Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Even Rush goes after the ghost of Congresses past. Goes after Bob Torricelli.

Yes, I agree! The Torch should resign! What is he still doing in Congress?!?!?!

(ed.note: Thanks to eagle-eyed TPMer TF for braving the hot winds of Rushdom.)

TPM Reader JM from Florida strikes early in the TPM 'Nice Try' Brigade contest bagging a choice nice try from WaPo blogger Chris Cillizza of the new WaPo blog "The Fix".

On "The Fix" today Cillizza posted a "political scandal scorecard" and in the House of Reps he listed ...

Tom DeLay (R-TX) Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA) Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) Rep. Bill Jefferson (D-LA) Rep. Duke Cunningham (R-CA) Former Rep. Frank Ballance (D-NC)

Now, who, you might be asking, is Rep. Frank Ballance? Well, without him included the list might have seemed awfully weighted toward Republicans.

Cillizza's list was supposed to be about scandals in the "past year" and limited to those "members of Congress and governors currently in office."

Cillizza seemed to see there might be some problem with Ballance since he resigned from Congress a year and a half ago. And under Ballance's name he explained ...

Yes, we said we're limiting this list to current members, but this is a fairly recent case so we're making a small exception to the rule. Ballance left office in 2004 and pleaded guilty to charges of mishandling money controlled by his charitable foundation.

In the story Cillizza links to, we see that Ballance was elected in 2002 and resigned from Congress in the summer of 2004. In November 2004 he pled guilty to one charge of conspiracy to commit mail fraud and money laundering.

But it gets better. From what I can gather from the article, Ballance's crimes weren't even committed when he was serving in Congress.

Quoting from the Post's article from November 10th, 2004 ...

The indictment alleged that Ballance channeled $2.3 million in state money from 1994 to 2003 to a nonprofit foundation he operated to help poor people fight drug and alcohol abuse. According to the indictment, more than $100,000 from the John A. Hyman Memorial Youth Foundation went to Ballance's law firm; his church; his mother, Alice Eason Ballance; his daughter, Valerie Ballance; and his son, Garey Ballance.

Remember, Ballance entered Congress in 2003. So what this sounds like is that over the decade before he entered Congress Ballance diverted a hundred grand from his non-profit to various parties tied to him or family. So Ballance gets on the list for something he resigned from for in the 2004 and did before he even got to Congress. Pretty hard to distinguish those facts from DeLay, Doolittle, Jefferson, Ney and Cunningham -- each of whom is either under indictment or the target of an on-going criminal investigation, isn't it.

On this one you can see that Cillizza was really striving for Ballance and, well ... he achieved it.

Late Update: Former Connecticut Gov. John Rowland resigned from office around the same time Rep. Ballance bailed out of the House. No exception for him on Cillizza's list of scandal governors.

Would you like to join our 'Nice Try' brigade?

Let me explain.

There is one Democratic member of Congress who is currently the target of a Justice Department investigation, Rep. William Jefferson of New Orleans. There are also various Democrats who received money from Jack Abramoff or his many clients.

But let's get real. The Abramoff story is overwhelmingly a Republican scandal. Abramoff's whole racket was as a paymaster and slush-funder for the DC GOP machine.

Then there are the half-a-dozen Republican members of Congress being investigated for criminal infractions arising out of the Abramoff investigation. Then there are all their staffers.

Then there is Abramoff-Norquist associate David Safavian, chief of procurement at OMB who was arrested and indicted for deceiving investigators in the Abramoff case.

Then there are the GOP capos who skimmed money off the Abramoff geyser or laundered money for him, folks like Grover Norquist and Ralph Reed.

The Duke Cunningham scandal is a Republican scandal, which we'll soon see spreads into the Rumsfeld Defense Department.

The Abramoff scandal tracks into the Interior Department and the GSA.

Then there's Tom DeLay, remember him, former House Majority Leader, now under indictment in Texas. Set aside that he's also implicated in the Abramoff scandal and quite probably the Duke Cunningham scandal as well.

And then in the other body you've got Sen. Bill Frist who is at the center of a criminal investigation into his stock sales. Frist is actually sort of unique in that it's possible he may not be guilty.

Two Republican members of Congress are under indictment.

Prosecutors have already accused two of taking bribes.

These few examples only scratch the surface. And I've left aside the Fitzgerald investigation because it doesn't turn on money but pure old-fashioned abuse of power.

Yet, Republican media types have been leaning hard yesterday and today on reporters to push the bipartisan corruption line, even though the simple facts of the case simply give no basis for it whatsoever.

It's actually close to laughable.

The simple truth is that Democrats in Washington today just aren't in a position to be corrupt on any serious scale for a simple reason: public corruption is almost always about selling power. Got no power and you've just got nothing to sell. Any idiot can understand that.

The level of public corruption coming to the surface in Washington today is not unprecedented. But there's a pretty good argument that you have to go back more than a hundred years to find anything comparable. And it's almost entirely limited to one party, the Republican party, because it all grows out of the same political machine.

But Republicans are pushing their line. And lots of reporters, not wanting trouble, are doing their best to comply.

Like I said, it's almost laughable.

So let's laugh at them.

Find us the best quotes you can of reporters, pundits, commentators and whoever else trying to minimize the undeniable partisan dimension to the multiple and overlapping scandals breaking out all over Washington, DC. We'll post the top ten. Send them to the regular comments email with the headline "Nice Try Brigade".

