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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Lawyers, ethics watchdogs, hill staffers and you at home can help with some open-source investigative reporting. As you know, Jack Abramoff rented skyboxes at several DC area sports and entertainment complexes, which he used to dole out favors, goodies and fundraising assistance to Republican members of Congress and their staffs. Recently I've been working my way through records from Preston Gates (Abramoff's firm before he decamped to Greenberg Traurig) which detail which staffers and members got tickets to what events, who they brought with them and so forth.

Now, for instance, below is a roster from Abramoff's assistant Susan Ralston which goes in to who got to go to the "WWF Raw is War" event on October 2nd, 2000. (Click here to see the full size copy just added to the TPM Document Collection.)



This one includes staffers from Reps. Forbes, Lazio, Pombo, Green of Wisconsin, McKeon, Blunt, Sens, Smith and <$Ad$> Chafee, and one staffer from the House Rules Committee, Celeste West.

So a few questions.

For you Hill folks, how commonplace is this up there -- a lobbyist who routinely gives free tickets to ball games and concerts and even professional wrestling events to staffers from the offices of helpful members of Congress?

Several of the staffers on the roster for the "WWF Raw is War" shindig show up getting skybox tickets again and again just during 2000. A lawyer familiar with the Preston Gates records and the Abramoff skybox operation says there's no sign any of them ever reimbursed or paid for the tickets. So how does that square with Congressional ethics rules? A problem?

DeLay beats the rap on a technicality?

A new piece just out from the Austin American-Statesman provides more details. According to the new article, the original indictment was flawed (a claim pushed by the defense, but contradicted by other published reports: see below). The conspiracy statute in question didn't come into effect until 2003. So the prosecutors, it seems, reindicted DeLay under a different statute, but on the same facts.

See the piece for more details.

On the contrary, the Houston Chronicle interviews a law prof at UT who says that DeLay's lawyers' contention that the original indictment is flawed is itself bogus ...

George Dix, a professor at the University of Texas School of Law who is an expert in criminal law and procedure, said he doesn't believe changes made to the Texas election code by the 2003 legislature have any effect on the conspiracy charge.

The penal code's conspiracy charge allows for the charge if the defendants allegedly conspired to commit any felony, including an election code felony.

Just because the election code was "silent" on the penal code provision until 2003, it doesn't mean it wasn't a valid charge before 2003, Dix said.

"To me it just says, 'We really mean what we said implicitly before,' " Dix said.


More soon.

A second DeLay indictment: Money Laundering.

Details soon.

Late Update: More from the AP.

Later Update: Also note this clip from a piece in the Austin American-Statesman that ran only a bit earlier this afternoon ...

A criminal conspiracy charge against U.S. Rep. Tom DeLay should be dismissed because conspiracy laws did not apply to the state election code during the 2002 election, DeLay's lawyers argued in a brief filed today. The filing represents an attempt at a quick knockout of the case against DeLay, who was indicted last week by a Travis County grand jury. The term of the grand jury ended last week and a deadline to indict DeLay might have expired since then.

DeLay's lawyer Dick DeGuerin said "rumors are flying" that prosecutors were trying to find a sitting grand jury, who hadn't heard any of the DeLay case, to return a new money-laundering indictment. In a letter to Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle, DeGuerin said DeLay is withdrawing his waiver of the statute of limitations to investigate him. Last month DeLay signed that waiver in an attempt to head off an indictment.


A lot obviously happened today. I'm sure we'll <$NoAd$> hear more soon.

The Post is debuting a new blog today. And the author, Chris Cillizza, says that Rep. Sherrod Brown (D) may be reconsidering his decision not to challenge Ohio Sen. Mike DeWine (R) next year.

Republicans have taken two tough blows of late on the Senate recruiting front. Gov. John Hoeven won't run against Sen. Conrad in North Dakota. And just today we hear that Rep. Capito won't run against Sen. Byrd.

I was more than a bit stunned a few weeks back when I heard that Rep. Brown wasn't getting into the race against DeWine because, as I was telling a friend yesterday, the only explanation I could see was that Brown, a shrewd pol, simply wasn't confident he could win. And that told me that DeWine was a lot more formidable than his anemic poll numbers would indicate.

If Brown's reconsidering, it could be yet another (albeit more indirect) sign that smart Republicans see the writing on the wall for next year.

Writing on the wall and corks poppin' at Byrd HQ. Roll Call reports (sub.req.) that Rep. Capito (R-WV) won't challenge Sen. Byrd next year.

Several readers have called my attention to the passage in the president's statement this morning in which he praises Miers' pro bono work for "Exodus Ministries". These readers have pointed out that Exodus is an organization dedicated to bringing "freedom from homosexuality through the power of Jesus Christ." (Exodus is referred to either as 'Exodus' or 'Exodus ministries'.) But a quick look around the web also shows another group called Exodus Ministries which works with ex-prison inmates to prevent their falling back into lives of crime. The organization's website identifies it as "a non-denominational Christian organization established to assist ex-offenders and their families become productive members of society by meeting both their spiritual and physical needs." This latter group is Dallas-based (where Miers is from). So it seems there's a decent chance that it is the latter group she did work for. In any case, worth clearing up.

Late Update: I'm told Scott McClellan has now confirmed that it's the ex-prisoner ministry and not the ex-gay one.

As with Justice Roberts, I think I'll probably leave most of the talking about Harriet Miers to the folks over at Supreme Court Watch. But a few thoughts to kick things off.

First, not being a judge, in itself, doesn't seem like that big a deal to me. Many law profs who get nominated to the bench have never been judges. And more relevant to this case, there's been a reasonably broad bipartisan call in recent years to get 'a politician' on the Court. And the whole point, in that case, is that the person not come from the bench or even be too deeply entrenched in the legal profession. Finally, as we've seen, pretty often it turns out that these nominees have only been circuit court judges for maybe a year or two prior to their appointment. And in the grand scheme of things, that amounts to little more than a bit of batting practice before going up to the plate.

The key that this nomination should and, I suspect, will turn on is that the she fits the Bush administration mold -- she's a loyalist through and through. The lack of any other clear qualifications for the job becomes clear in that context.

The Post says this morning ...

Miers came with him to the White House in 2001 as staff secretary, the person who screens all the documents that cross the president's desk. She was promoted to deputy chief of staff before Bush named her counsel after his reelection in November. She replaced Alberto R. Gonzales, another longtime Bush confidant, who was elevated to attorney general.


Matt Yglesias finds this quote from David Frum ...

In the White House that hero worshipped the president, Miers was distinguished by the intensity of her zeal: She once told me that the president was the most brilliant man she had ever met.


Sounds like a keeper, don't she?

Presumably she's been involved in some fashion or another in everything the White House has been involved in over five years and intimately involved in every legal decision in 2005.

Game on.

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