It’s all about the perks. Corporate jets, junkets…and you can add publicly funded luxury cars.
House members are provided the opportunity to lease cars on the taxpayers’ dime, and Knight Ridder reports that many have taken full advantage of it. “Lexuses, Lincolns, Cadillacs, an Infiniti, even a BMW 530i” are among the spoils – the leases ran to over $1 million total last year. Curious as to who has the most expensive wheels? Here’s a list. We were cheered to see Muckraker favorites Reps. Bob Ney (R-OH) and John Doolittle (R-CA) make the top ten with a Lincoln and Toyota Highlander, respectively. No word on who bagged the BMW.* (KR)
Justice Department Leaves Some Clues
The Justice Department pulled the financial disclosure records of several lawmakers and staffers involved in the Abramoff scandal last year, providing some confirmation of who interests them….Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX), Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT), Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH), and Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA), who have long been considered the prime targets of the investigation, all had their records examined. A number of Burns’ staffers, in addition to a DeLay staffer, also had their records examined. So no surprises there. But Reps. Jim McDermott (D-WA), Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and John Sweeney (R-N.Y.), as well as Del. Eni Faleomavaega (D-American Samoa) also all had their records pulled by the DoJ – and none of them have been publicly linked to Abramoff so far. Go figure; Roll Call guesses that DoJ pulled those records in relation to some other investigation. (Roll Call)
Rumsfeld Makes a Killing on Bird Flu
“The US Defence Secretary has made more than $5m (Â£2.9m) in capital gains from selling shares in the biotechnology firm that discovered and developed Tamiflu, the drug being bought in massive amounts by Governments to treat a possible human pandemic of the disease.” (The Independent)
Since the Senate failed to pass a lobbying reform bill this past week, they will not revisit the issue until April – and the House Republicans are not likely to introduce their legislation until April, either. There seems to be a general feeling that the pressure is off on reform, since another indictment has not yet come down in the Abramoff investigation. (NYT, AP)
Iraq Contractor Hit for $10 Million in Fraud Case
Two whistleblowers from Custer Battles LLC won their civil suit against their former employer for fraud in Iraq. They say they’ve had no help from the Bush administration in pushing their grievances.
“The jury’s decision came at the end of a three-week trial in which a string of witnesses testified that Custer Battles, which has offices in Rhode Island and Virginia, inflated its expenses with fake invoices that were run through a series of shell subsidiaries set up in the Cayman Islands. Witnesses also detailed how the company boosted profits by overbilling the government for shoddy equipment.”
The Cunningham-Iran Connection
Laura Rozen has been probing the connections between Duke Cunningham’s two crooked defense contractors and their separate deals in Iran. There are more questions than answers at this point, but no doubt that there’s smoke here. (War & Piece)
Abramoff’s Iowan Tribe
In 2003, Abramoff picked up the Meskwaki tribe in Iowa as a client, in order to help one faction in the tribe win control after an internal dispute had led to the tribe’s casino being shut down. The short version is that Abramoff pulled some strings in the Interior Department, got a few members of Congress to write letters (most notably the nominally anti-gambling Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA)), and the Meskwaki were back in business again before too long. The losing faction, however, has started complaining again, realizing now why circumstances had seemed so stacked against them. The appeals process, for example, was abruptly cut off midway. (The Gazette (no link available))
Burns Restores Dignity to the Senate
From Roll Call:
After a news conference in the Capitol ended Thursday and lawmakers and aides were shuffling out the door, a young woman asked Burns, “How ya doing today, Senator?”
Without batting an eye the Senator replied, “I’m ready to go get knee-walking drunk!”
In other Burns news, the Montana Democrats seem to have been wrong that Burns’ son worked for a lobbying firm run by a former Burns aide. The son, Garrett Burns, was the firm’s systems administrator and was actually canned back in December when the firm downsized. The Burns campaign is somehow trying to make hay out of this, even though the basic point – that the firm, Capitol Coalitions, Inc., which had a number of clients who had great interest in access to Burns, employed Burns’ son – was basically right. (Missoulian)
Covered Over the Weekend
Gale Norton resigns as Secretary of the Interior – resignation has NOTHING to do with Jack Abramoff, nothing…(link)
Katharine Harris is planning a “major announcment” this week…(link)
*Correction: As a number of TPM readers have written in to report, Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) got the BMW.