Another day, another land deal. In the late 1990s, John McCain tried to get the U.S. Forest Service to exchange part of the Tonto National Forest for land partly owned by a billionaire McCain contributor connected to Charles Keating. McCain was spurred to action by a developer, who wanted to turn the 2,154-acre Spur Cross Ranch -- desert home to Hopi Indian artifacts and special cacti -- into a golf course. (McClatchy)
Little -- if anything -- is known about a mysterious GOP donor, Shi Sheng Hao, who has given over a quarter million dollars to John McCain's campaign and the RNC. Hao's residence, occupation and current whereabouts are all unknown. But here's what we do know: he declared bankruptcy in 1995, registered to vote after his massive donations began, doesn't live at any of his listed addresses, and eight associates and relatives of Hao have given $130,000 to the RNC since last year. Curiouser and curiouser. . . (Chicago Tribune)
A military judge yesterday threw out the confession of Mohammed Jawad, a young Afghani accused of wounding two U.S. soldiers and their interpreter, saying it was obtained through torture. Jawad's case is already shaky, and prompted the resignation of a military prosecutor last month. (Reuters)
The ACLU has written to Attorney General Michael Mukasey, urging him not to have the Justice Department intervene in a voting-rights dispute in Ohio.
The move comes in response to fast-moving recent events. Earlier this month, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected a bid by Ohio Republicans to require Jennifer Brunner, Ohio's Democratic secretary of state, to provide local election officials with lists of new voters whose registration information did not match that on other government documents.
That prompted House Republican leader John Boehner to write to Mukasey, asking him to require Brunner to hand over the lists. When Mukasey did not respond, Boehner contacted the White House, which said Friday that it had passed his request on to Mukasey, and asked for action.
Voting-rights advocates fear that making Brunner hand over the lists could lead to a slew of GOP challenges, forcing hundreds of thousands of voters to cast provisional ballots.
They also see the White House's involvement as an inappropriate politicization of DOJ. In its letter to Mukasey, ACLU writes of the White House's move:
With the election one week away, this kind of intrusion represents partisan politics at its worst. In addition, challenging -- or purging -- lawfully registered voters in the days before the election invites chaos and undermines the integrity of the democratic process.
Melanie Sloan of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a good-government group, agreed with that take, telling TPMmuckraker that the White House "is trying to impact the Ohio election." *
She said her organization would be watching to see whether Mukasey -- who was picked to run DOJ after Alberto Gonzales resigned amid accusations that he had overseen inappropriate politicization of the department and misled Congress -- would respond.
A group of Ohio Democrats, led by Sen. Sherrod Brown, has also written to Mukasey, urging him not to intervene in the case.
* This sentence has been corrected from an earlier version.
After 13 months of federal investigation, Massachusetts State Sen. Diane Wilkerson (D) was arrested this morning. In a 43 page long affidavit -- complete with pictures of hand-offs and money being stuffed into bras -- the FBI alleged that Wilkerson took $23,500 in bribes to get a liquor license for the club Dejavu.
Below is the picture from the affidavit exhibits that shows Wilkerson shoving $1000 into her bra. This might beat out TPMmuckraker's favorite photo of Sen. Ted Stevens' bronzed salmon statue, but just barely.
Wilkerson has had a long and sordid history with the law which began in 1997 when she was sentenced to house arrest for failing to pay over $50,000 in income taxes. This afternoon, Wilkerson was stripped of her chairmanship of the Committee on State Administration and Regulatory Oversight.
In September, Wilkerson lost the Democratic primary, in which her candidacy was supported by Gov. Deval Patrick. In a statement following the arrest in the Boston Globe, Patrick said that the "initial reports are both troubling and sad. These are very serious charges and I will trust the judicial process to take them seriously."
Todd Rokita -- the Indiana secretary of state who wants ACORN prosecuted for voter fraud -- may be the gift that keeps on giving.
Earlier today, we reported that Rokita, a Republican, has said he's proud that he was part of the team of GOP activists that descended on Florida and pulled out all the stops to block the 2000 recount and put George Bush in the White House.
