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For the last few months Paul has tracked the partisan profligacy of Bob Perry, the millionaire Texas Republican behind 2004's massively successful "Swift Boat Veterans for Truth" attack.

In the 2006 midterms Perry spent about $9 million on robo calls, mailers, and TV and radio ads attacking 20 Democratic House and Senate candidates. Highlights included Montana's gay-baiting TV ad "Brokebank Democrats," and his impish habit of putting the home phone telephone numbers of Democratic challengers in his ads.

Perry even took the trouble to funnel his meddling millions through three separate, generically-named "527" groups. But none of his sleight-of-hand amounted to much of anything this time around: In 14 of the 20 races, his GOP candidate lost. Four of his candidates won; they're still puzzling over the ballots in two.

For about $2 million per win, Perry annoyed the hell out of hundreds of thousands -- if not millions -- of Americans with prerecorded mudslinging phone calls, angry mailers and the like.

If, as Al Pacino's character in the movie "City Hall" observed, a man's stature is measured not by the number of his friends but by the number of his enemies, I'd say Mr. Perry is a legend in his own time, wouldn't you?

More on that recount mess in Florida's 13th. The local election supervisor -- who had earlier expressed skepticism about the likelihood of voting discrepancies in the district's congressional race -- has now changed course and is asking the state to conduct an audit. From The Herald Tribune:

Sarasota County Supervisor of Elections Kathy Dent has asked the Florida Department of State to audit Tuesday's election after the recounts are completed....

"Because of the hullabaloo and the focus on this race, I just think it's a good idea to have this audit," Dent said. "They would look at everything ... soup to nuts."

Of course, the Secretary of State has refused to investigate the reported problems. Let's see if that changes now.

A Philadelphia Daily News columnist tracked down one of the unfortunate locals who had been tricked by the Michael Steele for Senate campaign to hand out deceptive pamphlets outside Maryland voting places. The result: a refreshingly candid indictment of the failed GOP candidate Steele, who now hopes to head up the Republican National Committee.

"I might not have a home," an outraged Yusuf El-Bedawi told the Daily News' Ronnie Polaneczky, "but that doesn't mean I don't care about right and wrong. No one has the right to use me that way."

The Steele campaign recruited six busloads of poor and homeless Philadelphians to hand out flyers to Maryland voters portraying Steele and his ticketmate, governor Bob Ehrlich, as Democrats. Steele is currently Maryland's lieutenant governor; Ehrlich is governor.

"People started screaming, at us, 'Do you think we're that stupid? What are you trying to pull?' " El-Bedawi told the writer. "I said, 'I didn't know it was a lie! I'm from Philly!' And they said, 'Then go back to Philly!' "

"I am so angry and upset, I don't know what to do," said El-Bedawi, who's particularly shattered that he and at least 200 other Philadelphians didn't get home from Maryland in time to vote here.

"These people think we're too stupid to understand the magnitude of what we did."

What they did, said El-Bedawi, was cheat an entire community of unsuspecting voters.

And just because they didn't know they were doing it doesn't mean it doesn't feel awful.

Florida's 13 District is fast turning into that recount battle that everyone knew would be coming in this, the year of the electronic voting machine. Despite a new analysis that shows the Democrat may have narrowly lost the official count due to glitches in the machines, the Floridia Secretary of State is refusing to investigate the issue.

As we noted yesterday, according to the official count Republican Vern Buchanan edged out Democrat Christine Jennings by only 368 votes -- but there seems to have been a huge voting problem in one county, where electronic machines registered no votes for the contentious congressional race from a large number of voters. That glitch apparently cost Jennings the race, and the fight seems sure to head to the courts (both sides have their legal teams in place).

As The Herald Tribune reports, there was a 13 percent "undervote" for the Buchanan-Jennings race in Sarasota County (meaning they registered 13 percent fewer votes for that race than for the other big races) -- far more than in other counties. And according to an analysis by the paper, "[i[f the missing votes had broken for Jennings by the same percentage as the counted votes in Sarasota County, the Democrat would have won the race by about 600 votes instead of losing by 368." Jennings won 53 percent of the counted votes in the county.

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This morning, most folks will read the majors' write-ups on Bob Gates, the friend-of-Bush-Senior's whom president Bush is now beckoning into public service to replace departing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

The majors' profiles are all kind (sample headline: "Gates Lauded as Breaker of Barriers"), with nods to criticism of Gates, without really delving into why he twice faced heat from Congress. (Hint: Iran-Contra, twisting intelligence.)

To get the real backstory, I'm going to send you to Jeff Stein at Congressional Quarterly. The national security editor there, he put together a profile on Gates by yesterday evening that bests the major dailies for raking muck on the man Bush is hoping will rescue his legacy.

Go read it. The guy has an encyclopedic memory of spies and intelligence flaps built up from covering the classified world for about three decades. So he can report in an afternoon what would take me (and possibly, the majors) several days to find out.

