Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Wow. 34% approval rating for President Bush, according to the just-released CBS poll. I think even by the technical dictionary definition, that blows.

Here's a question: who can put that into some historical perspective for us. What presidents got below the magic 35% line? And when? I think I have pretty clear recollection of Bush's dad getting into similar territory in 1992. But who has more data?

Late Update: TPM Reader AJ sends in this helpful historical poll run-down. Perhaps more relevant is this run-down of second-term numbers from CBS.

Under every administration there are examples of individuals or tax exempt groups (associated with the opposing party) getting audited by the IRS. It always, or usually, looks a bit fishy. But there's seldom any concrete evidence of politicized decision-making at the IRS to point to. So partisans on one side or another make their judgments in the absence of hard proof. And that's pretty much where it ends.

There's a astounding piece on page A3 of the Post today about one of these instances -- only in this case there appears to be more or less conclusive evidence that it was a political hit.

The group is question is Texans for Public Justice -- a outfit which had a lot to do with turning up the information about illegal fundraising and money distributions that eventually ended Tom DeLay's reign as Majority Leader.

They got audited by the IRS. And after what was no doubt a lengthy process, they've been cleared.

But why were they audited?

Apparently the IRS audited TPJ because the IRS commissioner got a request for an audit from Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX.), a DeLay ally. And who put him up to it? Apparently, a DC lawyer named Barnaby W. Zall, whom the Post identifies as "close to DeLay and his fundraising apparatus."

The whole episode got going when Johnson wrote to then-IRS commissioner Mark W. Everson and told him he had "uncovered some disturbing information" about TPJ and asked Everson to "to report back your findings of each of these investigations directly to me."

Other material referenced in the Post piece shows that Zall was quite clear when he contacted Johnson that he was trying to protect DeLay.

Anyway, just so we're all on the same page here. DeLay fundraising lawyer is worried that TPJ might end up deep-sixing the boss. DeLay fundraising lawyer contacts DeLay-lackey congressman and asks him to sic the IRS on TPJ. DeLay-lackey congressman does as he's told. And so does the IRS. TPJ gets put the wringer for uncovering information about DeLay's crimes.

With all the shenanigans we've seen from these characters in recent years, I can't say I'm surprised. But I am astounded by how much evidence there appears to be as to just how this happened. Why isn't Rep. Johnson in more hot water?

Finally a Republican who admits to the Dems' talking point! Randy "Duke" Cunningham cites "a culture of corruption in Washington." That and other news of the day in today's Daily Muck.

A note from TPM Reader AK ...


As I heard NPR's reports about Sunis pulling shiites out of their homes (and prbably vice-versa), a chill went up my spine. I have no doubt that the worst is about to begin in Iraq with ethnic cleasnsing / mass murders/ Lebanon-style (Sabra and shatilla) civil war about to begin. And the US is stuck in the middle. While it would be great to get out right now (last month would have been better), the responsibility for everything is on us. We can't leave now, and we will be blamed (mostly correctly) for all that is about to happen. I am filled with dread. Our leadership is still saying to hold the line, when the line is not there.

Fear and hate is a vicious combination, each feeding off the other, like a well-built fire.

Hmmm. Rep. Don Young (R-AK) keeps telling the press up in Alaska that he "never had any personal or professional relationship with [Jack] Abramoff." Now, as regular readers of TPM know, we have a cache of unpublished Team Abramoff emails from back in the day.

So this evening, after we heard about the Bermuda shorts dispute, I started leafing through the emails to see if Rep. Young's name came up.

It didn't take long.

The first one that caught my attention was an internal Team Abramoff email from Jennifer Calvert, a lobbyist who worked for Jack Abramoff, to Abramoff and Susan Ralston, Abramoff's then-executive assistant.

It's dated February 2nd, 2000 and the subject line reads "Suites - Don Young".

The text of the email reads ...

Don Young has asked for the use of our suites for some upcoming fundraisers. At this time, could we reserve the following events for Don Young?

Thursday, March 30, Caps vs. Pittsburgh game 7:00 p.m.

Monday, July 24, Orioles vs. NY Yankees game 7:35 p.m. (assuming we have the box)

So Young asked Abramoff's deputy to ask Abramoff if he could use Jack's skyboxes to hold his fundraisers. But Young doesn't know Jack Abramoff from Adam.

Go figure.

(ed.note: For a breakdown of who footed the bill for the Abramoff skyboxes, see this July 2000 email from Ralston to Abramoff.)

So the real core of the Cunningham defense contracting bribery scandal gets underway. Mitchell Wade, the flashiest of the Duke's bribers, but not the guy at the core of the scams, will enter a guilty plea U.S. District Court in Washington tomorrow morning. It's certainly not a surprise in itself. As we've reported previously, Wade began cooperating with prosecutors very, very early in the course of the case. But we'll be very interested to see what gets mentioned in his plea agreement and how far (and how high -- as some close to the case have long speculated) he takes this into the Pentagon.

Rep. Young (R-AK) Loses Shorts Over Abramoff Ties!

On February 10th, TPMmuckraker.com's Paul Kiel reported on the Abramoff-organized congressional delegation that Rep. Don Young (R-AK) led to the Marshall Islands in February 1999.

One of the more colorful details of Paul's report was the fact that Rep. Young actually addressed the Marshallese legislature wearing Bermuda shorts. Apparently, for someone so used to the frosty climes of Alaska, the South Pacific warmth just got the best of him.

We based our report on the eyewitness account of Tony de Brum, then-Finance Minister of the Marshalls, who witnessed Young's speech and his attire.

Late this afternoon, however, we receieved the news that at a press conference this morning back in Alaska, Rep. Young was asked about the Bermuda shorts incident and he denied wearing Bermuda shorts at any time during his brief sojourn in the Marshalls.

We thought Abramoff's clients were the only ones who lost their shorts because of their association with the disgraced lobbyist. But it seems they're not alone.

We'll keep an eye on the local press and keep you posted on how this late-breaking shorts controversy develops.

Money well spent?

The New Hampshire Union Leader reports that the RNC has now apparently spent some $2.8 million mounting its aggressive defense of convicted phone-jammer and election tamperer James Tobin.

Bush at cabinet meeting: "And so people don't need to worry about security. This deal wouldn't go forward if we were concerned about the security for the United States of America."