The Ted Stevens Foundation was founded in 2000 aiming to serve a variety of admirable causes and work on "educating and informing the public about the career of Senator Ted Stevens." The extent of its charitable work now looks questionable and after filing a FOIA request with Alaska, the Sunlight Foundation discovered that the group has failed to pay its dues and register with the state for last three years.
A shortage of money isn't their excuse. Back in 2005 The Ted Stevens Foundation, which was renamed North to the Future Foundation last year, had net assets of $1.7 million in 2004 and $2.3 million in 2005.
Besides spreading the word about Stevens' accomplishments, the group also aims "to make grants to other public charities and to provide programs which educate, encourage communication, relieve poverty and promote community welfare throughout the state of Alaska and the United States.â
How successful has it been at giving out money? According to Sunlight's research:
Between 2003 and 2005 the foundation has spent more than $380,000 on fundraisers but has given out only two grants: one for $40,000 to the Smithsonian Institute in 2004 and $10,000 to the Anchorage Rowing Association in 2005, according to the 990s.
So, then, what does this non-profit actually do? Back in 2004 The Washington Post ran an editorial taking a guess at the real purpose: to shake down lobbyists for the benefit of sitting politicians.
At an event held at the Capital Hilton in 2004, The Ted Stevens Foundation aimed raise $2 million with tables going for $50,000 each. Some lucky donors had a VIP at their table -- one of the two thirds of the Senate members that attended. At the time, Stevens was the chair of the Appropriations Committee and lobbyists were happy to donate to his "charity" for a little time by his ear.
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Yet another dispiriting revelation from Alberto Gonzales' hearing today.
During Gonzales' last hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) questioned him about a memo from Attorney General John Ashcroft in 2002 that had substantially increased White House officials' access to information about Justice Department cases. Under Clinton, only four White House officials had been authorized to discuss pending criminal investigations or cases with only three top Department officials. Ashcroft's 2002 memo had blown the door off that arrangement, raising the number of officials who could discuss such cases from seven to 447 (417 on the White House side). Under Whitehouse's questioning, Gonzales had professed to have been "concerned about that as White House counsel.â
Apparently not so much.
Whitehouse questioned him today about a May, 2006 memo which Gonzales himself had signed while attorney general. You can see it yourself here.
The memo widened White House access to case information even more and seemed to have been crafted with special attention to enabling the Vice President's staff, specifically his chief of staff and counsel, to have the unambiguous authority to discuss ongoing cases with Department officials. Given Cheney's chief of staff David Addington's extraordinary reach into the Justice Department (and the prosecution of Cheney's former chief of staff), that's cause for a raised eyebrow.
Gonzales seemed to have been taken off guard by Whitehouse's questions:
Whitehouse: "What-on-earth business does the Office of the Vice President have in the internal workings of the Department of Justice with respect to criminal investigations, civil investigations, and ongoing matters?"
Gonzales: "As a general matter, I would say that's a good question."
Whitehouse: "Why is it here, then?"
Gonzales: âIâd have to go back and look at this.â
Alberto Gonzales refused to answer Sen. Chuck Schumer's (D-NY) question of whether President Bush had dispatched then-White House chief of staff Alberto Gonzales and chief of staff Andrew Card to make the infamous visit to John Ashcroft's hotel room in March, 2004.
"Did the president ask you to go?" Schumer asked. "We were there on behalf of the President of the United States," was Gonzales' repeated answer. That's "the answer that I can give you," Gonzales said. When Schumer inquired why, Gonzales implied that it might be covered by executive privilege since it related "to activities that existed when I was in the White House."
The Senate Judiciary Committee will review Alberto Gonzales' past statements to determine whether Gonzales lied to the committee in 2006 by saying there had been no internal Justice Department dissent over the legality of the president's Terrorist Surveillance Program (otherwise known as the NSA's warrantless wiretapping program). When confronted by the senators, Gonzales today offered a surprising explanation of his consistency and veracity: he repeatedly suggested there's a different intelligence program, other than the TSP, that Justice Department officials found legally dubious in 2004. If Gonzales is telling the truth, he just disclosed the existence of a previously unknown intelligence program. If not, the embattled attorney general could be in some serious legal jeopardy.
