ABRAMOFF EVERYTHING BUT THE KITCHEN SINK
Ensign Sexcapades: Senate Ethics committee issues subpoenas
By: David Phillips
Las Vegas Democrat Examiner
The US Senate Ethics Committee yesterday have started
to issue document subpoenas to those involved with or knowledge of the Sex, Lies, and Lobbying that have embroiled Senator
John Ensign (R-NV) since his announcement this past June of having an affair with Cindy Hampton who worked for the Senator
along with her husband Doug Hampton who was a top aide in Ensign‘s office as well as a good friend of the Senator fro
Several People have said that they have received document subpoenas from the Ethics Committee asking
for any records in their possession that may be related to Senator Ensign, and the Hampton‘s.
The Senator who has admitted that his parents “gifted” $96,000 dollars to the Hampton’s
and says it was not a payoff or a severance to keep them quiet. If the $96,000 dollar payments were not disclosed as required by campaign finance law, Ensign could face felony criminal charges.
Ensign is also being investigated for helping Doug Hampton land a lobby job where he ended up lobbying
the Senator which is illegal.
In an interview this past week with on KNXT 840 in Las Vegas, NV, Senator Ensign said
he did not do anything wrong, “it’s a common practice, completely legal I complied with all Senate ethics rules
and applicable laws”.
Doug Hampton gave an interview last month to ABC’s Nightline because he wants Senator Ensign held accountable. Hampton said, "Lost
my job. Lost my best friend. Nearly lost my wife”. Hampton went on to say, “It’s hard to comprehend what's
still taking place, what's going on this moment, with regards to the unraveling of the choices and the decisions that John's
Hampton told "Nightline" that it was "crystal clear" that the $96,000 was, in fact, severance and not
a gift. "Crystal clear," Hampton said. "I took notes. I've shared those notes. They're well documented. They were clearly
what he deemed as severance."
The Department of Justice and the Federal Elections Commission have been asked to look into the legality
of the $96,000 in severance.
Ensign said he wishes’ he could take back the 9 months that he was sleeping with Cindy Hampton
he said, “the worst thing he‘s ever done.”
Well, as it turns out his affair with Cindy Hampton now seems to be the least of his worries, landing
Doug Hampton the lobby job so Hampton can turn around and lobby Ensign and the $96,000 dollars in severance are both illegal,
while his affair was only immoral.
Ensign has stated that he has no intentions of resigning and that he plans on fulfilling his term in
office which has three more years. Republicans have already shown that they don’t care if adulterers continue caucusing
with their party as evident with Senator David Vitter (R-LA) who admitted having sex with prostitutes in July 2007 and is
still in the US Senate.
Stay tuned, this will certainly be smoldering for the next several months as Democrats let Ensign’s
immoral and illegal actions twist in the wind for all to see.
N.C. House investigating lawmaker for alcohol, hugging page
News & Observer
The N.C. House is investigating a lawmaker accused of showing up Monday intoxicated and inappropriately
hugging a teenage page.
The lawmaker, Rep. Cary Allred, a Burlington Republican, started his
evening Monday by being pulled over for speeding by a state trooper. House colleagues said when he arrived they smelled alcohol
on him, and several people saw him hug and kiss a 17-year-old page. Before the night was over, Allred sparred in debate with
the House speaker and the leader of his own party, who at one point tugged at Allred's jacket to get him to be quiet.
On Thursday, Allred denied in an interview any inappropriate or drunken behavior.
Allred was stopped about 6 p.m. Monday for speeding on Interstate 40 between Burlington and Raleigh. He explained to the
state trooper that he was on his way to the House of Representatives to vote, Allred said. Allred said the trooper asked him
to produce identification beyond his driver's license, and he showed the trooper his legislative ID. The trooper let Allred
go with an admonishment to slow down, Allred said.
Allred declined to say how fast he was going, but he said it was slower than the trooper claimed, a speed that he also
declined to specify. A Highway Patrol spokesman said Thursday that he was trying to confirm the details of the stop.
House Speaker Joe Hackney, an Orange County Democrat, said he heard from various people who witnessed Allred's behavior
in the House chamber.
"Speeding is not in my jurisdiction, but the other two incidents, it appear, have to do with conduct on the House floor.
I have simply asked the House sergeant at arms, who is in charge of the House floor together with me, to conduct what I would
characterize as a preliminary inquiry to gather whatever facts there are to determine if any referral beyond this stage is
appropriate," Hackney said.
Missed it by That Much...New RNC Chairman Michael Steele Under Investigation
Michael S. Steele, the newly elected chairman of the Republican National
Committee, arranged for his 2006 Senate campaign to pay a defunct company run by his
sister for services that were never performed, his finance chairman from that campaign has told federal prosecutors.
Federal agents in recent days contacted Steele's sister, a spokesman for Steele said yesterday.
The claim about the payment, one of several allegations by Alan B. Fabian, is outlined in a confidential court document.
Fabian offered the information last March
as he was seeking leniency for himself during plea negotiations on unrelated fraud charges. It is unclear how extensively
his claims have been pursued.
Prosecutors gave him no credit for cooperation when he was sentenced in October.
And Steele was so close...But luck next time.
The only realy question left is this a big enough deal for the GOP to dump him...They had such hig hopes for Steele, he
was the twofer (minority GOPer) they have
longed for. Maybe Alan Keyes should get a chance, after all he much more acidic than Steele ever was, and he is also a
Burris Admits Blago Fundraising Effort
By: Andy Barr
In another damaging drib-drab admission, Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) acknowledged Monday that he did,
in fact, try to raise money for then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D-Ill.) at the request of the governor’s brother –
and that he did so while trying to get Blagojevich to appoint him to Barack Obama’s Senate seat.
In remarks to reporters in Peoria Monday night – posted by the Chicago Tribune Tuesday — Burris reiterated
his admission that Blagojevich’s brother, Rob, had asked him about fundraising for the governor shortly before Obama
was elected president.
According to Burris, the governor’s brother told him: “We need to raise some funds. We hope that you could
probably get some of your friends together.”
To which Burris said he responded: “What type of money we looking for?”
Burris said the governor’s brother asked if he could raise something in the range of $10,000 to $15,000. Burris said
he replied: “I don’t know, but I can’t do it now because we are in the midst of an election. Call me after
“So some time shortly after Obama was elected, the brother called,” Burris continued. “And now in the
meantime, I’d talked to some people about trying to see if we could put a fund-raiser on. Nobody was — they said
we aren’t giving money to the governor. And I said, ‘OK.’ You know, I can’t tell them what to do with
“So when the (governor’s) brother called me back, I said, ‘Well, look Rob...I can’t raise any money
from my friends. I said, maybe my partner and I, you can talk this over and see, could we go to some other people that we
might be able to talk to that would help us out if we give — because we give a fundraiser in the law office, nobody
going to show up. We’ll probably have a thousand dollars for you or something to that effect.’”
Burris has said previously that he “did not donate or help raise a single dollar for the governor” as a result
of the conversation he had with Blagojevich’s brother. What he had not admitted – until now – is that he
had tried to do so but failed.
Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI) Leaks Unauthorized Intelligence Information via Twitter
Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R-MI), the ranking member of the House intelligence
committee, revealed classified intelligence information on Twitter when he reported on his “congressional trip to Iraq
this weekend that was supposed to be a secret.” “Just landed in Baghdad,” messaged Hoekstra, who was part
of a delegation led by John Boehner (R-OH). CQ reports, “Before the delegation left Washington, they were advised to
keep the trip to themselves for security reasons. A few media outlets, including Congressional Quarterly, learned about it,
but agreed not to disclose anything until the delegation had left Iraq.” Hoekstra not only revealed the existence of
the trip, but included details about their itinerary. In a May 2006 op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, Hoekstra wrote:
But every time classified national security information is leaked, our ability to gather information
on those who would do us harm is eroded. … I regret that I see little sign of intolerance for unauthorized disclosures
of intelligence to the media from some of my Democratic colleagues today. … We are a nation at war. Unauthorized disclosures
of classified information only help terrorists and our enemies – and put American lives at risk.
Rep. Pete Sessions: Taliban is ‘A Model’ for how GOP can Become an ‘Insurgency.'
Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) in an interview
with Hotline, said the Republican party will have to be come an “insurgency” to counter Democratic majorities
in the House and Senate, and added that the Taliban can serve as “a model”:
Insurgency, we understand perhaps a little bit more because of the Taliban,” Sessions said during a meeting yesterday
with Hotline editors. “And that is that they went about systematically understanding how to disrupt and change a person’s
entire processes. And these Taliban — I’m not trying to say the Republican Party is the Taliban. No, that’s
not what we’re saying. I’m saying an example of how you go about [sic] is to change a person from their messaging
to their operations to their frontline message. And we need to understand that insurgency may be required when the other side,
the House leadership, does not follow the same commands, which we entered the game with.”
When pressed to clarify, Sessions said he was not comparing the House Republican caucus to the Taliban,
the Muslim fundamentalist group. “I simply said one can see that there’s a model out there for insurgency,”
Sessions said before being interrupted by an aide.
Sessions made a similar analogy last week at the House Republicans’ retreat, saying that Republicans “need
to get over the idea that they’re participating in legislation and ought to start thinking of themselves as ‘an
Ill. House Impeaches Governor, who Vows to Fight
Springfield, Ill. – Gov. Rod Blagojevich was impeached Friday
by Illinois lawmakers furious that he turned state government into a "freak show," setting the stage for an unprecedented
trial in the state Senate that could get him thrown out of office.
The 114-1 vote in the Illinois House came exactly a month after Blagojevich's arrest on charges that included trying to
sell President-elect Barack Obama's vacant Senate seat. The debate took less than 90 minutes, and not a single legislator
rose in defense of the governor, who was jogging in the snow in Chicago.
Later, a defiant Blagojevich insisted again that he committed no crime, and declared: "I'm going to fight every step of
the way." He portrayed himself as a victim of political payback by the House for his efforts to extend health care and other
relief to the ordinary people of Illinois.
Ill. House Speaker Launches Impeachment Panel
By CHRISTOPHER WILLS
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – The speaker of the Illinois House took the
first step Monday toward impeaching scandal-plagued Gov. Rod Blagojevich, appointing a committee to recommend whether he should
be ousted after his arrest on federal corruption charges.
"We're going to proceed with all due speed, but we're going to make sure that what we do is done correctly," said Speaker
Michael Madigan, who often has clashed with fellow Democrat Blagojevich.
