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

How are things going in New Orleans? Not so good.

Citing the status of the rebuilding of the levee system, the largest commercial insurer in Louisiana, St. Paul Travelers, has announced it will cancel all commercial property insurance policies it has underwritten in the New Orleans area next year as existing policies come up for renewal.

What does this mean? For a region struggling to resurrect its economic base, it's a huge impediment to commerce.

"This is sending a shock wave through the business community," said Mark Drennen, president and chief executive officer of Greater New Orleans Inc., a public-private partnership that seeks to promote economic development in the area. "If one company has come to that conclusion, you would anticipate that others would come to that conclusion. Without insurance, we have a calamity. We cannot exist as a business community without insurance."

It'd be nice to hear the White House press corps asking how the Bush Administration's much touted rebuilding effort in New Orleans is going if the insurance companies don't trust the Army Corps' newly reconstructed levees, the centerpiece of the President's plan to help New Orleans recover.

Andrew Sullivan, addressing his former comrades-at-arms, on Iraq:

It's over, guys. Your beloved Bush administration botched this so badly it's irrecoverable. You enabled them. You never fully took them on when it would have counted - and you trashed those of us who did. You knew this before the 2004 election and still cynically played the anti-Kerry card for all it was worth, telling yourselves you could sway Rummy after the election. Well, you couldn't and you didn't. Your policy was sabotaged by a defense secretary who never believed in it and by a president too weak and out-of-it to rein him in. Get over yourselves and recognize that this dream has died. And we have to fight the nightmare we now face rather than pretend your dream is still even on life-support. That's the patriotic responsibility at this point. And no, I'm not impugning your patriotism. I'm asking you to place it before your shattered dreams.

This morning we noted that the civil suit arising from the GOP's 2002 phone-jamming scheme in New Hampshire had been settled yesterday, but there was no immediate word on the terms of the settlement. Since then, the terms have been disclosed. The New Hampshire Republican Party will pay $125,000 over five years. The RNC and NRSC will each kick in $5,000, for a settlement total of $135,000. The proceeds will go to two charitable organizations, not the Democratic Party.

Update: Actually the $125,000 will go to the New Hampshire Democratic Party, while the $10,000 ponied up by the RNC and the NRSC will go to two other organizations. More here.

For my money the most troubling thing about Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-TX), Nancy Pelosi's choice to head up the House Intelligence Committee, is his frequent travels with GOP loose cannon extraordinaire Curt Weldon.

Today the Wall Street Journal offers conflicting accounts of whether Reyes was present at a now notorious Paris meeting between Weldon and Manucher Ghorbanifar, the Zelig of American foreign policy scandals:

As a member of Armed Services, [Reyes] has frequently traveled overseas as part of delegations led by one of the panel's most senior and controversial Republicans, Pennsylvania Rep. Curt Weldon.

Mr. Weldon, who was defeated in last month's midterm elections, has made high-profile stops in North Korea, Libya and Russia in recent years, and has been outspoken about the threat posed by Iran. An August 2003 trip included a stopover in Paris that drew the ire of the Central Intelligence Agency, according to two recently retired members of the agency's Directorate of Operations.

Included was a meeting at a Paris hotel with group of Iranian exiles to discuss Iran's alleged role in terrorism and developing weapons of mass destruction. Among the leaders of the Iranian delegation was Manucher Ghorbanifar, a central figure in the Reagan administration's Iran-Contra scandal and a man the CIA had accused of providing bogus intelligence to the Americans.

In an interview Friday, William Murray, who was the CIA's station chief in Paris at the time, said he tried to prevent the lawmakers from going to the meeting after he learned that Mr. Ghorbanifar would be attending. But he said that his advice went unheeded. "Reyes was one of the guys who met with Ghorbanifar," Mr. Murray said.

Mr. Reyes's office said Friday that he has never met with Mr. Ghorbanifar, and didn't attend the hotel meeting during the Paris stopover.