Yesterday, in an unanimous decision, the jury in the trial of Sen. Ted Stevens found the seven-term senator guilty on seven count of false statements. The verdict made Stevens, the longest serving Republican in the Senate, a convicted felon and one of only five in all of history to be convicted of a crime, and the first since 1981.
This morning, presidential hopeful and fellow Senator John McCain called for Stevens, embroiled in a close election of his own, to step down.
Fox News caught up with the Senator leaving his office today to return home to Alaska to campaign, and it appeared that becoming a convicted felon hadn't chastened Stevens legendary ornery attitude. At the end of the interview, Trish Turner, the Fox News Senate producer asked the senator, "What is the formula for winning," to which he replied, "Not answering you right now." Take a look.
Also release this morning were scanned versions of all of the notes passed between the jury and Judge Emmet Sullivan, which we've collected here along with the historical official verdict.
Yesterday we told you about an effort by Indiana's Republican secretary of state, Todd Rokita, to press federal and state authorities to prosecute ACORN for voter fraud. Rokita had said a review by his office of forms submitted by ACORN found "multiple criminal violations."
But it turns out that Rokita hardly has a reputation as a non-partisan public official. In October 2002, the South Bend Tribune reported (via nexis):
Working on his own time, [Rokita] also assisted George W. Bush's campaign during the infamous Florida election recount in 2000. Rokita is proud of that, especially because the U.S. Supreme Court cited Indiana election law when it decided the election in Bush's favor.
In other words, Rokita was part of the team of ambitious young Republican operatives who flew down to Florida to help out on a bid to stymie the recount effort -- remember the "Brooks Brothers riot"? -- and ultimately put George Bush in the White House.
That background as a partisan knife-fighter is worth keeping in mind as Rokita seeks to stoke fears about voter fraud -- and, more generally, as he administers what could be a very close election in Indiana.
Former Osama bin Laden aide Ali Hamza al-Bahlul and his U.S. military lawyer threw a wrench in the works of the Guantanamo Bay military trial, staying silent yesterday as the Pentagon's war crimes case opened. Al-Bahlul, who has described the trial as a "legal farce," had asked to represent himself. (AP)
Judges ruled against Georgia's Secretary of State in a voting rights dispute yesterday, determining that she should have received Justice Department approval before implementing a new voter verification system. The decision put a temporary hold on the purging of Georgia voter databases, ruling that election officials must accept ballots from people whose citizenship has been questioned. The eligibility of individual votes will be determined after the election. (Atlanta Journal Constitution)
Kwame Kilpatrick, the ex-mayor of Detroit, heads to prison today to begin serving his 120-day sentence for lying during a trial that investigated his firing and hiring practices. For $115 per day, Kilpatrick gets a 15-by-10-foot cell with an hour out for recreation. (Detroit Free Press)
Last week, the White House asked the Department of Justice to take action on an effort that could force tens of thousands of new Ohio voters to cast provisional ballots.
Soon afterwards, a group of Ohio Democrats, led by Sen. Sherrod Brown, announced in a press release that they had written to Attorney General Michael Mukasey, urging him not to intervene in the issue.
Wrote the Democrats: "The eyes of the nation are once again on Ohio in this critical election, and there is no room for partisan politics that seek to erode voter confidence in Ohio's election system."
The U.S. Supreme Court had earlier rejected an effort by the GOP to require the Democratic Secretary of State, Jennifer Brunner, to provide local election officials with information on newly registered voters whose registration information does not match other government records. Democrats fear that giving that information to local officials could allow Republicans to mount challenges to eligible voters, with the result that many could be forced to cast provisional ballots.
In addition to Brown, the other Democrats signing the letter were Reps. Marcy Kaptur, Tim Ryan, Zack Space, Betty Sutton, and Charles Wilson.
A phony flier, purporting to be from the Virginia Board of Elections, is circulating in the African-American-heavy Hampton Roads region of the state, falsely informing people that, because of expected high turnout, Democrats should vote on November 5th.
The election is November 4th.
State election officials informed the local press of the flier, which was posted on the website of The Virginian-Pilot, and is designed to look like an official announcement. It even uses images of the state board logo and the state seal, both of which are available online.
