Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

If Rep. Bill Jefferson (D-LA) didn't exist, Republicans would have to invent him. And yet, well ... Jefferson, you'll remember, is the congressman from New Orleans whose name popped up late last summer in his own public corruption scandal.

One of his former aides, Brett Pfeffer, is expected to plead guilty today at the U.S. District Court in Alexandria to charges of bribing an unnamed public official.

You've got to figure that's not good news for Rep. Jefferson.

As long as we're talking about the DeLay Rule again (see below), I thought it might be illuminating to scan through some of the day's newspaper articles and see where people now stand.

Wednesday's Post quotes Rep. Melissa Hart (R-PA) saying: "We will want people who are clean running the House." She's supporting John Boehner (R-OH), who is being held out as the clean candidate in comparison to acting-Majority Leader and one-time DeLay protege Roy Blunt (R-MO). And it's certainly an admirable sentiment.

But a year ago she was a vocal supporter of the DeLay Rule which was designed to let DeLay, then the Majority Leader, remain in his post even after he was indicted. Members of her staff told TPM Readers who contacted her office that she voted in favor of the Rule. In other words, she wanted to change the rules so that someone who was dirty could keep running the House.

In fact, DeLay had so much confidence in Hart that after he purged the Ethics Committee in early 2005 (see 'night of the long gavels') she was one of the loyalists he put on the committee. Indeed, while DeLay was still in the driver's seat enough to be calling the shots, Hart was tapped to lead the Majority-approved investigation of DeLay.

How much do you think DeLay thought Hart had his back?

How times have changed.

Ahhh, The DeLay Rule, truly the muckraker's gift that keeps on giving. The DeLay Rule was the rule House Republicans passed in mid-November 2004 to allow Tom DeLay to stay in charge of the House of Representatives even after he was indicted. The vote itself and the subsequent, slow erosion of support for it turned out to be a good proxy for who in the GOP caucus was a down-the-line DeLay man or woman, wiling to bend pretty much any rule to cover for DeLay and his House machine.

Moderates like Chris Shays were perhaps the most prominent and vocal in their opposition to the Rule. But what opposition there was stretched across ideological lines in the caucus, pulling in a number of the more conservative members. At least conservatives of a certain turn.

So today a friend points out to me that Speaker Denny Hastert has tapped California Rep. David Dreier (R) as his ethics czar, the one who's going to clean the place up and start cranking on a 'lobbying reform' bill.

So where did Dreier come down on The DeLay Rule?

As you'd expect, pretty much a down-the-line DeLay Rule man.

Here's a copy of the letter he sent constituents over a year ago defending his vote.

Why was the DeLay Rule necessary? Because "it became apparent that by simply bringing an indictment in any court, a local political operative could remove a Congressional leader at a key or sensitive time by bringing an indictment against him or her for political purposes ... The rule change was a necessary step needed to remove an incentive for a partisan prosecutor to make a frivolous or baseless accusation against a Member of the House."

So now Dreier is the guy to crack down on law-breaking. But a year ago his agenda was cracking down on prosecutors.

Okay, maybe there are some taste issues. But I broke out laughing when I saw this.

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As you probably know, we've spent a bit of ink over the last few months knocking around Mark Graul. He's the campaign manager for Rep. Mark Green (R) who's now running for Governor of Wisconsin. And Graul's name popped up in a series of Team Abramoff emails getting tickets for various events in DC in 2000 and 2001 at Jack Abramoff's skyboxes.

In most cases the emails were to or from Jennifer Calvert, another lobbyist at Abramoff's then-firm, Preston Gates who worked with Abramoff on Native American issues. (She's now at another shop called Washington Strategies.)

There've been a series of back and forths in posts here and in article in the Wisconsin press about this. But today I finally got a chance to chat with Mark.

So which of the events did he go to and how did it all shake out?

"I went to the one Bucks game with Jennifer Calvert," said Graul. "I didn't go to the other events. I wasn't even in DC. Jennifer said it was a perfunctory matter. She may not have even asked me. And I certainly wasn't available to go."

That's pretty much what Graul told the Journal-Sentinel last week.

Now, we said this in our initial posts. But let me take this opportunity to restate some key points. What we know about Mark Graul, Jennifer Calvert and all this ticket business is all bounded within the four walls of the half dozen emails we published here back in October.

In one of the emails Calvert tells Jack Abramoff's executive assistant, Susan Ralston, that she "got a request from Mark Graul" for tickets to the NBA all start game. Another email has a docket of who was given tickets for a professional wrestling event. Graul's name shows up for two. The other four emails are each one permutation or another of Calvert writing to Abramoff or Ralston and asking (this is a paraphrase, of course), 'Hey, can I get this or that number of tickets for Mark Graul?'

Now, here's the key point. Do I know whether Calvert picked up the tickets from Abramoff's office? No. Do I know whether she actually gave them to Graul? No. If Graul got them, do I know he went to the event? No idea.

If Graul says he only went to one of the events, there's nothing in the emails to prove otherwise. And I take him at his word.

I'm not trying to be overly cute about this. I'm just trying to be precise. The emails are there to read. You're in as good a position to interpret them as I am.

That's original. Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT) says Democrats are responsible for all those reports saying he's in trouble in the Abramoff investigation.