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Ohio GOP mucky-muck and now double-felon Tom Noe was convicted on embezzlement charges today relating to his corrupt management of the state's rare-coin investment fund.

The conviction follows on his earlier guilty plea for funneling tens of thousands of dollars in illicit funds to the Bush-Cheney '04 campaign. Noe faces a minimum sentence of ten years in prison.

You can see the menagerie of top Ohio Republicans connected to Noe here.

Update: Click here for a picture of Noe with President Bush.

Which nefarious election stunt from 2006 will live on in greater infamy, the NRCC's robo calls, or Maryland Gov. Bob Ehrlich and Lt. Gov. Michael Steele's recruitment of out-of-state homeless men to hand out misleading campaign literature in African-American neighborhoods?

The Washington Post makes the case for Ehrlich and Steele (who made an apparently unsuccessful bid for chairman of the Republican National Committee) in today's paper, even including a picture of the now-famous fake ballot that the men were handing out, which showed Ehrlich and Steele as Democrats. So check it out.

A highlight:

On the eve of this month's election, the mailers began landing in Prince George's mailboxes. One was a glossy red, black and green flier -- the colors that represent African American power -- sporting pictures of County Executive Jack B. Johnson, his predecessor, Wayne K. Curry and past NAACP president and former U.S. Senate candidate Kweisi Mfume.

Above the pictures of the three Democrats the flier read, "Ehrlich-Steele Democrats," and underneath it announced: "These are OUR Choices."

None of the three candidates had endorsed the governor, and only Curry had declared his support for Steele.

There were other fliers, too. A similar "Democratic" guide with Ehrlich's and Steele's photo on the front appeared in Baltimore. Another distributed in Baltimore County identified the Republican candidate for county executive as a Democrat.

An Ehrlich aide who agreed to discuss the strategy on the condition of anonymity said the purpose of the fliers was to peel away one or two percentage points in jurisdictions where the governor would be running behind. No one inside the campaign expected a strong reaction.

So House Speaker-to-be Nancy Pelosi has thrown her weight behind Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) to be the next House Majority Leader.

Few outside of Murtha's district -- or the corridors of Washington, D.C. -- knew much of Murtha until his outspoken opposition to the Iraq War earlier this year made him a cause celebre among liberals. What else has he been up to this year? In an excellent but little-noticed piece last month, the New York Times brought us up to speed:

In the last year, Democratic and Republican floor watchers say, Mr. Murtha has helped Republicans round up enough Democratic votes to narrowly block a host of Democratic proposals: to investigate federal contracting fraud in Iraq, to reform lobbying laws, to increase financing for flood control, to add $150 million for veterans' health care and job training, and to exempt middle-class families from the alternative minimum tax.

As Murtha put it, "deal making is what Congress is all about." Yessir -- blocking fraud investigations, stonewalling lobbying reform. That's what Congress is all about, isn't it?

The Los Angeles Times does their muckraking duty this morning, taking a look at the new Democratic leadership's penchant for earmarking. And what did they come up with?

Soon-to-be Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) secured millions to build a bridge near to land that he owns, likely increasing its value.

Last year, Reid earmarked $18 million in federal funds for the bridge linking Nevada and Arizona by traversing the Colorado River, just a few miles from Reid's 160-acre undeveloped plot on the Arizona side of the border. According to the Times, Reid "valued the Arizona land at $500,000 to $1 million in his most recent disclosure, which reported total assets of at least $2.2 million."

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Democrats Aim to Save Inquiry on Work in Iraq "Congressional Democrats say they will press new legislation next week to restore the power of a federal agency in charge of ferreting out waste and corruption in Iraq and greatly increase its investigative reach.

"The bills, the first of what are likely to be dozens of Democratic efforts to resurrect investigations of war profiteering and financial fraud in government contracting, could be introduced as early as Monday morning.

"The move would nullify a Republican-backed provision, slipped into a huge military authorization bill, that set a termination date for the agency, the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. The agency’s findings have consistently undermined Bush administration claims of widespread success in the reconstruction of Iraq." (NY Times)

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As we did our best to document, the National Republican Congressional Committee was responsible for repetitive, often harrassing robo calls in more than two dozen districts across the country in the runup to the election.

In at least seven of those districts, the Democrat failed to unseat the incumbent by only a couple thousand votes. The NRCC's calls may have been the difference in those races.

Consider, for example, Florida's 13th District, where Christine Jennings is currently locked in a recount battle. The final tally shows her down 386 votes. In the last three weeks of the election, the NRCC spent $58,326.78 on robo calls against Jennings, according to FEC reports. At five to fifteen cents a call, the NRCC bought itself between 388,000 and 1.17 million calls in the district. Approximately 250,000 people voted in the 13th on Tuesday.

Voters there report being inundated with calls -- so much so that some decided not to vote for Jennings. From The Herald Tribune:

"We're just glad it's all over," said Betty Beatty...

"They bugged us with their phone calls something terrible," said Betty, who voted for Buchanan because "with all her calls, Jennings, Jennings, Jennings, I wouldn't have voted for that woman if she were the only one running."

