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As the presidential election nears, and Wisconsin proves itself to once again be a battleground state, J.B. Van Hollen, the state attorney general and co-chair of the Wisconsin McCain campaign, is raising the specter of voting fraud. Van Hollen filed suit earlier this month, against the state Government Accountability Board (GAB) which oversees elections in Wisconsin, demanding that they verify all of the voter registrations made since January 2006 against a new state database created under the federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) -- a Herculean task that the board had decided to forgo with just six weeks to go until the election.

The GAB claims to be in full compliance with HAVA, stating that retro-active voter registration checks through the database are not mandated by federal law.

The database compares registration data with drivers license records. It just got up and running in Wisconsin a few weeks ago, but the program seems to still be working out the kinks -- one of the reasons the GAB is hesitant to hold the database accountable for validating registrations.

"In its deliberations, the Board was concerned about preliminary data that showed more than a fifth of voters' data mismatched due to variations in names, differing data entry standards, or typographical errors," a GAB press release responding to Van Hollen's suit said. "A check conducted of GAB members' data resulted in four of six Board members' information mis-matching."

The result, state Democrats say, would be widespread disenfranchisement and suppressed voter turnout. They claim Van Hollen's demands for database checking are motivated by his role in the McCain campaign, an allegation Van Hollen has denied.

"There was no discussion with anybody involved in leadership with the Republican Party (or the McCain campaign) about this lawsuit before it was brought," Van Hollen said last Thursday.

But yesterday, the Wisconsin Republican Party chairman came forward to say he had multiple conversations with Van Hollen's deputy attorney general, Ray Taffora, specifically discussing the handling of the lawsuit, the Wisconsin State Journal reported. The Friday before, another Department of Justice attorney in the lawsuit admitted meeting with Republican Party representatives in the week before the suit was filed.

The Dane County Court will hear motions for the case tomorrow, including a motion to disqualify Van Hollen. The attorney for the GAB argues that because Van Hollen represents the state, and the GAB is a state entity, Van Hollen cannot sue a party he represents. Both the Democratic and Republican parties of Wisconsin have filed motions to intervene in the lawsuit.

The Alaska lawmakers overseeing the Sarah Palin Trooper-Gate investigation have hit back at the GOP-led effort to shut down the probe.

Last week, Republican legislators filed suit to halt the investigation, arguing that it had been inappropriately politicized by Democratic senators Hollis French and Kim Elton. This afternoon, Peter Maassen, an attorney representing French and Elton, as well as independent investigator Steven Branchflower, announced in a press release that he will be asking a judge to throw out that lawsuit.

The press release points out that the investigation was launched in July after a 12-0 bipartisan vote of the legislative council. And it asserts that the original GOP complaints "suggest that Alaska legislators with open political views should be prohibited from participating in any legislative function that might -- might -- reflect badly on Governor Palin."

The release refers to "powerful and increasingly heavy-handed national interests" as being opposed to the investigation's continuance.

And in a bid to fight back against Republican efforts to remove French from his position overseeing the probe, the release adds: "The legislature is allowed to decide for itself what it will investigate, who it will employ as investigator, and which of its members will oversee the investigation."

Maassen is with the Anchorage-based firm Ingaldson, Maassen & Fitzgerald.

It appears all but certain that the investigaiton will go forward, and that Branchflower will release a report on or aorund October 11th, as scheduled. However, it's unclear how comprehensive the report will be, thanks to efforts by the McCain-Palin campaign to ensure that Branchflower won't be hearing directly from several key witnesses, including Sarah and Todd Palin.

The Republican Study Committee (RSC), a faction of small-government House conservatives led by Rep. Jeb Hensarling of Texas, has released an alternative plan for dealing with the Wall Street crisis, in opposition to the $700 billion bailout being proposed by the Treasury Department.

The stripped-down plan advocates a two-year suspension of the capital gains tax and calls for pull privatization of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which were taken over by the federal government earlier this month.

The RSC's opposition to the bailout -- coupled with concern among progressive Democrats that the measure doesn't do enough to help homeowners -- could complicate efforts by House leaders to quickly pass legislation.

According to The Hill, the RSC argues that the bailout plan "fundamentally alters the nation's free-market system in that it broadly socializes firms' money-losing mortgage assets and places the U.S. on a slippery slope whereby profits will also be nationalized."


The White House dispatched Vice President Dick Cheney to Capitol Hill Tuesday morning to help shore up support for the financial bailout of Wall Street.

. . . House conservatives are seething about the "big government" approach that they say President Bush is taking in the financial crisis. They don't like how much power it cedes to the Treasury or the price tag.

"[Cheney] is going to walk into a firing squad. I hope he brought his hunting rifle," an aide to one House conservative told FOX News.

With Congress working around the clock to stave off the collapse of the U.S. financial market, indicted Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) doesn't want his constituents to think he's not representing them in the midst of crisis.

So even though Stevens is in a crisis of his own -- the federal trial to determine whether he failed to report over $250,000 in gifts and home repairs on his financial disclosure forms began yesterday -- he asked permission from the judge to be excused from courtroom appearances so he can attend to Senate business on the bailout.

Judge Emmet Sullivan warned Stevens and his attorneys that this might give the jurors the idea that Stevens didn't care about his trial.

"We don't want to have any negative impressions going on," Sullivan told Stevens, according to an article by The Hill. "People reach the wrong impressions for the wrong reasons."

From the AP:

Being absent as Congress considers a historic $700 billion bailout of the financial market could make it look like the corruption charges have made it impossible for Stevens to do his job.

Prosecutors didn't oppose Stevens' plan to leave court but they said Stevens shouldn't be able to use the crisis to cast himself as a dedicated senator in front of jurors. The judge said Stevens could leave court but jurors would not be told why.

