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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

I hear Nancy Pelosi has just introduced a 'Privileged Resolution on Culture of Corruption Surrounding Prescription Drug Bill' which focuses on what is now the common practice of holding votes open so Reps. can be stronged-armed and de facto bribed as in the Nick Smith case back in 2003. Looks like another raucous night coming in the House.

A portion of the resolution, I'm told, runs as follows ...

Whereas the recurring practice of improperly holding votes open for the sole purpose of overturning the will of the majority, including bullying and threatening Members to vote against their conscience, has occurred eight times since 2003, and three times in the 109th Congress alone;

Whereas on November 22, 2003, the Republican Leadership held open the vote on H.R. 1, the Prescription Drug Conference Report, for nearly three hours, the longest period of time in the history of electronic voting in the U.S. House of Representatives;

Whereas the normal period of time for a recorded vote is 15 minutes, and the Speaker of the House has reiterated that policy on Opening Day of each Congress by saying, "The Chair announced, and then strictly enforced, a policy of closing electronic votes as soon as possible after the guaranteed period of 15 minutes";

Whereas the sole purpose of holding the Prescription Drug vote open was to undermine the will of the House, and reverse the position that a majority of the House of Representatives had taken during the entire vote;

Whereas it was widely reported in the press that former Representative Nick Smith (R-MI) was bribed on the House floor, and the incident was described in Robert Novak's column in the Chicago Sun-Times, November 27, 2003: "Nick Smith was told business interests would give his son $100,000 in return for his father's vote. When he still declined, fellow Republican House members told him they would make sure Brad Smith never came to Congress. After (Rep.) Nick Smith voted no and the bill passed, (Rep.) Duke Cunningham of California and other Republicans taunted him that his son was dead meat";

Whereas the cost of the Prescription Drug bill was a critical factor in determining the votes of many Members of Congress and Richard S. Foster, the chief actuary for the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services, conducted numerous estimates indicating the cost to be much higher, including a June 11, 2003 analysis of a similar plan in the Senate which


More on this momentarily ...

Late Update: We've just posted the whole document here at the TPM Document Collection.

Alright, we're making one more big push for our TPM Muckraking Fund fundraiser. It ends next week. And we want to do everything we can to get to 3000 contributors. We're now right about 2000. So we've got a ways to go.

For everyone who's contributed thus far, a very sincere thank you.

We've explained a few times what we're raising the funds for. But let me briefly cover the main points again.

As you can see from a slew of the posts below, there's just no end of scandals, investigations and -- generally speaking -- muck to be raked nowadays. So we're setting up a new website -- TPMmuckraker.com. As it's name implies, the site will be dedicated to the proud tradition of journalistic muckraking, particularly, and for the foreseeable future, to the expanding web of public corruption scandals enveloping Washington today.

Many of the topics and style of reportage will be what you've come to expect from this site. But there's only so much one person can do. Every day plenty of leads I get go unfollowed up just because other subjects need to be written about or through plain shortage of time. So we're hiring two full-time reporter-bloggers who will dig into all these stories, report them out, dig through public records to find the scoops others are missing and -- more than anything else -- put the whole story in context.

What is it Jack Abramoff is accused of exactly? Or Bob Ney? How do Abramoff's high-profile dealings with Tom DeLay and other DC powerbrokers connect to this bizarre casino boat case down in Florida? What's all this business about sweatshops in the Marianas islands and what does it have to do with members of Congress who represents me?

Believe me, I spend all day on it and half the time I can't even remember.

It's our premise, based on extensive reporting, that these often complicated and seemingly unrelated scandals are much more closely connected than most people realize. They are all part and parcel of the political machine DeLay, Abramoff and others created to take and hold political power in Washington.

The problem is that there are so many details and just so much going on, that it's really hard to keep track of. The daily press, by the very nature of the medium, has a hard time following these stories in any way but episodically. So the big picture is always in danger of being missed, something the bad actors involved would very much like to see happen.

That's where we think we can find a niche, with two full-time reporter-bloggers working with the our existing two-person TPM team, digging into the details, breaking news and putting it all together in an accessible and comprehensible way so the big picture doesn't get missed.