Once the committee makes a recommendation, the full House will formally decide whether to file impeachment charges. The
Senate then would rule on the charges.
Blagojevich was arrested Tuesday on federal fraud and bribery charges, including allegations of a scheme to profit from
his power to appoint a replacement for the Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama.
The state constitution gives lawmakers broad authority to impeach a governor for any reason they consider sufficient.
The governor, who remains defiant and returned to work Monday to sign a tax credit bill, had no immediate reaction to the
impeachment committee, spokesman Lucio Guerrero said after Madigan's announcement.
Five more Members of Congress being Probed in Bribery Affair
Filed by John Byrne
Five other members of Congress are being probed in association with
the bribery scandal linked to former California Republican congressman "Duke" Cunningham, according to a little-noticed legal
filing discovered Thursday.
The 42-page sentencing memo was published online by Seth Hettena, an author who has published a book on Cunningham. It
was made by the attorney for Mitchell Wade, the former defense contractor who pleaded guilty to bribing Cunningham in 2006
who has cooperated with the government in their investigation.
In addition to the five current or former members of Congress, numerous government employees and several private contractors
are also under scrutiny.
Of the five congressmembers, two are formally under investigation and three are being examined for their "receipt of straw
contributions" -- contributions made to members of Congress in an effort to get facilities opened in their districts. Investigators
are also looking at a member of Congress for accepting undisclosed gifts, the crime that sunk Alaska Republican Sen. Ted Stevens
According to the filing, the five are being probed for "corruption similar to that of Mr. Cunningham." Cunningham, 64,
was sentenced to 8 years in prison in 2006; Wade faces sentencing Dec. 15. His cooperation with prosecutors has resulted in
guilty pleas or conviction for seven other individuals, the sentencing memo said, which seeks to have his sentence reduced
to a fine and five years' probation.
Cunningham expert says Katherine Harris likely among those eyed
Though none of the additional congressmembers are named, Hettena believes they are "no doubt" Republican Reps. Virgil Goode
and Katherine Harris. Harris became famous during the Florida recount in 2000, was elected to Congress in 2002, and was defeated
in a run for the Senate in 2006. Goode represents Virginia and was narrowly defeated in November.
Harris may be the member of Congress who underreported campaign contributions. Wade took Harris to dinner at the posh French
Georgetown restaurant Michel Richard Citronelle the year before her electoral defeat which cost $2,800, according to Harris'
former political strategist Ed Rollins; members of Congress are supposed to report any gifts larger than $50.
Citronelle's fixed priced menu costs $155 alone. With "wine pairings," a meal is $230.
"Prosecutors drop tantalizing hints about an even bigger, ongoing investigation," Hettena notes. "Wade was debriefed in
2006 and provided 'moderately useful' background information in another 'large and important corruption investigation' that
also has not yet resulted in any charges."
An element of particular interest that remains unresolved is who utilized escorts and limousines another convicted contractor
provided and who attended private poker games at the Watergate hotel.
Brent Wilkes, another contractor who went down in the Cunningham affair, used the services of Shirlington Limousine.
"He was a winer and a diner," the company's owner told the Hill in 2007. "He liked to take people to eat. If a young lady
gets in the car, or he asks us to pick up a young lady, we don't know who it is. We're drivers."
Shirlington sued the Department of Homeland Security after they dropped the firm as a contractor following the revelations.
Clarification: Harris was defeated in a run for the US Senate after she voluntarily gave up her House seat.
Convicted of Seven Felonies, Alaska Republican Senator Ted Stevens Holds Slim Lead in US Senate Race
Alaska (Reuters) - The fate of a convicted felon will help determine
the size of the Democrats' expanded power in the U.S. Senate, and may provide a new job opportunity for failed vice presidential
nominee Sarah Palin.
After being found guilty of political corruption last month, Republican Sen. Ted Stevens, 84, of Alaska clung to a narrow
lead on Thursday in his bid to win an eighth term.
With state election officials sorting through thousands of absentee ballots, a winner was not expected to be announced
for at least several days.
If challenger Mark Begich pulls it out, it would increase to seven the number of Senate seats Democrats have gained from
Tuesday's national election, boosting their majority to 58 in the 100-member chamber.
Two other Senate races in Tuesday's election have also not yet been decided, both involving incumbent Republicans -- Norm
Coleman in Minnesota and Saxby Chambliss in Georgia.
If Democrats capture all three, after picking up a closely contested Senate seat in Oregon late on Wednesday, they would
have for the first time in 30 years a Senate majority big enough to pass legislation over Republican procedural hurdles.
But Democrats say they don't expect to hit 60. They note that to reach a "filibuster-proof majority" they would need a
come-from-behind victory in Alaska, win a recount in Minnesota and capture an anticipated run-off in Georgia.
Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) Guilty on 7 Counts, Won't Quit Senate Race
By MATT APUZZO and JESSE
WASHINGTON – Ted Stevens, a pillar of the Senate for 40 years
and the face of Alaska politics almost since statehood, was convicted of a seven-felony string of corruption charges Monday
— found guilty of accepting a bonanza of home renovations and fancy trimmings from an oil executive and then lying about
Unbowed, even defiant, Stevens accused prosecutors of blatant misconduct and said, "I will fight this unjust verdict with
every ounce of energy I have."
The senator, 84 and already facing a challenging re-election contest next Tuesday, said he would stay in the race against
Democrat Mark Begich. Though the convictions are a significant blow for the Senate's longest-serving Republican, they do not
disqualify him, and Stevens is still hugely popular in his home state.
The jury — itself a daily drama, trying to expel one of its own members — convicted Stevens of all the felony
charges he faced, accusations based heavily on the testimony of a wealthy oil contractor who for years had been a fishing
and drinking buddy.
Visibly shaken after the verdicts were read — the jury foreman declaring "guilty" seven times — Stevens tried
to intertwine his fingers but quickly put his hands down to his side after noticing they were trembling. As he left the courtroom,
he got a quick kiss on the cheek from his wife, Catherine, who testified on his behalf during the trial.
Stevens faces up to five years in prison on each count when he is sentenced, but under federal guidelines he is likely
to receive much less time, if any. The judge did not immediately set a sentencing date.
The monthlong trial revealed that employees for VECO Corp., an oil services company, transformed Stevens' modest Alaska
mountain cabin into a modern, two-story home with wraparound porches, a sauna and a wine cellar.
Judge Orders More Searches for Abramoff Visits at White House
A federal judge has rejected the Bush administration's attempt to shield
records that may shed light on the White House visits of now imprisoned lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
In several orders this week, U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth sided with watchdog groups Judicial Watch and Citizens
for Responsibility and Ethics, which are suing the Secret Service and Department of Homeland Security for access to the logs.
The administration in 2006 agreed to produce all responsive records about the visits "without redactions or claims of exemption."
But it soon argued that the contents of certain "Sensitive Security Records," which are created in the course of conducting
more extensive background checks on particular White House visitors, cannot be publicly revealed even though they could show
some of Abramoff's visits.
Lamberth disagreed this week, saying those security records are not exempt under the federal Freedom of Information Act
on the grounds that the information could promote criminal activity.
"The court is not convinced that the information plaintiff primarily seeks — the name of a visitor, the dates and
times of his visits, and the person(s) visited — would allow even the most dedicated would-be criminal to discern what
visitor characteristics trigger ... a security check," Lamberth wrote in one of the orders.
He also ordered DHS and the Secret Service to search visitor records that had been transferred to White House control.
To date, the government has turned over several Secret Service records referring to White House visits by Abramoff —
at least six of them in the early months of the Bush administration in 2001 and a seventh in early 2004, just before Abramoff
came under criminal investigation.
The White House has released little information about the visits, but none appears to involve a small group meeting with
On the Net:
U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia:
Ted Stevens Indicted, Longest-Serving GOP Senator
By LARA JAKES JORDAN
The Associated Press
Sen. Ted Stevens, the longest-serving Republican senator and a figure in Alaska politics since before statehood, was indicted
today on seven counts of failing to disclose thousands of dollars in services he received from a company that helped renovate
and maintain his home.
The first sitting U.S. senator to face federal indictment since 1993, Stevens has been dogged by a federal investigation
into his home renovation project and his dealings with wealthy oil contractor.
The investigation has upended Alaska state politics and cast scrutiny on Stevens — who is running for re-election
this year — and on his congressional colleague, Rep. Don Young of Alaska, who is also under investigation.
Stevens' indictment further damages Republican prospects in the November election as Senate Democrats, who now enjoy a
51-49 majority, try to capture a filibuster-proof 60-vote majority.
Matthew Friedrich, chief of the Justice Department's criminal division, said prosecutors followed the department's policy
to keep politics out of the decision-making process.
"We bring cases based on our evaluation of the facts and the law," Friedrich said. "We bring cases when they are ready
to be charged and that's what happened here."
Prosecutors said Stevens received more than $250,000 in gifts and services from VECO CORP, a powerful oil services contractor,
and its executives. From May 1999 to August 2007, prosecutors said, the 84-year-old senator concealed "his continuing receipt
of hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of things of value from a private corporation."
Stevens has adamantly denied any wrongdoing.
Democrats: Congress Overcoming GOP Neglect
By WILL LESTER
Associated Press Writer
The Democratic-controlled Congress is working to overcome years of neglect
by the Bush administration of agencies intended to safeguard the health of the public, especially children, a leading Democrat
Rep. Henry Waxman said in his party's weekly radio address that Congress is "giving the next administration the tools it
will need to start putting public health — and especially the health of our children — first."
Congress took action this week to protect the health of children, strengthening rules for the Consumer Product Safety Commission
concerning toy safety and restricting marketplace practices used by the tobacco industry to target children.
The California Democrat called "it was a very good week for the American public."
Alex Conant, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee, said: "It's stunning Democrats would claim to have a great
week after failing to vote on let alone pass an energy plan. On the No. 1 issue facing most Americans — gas prices —
the Democrats in Congress have failed to deliver any relief."
The Senate on Thursday passed and sent to the White House legislation that bans lead from children's toys and seeks to
ensure that chemicals posing possible health problems will not end up on toys and articles that kids chew on and play with.
The Senate voted 89-3 for the Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act after the House passed the bill Wednesday by 424-1.
"The safety commission failed to protect children against dangerous levels of lead in toys, and it did nothing to stop
the use of dangerous chemicals in plastic toys," Waxman said in explaining the need for legislation to strengthen the CPSC.
