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Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

The project that I was referring to in the previous post is this article ("Pacific Whim") which has just been published today in The New Republic.

The article is about Douglas H. Paal, a one-time China policy advisor to George H. W. Bush, who served in the NSC during the first Bush administration. Paal is soon to be appointed to serve as America's de facto Ambassador to Taiwan.

(The United States has not officially recognized the government of Taiwan since 1979. Since then, the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) has handled America's diplomatic affairs in the island nation. And its Director functions as the United States' de facto ambassador.)

The article discusses certain controversies surrounding Mr. Paal and his appointment.

At various points over the last two months or so, regular readers have written in to ask why the posts didn't seem as regular or as frequent as usual. The answer is that I was working on a big project. It comes out tomorrow.

This Associated Press article describes various notes and letters exchanged between Ken Lay and Clinton Treasury Secretaries Robert Rubin and Lawrence Summers. The Bush administration just released the documents to the AP under a Freedom of Information Act request. The rapid release of these documents is exactly as it should be. But why is it that the Bush administration only seems to understand this principle when it's Clinton administration documents that are in question?

Let's have some fun with the comical Jonathan Snare, shall we?

As you'll see below the appropriately named Snare is the lawyer representing the Texas Republican party in its hopeless, ill-conceived and comical attempt to shut down a satirical website mocking the Texas GOP's connections to Enron.

Well, it turns out you don't have to scratch too far to find out some other entertaining details about our man Snare.

Snare is "Of Counsel" at the San Antonio-based firm of Loeffler, Jonas & Tuggey, a politically-wired Texas law firm. Snare himself works out of the Austin branch.

Now, how about Loeffler? Thomas G. Loeffler?

He did a stint in Congress from 1979 to 1987. But he also turns out to be a close friend and long-time fund-raiser for George W. Bush -- one of the president's "pioneers." In fact, according to this report by Texans for Public Justice, Loeffler was one of the top five individual money-givers to the president out of 212 'pioneers' they looked at. Loeffler was #4 with $495,424 tossed into the pot, just behind #3, Ken Lay, with $574,550.

Really, calling Loeffler and Lay 'pioneers' hardly does them justice. In the effort to open up the GWB frontier, Tom Loeffler was more like the Meriwether Lewis to Ken Lay's William Clark.

(Or maybe Lay is Lewis and Loeffler is Clark? For now, let's say Loeffler is Lewis since we're talking about him. If Lay feels slighted I'd recommend he drop TPM a line here and we'll try to make it up to him.)

From the look of it, Loeffler's forte is fund-raising not in ethics.

Texans for Public Justice says ...

Loeffler also topped a list of five members of Congress whose campaigns received illegal corporate money from Vernon Savings & Loan, which failed at a taxpayer cost of $1.3 billion. A Vernon officer told an ‘89 grand jury that Loeffler offered to set up a meeting with then Treasury Secretary James A. Baker III if they helped pay Loeffler’s debt from a failed ’86 gubernatorial bid. Four Vernon executives then moved $8,000 in laundered corporate money to Loeffler’s campaign, this officer testified, just before federal regulators forced them to resign.
At the moment, he seems well positioned to cash in on the GWB influence-peddling gravy train. His law firm's DC office seems to be a lobby shop. I just hope he sticks to lobbying and stops having his legal goons harass the proprietors of small websites.

A couple days ago we noted the hilariously inept efforts of the Texas Republican party to shut down a parody website satirizing Enron's alleged ownership of the Texas GOP.

We can now bring you a copy of the letter the lawyer for the site's creator sent to the attorney for the Texas GOP on Monday.

February 18, 2002

Mr. Jonathan L. Snare
Loeffler, Jonas & Tuggey, L.L.P.
755 East Mulberry, Suite 200
San Antonio, Texas 78212

RE: Your letter dated February 12, 2002 to Kelly Fero

Dear Mr. Snare:

This firm represents Mr. Kelly Fero in connection with your demand that he shut down his EnronOwnstheGOP website. Apparently, you believe that Mr. Fero is misappropriating the Republican Party of Texas' trademarked elephant.

We specifically deny that the EnronOwnstheGOP website infringes or dilutes any trademark. Our client has a First Amendment right to express his opinion regarding the relationship TPM World Exclusive!  You heard it hear first!  Must Credit.between the Texas Republican Party and the Enron Corporation through a parody of the Party's website. In effectively communicating his message, Mr. Fero also has the right to enlist the aid of the Party's symbol. Using a mark to ridicule what the mark stands for is the type of criticism that has traditionally been afforded both "fair use" and constitutional protection.

Courts around the country have consistently protected persons exercising their right to free speech from trademark claims where the speech involves clear parody. This is particularly true in cases like this, where the speech is noncommercial and constitutes pure political opinion. Additionally, it is inane to suggest that any Texas voters will be confused or misled by our client's website. According to the February 16, 2002 edition of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, even your client has conceded that voters are highly unlikely to confuse Mr. Fero's website with that of the Texas Republican Party.

Mr. Jonathan L. Snare
February 18, 2002
Page 2

If you pursue this matter, please be assured that your actions will be met with a vigorous response.

Sincerely,

Doug W. Ray

DWR:cb

Like I said earlier, I'm hoping President Bush taps Jonathan Snare for White House Counsel after Gonzales resigns.

