Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Earlier today we linked to the Washington Post's graphic detailing who got money from Jack Abramoff, his lobbying associates and his clients.

There's quite a lot to say about their run-down. Let me try to hit on a few points -- ones we plan on delving into in much more depth in the coming weeks and months.

First, ask yourself, if there was so much money spread around in both parties, why is it that of all the staffers and members of Congress either under indictment or under investigation, every single one seems to be a Republican?

Liberal bias in the Gonzales Justice Department? Probably not.

Let me suggest two very general answers which should put us back on some surer understanding of what this scandal is about -- both in the sense of big-picture substance and the legal direction it is likely to take.

First, lobbyists and their clients give money all over the place. That may be a problem in itself. But that's not the reason Jack Abramoff and his various cronies are in trouble. They're in trouble because they broke a lot of laws -- some to do with fraud and kickbacks, others to do with bribery, others to do with giving de facto inducements to congressional staffers, etc.

If a restaurant is run as a cover for a money-laundering operation, a list of everyone who ate there in the last five years doesn't tell you much about how the scheme went down. It may provide some clues, but not much more. You want to know how the money was laundered. A similar logic applies here.

Second, most of what happened in this scandal didn't happen with 'hard money', i.e., regulated contributions to federal campaigns and campaign committees.

Consider one example. The Post's graphic charts political giving from Abramoff, his associates and clients from 1999 through 2004. The total sum was roughly $5.3 million. During little more than half that period of time (1999-2002) Abramoff funnelled some $4.2 million to just one guy -- his old buddy Ralph Reed.

Certainly there's more to this scandal than these two numbers juxtaposed. But it gives you a sense of how much of the pie the Post discussion covers.

As I've written before, Jack Abramoff wasn't just a crooked lobbyist, he was running a slush fund. It can't be understood outside of the political machine he was part of. Stay tuned.

This is an interesting scuffle.

The Post's new ombudsman Deborah Howell believes Dan Froomkin's daily online quasi-blog 'White House Briefing' is "highly opinionated and liberal".

Because of that she believes that the column should not be allowed to retain the name 'White House Briefing' because some readers may think Froomkin is one of the Post's White House reporters. And that, in the words of the Post's political editor John Harris, "dilutes our only asset -- our credibility" as objective reporters.

Says Howell ...

Harris is right; some readers do think Froomkin is a White House reporter. But Froomkin works only for the Web site and is very popular -- and Brady is not going to fool with that, though he is considering changing the column title and supplementing it with a conservative blogger.

The first point, it seems to me, is that reading one or two of Froomkin's columns would disabuse all but the most foolish readers of any notion that he's a White House reporter. Even if he were, he's clearly not writing news copy. It's an anthology of items appearing around the web. And it uses humor and opinion. I think that's clear to anyone who's familiar with the various genres of writing that have grown up on the web over the last few years.

As for balancing Froomkin with a conservative blogger, can't we just match him with Jim Hoagland and it call it a draw? That would be pretty generous, I think. Has there ever been any accounting for all the misinformation Hoagland (presumably) unintentionally spread through his column? And what about all the stuff he's made up since then to cover for the earlier baloney? Who balances him? Who balances Howie Kurtz's sometimes myopic focus on 'liberal bias'? How about the fact that an editor at the Wapo.com recently intentionally tilted a scandal story to include more Democrats than the facts would bear so as to make the story appear more 'balanced'?

More to the point, with all that has happened to journalism and this country in the last three years -- or perhaps just the Post in the last few weeks -- is this really all the Post's ombudsman can think to concern herself with?

The Post has up a detailed graphic of political donations tied to Jack Abramoff going back to the year 1999. The toplines are roughly these. 1) Money tied to Abramoff overwhelmingly came from his Indian tribe clients. In comparison, the money from Abramoff himself and his lobbyists associates were close to negligible. 2) About 2/3 of the money went to Republicans; about 1/3 to Democrats. 3) The max-out year was 2002 when there was $1.85 million in giving.

The Count down for the count?

Those of you who were around for our Social Security coverage earlier this year will remember our many posts on Rep. Chris "The Count" Chocola (R-IN) and his serial Social Security bamboozlement.