In the other action Waxman referred to, the House on Wednesday overwhelmingly passed legislation that for the first time
would subject the tobacco industry to regulation by federal health authorities charged with promoting public well-being.
The bill would further tighten restrictions on tobacco advertising and impose new federal penalties for selling to minors.
But its most far-reaching provisions would give the Food and Drug Administration the power to regulate tobacco, from cigarettes
to new kinds of smokeless products.
Public health advocates supporting the bill say regulation will slowly but surely put pressure on the industry, reducing
the overall number of smokers and the harm that is caused by tobacco use.
Inspector General Releases Report on Monica Goodling Hirings
By Kate Klonick
The Justice Department's Office of the Inspector General and Office
of Professional Responsibility released another part of their investigation into the politicization of the DOJ. The full report,
"An Investigation of Allegations of Politicized Hiring by Monica Goodling and Other Staff in the Office of the Attorney General,"
can be found here (pdf).
We'll be reading through and posting on this all day. But at first glance here's a quite relevant section:
In sum, we concluded that the evidence showed that Goodling violated both federal law and Department policy, and therefore
committed misconduct, when she considered political or ideological affiliations in hiring decisions for candidates for career
positions within the Department. In particular, the evidence showed that she considered political or ideological affiliations
in deciding several waiver requests from interim U.S. Attorneys, in promoting several candidates for career positions, and
in disapproving a candidate for an EOUSA career SES position.
Late update: Here are the names of other implicated in the report:
former Chief of Staff to former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, Kyle Sampson; Goodling's predecessor, former White
House Liason Jan Williams, and EOUSA (Executive Office for United States Attorneys) Director John Nowacki-- who is still at
the department. The report states that Nowacki knew of the politicization of the DOJ but drafted a press statement saying
otherwise. Of Sampson, Williams and Goodling the report states:
In sum, the evidence showed that Sampson, Williams, and Goodling violated federal law and Department policy, and Sampson
and Goodling committed misconduct, by considering political and ideological affiliations in soliciting and selecting IJs [immigration
judges], which are career positions protected by the civil service laws.
Late late update: Attorney General Michael Mukasey released a statement saying he is "of course disturbed" by the findings of the OIG report:
I have said many times, both to members of the public and to Department employees, it is neither permissible nor acceptable
to consider political affiliations in the hiring of career Department employees. And I have acted, and will continue to act,
to ensure that my words are translated into reality so that the conduct described in this report does not occur again at the
Over the course of the last year and a half, the Justice Department has made many institutional changes to remedy the problems
discussed in today's report, and the report itself commends these changes. The report includes one new recommendation for
institutional change, and I have directed the prompt implementation of that recommendation. It is crucial that the American
people have confidence in the propriety of what we do and how we do it, and I will continue my efforts to make certain they
can have such confidence.
Late late late update: The report also investigates whether officials (namely Williams, Goodling and Nowacki) gave
"inaccurate or misleading" information to investigators, attorneys in civil-suits, and higher-ups at the DOJ.
Late late late late update: We think it's important to note that the former Attorney Generals Alberto Gonzales and
John Ashcroft, who presided over the DOJ through all of this, were not implicated in the report.
The report also details some of the questions Goodling used for her interviews, here's a pithy little excerpt:
Tell us about your political philosophy. There are different groups of conservatives, by way of example: Social Conservative,
Fiscal Conservative, Law & Order Republican.
What is it about George W. Bush that makes you want to serve him?
Aside from the President, give us an example of someone currently or recently in public service who you admire.
And our personal favorite:
Why are you a Republican?
Of the Goodling and Angela Williamson (the Deputy White House Liason) interviewees, 34 persons said they discussed abortion,
and 21 said they discussed gay marriage.
Rove Defies Congress Subpoena
He refuses to testify about several allegations
By Ben Evans
WASHINGTON — Former White House adviser Karl Rove defied a congressional
subpoena and refused to testify Thursday about allegations of political pressure at the Justice Department, including whether
he influenced the prosecution of a former Democratic governor of Alabama.
Rep. Linda Sanchez, chairman of a House subcommittee,
ruled with backing from fellow Democrats on the panel that Rove was breaking the law by refusing to cooperate — perhaps
the first step toward holding him in contempt of Congress.
The White House has cited executive privilege as a reason he and others who serve or served in the administration should
not testify, arguing that internal administration communications are confidential and that Congress cannot compel officials
to testify. Rove says he is bound to follow the White House's guidance, although he has offered to answer questions specifically
on the Siegelman case — but only with no transcript taken and not under oath.
Lawmakers subpoenaed Rove in May in an effort to force him to talk about whether he played a role in prosecutors' decisions
to pursue cases against Democrats, such as former Alabama Gov. DonSiegelman, or in firing federal prosecutors considered disloyal
to the Bush administration.
Rove had been scheduled to appear at the House Judiciary subcommittee hearing Thursday morning. A placard with his name
sat in front of an empty chair at the witness table, with a handful of protesters behind it calling for Rove to be arrested.
A decision on whether to pursue contempt charges now goes to the full Judiciary Committee and ultimately to House Speaker
House Republicans called Thursday's proceedings a political stunt and said if Democrats truly wanted information they would
take Rove up on an offer he made to discuss the matter informally.
The House already has voted to hold two of President Bush's confidants in contempt for failing to cooperate with its inquiry
into whether the administration fired nine federal prosecutors in 2006 for political reasons.
The case, involving White House chief of staff Josh Bolten and former White House counsel Harriet Miers, is in federal
court and may not be resolved before Bush's term ends in January.
Democrats have rejected the offer from Rove to talk with them informally because the testimony would not be sworn and,
they say, could create a confusing record.
Rove has insisted publicly that he never tried to influence Justice Department decisions and was not even aware of the
Siegelman prosecution until it landed in the news.
Siegelman — an unusually successful Democrat in a heavily Republican state — was charged with accepting and
concealing a contribution to his campaign to start a state education lottery, in exchange for appointing a hospital executive
to a regulatory board.
He was sentenced last year to more than seven years in prison but was released in March when a federal appeals court ruled
Siegelman had raised "substantial questions of fact and law" in his appeal.
Siegelman and others have alleged the prosecution was pushed by GOP operatives — including Rove, a longtime Texas
strategist who was heavily involved in Alabama politics before working at the White House. A former Republican campaign volunteer
from Alabama told congressional attorneys last year that she overheard conversations suggesting that Rove pressed Justice
officials in Washington to prosecute Siegelman.
The career prosecutors who handled Siegelman's case have insisted that Rove had nothing to do with it, emphasizing that
the former governor was convicted by a jury.
KBR REHIRED EMPLOYEE WITH HISTORY OF CHILD PORNOGRAPHY
Last week, Ira Waltrip, an employee for Iraq contractor
KBR, was formally charged with possession of child pornography. According to a court affidavit, Waltrip was first caught with
such materials in 2006 and fired from KBR.
However, KBR rehired Waltrip before the year ended, and he returned to Baghdad, as well as his past behavior. In the U.S. District Court
in Austin, where Waltrip has been charged with possession of child pornography, "U.S. Magistrate Judge Robert Pitman appeared
dismayed that Waltrip was rehired," the Austin Statesman reported.
The latest scandal further illustrates KBR's refusal to hold employees accountable for their actions. Last week, a former
employee testified that a camp manager caught stealing from Iraqi palaces was promoted by KBR, rather than disciplined.
Even more disturbingly, more than thee dozen women who worked for KBR have come forward saying they were assaulted by coworkers while stationed in Iraq. The alleged assailants will likely never face a jury, and KBR is determined to
settle these allegations in private arbitration, without "public record nor transcript of the proceedings."
In fact, Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) told a story that one KBR employee who told her superiors she was raped found her rapist assigned to work next to her just days later.
No Ethics Probe Of Louisiana Senator Vitter
Senate panel dismisses complaint in connection
with D.C. madam
The Associated Press
CAPITOL HILL - The Senate Ethics
Committee has decided not to investigate Louisiana Senator David Vitter.
The Republican was linked to an elite Washington prostitution ring owned by Deborah Jean Palfrey. Palfrey committed suicide
May 1st, two weeks after being convicted of racketeering and money laundering.
The bipartisan ethics panel says it decided against a probe because the conduct occurred before Vitter became a senator.
And it says it didn't result in any criminal charges or involve the improper use of his public office or status.
The group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Government had called for an investigation and is blasting the decision,
saying Vitter doesn't even get a slap on the wrist. Says deputy director Naomi Seligman: "The Senate ethics committee has
once again done what is does best: nothing."
FBI Raids Special Counsel's Office
By LARA JAKES JORDAN
The FBI has raided the office of
U.S. Special Counsel Scott Bloch in an inquiry of whether he obstructed justice by having his computer files erased.
FBI officials said computers and documents were seized from Bloch's office during the raid Tuesday morning.
Investigators say Bloch is suspected of hiring an outside company to scrub his computer amid a federal investigation of
alleged misconduct in his office.
The inquiry has been under way for more than a year and is looking into charges of intimidation and retaliation against
whistle-blowers among staff members working in Bloch's agency.
The Office of Special Counsel is responsible protecting the rights of federal workers and ensuring that government whistle-blowers
are not subjected to reprisals.
INVESTIGATIONS PLUMMET UNDER NASA INSPECTOR GENERAL
A USA Today review found that the number of investigations
within NASA has been sharply reduced under the tenure of NASA Inspector General Robert "Moose" Cobb. "Cobb's office opened
68 investigations of waste and fraud by agency employees and contractors during the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, down from 508 in fiscal year 2002. ...
By comparison, inspectors general at four similarly-sized agencies each opened hundreds of investigations last year: Labor,
418; Justice, 421; Agriculture, 385; Interior, 414, their reports to Congress show."
Cobb's leadership has been widely criticized. Last summer, in an "unusual" congressional inquiry, former top associates
of Cobb accused him of "being abusive, vulgar, unprofessional and seemingly beholden to top management of the agency he oversees."
The report "found that he had created the appearance of a lack of independence by lunching, drinking and golfing with top
NASA officials." The agency is currently led by administrator Michael Griffin, who has recently come under fire for denying that global warming is a problem.
