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David Kurtz

David Kurtz is Managing Editor and Washington Bureau Chief of Talking Points Memo where he oversees the news operations of TPM and its sister sites.

Articles by David

Bam! Just like that, Duke Cunningham is back in the news.

He writes a scathing letter to the reporter who took him down (and who won a Pulitzer for doing so).

His wife concedes her own wrongdoing, but avoids prosecution if she applies her share of the proceeds of the sale of their ill-gotten home toward the hefty tax bill associated with all those bribes.

And, to top it off, apparently House Intelligence Committee Chairman Peter Hoekstra has been in direct contact with the imprisoned former member of his committee, much to the alarm of Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA), the committee's ranking member.

Some background: The Intel Committee is investigating what other misdeeds, if any, Duke may have committed while on the committee, focusing specifically on whether and to what extent he was able to use the committee, its staff, and its cloak of secrecy to dispense favors to his bribers, and perhaps others.

The report of the investigation has been held up by a dispute over whether to subpoena Cunningham to testify. Harman is demanding it; Hoeksta says, unconvincingly, that there's no point in that because Cunningham will merely take the 5th.

Given that background, Harman is livid that Hoekstra has had direct contact with Cunningham without her knowledge, reports the NYT. And in a letter to Hoekstra this week she demands that Hoekstra not visit Duke in prison! “I believe this would be highly inappropriate,” Harman writes.

Now there's a scene for you. The chairman of the House Intelligence Committee visiting his former colleague in federal prison. Then again, that's what retirement might look like for a lot of Republicans.

More on Susan Ralston's resignation. I don't want to paint her as an innocent bystander in all this. She was, as I understand it, The Brain's brain. You don't work as an assistant to Karl Rove and to Jack Abramoff without knowing your way around the block. She's a big girl.

That being said, you start to wonder if Republicans understand "The buck stops here" only in some literal sense. Accountability stops way down the chain of command, but the perks of office flow all the way to the top.

Karl Rove, at this point, looks untouched. But his assistant, well, we just can't stand for that kind of conduct, now can we? Here's a sampling of how the Bush White House ferrets out and punishes alleged ethical improprieties, according to the WP:

The White House counsel's office conducted a review of the report, but with Ralston's departure it closed its inquiry yesterday. "Nothing more will come from the report, no further fallout from the report," Perino said.

A senior administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the counsel's office reached no conclusion about whether Ralston violated gift limits because her resignation made the point moot. But the official said there were "mitigating circumstances" in her case because she had a preexisting relationship with Abramoff, for whom she worked before joining the White House. The official said the White House made no criminal referral in her case. A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment.


Given the number of Bush Administration appointees with "preexisting relationships" in business and industry (and on K Street) that's a mitigating circumstance wide enough to drive a Brink's truck through.

The resignation of Susan Ralston late yesterday may have overshadowed National Journal's report on the failure of Karl Rove to pay for a bash at Jack Abramoff's restaurant, Signatures, for 50 of Rove's staffers until this year, more than two years after the fact--and well after Abramoff entered his guilty plea on corruption charges. Paul Kiel has more details on the NJ piece.

TPM Reader BC suggests a "meme neutralizer":

Don't you think that Republicans attacking Pelosi and CREW and bloggers over Foley is just like attacking Iraq when you know the crime was done by bin Laden? There they go again, Republicans attacking the wrong people when everyone knows who did the crime.


Not bad.

Jeb Bush was in Pittsburgh last evening for a Rick Santorum fundraiser. Unfortunately for Jeb, on his way to the venue he ran into a bunch of protestors assembling for the event.

Things got ugly from there. Here's how the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette describes it:

Mr. Bush had been walking in the area near the T-station and the incident happened spontaneously when about 50 pickets "tailed him and stayed with him and went into the Wood Street station."

. . .

Mr. Grove said a Port Authority canine unit was called in to help with crowd control. Two officers used their tasers to stun two protesters who "were asked to leave, but did not go," Mr. Grove said.

The tasers he said were empty of the cartridges that supply a more powerful charge.

"It was a very tense situation. They were very close to the governor and shouting on top of him."

As a precaution, the governor was ushered into a T-station supply closet and stayed there until the crowd left.


When I said Republicans were on the run, this isn't quite what I had in mind.

The CNN view of the world:

Foley resigned last week after Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a left-leaning watchdog group, posted some of the e-mails he exchanged with the former male page in 2005, who was then 16 and had worked for Rep. Rodney Alexander, a Louisiana Republican.


Fox may be a joke journalistically, but at least it is ideologically consistent. CNN is just a joke.

Late update: CNN has changed the offending paragraph to read as follows:

Foley resigned last week after ABC news showed him it had some of the e-mails he exchanged with the former male page in 2005, who was then 16 and had worked for Rep. Rodney Alexander, a Louisiana Republican.

I love the sound of Republicans whining. It's a pleasant change.

Democrats have snatched defeat from the jaws of victory too many times for me to get my hopes up much. In my own defense, I came by my perpetual pessimism about the Democrats honestly. McGovern supporters caucused in my family's living room when I was but a toddler. We lived in the Deep South; our coat closet would probably have been big enough to accommodate the "crowd." I have no memory of that event, but if that doesn't imprint you with a certain political fatalism, I don't know what would.

The week before the Foley scandal broke, I first realized that Republicans were whining, not about some supposed cultural catastrophe to rile up the base, but about Democratic political attacks. It was the first time I allowed myself to believe that the Dems could actually win this year. Republicans were on the run.

Then the Foley scandal exploded.

The lingering image of the Foley scandal for me won't be Foley cruising to Morton's in his BMW convertible with a young male page or diddling himself during a floor vote (wouldn't want that image to linger).

It will be Rep. Tom Reynolds, chairman of the NRCC, hiding behind children at a press conference in his district to avoid having to answer the hard questions about Foley. A reporter, concerned that the subject matter wasn't appropriate for kids, asked Reynolds if the children would leave the room. Reynolds--a small, scared man--refused.

Pundits fret that the Dems might "overplay their hand" and push too hard on Foley. Does anyone ever worry about the GOP overplaying its hand? Republicans, as the Foley case shows, will risk the entire pot on a bluff. They can be wrong on principle, wrong on the substance, and wrong on the politics, yet no one ever wrings their hands about the Republicans overplaying theirs. That's not to say the Dems have been as aggressive as they should be. NPR had a report yesterday on New Mexico Attorney General Patricia Madrid's effort to unseat Rep. Heather Wilson (R-NM). The Madrid campaign hastened to explain that the ad it began running this week touting Madrid's record of fighting internet sex crimes was produced back in the summer and didn't have anything to do with the Foley scandal. Well, why the hell not?

Dems seem to be getting their sea legs though. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi refused to throw Speaker Hastert a life preserver when he wanted to appoint Louis Freeh to investigate the Foley matter. What a refreshing surprise.

So let Republicans complain all they want about the timing of the Foley disclosures, the Clintons' supposed involvement, the mysterious hidden forces trying to do the GOP in.

I love the sound of Republicans whining. It is the sound of Democratic victory.

Did I say earthquake?

Here's another sign of the tectonic shift.

The NRCC dropped $7.8 million yesterday into 30 House districts.

But here's the thing. It's not just the size of the expenditure. Of the 30 districts in question, 27 are currently held by the GOP.

They're playing defense. But as the GOP playbook says, the best defense is a strong offense, so 98% of the $7.8 million is going to attacking the Democratic opponents.

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