More great moments from the annals of aggressive accounting.

Yesterday's New York Times has an excellent story which I imagine would only have been written in quite this way in the post-Enron era.

The article describes the new hot trend financial advisors are pitching to major corporations. Incorporate a shell parent company in Bermuda and cut your corporate income taxes by millions of dollars.

Here's an example from the article ...

Becoming a Bermuda company is a paper transaction, as easy as securing a mail drop there and paying some fees, while keeping the working headquarters back in the United States.

Bermuda is charging Ingersoll- Rand just $27,653 a year for a move that allows the company to avoid at least $40 million annually in American corporate income taxes.

The company is not required to conduct any meetings in Bermuda and will not even have an office there, said its chief financial officer, David W. Devonshire.

"We just pay a service organization" to accept mail, he said.

How nice for them.

The reaction from the Bush administration is telling.

The White House has said nothing about these moves and their effect on tax revenues. Mark A. Weinberger, chief of tax policy in the Treasury Department, said the moves to Bermuda and other tax havens showed that the American tax system might be driving companies to make such decisions. "We may need to rethink some of our international tax rules that were written 30 years ago when our economy was very different and that now may be impeding the ability of U.S. companies to compete internationally."
Let's focus on the key line here: "the American tax system might be driving companies to make such decisions." This is the rich man's version of the argument which holds that inner-city hoodlums shouldn't be held to account for mugging old ladies because of limited job opportunities in the ghetto and persistent underfunding of Headstart.

This is the sort of story, the sort of muck that could fuel a potent new movement for reform. Not one that would demonize big business as such, but one which would steel our collective resolve that taxes shouldn't simply be a burden which middle-income suckers are forced to pay while big corporations devise clever schemes to dodge them.

This is about equity and patriotism.

If you will entrust me with your hard-earned dollars and contribute them to my campaign, I will use that money to make my case to the voters of our district, to tell a story about the struggles of working families and to enlist a dubious also-ran in the annals of forensic science to exonerate me of any responsibility for the tragic murder of my bosomy young girlfriend ...

Okay, I grant you, that's not an exact quote from Gary Condit. But it seems close to the basic idea.

Frank Bruni's article on Condit in yesterday's New York Times Magazine reports that the soon-to-be-former congressman used $1000 from campaign funds to pay for the private polygraph test which allegedly cleared him of any connection to the disappearance of one-time paramour Chandra Levy.

Are liberals hopeless suckers?

You better believe it.

Back in 1997 and 1998, as the presidential contenders were readying their engines, all Democrats pretty much realized that the nomination was Al Gore's to lose. But liberals were discomfited by Gore's centrism and casting about for some standard-bearer. Dick Gephardt decided he was that man.

Eventually, Gephardt decided that the Gore juggernaut could not be stopped and he stepped aside and endorsed Gore. But until then he pitched himself as the real Democrat, the Democrat who wasn't afraid to admit he was a Democrat (as Jim Fallows put it in this article), the Dem who still believed in the old time New Deal religion. Throughout the latter years of the second Clinton administration, looking toward the 2000 primaries, Gephardt consistently positioned himself as the leader of the party's liberals -- and signaled his stance by bucking the administration on some key votes.

I had just started working at the American Prospect -- the publication of liberal Democrats -- at the time and people had totally taken the bait.

Now, we're getting ready for 2004 and the lay of the land looks a little different. Gore wants to run again. Maybe Tom Daschle (though TPM feels confident this will never happen). And others. Now, Gephardt has decided he's going to run to the right of everyone else, as the one who doesn't believe in the same old tax and spend, who doesn't want to revisit the Bush tax cut, and so forth.

There are two possible explanations here. Either the Democratic party has lurched hard to the left in the last four years or Gephardt is a shameless opportunist...

And they say Bill Clinton's slick willie? That Al Gore's constantly reinventing himself?

Is Army Secretary Thomas E. White pulling an Argyros?

As TPM readers know, White was a major player at Enron as well as Chairman and CEO of Enron Operations Corporation, a major Enron subsidiary. Here's his description of his Enron involvement in his pre-scandal Defense Department bio ...

Prior to his appointment as Secretary of the Army, Secretary White served as Vice Chairman of Enron Energy Services, the Enron Corporation subsidiary responsible for providing energy outsource solutions to commercial and industrial customers throughout the United States. Mr. White was responsible for the delivery component of energy management services, which included commodity management; purchasing, maintaining, and operating energy assets; developing and implementing energy information services; capital management; and facilities management.

Secretary White also served as a member of Enron's Executive Committee and was Chairman and Chief Executive Officer for Enron Operations Corporation. He was also responsible for the Enron Engineering and Construction Company, which managed an extensive construction portfolio with domestic and international projects.

Here's the description in the new bio ...

From 1990 to 2001, Mr. White was employed by Enron Corporation and held various senior executive positions.
Special thanks to TPM reader RC for the catch.

This is classic. The Texas GOP has sent a cease and desist letter to Kelly Fero, who runs a Texas GOP parody site called www.EnronOwnsTheGOP.com.

"Texas GOP attorney Jonathan Snare said the site was clearly intended to mimic the party's trademark symbol and Web site and mislead the public," reports the Associated Press.

My only question is how we can get Snare and his doofus boss at the Texas GOP to come work for the national Republican party.

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