Phone Company Cuts Off FBI Wiretap For Unpaid Bill
By Randall Mikkelsen
A telephone company cut off an
FBI international wiretap after the agency failed to pay its bill on time, according to a U.S. government audit released on
The Justice Department's inspector general faulted the FBI for poor handling of money used in undercover investigations,
which it said made the agency vulnerable to theft and mishandled invoices.
It cited the case in which a wiretap under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which governs electronic spying in
terrorism and intelligence cases, was disrupted due to an overdue bill.
"Late payments have resulted in telecommunications carriers actually disconnecting phone lines established to deliver surveillance
results to the FBI, resulting in lost evidence, including an instance where delivery of intercept information required by
a ... FISA order was halted due to untimely payment," the audit said.
Inspector general spokeswoman Cynthia Schnedar said she could provide no additional details on the disrupted wiretap.
FBI spokesman Richard Kolko said "no investigations were adversely affected."
Much of the report contained sensitive law-enforcement information and many details were not released.
The FISA program, denounced by critics as overly intrusive and unconstitutional, is up for renewal in Congress.
But lawmakers are bogged down over the scope of the program and liability protections for telephone companies that took
part in a domestic eavesdropping program launched by President George W. Bush after the September 11 attacks.
Bush wants Congress to shield phone companies from lawsuits for taking part in the program, saying their cooperation in
the FISA wiretaps is essential to national security.
The audit followed a 2006 case in which an FBI employee pleaded guilty to stealing more than $25,000 (12,740 pounds) in
confidential case funds intended for undercover telecoms services.
The FBI acknowledged "widespread agreement" that its 1980s era accounting system was inadequate and said it was working
to improve it.
"The FBI will not tolerate financial mismanagement," it said.
DOJ OPENS INQUIRY INTO NO-BID CONTRACT FOR ASHCROFT
The Department of Justice's Criminal
Division has opened an internal inquiry into a multi-million-dollar, no-bid contract awarded by New Jersey U.S. attorney Chris Christie to former attorney general John Ashcroft.
Christie awarded the contract for a federal monitor position, worth as much as $52 million,last fall, but it only recently
came to the attention of the Justice Department. Christie said he chose Ashcroft "because he trusted him" and insisted that
the contract -- awarded to monitor a $311 million settlement among manufacturing companies -- "will be a real bargain at the end of the day."
As Blue Jersey notes, Ashcroft was Christie's former boss and may have helped get him the U.S. Attorney job. "Christie's
office has made a significant dent in the massive problem of public corruption in our state, but also has made a significant dent in the non-partisan image of the US Attorney's office," the website noted.
In November, Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) wrote to Christie saying he was "troubled" by reports of the contract, telling Christie
that he should have hired a third party "to remove even the appearance of impropriety that is so easily created when such a large amount of money is being directed to a former employer or colleague."
Another year rife with corruption, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) released
a new report on the Top Ten Ethics Scandals of 2007. It is available in its entirety at www.citizensforethics.org.
CREW’s Top Ten Ethics Scandals of 2007
No new enforcement mechanisms for congressional ethics
Despite the Abramoff scandal and the Democrats’ vow to end the “culture of corruption,” no new ethics
enforcement mechanisms have been put into place. A House bipartisan task force that was charged with returning recommendations
by May 1st still has not issued any, but it appears that if and when they do issue a report, very little will change. The
rule permitting only members to file complaints will remain intact and if there is an independent ethics oversight panel,
it won’t have subpoena power. Meanwhile, the House Ethics Committee does not appear to have undertaken investigations
into the myriad number of members with serious ethics issues.
Sen. Ted Stevens still sitting on Senate Appropriations
CREW called for Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) to step down from the Appropriations Committee after the FBI and the IRS raided
Sen. Stevens’ Alaska home. Sen. Stevens is under federal investigation for his dealings with Bill Allen, founder of
VECO Corp., an Alaska-based oil field services and engineering company that has been awarded tens of millions of dollars in
federal contracts. Allen has admitted to paying for an addition to Sen. Stevens’ home.
CREW sent a letter to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) asking that he remove Sen. Stevens from his committee
assignments and asked the Senate ethics committee to investigate whether Sen. Stevens misused his position to benefit VECO.
Sen. Ethics Committee looking into Sen. Craig, but not Sen. Vitter
CREW filed a complaint with the Senate Ethics Committee against Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) asking for an investigation into
whether the senator, who pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct after attempting to engage an undercover officer in sexual activity
in a men’s restroom in the Minneapolis airport, violated the Senate rule prohibiting members from engaging in “improper
conduct which reflects upon the Senate.” Months earlier, CREW filed a complaint against Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) asking
for an investigation into whether he violated the Senate Rules of Conduct by soliciting for prostitution. The ethics committee
is investigating Sen. Craig, but not Sen. Vitter.
Millions of missing White House emails still unaccounted for
In April 2007, CREW released a report, WITHOUT A TRACE: The Missing White House E-mails and the Violations of the Presidential
Records Act, disclosing that over five million e-mails (CREW subsequently learned that the actual number is over ten million)
are missing from White House servers for a two and a half year period between 2003 and 2005. The White House has known about
the missing e-mail since October 2005 and was provided a plan to recover them, but to date has taken no action.
In May 2007, CREW sued the Office of Administration (OA), the component of the Executive Office of the President (EOP)
responsible for maintaining the White House servers, based on the OA’s failure to provide CREW with any documents in
response to its FOIA request for the analyses and assessments the OA prepared of the missing e-mail problem. On September
25, 2007, CREW filed a second lawsuit against the EOP, the OA and the National Archives and Records Administration alleging
violations of the Federal Records Act for failing to recover, restore and preserve the millions of missing White House e-mail.
On November 12, 2007, District Judge Henry Kennedy granted CREW’s request for a temporary restraining order to prevent
the White House from destroying back-up copies of millions of deleted emails while the lawsuit is pending. The White House
has refused to confirm whether any of the backup tapes for the missing email still exist.
Rep. Murtha’s abuse of the earmarking process remains unchecked
In 2007, Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) inserted into the Energy and Water Appropriations bill a $1 million earmark to establish
the Center for Instrumented Critical Infrastructure - a subsidiary of Concurrent Technologies Corporation, (CTC) a non-profit
technology innovation center in Rep. Murtha’s district that has received hundreds of millions of dollars in earmarks
in recent years. CTC is a large non-profit that in 2005 received over $212 million in government grants. Since 2002, CTC’s
employees and employees’ family members have donated over $115,000 to Rep. Murtha’s political committees and leadership
In addition, after Rep. Mike Rogers offered a motion in May of 2007 that would have stripped a $23 million earmark inserted
by Rep. Murtha, an angered Rep. Murtha threatened to block any future earmark Rep. Rogers might seek in defense appropriations
Earlier in the month, Rep. Murtha made similar threats against Rep. Todd Tiahrt’s (R-KS) earmarks. Despite the fact
that Rep. Murtha’s behavior clearly violated House rules, no member filed an ethics complaint against him and the ethics
committee took no action.
Lurita Doan remains chief of GSA despite illegal conduct
On June 8, 2007, Special Counsel Scott J. Bloch urged President Bush to discipline Government Services Administration Director
Lurita Doan "to the fullest extent" for violations of the Hatch Act stemming from allegations that she asked political appointees
how they could "help our candidates" during a January meeting at the GSA.
On March 6, 2007, Ms. Doan testified before the House Oversight Committee to respond to allegations not just that she violated
the Hatch Act, but also that she awarded a $20,000 no-bid contract to a friend against the advice of GSA’s general counsel
and pushed the government to renew a contract with Sun Microsystems, despite allegations Sun Microsystems had overcharged
taxpayers millions of dollars for IT services while offering lower rates to commercial customers. Ms. Doan has also been criticized
for proposing to cut $5 million from the GSA Inspector General’s budget to limit the office’s ability to audit
contracts for fraud and waste.
White House covering up its role in the firings of the U.S. Attorneys
Months after it has become clear that at least nine U.S. Attorneys were fired for improper political reasons, the White
House is still stonewalling Congress, refusing to allow former White House Counsel Harriet Miers or Chief of Staff Josh Bolten
to respond to congressional subpoenas for information regarding their roles in the firings. Congress may soon pass a resolution
referring contempt charges against the two to the Department of Justice, but the department has indicated it won’t prosecute.
After it was revealed that White House officials had used non-official email accounts to discuss the terminations of the
U.S. Attorneys, CREW sent a letter to Henry Waxman (D-CA), Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, asking
for an investigation into whether the White House has violated its mandatory record-keeping obligations under the Presidential
Records Act. CREW also asked the Department of Justice’s Inspector General and Office of Professional Responsibility
to investigate whether any DOJ official lied to Congress about the firings.
No Child Left Behind funds directed to Bush fundraisers who provide inadequate reading materials for kids
In 2006, the Department of Education’s (DOE) Inspector General (IG) released a report finding the Bush administration’s
implementation of the Reading First Initiative was beset with cronyism. In response to that report, CREW filed a lawsuit against
the DOE and Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings alleging that the DOE failed to comply with any of the provisions of
the Federal Advisory Committee Act which requires federally created panels include balanced and representative viewpoints,
hold open meetings and make their notes and records available to the public. In 2007, yet another critical report by the DOE’s
IG found the Reading First training program was promoting certain reading materials to financially benefit a select group
of Bush administration donors. CREW’s suit is forcing the DOE to come clean about leaving behind the education of our
nation’s children for the privileged Bush administration loyalists and donors.
Court decision regarding search of Jefferson’s office limits ability of DOJ to investigate other corrupt
In considering whether the search of Rep. William Jefferson’s (D-LA) congressional office violated the Speech or
Debate Clause of the U.S. Constitution, the court of appeals held -- for the first time -- that not only can legislative material
not be used in prosecuting a member of Congress, but that Justice Department officials, including FBI agents, may not even
accidentally see such material. This decision has emboldened members of Congress under federal investigation, who are prohibiting
interviews with congressional staff and refusing to hand over documents, and is hampering public corruption investigations.
A wiretap is one example of a law enforcement tool endangered by the ruling because it would be nearly impossible for an
agent monitoring the wiretap to be sure no legislative information was accidentally captured.
FEMA knowingly let Katrina victims live in hazardous trailers
Between March and July 2006, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the Environmental Protection Agency and the
media reported that dangerous levels of formaldehyde had been found in trailers FEMA provided to house victims of Hurricane
Katrina. Concerned about legal liability, FEMA suppressed warnings about the health problems and resisted testing the trailers.
