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

I just want to take a moment to thank all the readers who have extended their welcomes to me, both in my earlier anonymous incarnation here at TPM and now that I am able to post under my own byline. As I am sure at least some of our attorney readers can understand, posting at TPM was not compatible with my law firm practice.

What changed? Pretty simple actually. I have left the private practice of law.

My own professional transition coincides with the some of the changes underway at TPM, including the expansion of the company, so the timing works well for me to pitch in around here more frequently in the short term.

Shortly after I started posting here on weekends, one reader emailed wanting to know more:

I get the sense however that DK is no ordinary reader, someone sitting around in Peoria who surfs the web and just happened to impress Josh with his/her trenchant insights. Can you give us a little bit of a clue -- is DK a journalist, a gov't insider (or former gov't insider), a academic, none of the above? I can understand if DK is unwilling to fully reveal him/herself but it would be nice to know a little bit more about them.

Expectations like that don't make coming out of the closet any easier. Sorry to say, but just an ordinary reader. Not an insider or an academic. A decade ago, before law school, I was a journalist and editor, but for a small alternative newsweekly in the South, far removed from any power centers. I actually live about 250 miles from Peoria, in Missouri, so that reader was closer to being on the mark than he knew.

But enough about me. The work we do here should speak for itself, and it's not work we could do without your tips, feedback, and trenchant insights. So my thanks to you for that as well.

U.S. Rep. Jim Gibbons (R-NV) was elected governor of Nevada last week despite the allegations of late-night carousing and sexual assault involving a cocktail waitress three decades his junior. A new round of subpoenas suggests police may be looking at whether obstruction of justice occurred in the case.

Local law enforcement investigating the allegations made by Chrissy Mazzeo has subpoenaed the phone records of all those in the Gibbons' party on that fateful Friday the 13th of October, according to the Las Vegas Sun:

Metro Police have subpoenaed telephone records of Republican Gov.-elect Jim Gibbons, political strategist Sig Rogich and other witnesses in the investigation into allegations that Gibbons assaulted a woman and tried to force himself on her sexually.

Home and cell phone records of everyone who was drinking with Gibbons and Rogich at McCormick & Schmick's restaurant before the Oct. 13 alleged assault on Chrissy Mazzeo were among the records subpoenaed, sources close to the investigation told the Sun.

It's not clear whether the phone records were subpoened as part of the investigation of Mazzeo's underlying assault claim or her later claim that she was pressured into keeping silent about the incident. Another possible area of interest for law enforcement is the security video from the parking garage where the incident is alleged to have happened, which went missing for several days before being turned over to police.

Police plan another round of witness interviews, including of the governor-elect himself, according to the Sun.

From the Boston Globe:

Democrats made huge gains in the mid term elections for a variety of factors -- an unpopular war in Iraq, congressional scandals, frustration with Bush's style of leadership.

But the victory had its roots in that early and successful battle against Social Security reform, which gave Democrats crucial unity and momentum at a time when many pundits were predicting a permanent Republican majority, according to party strategists and veteran Democratic lawmakers.

Longtime TPM readers might get a chuckle out of seeing what once was a much-debated Democratic strategy deemed risky now portrayed as stroke of brilliance because, of course, you heard that strategy extolled here at TPM very early and very often.

For those readers who have discovered TPM since the Social Security battle of early 2005 and have never heard of the Fainthearted Faction, you missed some good times, but better late than never.

Welcome aboard.

The New York Times has a Sunday piece ostensibly about Democratic plans to restore the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, but the piece serves as a good overall roadmap for Democratic oversight priorities. Oversight. Remember that?

Kevin Drum has set about busting some of the exit poll myths that have already stuck themselves like barnacles to the midterm election results. Here's the CliffsNotes version:

Myth #1: It was the youth vote that pushed Democrats over the top.

Myth #2: Democrats won a third of the white evangelical vote.

Myth #3: Democrats won by running conservative candidates.

Myth #2 is the one that gets me. Kevin says he has no idea where that one came from, which at first struck me as odd because the one-third figure has been widely reported, including here at TPM, based on an AP story the evening of Election Day.

But look at the key paragraph in the AP piece:

Those early exit polls also showed that three in four voters said corruption was very important to their vote, and they tended to vote Democratic. In a sign of a dispirited GOP base, most white evangelicals said corruption was very important to their vote — and almost a third of them turned to the Democrats.

I, too, first read that as saying one-third of evangelicals voted Democratic. But what I think it's actually saying is that one-third of those evangelicals who said corruption was very important to their vote went for the Democrats.

Mystery solved? Kevin's entire post is here.

Back to business:

Federal investigators have resumed their inquiry into a rental deal between U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and a nonprofit agency, issuing new subpoenas in the days after he was elected to a full six-year term, according to a government source.

You get the sense from the GOP that in its analysis of the election results the congressional seats lost due to Republican ties to public corruption shouldn't really count. Sort of like losing the game not because you got beat but because the refs made a bad call.

I think most people would view bribery, influence peddling, and sexually predatory congressmen as substantive problems, not mere technicalities. Maybe that's just me.

For its part, the White House would like to portray the corruption issue as a congressional problem. In his press conference, the President said, "People want their Congress -- congressmen to be honest and ethical." (That comment came just after the point in the press conference where he acknowledged deliberately misleading reporters the week before when he said he intended to keep Don Rumsfeld on after the election.)

For his part, Karl Rove was surprised by the significance of corruption in the election outcome:

"The profile of corruption in the exit polls was bigger than I'd expected," Rove tells TIME. "Abramoff, lobbying, Foley and Haggard [the disgraced evangelical leader] added to the general distaste that people have for all things Washington, and it just reached critical mass."

One can forgive Rove his surprise. He was too close to the problem to see it for what it was. Funny how he describes it now like a detached observer of the passing scene, with the perspective of a political scientist. Let's take this apart, starting with Rove's old buddy Jack Abramoff.

By one account Rove arranged to meet Abramoff on DC street corners so as to avoid being detected by the White House visitors logs. Rove hired his former personal assistant, Susan Ralston, away from Abramoff, and just a month before the election she was forced to resign her White House position due to her contacts with Abramoff while at the White House. A congressional committee found evidence of 485 contacts between the White House and Abramoff and his lobbying team.

Foley, you may recall, was strong-armed by Rove into running for re-election, with Rove threatening to torpedo Foley's plans to start a lobbying practice after leaving Congress unless he ran again in 2006. (No evidence has emerged that Rove or the White House had any knowledge of Foley's page problem at that time.) Haggard, as is now widely known, was one of Rove's main contacts within the evangelical community, a regular participant in weekly conference calls with the White House political shop headed up by Rove.

And we've just begun to scratch the surface. There's Rove's involvement in the Plame scandal, and the RNC's involvement in the New Hampshire phone-jamming case. I could go on, but I think the point here is clear: Rove was and is the architect of a political machine that was probably corrupt from its inception and is certainly corrupt now.

The corruption manifests itself in everything from bribery (Duke Cunningham and Bob Ney) to influence-peddling (Abramoff) to the broader corruption of traditional conservative principles (budget earmarks and deficit spending).

That's not a lesson Republicans seem to be taking from this election.