The significance of the trip, in any case, is a matter of dispute. Some critics argue that going against the advice of a CIA station chief is naive. Others say Democrats on a Republican-led delegation have a responsibility to attend all meetings, and going against a local CIA officer's advice isn't without precedent for traveling lawmakers.

Laura Rozen has done a lot of good reporting on this subject. You might start here for a refresher.

The New Hampshire Democratic Party has settled its lawsuit against the GOP for the 2002 phone-jamming scandal. No details yet on the terms of the settlement. The case was scheduled to go to trial Monday. If you're late to this story, we've covered it extensively here and at Muckraker.


The new chief of the U.S. General Services Administration is trying to limit the ability of the agency's inspector general to audit contracts for fraud or waste and has said oversight efforts are intimidating the workforce, according to government documents and interviews.

GSA Administrator Lurita Alexis Doan, a Bush political appointee and former government contractor, has proposed cutting $5 million in spending on audits and shifting some responsibility for contract reviews to small, private audit contractors.

Doan also has chided Inspector General Brian D. Miller for not going along with her attempts to streamline the agency's contracting efforts. . . .

Doan compared Miller and his staff to terrorists, according to a copy of the notes obtained by The Washington Post.

"There are two kinds of terrorism in the US: the external kind; and, internally, the IGs have terrorized the Regional Administrators," Doan said, according to the notes.

Although the Post story doesn't mention it, you might recall that David Safavian, the chief of staff at the GSA earlier in the Bush presidency, was convicted for, among other things, lying to the GSA inspector general about his connections to Jack Abramoff. So of course we need less oversight.

More on the voting problems in the mid-term elections:

Voting experts say it is impossible to say how many votes were not counted that should have been. But in Florida alone, the discrepancies reported across Sarasota County and three others amount to more than 60,000 votes. In Colorado, as many as 20,000 people gave up trying to vote, election officials say, as new online systems for verifying voter registrations crashed repeatedly. And in Arkansas, election officials tallied votes three times in one county, and each time the number of ballots cast changed by more than 30,000.

A hard-to-understand story in tomorrow's New York Times on a secret U.S. report that finds Iraqi insurgent groups are self-financing. What makes the piece murky is no distinction is made between "insurgents," "terrorists," and other militant groups in Iraq. Maybe that's the approach of the secret report that the NYT piece is based on. But it would seem to me that lumping all of the various armed factions in Iraq into one category called "the insurgency" would be to miss many important differences in the goals and strategies--and the means of funding--of the many disparate groups currently operating in Iraq.

For instance, one of the secret report's more surprising conclusions, according to The Times, is "that terrorist and insurgent groups in Iraq may have surplus funds with which to support other terrorist organizations outside of Iraq.” It seems counterintuitive that the armed Shiite and Sunni militias battling for control of Iraq would be financing terrorists outside of Iraq while the battle inside of Iraq still hangs in the balance.

In fairness, The Times makes clear that the secret report may be flawed: "Some terrorism experts outside the government who were given an outline of the report by The Times, criticized it for a lack of precision and a reliance on speculation."

The overwhelming impression I'm left with from the piece is that more than three and half years after ostensibly seizing control of Iraq, the U.S. government is still largely ignorant of the armed groups arrayed against its efforts there.

One of the least commented upon aspects of the so-called debate on global warming is the extent to which the business community has for some time now been to the left of the Republican Party on the science of climate change and even, to a certain extent, on the potential political solutions to the problem.

GOP stalwarts like Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), who is chairman of the Senate committee on the environment, are way out on the whacky right fringe but have managed to dominate their party's discussion of global warming, if not stifle the conversation outright. That's not to say that corporate America has suddenly turned green. Exxon Mobile, for example, has been a particularly vigorous sponsor of global warming deniers. But there has been in place a broader political consensus on the issue than one might be led to believe by looking at the leading voices of the GOP.

Today the WaPo surveys the current political landscape. Corporate America knows that the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions is coming. Now it's gearing up to maximize its influence on what that legislation will look like.