Instead, FEMA downplayed the problem, even issuing a public statement claiming there was no ongoing risk. Although 52,000
of these trailers are still occupied, FEMA prohibits its own staff from even briefly stepping inside unoccupied trailers,
claiming they are “too dangerous.”
Trent Lott's Brother-In-Law, Nephew, Indicted On Federal Bribery Charges
Prominent Mississippi trial attorney Richard "Dickie" Scruggs, the brother-in-law
of outgoing GOP Sen. Trent Lott, was indicted by a federal grand jury Wednesday on charges that he and four other men tried
to bribe a Mississippi state court judge.
According to the 13-page indictment, Scruggs and three other attorneys -- including Lott's nephew Zach -- attempted to
bribe Mississippi Third Circuit Court Judge Henry L. Lackey with at least $40,000 in cash.
Lackey was assigned to hear a lawsuit in which Scruggs' firm was named as a defendant in a dispute involving $26.5 million
in attorneys' fees stemming from a court settlement with State Farm Insurance over Hurricane Katrina claims.
The indictment alleges that the bribe was intended to resolve the case in Scruggs' and his firm's favor. Also charged was
Sidney A. Backstrom, an attorney at Scruggs' firm; Timothy R. Balducci, a New Albany, Miss., lawyer; and former State Auditor
Steven A. Patterson, an employee of Balducci's law firm.
Neither Scruggs nor an attorney for the firm, Joey Langston, returned telephone messages seeking comment. Langston does
not work at The Scruggs Law Firm.
Lott's office did not respond to a request for comment. Lott is not named in the indictment, and has not been accused of
KATRINA LAWYER RELATED TO TRENT LOTT INDICTED FOR BRIBERY
Prominent Mississippi trial lawyer Richard "Dickie" Scruggs, who has
fought insurance companies over payments for damage caused by Hurricane Katrina, was indicted on charges of bribery.
Scruggs is the brother-in-law of Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS), who recently announced he would retire before the end of the year. The indictment accuses Scruggs of using an associate, Timothy Balducci, to bribe Mississippi
Judge Henry Lackey to secure a favorable ruling in a lawyers' fees dispute.
The 13-page indictment quotes Balducci telling Lackey about Scruggs: "He and I, um, how shall I say, for over
the last five or six years there, there are bodies buried that ... he and I know...where they are, and my trust in his, mine in him and his in mine, in me,
I am sure are the same."
According to the indictment, Balducci made three cash payments to Lackey between Sept. 27 and Nov. 1, 2007, telling Scruggs's
son Zach, "We paid for this ruling; let's be sure it says what we want it to say."
ETHICS -- ALABAMA GOV. ALLEGEDLY PROSECUTED 'AS
A RESULT OF ROVE TALKING TO' DOJ:
Last month, House leaders began an investigation into improper communications between former White House adviser Karl Rove and the Justice Department
regarding the prosecution of former Democratic Alabama governor Don Siegelman, who was jailed in June on federal corruption charges.
Last week, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John
Conyers (D-MI) released the full 143- page testimony of Alabama lawyer Jill Simpson, who said that Rove directly intervened in the prosecution. "They were pursuing Don Siegelman as a result of Rove talking to the Justice Department," she said.
Simpson testified that Rove had assured Republicans
involved in the prosecution that Siegelman would face Mark Fuller, an Alabama federal judge who reportedly "hated" Siegelman.
Simpson said that Rove told these operatives that "Fuller would hang Don Siegelman."
The Committee is expected to investigate the Bush administration's alleged interference in the activities of the Department of Justice next week.
As Time noted, if Simpson's testimony is accurate, "it would show direct political involvement by the White House in federal
prosecutions -- a charge leveled by Administration critics in connection with the U.S. attorney scandal."
GAO CHARGES FCC WITH GIVING TIPS, ADVANTAGES
TO BUSINESS INTERESTS
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a
report yesterday "on the process by which the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) gathers and releases information about
important votes and other agency actions."
Currently, the FCC circulates information internally roughly three weeks before a public meeting, concerning what is scheduled to be voted on at the public
meeting. "FCC rules prohibit the disclosure of this information to anyone outside of FCC."
The GAO charges that several stakeholders report hearing
this information from FCC staff prior to the public meetings. "That advance word is critical because companies and consumer groups aren't allowed to lobby once an agenda for a vote is made public."
The report "accuses the Federal Communications Commission
of leaking tips to business interests before they're made public. It says the FCC has informed phone and cable lobbyists about items coming up for a vote in Congress.
... The Center for Responsive Politics says the FCC is closely intertwined with industry lobbyists -- almost as close as the
White House and members of the House of Representatives. In fact, FCC Chairman Kevin Martin used to be one."
CONGRESS – WAXMAN URGES STATE DEPT. TO COOPERATE WITH INVESTIGATION INTO CORRUPTION IN IRAQ
Last Thursday, the House Oversight Committee Chair Henry Waxman (D-CA) accused Secretary of State Condoleezza
Rice of "interfering" with the committee's investigation into corruption in Iraq.
State Department officials refused to allow any potentially negative comments about the Maliki government
in Iraq to be made public.
"The scope of the prohibition is breathtaking," Waxman wrote, alleging that State seems to view criticism of the government as
"a national security secret." "It means that unless the Committee agrees to keep the information secret from the public, the
Committee cannot obtain information from officials...about whether there is corruption within the Iraqi ministries."
Waxman also pressed Rice about his committee's investigation into Blackwater USA, a private security
firm that was allegedly involved in a shooting incident that left 11 Iraqis dead.
The State Department has instructed Blackwater not to provide the Committee
ETHICS -- FBI SECRETLY RECORDED STEVENS CALLS AS PART OF BRIBERY INVESTIGATION
The FBI taped calls between Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) and Bill Allen, chairman of Alaska oil corporation VECO, as part of a "public corruption sting. The new revelation suggests that "the Justice
Department was eyeing Stevens long before June, when the Republican senator first publicly acknowledged he was under scrutiny."
Allen "agreed to the taping last year after authorities confronted him with evidence he had bribed Alaska lawmakers." The investigation
focuses around "a lavish remodeling of Stevens's house in Girdwood, an exclusive ski resort area 40 miles from Anchorage"
that VECO executive oversaw. "Agents from the FBI and the Internal Revenue Service raided the Alaska home" of Stevens in July as part of an investigation "that the FBI was looking into $170 million in contracts" that Stevens steered to VECO. Stevens's son, former State Senator Ben Stevens, was also embroiled in
the scandal when Allen admitted to bribing him in return for legislative favors for VECO. Sen. Stevens has, so far, refused to comment
Feds Eye Polar Contract In Stevens Probe
Justice Department requests NSF papers in corruption
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON - Federal authorities investigating Sen. Ted Stevens have turned their attention toward a federal contract
that made millions of dollars for one of the senator's friends, a wealthy Alaska oil field contractor.
The Justice Department recently asked the National Science Foundation for records related to VECO Inc., the company at
the center of a sweeping corruption investigation. VECO's founder, Bill Allen, has pleaded guilty to bribing Alaska lawmakers
and oversaw a complicated home renovation project at Stevens' house in 2000.
VECO and its subsidiaries have so far gotten more than $50 million from the science agency for contracts to provide transportation,
equipment and other support for Arctic researchers. The contracts could be worth much more in the coming years. They represent
the company's most lucrative federal contracts, according the federal procurement data.
VECO signed the five-year contract in December 1999, months before Allen began supervising the work at home of Stevens,
an Alaska Republican. The contract was renewed in 2004.
NSF officials said both contracts were competitively bid and said the agency received no pressure from Stevens to award
the contract to VECO. The Associated Press, using a Freedom of Information Act request, reviewed agency documents related
to the contract and its correspondence with Stevens' office and found no evidence Stevens tried to influence the award.
Simon N. Stephenson, the director of the National Science Foundation division overseeing the Arctic project, said nobody
had protested the award or raised questions about it until the Justice Department requested documents recently.
"They have inquired and we're going to give them everything they ask for, probably a lot more," Stephenson said.
Federal investigators recently raided Stevens' home, photographing its contents and leaving with undisclosed items. By
investigating VECO's federal contracts, authorities appear to be looking at whether Stevens provided Allen anything in return
for his help on the house project.
Stevens has said he paid every bill he received for work done on the house.
ETHICS -- GOVERNMENT WATCHDOGS RAISE CONCERNS OVER ANOTHER ALASKA SENATOR'S LAND DEAL
On Dec. 29, 2006, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) purchased 1.27 acres of land on the Kenai river from real
estate developer Bob Penney for $179,400, the assessed value of the land in Jan. 2006. Days later, "the Kenai Peninsula Borough reassessed the property at $214,900." After purchasing the land, which has a market value of roughly $300,000, Murkowski did not include the transaction in her Senate financial disclosure forms, citing a clause
in the ethics manual which says "property which is held or maintained solely for recreational or personal purposes does not
have to be reported."
Watchdog groups say Murkowski should have reported the sale. The law "would seem to indicate a pretty air tight requirement to report the sale," said Bill Allison of the Sunlight Foundation after examining the relevant federal law. "Even if Murkowski is living in the woods, I don't think that would qualify as a personal residence."
The low price of the deal is raising ethics eyebrows as well. As Laura McGann of TPMmuckraker.com,
who broke the story, notes, "U.S. Senators cannot accept gifts worth more than $250. Based on the $179,400 Murkowski paid
for the wooded lot versus the $300,000 locals and real estate agents say the land is worth, she received a gift of at least $120,000."
Penney, who has contributed $10,500 to Murkowski since 2003, recently "testified before a grand jury about his cozy relationship with Sen. Ted Stevens
(R-AK)," who is under fire for his own questionable land deal. Ken Boehm, the chairman of the anti-corruption National Legal and Policy Center, has said "he is considering
filing a complaint with the Senate Select Committee on Ethics and the U.S. Justice Department" about Murkowski's land deal.
New York Times: Exec Pleads Guilty In Iraq Contractor Bribery Scheme
Filed by RAW STORY
As the New York Times reports in its Saturday edition, at least eight people connected to former Halliburton subsidiary
KBR (formerly Kellogg, Brown and Root), so far receiving $20 billion for war-related services, have been implicated in an
investigation into kickbacks and bribes stemming from a scheme to overcharge for freight services to Iraq.
Kevin Andre Smoot, managing director for KBR subcontractor Eagle Global Logistics Incorporated, pleaded guilty to dispensing
the bribes along with lying to investigators.
