Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

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So I went back through our stack of unpublished Team Abramoff emails to see how often folks from Pombo's office showed up on the Abramoff skybox freebie list.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

Roll Call: Corzine's nod goes to Menendez as next New Jersey senator.

Last week we mentioned that in a 'scandal scorecard' on his new Washington Post blog The Fix, Chris Cillizza included a reference to a former Democratic congressman who resigned from Congress for crimes committed before he was even elected, in an apparent effort to make the scorecard look less overwhelmingly weighted toward Republicans.

This morning a TPM Reader asked Cillizza about it in a reader chat.

Here's the exchange with emphasis added ...

New York, N.Y.: In your recent corruption roundup, you set up some ground rules that you'll only deal with current members of Congress or governors. Yet, you broke your own rules by including Rep Frank Ballance (D) who resigned in June, 2004. You omitted Connecticut Governor John Rowland (R) who also resigned in June, 2004. Why break your own rules for one but not the other?

The only thing I can think of is that you made a list and found that there are a lot more Republicans than Democrats on the list. So in an effort to appeared unbiased, you had to find another Democrat.

Cillizza: This was an editorial mixup. In my original post, Ballance was not included since, as you rightly point out, he is not a sitting member of Congress. After an edit, Ballance was unnecessarily included for, frankly, balance. I did not read the final edit and therefore was unaware that Ballance had been added to the list. I apologize for my editor's error (he's been flogged). And let no man (or woman) say The Fix opposes full disclosure.

Kudos to Chris for being candid and transparent about what happened. But this does give some insight into what's going on behind the scenes in the reporting on many of these scandals. In this case, reality apparently wasn't balanced enough. So an editor at the Post tipped the scales.