Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

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Most of the Jack Abramoff story we've heard has been tied to lobbying for Indian casino interests and garment manufacturers in US Pacific island protectorates. But there's an overseas portfolio only starting to get attention. And along those lines, some details that could use some more attention...

Things started to go bad for Jack Abramoff in early 2004. He got fired or 'resigned' (take your pick) from Greenberg Traurig in March. And from there he went from high-voltage influence peddler to corruption coverboy in the Post, the Times and other news outlets.

But Abramoff did more than start readying his defense after he left Greenberg Traurig. He immediately signed up with Cassidy & Associates. And if you're not familiar with them, Cassidy is one of the glitz names in the foregin lobbying business in Washington.

Then in July, he left Cassidy. Everybody put out gracious press releases. But you figure that by the summer Abramoff was even too hot to handle for them.

But he still wasn't quite done. Upon leaving Cassidy Abramoff set up his own company, Middle Gate Ventures.

As near as I can figure there's only one mention of the firm that ever appeared in the US press -- a short piece in the Washington Post's 'Special Interests' column on July 8th, 2004.

You can find other references to it Middle Gate with a google search. But they all seem to cite back to this little squib in the Post. And the Post said that Middle Gate would be Abramoff's "vehicle for pursuing such business opportunities as energy projects, real estate development and motion picture production."

Abramoff made pretty clear that his bridges were burned in the DC lobbying game. So what remained were his overseas contacts and opportunities.

I hear that pretty much immediately after setting up Middle Gate he was using the company to get deeply involved in some 'energy projects' on the west coast of Africa.

I'm trying to put together different pieces of this puzzle. But if you have any more pieces, I'd love to hear from you.

First, let me thank Michael Crowley and Steve Clemons for filling in while I was away. It's much appreciated. More shortly on other matters.

I am going to take advantage of this almost end of the summer week to take a short vacation -- a literal vacation and also a vacation from Talking Points Memo.

I may pop up once or twice this week here or at TPMCafe. But this will be my last regular post until next weekend.

This week I'm going to have two guest bloggers at the site who will hold down the fort while I'm away.

First, Mike Crowley of The New Republic will sign on for the first half of the week. And then he'll be followed in the second half of the week by Steve Clemons of The Washington Note and the New America Foundation.

I'll be back next weekend, with batteries recharged and back to regular posting as the political tempo begins to ramp up once again.

TPM Reader WC has a new updated version of the Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R) Shenanigan Program & Worksheet -- now with the latest Brent Wilkes-based corruption!

Yup, Max Sawicky's right: the Wall Street Journal editorial board does think you're stupid.

Some stories may not be that consequential in the grand scheme of things. But they win out on sheer comedic value.

As an example, take this article from today's Independent Record, of Helena Montana. The article is about one Shawn Vasell. We discussed Mr. Vasell in a post a few days ago over at TPMCafe.

He was a staffer passed back and forth between Jack Abramoff and Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT) during the period in which the two were deep into the pay-for-play game. As the Post described Vasell's job history in those years, Vasell "served as client manager on the Mississippi Choctaw account, and shuttled between jobs in Burns's Montana office and Abramoff's shop. Vasell was registered as a lobbyist for the Choctaw and Coushatta tribes in 2001, joined Burns's staff in 2002, then rejoined Abramoff's team as a lobbyist for the tribes in 2003."

Well, the Independent Record reports that Vasell is now in trouble with the law, if of a rather less serious type than that currently bubbling up around his former colleague, Mr. Abramoff.

According to the paper ...

Vasell, 32, of Arlington, Va., was charged in June with four counts of breaking state big game laws: illegally possessing big game, hunting on private property without permission, hunting with someone else's license and hunting without a license, better known as poaching.

The alleged crimes were committed on Nov. 26, 2004, Stillwater County records show. The incident was the subject of a lengthy essay and photo display on the now-defunct personal Web site of Billings resident J.R. Reger. Vasell is accused of illegally using Reger's hunting license when he shot a mule deer buck around 3 p.m. the day after Thanksgiving last year.

According to the Web site, Vasell committed the alleged crimes with Reger and his brother, Mike. All three were photographed posing with the allegedly poached buck. In one photo, Vasell poses alone holding up the head of his trophy with the hunting rifle leaned against the animal's body.

I must confess that I've fished once or twice with an out-of-date license. So, I guess, he who is without sin, and so forth ... But if you go down further into the article you'll see that Vasell's lawyer is suggesting that his client may himself have become the victim of liberal Montana game wardens who've been spending too much time in the left blogosphere.

Speaking of Vasell's lawyer, Mark Parker of Billings, the paper reports ...

He also implied that the wildlife investigators were tipped off to the alleged crimes "because people like to make a mountain out of molehill with Mr. Vasell" for political reasons.

"If you blog around the Internet, you'll find that this has been the matter of some political quibbling,'' he said. "There seems to be a political component of this that we haven't quite fleshed out."

Reminds me to nail down that story about Abramoff and the poached elk ...

Late Update: A pdf copy of the website that brought Vasell to grief. Apparently part of the problem was that Vasell shot the deer from the window of a pick-up truck.

I should be getting a copy tomorrow of 'Dead Wrong -- Inside an Intelligence Meltdown', a documentary CNN has on this Sunday about the Iraq intel failure. But since Sunday is only two days away, I wanted to pass on the following. A friend, whose opinion I put a great deal of stock in, tells me that it's very good. So definitely, if you have a chance, try to catch it Sunday evening.

If I get it in time, I'll post a review tomorrow here on TPM.

Arianna Huffington has a new post up at her site about Judy Miller, this time taking aim at Times uber-boss Arthur Sulzberger. And she gets into a thicket of issues I've been giving a lot of thought to as the Judy saga has unfolded.

I'm far from knowledgable about the inner workings of the Times, as many of my colleagues seem to be. But you don't have to be to know that the new editorial regime at the paper stakes much of its legitimacy on the failings of the old one, and that treatment of Iraq is perhaps the key narrative thread connecting the two.

Allegedly, what brought down the Raines regime at the Times was not simply that he and the paper on his watch had been taken in by a serial fabricator, Jayson Blair. It was that he and his team had missed, ignored or made excuses for other warnings signs about Blair. And this was taken, perhaps not unreasonably, as evidence of a deeper pattern of poor editorial judgment, with political and cultural implications we all remember.

Now, let's assume, for the sake of discussion (but as I and many others believe), that Judy Miller is sitting in that prison cell for much more than the actions one might reasonably call those of a journalist. Assume that she has dirty hands in this whole affair and that the Times has quite publicly and effusively fastened its credibility to hers.

If this all proves to be the case, how will this be any different for Keller and Sulzberger than the Blair matter was for Raines?

After all, going back two years now, the Times has quite publicly and painfully failed to take any account of or responsibility for Miller's compromised reporting. And the backstory many of us suspect to her present confinement (though it is important to say that they remain suspicions and are not proved) was richly telegraphed or foreshadowed in that earlier reporting.

So if this all comes to pass, what will the upshot be for Keller? Isn't it the same? Actually, isn't it a lot worse when you consider that the real-world consequences of Blair's lies were limited at best. Journalistically they were capital offenses. But the stories he made up, from my recollection at least, were mainly human interest type stories (with the exception of some reporting about the DC sniper), which might well have been true, but weren't. The consequences of Miller's deeds are legion; and just as ignored.