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Usually you can pretty much take it for granted that Rep. Don Young (R-AK) is the most outspoken lawmaker around. After all, it's not every congressman who threatens to bite a member of his own party like a mink.



But perhaps Young has met his match. During his speech on the House floor Wednesday, Young did his best to distance himself from his infamous Coconut Road earmark in every way he could. He didn't make the change after the bill passed both houses of Congress -- somebody in some secluded office did. And he he'd only supported the earmark, he said, because the community and its representative had supported it. Young even devoted a page of his official web site to back up his story.

Well, that lawmaker is Rep. Connie Mack (R-FL). And Mack was none too happy and approached Young after the speech to tell him as much. Mack says that he did not initially support the earmark and only supported it after he discovered that the money could not be redirected. Or as Mack put it to Young on the floor, Young is a "liar." Young professed confusion as to how he could think such a thing: "I don't understand because I've got all the letters. Pull them up on the Web site. He's running away from an issue because he's got political heat."

Mack's chief of staff was no more restrained in his criticism:

Jeff Cohen, Mack's chief of staff, said Thursday that it was clear his boss was being singled out.

Young's speech to the House was "absurd" and "inaccurate," Cohen said. "Perhaps we don't just need a committee on ethical standards, but one on psychological standards as well," he added.

It's not the first time that the politicization of the Environmental Protection Agency has forced comparisons to Alberto Gonzales' Justice Department, and it surely won't be the last.

On the Senate floor this afternoon, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), who sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee (where he joined in the interrogations of Gonzales and other Department officials) as well as the Senate environmental committee (where he's sharply questioned EPA chief Stephen Johnson), said the comparison is inevitable. Yesterday's news that the EPA's top environmental regulator in the Midwest had been fired over her efforts to force Dow Chemical to clean up chemical spills, he said, "looks like déjà vu all over again from an administration that values compliance with its political agenda more than it values the trust or best interests of the American people." Here's video:



Whitehouse said that the Senate environmental committee will be holding a hearing on EPA oversight next Wednesday.

Earlier this week, ABC reported that the investment firm Cerberus Capital was in talks to buy Blackwater for around $200 million, but Cerberus, which had apparently been exploring the deal since the beginning of this year, got cold feet as soon as the news went public.

It turns out that it's part of a concerted push, The Times reports, to expand Blackwater's business because "whatever the outcome of the US presidential election Blackwater, run by Erik Prince, the Republican former Navy Seal, may find itself without friends in Washington." So there's an effort to prepare for the future, when all those federal investigations and scandals might actually affect the bottom line:

Blackwater has advertised in security industry journals repositioning itself as a peacekeeping force. The adverts show mothers feeding babies and Blackwater guards smiling as children play in a street. It has also set up a division called Greystone, which is seeking to win protection work from the UN, aid organisations and foreign companies.

A defence industry source said: "Theirs is nearly all US government work and if that goes they are in trouble."


(Here's more on Greystone from Mother Jones.)

Following reports of over 300,000 Iraq and Afghanistan vets in need of treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, and allegations from former troops that the Department of Veterans Affairs is unequipped to handle such demands, Defense Secretary Robert Gates acknowledged Thursday that the military has been substandard in the treatment of returning soldiers. He is calling for procedural change in access to PTSD treatment, as well as the improvement of housing throughout the ranks. (Associated Press, San Francisco Chronicle and Reuters)

Detained in December 2001 by Pakistani security on his way to a reporting assignment, then held the next six years at Guantanamo Bay by the U.S. government, Al Jazeera cameraman Sami al Hajj was released recently, his attorneys say. The Pentagon declard Hajj an "enemy combatant," not believing he was a journalist as he claimed. (McClatchy)

A Senate panel has voted to ban defense contractors from engaging in CIA interrogations of detainees. The bill approved in the Senate Intelligence Committee would also give the Red Cross access to prisoners now deemed "ghost detainees," as well as limiting the CIA to interrogation tactics only approved by the U.S. military's Army Field Manual. (Associated Press)

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Can it really be true? Will the high priest of executive privilege actually submit to a Congressional subpoena?

When House Judiciary Committee Chair John Conyers (D-MI) invited a slate of current and former administration officials to testify about the authorization of torture, I was skeptical that he would meet much cooperation. But when it came to David Addington, Dick Cheney's chief of staff and longtime consigliere, the idea seemed downright ludicrous. If Addington has spoken publicly or even given an interview in the last eight years, I'm unaware of it.

But in a letter (pdf) to the committee yesterday, the vice president's counsel Kathryn Wheelbarger signaled a willingness to cooperate. It was, for sure, a long way from the original reply, which I summarized at the time as, "You're asking the wrong person, but even if you were asking the right person, you couldn't make him show up, and even if he did show up, he wouldn't say anything."

