The Daily Muck

Some Seek ‘Pink Purge’ in the GOP
“In recent years, the Republican Party aimed to broaden its appeal with a “big-tent” strategy of reaching out to voters who might typically lean Democratic. But now a debate is growing within the GOP about whether the tent has become too big — by including gays whose political views may conflict with the goals of the party’s powerful evangelical conservatives.

“Some Christians, who are pivotal to the GOP’s get-out-the-vote effort, are charging that gay Republican staffers in Congress may have thwarted their legislative agenda. There even are calls for what some have dubbed a “pink purge” of high-ranking gay Republicans on Capitol Hill and in the administration….

“Some social conservatives deny they are interested in removing gay staffers from the party.

“‘We’re not calling for what I’ve heard referred to as a pink purge,’ McClusky said. ‘We’re asking that members [of Congress] might want to reflect on who’s serving them: Are they representing their boss’ interest?’

“Mears of Concerned Women for America said purging gays from the GOP would not necessarily help the evangelical cause. ‘If you get rid of all the homosexuals in Congress and on the staff, you’d still have Republicans like Chris Shays [the Connecticut congressman] and Susan Collins [the Maine senator] pushing the gay agenda.’

“This week, a list that is said to name gay Republican staffers has been circulated to several Christian and family values groups — presumably to encourage an outing and purge. McClusky acknowledged seeing the list but said his group did not produce it and had no intention of using it.” (LAT)Ex-House Clerk May Be a Key in Foley’s Case
“Mr. Trandahl, a commanding behind-the-scenes player on Capitol Hill before stepping down last year, was little known outside Congress. But he has emerged as a central figure in the case of how the House Republican leadership dealt with the conduct of Mark Foley, the former representative whose sexually charged messages to Congressional pages have shaken the midterm elections.

“As the House ethics committee pursues its investigation, few accounts are more crucial than Mr. Trandahl’s in determining whether Republican leaders acted with enough urgency. He is scheduled to testify to the committee on Thursday, when he could corroborate — or contradict — accusations that Speaker J. Dennis Hastert’s office knew about Mr. Foley’s behavior at least three years ago.” (NY Times)

Sponsor of Page E-mailed by Foley to Talk
“A Louisiana congressman and sponsor of a page who later received questionable e-mails from ex-Rep. Mark Foley is going before a House ethics panel to explain how his office handled the teen’s complaint last fall.” (AP)

House Page Program Leaders Discuss Trip
“House page program overseers this week discussed a camping trip that Rep. Jim Kolbe [R-AZ] took with two former pages and others in 1996, a congressional official said Tuesday. The trip is under review by the Justice Department.

“The five-member House Page Board, three lawmakers and two House officials, took no action and did not have any information beyond recent news accounts of the trip, the official said.

“The discussion indicates that the board is moving beyond the overly friendly e-mails, and sexually explicit instant messages that ex-Rep. Mark Foley [R-FL] sent to former male pages. The House ethics committee and the FBI are investigating Foley’s approaches to the teenagers.” (AP, WaPo)

Foley to Reveal Name of Alleged Abuser
“Disgraced former Congressman Mark Foley, who claimed he was sexually abused by a Roman Catholic clergyman when he was a teen, will reveal the man’s identity to the Archdiocese of Miami, his attorney said Tuesday.

“No criminal charges can be filed because the statute of limitations on sexual assault expired long ago, but the archdiocese requested information about Foley’s accusations, attorney Gerald Richman said.” (AP)

Congress Aides Ignored Bribery Signs: Report
“Congressional aides ignored numerous warning signs about disgraced former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham’s cozy relationship with contractors who paid him millions in bribes, a report released on Tuesday said.

“The report by the U.S. House Intelligence Committee found no evidence that staffers benefited from any of the bribes taken by Cunningham, the California Republican now serving an eight-year prison term after pleading guilty to taking $2.4 million in bribes….

“The report was completed in May but has been kept under wraps while committee members argued whether Cunningham should be subpoenaed.