Former acquaintances of Veco CEO Bill Allen came up yesterday as possible witnesses in Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) federal trial. The witnesses, one of whom is an underage woman alleged by some to have had a sexual affair with Bill Allen, are intended to diminish Allen's credibility as a witness against Stevens. Stevens' lawyers have also been able to successfully acquire Allen's medical records in hopes of further undermining Allen's testimony. (McClatchy/AP)

Over $13 billion dollars from the American government meant for Iraqi reconstruction projects has been wasted or stolen according to a former Iraqi official. The former official told the Senate Democratic Policy Committee yesterday that although a report on the subject was sent to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, there was never any follow up. A separate Iraqi agency has estimated that $9 billion has gone missing. (Washington Post)

Political contributions from the financial sector have the potential to shape the final bailout plan, the L.A. Times reports this morning. Gifts from financial companies outstrip donations by other groups, including lobbyists, by nearly a factor of two. In addition to contributions to the presidential candidates -- $22.5 million to Obama and $19.6 million to McCain -- the industry has given heavily to members on the committees in charge of the legislation. (LA Times)

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According to a senior House staffer, Speaker Nancy Pelosi is likely to insist that any Wall Street bailout bill contain two specific items from the Democrats' wish-list: limits on executive compensation, and a measure to protect homeowners by allowing mortgages to be renegotiated in bankruptcy proceedings.

Things may not go smoothly on those fronts, however. House Republicans have signaled their firm opposition to executive pay limits. And the Blue Dogs, a faction of fiscally conservative Democrats, may be "uncomfortable" with changing bankruptcy laws, said the staffer.

There are a number of Democratic proposals circulating right now aiming to attach strings to the Treasury Department's $700 billion Wall Street package.

In the Senate, the draft legislation being offered by Banking Committee chair Chris Dodd appears, which would give the federal government an equity stake when it helps banks with debt, (and which Paul Krugman describes as "a big step in the right direction) appears to be the most prominent.

But in the House, things are a bit more chaotic. Rep. Barney Frank, who chairs the Financial Services committee, has circulated his own proposal, which is slightly closer to the Treasury Department's own, though, like Dodd's, it aims to limit executive pay.

Rep. Brad Sherman this afternoon released to TPMmuckraker an outline of his own plan, which goes further than either Dodd's or Frank's.

And an unlikely coalition of conservative deficit hawks and liberal populists may be taking shape to oppose any bailout at all.

Pelosi's office did not immediately respond to a request for further information.

There are various plans being circulated right now by Hill Democrats, laying out alternative frameworks for a Wall Street bailout.

We just obtained one from Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA), a member of the House Financial Services Committee. According to Sherman's press secretary, the congressman just presented this proposal at a meeting with other members.

Sherman's plan covers all of the major points that Democrats have been insisting on -- strong Congressional oversight of any agreement, limits on executive pay, protection for homeowners. It also adds some more provisions, including an economic stimulus, and a measure to make it easier and quicker for Congress to enact future corporate governance reform.

This morning, Rep. Sherman told The Hill, referring to the Bush administration's bailout proposal: "This is a bill for Wall Street, not a bill for Main Street."

He added: "Wall Street and the administration are going all out to tell constituents, 'Make your congressman vote for our bill, or your 401(k) [retirement plan] is toast.' "

Sherman's complete proposal follows after the jump...

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Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ), a member of the House Financial Services and Budget Committees, is strongly opposed to the administration's plans to bail out Wall Street an aide confirmed to TPMmuckraker.

"There aren't any amendments that I have heard of that would make him turn around and support it," said Erica Elliott, Garrett's press secretary.

As Congress struggles to understand the implications of the Treasury Department's $700 billion bail-out solution proposed last Friday, there is considerable uncertainly on Capitol Hill about the alternative measures that will be proposed and where individual lawmakers stand.

"It really is a big ongoing conversation with a lot of different members," Elliott added. "Trying to get everyone together who says 'We don't like the $700 billion bailout, what do we like in place of that.'"

This afternoon, the House Republican Study Committee, of which Garrett is a member, held an emergency meeting to discuss alternative plans to the administration's proposal.

Earlier this morning, Garrett also stepped into the fray currently overtaking Capitol Hill, circulating an email with three attached articles by economists with bailout alternatives.

Last week, Garrett and Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) came across the aisle to call for the formation of a bi-partisan Select Committee on Bailouts to investigate the actions taken by the Federal Reserve and Treasury Department with regard to bailouts.

The trial of Alaskan Sen. Ted Stevens on seven counts of false statements begins today in Washington, D.C. Stevens, a seven term Republican, arrived in court this morning for jury selection. Opening statements are expected to begin either Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday morning.

The trial, which Stevens requested be as speedy as possible, is expected to last a month, ending shortly before the election. Originally, Stevens attempted to have the trial moved to Alaska, to accommodate his campaign for re-election. The motion was overruled, but the judge has stated that the trial will recess for Fridays, to allow the sitting Republican time to return to the campaign trail in Alaska.

Potential witnesses in the trial include Stevens himself, as well as former-VECO executive Bill Allen. Democratic Senators Ted Kennedy (MA), Patrick Leahy (VT) and Daniel Inouye (HI), as well as Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and former Secretary of State Colin Powell were also listed to jurors as possible witnesses this morning.

Stevens pleaded not guilty to making false statements on his financial disclosure forms relating to gifts he received from Allen for renovations on his home in Girdwood, Alaska, among others. Between 1999-2006 he accepted gifts from VECO, include substantial amounts of material and labor in his private residence. These allegations include addition of new first floor, new bedrooms and bathrooms, a grill, as well as failing to report other gifts, such as a $29,000 bronze statue of a fish. The total amount of gifts is valued at over $250,000.