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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Summa Abramoffica.

For a lot of you this will cover old ground. But there have been a number of questions on this. So let me try to briefly sort out some of the main points and make a couple key distinctions.

Did Jack Abramoff give money pretty much equally to both parties? Or did he only give to Republicans?

You can hear people saying both on the web and the airwaves. And in almost every case the seeming contradictions stem from the fact that the people talking -- either intentionally or otherwise -- are comparing apples and oranges.

Did Jack Abramoff give money to Democrats? To the best of my knowledge Abramoff never contributed any money to Democrats. And that's hardly surprising. Abramoff is a life-long professional Republican. How much money do you figure James Carville has contributed to Republicans over the last two decades. Or Paul Begala? It's almost a silly question.

When you hear about Republicans and Democrats getting 'Abramoff money' what's being talked about aren't personal contributions from Abramoff but contributions from entities he worked for as a lobbyist. So, for instance, Abramoff lobbies for Indian tribe X. Indian tribe X contributes to politician Y. Hence, politician Y got 'Abramoff money'.

(Often these calculations figure in only the tribes and not other groups and individuals Abramoff worked for; but that's another story.)

Now, is that logic fair? Is that 'Abramoff money'?

As a political matter, it probably makes sense now for every pol to unload that money -- a conclusion most of them, as you can see, are coming to on their own.

On the merits, though, it's more difficult to make generalizations.

We know from some of the publicly released emails, that Abramoff in many cases used his clients' bank accounts very much as if they were his own, often giving them specific amounts and recipients for political contributions. In many cases, too, he had them make donations that had little or nothing to do with their own interests (defined in lobbying terms). For instance, what interest did a couple of Abramoff tribe clients have giving money to the New Hampshire Republican party a day or two before they pulled their phone-jamming scam?

There are other cases though where a given politician was associated with Indian rights issues either before Abramoff came on the scene or because of the state or district they represent. There are members of Congress in both parties who fall into that category and are, to some extent, being unfairly tarred.

For these reasons, pure dollar amounts can't tell the whole story without getting more deeply into the context.

More generally, I think you'll see over the course of the next year that these federal 'hard' money contributions -- either from Abramoff or his clients -- aren't where the real game was being played. The real action was in money funnelled or laundered through various DC-based non-profits or de facto cash payments to members of Congress or their staffs.

Stay tuned.

Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-NY) is the chairman of the NRCC, the Republican House campaign committee. This AP article suggests that Reynolds himself may be in for a tough race.

Such a small world, such a small world.

You remember defense contractor Brent Wilkes. He was the ur-briber at the heart of the soon-to-expand Duke Cunningham scandal. Mitchell Wade got a lot more attention. But a closer look at the backstory of the scandal shows that Mitch came up through the Wilkes operation.

Anyway, one of the choice nuggets from the Wilkes-Duke saga was the fact that Wilkes set up an actual airline that at one point owned no more than a mere 1/16th of a plane (Don't worry. It was a share. So it flew okay.). He called it Group W Transportation. And it existed for pretty much the exclusive purpose of ferrying members of Congress around the country on a Lear Jet.

Needless to say, Duke himself logged the most hours of any congressman on Group W. But the article in the San Diego Union-Tribune that broke the story notes that Tom DeLay repeatedly flew the friendly skies of Air Wilkes.

And one other member of Congress flew Air Wilkes too.

Who would that be? None other than Rep. Roy Blunt.

Just the man to clean up the House.

Fly the friendly skies.

How deep do they have to cut to get down to healthy tissue? That's the question.

As you can see somewhere prominently noted on most of the news sites, House Republican leaders have decided to can Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) who now -- but check your watches, because probably not for long -- serves as chairman of the House Committee on Administration. Ney certainly isn't the worst offender in the Abramoff scandal. But he may be the sloppiest and most flagrant.

Federal prosecutors have already asserted as fact -- in the Scanlon indictment -- that Ney accepted bribes. Clearly, there's an indictment headed his way. So it's hard to see how House Republicans can make even a colorable claim to cleaning up the mess they've created without booting Ney from his committee chairmanship.

