Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, the FBI has opened a preliminary investigation into the Randy "Duke" Cunningham case.

And there's also a bit more information about why Elizabeth Todd, the woman who set the wildly-inflated price for the home sale, might have done so: apparently she'd never sold a house before in her life. After she helped the Duke unload his first house on Mitchell Wade, Cunningham hired her to help him purchase the $2.55 million new house.

According to California records, helping the Duke buy the second house was Todd's first real estate transaction. Ever.

Commission on a $2.55 million home? Nice first commission.

From this evening's Nelson Report ...

[There is] an increased press and Congressional focus on the so-called “Downing Street Memo”, from the then-head of Britian’s secret service to Prime Minister Blair, stating flatly that President Bush and his top advisors had determined to go to war with Iraq well in advance of playing out the UN process.

Such an interpretation is, of course, arguable, as per the Bush/Blair press conference last week, about which you will have read, and will read more tomorrow, given a suddenly large push by more than 100 Hill Democrats. Our point for tonight is that this memo, really a series of memos, has had a strange life...but after a delayed reaction in this country, it seems to be leading somewhere...where, exactly, is the question.

We can report, not as a partisan, but as an observer who happened to be working for a Congressman deeply involved in the Pentagon Papers fight of 1971, that old hands note eerie similarities to the start-up process of questions raised, and the potential for Congress to become more seriously involved.

Two examples of related concerns to the “Downing Steet” memos: DOD Secretary Rumsfeld’s pre-positioning of thousands of troops and large stores of equipment, months before the final decision was made; the top-level White House involvement in the “torture memo” process that led directly to the international humiliation of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, despite internal warnings from then-Secretary of State Powell and Deputy Secretary Armitage.

Add those up, add your own examples, and you will know why you hear conversations in the past couple of days using the “impeachment” word...not as a prediction, this is way too soon and/or extreme for now...but as part of an attempt to measure historic parallels, and to think aloud on how far this process might go. Maybe nowhere? Or, maybe we’re just seeing the beginning of something. We mention it tonight because the conversation is being held less quietly than before, and politics in Washington may be about to get even worse, if you can imagine anything worse.

Passed on without <$NoAd$> comment.

San Diego Union-Tribune columnist Logan Jenkins says: "Duke's done. One way or another, an under-the-table real-estate deal will end his long run in Congress."

With the news today that the boat Randy "Duke" Cunningham lives on down at the yacht club really isn't 'his' yacht but rather a yacht pretty clearly bought for him by a defense contractor getting his help on the appropriations committee, you really have to wonder: How do they think they'll get away with it? And yet, until now he has.

Yeah, I know. Apparently the Duke is 'renting' the boat. But how is it exactly that Mitchell Wade's boat got named the 'Duke Stir' anyway? He's a big John Wayne fan?

In any case, this is one of the things that always surprises me about Washington. There are many members of Congress -- hopefully most, but who knows? -- who are almost comically precise in following all the various rules and regulations about who has to pay for meals or whether some little trinket gift has to be reported. And when you're literal about them the rules are pretty broad and encompassing.

Even folks who get in trouble for campaign finance stuff are often breaking technical rules which, while important, don't go to issues of personal gain for the member of Congress involved. A lot of DeLay's troubles stem from Texas laws about corporate giving in political campaigns in the state.

And then you've got Duke Cunningham who appears to be more or less owned by a defense contractor with business before his committee. I mean, when you add up all we know, it seems like Mitchell Wade basically bought or heavily contributed to buying the Duke luxury homes (albeit, one waterborne) in the district and in Washington. And apparently no one noticed.

It's right out of the 19th century.

Living large, free of charge.

Ever since the story broke Sunday about Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham and his uncanny real estate prowess, there've been questions bubbling about just how he affords other aspects of his lavish lifestyle. One question that's popped up again and again was how he can afford to have a 40+ foot yacht as his DC residence.