That's what we want to do. To a great degree, it's an experiment in a new form of journalism but one rooted in the same sort of dogged pursuit of stories and uncompromising dedication to the facts. We plan on hiring our two reporter-bloggers before the holidays and launching the site late next month. If you want to be part of what we're doing, you can help us by chipping in a few dollars toward our reporter-bloggers' salaries.

Let the bamboozlement begin!

This just out from The Hill ...

The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) is planning a public-relations offensive tying leading Democrats to lobbyist Jack Abramoff in an effort to neutralize accusations that Republicans have been embroiled in a “culture of corruption.”


This is choice stuff. But as we saw with the recent example of a Washingtonpost.com editor intentionally distorting a scandal story to make it more 'balanced', there's a real appetite for this sort of mumbojumbo among a lot of reporters and editors.

So it'll make sense for everyone to keep their eyes open.

And as long as we're on the subject. Lobbyists give money to lots of people. They only commit crimes with some of them. If this is such a non-partisan thing, why is it that the only members of Congress targetted by the Abramoff investigation just happen to be Republicans? And that from a Republican led Justice Department?

Hmmm.

Not quite sure what to make of this.

According to today's LATimes, Brent Wilkes (owner of Duke Cunningham) contributed more than $70,000 to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's various campaigns and campaign committees. He then got two gubernatorial appointments once Arnold became governor.

Unfortunately, appointments for big contributors is hardly out of the ordinary. With ambassadorial appointments abroad it is almost considered a given, though President Bush has done it a lot more than most.

In any case, what catches my eye is that both of Wilkes appointments were tied to the regulation of gambling, particularly horse racing tracks. Is there more here than meets the eye?

Statement just out from Sen. Feingold ...

I will do everything I can, including a filibuster, to stop this Patriot Act conference report, which does not include adequate safeguards to protect our constitutional freedoms. The version of the Patriot Act that was signed today is a major disappointment. I appreciate that it includes four-year sunsets on three controversial provisions, but merely sunsetting bad law is not adequate. We need to make substantive changes to the law, and without those changes I am confident there will be strong, bipartisan opposition here in the Senate.

This isn't about stopping Patriot Act reauthorization. The President could sign Patriot Act reauthorization legislation into law tomorrow if the House would just take up and pass the compromise Senate bill that was approved unanimously in the Senate earlier this year – a bill that includes important and reasonable privacy protections. The conference committee had the opportunity to fix many of the provisions of the Patriot Act to which Americans across the political spectrum have voiced their opposition over the last four years. Unfortunately, they decided not to listen. This battle is not over.


Let me take this opportunity to remind everyone that Sen. Feingold will be guest-blogging next week at TPMCafe's Table for One, where he'll be discussing the Patriot Act reauthorization and other issues as well as responding to your questions.

Andrew Sullivan beat me to it. That is, he linked to this sadly hilarious quote in which UN Ambassador John Bolton attacked the UN high commissioner for human rights for having the temerity to criticize US torture policies. Bolton said it was "inappropriate and illegitimate for an international civil servant to second-guess the conduct that we're engaged in in the war on terror."

Like I said, both sad and hilarious.

Check out the rest of Andrew's comments.

Last night we discussed former Abramoff business partner Adam Kidan's apparent decision to cop a plea in the SunCruz case and testify against Abramoff. TPM Reader JVO has a possible answer to my questions about the plea deal and the Boulis murder ...

Josh,

I read the Sun Sentinal article as saying that Kidan would probably cop a plea with regards to federal charges he and Ambramoff face, then deal with the state murder rap afterwards. In other words, get all the non-murder charges off his plate in one swoop by turning in Jack...then deal with the murder charges as a seperate issue.

The plea(s) wouldn't apply to the murder case, since the murder charge is state matter and the fraud/conspiracay charges are a federal matter. Kidan is probably realizing that federal "white collar" charges are the least of his worries. Why not sign a plea now and get them out of the way so he can start preparing for the big trial with the hitmen? Plus, he needs some practice at turning on Jack. Pinning that murder on Abramoff will be no easy trick in the coming months. I guess their friendship has hit the skids, huh? JVO


That makes. If anyone else has info on this, let me know.

In Roll Call this morning John Bresnahan has a piece (sub.req.) on Alan Mollohan (D-WV), ranking member of the House Ethics committee. It seems Mollohan received a bunch of campaign contributions from Mitchell Wade's MZM in addition to another company that sometimes partnered with MZM.

