Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

Articles by Josh

There's more news out today about the investigation into Rep. Bill Jefferson (D) of Louisiana. The details are still sketchy, and somewhat contradictory as they emerge from articles in the Post and the Times-Picayune. But what now seems clear is that Jefferson got caught up in an FBI sting.

The Post suggests the sting centered on a high-tech start-up firm in Northern Virginia, while the hometown paper points to a much more complicated and muddled series of connections with foreign ties and trips to Africa and South America.

Whatever the details, and even if this is a sting, the two articles contain more than a bit of information that Jefferson might have gotten stung.

Sources told the Post, for instance, that one item seized in the raids on Jefferson's homes was "a large amount of cash that was kept in a freezer."

The Times-Picayune adds some details to that nugget, if pretty loosely sourced ...

Fawer [Jefferson's lawyer] disputed rumors since the raids that agents left Jefferson's Marengo Street home with a large amount of cash, perhaps as much as $500,000, and that they had timed their raids out of concern that in his then-impending trade mission to Brazil, Jefferson was providing himself an opportunity to move the money out of the country.

"That's just nonsense; it's not true," Fawer said. "I can't tell you there was no money seized, but it is not true that sums like that were taken either here or in Washington. I don't believe the money was in the six figures."

I'll be curious to hear when this investigation started or revved up.

I just promoted a reader blog entry on this topic over at TPMCafe and I thought I'd raise it here too. Who's on the case when it comes to the flat tax? The FairTax Book, a piece of right-wing agitprop dedicated to abolishing the income tax and replacing it with sales taxes borne mainly by the middle class and the poor.

This certainly seems to be coming down the pike. But, like I said, who's on the case?

Yet more backstory on Jack Abramoff, Adam Kidan and Gus Boulis and the unfortunate misunderstandings about Suncruz, from Forbes ...

But the deal was quickly mired in violence and controversy. Boulis allegedly threatened to kill Kidan, jumping over a desk and throwing punches; Kidan filed a restraining order. And in February 2001, Boulis was murdered at the age of 51 in a hail of gunfire in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (See: "Going For Broke.")

Shortly after the murder, both Abramoff and Kidan told Forbes they were out of the country when it happened. They said they had made themselves available to the police for questioning through lawyers. Yet as of yesterday, Fort Lauderdale police say Abramoff has eluded them. Though police said he is not a suspect, he is "definitely someone of interest" in the still ongoing investigation of Boulis' murder.

A reporter had mentioned to me that <$NoAd$> Abramoff had quickly volunteered that he'd been out of the country when Boulis got whacked, so quickly in fact that at different times he mentioned different countries as the country he'd been out of the country in.

Now, when Forbes says "They said they had made themselves available to the police for questioning through lawyers" does that mean that they sent word through their lawyers that they were available for questioning? Or does it mean that their lawyers were happy to answer questions for their clients -- always of course the way cops like to do their questioning?

The Forbes piece also mentions the suit that Boulis' estate filed against them after he got rubbed out ...

The suit claimed that in the weeks before Boulis' death Kidan wrote three $10,000 checks to Anthony Moscatiello, a man once indicted for racketeering along with a brother of gangster John Gotti. (The case ended in mistrial.) Adding to the intrigue was Kidan's past: His mother was murdered in the doorway of her Staten Island home in an apparent robbery attempt. Chris Paciello, a Miami night club owner and a reputed associate of the Bonanno crime family, later pleaded guilty to the murder.

Small world.

Theoretical physicists sometimes talk about alternative universes. But I think I just found one right here on my website.

You may have noticed that down there toward the bottom of the sidebar we've started running google ads in addition to the regular image ads we've been running for almost two years. Unlike our regular ads, we have no control over what text ads run with google on our site. And, perhaps more importantly, the advertisers don't control where they're appearing either.

It's all run by some algorithm that scans what I write about here and then tries to come up with ads that are in some way related to what I'm discussing.

So here's where we get to our alternative universe.

Now, I know there are a lot of people in this country who not only support President Bush but are deeply committed to him at various levels. But I must say that there's still some dissonance created for me when I see that Fox Bronze Art is now selling a Bronze bust of our 43rd president, mounted on black granite, and measuring 16x10x7 inches, for only $1,995.

