The Daily Muck

Surveilling Arlen Specter
“Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) has begun to resemble a living bookend to Frank Capra’s fictional Mr. Smith, the naive everyman who went to Washington with an incontrovertible aversion to compromise. For Specter, “compromise” has become another term for victory, not defeat. . . .

“‘On the one hand, he seems to know that [the NSA domestic spying program] is wrong,'” explains Lisa Graves, a lobbyist for the American Civil Liberties Union who previously worked on the Judiciary Committee’s Democratic staff. “But on the other hand, he is unable to stop himself from helping to ratify it.'” (Salon)Good Fortune Follows Those Related to Weldon
Two of Rep. Curt Weldon’s (R-PA) daughters have done well for themselves, one as a lobbyist, another working for an Italian arms maker. And now Ken Silverstein finds that Weldon’s son, who is a race car driver, is sponsored by a firm called Schaffer Motorsports. “Schaffer Motorsports… is owned by Tom Schaffer, a senior employee at Boeing; One of the sponsors of Schaffer Motorsports is Boeing Helicopters Credit Union, whose logo appears on the racecar Andrew Weldon drives. Boeing, in turn, is Weldon’s top career patron, to the tune of $62,050 in donations.” (Harper’s)

White House Bill Proposes System to Try Detainees
“Legislation drafted by the Bush administration setting out new rules on bringing terror detainees to trial would allow hearsay evidence to be introduced unless it was deemed “unreliable” and would permit defendants to be excluded from their own trials if necessary to protect national security, according to a copy of the proposal.” (NYT)

Delay Used Government Staff for Politics after Leaving Congress
“Almost a week after Tom DeLay delivered a bitter and partisan farewell speech from the House floor and abandoned his 22nd District Texas House seat, he was still using government staff and equipment to craft political strategy and respond to media inquiries….House rules are direct and clear. Government staff are prohibited from using official resources for political purposes.” (Lone Star Project [warning – pdf])

Despite Troubles, Calif. County Likely to Keep Embattled Lobbyist — for Now
San Bernardino County is poised to extend by six months its contract with the lobbying firm formerly known as Copeland Lowery. The firm broke up recently, after a federal investigation into dealings by its top Republican partners was revealed. (Riverside Press Enterprise)

DoJ Files Suit against Privacy Investigation by Missouri Agency
“The federal government sued two members of the Missouri Public Service Commission on Tuesday to stop them from seeking information about customer records that telephone companies may have given to the National Security Agency. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in St. Louis, claims disclosure of any information the Missouri regulatory body wants to obtain could cause ‘exceptionally grave harm to national security.'” (AP)

Disastrous Jet Program Recommended By Think Tank With Conflict of Interest”
“The endorsement [for the jet program] came from the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA), a federally financed research center whose president, Dennis C. Blair, is a member of the board of a subcontractor for the F-22 Raptor fighter program, EDO Corp. EDO developed a missile launcher for the F-22 and has held contracts worth at least $38 million that are part of the program, according to its news releases…[The] $65 billion F-22 program, one of the most expensive fighter programs ever undertaken by the Pentagon, has been plagued by cost overruns and technical problems, including a cockpit door that got stuck, trapping a pilot, and front landing gear that retracted when it was not supposed to, crashing a plane on its nose.” (WaPo, ThinkProgress)

After Ten Years, Native American Suit May Be Close to an End
“American Indians suing the government over billions of dollars in lost royalties say they are contemplating an offer by members of Congress to resolve their lawsuit for $8 billion. The offer is considerably lower than the $27.5 billion plaintiffs offered to settle for a year ago. But plaintiffs say they are considering it seriously, bringing them closer than ever to ending the lawsuit, which has bogged down the Interior and Justice departments for 10 years.” (AP)

Internet Gambling Bill Seen Delayed in Senate
“A bill to outlaw most forms of Internet gambling appears unlikely to win U.S. Senate passage before senators begin a month-long recess on August 4, two Republican leadership aides said on Tuesday.” (Reuters)

The Gambling Is Virtual; the Money Is Real
“In Washington, the House overwhelmingly approved legislation recently that would clamp down on Internet casinos in part by restricting the ability of American financial institutions to process wagers…. Still, few experts expect the crackdown to do anything more than dent the industry.” (NYT)

Bill Protecting Reporters May Not Pass
“Sen. Richard Lugar and Rep. Mike Pence, both Indiana Republicans, acknowledged at a National Press Club lunch that their proposed Free Flow of Information Act faces an uphill struggle with only a few months left in the 109th Congress…Pence disclosed that the first hearings by a House committee would be Sept. 14. The bill still needs approval by a Senate committee and the full Senate, a House hearing, House committee approval, full House approval, probably a conference to resolve differences, final votes on both chambers and President Bush’s signature — all before Congress wraps up this fall, Lugar said.” (AP)

Graves Introduce Legislation To Protect Company That Gives Military Personnel Extremely High Interest Loans”
Rep. Sam Graves (R-MO) has been pushing legislation that would be hugely beneficial to a company called Pioneer Financial Services, a company that has been roundly criticized for predatory lending practices. A number of lobbyists close to the company, which specializes in loaning to military personnel, have close ties to Graves. (Fired Up! Missouri)

Frist Says He Got No Gain from HCA Deal
“Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, under investigation for selling his stock in HCA Inc., said Tuesday he didn’t know in advance the hospital chain founded by his family planned to go private….The Tennessee Republican said he learned about the buyout proposal, which was announced Monday, from newspaper reports….Frist said he would not benefit from the deal, saying “to the best of my knowledge,” he owns no HCA stock.” (AP)

Lobby-Pact Extension Favored for Scandal Lobby Firm Client
” San Bernardino County supervisors today are expected to give an embattled Washington, D.C., lobbying firm a six-month contract extension while they seek new proposals for the work. The county has used the firm formerly known as Copeland, Lowery, Jacquez, Denton & White since 2002, but the group split last month amid a federal investigation into its relationship with Rep. Jerry Lewis, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. ” (PE)

NC Rep Banks on Earmarks in his Race for Reelection
“Heath Shuler’s decision to hammer Rep. Charles Taylor (R-NC) for his prolific earmarking could backfire with voters, political analyst and professor Larry Sabato said. “Earmarks have helped many a congressman in a competitive district get reelected under adverse political conditions,” said Sabato, director of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. “People are grateful. It creates jobs, generates additional dollars. … All those people who benefit from earmarks are going to realize the payday may stop if Taylor gets defeated.”” (The Hill)

How Will Abramoff Play in Alabama?
Alabama Democratic candidate Lucy Baxley has been trying to use Governor Bob Riley’s (R) ties to Michael Scanlon and Jack Abramoff against him. (Tuscaloosa News)

Doolittle’s Constituents Hire Lobbyists to Get His Attention
“Craig Robinson, city manager for Roseville, Calif., knows he can get his congressman on the phone. When he does, Robinson calls him John. Rep. John Doolittle (R-Calif.) is a good person for Robinson to know. As a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, Doolittle is in position to dole out millions of dollars in earmarks every year. Despite Robinson’s personal relationship with a congressman with such a plum post, however, Roseville still felt it needed other people working on its behalf in Washington. The city is part of a growing trend of public entities turning to K Street to supplement their Washington representation…’It appears that [Doolittle] is getting contributions to hand out pork to communities that he is representing,’ says Keith Ashdown, vice president for policy at Taxpayers for Common Sense. ‘It’s not kosher pork.'” (The Hill)