David Kurtz

David Kurtz is Managing Editor and Washington Bureau Chief of Talking Points Memo where he oversees the news operations of TPM and its sister sites.

Articles by David

Curiously, despite the calls for lobbying reform from Dennis Hastert and John Boehner, those seeking to rein in congressional earmarks are being punished. Gannett reviews the earmarks for Tennessee in next year's federal budget. Rep. Jim Cooper (D-TN) did okay for his district, but says he could have done better if not for his votes for earmark reform.

Cooper's 5th District also has 19 projects, but he thinks there would be more if he had not been so outspoken in his opposition to this method of distributing federal tax dollars. "In general, what they are trying to do is punish me without eliminating all my projects," Cooper said.

He said he received warnings on the floor of the House during votes on proposals by Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., to remove some of these projects from bills.

Lobbying reform, GOP-style.

A long piece on the relationship between Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA) and convicted briber Vernon Jackson, from the Lexington Herald-Leader:

Vernon Lamar Jackson and William J. Jefferson and their wives spent a pleasant weekend in New York City in the fall of 2004. The Kentucky businessman and the Louisiana congressman watched U.S. Open tennis from an air-conditioned corporate box, attended The Lion King on Broadway and did a little shopping.

Those were the good old days.

A good rundown on where things in Iraq are now and where they are headed:

For all the recent attention on the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict, far more people died in Iraq over the past month than in Israel and Lebanon, and tens of thousands have been killed from the fighting and criminal activity since the U.S. occupation began. Additional signs of civil war abound. Refugees and displaced people number in the hundreds of thousands. Militias continue to proliferate. The sense of being an "Iraqi" is evaporating.

Considering how many mistakes the United States has made in Iraq, how much time has been squandered, and how difficult the task is, even a serious course correction in Washington and Baghdad may only postpone the inevitable.

Events on the ground are outpacing the debate here at home. From a political standpoint, the decision to invade Iraq and the incompetence demonstrated in the execution of that decision are fair game in congressional elections. From a policy standpoint though, the debate is--or should be--how do we prepare for, respond to, and ameliorate the looming consequences of the invasion on the region as a whole.

In that regard, debating whether to keep the troops in Iraq or bring them home is, at a certain level, starting to seem quaint. It is another sign, one of many, of the dysfunction in the U.S. policy-making apparatus that no provision is being made for the "spillover" effect. Of course, that would require first acknowledging that the strategic objectives of the Iraq invasion have not been, and cannot now be, achieved.

With the November elections just 2 1/2 months away, I think it is very unlikely that between now and then we're going to see the slew of indictments in the various federal corruption investigations that many people, myself included, had been anticipating. It is not unheard of for public integrity investigations to yield indictments immediately before elections, but they are rare.

I think it's still possible that Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) and William Jefferson (D-LA) could be indicted at any time. (Were it not for the legal dispute over the FBI search of Jefferson's congressional office, it's likely Jefferson would already be under indictment.) In both those cases, the guilty pleas of those close to the congressmen have made it publicly quite clear that the feds are closing in on the congressmen, and for that reason indictments of them now present less of an appearance of manipulating the election (especially since Ney has bowed out of his re-election bid).

For all the ink spilled on Jack Abramoff, the K Street project, earmarks, and other misdeeds and malfeasance, Duke Cunningham is the only elected official to have been charged thus far (Tom Delay's indictment was in Texas state court). That's not to minimize the political effects of the federal investigations. Ney abandoned his re-election effort because of them; and the Texas indictment alone would probably not have been enough to dissuade Delay from seeking re-election.

Of course it has creeped into my mind from time to time whether DOJ under Alberto Gonzales will be impartial in these various investigations of mostly Republicans. If indictments were delayed until after the November elections, the Bush Administration would be able to avoid most of the political reprecussions. So there is a conflict of interest there. But all in all, I have a fairly high degree of confidence that career prosecutors would protest loudly if they felt their cases were being undermined for political reasons. So far there are few, if any, indications that this is happening. (If you have reason to know otherwise, we're all ears; see email address above; anonymity will be protected.)

From the WP:

In a year of bad omens for the GOP, the latest batch of disclosure forms filed with the Federal Election Commission offers one more: Incumbency no longer means that embattled Republican representatives can expect to overwhelm weakly funded Democratic challengers with massive spending on advertising and get-out-the-vote efforts.

There are 27 Republican incumbents classified by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report as the most vulnerable to losing reelection this fall. These incumbents still boast a clear fundraising edge, but it is much less pronounced than in years past. According to calculations made from FEC data, the Democratic challengers in these races have raised about 60 percent of what their opponents have collected and have about the same percentage of cash on hand.

At this point in the 2004 election cycle, by contrast, Cook listed nine Republican incumbents as similarly vulnerable. Their Democratic opponents had been able to raise 42 percent of what their opponents collected, and challengers' cash on hand was a lower percentage. There were similar disparities in the 2002 cycle.

Here we go again. Republicans are running into the same kind of trouble in Ohio, where they're trying to find a successor to Bob Ney, that they have faced in Texas trying to replace Tom Delay.

Joy Padgett was handpicked by Ney and House Majority Leader John Boehner to run after Ney stepped down due to fallout from the Abramoff scandal.

The problem is that Padgett had already lost the GOP primary for Ohio lieutenant governor, and Ohio law prohibits a defeated primary candidate from running in the general election. Democrats had threatened to challenge Padgett's eligibility but, after seven other Republicans entered the primary, decided it wasn't worth the trouble.

Today the brother of one of Padgett's primary opponents filed a complaint challenging her eligibility. The local election board will rule on the complaint Sunday morning.

Update: Did I mention that Padgett declared personal bankruptcy in June? Well, one of her Republican opponents has (and you thought things were tough among Dems in Connecticut). The recent filing follows the one last year for the business owned by Padgett and her husband. Someone want to ask Boehner what he was thinking in throwing his weight behind Padgett?

Jim Webb closes the gap on George Allen in the Virginia Senate race.

Atrios was "annoyed" with my suggestion that progressive dollars could be better spent than on the Connecticut Senate race:

I'd like more of that advice going to, say, the people who gave money so that Hillary Clinton could have $22 million cash-on-hand. Does Bill Nelson need $12 million to run against Katie Harris? On the House side, does Marty Meehan, who won with 67% of the vote last time, really need to have 5 million bucks in the bank?

There is always an incredible misallocation of resources in elections and that's the money which flows to incumbents. Sure, they're not all safe and it's understandable that they need somewhat of a defensive warchest just in case, but if you want to criticize where donors are directing their money (and attention) start there.

Call me crazy, but I think I'll stick with criticizing the circular firing squad that is the Lieberman-Lamont race, rather than focusing on whether everyone has their fair share of bullets, as Atrios seems to want to do.

Early reports indicate another military setback for Israel in Lebanon:

[Israeli] security sources said commandos in two vehicles unloaded from helicopters were on their way to attack an office of senior Hizbollah official Sheikh Mohammed Yazbek in the village of Bodai when they were intercepted. After the gunbattle, the Israelis pulled out under cover of fierce air strikes.

Reports of casualties are still coming in:

Hezbollah militia fighters found bloody bandages and syringes on the ground after the battle, leading them to conclude the Israelis suffered casualties. Hezbollah, on its Al Manar television, reported a number of Israeli casualties but did not say whether they were killed or wounded.

Lebanese security officials told the Reuters news agency that three Hezbollah fighters were killed and a half-dozen Israelis were killed or wounded, but Hezbollah did not confirm the toll.

Israel claims it suffered one death and two injuries. The worry, of course, is that the aborted raid--the first major violation of the ceasefire--will prompt a Hezbollah retaliation and re-escalate the conflict.