The NRCC's calls, you'll remember, began by saying something like "Hi, I'm calling with information about [the Democratic candidate]," then continued to give negative information about the candidate. They did not identify the true source of the calls until the very end, when they informed the listener (if he/she bothered to stay on the line until the end of the call), that the NRCC had paid for it. Voters reported being called again and again. A number of Democratic campaigns reported receiving complaints from voters who thought that the calls were coming from the Democrat, because of the calls' lead-in. We catalogued a number of the calls here.

Democrats have asked the FEC, FCC and Justice Department to probe the calls. DCCC spokesman Bill Burton told me that the Dems are still "committed to pursuing the issue of these calls" and are "discussing the next steps.... We are absolutely not letting this drop."

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The Democrats swept into the majority in Congress vowing to fight the culture of corruption. Bad news for the muckraking biz, right? Thankfully, less-than-squeaky pasts don't appear to be a factor in the Dems' reasoning as they divvy up leadership posts and committee chairs. Here are our favorite Democrats poised to take key positions:

Rep. Alan Mollohan (WV): He's set to take the chair of the very appropriations panel in whose purse strings he has already entangled himself. (He has helped steer nearly $500 million in taxpayer money to his rural district, half of which has gone to five organizations Mollohan created with friends.) As a result, he's under FBI investigation. Enough said.

Rep. John Murtha (PA): Likely to chair the Defense Appropriations subcommittee. Murtha's been tagged as a shameless earmarker, spending tens of millions on projects nobody wants to benefit his friends and his district. He's already been caught on tape by the FBI explaining how he works scams, so at least if the Feds pick up his trail again, they'll know what to look for. With massive classified budgets and a long history of wasteful spending, this post is ripe for abuse. The FBI probe into its former chairman, Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA), attests to that. Murtha's also making a play for Majority Leader.

Rep. Alcee Hastings (FL): Tapped to chair the House Permanent Standing Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI). Without a serious intel/national security background, Hastings is said to have gotten up to speed on the material since joining the committee. Still, there's a congressional impeachment in his background, and charges of a $150,000 bribe from his days as a judge. In the wake of major corruption scandals in the intel world, is it so hard to find a little less complicated candidate to oversee them?

Rep. Steny Hoyer (MD): Hoyer, an appropriator, hopes to be House Majority Leader. Unfortunately, he has an addiction to special interest money, and eagerly courts K Street donors. Does that matter? He broke ranks with his party last year to vote in favor of a draconian bankruptcy bill that would bar many Americans from getting out from under debt, regardless of the circumstances which landed them there. Hoyer has taken around $120,000 from lending institutions this cycle. It's okay to slow-dance with 'em, Steny; but don't let them take you home.

Here's another thing to keep in mind as Michael Steele makes his bid for Chairman of the RNC, a position that requires frequent contact with the press -- not to mention loyalty to the party.

Back in July, Michael Steele granted a briefing to reporters, during which, under the cover of anonymity, he spoke of the burden of running as a Republican this election, famously referring to "R" as "the scarlet letter" and saying that he wouldn't want Bush campaigning with him. Dana Milbank wrote about Steele's remarks in his column, dropping a few clues about the identity of the speaker. A fury of speculation followed, and Steele was finally unmasked.

But instead of owning his remarks, Steele furiously backpedalled (saying that Bush, in fact, was his "homeboy"), even lying about the nature of the briefing, accusing Milbank of printing "off the record" remarks. But as an email to Milbank from Steele's spokesman made clear, the remarks had been "on background" -- meaning they could be used anonymously.

Just a foreshadowing of the straight-dealing one can expect from Steele as the spokesman for the Republican Party. (I wonder how he handled that "scarlet letter" comment in his job interview?)

Michael Steele, Maryland's lieutenant governor and a failed GOP Senate hopeful, has been asked to take the helm of the Republican National Committee, the Washington Times reports this morning.

Steele's Senate campaign, you may recall, has twice bamboozled homeless people to campaign for him. The first time the "volunteers" never got paid; the second time they were told to hand out literature so misleading, the men were verbally assaulted by the voters they interacted with.

In that literature and elsewhere, Steele has repeatedly portrayed himself as a Democrat. Not by adopting Democratic stances -- but by literally labeling himself "Democrat" in the material. That's a curious habit for a guy who's set to run the Republican party, don't you think?

He's Out, But Some Still Want Rumsfeld to Face War Crimes Charges "Though he is now the former Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld is expected to be accused of war crimes in a lawsuit to be filed next week in Germany.

"The Center for Constitutional Rights will file the suit on behalf of a group of Iraqi detainees as well as the so-called 20th hijacker, who is currently being held at Guantanamo Bay.

"'The former secretary actually authorized a series of interrogation techniques,' said Michael Ratner, President of CCR. 'They included the use of dogs, stripping, hooding, stressed positions, chaining to the floor, sexual humiliation and those types of activities.'

"Those techniques, he says, amount to torture and violate the Geneva Conventions." (The Blotter)

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