Yesterday's letter is a change of tone. Because the committee has signaled that it will limit the range of its inquiries (this is Addington only speaking for himself, he can't speak about communications with the Vice President or President, he has the right to invoke "applicable legal privileges), Addington seems to be leaning towards showing up.

That doesn't mean that the vice president's office has changed their mind about whether he has to show up, mind you. The courts would agree that Addington is "immune from compulsion," Wheelbarger writes. But Addington might show up out of the goodness of his heart, "as a matter of comity," as the letter puts it.

The letter falls short of saying that Addington will definitely show up to Tuesday's hearing, but Wheelbarger does write that "the Chief of Staff to the Vice President is prepared to accept timely service of a Committee subpoena for testimony for a hearing on May 6, 2008." When the Politico asked Cheney's spokeswoman whether this meant that Addington would comply, she said "Since he hasn't been issued a subpoena, it would be a little premature to comment on whether he would comply." He is a coy one, that Addington.

From The Chicago Tribune:

The Bush administration forced its top environmental regulator in the Midwest to quit Thursday after months of internal bickering about dioxin contamination downstream from Dow Chemical's world headquarters in Michigan.

In an interview with the Tribune, Mary Gade said two top political appointees at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency headquarters in Washington stripped her of her powers as regional administrator and told her to quit or be fired by June 1.


It appears that the relationship between the EPA political appointees and the career employees is not getting any better.

It's deja vu all over again.

House Judiciary Committee Chair John Conyers (D-MI) says that if Karl Rove won't agree to testify before his committee about his involvement in the prosecution of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman (D), then he'll be forced to consider issuing a subpoena. You can read his letter to Rove's lawyer Robert Luskin below.

In response to Conyers' initial request for Rove to testify, Luskin offered to have Rove speak to the committee behind closed doors, without a transcript and not under oath -- the same offer administration lawyers made to Congress in the U.S. attorney firings investigation. And you know where that went: the House is currently suing to enforce those subpoenas after finding former White House counsel Harriet Miers and chief of staff Josh Bolten in contempt of Congress.

Rove was subpoenaed by the Senate Judiciary Committee as part of that investigation and refused to show up to testify. That committee subsequently voted to find him in contempt, but the full Senate never voted on the citation.

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Since we last posted this morning, there are number of other things to update you on those calls by Women's Voices Women Vote.

First off, North Carolina officials were not the first to specifically object to the group's failure to identify themselves and instead use "Lamont Williams" on the calls. As Facing South points out, back in February, after Virginia police investigated the calls and mailings as a possible identity theft scam, the group's spokeswoman told The Virginian-Pilot that "not including information about the source of the voter registration effort was 'absolutely an accidental omission.'" She also said that the group would be changing the calls so that the group was identified as the source.

Obviously, that didn't happen. When I asked the group about that, a spokesperson told me that the failure to change the script was a "mistake" and added "we're doing our best to figure out how the old script got used."

Meanwhile, a group spokeswoman Sarah Johnson explained in a Q&A at DailyKos that the name Lamont Williams was used because that was the name of the actor reading the script. The calls using Williams' voice went to men -- because she said while the group mainly concentrates on unmarried women, they also target "African Americans, Hispanics and young people" -- and a call using a woman's voice went to women.

And finally, anti-robo call activist Shaun Dakin provides some context for the North Carolina attorney general's accusation that the group's calls were illegal because the group was not identified and did not provide a call back number. Dakin, who heads up Stop Political Calls, a group devoted to combating automated calls by establishing a National Political Do Not Contact Registry, writes that Women's Voices Women Vote is breaking the law, but pretty much everybody else does too:

The reality is that there are more than likely several campaigns and other non-profit organizations that are "failing to disclose who sponsored the call" and "failing to offer the org's contact information to get the calls to stop".

In fact, I know of no political campaign at the national level that offers voters a way to opt out of further calls.

From The Washington Post:

Rep. Vito J. Fossella (R-N.Y.) was arrested overnight in Alexandria and charged with driving while intoxicated, court records showed today.

Fossella is scheduled to appear in Alexandria General District Court on May 12 for an advisement hearing, the records said.

From Government Executive:

Doan's unconventional tactics were on display last Wednesday at a GSA conference in Anaheim, Calif. At a dinner sponsored by a contractor trade group, she appeared on stage with arrows sticking out of her head, shoulders, arms and legs, according to a transcript of the speech posted on GSA's Web site. Using the arrows to illustrate her challenges at GSA, Doan said she had been taking shots from the media, Congress and those who represented the "status quo."


I believe that's what's called a martyr complex.

Government Executive also reports that Doan's ongoing feud with the GSA's inspector general really was the reason for her firing, citing a number of sources including Doan. When the President's Council on Integrity and Efficiency dismissed whistleblower complaints against the inspector general, Doan very publicly and stridently criticized the panel as a "hollow shell" that's "real purpose is to whitewash any wrongdoing." She also vowed to continue pressing those complaints.

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