not against either Sunnis or Shiites?

Sometimes the Pentagon presents misleading Iraq data. Other times, it minimizes its own findings, as it does on one of the most controversial aspects of the Iraqi training effort: endemic corruption and sectarianism in the Ministry of the Interior.

Interior, which controls the police, is the sharpest weapon of Shiite power in Iraq. Here's the Government Accountability Office's report:

[M]ilitia influence affects every component of the Ministry of the Interior, especially in Baghdad and in other key cities, according to DOD. This influence, along with corruption and illegal activity, constrains progress in the development of Ministry of Interior forces.

Notice that attribution: "according to DOD." But look at the relevant section of the June 2007 Pentagon quarterly report on Iraq (pdf), beginning at page 31. The top line is what GAO describes, on both the question of militia infiltration and corruption. But then the Defense Department explains it away:

The [Ministry of the Interior] still struggles with internal corruption, and the ministry made continued efforts this quarter to address this problem. Key to these efforts is effective investigations when allegations appear to have credibility.

In support of that statement, the report lists over 1900 internal corruption investigations which have resulted in the firing of nearly 900 ministry employees. But, according to a memo from the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, those investigations don't exactly go anywhere.

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Pretty much anyway you slice it, these are great times for defense lawyers.

Iraq contractors are feeling the heat of Department of Justice scrutiny, and are turning to some heavy-hitters to help them out, The National Law Journal reports.

During the past year, several defense contractors hired to help rebuild Iraq have come under federal investigation or faced litigation for allegedly defrauding the government. Government officials estimate that $10 billion in Iraq-related contracts are unaccounted for and may have been lost to fraud or other misconduct.

Currently, about 80 federal investigations looking into contract fraud are under way, and more than 20 cases have been referred to the Department of Justice for prosecution, according to congressional testimony offered by federal auditors. During the last three years, contract fraud investigations have yielded 10 arrests, five indictments, five convictions and two imprisonments.

An "army" of heavy-weight lawyers are giving their contractor clients sage advice like: "don't throw records away" and "don't conspire with people to cook their testimony." The advice might be working, because, so far, the hundreds of DOJ investigations have yielded fewer than a dozen indictments.

Thomas Kontogiannis, the Greek-born businessman and veteran cooperator who's pled guilty to helping bribe Duke Cunningham, has gotten kid glove treatment from prosecutors. But here's something that seems to have puzzled even the trial judge.

As we noted last week, The North County Times reported that they'd tracked down Tommy K at a five-star hotel in Greece. It seemed an odd place to find an admitted felon. Judge Larry Burns agrees. From The San Diego Union-Tribune:

[John Michael's lawyer Raymond Granger] said that Kontogiannis has been on vacation in Greece this summer. Since pleading guilty, Kontogiannis has been free on a bond, but surrendered his passport to federal authorities and was allowed to travel out of the country only if accompanied by federal agents, or with their permission.

Burns seemed intrigued by that revelation, and ordered prosecutors to find out if it was true. He said he might hold another hearing to “clarify the terms” of Kontogiannis' bail.

“On no occasion did I contemplate he would be vacationing in Greece pending sentencing,” Burns said.

So it seems that there might soon be a Grecian five-star hotel clause in Kontogiannis bail.

There was another major revelation in yesterday's hearing, which centered on Michael's motion to dismiss the charges against him. The SDUT also reports that prosecutors "indicated" that Kontogiannis might not testify against his nephew Michael and alleged Duke-briber Brent Wilkes. Perhaps they've calculated that all Tommy K's dirty laundry (which Michael's lawyer did his best to air) might become a distraction for a jury.

Rep. Gary Miller (R-CA) is not under FBI investigation. At least, that's what Miller has told The Hill in a recent interview. Of course, as he points out, that doesn't dispute the fact that a federal agent could be looking into a few of his real estate windfalls; he explains: "a federal agent could be anyone — anyone flashing a badge." Just not the FBI. (The Hill)

Yesterday, the White House cleared up confusion about whether the Office of Administration was subject to FOIA by doing the respectable thing: it changed its website. But, as CREW points out, the rationale for excluding the OA is, well, false. (CREW)

The D.C. Madam is facing government persecution because her clients before 9/11 included Muslim men, some of whom cannot be named because the information is classified (according to her). I'm of the opinion that with a line of defense that crazy, it has to be true! (Washington Post)

Californians are likely to vote next year on a referendum that would change the state's winner-take-all system to disburse electoral votes by congressional district. In a sign that the change would be a huge advantage to Republicans, the organization supporting the reform has also worked closely as "Swift Boats for Truth" supporter Bob Perry; Perry has paid $65,000 in past legal fees for help with the PAC that helped attack Kerry's war creds. (Think Progress)

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) has the worst luck; he just keeps getting money from corrupt donors. Joh Erickson was charged with illegally funneling a quarter of a million dollars to Florida candidates, including Ryan. Erickson is closely linked to Dennis Troha, a prominent businessman who just recently was charged with the same crime; Troha also gave to Ryan. (Journal Sentinel)

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