Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Oh tough to quit the habit, ain't it?

From the Billings Gazette: "With ethics becoming an ever hotter campaign issue, Sen. Conrad Burns on Thursday scrapped plans to hold a fundraiser next week at the headquarters of a major lobbying firm here and instead will hold it at the GOP senatorial campaign headquarters."

Great Moments in Abramoff-Ain't-Such-A-Big-Deal Spin.

Honorable Mention for Ed Rogers, GOP lobbyist, from last night's Hardball (emphasis added): ". Look, this is going to come out. Nobody is going to keep it a secret. Jack Abramoff is so radioactive—I've got Jack Abramoff fatigue already. I mean, good grief, he didn't kill anybody. Maybe that one guy in Florida."

Gotta love that.

In the bizarre AP piece I referenced below there's this surreal passage ...

The Abramoff investigation threatens to ensnare at least a half dozen members of Congress of both parties and Bush administration officials. Abramoff, who has admitted to conspiring to defraud his Indian tribe clients, has pleaded guilty to corruption-related charges and is cooperating with prosecutors.

With the midterm elections 10 months away, Democrats have tried to link Abramoff to Republicans, the main recipients of his largesse.

At least half a dozen members of both parties.

That's quite a line. We're just on the outer edge of this investigation. And I'm certainly not willing to claim or predict that no Democrat, either in or out of Congress, will be taken down.

But to the best of my knowledge no credible claim has been made that any Democrat is even under investigation in the Abramoff scandal, let alone facing potential indictment. At least half a dozen Republicans have been so named in press reports, with varying degrees of specificity. The sentence is a plain statement of misinformation posing as news reportage.

Then comes the next line -- that Democrats are trying to link Abramoff with Republicans. This is like when Republicans tried to link James Carville to Democrats. Link him to Republicans? He's been a professional Republican and major GOP power-player for a quarter-century.

All the factual claims noted here in this article appear to be willful distortions, or statements with omissions so great as to be meant to confuse.

How can the public know what's happening in their government when the reporters of the news seem so bent on misleading them?

Can someone explain this to me?

Sen. Reid's office put out a report entitled "Republican Abuse of Power." It singled out 33 Republican senators for various ethical lapses and transgressions.

Republicans are treating this as some sort of outrage. And they actually got Reid to apologize for it. "The document released by my office yesterday went too far and I want to convey to you my personal regrets."

This AP article that I'm quoting from then includes various tsk-tsking quotes from Republicans like Ken Mehlman criticizing Reid for having the temerity to call the Abramoff scandal a Republican scandal.

What was Reid thinking exactly?

The article suggests without quite saying so that the root of the outrage is that the report went out on Senate letterhead.

Are the Democrats serious about running against the systemic betrayals of the public trust under the current congressional majorities? Or is it all just a joke and just politics? If it's the latter, what is Reid apologizing for? If there is something substantively wrong in the claims made in the document, that's another matter. But the article makes no suggestion of that. The idea simply seems to be that it's poor form.

You apologize if it's just trash talk for public consumption. If it's a serious argument about the degradation of Congress under Republican rule, you don't. The latter would be a difficult argument to make if you don't actually believe it.

Okay, several of you have mentioned this. So, okay, I'll bite.

Below we noted that in a recent speech Michael Brown, ex-FEMA Chief and professional failure, now says that he too is responsible for what a fiasco the response to hurricane Katrina turned out to be.

But in the article, it notes that Brown made these remarks at "a gathering of broadcast and National Weather Service meteorologists at a ski resort in the Sierra Nevada." And as several of you ask, why is this fool addressing a conference of meteorologists?

Well, as we noted back in November, Brown went from getting canned at FEMA to setting up his own disaster preparedness consulting firm. And it seems he's not short of work. A little poking around the web revealed that we're in the midst of Operation Sierra Storm 2006 (Jan. 17-20th), "a cutting-edge meteorological conference and seminar that combines on-going education, newsworthy speakers and topics, networking opportunities, and broadcast options."