The guilty plea by Mr. Smoot is the second by an Eagle executive in the case. But the papers describing his plea indicate
that investigators believe at least one more Eagle employee and five KBR employees, all so far unnamed, were also involved.
Mr. Smoot alone admitted to delivering bribes, called gratuities in the legalistic language of the court papers, to the employees
of KBR on some 90 occasions between 2002 and 2005.
The company hired Eagle in a subcontract to fulfill part of that mission, carrying military goods from Dubai, United Arab
Emirates, to Baghdad. But the scheme by the Eagle executives began in November 2003 when a plane operated by a rival carrier,
DHL, was struck by a missile and landed in Baghdad with its left wing in flames. The Eagle executives used that incident to
charge a fraudulent “war-risk surcharge” of 50 cents for every kilogram (2.2 pounds) of freight on its own flights,
the papers say.
Between November 2003 and July 2004, Eagle made 379 flights as part of the subcontract, charging some $13.3 million —
an amount that included $1.1 million in overcharges. It is not clear whether KBR knew of the overcharging scheme, but the
papers say that Mr. Smoot and an Eagle subordinate delivered nearly $34,000 in gratuities to KBR employees “to obtain
or reward favorable treatment” in connection with the contract.
ETHICS -- LAND SALE TO
REP. CALVERT VIOLATED CALIFORNIA STATE LAW
The sale of four acres of public
land to Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA) and his investment partners by the Jurupa Community Services District in 2005 violated California state law, according to a grand jury report released on Tuesday.
The report said that the group
should have first offered the land to other public agencies, including the local park district that wanted it, before quietly
selling to Calvert. "The grand jury recommends that the water and sewer agency turn over the $1.2 million it pocketed from
the sale, minus costs, to the Jurupa Area Recreation and Park District."
Calvert, who was recently placed on the House Appropriations Committee to the chagrin of conservative activists, subsequently pushed water legislation that benefited Jurupa. He has been tied to other questionable land deals in the past.
Less than a year after buying
land near the March Air Reserve Base in California, "without making any improvements to the run down parcel, Calvert and his
partners sold the property for $985,000, a 79% increase." During the period of his ownership, Calvert used his seat in Congress to earmark $9.5 million for development near to the
According to Citizens for Responsibility
and Ethics in Washington, "by using his position to earmark funds to increase the value of his own property, Rep. Calvert violated the prohibition against using his position
as a member of Congress to advance his own financial interests, as well as the House rule requiring all members to conduct themselves "at all times in a manner that reflects creditably
on the House."
ETHICS -- SNOW DISTORTS HISTORY OF INVESTIGATIONS INTO PRESIDENT CLINTON'S PARDONS
In his USA Today op-ed last Friday defending the commutation of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby's two and a half year prison sentence, White House spokesman Tony Snow referenced former President Bill Clinton's issuance
of pardons in the final hours of his administration, calling it "a mad rush to push through pardons with dizzying haste."
Asked at the White House press briefing Thursday if he was trying to justify the President's extraordinary
clemency for a former aide by saying "two wrongs make a right" due to some of Clinton's questionable pardons, Snow responded
"no," adding, "I think what is interesting is perhaps it was just because he was on his way out, but while there was a small flurry, there was not much investigation of Clinton's pardons."
Snow is dishonestly misrepresenting the facts. Less than two weeks after Clinton issued his pardons,
the House Government Reform Committee, headed by Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN), initiated hearings into the issue. A week later, the Senate Judiciary Committee, led by Sen. Orrin Hatch
(R-UT), launched its own investigation. The following day, Manhattan U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White, in conjunction with the
FBI, launched a criminal investigation into Clinton's pardons. A week later, White announced that she was also investigating
commutations that Clinton had issued.
After Clinton waived executive privilege, three of his top aides, including Center for American Progress
President and CEO John Podesta, testified before the House Government Reform Committee about the pardons. After all this,
then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) pledged to continue investigations, saying Congress must not "walk away" from
the work left to be done. Over a year after the investigation began, federal prosecutors concluded "it wasn't appropriate to bring charges" in the case.
GOP Fear Fallout From New Ethics Probes
(AP) A half dozen federal investigations into the activities of Republican lawmakers are raising new worries for GOP
leaders who hope to regain the House majority they lost last fall.
In recent weeks, two veteran Republicans surrendered prominent committee seats after FBI agents raided the offices of family
businesses. Others have long-running investigations hanging over them. Some conservative activists are criticizing the party's
handling of the matters.
Democrats say at least six GOP House members are under some degree of Justice Department scrutiny, although Republicans
question whether all the inquiries are active.
In pure numbers, Republicans are approaching the magnitude of their problem at this stage of the 2006 election cycle. Eventually,
nine House Republicans faced FBI investigations. Four stepped down, and two _ Reps. Randy "Duke" Cunningham of California
and Bob Ney of Ohio _ are in prison. Of the five who sought re-election, three lost and the other two remain under ethical
Republicans call attention to the fact that Democrats have their own ethical problems.
Two House Democrats are the focus of federal investigations. Rep. William J. Jefferson, D-La., has been under scrutiny
in a bribery investigation since at least 2005, when FBI agents found $90,000 in his home freezer. The Justice Department
also is investigating whether Rep. Alan Mollohan, D-W.Va., benefited from steering federal funds to nonprofit groups he helped
start. Both Jefferson and Mollohan easily won re-election last year.
Republicans say Democrats will have trouble duplicating the success of last year's "culture of corruption" campaign theme
because the current allegations against GOP members are far less severe. There is no evidence of the type of overt corruption
that felled Cunningham and Ney, they say, and no one under scrutiny has the national name recognition that former Majority
Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, had in 2005 and 2006.
At a minimum, however, the growing list of GOP incumbents under scrutiny is a distraction and nuisance for a party already
struggling with an unpopular president and his handling of an unpopular war.
"It's a question of accountability," said Jennifer Crider, spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee,
which has numerous researchers digging into GOP members' records.
Ethics cases elsewhere aren't helping Republicans. Democrats are using subpoenas to dig into the administration's firing
of several federal prosecutors. They're also monitoring news reports from Alaska saying that business associates, friends
and a son of veteran GOP Sen. Ted Stevens are under investigation in a long-running corruption probe.
The situation troubles some conservative activists. Especially under criticism is the House GOP leaders' decision to replace
one embattled member of the coveted Appropriations Committee with another.
Rep. John Doolittle, R-Calif., left the committee in April after FBI agents raided his Washington-area home. His wife,
Julie, ran a business from the home in which she received commissions as a paid fundraiser for her husband's campaigns and
her clients included now-jailed GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
Doolittle's committee seat went to Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Calif. The FBI retrieved copies of Calvert's annual financial disclosure
statements following reports last year that Calvert steered millions of federal dollars to projects near his private real
Calvert says the FBI has not contacted him and he has no reason to believe he is a target. But that hasn't stopped the
widely read conservative blog RedState.com from repeatedly denouncing Calvert's appointment to the Appropriations Committee.
Joining the attack recently was Family Research Council President Tony Perkins. He said Calvert "would seem to fit in more
with the party" that keeps Jefferson and Mollohan in office "than with a pary that has made great strides in trying to clean
up its image."
Aside from Doolittle, Republican operatives are most concerned about Rep. Rick Renzi, R-Ariz., who gave up his House intelligence
committee seat last month after FBI agents raided his wife's insurance business.
Renzi paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in back taxes while settling charges that his businesses improperly paid for
his first congressional campaign. He also faces an inquiry into whether he used his House seat to help a former business partner
make land swaps.
Other Republican House members recently under federal scrutiny include:
_Jerry Lewis of California: Prosecutors in Los Angeles are examining how millions of dollars in federal contracts were
steered to a company whose founders were big contributors to Lewis' campaigns while he chaired the House Appropriations Committee.
_Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania: Murphy declined comment on published reports that authorities are investigating whether his
legislative aides performed campaign work while on government time.
_Gary Miller of California: Miller says he has no reason to believe he is under investigation, but Democrats have run Web-based
attack ads citing published reports that federal agents have looked into some land deals involving the lawmaker.
Jessica Boulanger, spokeswoman for the National Republican Congressional Committee, said Democratic attacks on the ethics
front will have little effect. Democrats, she said, "are proving incapable of governing, so it's no wonder they're dusting
off their '06 playbook in an effort to hide their failed leadership."
The President of Common Cause, Bob Edgar, said in a press release, "There's still a lot of work to do to prove that this Congress is serious about cleaning up Washington."
Last Thursday, the House
overwhelmingly passed the Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007 in a vote of 396 to 22. The bill proposes new rules
that require campaigns to disclose "'bundled' campaign contributions that lobbyists collect and pass on to lawmakers' campaigns," accelerate the financial reporting cycle
from semi-annually to quarterly, and "for the first time lobbyists, not just lawmakers, would be liable for infractions."
groups like Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and Common Cause welcomed the bill's passage but also argued
that lawmakers will "not be held accountable" without "independent, outside ethics enforcement."
The New York Times described
the bill as "closer to reform" but noted the failure of the House to include a measure to "slow the revolving door" by requiring, as
the Senate has proposed, a two-year waiting period before lawmakers can become lobbyists themselves.
One lobbyist explained
another key failing of the bill, noting that while President Bush has disclosed perhaps the "best public list of major Republican bundlers," fewer than half of the them are "registered federal lobbyists" and are not governed by the new disclosure
This is not the first time a secret hold has been used to block open
government legislation from reaching the floor. In Aug. 2006, Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) put a hold on a bill to create a searchable public database of all federal grants and contracts. Steven's role was revealed only after online public advocates and
journalists forced senators to go on the record about whether they placed the hold or not.
SECRET HOLD BLOCKS
OPEN-GOVERNMENT LEGISLATION FROM REACHING SENATE FLOOR:
On April 12, the Senate
Judiciary Committee unanimously passed the OPEN Government Act, sponsored by Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX). The bill,
which has garnered support from more than 100 organizations, would improve the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) by reducing "delays in releasing government records
requested under FOIA by creating incentives for public officials to comply with the law."
The House passed a similar
measure earlier this year but the bill was blocked from reaching the Senate floor for a vote thursday. A "Republican senator
called the Minority Leader's office and objected to a vote on the bill, but asked for anonymity and did not publicly state the reason for the
hold.""It is both unfortunate and ironic that this bipartisan bill, which promotes sunshine and openness in our government, is being hindered
by a secret and anonymous hold," said Leahy in a statement.
