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Today, The Hill reports that Rep. Gary Miller (R-CA) has gone beyond the real estate schemes of his peers. That tired old scheme of buying a property and then earmarking funds for a nearby highway? Miller's moved beyond it. Not that Miller himself hasn't done that - it's just that his real estate prowess extends beyond such simple deals.

Try this on for size:

Rep. Gary Miller (R-Calif.) took out nearly $7.5 million in promissory notes in 2004 from his top campaign contributor and business partner, Lewis Operating Corp., which he used to purchase real estate from the company....

Shaun Martin, a law professor at the University of San Diego who specializes in professional ethics, said Miller’s business arrangement with Lewis “screams out” as an abuse and is particularly troubling because the land deals were seller-financed.

“Oftentimes, those are particularly ethically troubling and particularly dangerous because oftentimes those loans are non-recourse loans. … The only thing [the lender] can go after is the property itself.”

If the land turns out to be vacant land that for some reason cannot be developed, Martin said, its fair market value could end up being less than the amount of the mortgage.

“If the property goes south, the elected official doesn’t lose money. In essence, he gets to gamble with someone else’s money — harkening back to the days in which investment banks used to let elected politicians buy stock, and if they lost money the brokerage would make it up for them.”

The New Republic just published its analysis of the Hoekstra fiasco from last week, adding much-needed perspective to the mix. No, Hoekstra's not a crusading reformer, he's the same paranoid guy he was before, clinging to positions on Iraq's WMDs and intelligence community treason that even the White House appears to have softened on. TNR's Spencer Ackerman summarizes Hoekstra's position:

"[T]he reason we haven't found out about Saddam's WMD is because Al Qaeda sympathizers in the intelligence community don't want us to know."

Okay. And if you believe that, I've got a "pre-operational" terrorist bridge attack to sell you.

It's amazing to go to bed with a wish in your heart, and wake up the next morning to find it answered.

Last night, Paul mentioned a breaking scandal in the Connecticut Senate race: the GOP candidate, Alan Schlesinger, has publicly admitted to gambling -- repeatedly -- under an assumed name, and getting thrown out of casinos for card-counting.

Not only that, but by his own telling, Schlesinger's a lousy gambler. That's right: the guy lies about his name, counts cards -- and still loses.

What a wonderful piece of muck, I thought. Too bad the guy's likely to pull out of the race. Still, a boy can dream. And with that, I put on my sleeping-cap, tucked in the dog, and drifted off.

What did I find when I awoke this morning? Schlesinger's gonna fight! Despite pleas from the state's Republican governor, M. Jodi Rell, and the state's GOP chairman, George Gallo, Schlesinger has opted to damn the torpedos, and go full speed ahead.

"Under no circumstances will he withdraw," the Hartford Courant says Schlesinger has vowed.

Read More →

Congressional Group Honors Fallen Ex-Congressmen Here's a party I'm sad to miss: "The U.S. Capitol Historical Society will hold a reception next week to honor a select group of lawmakers 'for their hard work, service, time and the sacrifices made in upholding the office with which they were entrusted.'" Among the honorees: Imprisoned former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA), and disgraced former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX). (The Hill)

Read More →

Top aides to Rep. Katherine Harris' (R-FL) Senate campaign are heading for the exit, the Hotline On Call reports.

"The departing staff includes Glen Hodas, Harris's campaign manager, her spokesperson, Chris Ingram, and Pat Thomas, her field director. The status of Harris's chief fundraiser, Erin Delullo, is not clear," the blog says.

Harris is trailing her Democratic challenger by 33 points, according to a recent Quinnipiac University poll.

If you recall, in April Harris lost "her chief political strategist, her campaign manager, her spokeswoman, her director of field operations and even a traveling aide who helps hand out stickers at campaign appearances," as the Orlando Sentinel reported the first exodus.

After the first wave of defections, Harris instituted a "loyalty oath" policy -- yeah, didn't really stick. Can't wait to find out what she'll try next. Suggestions?

That Connecticut Senate race just got even more entertaining:

Expect calls for Connecticut Republican United States Senate nominee Alan Schlesinger to abandon his race to begin in the next several days. Questions are being raised about the former state representative’s gambling habits that have Republicans sounding rattled.

A persistent government critic and former state police casino licensing commander Bradley Beecher sent emails early this week raising questions about Schlesinger. The ones that have Republicans talking are that their Senate candidate is, in casino parlance, a card counter and has used a “Wampum Card” (the Foxwood casino loyalty card that gets gamblers points for spending money) under the assumed name of “Alan Gold”. Schlesinger said today that he does have a card under that name but has not used it “in this decade.” The candidate, sounding agitated in a phone conversation, says he does recall being told by a casino official that he should not be playing blackjack at their facility....

