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There's already a lot of evidence out there that Ken Mehlman was Jack Abramoff's prime favor man in the White House -- but this new congressional report provides the most damning example yet.

From The Washington Post:

One exchange of e-mails cited in the report suggests that former Abramoff lobbying team member Tony C. Rudy succeeded in getting Mehlman to press reluctant Justice Department appointees to release millions of dollars in congressionally earmarked funds for a new jail for the Mississippi Choctaw tribe, an Abramoff client. Rudy wrote Abramoff in November 2001 e-mails that Mehlman said he would "take care of" the funding holdup at Justice after learning from Rudy that the tribe made large donations to the GOP.


So in exchange for political contributions, Mehlman made sure the Choctaw got their $16 million contract. I believe that's called a quid pro quo.

It's by no means the only example of Mehlman's favors.

In 2001, he made sure a State Department official wasn't re-nominated for his post -- the official, Allen Stayman was a long-time foe of Abramoff's.

And according to a report from the Justice Department's Inspector General, Mehlman ordered one of his suboordinates at the White House to keep Abramoff updated on issues related to Guam; Abramoff was keen to see the U.S. Attorney there replaced.

In March, Mehlman told Vanity Fair, "Abramoff is someone who we don't know a lot about. We know what we read in the paper."

Menendez Denies Involvement in Pressuring Pyschiatrist to Hire Physician As "Favor" "U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez's [D-NJ] closest political adviser was secretly recorded seven years ago boasting of political power and urging a Hudson County contractor to hire someone as a favor to Menendez, according to a transcript obtained by The Star-Ledger.

"Menendez's campaign said last night he had severed his ties with the adviser, Donald Scarinci, after learning of the taped conversation. The two men were childhood friends and Scarinci, a prominent attorney with extensive contracts in state and local governments, has been a key fundraiser for the senator throughout his long political career.

"Scarinci was recorded in 1999 by Oscar Sandoval, a Union City psychiatrist who had contracts with the county jail and hospital in Hudson County, according to two people familiar with the tapes who requested anonymity because the recordings are evidence in a pending lawsuit.

"A transcript of the recorded telephone conversation was obtained by The Star-Ledger and verified by the two sources. In it, Scarinci urged Sandoval to hire another physician, Vincente Ruiz, telling him: 'Menendez will consider that a favor.'(New Jersey Star-Ledger)

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The New York Times follows right behind Roll Call with details from an unreleased bipartisan congressional report on Jack Abramoff and the White House. The paper gives more details on the Karl Rove-Jack Abramoff relationship:

In October 2001, the report said, Mr. Abramoff asked the White House to withhold an endorsement from a Republican candidate for governor of the Northern Marianas Islands, an American commonwealth in the western Pacific where Mr. Abramoff had clients; Mr. Abramoff was backing another candidate.

On Oct. 31, 2001, the report said, [Rove assistant and former Abramoff employee Susan] Ralson sent an e-mail message to Mr. Abramoff that read: “You win :) KR said no endorsement.”

In March 2002, the report said, Mr. Abramoff contacted Ms. Ralson to offer tickets to Mr. Rove and his family for use of a skybox during the N.C.A.A. tournament at the MCI Center in Washington.

“Hi Susan,” Mr. Abramoff wrote in an e-mail message. "I just saw Karl and mentioned the N.C.A.A. opportunity, which he was really jazzed about. If he wants to join us in the Pollin box, please let me know as soon as you can.”

Ms. Ralston replied: “Karl is interested in Fri. and Sun. 3 tickets for his family?”

Mr. Abramoff responded: “Done. Does he want to go Friday night or Friday afternoon or both?” The report said that Mr. Rove offered to pay for the tickets, prompting Mr. Abramoff to propose that Mr. Rove pay $50 per ticket “payable to me personally.”


More, after the jump.

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The New York Times reports:

The Senate on Thursday endorsed President Bush's plans to prosecute and interrogate terror suspects, all but sealing congressional approval for legislation that Republicans intend to use on the campaign trail to assert their toughness on terrorism.

The 65-34 vote means the bill could reach the president's desk by week's end. The House passed nearly identical legislation on Wednesday and was expected to approve the Senate bill on Friday, sending it on to the White House.


Twelve Dems crossed the aisle to vote with the GOP majority; only one Republican, Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-R.I.), voted with the remaining Dems. Here's the roll call vote.

More of Kane-and-Bresnahan's reporting from Roll Call (sub. req.):

During the period examined by the committee, Bush administration officials repeatedly intervened on behalf of Abramoff¹s clients, including helping a Mississippi Indian tribe obtain $16 million in federal funds for a jail the tribe wanted to build.

Abramoff was able to block the nomination of one Interior Department official using Christian conservative Ralph Reed as a go-between with Rove, according to e-mails between Abramoff and Reed.

Abramoff also tried to oust a State Department employee who interfered with their efforts on behalf of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, one of Abramoff¹s most lucrative clients.


