Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

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John Bresnahan has a very important piece behind the firewall at Roll Call today, both because of the story itself and because of much more it points to.

The story is about our friend Brent Wilkes -- Duke Cunningham's core contracting crook. And the question is just when Pentagon officials knew he was dirty. Remember, authorities swooped in very quickly on the Cunningham case and managed to have him indicted and out of Congress only a few months after the crooked house story first broke. That was pretty quick.

Now Bresnahan reveals that as far back as 2000 the Defense Criminal Investigative Service was investigating Wilkes. In fact, they went so far as to conclude he had probably committed a crime and referred his case to the Justice Department for prosecution.

The US Attorney in San Diego declined to pursue the case. Why, we don't know.

Now, there are a couple different issues in play here. On the one hand, obviously if they had tagged Wilkes back in 2000 the taxpayers would have saved a lot of money and we would have avoided one of the biggest corruption scandals in years. But I suspect there may be more in play here.

People in the defense and intel world knew Brent Wilkes was dirty. But in the years since 2000 he just went from success to success, bagging millions on dollars in contracts. Keep an eye an out for the possibility that Wilkes may not have been getting a lot of these edgy spook contracts in spite of the fact that he was dirty, but because of it.

Does this count as a crackdown on lobbying?

Last week we brought you word of Brian Bilbray, former congressman-turned-lobbyist trying to turn back into a congressman.

He's running for the seat vacated by the resignation of the Duke Cunningham, California's 50th district. And he's run into a bit of turbulence over the fact that he was tight with Jack Abramoff, became a lobbyist himself and generally is a poster-boy for much of what reformers this year are trying to root out in Washington.

He's big battle so far this year has been to present to prevent the state of California from identifying his occupation as "lobbyist" on election materials. Most of his work has been on behalf of an anti-immigration group and an Indian tribe with a casino.

Today the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that Bilbray has won his battle.

On the special election ballot, Bilbray will appear as "immigration reform consultant."

Gotta love it.

WaPo: "After saying in January that he would end his regular meetings with lobbyists, Sen. Rick Santorum (Pa.), the third-ranking GOP leader in the Senate, has continued to meet with many of the same lobbyists at the same time and on the same day of the week."

"The Vietnam War experience can’t tell us anything about the war in Iraq – or so it is said. If you believe that, trying looking through this lens, and you may change your mind."

Those are the first two sentences of former NSA chief and Lt. Gen. William Odom's new article Iraq through the prism of Vietnam.

More juicy details from the Vanity Fair Abramoff tell-all piece.

Advance Morsel: Monty Warner, a Republican media strategist: "I can remember Ney coming up and groveling [at Abramoff's table at Signatures], saying how much he enjoyed a golf outing or skybox or ball game, and really appreciated Jack's support."

CQ ain't convinced.

Congressional Quarterly, the respected DC news and information service, moves Tom DeLay's 22nd district from "Leans Republican" to "No Clear Favorite."

Who you gonna believe? Me or your lyin' Abramoff?

Ahhh, wingnut grudge match. Sen. Burns has just responded to the new Abramoff interview in Vanity Fair, in which Abramoff says his staff was “as close as they could be," with Burns' office. Spokesman calls Abramoff "a pathological liar who has no credibility and belongs in jail."