TPM News

From NBC's Phoenix affiliate:

Former Republican Congressman J.D. Hayworth is confirming for 12 News that he is cooperating with a federal investigation involving former lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Hayworth's new campaign finance report shows almost $170,000 in payments to a Washington law firm since his defeat last November by Democrat Harry Mitchell. Hayworth says the bills are connected to a Department of Justice request for 12 years worth of documents covering his legislative work with the Congressional Native American Caucus.

Hayworth said today, "I wanted to accommodate the request as soon as possible because I thought it was important to clear up questions. I've done nothing wrong, and I don't expect there to be any further action."

National Journal reported in April that prosecutors were making "new" inquiries into Hayworth's relationship with Jack Abramoff. Ex-Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT), who joined Hayworth in early retirement, has also been spending loads of old campaign dollars on his defense.

The House Judiciary Committee was set to hold a hearing on the Civil Rights Division's voting rights section tomorrow, but no more. That's because the Justice Department has refused to allow the chief of the section, John Tanner, to testify. The committee has postponed the hearing until the Department allows Tanner to appear.

A career employee at the Department, Tanner worked hand in hand with political appointees Bradley Schlozman and Hans von Spakovsky to ensure the passage of voter identification laws in Georgia and elsewhere -- sometimes overruling the recommendations of staff analysts and attorneys, who found that the laws might discriminate against African American voters.

Both Schlozman and von Spakovsky endured hard questioning during testimony last month. Tanner would have gotten the same treatment.

Chairman John Conyers (D-MI) and Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) wrote to Alberto Gonzales today to request that he make Tanner available for testimony.

This is going to be messy. According to the Guardian, the Justice Department's corruption investigation into British defense giant BAE -- accused by the U.K's Serious Fraud Office of lining the pockets of Prince Bandar, the former Saudi ambassador to the U.S., with $2 billion over 20 years -- threatens to strain ties between Washington and Gordon Brown's nascent government:

The department of justice in Washington has formally demanded that Britain hand over all evidence of secret payments the company made to members of the Saudi royal family to secure huge arms deals.

The department has taken over the corruption investigation after British prosecutors were forced by the then prime minister, Tony Blair, to halt it late last year on alleged grounds of national security.The Serious Fraud Office in London spent £2m and more than two years amassing documents which showed BAE had transferred £1bn to Washington accounts controlled by Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia, and another £1bn to Swiss bank accounts linked to agents acting for Saudi royals. The records include highly classified Ministry of Defence files detailing the government's involvement in the al-Yamamah arms deal payments. ...

If British ministers defy the justice department, this could go on to endanger reciprocal cooperation and intelligence-sharing with the US. Britain depends far more heavily on Washington than it does on Saudi Arabia. One senior source close to the US department of justice told the Guardian: "Britain's definition of national security might have to change under these circumstances."

Be skeptical of that. The U.S.-U.K. intelligence relationship is one of the most prized of the CIA's global partnerships. It would take extraordinary pressure on the part of the Justice Department -- and probably the intervention of President Bush -- for the U.S. to withhold intelligence cooperation from the British, especially as the FBI is trying to run down ties between Muslims in the U.S. to the London and Glasgow bombings. Even so, a diplomatic row between the U.S. and its closest ally over a huge, well-connected defense contractor is probably the last thing either country wants.

Hard times. From The Sacramento Bee:

Rep. John Doolittle's cachet with big Washington, D.C., campaign financiers seems to have plummeted in the aftermath of the FBI's April 13 raid on his Oakton, Va., house, and the eight-term Roseville Republican heads toward the 2008 election season with his campaign still in debt and receipts on the decline.

Meanwhile, the campaign of Democrat Charlie Brown, who came within 3 points of defeating Doolittle in November, is gaining steam. Brown's campaign raised almost twice as much as Doolittle's in the last three months and ended the six-month mark with a net cash balance of $251,000. Doolittle posted $32,250 in debts.

Doolittle's biggest expense during the three-month period was $50,000 in fundraising payments to Sierra Dominion Financial Solutions, a company owned by his wife and operated out of the couple's house....

Even with the hefty campaign payments to Julie Doolittle's company, Sierra Dominion still was owed more than $76,000 in commissions from the 2006 race.

The Doolittle campaign's second largest expense was $30,000 to defense attorney David Barger's law office, bringing the campaign's attorney's fees for defending the congressman in the last year to more than $130,000.

Late last year, Alaskan real estate developer Bob Penney testified before a grand jury about his cozy relationship with Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK). But it looks like Penney also has financial ties with Alaska’s other senator: Lisa Murkowski (R). At around the same time, she quietly bought a prime piece of property along the bank of the Kenai River from Penney.

Because of Alaska’s weak records requirements, it’s unclear whether Murkowski got a special deal from Penney. The market value of the 1.27 acre plot is worth around $300,000, according to Kenai real estate agents and locals. Both Penney and Murkowski's office refused to reveal what Murkowski paid.

The arrangement alarms some watchdogs who see ethical and even legal issues stemming from the deal. Ryan Alexander, the director of Taxpayers for Common Sense, said that Penney's history makes it look like he deliberately does business with Alaska politicians with an eye for future gain.

"It raises more than question, it raises concern," said Alexander. "It puts [Murkowski] into that web of folks that has raised eyebrows."