Defeat Doesn't Spell End to Probes of Lawmakers "Despite suffering electoral defeat at the ballot box Tuesday, several lawmakers still face the prospect that they will remain ensnared in ongoing criminal probes that could last well into their post-Congressional careers.

"Reps. Curt Weldon [R-PA] and Katherine Harris [R-FL] have been embroiled in separate federal investigations, with Weldon’s connections to a lobbying firm run by his daughter and a political adviser under scrutiny, while Harris has turned over documents to investigators examining her connections to a defense contractor.

"Both Weldon, who was seeking an 11th term, and Harris, who was hoping for a seat in the Senate, lost handily Tuesday." (Roll Call)

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More on the recount mess brewing in Katherine Harris' old seat.

From The Herald Tribune, shades of 2000:

A team of lawyers was said to be on the way to Sarasota early Wednesday morning. Kendall Coffey is the lead attorney for the Jennings campaign. Coffey was one of the Democrats' attorneys in the 2000 presidential recount in Florida, the former U.S. Attorney in Miami and a negotiator in the case of Cuban refugee Elian Gonzalez.

The Jennings camp said a difficulty the campaign faces is that a manual recount is apparently impossible with Sarasota County's touchsreen machines, making a court challenge a more likely avenue.

In a statement this afternoon, Jennings would only say, "We are compiling information and putting the facts together and we will keep you updated. " But it looks like they're headed for court.

Well, the American people certainly gave a what-for to scandal-plagued incumbents last night, as their votes and the media's exit polls showed. At least nine mucked-up politicos from the Schemin' 109th got strapped to a raft, metaphorically speaking, and pushed out to sea by an angry electorate. For us rakers, it's a bittersweet moment.

Some we will miss: Rep. Katherine Harris (R-FL), who lost her kamikaze bid for a Florida Senate seat, won't be around when we need her anymore. Also missed will be the Entertainer himself, Rep. Curt Weldon (R-PA), who lit up our days and spiced up our nights with paranoid conspiracies and FBI raids. It's true, Curt: not only are they all out to get you, they just got you. Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), whose backers attempted literally every cheap or dirty trick in the book, will also leave a hole in our hearts. (It was sad to see his son crying on national television last night during his dad's concession speech, wasn't it?)

The absence of others won't be so remarked-upon in the Muckraker office. Rep. Charles Taylor (R-NC), an almost cartoonish embodiment of the perpetually cranky, self-interested banker, was never much fun -- except when he was trying to explain when a fundraiser isn't a fundraiser. Likewise the Abramoff-philiac Rep. Richard Pombo (R-CA), whose haircut and mustache were oftentimes more interesting than his ties to the disgraced lobbyist. Rep. J.D. Hayworth (R-AZ), also a Friend of Jack, never really got our eyebrows wiggling, either. And Rep. Jim Ryun (R-KS), who made a play for our affections with a shady house deal, never really followed through.

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A recount battle is brewing, fittingly, in Katherine Harris' old seat, where a voting shortfall on buggy electronic voting machines is calling the election results into doubt.

From The Herald Tribune:

Republican Vern Buchanan was clinging to a 368-vote edge over Democrat Christine Jennings for the 13th Congressional District early this morning.

Although Buchanan declared victory just before 1 a.m., the razor-thin margin kept Jennings from conceding defeat and will generate an automatic recount....

The results were loaded with controversy as nearly 13 percent of all ballots cast in Sarasota didn’t include a choice for Congress. That difference, and scattered reports of difficulty finding the race on Sarasota’s touchscreen ballots, raised concerns about under votes in the race.

Supervisor of Elections Kathy Dent couldn’t explain why 8,000 to 10,000 fewer people voted in the congressional race than in other high-profile races for governor, attorney general or U.S. Senate. But she said nothing mechanical went wrong with the county’s $4.7 million touchscreen voting machine system....

Throughout the day voters complained that touchscreen voting machines were not registering votes for Jennings properly. Jennings campaign held a midday press conference to warn the problem was widespread....

Already Democrats were calling in lawyers from the Democratic National Committee to weigh in on the potential voting issues....

In Sarasota County, with all but one precinct reporting, 87,797 people voted for Bill Nelson, Katherine Harris or another candidate for U.S. Senate. In the governor race between Charlie Crist and Jim Davis, 87,678 county resident voted.

Only 76,549 voted for Jennings or Buchanan. In comparison, about 3,000 more people voted in the Sarasota Public Hospital Board election.

But a similar undervote was not recorded in other counties that voted in the District 13 race.

Sherwood a Victim of His Own Circumstances "The defeat of Rep. Don Sherwood [R-PA] will be lumped in with that of a dozen other Republican incumbents but the circumstances of his undoing are vastly different.

"Sherwood’s 10th district is heavily Republican, but that did not much matter once college professor and Navy reservist Chris Carney (D) began running ads reminding voters of the personal scandal that unfolded in Washington, D.C., involving Sherwood more than a year ago." (Roll Call)

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