TPM News

Following published complaints by a Pentagon investigator in the North County (Calif.) Times, the New York Times today reported that former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA), now in prison for taking bribes in exchange for legislative favors, is "refusing" to give information or speak with him and his agents.

I spent a good part of yesterday looking into this, and I think the picture's not as clear as the NY Times describes it.

I spoke with the Pentagon investigator, Rick Gwin, yesterday morning, and he repeated his original claim that he was unsatisfied with Cunningham's level of cooperation.

"We haven't talked to [Cunningham]," he said. "He's not talking to us."

Have you asked to speak with him? I asked Gwin.

"He has to make the overture to come forward to us," the investigator said.

So have you ever made a request to Cunningham or his lawyer to interview the prisoner?

"I think we have," he responded, "through my agents. But I have not seen a response."

Read More →

From the LA Times:

Federal prosecutors have begun an investigation into Rep. Jerry Lewis, the Californian who chairs the powerful House Appropriations Committee, government officials and others said, signaling the spread of a San Diego corruption probe.

The U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles has issued subpoenas in an investigation into the relationship between Lewis (R-Redlands) and a Washington lobbyist linked to disgraced former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Rancho Santa Fe), three people familiar with the investigation said....

The government is looking into the connection between Lewis and his longtime friend Bill Lowery, the sources said. Lowery, a lobbyist, is a former congressman from San Diego.

As chairman of the Appropriations panel, Lewis has earmarked hundreds of millions of dollars in federal contracts for many of Lowery's clients, one of the sources said....

The probe focuses on what one source said was an unusually close relationship between Lewis and Lowery, who served on the House Appropriations Committee together from 1985 to 1993.

Shortly after leaving Congress, Lowery founded Copeland Lowery Jacquez Denton & White, a Washington lobbying firm whose clients include Brent R. Wilkes, a defense contractor who is the focus of a separate probe in San Diego.

It's no secret that the Homeland Security Department's finances are a mess. Hundreds of millions of dollars have gone missing, and the agency has struggled to get its many disparate operations onto a single accounting system. As a result, it has repeatedly failed to explain to Congress how it spends its money.

So what bastion of transparency does the White House tap to take over the vacant post of DHS Chief Financial Officer? The Pentagon guy who helped Halliburton hide from scrutiny over $170 million in disputed charges.

David Norquist, the nominee for DHS CFO (and kid brother to GOP power broker Grover Norquist), had his hearing before the Senate on Monday -- it didn't go smoothly. CQ's Angela Kim is one of the few reporters in Washington who noticed.

Read More →

A week ago I reported the Westin Grand and its corporate parent, Starwood Hotels, wouldn't return my calls. The Washington, D.C. hotel had been named as one of the locations of Brent Wilkes' now-infamous poker parties. The Watergate, another alleged location, has confirmed receiving subponeas for more information in connection to the case. I wondered, what about the Westin?

I've continued to call the hotel company, and this morning I finally got a response. Nadine Ayala, a spokeswoman for Starwood, called to say that "right now we have no comment, and no information to share."

She promised to keep me in the loop if that changes.

Here's news to ruin your breakfast: the NSA has been building a massive database of phone calls within the United States. "The NSA program reaches into homes and businesses across the nation by amassing information about the calls of ordinary Americans -- most of whom aren't suspected of any crime," USA Today reports.

And if you want to ruin the rest of your day: the NSA can avoid scrutiny from the Justice Department by refusing to grant investigators security clearances. In fact, they just did that, AP reports, forcing Justice to drop its probe of NSA's domestic wiretapping program.

Brent and Dusty: Still Crazy After All These Years "Dusty" Foggo was a security guard at the Chula Vista (Calif.) Sears. Brent Wilkes was a high school football star. Wilkes and Foggo always had wild parties, women, and fast cars. Foggo became #3 at the CIA; Wilkes became a millionaire defense contractor. And now both men are under scrutiny by federal investigators for being at the heart of what is alleged to be a widespread ring of bribery, prostitution and corruption. "They're doing the same thing they did in high school. They're just 30 years older." (10News, via War&Piece)

Read More →

The defiantly innocent guy at the center of the Ohio Coingate scandal -- no hookers in this one, sorry -- has changed his mind. He might be a little guilty, after all.

Tom Noe invested millions of the state's insurance fund for injured workers in rare coins, then stole a bunch of them, then sold some and funneled $45,000 of his ill-gotten gains to the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign (he raised over $100,000 for BC04, making him a "Pioneer"). Not guilty not guilty not guilty, he said.

Now, AP reports that "Noe's attorney and the U.S. attorney's office jointly filed a request Wednesday asking a federal judge to set a change of plea hearing as soon as possible."

Well, almost 400 TPMm readers guessed how many visits the Secret Service's White House visitor logs would show, and nobody guessed two. Only a handful of people even guessed under ten. Just goes to show that this administration always rewards cynicism.

But TPMm reader ML came in with a guess of four early on, and nobody got any closer - though a number of readers did subsequently guess zero.

So congratulations to ML, whose canniness will be amply rewarded with a mug or T-shirt.

We know of at least three visits by Jack Abramoff to the White House that aren't included in the recently-released visitor logs.

Remember that the only visits the Secret Service's records show are on January 20, 2004 and March 6, 2001.

That means these records don't account for any of the meetings the White House has publicly confirmed: Hannukah receptions in 2001 and 2002, as well as the infamous May 9, 2001, "$25,000 Meeting," of which we have a picture.

In short, the records are a joke.

For once, Scott McClellan was right.