The most serious trouble for Schlesinger, however, comes from Republican state chairman George Gallo, who told me this afternoon that the gambling questions raise “a lot of questions which Mr. Schlesinger is going to have to answer in the next couple of days.” Gallo, who is close to Republican Governor M. Jodi Rell, said, “Our mistake is that we only vetted candidates using their real names.”

It's still unclear whether Ralph Reed has anything to fear from Justice Department prosecutors, but he's not going to get away without at least one legal headache.

Jack Abramoff hired Reed to squash any competition to his casino owning tribal clients. Now one of those tribes wants to get even. So they're suing him, along with Abramoff and other members of his team, for "fraud and racketeering."

The basis of the tribe's suit against Reed seems mainly to be that he's a hypocrite. I'm not sure what chance they have of winning, but I do anticipate the prospect of Ralph Reed being forced to explain under oath that, even though he was being paid by a rival casino, the work was really motivated out of Christian virtue. That would be a fun cross-examination to watch.

From the AP:

The tribe, which says it has strong Christian values, alleges Reed's group called state legislators, sent targeted mailings to voters and ran radio ads against the bill without revealing their true origins, preventing the tribe from fighting back.

Reed's work made the opposition to the tribe's casino appear to be based on Christian concerns, not competitive concerns from its sister tribe, the Alabama-Coushatta said.

Had the public or tribe known the Louisiana Coushatta tribe was the main opponent, Christian groups would have been "less mobilized." Because the Texas and Louisiana tribes share family ties, Louisiana Coushatta members would have opposed the attack on their sister tribe, the Alabama-Coushatta said.

Today's Washington Post brings big news: the Army has decided to end a multi-billion open-ended contract with Halliburton ($7 billion last year) for logistical support. Halliburton also lost a $1.2 billion contract to restore Iraqi oil fields.

Why? Was it because of audits that turned up $1 billion in "questionable costs?"

Because the Defense Department's investigative wing thought Halliburton's oil contract was so sketchy it deserved the attention of criminal prosecutors?

According to the Army's flack, they just decided that it's better not to have "all our eggs in one basket," because, the Post paraphrases, "multiple contractors will give them better prices, more accountability and greater protection if one contractor fails to perform."

You might call that a tacit admission that maybe this whole Halliburton thing hasn't worked out so well. Either that, or the Army has just discovered the advantages of competitive bidding.

Senate intelligence committee chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) announced new deadlines for his panel's fabled "Phase II" of its now-epic investigation into prewar Iraq intelligence -- but the final report is still unlikely to come until after the November elections, Congressional Quarterly reports today.

Writes CQ's Tim Starks:

With several of his previously set deadlines for the second phase of the investigation already lapsed, Roberts said Tuesday his committee would hold a business meeting July 13 to determine the process for finalizing two reports before the August break and the third in September.

The first two reports would address postwar findings on Saddam Hussein’s connections to terrorism and weapons of mass destruction capabilities, and how the intelligence community used information provided by the Iraqi National Congress, an exile organization headed by Ahmed Chalabi. The third report would address prewar intelligence assessments of postwar Iraq.

Another segment of the Phase II investigation is being held up by a pending Pentagon inspector general report on activities conducted by the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans under former Undersecretary of Defense Douglas J. Feith. Roberts said he wants to await the completion of that report before pursuing his own inquiry further.

The final segment, which is the most controversial, would address the administration’s public statements on Iraq. However, Roberts and panel Democrats have fought over Roberts’ desire to include the prewar remarks of other government officials, including Democratic senators.

"Phase II" was where Roberts stuffed most of the most vexing questions for the administration. The panels' report on Phase I was released nearly two years ago.

The panel is taking so long with this phase of the invstigation, they will clearly produce a very, very thorough report. Especially once the political pressures of the midterm elections are past. Right?

Long after most of the world has moved on, we've still been trying to piece together the meaning of House Intelligence Committee chairman Pete Hoekstra's (R-MI) May letter to President Bush.

Of course, when he comes out with comments like these, he only holds our attention that much longer. What is this guy really thinking?

Thankfully, we're not alone -- I hear Spencer Ackerman at the New Republic has a piece forthcoming on Hoekstra, with some interesting details. While we've been dissecting the May letter, I'm told that Ackerman has assembled that and many other pieces into a portrait of a powerful intelligence overseer who may or may not have all his pieces together himself.