The White House responds to the charges:
"The billing records that are the basis of this report are widely regarded as fraudulent in how they misrepresented the activities and influence of Abramoff," [White House spokeswoman Dana] Perino said. "There's no reason those records should be suddenly viewed as credible." Perino added that she was unaware of any link between Abramoff¹s lobbying and White House intervention in policy or personnel matters affecting his clients. "Not that I'm aware of as a result of a direct contact," Perino said.

Perino did not specifically address whether White House officials ever accepted meals or tickets from Abramoff. "We have high standards and expect them to be met," she said.

Roll Call's John Bresnahan and Paul Kane reports (sub. req.):

Hundreds of contacts between top White House officials and former lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his associates "raise serious questions about the legality and actions" of those officials, according to a draft bipartisan report prepared by the House Government Reform Committee.

The 95-page report, which White House officials reviewed Wednesday evening but has yet to be formally approved by the panel, singled out two of President Bush¹s top lieutenants, Karl Rove and Ken Mehlman, as having been offered expensive meals and exclusive tickets to premier sporting events and concerts by Abramoff and his associates.

In total, the committee was able to document 485 contacts between White House officials and Abramoff and his lobbying team at the firm Greenberg Traurig from January 2001 to March 2004, with 82 of those contacts occuring in Rove's office, including 10 with Rove personally. The panel also said that Abramoff billed his clients nearly $25,000 for meals and drinks with these officials during that period.


Developing. . .

Government Executive's Kimberly Palmer reports that the former Abramoff golfing buddy could get a bad bump for "obstructing justice" during his trial:

David Safavian, the former head of the Office of Management and Budget's procurement policy shop convicted in June of obstructing justice and making false statements, has been granted a delay in his sentencing.

The sentencing was originally scheduled for Oct. 12, but will be moved to Oct. 27. Safavian was convicted on three counts of making false statements and one count of obstructing an investigation. The case revolved around his dealings with former lobbyist Jack Abramoff while Safavian was at the General Services Administration, where he served as chief of staff.

Prosecutors apparently are seeking a two-point sentence enhancement -- which would add to the recommended prison time -- by arguing that Safavian obstructed justice during his trial. Safavian testified at his trial that he did not lie, make false statements, or obstruct an investigation, but the jury found him guilty of doing those things.

There's no doubt about it: Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso Jackson is a machine politician -- it just seems that something always got stuck in the gears. And that might be the only thing that saves him from a criminal investigation.

A recent report from the HUD Inspector General found that Jackson repeatedly told his deputies that they should favor supporters of the President when awarding contracts. New revelations from the report show that Jackson himself admitted to investigators that political affiliation was a factor: "I’m not going to go out of my way to help somebody who’s castigating the President…Now, if that’s my bias, I have it."

But the IG seems to have found "no direct proof" that a contract was actually awarded or rescinded because of political affiliation.

"I think they saved his butt," said Melanie Sloan, a former federal prosecutor and Executive Director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, referring to Jackson's suboordinates. If it turns out they just listened to his windbag speeches about helping Bush supporters, but then went off and did their jobs, Jackson may be off the hook. "However, it’s totally unethical and the guy ought to be fired," she added.

Put on your protective eyewear and rubber gloves.

A sixteen-year-old former page to the House of Representatives shared with Hill staff emails sent to him from Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL), in which the lawmaker asks inappropriate questions of him. They've since shown up on Web sites. ABC News reports:

In the series of e-mails, obtained by ABC News, between the page and Rep. Foley (R-FL), Foley asks the page how old he is, what he wants for his birthday and requests a photo of him. . . .

Congressman Mark Foley's office says the e-mails were entirely appropriate and that their release is part of a smear campaign by his opponent.


You can read some of the emails here, here and here.

The page characterized one of the emails as "sick sick sick sick sick."

What makes this story a) more depressing, b) more ironic, c) reaffirming of one's cynicisms is that Foley has made a name for himself as an advocate of children. "Mark strongly believes that our children are the key to the nation’s future," his Web site notes. The congressman has consistently pushed for stricter laws to track and punish child molesters and child pornographers. He hasn't yet pushed for a bill outlawing icky emails to young former subordinates, however.

Foley has served in the House for twelve years. He ran for Senate in 2004, but dropped out of the race, in the words of the Hotline, "after being ID'd as a homosexual by a 'gay-oriented publication.'" Foley says he left the race "because of family difficulties."

Update: Foley's opponent has called for an investigation, noting, "It is our understanding that a complaint was filed by the alleged victim, and that complaint should be fully investigated." Foley's office told ABC that "there is no official investigation into the matter and that Foley is only guilty of being friendly."

Jeanine "Love Bug" Pirro, GOP candidate for New York Attorney General, is under investigation for trying to spy on her husband, as we noted yesterday.

But she's fightin' the law! And she wants attorney general Alberto Gonzales to help her, says WCBS-TV (NY) News:

"I am calling on U.S. attorney [general], Alberto Gonzalez [sic], to begin an immediate investigation and appoint a special prosecutor to get Elliot Jacobson off his witch hunt," Pirro told the New York Hispanic Clergy Association in the Bronx. "There needs to be a federal investigation of the felony of leaking sealed court documents."


So she does have a working knowledge of the law after all.

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