Due to the larger than expected voter turnout in this years [sic] electoral process, An [sic] emergency session of the General Assembly has adopted the following emergency regulations to ease the load on local electorial [sic] precincts and ensure a fair electorial [sic] process.
All Democratic party supporters and independent voters supporting Democratic candidates shall vote on November 5th as adopted by emergency regulation of the Virginia General Assembly.
All Republican party supporters and independent voters supporting Republican candidates shall vote on November 4th as precribed [sic] by law.
We are sorry for any inconvenience this may cause but felt this was the only way to ensure fairness to the complete electorial [sic] process.
State police are looking into the flier's provenance, according to election officials. It can be a federal crime to attempt to obstruct someone from voting.
Virginia, where Barack Obama currently leads, is a crucial swing state in the election.
Stevens faces up to five years in prison on each count but, under federal sentencing guidelines, will likely receive much less prison time, if any.
More detail on the seven-term senator's reaction to the news from Bloomberg:
Stevens's lawyer, Brendan Sullivan, had his arm around the senator's shoulders and shook his head as the verdict was being read. U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan delayed setting a sentencing date at the defense's request.
Late update . . . 4:21pm: Stevens' sentencing will be January 26, 2009, AP is reporting.
As Stevens exited the courtroom, his wife, Catherine, kissed him on the cheek.
Moments earlier, he told her, "It's not over yet." She responded, "You got that right."
And then he added, "Not over yet."
Stevens and his lawyers, who rarely speak to the media, exited the courthouse without making a statement.
Late update . . . 4:50pm: Ted Stevens' prosecutors hold a press conference cum "victory lap" outside the courthouse.
Late update. . .5:01pm: Bloomberg has more follow-up on what will happen to Ted Stevens, noting that the seven-term senator doesn't need to relinquish his seat unless removed by a full Senate vote.
Stevens will remain free on personal recognizance until sentencing.
Late update. . . Putting It In Context Edition: It's really worth taking a moment to reflect on how historic this decision is.
Sen. Stevens is a sitting senator, one of only five in all of history to be convicted of a crime, and the first since 1981, the Wall Street Journal notes.
Stevens is 84 years old -- soon to be 85 on Nov. 15 -- and is the longest-serving Republican with almost 40 years in the Senate representing Alaska.
Late update. . . 5:42pm: The AP expounds on Stevens' reaction as the verdict was read:
Visibly shaken after the verdicts were read -- the jury foreman declaring "guilty" seven times -- Stevens tried to intertwine his fingers but quickly put his hands down to his side after noticing they were trembling.
Late update. . . Palin Comments edition: Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has commented on Stevens' conviction:
This is a sad day for Alaska and a sad day for Senator Stevens and his family. The verdict shines a light on the corrupting influence of the big oil service company up there in Alaska that was allowed to control too much of our state. And that control was part of the culture of corruption that I was elected to fight, and that fight must always move forward regardless of party affiliation or seniority or even past service. As Governor of the State of Alaska, I will carefully now monitor the situation and I'll take any appropriate action as needed. In the meantime, I ask the people of Alaska to join me in respecting the workings of our judicial system and I'm confident that Senator Stevens from this point on will do the right thing for the people of Alaska
CNN also notes that Palin wouldn't respond when asked if she would vote for Stevens in one week.
Late update . . .Stevens' Statement Edition: Stevens was quick to release a statement following his conviction today, blaming prosecutorial misconduct and foreshadowing his appeals.
I am obviously disappointed in the verdict but not surprised given the repeated instances of prosecutorial misconduct in this case. The prosecutors had to report themselves to the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility during the trial for ethical violations. Exculpatory evidence was hidden from my lawyers. A witness was kept from us and then sent back to Alaska. The Government lawyers allowed evidence to be introduced that they knew was false. I will fight this unjust verdict with every ounce of energy I have.
I am innocent. This verdict is the result of the unconscionable manner in which the Justice Department lawyers conducted this trial. I ask that Alaskans and my Senate colleagues stand with me as I pursue my rights. I remain a candidate for the United States Senate.
Late update . . . FAQ Edition: Kathleen Hunter at CQ Politics has a handy little guide to the questions swirling around Stevens' conviction.