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Right now, William Jefferson is meeting with members of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee to plead his case for keeping his seat on the powerful Ways and Means Committee. The committee is a group of 50 Democrats who make recommendations to the Democratic Caucus about committee assignments.

We should hear sometime tonight how it went. The body has the power to forcibly remove Jefferson from his post if he won't go willingly.

The San Bernardino Sun has confirmed the seventh recipient of a subpoena from federal investigators probing ties between House Appropriations Chair Jerry Lewis (R-CA) and the Copeland Lowery lobby firm: the desert town of Yucca Valley.

The other six, confirmed earlier by the Sun and Roll Call, are: the California counties of San Bernardino and Riverside; the cities of Redlands, Loma Linda, and Twentynine Palms; and Cal State University-San Bernardino. All are clients of the Copeland Lowery lobbying firm.

Among the documents released to investigators by Yucca Valley are "correspondence from Copeland Lowery lobbyists and former Lewis staffers Jeff Shockey of Redlands and Letitia H. White," the Sun reported yesterday.

Somewhat mysteriously, a 2002 Justice Department report that warned of the national security risk posed by the weak immigration standards in Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands never saw the light of day.

And as Bloomberg reported last October, the two officials who completed the report were reassigned - and Members of Congress never saw it.

Probably not coincidentally, Jack Abramoff was representing the Marianas at the time.

Well, now that Abramoff is spending his long days cooperating with Justice Department prosecutors, the report has finally been released. You can read it here.

It's no mystery why Abramoff would have wanted the report suppressed: his job was to keep the federal government's hands off the islands -- even, he apparently believed, at the cost of his country's safety. And the report is unequivocal in its recommendation that the U.S. should have its hands very much on the islands, which the authors deemed a national security risk.

Rep. George Miller (D-CA), who was Abramoff's great enemy on the Marianas for many years, released the report today. He's taken the occasion of DeLay's retirement to reintroduce legislation to reform labor and immigration laws on the Marianas - legislation DeLay and Abramoff were able to foil for a decade.

In the past 24 hours I've written a lot about a little house at 114 3rd St. SE, here in Washington, D.C., that seems to be in the middle of a big mess. So I thought I'd go down and see it for myself.

The house -- co-owned by a former aide to House Appropriations chief Jerry Lewis (R-CA) and a defense contractor who's won earmarked money from Lewis' committee -- is the registered headquarters for a Political Action Committee run by Lewis' stepdaughter.

There was no sign outside identifying the building as the Small Biz Tech PAC headquarters, or even a discreet brass plaque. But I checked the address, it was the same as on the deed I found yesterday. So feeling bold, I went up to ring the doorbell and talk to whomever might be available.

Except the state of the doorbell wasn't what I expected:



So I knocked, and waited. No one answered. I knocked again, loudly, and waited some more. There was no answer. Perhaps everyone was at lunch. Or, perhaps no one was there at all.

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From the AP:

Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay urged colleagues Wednesday to "stand on principle" and ignore the media in a farewell speech to fellow House Republicans at their weekly private meeting....

Several rounds of applause and cheers could be heard from behind the closed doors. When they were opened to let a congresswoman in, members could be seen on their feet, cheering and applauding.

After the nearly one-hour meeting, DeLay related some of his comments to reporters. He said he advised GOP House members: "Don't listen to you guys in this town" and to "stand on principle."

"We have been able to make history for 12 years and we'll do it again," DeLay said he also told colleagues. He called the response heartwarming.

"I couldn't get 'em to sit down. The love is great," DeLay said.

Such a small world.

Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA), the powerful House appropriations chief who's under investigation, hired a lawyer by the name of Barbara Bonfiglio to be treasurer of his own political action committee, Future Leaders PAC.

And who was the treasurer who helped found the Small Biz Tech PAC, run by Lewis' stepdaughter, Julie Willis-Leon? That's right: Barbara Bonfiglio.

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At what point does this become a diplomatic issue?

According to the FBI affidavit released yesterday, the FBI is convinced that Nigerian Vice President Atiku Abubakar agreed to help push through a telecom deal in his country in exchange for some serious money.

A number of reports have focused on the $500,000 Jefferson and Lori Mody, the FBI's informant, discussed as an up front bribe to Abubakar for his help. But that's nothing compared to what his ultimate take might have been. According to the FBI, he wanted "at least 50 percent of the profits planned to be received by [Mody's] Nigerian partner" on the telecom deal. As John Bresnahan reported in Roll Call today, "Those profits were touted to be as much as $200 million annually if the telecom deal went through." So we're talking about tens of millions of dollars here. This isn't a small corruption case.

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A powerful House Republican's ties to a lobby firm under investigation just became a family affair.

Here's what we knew as of this morning: House Appropriations Chairman Jerry Lewis (R-CA) is under investigation, along with at least two of his former staffers. Just after leaving Lewis' employ, staffer Letitia White bought a house with one of the defense contractors who wanted funds earmarked from Lewis' committee. Later we learned that house was the headquarters for a Political Action Committee, chaired by that same defense contractor.

Now we can report that the PAC is operated by Lewis' stepdaughter, Julie Willis-Leon.

The group, the Small Biz Tech PAC, takes money from defense firms with business before Lewis' committee. A number of them are clients of the Copeland Lowery lobbying firm, which employs Letitia White. (Both Copeland Lowery and White are under investigation in the Lewis matter.)

At least two of the PAC's contributors -- ICUITI Corp. and Advatech Pacific -- have received earmarks from Lewis' panel, according to records kept by the watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense. (Neither company has returned our calls.)

I spoke with Julia Willis-Leon this morning and asked her if she thought her PAC got any special treatment because her stepfather was chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. "Absolutely not," she told me. "You might note that the PAC has never contributed to him," she added.

Lewis' office has not yet returned my call for comment. I should note that Lewis isn't Julia's only relative on the Hill; her mother, Arlene Willis, is Lewis' staff director. And Jerry Lewis' wife.

Wow. When DeLay retires from Congress this Friday, it looks like he'll find himself $1 million in debt -- and it could get worse for him, even if he's found innocent in every mess he's involved in.

In an interview with USA Today published today, Tom DeLay says he owes more than $2.5 million in legal fees. And no wonder - he's got something like a personal legal army. Four different firms are working for him on various matters, most notably the money laundering prosecution in Texas and the federal investigation of his ties to Jack Abramoff.

But DeLay only has $1.4 million in his campaign treasury -- and his defense fund is tapped out, which leaves him in the hole for over a million. To make matters worse for the guy, he'll be going to trial sometime later this year in Texas, which is massively expensive.

A Tom DeLay Bake Sale? Free Tom DeLay T-shirts?

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