The only available information on Penney’s sale price (land transaction prices are not public record in Alaska) is a Deed of Trust, available here, that shows that Murkowski purchased the riverfront plot in late December of last year with a mortgage of $136,000. A borough assessment values the property at $214,000 – but real estate agents said that is well below what Penney could have fetched. Based on a review of Murkowski's disclosure records, it's unclear if she had enough cash on hand to handle such a large down payment.

Thanks to a TPMMuckraker reader in Soldotna who photographed the area where the wooded plot sits, we can catch a glimpse of the view. The photos are up here.

The land is near Penney's lodge where he co-hosts the annual Kenai River Classic with Stevens. The event draws politicians and heavyweight defense executives from companies like Lockheed Martin and Boeing for a weekend of fundraising -- and reveling. The invitational is tagged as a charity event meant to raise money for salmon habitat preservation, but it's been criticized as a meet-up for influence peddling.

The longtime friends, Penney and Stevens, are also business partners. Penney brought Stevens in on a Utah land deal that turned a $15,000 investment into $100,000 for the senator. And the two own stakes in the same racehorse with former Veco executive Bill Allen, who recently pleaded guilty to federal bribery and conspiracy charges in a cash-for-votes scheme involving state lawmakers.

Around the same time Penney sold Murkowski the riverfront property, he testified before a grand jury investigating Stevens in the broad federal probe into political corruption in the state.

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The movement for a review of Gov. Don Siegelman's (D-AL) case is picking up steam. Forty-four former state attorneys general are now calling on the House and Senate Judiciary Committees for an investigation into whether his corruption prosecution was politically motivated.

In a petition (available here) the former top state lawyers asked for a full review of the proceedings, noting a half dozen reasons the case raises suspicion.

In an unusual sentencing phase, the prosecution pressed for a 30-year prison term and the judge denied bail as the former governor awaits his appeal. (Siegelman was ultimately sentenced to seven years in prison.)

The attorneys also point to an affidavit filed by Republican lawyer Dana Jill Simpson as possible evidence of political interference. In her sworn statement, Simpson recounts a 2002 teleconference with some of her fellow Bob Riley (R-AL) campaign workers, where they discussed using the justice system to get Siegelman to back down from contesting the election results. Republican operative Bill Canary mentioned talking with Karl Rove about getting the Justice Department to investigate Siegelman, according to Simpson.

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If Gov. Jim Gibbons (R-NV) does as well accumulating donations as he has investigations, he'll be all right.

According to the Las Vegas Sun Gibbons has started a new legal fund to help cover the cost of defending himself against quite an array of accusations.

The document Gibbons filed with the Nevada Secretary of State says the money he'll raise will go to paying his lawyers defending him against:

FBI/Grand Jury investigation into alleged dealings with Warren Trepp and eTreppid Technologies all allegations that Jim Gibbons helped secure defense contracts in exchange for gifts and money.

The ongoing litigation captioned eTreppid Technologies, Inc., Plaintiff, vs. Dennis Montgomery, et al., pending in the United States District Court for the District of Nevada.

Investigation regarding Jim Gibbons' relationship with Sierra Nevada Corporation and the report that Sierra Nevada Corporation hired the First Lady as a consultant and paide her $35,000 at the same time that Jim Gibbons helped the company get funding fora no-bid federal contract.

Investigation into Jim Gibbons alleged assault of Chrissy Mazzeo.

Investigation into an allegation that Jim Gibbons employed Martha Patricia Sandoval, an alleged illegal immigrant, as a nanny.

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I'll bet he hopes the grand jury has a better opinion of him.

A new poll shows that only 44% of Anchorage voters have a positive attitude about Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK).

That's quite a dip for Stevens, according to pollster Ivan Moore, who said that between September 2005 and April 2007 the senator's popularity rating ranged between 58 percent and 63 percent.

Stevens isn't too concerned:

"Moore is an opinion-making pollster, not an opinion-taking pollster," Stevens told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

Through his seat on the House intelligence committee from 2001 through 2006, ex-Rep. Duke Cunningham (R-CA) was able to funnel between $70 and $80 million in taxpayer dollars to his favored contractors. And it didn't matter that both Mitch Wade, who's pled guilty to bribing Cunningham, and Brent Wilkes, who's been indicted for bribing him, didn't have much in the way of qualifications. That's because Cunningham's colleagues on the committee stayed mum as Cunningham funneled project after bogus project to them.

Cunningham's doings were no secret. At one point, a committee aide even sent out a staff e-mail about one of Wade's program, saying, "HOOAH! Another $5 million of taxpayer money wasted."

Members of the committee are still trying to keep the sham quiet, reports The Los Angeles Times.

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In the first 5 ½ years of the war on terror, the CIA filed not a single occurrence of legal violation to an independent oversight board, even while the FBI filed a few hundred potential violations. Still, filing with a group whose responsibility is to inform the President and Attorney General of potentially unlawful intelligence actions might not have mattered; the group’s board was vacant for the first two years of the administration. (Washington Post)

The new mandatory fashion in Baghdad’s Green Zone: flak vests and Kevlar helmets. Following a Saturday mortar attack on the Green Zone, McClatchy News obtained a copy of an internal memo issued by the American embassy in Baghdad that ordered Green Zone inhabitants to wear protective gear at all times. (McClatchy Newspapers)

An American employee of a Halliburton subsidiary pleaded guilty to receiving favors in exchange for awarding a Kuwaiti company millions in contracts. Roger Heaton worked for KBR, a former subsidiary of Halliburton, and reportedly received nearly $200,000 for awarding two major contracts. Heaton faces ten years in prison and a $250,000 fine. (New York Times)

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