While in Washington, you see, the Duke resides on the "Duke Stir", a 42-foot, 34-ton yacht docked at the Capital Yacht Club down on the Potomac River.

Well, it turns out that the "Duke Stir" is owned by Mitchell Wade.

In reply to William Finn Bennett, who has the story in this morning's North County Times, Cunningham's office sent an email in which the Duke said: "I am putting information and records together so that you will know how much I pay to stay there, and you will see that everything we've done is appropriate."

I think we're pretty much at checkmate now, aren't we?

Tomorrow on page A9 in the Post: Republicans fumble and quarrel over how to find an exit strategy on Social Security. Moderates say pull out the troops; wingers say keep pushing till the job gets done.

Hasty Hastert Rebukes Duke!

From the AP ...

House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., told reporters Wednesday he'd seen the allegations and that's why the committee was needed. "We need to get the ethics committee up and running," he said.

It seems we may be in free-fall mode right now. But in case the Duke flames out before the Ethics Committee can get the shutters open, there's always Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH).

Uh-boy. I don't know why or how. But MZM, Inc. (the defense contracting company owned by Randy "Duke" Cunningham's real estate sugar daddy Mitchell Wade) is awful deep into Rep. Virgil Goode (R) of Virginia.

Earlier we told you about MZM's outsized giving to Goode in the 2004 election cycle.

But check out their giving so far this year. In the 2006 election cycle MZM employees have made a total of 23 contributions for a total of $34,625.

Every dollar went to Rep. Goode.

What's up with that?

Late Update: This blog says the stats I was looking at missed a bunch of other contributions from the wives of MZM execs.

Even Later Update: Just a note to be clear on Rep. Goode. By the standards that prevail in Washington today, nothing I've seen says he's done anything wrong. And I want to be clear that the stats and contribution numbers I've highlighted tonight don't prove or even really suggest that he has (again, by the rather frail ethical strictures that prevail in Washington today). What I am noting is that MZM Inc. seems to have a real problem playing by the rules. And because of that, the members of Congress who they're heavily courting (like Goode) probably bear a real close look.

It Just Don't Get Later Than This Update: We hear that MZM's interest in Rep. Goode probably stems from the fact that the Army's National Ground Intelligence Center is located in his district. Our attention is directed to the recently-released Base Realignment and Closure Report for more insight on what's up.

I realize I may have been a bit hasty in assuming that Randy "Duke" Cunningham's real estate escapades weren't necessarily tied to statecraft.

It seems that twice last year the Duke visited the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on the dime of Ziyad Abduljawad.

Abduljawad is the founder and chairman of PLC Land Company, what The Hill calls, "a multi-million dollar real estate company in Cunningham’s district."

That's interesting.

This blog points out that MZM, Inc. defense-contractor-cum-real-estate-agency throws a decent amount of money around. And not just to Randy "Duke" Cunningham. A decent amount of it goes to Rep. Virgil Goode (R) of Virginia.

In fact, when you look at this chart at OpenSecrets, you'll see that the employees of MZM, Inc. gave Goode $48,551 in the last election cycle.

That's a helluva lot of money for one member of Congress from one small company. The next runner-up was McDermott International. And they gave only about a quarter of that amount ($12,750). When I first found this out I figured that Goode must also be on Defense Appropriations, like the Duke.

But it turns out he's not. He's on the Ag subcommittee, which makes sense for his district, but wouldn't seem to have much appeal to a defense contractor. But he's also on the Subcommittee on Science, State, Justice and Commerce. And that must be what makes him such a favored fellow.

As long-time readers know, Goode's a good guy on Social Security. But MZM, Inc. sounds like an operation that plays fast and loose. And it really sounds like Virgil Goode's their friend.

(ed.note: We hear some employees from MZM, Inc. are already starting to talk. So we may well know a lot more about this story quite soon. And one other thing, does prima facie evidence of a bribe in exchange for favorable treatment on contracting assignments get you a day before the Ethics Committee? Just asking.)