Gonzales's "no-dissent" testimony sought to assure outraged Senators that the Justice Department had complete confidence in the controversial warrantless surveillance program known as the TSP, which was first disclosed by the New York Times in December 2005. But that line was cast into serious doubt by ex-Deputy Attorney General James Comey's May testimony that he thought the TSP was illegal during a stint as acting attorney general in March 2004. Indeed, the top echelon of Justice Department leadership was prepared to resign over the president's decision to continue a surveillance program without Department authorization.
Today, Gonzales did something absolutely unexpected: he said that Comey's doubts were about "other intelligence activities" than the warrantless surveillance program President Bush confirmed in December 2005 -- i.e., the TSP. That's how his 2006 statement that the TSP was uncontroversial could still be correct.
But the senators weren't buying it. And they say that they'll be examining Gonzales' statements closely to see whether the attorney general has perjured himself.
Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) battered Gonzales about the distinction between the TSP and the "other intelligence activities" Gonzales alleges existed. Schumer pointed out that in a June press conference, Gonzales confirmed that Comey was in fact talking about the "highly classified program which the president confirmed to the American people sometime ago" -- that is, the TSP. But Gonzales said at the hearing that shortly thereafter, he contacted Washington Post reporter Dan Eggen to retract the statement -- and then he stuck to his line about there being "other intelligence activities" that were at issue in March, 2004.
Next up was Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA). The panel's ranking Republican, listening to Gonzales's new revelation -- or quasi-revelation, as the case may be -- said simply, "I do not find your testimony credible." Specter said that it was obvious that, as Gonzales initially confirmed last month, Comey was testifying about the Terrorist Surveillance Program -- meaning that Gonzales was not only lying to the Senate in his 2006 testimony, but lying today about "other intelligence activities" to cover up the lie. His advice to Gonzales was "to review your testimony carefully" and that the committee should see "if your credibility has been breached to the point of being actionable."
Then it was Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI)'s turn. Feingold, a member of the Senate intelligence committee, has received briefings on the TSP, and he came away from listening to Gonzales believing that the attorney general's 2006 testimony was "misleading at best."
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), also a member of the Senate intelligence committee, later said he concurred with Feingold. "I have no choice but to conclude that you intended to deceive us and to mislead us away from the dispute that the Deputy Attorney General [Comey] subsequently brought to our attention." For his part, chairman Pat Leahy (D-VT) advised Gonzales that the panel will "be looking at that transcript very, very closely" -- and that Gonzales should, too.
That might represent a final chance for Gonzales to step back from the brink of a perjury investigation. Whatever Gonzales expected to get out of today's hearing, he left the Senate having raised two lingering and mutually exclusive questions: whether the Bush administration has pursued a second secret, internally controversial intelligence program of dubious legality; or whether the attorney general of the United States lied under oath. Gonzales looked this morning like he had beaten back his political foes. What he probably didn't expect is that this afternoon, he became his own worst enemy.
Monica Goodling testified to Congress in May about a meeting she had with Gonzales where he'd given her his recollection of the firing process. It took place in March of this year, after the U.S. attorney firing controversy had blown up and Congress signaled that it would be investigating. Gonzales' discussion of the matter had made her "uncomfortable," she testified.
Gonzales had repeatedly told both the House and Senate Judiciary Committees that he had not spoken to any of the players in the firings about them in order to preserve the integrity of their testimony. That was evidently false, as Gonzales implicitly admitted today. But more than that, Gonzales has to worry about whether that conversation might constitute witness tampering or obstruction of justice. The Justice Department's internal probe of the firings has expanded to include whether Gonzales might have been improperly trying to shape Goodling's future testimony.
Today, Gonzales gave his best shot at explaining that conversation away. You had to understand the context, he said. And this was "in the context of trying to console and reassure an emotionally distraught woman.Ã¢ÂÂ He gallantly tried to assure her that "no one had done anything intentionally wrong" -- but just to make her feel better. He was not trying to "shape her testimony," he said.