And if I'm not mistaken, the casting is meant to represent his heroic moment flying on to the aircraft carrier to announce mission accomplished.

What a heroic moment that was.

I think I may get one for my desk here. Or perhaps one to put with the rest of my household gods.

Like I said, an alternative universe.

Oh that's just great.

You know about the indictment of Jack Abramoff yesterday for his dealing relating to SunCruz, the casino boat operation down in Florida. And you also have heard about how Rep. Bob Ney of Ohio gave speeches on the floor of the House to help Abramoff (and his then-partner and now-fellow indictee) Adam Kidan squeeze Gus Boulis into selling them SunCruz. Boulis is the guy who later got whacked in the gangland hit after everything went sour.

But I at least didn't know that Abramoff was apparently trying to expand the SunCruz operation to Saipan, the US Pacific Island protectorate where he was best known for protecting owners of sweatshops from congressional efforts to clamp down on their system of indentured servitude.

This article from The Saipan Tribune spells out the details, the exciting news that laborers in Saipan would get jobs on the casino boats (one of which was supposed to be "deployed" by August 2001) and the even more exciting news that SunCruz would "create job opportunities for local workers who may also ask to be transferred to other company-operated floating casinos in the mainland US, Asia or the Carribbean."

I think the Brits had a system like that, didn't they?

Anyway, take a look.

(ed.note: Props to TPM Reader RS for the catch.)

Another thought on the Abramoff story.

People tend to think of this story as the DeLay crew finally getting caught with their hands in the cookie jar. And some of the immediate causes of Jack Abramoff's troubles were some Indian elections that went bad for him. But there's another part to this story that will be important to keep an eye on.

There are many theories about who's leaking on who in generating all these revelations about Abramoff and his associates. But it's clear that a big factor in all of this -- a big factor in generating a lot of these stories -- is a division between different groups of ex-DeLay aides -- particularly, the one surrounding Abramoff (the one that has everyone rushing for the exits, if they can find an open door) and that around Ed Buckham.

With Jack Abramoff under indictment, a number of readers have suggested that now he might flip and try to offer the feds some figures higher up the food-chain. (Remember, this indictment is not from the DC-based grand jury we've mainly been hearing about; it's a separate grand jury in Florida, tied to alleged fraud in the purchase of a casino boat line. Jack really gets around.)

But I hear it's a bit different. I hear Abramoff has already tried to do that, and been rebuffed. And this gets us into questions I think we'll be talking about a lot.

Why would he be rebuffed?

Decisions like that go right to the top. And since Abramoff's shenanigans are closely tied -- to be generous -- not just to members of Congress (DeLay, Ney, Burns, et al.) but to key GOP power players (Norquist, Reed, et al.) and quite probably Karl Rove himself, you can see why he (i.e., Abramoff) might have a harder time than your usual perp cutting a deal to implicate those above him.

That DC grand jury investigation of Abramoff can't go on forever. Eventually the lawyers at the Public Integrity Section will go to their bosses with some decisions about just who they want to indict. That's when Al Gonzales will have to show his cards.

That's an interesting approach.

Charles Alfred Dreyling Jr., 24, was caught Wednesday trying to Delta Airlines jet bound for Attanta with a pipe bomb in his luggage. It was equipped so that it could be detonated with his cell phone.

When asked, Dreyling told investigators that he had made the bomb, but that it was for recreational purposes (blowing them up with friends in rural Oklahoma) and that he had forgotten that it was in his suitcase.

We all know how powerful the web can be for raising political money. Well, if you're game, the Duke Cunningham Legal Defense Fund is apparently ready to accept your donation.

Only yesterday, when I was reporting on Jack Abramoff's part ownership of now-bankrupt SunCruz -- a casino boat operation down in Florida -- I was told there was a decent chance Abramoff would get indicted for fraud some time soon in that case too. And mind you, this is a different case, a different grand jury, than the one looking into his other shenanigans in DC and elsewhere.

And sure enough, the AP just moved a story saying that Abramoff will be indicted later today.

For those of you keeping score, this is the casino boat company in which one of Abramoff's co-owners was later whacked in a gangland style hit after the things started to go South.

And yes, there's also a Conrad Burns connection. SunCruz was the company Abramoff used to bring Burns' staffers to the Super Bowl back in 2001.