This year Michael Brown is the keynote speaker.

My capacity to be shocked at these folks is pretty strained at this point. But I'd be shocked by this one. Rep. Louise Slaughter is saying that DeLay and Frist had staffers day-trading out of their offices, working on inside info from lobbyists and legislators. I can't wait to see if there's meat on this bone.

No voice in Washington?

Paul Kiel and I are digging into this story I noted earlier about how the State of Texas (specifically, the governor, House Speaker and lt. governor) hired one of Tom DeLay's former Chiefs of Staff to be its lobbyist in Washington for a pretty nice chunk of money. That was in early 2003.

Before that, Texas had never had a private sector lobbyist to advocate for the state's interests in Washington.

Now, we're looking into the details of this now. And we'll report back on what we find.

But the spring of 2003 seems like a really odd time to do this. You'll note that the constitution provides Texas with two senators. They'd just seated another, John Cornyn, a few months earlier. And the new Majority Leader in the House, Tom DeLay, was a Texan too. He'd succeeded another Texas as Majority Leader, Dick Armey. And of course the president happens to be a former governor of Texas.

Why did Texas need to reach out of the private sector to gets its voice heard in DC precisely?

Dem senators ask the president to stop stonewalling on the details of meetings and favors to Jack Abramoff. Today they sent the following letter to cabinet officials and other high-level administration officials ...

On Tuesday, we sent a letter to President Bush asking that he and officials within his Administration detail whatever contact they might have had with Jack Abramoff. Scott McClellan announced that the White House would not provide this information, despite earlier assurances. Therefore, we have no choice but to ask you these questions directly.

As we are sure you are aware, the Justice Department is currently investigating the web of corruption surrounding lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Even at this early stage of the investigation, concerns have been raised that Mr. Abramoff may have had undue and improper influence within the highest levels of the Bush Administration and even the White House itself. Such accusations serve to undermine the credibility of this Administration and our government at large -- even before any indictments or convictions. As a result, it is crucial that the American people know what role, if any, Mr. Abramoff played in the highest levels of our government.

As more and more Republican officials in and out of Congress are implicated in this scandal, it has become increasingly important that the record be cleared and that any contact you or others in the Administration have had with Mr. Abramoff be fully explained to the American people. For this reason, we urge you to publicly and immediately detail all of your personal contacts with Mr. Abramoff during your time with the Bush Administration. If you know of others in the Administration who have had such contacts, please disclose those contacts as well. Please also detail any official acts that have been undertaken on behalf of or at the request of Mr. Abramoff. Perhaps there are no contacts to reveal, no favors that have been given. We hope that is the case. But it is important to set the record straight, one way or the other.

Additionally, we believe is it imperative that you reveal any involvement in the “K Street Project,” the initiative launched in recent years by Republicans close to this Administration who have worked hard to increase the ties between lobbyists like Jack Abramoff and Republican elected officials.

We urge you to respond to this letter and help shed some light on what has happened between Mr. Abramoff and this Administration. We look forward to your response.

The letter is signed by Sens. Reid, Schumer, Durbin and Stabenow.

So did that taxpayer-funded lobbying contract that went to the DeLay soldiers down in Texas really get put out to competitive bidding as Gov. Rick Perry's spokesperson claimed?

A TPM Reader gives us some info to follow up on ...

I saw your note regarding the hiring of lobbyists in Texas. If in fact the contracts were awarded by competitive bidding, a notice of the contract and the process to submit bids would have either been published in the Texas Register or would have been posted on the Governor's web site. Also, the information regarding the bid process would be an open record that could be obtained under Texas law (Section 552.022(a)(3) provides that "information in an account, voucher, or contract relating to the receipt or expenditure of public or other funds or taxes by a governmental body" is a public record. "Governmental body" includes an office that is within the executive branch, which would include the office of the Governor in Texas. There are about 50 exceptions to providing information under Chapter 552, but none appear to apply to this type of contract.

Sounds like something worth looking into.