“It was finally made public by California Rep. Jane Harman, the committee’s top Democrat, who has pushed for Cunningham to appear before the committee, even if he refuses to testify….

“The Republican chairman of the committee, Michigan Rep. Pete Hoekstra, said Cunningham has offered to testify and blasted Harman for releasing the report without his permission.” (Reuters, NY Times, The Hill, Roll Call, LAT)

Detainee Bill Becomes Law
“President Bush said he was saving lives with a stroke of his pen Tuesday, signing a law authorizing tough interrogation and prosecution of terror suspects.

“The legislation gives legal protection to CIA agents who have used harsh techniques to force alleged terrorists to describe their plans, their al-Qaeda leaders and other information that Bush said has helped prevent attacks on the United States. It also opens the door for terror prosecutions before military commissions, without some of the rights defendants are usually guaranteed under U.S. law.” (Time)

Jefferson Not Out Yet in Re-Election Bid
“A word of advice for the pundits who started writing U.S. Rep. William Jefferson’s political obituary months ago: Not so fast….

“[Looming] legal troubles, along with the fact that Hurricane Katrina decimated his district and scattered his traditional base of supporters, would be enough to sink most politicians. But ‘Dollar Bill,’ as his detractors dubbed him years ago, is a fierce campaigner and formidable power broker who has muscled his way out of tight spots before. ‘There’s a question mark on this one right up to the end,’ said Louisiana political consultant Elliott Stonecipher, of the District 2 race. Jefferson’s ‘historic ability to turn out black votes that others couldn’t find or turn out is why you never, ever, ever say this man is not going to win reelection. Bill Jefferson is one of the masters at this game, and you just don’t ever count him out.'” (Time)

Public Wary of Links with Lobbyists
“An overwhelming majority of Americans believe it’s wrong for lawmakers and their staffs to have contact with relatives who are lobbyists regarding government matters. But a survey of lawmakers suggests they don’t see a problem.

“A USA TODAY/Gallup Poll shows that 80% of respondents believe such actions are inappropriate. By contrast, few members of the House and Senate appropriations committees say they have policies that prevent lobbying by relatives.

“Four committee members who responded to a USA TODAY survey have policies that prevent relatives from lobbying them or their staffs. All are senators: Dick Durbin [D-IL], Tom Harkin [D-IA], Mitch McConnell [R-KY], and Arlen Specter [R-PA]….

“An investigation by the newspaper found 53 cases last year in which members of the appropriations committees or their top aides had relatives in the lobbying business. Of the relatives who sought money in appropriations bills for their clients, 22 succeeded in getting specific language inserted in the bills that guaranteed money for the relatives’ clients.” (USA Today)

FBI Probe Makes Tight Race Tougher for Weldon
“Democratic candidate Joe Sestak may no longer be Rep. Curt Weldon’s [R-PA] biggest obstacle to winning re-election Nov. 7.

“The contest between the two men in the suburban Philadelphia 7th district already was competitive before the news broke Monday that the FBI had conducted six raids as part of an expanding probe into whether Weldon used his office to steer lobbying and consulting contracts to his daughter….

“One House Democratic operative said it was too soon to predict the FBI investigation’s effect on the race. ‘It’s not just Sestak v. Weldon anymore, it’s also Weldon v. FBI,’ the operative said.” (Roll Call)

Congress for Sale?
“For $25,000, lobbyists and big contributors could have had a lobster dinner with Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) or any of the other 16 Democratic senators who spent a weekend this summer in Nantucket at a special ‘retreat.’

“For $15,000, Senator Elizabeth Dole (R-NC) and eight other Republican senators offered the same kind of crowd golf, skeet shooting and lavish dinners at the five-star Greenbrier resort in White Sulfur Springs, W.Va.