New vistas in humanitarian law from Alberto Gonzales: Waterboarding, the process in which a detainee is forced to believe he is drowning, may not be "beyond the bounds of human decency."
Senators Dick Durbin and Ted Kennedy pointed out that the executive order President Bush issued on Friday on CIA interrogations interpreting Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions specifies certain activities for outright banning due to their contravention of "human decency": sexual humiliation or the threat thereof, or religious denigration, for instance. Why, then, the senators asked, doesn't the order specify prohibitions on suspected interrogation techniques that military judge-advocates general have testified are also contraventions of the convention -- namely, threatening detainees with dogs, prolonged stress positions, forced nudity, mock executions and waterboarding?
Gonzales, going way further than intelligence chief Mike McConnell has, said that some of those measures are "possible techniques used by the CIA," even after the executive order. It wasn't confirmation, by any stretch, that waterboarding will still occur. But in response to the specific question, Gonzales told Kennedy that "some acts are clearly beyond the pale, and that everyone would agree should be prohibited. ... There are certain other activities where it is not so clear, Senator, and again, it is for those reasons that I can't discuss them in a public session." The order, naturally, received DoJ review before it was finalized.
There you have it, from the nation's "top cop": waterboarding and mock executions don't "clearly" shock the conscience.
It's become a staple of the Congressional hearings with Alberto Gonzales, the question: Who put the U.S. attorneys' name on the firing list?
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) provided a devastating rundown of the testimony from Justice Department officials, all of them disavowing having selected the names for firing. In response, Gonzales gave his usual response that he'd "approved the list that was given to me." So, the mystery continues.
Feinstein followed up, asking Gonzales just how many U.S. attorneys he'd fired during his tenure as attorney general. Seeming flustered, Gonzales didn't know. "There may have been others." He said that he'd "be happy" to get back to Feinstein with the answer.
In May, former acting attorney general James Comey testified that then-White House counsel Alberto Gonzales and then-chief of staff Andrew Card rushed to the hospital room an incapacitated John Ashcroft on March 10, 2004 after Comey ruled that the president's warrantless surveillance program lacked sufficient legal authority to continue. Today, Gonzales gave two defenses of this ghoulish maneuver: first, that he and Card only went to Ashcroft because Congress wanted the program to continue; and second, that they merely intended to "inform" Ashcroft of Comey's decision -- not get a convalescent AG to overrule his designated deputy.
Gonzales weaves through this new story, which he said gave "context" for the hospital excursion -- in which FBI Director Robert Mueller told his agents not to allow Gonzales to have Comey removed from Ashcroft's room -- to several senators. First, Gonzales told Arlen Specter (R-PA) that the trip to Ashcroft's hospital followed a meeting by the so-called "Group of Eight" -- the bipartisan congressional leaders briefed into the so-called Terrorist Surveillance Program -- at the White House to convince them of the seriousness of its imminent expiration. Specter nearly blew a fuse when he understood that Gonzales was suggesting that Congress wanted Comey overturned:
This one is just for fun. Given the extensive damage that Alberto Gonzales has done to the Justice Department's credibility, Sen. Herb Kohl (D-WI) wanted to know why Gonzales thinks he's the man to fix it?
"That's a very good question, Senator," a smiling Gonzales replied, before continuing on to explain that he'd decided "to stay and fix the problems."
Nothing provides a tone-setter for today's confrontational Senate Judiciary Committee showdown with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales like a bracing denial of the facts. And that's what Gonzales gave to chairman Pat Leahy when Leahy asked about Gonzales's repeated statements to Congress that there weren't any problems with the way the FBI used their National Security Letter authorities to gain personal or financial information on U.S. citizens without warrants. In fact, the AG received repeated and timely notification about NSL abuse precisely when he was telling Congress that nothing was wrong.
Leahy started by asking, simply, if Gonzales wished to change his earlier testimony: