Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

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Admittedly, I mentioned this before - but proprietor's privilege. You never know how these things are going to work in practice. But we've got a great exchange going at TPMCafe between Thomas Frank, Ed Kilgore, Todd Gitlin and Greg Anrig about Populism, Marxism (both crude and refined), various other isms, Tom Watson and other stuff -- all bubbling out of their discussion of Tom's book What's the Matter with Kansas. Stop by.

Some saw it as far back as 2003. <$NoAd$>This from a July 17th 2003 piece in The New Republic ...

Democrats say Rockefeller has not served as a particularly effective counterweight to Roberts. Despite his mighty name, bank account, and six-foot-seven-inch frame, Rockefeller is a low-key figure--a senator in the old collegial mold rather than a media-savvy partisan warrior. And he's a relative newcomer to the world of spooks and secrets, having only joined the intelligence committee in 2001. Some Democrats complain that, in contrast to his predecessor, Graham, Rockefeller lacks the necessary expertise for his current role. Rockefeller himself warned as much last fall, telling Roll Call the committee's term limits were "a big mistake." "I know a lot about health care, but it took me about 10 to 12 years to learn that because it is very complicated. This is much more complicated." Sometimes Rockefeller's learning curve is evident. During a July 12 interview with National Public Radio on the Niger uranium fiasco, for instance, he incorrectly referred to Deputy National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, who apparently played a key role in the episode, as a Cheney aide--a small but important distinction.

More important, Democrats say Rockefeller has allowed Roberts to roll over him. For instance, in early June Rockefeller publicly threatened that, with the support of four other committee Democrats, he could force Roberts to conduct an open investigation. In fact, Rockefeller overstated his power-committee rules only allow members to force a closed meeting--but previous intelligence chairmen have generally honored such minority--party requests for broader investigations. When Roberts refused to observe that precedent, Rockefeller essentially yielded. And, although he had the power to block it, on June 20 Rockefeller signed off on Roberts's plan to hold a handful of closed hearings, with the vague promise of one open hearing in September. The news came "to the serious dismay of the caucus," says a Senate Democratic staffer. "Many in the caucus think Rockefeller is being used."

This, of course, was well before the 2004 SSCI Iraq intel report travesty.

A pained TPM Reader checks in ...

I wouldn't expect anything different from Pat Roberts and his attempts to justify, mollify and cover-up Bush's failures, but Jay Rockefeller is clearly the tool of the man. He appears with Roberts on the news shows, and he either shills for Roberts or is totally ineffective in pointing out Roberts' efforts to cover-up. I can't be mad at a Republican for acting like a Republican, but I am upset at the ineptitude of my own man.

Too true.

As long as we're talking about Al Gonzales' '12 hour gap', don't forget this letter from the CIA to Rep. John Conyers, which we posted a year and a half ago, in which the CIA's Director of Congressional Affairs highlights the Agency's multiple attempts to get the Ashcroft Justice Department to do something about the Plame leak.

Take a look. You can almost hear the sound of the foot dragging.

In case you were wondering, we're going to announce the winners of our Duke Cunningham Shenanigan Worksheet contest later this week.

(Of course, the entries are slightly out of date, given this morning's revelations about Duke's attempt to lean on the Queens DA, then fixing to indict Thomas Kontogiannis on multiple felonies, in exchange for various boat and house emoluments.)

And we've just started our roundtable exchange about Tom Frank's What's the Matter with Kansas over at the TPMCafe Book Club. Greg Anrig, Todd Gitlin and Ed Kilgore have just posted their thoughts on the book and Tom will be responding later.

Also later today, help TPM with a pressing diction problem! 'Toady' and 'lickspittle' aren't doing the job for Sen. Pat Roberts, seeing as they convey shameless sycophancy, rather than a degraded willingness to do any and all of Karl Rove's dirty work. And 'hack', while appropriate in meaning, is simply too shopworn and colloquialized to serve the purpose.

Late Update: By popular demand, we've just opened a Sen. Roberts new epithet thread at TPM Cafe.

RNC product testing a new tactic in Kentucky?

Gov. Ernie Fletcher tried to persuade Attorney General Greg Stumbo to dissolve the special grand jury investigating whether officials broke civil service hiring laws, according to a memo released yesterday.

In the July 5 memo from Fletcher general counsel Jim Deckard to Stumbo, the governor agreed to "suggest that mistakes may have been made" in filling state jobs that merit laws are designed to insulate from politics.

And he would take "appropriate personnel actions" against employees found to "have exercised less than good judgment."

Deckard said yesterday that Stumbo agreed to terms of the memo during a meeting over the July 4 weekend, but Stumbo disputed that.

The memo details how Fletcher would appear before the grand jury -- not under oath and with a lawyer -- to report on "new policies" regarding the hiring of civil service workers.

But Fletcher asked that the special grand jury not issue a report detailing evidence it had reviewed, and that no future grand jury take up matters already under investigation, according to the memo.

Stumbo was out of state yesterday and did not return calls. But he said in a telephone interview Sunday that the written memo "was hogwash. I wouldn't sign it."

I guess they'd call it the McConnell <$NoAd$>plan?

