Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

Let's return to the matter of Timothy E. Flanigan, currently awaiting confirmation as Deputy Attorney General of the United States, and Jack Abramoff.

To review the highlights of our story, Timothy Flanigan was appointed Deputy White House Counsel at the beginning of the Bush administration. He later left that job to become General Counsel of Tyco Corporation, which had relocated to Bermuda to avoid paying taxes to the US Treasury. At Tyco, Flanigan hired Abramoff to fend off legislation which would have forced Tyco to pay its taxes. And, in the course of that hiring and work, Abramoff first boasted of his access to DeLay, Rove and others and then later claimed that he had spoken to Rove and enlisted his assistance on Tyco's behalf.

When we discussed this Friday, I noted that any suggestion that Abramoff had just fooled Flanigan into believing that he had more access than he had was highly implausible since Flanigan, as Al Gonzales' deputy at the White House, would have gotten a good sense of who Abramoff was and the level of juice he had with Rove and other Republican power-brokers.

Now, after I made this point on the site, a conservative acquaintance of mine emailed and asked a sensible question. If Flanigan was so plugged in at the White House -- enough to know how tight Abramoff was with the president's key advisors -- why exactly did he need to hire Jack Abramoff?

Didn't he already have enough access to handle the issue on his own?

Good question. But there's a pretty straightforward answer once you get a clear view of what sort of operation Abramoff was running.

So this a good opportunity to restate the point.

On paper, Jack Abramoff was a lobbyist. And he made a great deal of money for himself. But if you think of Jack Abramoff as just a crooked lobbyist most of the facts coming out about what he did don't make a great deal of sense. He was a key player in a very big political machine and he was managing a slush fund.

Look at the pattern.

Notice how all Abramoff's clients seemed to get 'bilked' out of large sums of money that ended up going to other conservative foundations, consulting firms, Ralph Reed, lobby shops, Grover Norquist, astroturf organizers, politicians, etc.? All of them part of Washington's Republican infrastructure?

In the case of Abramoff's work for Flanigan and Tyco, Abramoff ended up sending the greater part of their $2 million lobbying fee to an astroturf outfit called Grassroots Interactive -- an outfit allegedly controlled by Abramoff and run by a guy who now works as the Deputy Chief of Staff to the Governor of Maryland.

The money ended up diverted to other purposes beside the honorable task of whipping up populist enthusiasm on behalf of corporations that relocate to PO boxes in Bermuda to avoid paying taxes. Tyco lawyer George Terwilliger claims the firm "was a victim of a rip-off."

So is that it? Another rip-off? Another corporation which hires a lawyer out of the White House only to get taken in by Jack Abramoff's wiles? Please. How many times can one operator pull off the same stunt? How many times do big chunks of these pay days get passed on to other operators and organizations without the operators and organizations getting wise to the game?

These odd diversions aren't the exception but the rule.

The Republican machine built by DeLay, Norquist, Abramoff, et al. and pulled into high gear after 2001, is a pay-for-play political machine. This is just another part of the operation, like the diktat for trade associations to hire only Republicans. Big political machines need their soldiers taken care of -- jobs on K Street which also discipline the trade associations under Hill leadership. Just so, they need big sums of money to move around off the books. How does Rove keep the millions moving to Norquist? To Reed? To all the other operatives whose names you don't know about?

Indian tribes bursting with millions who need very focused sorts of legislative intervention -- that's one good source of money. Corrupt Pacific Island governments who need similar help -- another good source.

If Tyco wanted help, they had to pay in. That's what the $2 million was. Of course it got passed on to some other GOP outfit with Abramoff connections. That was the point!

You know how on pretty much every government website, when you click a link that takes you to another site, there's that somewhat tedious announcement that you're leaving the government website and that they're not responsible for the content?

Check out this page at socialsecurity.gov, go to the bottom of the page and click the button entitled "retirement income calculator."

You know that the House Republican leadership has created a House Select Committee on Hurricane Katrina, and that the Democrats, wisely, declined to participate since it's controlled by the Republican leadership and thus highly unlikely to be anything but an exercise in White House damage control.

Now it turns out that on Tuesday at 10:00 AM they are going to have Brownie himself under oath at the Rayburn Building.

We're obviously way past the point where any Republicans are defending Brown. Indeed, he's now the designated fall-guy for the whole sorry mess. So, figure the questions will either be off-point or, when critical, critical in such a way as to focus blame for mishaps uniquely on him rather than on an administration which cared so little about disaster preparedness as to appoint him.

But I thought it would be an interesting exercise to come up a list of questions that might be asked if the House committee weren't in fact a sham. Call it a counter-factual, questions produced for an alternative reality in which there was actually congressional oversight.

I know it will be tempting to ask questions of the 'Mr. Brown, why hasn't God struck you down with a thunderbolt yet?'. But I'm thinking more of questions which might elicit significant new facts. We've set up a thread over at TPMCafe to discuss this. So think detail and specifics. What questions would you ask Brownie under oath if you had the chance?