As Bresnahan writes:"The donations to Mollohan were perfectly legal. But the fact that the top ethics cop for House Democrats received significant sums from the company behind Congress’ biggest bribery scheme in recent memory opens him up to conflict-of-interest questions in any future ethics investigation involving MZM."

In other words, in this case, Mollohan may be the unwitting beneficiary of the GOP shutdown of the ethics committee, seeing as Duke was able to go from ethical questions to legal questions to bribery investigation to resignation and the slammer without so much as the ethics committee making a peep.

Also fair to say that even with the shutdown, Nancy Pelosi seems to have kept any Dem from so much as lodging an ethics complaint against the formerly high-flying Duke.

Oh boy. That's not a good development for Jack Abramoff.

According to an article just posted in the Sun-Sentinal, Adam Kidan looks set to flip and testify against Abramoff in SunCruz case down in Florida.

A "change of plea" hearing has been set for December 15th.

Here's something I don't quite get though. As we've noted many times before, there's at least some very suggestive evidence that Kidan played a role in the death of Gus Boulis, the guy he and Jack bought SunCruz from.

Even that is a bit generous: Kidan was in a feud with Boulis that had already led to one physical altercation between the two men. Then or around that time Kidan, who has a history of mafia associations, puts three known mobsters on the SunCruz payroll, hiring them as either caterers or 'security consultants' or both. Then those three guys mow Boulis down in a gangland style hit.

You know, call me suspicious.

Anyway, here are the last few grafs of the aformentioned Sun-Sentinel piece ...

Soon after receiving the loan agreement, Foothill and Citadel released $60 million to Kidan and Abramoff's company. But Boulis maintained that he never saw a penny and the relationship with Kidan, who took over the day-to-day operations of SunCruz, quickly soured. Lawsuits and counter-lawsuits were filed and threats were reportedly made.

By November 2000, Kidan had contacted an old friend, Anthony "Big Tony" Moscatiello. Moscatiello had signed a contract with SunCruz to be a "catering consultant" at $25,000 a month, according to court records. Kidan said he thought Boulis was going to kill him, according to statements Moscatiello gave police. Moscatiello, a known associate of the late crime boss John Gotti, promised to smooth things over.

Moscatiello put Kidan in touch with Anthony "Little Tony" Ferrari, who ran "Moon Over Miami Beach," a company that, among other things, is described in records as a security firm. One of the men who worked for Ferrari was James "Pudgy" Fiorillo. In September, Moscatiello, Ferrari and Fiorillo were indicted in Boulis' murder. Kidan has not been charged in the case.

After being arrested, Moscatiello told detectives that Fiorillo traveled to his Queens home two weeks after the murder and confided that Kidan reportedly told Ferrari to kill Boulis, according to court records. Moscatiello said Fiorillo also indicated that he and Ferrari carried out the hit, the documents show. Moscatiello told detectives, "I told Adam what had happened, what I was told and he told me he never made no phone call and after Tony Ferrari told me it was a lie, I never discussed it anymore with Adam."


So Moscatiello comes in to "smooth things over" and somehow Boulis ends up dead. And one of the killers directly implicates Kidan. But in the lede, the article says that Kidan will also agree to testify against Moscatiello, Fiorillo and Ferrari, while he isn't charged with anything related to Boulis' murder.

Now, I'm sure Kidan's more than happy to testify against those dudes. But it seems to me that given the associations, context and movements of money, it would be awfully hard to see where these three whacked Boulis without also believing that Kidan wasn't part of it. Or, for that matter, Jack Abramoff, who was Kidan's partner in SunCruz.

Both guys happened to be out of the country when Boulis was iced.

Is it really possible that they pass on charging Kidan for a killing if he was the guy who ordered the hit? Or is the theory of the case that Kidan just wanted these three gents to sit down with Gus and have a talk and things got out of hand?

I know plea bargains and the logic of indictments can lead to some odd choices. But I really can't wait to see how they fit these pieces together.

Can't say I think it'll say up there too long. But TPM Reader BM points out that if you go over to the RNC web site and scroll down and to the right, their top 'Upcoming Event' is the birthday or Rep. Duke Cunningham on December 8th.

I guess they just want to make clear there are no hard feelings.

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