“Despite calls for reform in the wake of the scandal surrounding corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff, the cozy relationship continues between members of Congress and lobbyists for big corporations and special interests.” (The Blotter)

The Prolifigate Spending of a Former ATF Director
“According to the [Oct. 11 report by Justice Department Inspector General Glenn Fine], [former ATF director Carl] Truscott, who resigned in August, violated ethics rules by ordering employees to help his nephew with a high school video project. Among a dozen instances of poor judgement cited in the report, Truscott wasted tens of thousands of dollars by taking unnecessary trips with an entourage. And he asked two female assistants, a GS-12 and GS-13, to prepare lunch for him and visitors, and to then announce, ‘Lunch is served, sir.’

“But poor judgement and questionable management by Truscott, who formerly headed President Bush’s security detail, extended beyond personal extravagance. He squandered millions through an ill-advised hiring plan and last-minute changes to the design of ATF’s new headquarters, the IG report said. He would have wasted more if subordinates had not stopped him, it added.” (Federal Times)

Ex-F.D.A. Chief Pleads Guilty in Stock Case
“Lester M. Crawford, the former commissioner of food and drugs, pleaded guilty Tuesday to lying and conflict-of-interest charges in connection with stock he and his wife owned in companies regulated by the F.D.A.

Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson, who accepted Dr. Crawford’s plea to two misdemeanor charges, scheduled sentencing for Jan. 22 in Federal District Court.” (NYT)

Bush Critics Without Jobs on the Rise
“Had Charles Swift been an attorney with any U.S. law firm, he would’ve been rewarded with a cash bonus and promotion to partner. Against agonizing odds, Swift went before the U.S. Supreme Court representing an Arab terrorism suspect and beat the U.S. government by successfully arguing that President Bush’s kangaroo court military tribunals were unconstitutional.

“However, Swift’s triumph—hailed as ‘brilliant’ by colleagues and earning The National Law Journal’s ‘Lawyer of the Year’ runner-up honors—cost Swift his career: He’s a U.S. Navy lieutenant commander-attorney being passed over for promotion. So, under the “up or out” policy, the Naval Academy graduate and 20-year veteran will retire next spring, presumably thereupon overwhelmed with law firm job offers.

“Swift’s no-promotion fate, which the Pentagon unconvincingly dismisses as sheer coincidence, is no rarity: The ranks of those fired or who ‘retire’ for embarrassing Bush & Co. by discrediting its policies are growing.” (Idaho Mountain Express)

Congressman Says Earmarks Could Cost GOP Power
“A leading Republican critic of special-interest spending earmarks said Tuesday that the GOP risks its congressional majority by defending the practice.

Rep. Jeff Flake [R-AZ] said a report Tuesday in USA TODAY was the latest in a series of revelations casting an ethical cloud on earmarks, a way lawmakers direct money in a spending bill to a specific item or program.” (USA Today)

CREW Says Pastor Violated Rules That Apply to Tax-Exempt Groups
“A watchdog group filed a complaint Tuesday with the IRS against a Minnesota church, claiming the pastor violated the church’s tax-exempt status by endorsing Republican congressional candidate Michele Bachmann.

“An official from the church, Living Word Christian Center in Brooklyn Park, Minn., said Tuesday that the pastor misunderstood IRS guidelines and promised it wouldn’t happen again. But the watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said it would not rescind the complaint.” (AP)

Pro-Republican Ads Stretch the Truth on Iraw to Influence Elections
“It’s an easy claim to make, calling yourself a “political truth squad.” But when a shadowy group pouring untraceable millions into this fall’s campaign makes that claim, that bears a little truth-checking itself.

“Television ads from the group, Progress for America, manage to grab the heart, but also stretch or twist the truth as they work to boost support for the Iraq war.” (McClatchy Newspapers)

Judge Allows 9/11 Lawsuits to Go Forward
“A federal judge on Tuesday refused to toss out claims by thousands of emergency workers who sued New York City and about 150 private contractors after the workers were sickened by dust at the World Trade Center site.

“Judge Alvin K. Hellerstein dismissed claims against Consolidated Edison Co. and companies controlled by developer Larry Silverstein, saying they did not have legal control over the area and therefore were not liable for damages.

“But Hellerstein said the city, its contractors, and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey were only partially immune from lawsuits, with the precise scope and extent of the immunity varying according to date, place and activity.” (AP)