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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

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.

A name now coming up more and more frequently in Abramoff investigation news is that of Rep. Richard Pombo (R-CA), Chairman of the House Committee on Resources.

That was prime territory for Jack Abramoff, seeing as the Resources Committee has jurisdiction over Indian tribal affairs, Pacific island territories as well as environment and natural resources -- pretty much one-stop shopping for a guy like Jack.

So I went back through our stack of unpublished Team Abramoff emails to see how often folks from Pombo's office showed up on the Abramoff skybox freebie list.

Pretty often, it turns out.

Here's what we found for the year 2000, with the event in question, the Pombo staffer and the number of skybox seats they bagged.

February 15th, 2000, Capitals/Avalanche Hockey Game Todd Willens, Legislative Director, 4 tickets

March 24th, 2000, Circus Douge Heye, Press Secretary, 2 tickets

April 30th, 2000, WWF Backlash Live Doug Heye, Press Secretary, 2 tickets

August 6th 2000, WWF Attitude (with appearances by The Rock, Triple H, The Big Show, Chyna, Chris Jericho and the Undertaker), MCI Center. Doug Heye, Press Secretary, 2 tickets

October 2nd, 2000 WWF Raw Is War, MCI Center. Doug Heye, Press Secretary, 2 tickets.

Bear in mind that in 2000, Pombo wasn't chairman, but only a junior member of the committee. After the 2002 election, Tom DeLay stunned fellow committee members by promoting Pombo to Chairman, despite the fact that he was only the 10th most senior member of the committee.

"The vote came down to Pombo and [Rep. Elton] Gallegly," wrote a local paper at the time, "but in the end, Pombo was buoyed by strong support from House Republican Leader Tom DeLay and others, said several Republicans involved in the selection process."

It looks like the Pacific Island component of the Jack Abramoff story is coming back to the fore. So let's review one part of that story.

Abramoff's first big gig was to defend the garment industry in the Marianas islands from any laws which would prevent them from running sweatshops that produced goods with the 'Made in the USA' label.

One of the biggest of these operations is that of Tan Holdings, owned by Willie Tan. The way their highly lucrative garment operations worked was to import labor from China and other Asian nations, set them up in barracks working up to 90 hours a week, and pay them third world wages. These clothes could then be stamped "Made in the USA" and imported into the states duty-free because the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands is a US territory.

That gave the Tan operations and others on the island a clear competitive advantage against genuine third world garment sweatshops, which can't use the "Made in the USA" label, and actual garment factories in the USA which have to abide by 20th century labor standards.

You see, there's a niche for everyone in this world.

In addition to inhuman working conditions and terrible wages, the garment workers brought to Marianas were subjected to other fun stuff like beatings and forced abortions.

Anyway, Abramoff's job was to fend off repeated efforts through the 1990s to crack down on the working conditions on the island which approached something similar to indentured servitude. And he got Tom DeLay and other Republican members of Congress to vociferously champion the cause of Marianas island sweatshops.

One of the things Tan did for Abramoff was to pay -- along with two of Abramoff's Indian clients, the Choctaw and the Chitimacha -- the fees for the skyboxes Abramoff rented at sports complexes around DC.

These are the skyboxes he used to give away freebies to congressional staffers like Mark Graul, chief of staff to Rep. Mark Green of Wisconsin as well as host fundraisers for sundry pols.

Here's the exchange of emails between Abramoff and Willie Tan in which Abramoff hits up Tan for his quarterly payment.

One of the reasons I'm so excited about our soon-to-be-launched Muckraking site is that I want to be able to dig into these stories in more depth, something that can be hard to do with one person. But for the moment, let me draw your attention to this piece that ran yesterday in The Hill about Cunningham-co-conspirator #1 Brent Wilkes and all his companies.

Brent Wilkes didn't just hire lots of lobbyists. He actually opened his own DC lobby shop, Group W Advisors. Group W hired Alexander Strategy Group, which, as The Hill rightly notes, is "a well-known conduit to Rep. Tom DeLay."

That's a string worth pulling, especially considering DeLay's other ties to Wilkes.

At some point we'll discuss how part of Jack Abramoff's downfall can be tied to feuding between the Abramoff faction of Team DeLay and the Ed Buckham faction centered on Alexander Strategy Group. The story has a lot to do with a fellow named Tony Rudy.

From today's edition of The Nelson Report about that grand jury meeting Pat Fitzgerald held today ...

The line between gossip and intelligence is too-often thin, as we’ve seen the past few years. With that caution in mind, Washington buzz today focused on reports of a three-hour grand jury meeting (presentation?) by Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, with no witnesses called. Our legal advisors confess no inside information, but say this sort of an event usually precedes an indictment being handed down.

If so, who...whom...might be the lucky winner this time? The afternoon betting line is White House political guru Karl Rove, who’s earlier “exoneration” was very much exaggerated by Republicans eager to have the whole Wilson/Plame case “closed” with the indictment of VP Cheney’s then-chief of staff, Lewis “Scooter” Libby.

Subsequent stories revealing earlier “leaks” on the CIA’s Plame, especially those involving Washington Post reporter/superstar Bob Woodward, have added to the sex appeal of the whole thing, but really add up to more confusion, rather than settling the various theories about Rove’s role, and thus any legal vulnerability for anyone else involved.

And, of course, the whole thing today could be a false alarm, or a misunderstanding of Fitzgerald’s modus operandi.


We shall see.

We're just getting in our first reports about what happened today in the Tobin-phone-jamming trial up in New Hampshire. And unlike yesterday, it apparently didn't go at all well for Tobin. The key reason was the testimony of Allen Raymond, the head of GOP Marketplace, the political consultancy and phone bank operation that actually implemented the sabotaging of the Democratic and union phone banks.

A TPM Reader who's been following this case closely for literally years was in the courtroom today and sent us in a report on what happened today. We've just posted it over at TPMCafe.

Tip: Check out item #4 on our Reader's list. Sounds to me like the sort of thing that could sink Tobin in the eyes of jurors.

He doth seetheth too much?

Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA) says he's just "seething" about what a crook Duke Cunningham turned out to be and "he can't remember a time I've been more angry."

Only, as Ellen Miller reports, Lewis was getting big bucks from the same folks labelled as 'coconspirators' in Duke's guilty plea.

(ed.note: I was going to say that Lewis represents the district where I spent most of my childhood years. But from what I can tell from looking it up at the House database, the town of Upland, California is now represented by Rep. David Dreier (R-CA). Does anyone remember whether Lewis's district used to include Upland.)

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