Now this from the Cook Political Report ...

What's going on in Indiana? Two new Democratic polls show incumbent Reps. John Hostettler (IN-08) and Chris Chocola (IN-02) in tight races. IN-02

A newly released poll taken for Democratic candidate Joe Donnelly by Cooper and Secrest (November 28-29, 504 likely voters), has Democrats crowing about their chances to defeat two-term GOP Rep. Chris Chocola. The poll showed Republican Rep. Chris Chocola ahead of Donnelly by six-points - 46 percent to 40 percent - but taking less than 50 percent of the vote. This will be the second meeting for Chocola and Donnelly. Last year, Chocola beat the Democratic businessman by 9 points - 54 percent to 45 percent.

It's clear that Chocola hasn't gotten a solid hold on this Republican-leaning, but marginal district. In the 2002 contest to replace retiring Democratic Rep. Tim Roemer, Chocola won with just 50 percent of the vote. And in 2004, despite outspending Donnelly by a 2-1 margin ($1.4 million to $700,000), Chocola took just 54 percent of the vote. President Bush, meanwhile, won this district in 2004 with 56 percent of the vote. Democratic insiders argue that Chocola has benefited in his last two races from a political environment that was tilted in favor of Republicans. This year, they note, the wind is in Chocola's face.

Note that the poll is commissioned by Donnelly, Chocola's Democratic opponent. But as Cook notes, Chocola has never solidified his position in his district. And in both of his races he's had a GOP tide on his side.

So this is a race to watch, both as a possible Democratic pick-up and for high comedic value.

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) is joining us this week at TPMCafe's Table for One to discuss the renewal of the USA Patriot Act and take your questions. He just did his first post on the status of the bill and what we can expect from him on the senate floor this week. Take a look.

Lillo Brancato, who played Matt Bevilacqua on The Sopranos, was booked this morning on suspicion of murder in the death of off-duty New York City police officer Daniel Enchautegui, 28.

Early this morning, Enchautegui, who had been on the force for three years, went to investigate an apparent robbery of a neighbor's home. When Brancato and accomplice Steven Armento, 48, emerged

Daniel Enchautegui
from the home, Enchautegui identified himself as a police officer and ordered the two men to stop.

Armento fired once, mortally wounding Enchautegui.

Before collapsing, however, the wounded officer fired six shots, hitting Brancato twice in the chest and Armento in the abdomen, chest, right leg and groin.

Brancato and Armento hobbled off, only to be caught a short time later by police officers responding to Enchautegui's call for back up.

Enchautegui was pronounced dead at 6:09 AM at Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx. According to the New York Times, police are investigating the possibility that Brancato and Armento were trying to rob a drug dealer but went to the wrong house.

A week ago it was reported that Justice Department lawyers had concluded at the time that the DeLay redistricting plan of 2003 violated the Voting Right Act, but that senior DOJ officials overruled that finding and okayed DeLay's plan anyway.

Justice Department officials have now instituted a policy to assure this never happens again. They have, as reported in today's Post, "barred staff attorneys from offering recommendations in major Voting Rights Act cases, marking a significant change in the procedures meant to insulate such decisions from politics."

It's the Bush model: politics over expertise and/or law. Whether it's at the Pentagon, the CIA, Justice or the EPA hardly matters. The formula is consistent throughout.

New York Magazine ...

Bush-administration officials privately threatened organizers of the U.N. Climate Change Conference, telling them that any chance there might’ve been for the United States to sign on to the Kyoto global-warming protocol would be scuttled if they allowed Bill Clinton to speak at the gathering today in Montreal, according to a source involved with the negotiations who spoke to New York Magazine on condition of anonymity.

Bush officials informed organizers of their intention to pull out of the new Kyoto deal late Thursday afternoon, soon after news leaked that Clinton was scheduled to speak, the source said.

The threat set in motion a flurry of frantic back-channel negotiations between conference organizers and aides to Bush and Clinton that lasted into the night on Thursday, and at one point Clinton flatly told his advisers that he was going to pull out and not deliver the speech, the source said.