Just when you thought it was safe to go back down to the yacht basin, the Duke story returns!

I know they're hard to keep straight. But you'll remember that one of Duke's several cronies and sugar-daddies was Thomas T. Kontogiannis, the Long Island real estate developer convicted of a far-ranging kick-back, bid-rigging and bribery scheme centering on a public school district in Queens. In addition to the millions of dollars in fraudulent contracts, about 80-grand of his money also ended up finding its way into the campaign coffers of the Queens school superintendent when she unsuccessfully ran for Congress. But then, I digress.

Just to review, Kontogiannis gave Duke a) a loan at wholesale rates to buy a condo in Northern Virginia, b) a million dollar loan at the same rates to buy the new manse in Rancho Santa Fe that got Duke into all the trouble, and c) bought Duke's boat, the Kelly C, from him from at what seemed to be three or four times its market value.

Somehow or another the boat money ended up getting Duke out of paying back most of the million dollar loan. But the details escape me.

In any case, one mystery to the Kontogiannis angle has always been just what Kontogiannis got from Duke for all the free money. Remember, the standard merchandise Duke sold was the corruptly-obtained defense contract. And Kontogiannis' lines of business seemed limited to real estate and large-scale municipal corruption.

So it wasn't easy to see how these two entrepreneurs could end doing business together, though the massive skein of public corruption investigations and convictions hovering around Kontogiannis did always suggest that when there was a will there'd be a way.

Indeed, when the Post's Charles Babcock asked Kontogiannis earlier this month whether all his free goodies to Duke might constitute favors of an inappropriate sort, Kontogiannis had the Copolla-esque response: "Why would I do that? I don't need the man."

Well, it turns out Duke was in a position to do Kontogiannis a favor. He faxed a letter to the Queens DA basically suggesting that he back off and cut the K-man some slack.

Lest I be summarizing the matter too poetically, here's how Babcock describes it in his follow-up piece in tomorrow's Post ...

Cunningham wrote that it had come to his attention that the prosecutor had filed a case against Kontogiannis. The congressman wrote that there may be a political agenda against the school official by a disgruntled contractor and that Kontogiannis may have been victimized as a result. He asked Brown to contact him with any information he could provide on the case, and he thanked the prosecutor for considering his concern.

Cunningham noted in the letter, the sources added, that he had filed a congressional inquiry with Rep. Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.), who was then chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and attached a note in which a committee lawyer acknowledged receiving the inquiry and said he was looking into it.

Sam Stratman, a spokesman for Hyde, said the note "was merely a matter of courtesy to acknowledge that the committee had received [Cunningham's] request." When the committee lawyer "learned that the New York case was a potential criminal matter," Stratman said, "any inquiry would have been inappropriate. No inquires were ever made of New York officials by the chairman or his staff."

Oh, what a tangled web ...

Late-Breaking Pat Roberts Egregious Hackery Update!

Sen. Pat Roberts (R) prevented the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence from making any inquiry into the origins of the Niger forgeries. His reason was that there was an on-going FBI investigation and he didn't want to interfere in any way with that investigation.

(See the footnote on page 57 of the SSCI report or this earlier post.)

As we've noted here repeatedly, at least as of late last year the FBI investigation was really a phantom investigation, with little actual work being done to solve the mystery -- something Sen. Roberts almost certainly knew.

So it would seem that any overlap between a criminal investigation and a congressional inquiry is a big no-no to Roberts.

And yet now we hear that he plans to investigate Patrick Fitzgerald's investigation itself.

What this man won't do when Karl Rove calls.

Good catch by Kos.

Sen. Roberts doesn't have time to investigate the manipulation of prewar intelligence, the Niger forgeries or the Plame disclosure.

But he does have time to investigate how the CIA uses 'cover' in its clandestine operations. And as part of his new exercise in water-carrying he will also investigate Patrick Fitzgerald's criminal probe.

Note the specifics: I didn't say he'll be investigating what Fitzgerald's investigating; he's apparently found time to investigate the Fitzgerald probe itself. Roberts' spokesperson Sarah Little told Reuters that his "committee would also review the probe of special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, who has been investigating the Plame case for nearly two years."

Can any Senate Democrat not see now that Sen. Roberts only use for his committee is as a tool to defend the political interests of the White House? And will anybody deny that the decision to investigate Fitzgerald comes down on the orders of the White House?

ThinkProgress has a spot-on post today about Al Gonzales' excuse for giving Andy Card a twelve hour heads-up on the DOJ order to preserve White House documents relating to the Plame leak. Gonzales says that then-AG John Ashcroft or his subordinates said it was okay.

If that's true, then the proper response is certainly to tell Ashcroft that there's plenty of room in the Plame-obstruction cauldron, so jump right in. I mean, really. Rove worked on and off for Ashcroft for two decades. And he was a key player in getting Ashcroft off the unemployment line (after losing his senate seat to the then-recently-deceased Mel Carnahan) and into a new job (Attorney General).

Indeed, he eventually had to recuse himself from the case -- which is how the to-all-appearances aggressive and independent Patrick Fitzgerald ended up getting the appointment.