JUSTICE OFFICIALS CONFIRM WHITE HOUSE
INSTIGATED PLAN TO BYPASS SENATE ON U.S. ATTORNEY:
Both Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and his former chief of staff Kyle Sampson approved a plan to bypass the Senate and install Karl Rove-protege Tim Griffin as U.S. attorney in Arkansas.
But private testimony by Sampson reveals that the idea was "instigated" by the White House.
According to Karen Tumulty of Time, "Pressure
to do it, he suggested, was coming from officials at the White House -- specifically, White House political director Sara
Taylor, her deputy Scott Jennings and Chris Oprison, the associate White House counsel.
Sampson described himself and Goodling
as 'open to the idea,' which is not the same as instigating it." Taylor reports directly to Rove.
In a Dec. 19, 2006 e-mail, Sampson said
that getting Griffin "appointed was important to Harriet, Karl, etc." Additionally, according to written testimony by Bud Cummins -- the prosecutor Griffin replaced -- Michael
Elston, the chief of staff to former Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty, said that the plan to install Griffin and circumvent
Senate approval was completely dictated by the White House.
Cummins wrote, "Elston denied knowing anything
about anyone's intention to circumvent Senate confirmation in Griffin's case. He said that might have been the White House's
plan, but they 'never read DOJ into that plan' and DOJ would never go along with it.
This indicated to me that my removal had
been dictated entirely by the White House." Fortunately, in a 306-114 vote, the House recently passed legislation "that would curb President Bush's power to appoint prosecutors indefinitely," limiting interim U.S. attorneys' terms to 120 days. The Senate has already approved the bill, and it
now heads to Bush for his signature.
REPLACE SCANDAL-PLAGUED DOOLITTLE WITH SCANDAL-PLAGUED CALVERT:
Wednesday, the House Republican Steering Committee voted to seat Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA) on the Appropriations Committee,
"filling the vacancy left by embattled Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA)," who is under investigation by the FBI for his longstanding ties to convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
to Roll Call, House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) "has sought to enforce a tougher ethical standard in the 110th Congress," and thus called on Doolittle to immediately resign his committee seat in the
wake of corruption charges.
choice of Calvert as Doolittle's replacement shows that Boehner's rhetoric is merely a PR stunt. Named one of Citizens for
Responsibility and Ethics in Washington's "20 Most Corrupt Members of Congress," Calvert has a history of abusing his power just as much as Doolittle.
2005, Calvert pushed through an earmark to secure over $9 million for freeway and commercial development near property he owned in California. After the development of the area, Calvert sold his property for a 79 percent profit.
"In another deal, a group of investors bought property a few blocks from the site of a proposed interchange, for $975,000.
Within six months, after the earmark for the interchange was appropriated, the parcel of land sold for $1.45 million. Rep. Calvert's firm received a commission on the sale."
in 2005, Calvert helped pass at least 13 earmarks, adding up to over $91 million, sought by Copeland Lowery, a lobbying firm currently "enmeshed in a federal investigation of Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA)." The lobbying firm has been Calvert's largest campaign contributor. Despite Calvert's controversial history, Boehner maintained that a simple interview was enough to erase
his past in the eyes of House conservatives. "Congressman Calvert answered every question asked of him by the Steering Committee,"
Boehner said. "It was a candid and frank conversation, and the members of the committee were satisfied with his answers."
Ex-Lawmakers Cash In on K Street
Avni Patel Reports:
Just weeks after leaving office, eight former members of Congress have signed on to work at lobbying firms, trading their
$165,000 salaries as public servants for the opportunity to make hundreds of thousands more representing well-funded clients.
Federal law bans members of Congress from directly lobbying current members and their staffs for one year after they leave
But campaign finance watchdogs say that despite the "cooling-off" period, there are plenty of opportunities for recently
retired members of Congress to trade on the contacts and experience they've gained in their years of public service to the
benefit of corporations and special interest groups.
"They are hiring these former lawmakers to be rainmakers, to bring in business," says Sheila Krumholz, executive director
of the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan watchdog group that tracks lobbying by former lawmakers and public officials.
The latest member to make the trip through the revolving door is former Congressman Bill Thomas, R-Calif., who served as
the chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee for six years before retiring in the fall.
Thomas recently signed on as a senior advisor for federal government relations at Buchanan, Ingersoll, and Rooney,
PC, a law firm that lobbies on behalf of clients from the financial services, pharmaceutical and media industries.
Thomas says his new job is a way for him to continue his commitment to public service and put to good use the tax policy
expertise he developed during his 28 years in Congress.
"People see this as a valuable thing and are willing to pay me money to provide this service," says Thomas. He says he
will not be lobbying, even after the one-year ban expires, and his role will be merely strategic and tactical.
Krumholz says that the former members do not have to do the leg work on Capitol Hill to be useful to the lobbying firms.
"These former members don't need to be the foot soldiers. They can be the generals in a war that is setting strategy, positioning
people -- clients and lobbyists -- to make contact with members and staff," says Krumholz.
Some former lawmakers have spun the revolving door with a touch of irony: former Republican Sens. Conrad Burns of Montana
and Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, whose defeats have been blamed in part on their questionable K Street ties, have both taken
jobs with prominent lobbying firms.
CRP's list of those who have moved to K Street also includes: former Reps. Jim Davis, D-Fla., Nancy Johnson, R-Conn., Michael
Oxley, R-Ohio, Richard Pombo, R-Calif., and former Sen. Jim Talent, R-Mo.
The lobbying and ethics reform bill passed by the Senate in January contains a provision that would ban members of Congress
from engaging in any lobbying activities and expand the cooling-off period from one to two years.
It is unclear whether the provision will be included in the House version of the bill expected to be brought to the floor
in the next few weeks.
Another Ex-Congressional Aide Caught in Abramoff Scandal
• Former aide to Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, charged in Abramoff investigation
Zachares accepted trips and $30,000 in tickets from Abramoff
• Zachares is expected to plead guilty with conspiracy
• Zachares would be fifth congressional staffer to plead guilty in Abramoff scandal
An aide to Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, accepted $30,000 worth of tickets from Jack Abramoff and took a golf junket to
Scotland in exchange for assisting the lobbyist, according to court papers filed Monday.
The aide, Mark Zachares, will plead guilty Tuesday to conspiracy in the Abramoff investigation, said Zachares' lawyer,
Zachares left Young's staff in 2005. Young's office did not return repeated phone calls seeking comment.
Abramoff and his lobbying team supplied Zachares with tickets on more than 40 occasions from August 2002 to February 2004,
according to a 10-page Justice Department document filed in the case.
In early 2002, Zachares accepted $10,000 in wire transfers from Abramoff through a nonprofit foundation the lobbyist controlled,
the papers state.
From June 2002 through November 2004, Zachares worked for the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, providing
Abramoff contact information for prospective businesses that would be affected by the creation of the Homeland Security Department,
the court papers stated.
The two men worked out a "two-year plan" in which Abramoff would build a homeland security lobbying practice that Zachares
ultimately would join. The papers also state that:
Zachares sent an e-mail saying he was willing to help Abramoff regarding the lobbyist's Sun Cruz venture, which involved
the purchase of a fleet of Florida gambling boats. Zachares offered to help with administrative issues involving the U.S.
Maritime Administration, which regulated financial assistance Abramoff was seeking for Sun Cruz
Zachares used his influence over disaster aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to advance Abramoff's prospective
business with the territory of Guam in the Pacific Ocean.
Zachares went on an August 2003 golfing trip to Scotland with
Abramoff and six others including Rep. Tom Feeney, R-Florida.
Feeney's office said the Justice Department has contacted the congressman to request more information and that Feeney is
cooperating. Early this year, Feeney agreed to reimburse the government $5,643 for the trip.
The cost of the trip was more than $160,000 for private jet service, luxury hotel accommodations, twice-daily golf at St.
Andrews and other famous courses, meals, drinks and local transportation, states the document that federal prosecutors filed
Zachares provided information to Abramoff about pending congressional action on the homeland security reorganization "that
would assist Abramoff's potential business opportunities and clients," the papers stated.
The details of Zachares' activity were contained in a criminal information, a document filed by a federal prosecutor that
bypasses action by a grand jury.
Zachares would become the fifth congressional staffer to plead guilty in the Abramoff scandal.
In addition, the scandal has led to convictions for former White House official David Safavian, ex-Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio,
and two former Interior Department officials, including former Deputy Secretary Steven Griles.
All pleaded guilty except Safavian, who was found guilty by a jury.
Calls for Jettisoning Bush, Cheney Grow
By Robert Gehrke
The Salt Lake Tribune
- Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson joined Rep. Dennis Kucinich, Cindy Sheehan and various peace activists Wednesday, demanding
the impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.
"We know, sadly, that the war in Iraq was based on lies and there must be accountability," said Kucinich, D-Ohio, who introduced
articles of impeachment against Cheney on Tuesday. "All across this country, the people will be heard from."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., however, has ruled out impeachment proceedings.
Anderson, who has previously voiced his support for impeachment, said he initially thought it was too drastic a move and
would be too disruptive for the country. But Anderson said he now believes the Bush administration has abused its power and
removing Bush and Cheney from office is the proper recourse.
It would send a message to the world, Anderson said, that the United States doesn't stand for "kidnapping, disappearing
people, torturing them, engaging in illegal uses of aggression, engaging in unconstitutional surveillance of people."
The White House was dismissive of the demands that Bush be forced from office.
"The president and the vice president have served honorably, and I don't think there's any merit to those impeachment claims,"
said White House spokeswoman Dana Perino.
The Vermont Senate passed a resolution calling for impeachment this week, but the state House rejected the measure Wednesday.
"I Don't Recall" I know
nothing, I see nothing, I hear nothing...But I promise you, I am telling the truth...
What emerged from Attorney General Alberto Gonzales's testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee
last week was a picture of an inept manager who was, at best, unaware of major personnel decisions being made within his department,
and at worst, complicit in the Bush administration's plan to politicize the ranks of the U.S. attorneys.
He uttered the phrase "'I don't recall' and its variants ('I have no recollection,' 'I have
no memory') 64 times," claiming, "I don't have anything to hide." Yet at the same time, Gonzales asked the Senate to trust him: "I believe I can continue to be effective as the attorney
general of the United States." Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) wondered, "Since you apparently knew very little about the performance
about the replaced United States attorneys, how can you testify that the judgment ought to stand?"
