The Daily Muck

GOP-Connected Coin Dealer Goes on Trial in Ohio
“Less than a month before Election Day, a politically connected coin dealer accused of embezzling from a state investment in rare coins went on trial Monday in a scandal that has rocked Ohio’s Republican Party.

“Tom Noe, 52, is accused of stealing more than $2 million from a fund for injured workers and spending it on his business and renovating his home in the Florida Keys….

“Noe, once a member of state boards that oversee the Ohio Turnpike and Ohio’s public universities, was a top GOP fundraiser who gave more than $105,000 to Republicans, including
President Bush and Gov. Bob Taft during the 2004 campaign….

“Defense attorney William Wilkinson said Noe’s contract with the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation allowed him to borrow money from the investment fund or loan it to others.

“‘You can’t steal something from the owner of property if they give you permission to use it,’ Wilkinson said….

The trial is expected to last at least six weeks, through the Nov. 7 election.” (AP, Toledo Blade)Homes Raided in Rep. Weldon Influence Probe
“Federal agents raided the homes of Rep. Curt Weldon’s [R-PA] daughter and one of his closest political supporters yesterday as part of an investigation into whether the veteran Republican congressman used his influence to benefit himself and his daughter’s lobbying firm, according to sources familiar with the investigation.

“The investigation focuses on actions the Pennsylvania congressman took that may have aided clients of the business created by his daughter, Karen Weldon, and longtime Pennsylvania political ally Charles Sexton, according to three of the sources.

“A grand jury, impaneled in Washington in May, has obtained evidence gathered over at least four months through wiretaps of Washington area cellphone numbers and has scrutinized whether Weldon received anything of value, according to the sources. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the investigation.” (WaPo, Roll Call, LAT, NYT)

Was Mark Foley Blackmailed to Secure His Vote on CAFTA?
“What does Mark Foley’s vote on CAFTA have to do with his no longer secret sex life? In late July of 2005, Congressman Foley suddenly reversed his position and cast the key swing vote which led to the passage of the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA).

“On the night of the vote, President Bush had called Foley to pressure him to change his anti-CAFTA position. The South Florida Congressman was not only under pressure from the White House, but also from the House Republican Leadership to support the bill. But Foley received huge campaign contributions from the Florida sugar lobby, which bitterly opposed CAFTA and Foley had loyally followed his benefactor’s wishes in previous votes. That he would flip his position under pressure raises some serious questions….

“How could the Republican leadership have gotten Foley to betray his “sugar daddy” and support his district’s loss of countless jobs? Since it was widely known on Capitol Hill that Foley was a closeted homosexual, he was never going to rise above the “lavender ceiling” in the Republican party leadership. Moreover, he had raised prodigious amounts of campaign money, so what other kinds of leverage did they have against him other than his sex scandals simmering beneath the surface?” (Counterpunch)

Hastings Criticized For Lax Ethics Prosecution in House
“While still in its early stages, the [House ethics panel] inquiry [into the scandal surrounding former Rep. Mark Foley] already has had some missteps.

“After an Oct. 5 news conference announcing the investigation, critics accused [House ethics chairman Rep. Doc] Hastings [R-WA] of being too close to House Speaker Dennis Hastert [R-IL] a key focus of the Foley investigation. Some Democrats and others contend Hastert and other House leaders did not do enough to stop Foley after they became aware of some of the electronic messages he had sent.

“Asked whether he personally supports Hastert, who named Hastings to lead the ethics committee, Hastings said, ‘I think the speaker has done an excellent job.'” (AP)

Scandal May Counteract State’s Rightward Lean
“Florida is home to several competitive congressional contests this year, most of which rated as such long before the Foley scandal broke. But other races, especially Foley’s once-safely Republican seat, were strongly affected by the controversy.

“All this is taking place in a very populous state where overall conservative tendencies have spurred a Republican ascendancy in recent years. But the fact that partisan politics in the longtime Southern Democratic stronghold still can be highly competitive could not have been more strongly underscored than by the virtually tied 2000 presidential contest in the state, won by George W. Bush by a minuscule and eternally controversial margin.” (CQ Politics)

Hamdan’s Lawyer Thinks Detainee Bill Will Be Ruled Unconstitutional
“Lt. Commander Charles Swift, the lawyer who represented Guantanamo detainee Salim Hamdan in the landmark Supreme Court case that ruled President Bush’s military commissions unconstitutional and in violation of international law, appeared on C-Span yesterday to take questions from viewers. Swift has been dubbed the “hero of Guantanamo,” yet he was recently “passed over for promotion” by the Pentagon.

“Swift spoke forcefully against the detainee legislation the House and Senate approved in September. ‘Unfortuantely,’ Swift said, Congress did ‘exactly what Justice Kennedy told them not to do’ and passed ‘legislation that was done in the heat of the moment.’ ‘I don’t believe that it’s going to match constitutional muster when the courts have an opportunity to take a look at it,’ Swift added.” (Think Progress)

Relatives Have ‘Inside Track’ in Lobbying for Tax Dollars
“Lobbying groups employed 30 family members last year to influence spending bills that their relatives with ties to the House and Senate appropriations committees oversaw or helped write, a USA TODAY investigation found. Combined, they generated millions of dollars in fees for themselves or their firms.

“The connections are so pervasive that, in 2005 alone, appropriations bills contained about $750 million for projects championed by lobbyists whose relatives were involved in writing the spending bills.” (USA Today)

Associate of Abramoff Had 12 Meetings with Bush Staff
“A lobbyist associated with Jack Abramoff, the convicted former “superlobbyist”, met White House officials on 12 occasions in 2003 and 2004 on behalf of an association that represented PartyGaming and other online gaming websites, according to billing records released by Congress.

“White House officials’ meetings with Shawn Vasell, a former associate of Mr Abramoff, were documented by the latter’s former lobbying firm, Greenberg Traurig. The documents were released following a broader investigation into contacts between Mr Abramoff’s team and the Bush administration by the House committee on government reform.” (Financial Times)

Internal Specter Review Found No Wrongdoing
“An internal investigation of a senior aide to Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and spousal connections to Congressional earmarks found that no illegal or unethical activity occurred, according to a copy of the report reviewed by Roll Call.” (Roll Call, sub. req.)

GOP Rep Paid Campaign Hand with Gov Dollars
“In 2004, when he ran for his second term in Congress, [Rep. Jeb] Bradley (R-NH) allowed his chief-of-staff, Debra J. Vanderbeek, to collect $114,779 in government salary, even as she actively ran his re-election campaign. As early as April 28, 2004, Vanderbeek was identified in press reports as “a spokeswoman for the Bradley campaign.” On at least seven other occasions that year, newspapers quoted or named Vanderbeek as campaign manager or campaign press secretary. But at no time in 2004 did Vanderbeek disappear from Bradley’s payroll. In her lowest-paid quarter, she earned $25,268 in government salary; in the fourth quarter, which encompassed all of October and the beginning of November—that is, peak campaign season—she collected $30,060 in government pay.” (Mother Jones)

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