As I mentioned yesterday afternoon, we ended up getting about eight hundred ticket requests to the Serenity screening Wednesday night. But we only had around two hundred seats.

We've now sent out notifications to everyone we were able to provide seats for. So if you haven't heard back, we were not able to give you a ticket.

Separately, there was similarly high demand for the tickets to screenings in other parts of the country. And the studio publicity folks handling those screenings were similarly overwhelmed with not enough seats for all the requests.

Unfortunately, in their case, this apparently led to their sending out emails about screenings in the wrong cities and emails about different ticket offers and a bunch of other confusion.

So please accept my apologies for whatever hassles anyone had with requests to the studio publicity folks for tickets for screenings in those other cities.

We're running a tad late on the email notifications about who got tickets for Wednesday night's screening. Give us till about 1:30 PM this afternoon.

Okay, no more requests for tickets to see the Joss Whedon movie Serenity in Union Square next Wednesday. We've had an overwhelming response. And, honestly, we have about four requests for every ticket at the moment.

TPM has been up and running for just about five years. And over that time I've gotten very good and understanding and predicting the ebb and flow of traffic, what sort of response we'll get when we have contests or raise funds. But I didn't have much to go on in trying to figure out what the demand would be for tickets to a movie screening in one geographically confined, if also densely populated, area. By the time I plugged back in this afternoon we had about 800 requests for about 200 tickets.

Obviously we won't be able to provide seats for everyone who requested one. But I understand that it'll be very helpful to find out sooner than later whether you got a ticket, to be able to plan and so forth. So I am going to make every effort to make sure everybody hears back from us no later than noon tomorrow. If you requested tickets and haven't heard from us by then, check the site and we'll have some update.

The movie looks like a lot of fun. And I look forward to seeing a lot of you on Wednesday night.

Unrelated to this particular movie event, we have plans for more TPM events in the New York area in the near future. So for those of you who would like to meet fellow readers, we have more fun stuff coming up.

For all of us who criticize from the sidelines, sometimes it's hard to appreciate the sort of tireless, behind-the-scenes efforts that the White House puts into into screwing the middle class and abandoning those displaced and uprooted by Katrina.

From the LAT ...

Two days after Hurricane Katrina slammed into the Gulf Coast, the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced plans to issue emergency vouchers aimed at helping poor storm victims find new housing quickly by covering as much as $10,000 of their rent.

But the department suddenly backed away from the idea after White House aides met with senior HUD officials. Although emergency vouchers had been successfully used after the 1994 Northridge earthquake, the administration focused instead on a plan for government-built trailer parks, an approach that even many Republicans say would concentrate poverty in the very fashion the government has long sought to avoid.

A similar struggle has occurred over how to provide healthcare to storm victims. White House officials are quietly working to derail a proposal by leading Republican and Democratic senators to temporarily expand Medicaid. Instead, the administration is pushing a narrower plan that would not commit the government to covering certain groups of evacuees.

There's plenty more in the <$NoAd$> piece.

Just for the sake of discussion, and I'd be particularly eager to hear from TPM's right-leaning readers on this one, isn't the idea of giving rent vouchers to refugees rather than stacking them up in mobile housing projects something that folks on both sides of the aisle should be able to agree on?

On the hand, who gets to build and fit out the gazillion standard issue mobile homes? Halliburton residential? I guess that's the answer.

Now down to a mere thirteen Democrats who haven't yet signed on as cosponsors of H.R. 3763, the bill to overturn the Gulf Coast Wage Cut ...

1. Mr. Sanford D. Bishop Jr. of Georgia 2. Mr. Dan Boren of Oklahoma 3. Mr. Rick Boucher of Virginia 4. Mr. Allen Boyd of Florida 5. Mr. Robert E. "Bud" Cramer Jr. of Alabama 6. Mr. Henry Cuellar of Texas 7. Mr. Lincoln Davis of Tennessee 8. Mr. Bob Etheridge of North Carolina 9. Mr. Mike McIntyre of North Carolina 10. Ms. Cynthia McKinney of Georgia 11. Mr. John M. Spratt Jr. of South Carolina 12. Mr. John S. Tanner of Tennessee 13. Mr. Melvin L. Watt of North Carolina

The number of Republicans who have signed on as cosponsors has now risen to zero.

Another Iraq War vet to run for Congress, Bryan Lentz. He's going to run against Rep. Curt "Freelance Spy/International Man of Mystery/Shaken not Stirred" Weldon (R-PA).

We had Rep. Ferguson (R) of New Jersey down as a Wage Cut Wiggler. But now it seems he's a 'Serious Concerns' man -- one the moderate Republicans (signers of the LoBiondo letter) whose concerns are serious enough to send a letter asking the president to set a date when he'll stop docking wages but not serious enough to vote for the bill to end the Wage Cut right now.

Dumpmike.com has just posted a copy of the letter Ferguson has sent to his constituents.