TPM News

Uh-oh, you just got a subpoena from Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) in the mail. What do you do?

As we've noted here before, a Democratic Congress means big business for those who make their living defending big business. And law firms have done what they can to whip their corporate clients into a panic over the coming investigations.

In today's Washington Post, Jeffrey Birnbaum reports that "just about every company on K Street is vying for a piece of the soon-to-thrive 'crisis management' business" -- and offers a glimpse of what costly (and sometimes contradictory) opinions from legal eagles, publicity consultants, and lobbyists will look like. The result is a rough primer for targetted corporations:

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A senior official at the National Institutes of Health has admitted to committing a criminal conflict of interest by taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in unauthorized payments from the drug company Pfizer, Inc. But he's still on the job -- at least for the moment.

Dr. P. Trey Sunderland III will have to pay back $300,000 he took from the pharmaceutical giant, whom he had been supplying with spinal fluid his government staff had extracted from Alzheimer's patients. His full sentence will be determined Dec. 22.

Despite his admission, a spokesperson for NIH -- where Sunderland has worked since 1982 -- confirmed to me today that he is still an employee there. (Sunderland has in the past tried to retire, only to be stopped by his superiors.) So there will be an asterisk next to his name on our Great List of Scandalized Administration Officials.

The reviews are in on the House ethics committee report on the Foley scandal, and they aren't good.

"[A] 91-page exercise in cowardice," a New York Times editorial thundered."The report’s authors were clearly more concerned about protecting the members of the House than the young men and women under their charge in the page program."

"What, one has to wonder, would it take for the House ethics committee to hold a lawmaker or a staff member accountable?" asked the Washington Post in its editorial, "The Buck Just Stopped." (The Wall Street Journal, however, pronounced the report "fair and sensible.")

Even some GOPers are whispering that those who dodged a bullet only did so because the committee purposely fired above their heads. Roll Call's John Bresnahan quoted one unnamed "Republican insider" with ties to Hastert who called the report a "shrewd political document" that carefully criticized only members and staff who were leaving power.

"They kicked people who don't care anymore," the source told Bresnahan. "Hastert doesn't care, and the other guys don't care either. . . . This doesn't hurt them at all."

TPMmuckraker welcomes Tom DeLay, former Majority Leader and frequent post subject, to the blogosphere.

Although the stated purpose of TomDeLay.com is to "find new ways to connect, unite and organize conservatives from all over America into a real grassroots political force," I have to say, the blog is the perfect place for him to keep everyone updated on all his legal travails. Hopefully he'll realize that eventually. Who better to give us the skinny on the Jack Abramoff investigation than one of its main subjects?

Update: More on Tom DeLay's "new conservative force" here.

Update: Shortly after launching, DeLay's blog quickly dropped the comments after his invitation in his inaugural post to "speak truth to power" was taken too literally by visitors. Luckily, an enterprising blogger preserved them here.

Jefferson Win Poses Dilemma for Party "Rep. William J. Jefferson may be a pariah in some Washington political circles, but voters in this storm-battered city weighed in over the weekend with their own verdict regarding their scandal-plagued congressman: He's still our guy.

"Voters gave the Louisiana Democrat an emphatic reelection victory over state Rep. Karen Carter, even though his campaign had been weighted with revelations that federal authorities had videotaped him taking $100,000 in alleged bribe money, and that $90,000 of it had been found inside a freezer in his apartment in the District. The investigation led his House colleagues to dump him from a key committee, donors abandoned him and the state Democratic Party switched its allegiance to his opponent....

"[His] victory now poses a quandary for Democrats, some of whom have shunned him politically, and possibly also for the city, as leaders here seek to project an image of civic probity as they lobby for more federal money for recovery from Hurricane Katrina." (WaPo, NYTimes, The Hill)

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Wired News attends a meeting of the White House created to monitor citizens' privacy concerns and declares it a joke.

A ha ha. Ha.

Yesterday, Paul was among the first to note how the House ethics investigators took outgoing Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-AZ) to task for his less-than-heroic response to complaints from a recently-departed page that Foley was asking him questions about his penis size.

In a statement late yesterday, Kolbe responded. "The report demonstrates that members of my office and I took prompt action in 2001 to address the complaint that was brought to our attention," Kolbe declares. Full statement after the jump.

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Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA) narrowly defeated his Democratic challenger to win re-election last month -- but he's still fighting the Justice Department, if his legal bills are any judge.

Doolittle has spent over $100,000 of his campaign funds on legal fees, his most recent FEC filings show. (He can spend campaign funds that way as long as the legal battle is over his activities in office.) The congressman accepted tens of thousands of dollars from disgraced superlobbyist Jack Abramoff, and he did some mighty favors for the guy.

One of Doolittle's more unnerving habits, as Paul has documented, has been to give his wife a 15 percent cut of all donations as her "fundraising fee." Some view this uncharitably, calling it skimming -- or worse, if the donor knows 15 percent of his money is headed for the Doolittle's personal bank account.

But he may be reforming: according to the Sacramento Bee, Doolittle is no longer giving his wife 15 percent of the money. He's using a bit of bookkeeping magic, recording the cut as "debt" but not paying out. Perhaps he's fancying the idea that once his legal troubles are sorted out, his campaign will catch up on all those back payments?

In an interview with Congressional Quarterly, incoming House intelligence committee chairman Silvestre Reyes (D-TX) said he could support boosting American troop levels in Iraq by 30,000 to subdue the warring militias -- though it's not clear he understands who's fighting who, or how more troops would get them to stop:

. . . Reyes says he favors sending more troops [to Iraq].

“If it’s going to target the militias and eliminate them, I think that’s a worthwhile investment,” he said.

It’s hard to find anybody in Iraq who thinks the U.S. can do that.

On “a temporary basis, I’m willing to ramp them up by twenty or thirty thousand . . . for, I don’t know, two months, four months, six months — but certainly that would be an exception,” Reyes said.


Despite this commitment, Reyes was hard-pressed to explain to CQ's national security editor Jeff Stein some of the basics of the region's radicalism, such as whether al Qaeda was Sunni or Shia (answer: very Sunni), and Stein seems nonplussed by the scope of Reyes' understanding of the many factions fighting the country's civil war.

One puzzle that had never quite been clear: how did Mark Foley's emails to a former House page reach the public eye?

According to the ethics report (page 44 and on), in the fall of 2005, a page nominated by Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-LA) received the now-infamous icky emails. He forwarded them to Danielle Savoy, a staffer in Alexander's office, calling them "sick."

From there, Savoy forwarded them to her friend, Kelley Halliwell, a lobbyist and formerly of Rep. Joel Hefley's (R-CO) office. And she forwarded the emails to her boyfriend Justin Field, who worked at the House Democratic Caucus. From there, they went to the House Democratic Caucus communications director Matt Miller. And from him to The Miami Herald and St. Petersburg Times (both of whom ultimately decided not to run stories) and also the communications director at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. Nevertheless, it would be nearly 10 months before a publication actually ran with the story.

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