TPM Reader PH is worried ...

So, the President is going to announce the beginning of a pull out from Iraq. Where does that leave the so-called flypaper strategy? President Bush has repeatedly justified the Iraq war by claiming: "We're taking the fight to the terrorists abroad so we do not have to face them here at home" and "We either deal with terrorism and this extremism abroad, or we deal with it when it comes to us."

If we are getting out of Iraq, does that mean that he believes that the terrorists there have been eliminated? Or, has he decided to bring the fight back home to the United States? Or, is he hoping that the new Iraqi government and army will defend the United States from terrorism?

Good question, though Cheney et al. have wriggled out of more extreme inconsistencies and fooleries to be sure. Also that guy Bush they have working for them.

We'll be discussing more on this later. But on the Duke Cunningham matter, who helped him? Who cooperated? We know that the charges Duke pled guilty to yesterday listed four coconspirators. Those are the guys who paid him off. But who cooperated on the inside? At the Defense Department? Remember, this was all about securing Defense and intelligence I hear there's more here than just Duke.

More soon.

Brainstorming possible NRCC slogans.

Fully 99% of caucus faces no government accusations of accepting bribes!

You mean former Rep. Duke Cunningham!

It's like the Journal says today, what about Speaker Jim Wright!?!?

TPM Reader TC checks in ...

A reasonable person could read this Jeffrey Birnbaum article in the Washington Post and mistake it for an RNC press release. Among the article's assertions:

Corruption affects both parties, not just Republicans

Occasional prosecutions actually illustrate how clean Congress is on the whole

The public distrusts both parties, not just Republicans (this point is made twice in the article)

The public distrusts incumbents in general, not just Republicans

Voters don't care about party affiliations of officials charged with corruption, especially in cases they've heard of (I'm not kidding) Voters have a general, theoretical dislike of "too much money in politics" rather than a specific dislike of specific (mainly Republican) corrupt politicians

"Happens all the time," "nothing new," and "goes in cycles" are both trotted out as well William Jefferson, William Jefferson, William Jefferson.

Even the headline reads like it was carefully focus-grouped by Frank Luntz: "A Growing Wariness About Money in Politics"

It's sad to watch Birnbaum squirm and dance his way around the central fact that almost all the corruption coming to light now springs from the machinations of Republican politicians, lobbyists, and donors. I hope you find time to comment on this article.

Birnbaum does make some decent points in the article. But I think TC's got this one right.

In the charges released yesterday against Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA) by the United States Attorney in San Diego, the man identified in the 'information' as "Co-conspirator #2" is none other than Mr. Mitchell Wade, formerly CEO and founder of MZM, Inc., the man whose sweetheart purchase of Cunningham's house was the thread that started Duke's skein of corruption unravelling.

Now, Mitchell Wade has since left MZM to spend more time with his lawyers. But before his high-flying life as a corrupt defense contractor came to a grinding halt last summer he was into more than Duke Cunningham. Wade's MZM was in deep with Rep. Katherine Harris (R-FL). So deep in fact that, in a story we broke here at TPM back on June 21st, Harris once had a one day haul of $28,000. Fourteen checks for $2,000 a pop, each from a different MZM employee, each received on March 23rd, 2004. (MZM employees later claimed these contributions were coerced.)

A week later Wade's wife chipped in two more checks for $2,000 each. But I digress. Set aside Katherine Harris for a second and let's get to Rep. Virgil Goode (R-VA).

Rep. Goode and Mitchell Wade talk business.

Back in June we reported that that Goode had snagged $48,551 in campaign contributions from MZM employees the 2004 election cycle. And scarcely six months into the 2006 cycle he'd already gotten $34,625. In fact, at the time, he was the only member of Congress MZM employees had given any money to.

Then a few days later, Jeff Birnbaum wrote a piece on Mitchell Wade and MZM in which he noted ...

MZM also has ties to a Republican congressman from Virginia, Virgil Goode.

In the 2004 election cycle, Goode's largest contributor was MZM; its political action committee and its employees, including Wade, gave a total of $48,551, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Goode was the principal sponsor of a provision in 2003 defense legislation that called for the creation of a military center in his district, known as the Foreign Supplier Assessment Center, which MZM was hired to run, said a senior defense official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the issue's sensitivity.

The official added that the center, which is meant to check on the ownership of foreign companies that contract with the Defense Department, will do useful work, but was not a Pentagon priority and was not requested by the Defense Department. It was mandated by Goode on MZM's behalf, the official said.

The Center opened in October 2004. The photo above is Rep. Goode and Mitchell Wade conversing at the opening. And below is Goode and Wade (Wade is the tall guy with the appropriately nefarious glint in his eye) at the ribbon cutting ceremony.

Mitchell Wade eyes Rep. Goode at ribbon cutting ceremony.

Now, let me make one thing emphatically clear. Goode got what is for a backbench congressman a ton of money from MZM (and its employees). He clearly played a role in getting them set up with this Center in his district which the Pentagon was in no particular hurry to build. But there's no evidence, to the best of my knowledge, that Goode was personally enriched in any by Wade. Personally enriched, that is, as opposed to getting lots of money in campaign contributions.

Still, Mitch Wade has a pretty clear MO. He's also pretty clearly looking down the barrel of some serious indictments. So it seems worth looking to see whether any other members of Congress fell victim, shall we say, to Wade's innovative ways of doing business.