(As a side note, let's observe that it sure ain't pretty when the members of a gang decide to take out one of their own, is it? Cue your favorite analogous scene from Mob cinema or The Sopranos.)

In any case, is that enough?

Despite the fact that the feds seem to have Ney nailed dead to rights, he's hardly a big player in this story. Is it really zero-tolerance for those compromised by Abramoff-related criminality? How about the DeLay syndicate? What's the standard?

Pat Robertson, prominent American cartoon character, sends letter of apology to Omri Sharon, son of Ariel, asking forgiveness for his moronic and offensive remarks.

Wrote Robertson, "I ask your forgiveness and the forgiveness of the people of Israel for remarks I made at the time concerning the writing of the holy prophet Joel and his view of the inviolate nature of the land of Israel."

A number of you have written in to ask whether there's a permanent link you can use to access our new Daily Muck feature.

The answer is, not yet. But it requires a bit more explanation.

As you know, we're building toward launching our new site, TPMmuckraker.com. It should come online right around the beginning of the month. The Daily Muck will be part of TPMmuckraker. But we decided to get the Muck started over at TPMCafe for the next few weeks just to get the muckraking juices flowing now and have the format down pat for when it's folded into TPMmuckraker.com.

If you've read the Muck already, you know it's written by Paul Kiel. So let me take a moment to introduce him. Paul's the first of our two hires for TPMmuckraker. Drop him a line, say hi, give him a lecture about the high standards of meticulousness and zealousness you require from him in terms of his muckraking activities and so forth. (You can drop Paul a line through the regular TPM comment email address.)

On a more practical note, in addition to the original reporting the new site will feature, we want the Daily Muck to pull together all the key muck in the news each day, one digestible muck run-down to keep you up to speed on public villainies of all sorts being perpretrated around the country.

And our advantage in being able to put that together is you.

Needless to say, we'll be checking the Times and Post and the major national news outlets everyday to track the latest developments in these stories. But my experience running this site for more than five years tells me that some of the most telling clues and breaks in the story first pop up in news outlets that run beneath the radar of the national political press -- local and regional papers, television stations, magazines, and so forth. And of course we want your tips too.

So as we move forward, if you see a story in your local paper about your congressman and Jack Abramoff or any other nugget you see that you think deserves wider exposure, send it in to use. If you think it's muck-worthy, flag its mucktitude for Paul in the subject line.

And, of course, let us know how you think we're doing.

The Hill reports that Roy Blunt is ahead of John Boehner by 64 to 35 in pledged votes in the race to become the next House Majority Leader. They have the list of who's on whose team. See who your Republican member of congress is supporting.

What's strikes me though is that there are rather more than 99 membersof the House GOP conference. That makes Blunt's position look much less commanding.

A little earlier I linked to this choice Dick Cheney quote from yesterday. But after getting an email from TPM Reader GM, I just had to return to this one point that made me laugh the first time I read it.

Says Cheney ...

And Steve Hayes is of the view -- and I think he's correct -- that a lot of those documents that were captured over there that have not yet been evaluated offer additional evidence that, in fact, there was a relationship that stretched over many years between Saddam Hussein and the al Qaeda organization.


Now, Hayes and I are something between acquaintances and friends. I don't want to get him in trouble by the association. And I'll let him speak for himself. But I say this only by way of noting that it's always created a bit of cognitive dissonance in my mind identifying the upstanding and amiable colleague I know with a lot of his work on Al Qaida and Saddam Hussein that, let's just say, I can't find any point of agreement with.

In any case, Dick Cheney speaks for himself. What we're talking about here is what he said. And I will confide in you that I don't have any problem giving him a hard time. So let's look at this statement. Cheney says there are all these documents "that have not yet been evaluated." But those unevaluated documents provide "additional evidence" of the fabled Iraq-AQ tie.

Does that make any sense?

You start to see how the Veep has managed to spout so much malarkey over the last five years when he seems to have so much difficulty spotting a logical fallacy.

We have this new defector. We haven't heard yet what he has to say. But what he says sounds pretty convincing.

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