After a full day of testimony, what is clear is that the Attorney General has repeatedly lied to the American public. Gonzales promised, "The moment I believe I can no longer be effective I will resign as attorney general." President Bill Clinton told Larry King last night on CNN, "The best thing he could do for this president that he served
so loyally is to step aside."
LIES AND INCONSISTENCIES:
Throughout this scandal, Gonzales has simultaneously said that he is "ultimately accountable and responsible for what happens within the department," while at the same time shirking responsibility:
"I was not involved in seeing any memos, was not involved in any discussions about what was
going on." Yet documents show that Gonzales was involved and approved plans to fire several of the prosecutors in an hour-long meeting on Nov. 27.
Earlier in the month, Gonzales former chief of staff Kyle Sampson told congressional investigators
that the Attorney General was "inaccurate," or "at least not complete" in asserting that he had no role in the prosecutor purge deliberations.
At the hearing, Gonzales finally conceded the obvious -- that he was involved -- but
still failed to fully explain why at least eight highly-respected U.S. attorneys were fired.
Under questioning from Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), he also admitted that he "made these
decisions without ever looking at the performance reports" of the U.S. attorneys. He said that at the time he approved the firings, he didn't even know why two of the prosecutors
-- Daniel Bogden of Nevada and Margaret Chiara of Michigan -- were on the list.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) called Gonzales's explanations "a stretch," adding that he thought the prosecutors were fired because of personality conflicts and "made up reasons."
Contractor: Hiring of Wolfowitz Friend Ordered
• Wolfowitz already under fire for overseeing girlfriend's high-paying promotion
Contractor: Riza was paid expenses, no salary, at her request during trip to Iraq
• Democrats step up calls for Wolfowitz
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- The U.S. Defense Department ordered a contractor to hire a World Bank employee and girlfriend
of then-Pentagon No. 2 Paul Wolfowitz in 2003 for work related to Iraq, the contractor said on Tuesday.
A spokeswoman for Science Applications International Corp., or SAIC, said the Defense Department's policy office directed
the company to enter a subcontract with Shaha Riza, under which she spent a month studying ways to form a government in Iraq.
Wolfowitz, a key Iraq war architect who left the Pentagon in 2005 to become president of the World Bank, is already under
fire for overseeing a high-paying promotion for Riza after he took the helm of the poverty-fighting global lender.
Senior Democratic congressmen and other critics have pressed demands for his resignation, saying his actions have undermined
the campaign against corruption in the developing world that has been a hallmark of his World Bank tenure.
SAIC said Riza's subcontract lasted from April 25 to May 31, 2003. She was paid expenses but no salary during her trip
to Iraq, at her request, according to the contractor.
Melissa Koskovich, a spokeswoman for SAIC, said the contractor "had no role in the selection of the personnel who comprised
the Iraq Governance Group under this contract."
Defense sources said the Pentagon was reviewing the matter.
The World Bank's board is examining Wolfowitz's role in helping to arrange Riza's promotion and the bank's staff association
has called for his resignation.
The controversy hung over spring meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund last weekend, attended by top
finance and development officials from around the globe. (Read reaction)
The bank's member governments said on Sunday they were troubled by the matter and that it was crucial the bank's credibility
not be tarnished. Wolfowitz said he intended to stay in his job.
Democrats who criticize Wolfowitz for his role at the Pentagon in the run-up to the Iraqi war stepped up calls for him
Democratic Sen. John Kerry, who ran against President George W. Bush for president in 2004, said in a statement that Wolfowitz's
problems at the bank were "entirely self-inflicted" and jeopardized its role as a champion of anti-corruption.
Last week, Sen. John Edwards, a contender for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination, said Wolfowitz's World Bank
leadership was characterized by "some of the same failures as his term managing the war in Iraq -- cronyism and rhetoric that
does not match reality." He added: "He should resign."
In an e-mail to bank staff on Tuesday, Wolfowitz sought to ease concerns the episode might derail bank business.
"I want to reassure you that we conducted a full agenda of bank business with the governors, heads of delegation and various
groups who attend the spring meetings," he said, referring to the weekend gathering.
ABRAMOFF-LINKED CONGRESSMAN'S HOME:
FBI agents searched the home of Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA) yesterday, who is "under scrutiny over his ties to convicted GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff."
to the disgraced lobbyist are quite extensive, as he "received $64,500 from Abramoff, his partners, and clients between 2001 and 2004. Abramoff let Doolittle hold fundraisers in his sky box for free, and paid to send Doolittle's top aide to Puerto Rico. He hired Doolittle's then-chief of staff, Kevin Ring, who in turn helped hire Doolittle's wife. Julie
Doolittle, who owned a consulting firm, was brought on by Abramoff and his firm, Greenberg Traurig, to do fundraising for Abramoff's charity."
Despite these other
clear connections, Dolittle maintains that Abramoff's ties to Doolittle's wife's business are the only reason for the
FBI's raid. "My wife has been cooperating with the FBI and the Justice Department for almost three years and that cooperation is going to continue in the future.
I support my wife 100 percent and fully expect that the truth will prevail," he said in a statement yesterday.
Roll Call notes, Doolittle is seemingly quite embarrassed about the allegations, as he has not "made any attempt to personally
inform House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) of the event. Doolittle has been on the Hill all week and voted on the floor Wednesday."
FBI RAIDS BUSINESS TIED TO ARIZONA CONGRESSMAN RICK RENZI:
Late last Thursday night, Roll Call reported that the FBI had raided a family business tied to Rep. Rick Renzi (R-AZ) earlier in the day. "Today, the FBI came to my family's business to obtain
documents related to their investigation," Renzi said in a statement. "I view these actions as the first step in bringing
out the truth.
Until this matter is resolved, I will take a leave of absence from the House Intelligence Committee. I intend
to fully cooperate with this investigation."
The business that was targeted is the Patriot Insurance Agency, which is located in Sonoita, Arizona. Though details of the inquiries are sparse, the Justice Department
"has been running a two-track investigation into Renzi regarding a land deal, as well as a piece of legislation he helped steer that may have improperly
benefited a major campaign contributor."
The exact land deal and legislation in question have not been named, but Renzi has faced previous scrutiny
for legislation he sponsored "that dealt hundreds of millions of dollars to his father's business while, according to environmentalists, devastating the San Pedro River."
Renzi's promotion of an Oct. 2005 land deal that netted former business partner James Sandlin $4.5 million has also raised questions. Former U.S. attorney Paul Charlton, who was among the eight U.S. attorneys
forced to resign last year, spearheaded the Arizona investigations into Renzi.
Some critics have suggested that the Renzi investigation may have been a factor in Charlton's dismissal, though Attorney General Alberto Gonzales denied the charge in testimony before Congress last week.
Presidential Records Evasion
The Presidential Records Act (PRA) -- 44 U.S.C. section 2203 -- reads, "Through the implementation
of records management controls and other necessary actions, the President shall take all such steps as may be necessary to
assure" that the activities of the White House "are adequately documented."
Passed in 1978 by Congress to counteract Richard Nixon's attempts to seal and destroy some of his papers, the PRA was intended to make Executive Branch leaders accountable by ensuring eventual public access
to White House decision-making.
In recent weeks, through the congressional investigation into the firing of eight U.S. attorneys, more evidence has come to light suggesting that senior White House officials have been using political e-mail accounts provided by the
Republican National Committee (RNC), apparently in an effort to evade the PRA.
This week, the RNC informed House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA)
that it had destroyed all e-mail records from White House officials in 2001, 2002, and 2003.
"In 2004, the RNC exempted White House officials from its policy of purging all e-mail," but the RNC
claims the system still allowed individual users, like Karl Rove, to personally delete such records.
"The White House has not done a good enough job overseeing staff using political e-mail accounts to assure compliance with the Presidential Records Act," White House spokesman
Scott Stanzel said. As a result, Stanzel noted that "we may not have preserved all e-mails that deal with White House business."
The White House now says that roughly 50 White House officials, including 22 current aides, used e-mail accounts controlled by the RNC to send messages, including some related to the prosecutor firings. In a letter addressed to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales Last Thursday, Waxman revealed disturbing information he obtained from private briefings from the White House and RNC regarding the extensive volume of e-mails that may have been
Waxman said that RNC counsel Rob Kelner told him that the earliest e-mail records the RNC retains are
from 2004, and the Committee only has e-mail records for 35 of the 50 White House officials that had political accounts.
Moreover, Waxman said that White House officials retained the ability to delete e-mails from RNC accounts
even after a policy was instituted in 2004 to retain the records.
One government watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, reported yesterday
from confidential sources that the Executive Office of the President had lost over five million e-mails generated between March 2003 and October 2005.
ROVE WAS A SPECIAL CASE:
Even though the RNC claims it began archiving e-mails in 2004, the Committee said there appear to be
no records from White House senior political adviser Karl Rove until 2005, leaving open "the possibility that Rove had personally deleted the missing e-mails."
Rove -- a Blackberry addict who does "about 95 percent" of his e-mailing on RNC accounts -- received special attention from the RNC in 2005. According to Kelner, the Committee
took action specifically and singularly against Rove in 2005 to keep him "from deleting his e-mails from the RNC server."
The automatic archive policy specifically targeted at Rove raises questions about his intent to
intentionally evade compliance with the Presidential Records Act and escape accountability.
MORE WHITE HOUSE
At a March 27, 2007, press briefing, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino claimed that only a "handful" of White House staffers had political e-mail accounts.
Thursday, Perino was forced to admit that it was actually "a very large handful." Speaking in her own defense, Perino offered, "When I said a 'handful,' I was asked based on something that I didn't know."
In that same March 27 briefing, Perino also claimed the RNC had been archiving e-mails and that
the system was "something that was in place" for years.
Amidst revelations that RNC emails had not been retained, Perino backed off that statement and said,
"We have developed a better understanding of how the RNC archived or did not archive certain e-mails."
The White House's inconsistent statements have raised questions about whether the e-mails did actually
disappear as it claims. Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) questioned the White House's credibility: "They say
they have not been preserved. I don't believe that. You can't erase e-mails, not today. They've gone through too many servers." Leahy added, "This sounds like the administration's
version of the dog ate my homework. ... Just when this administration is finally subjected to meaningful oversight, it cannot produce the necessary information."
Data-recovery experts say "erasing an e-mail message beyond hope of retrieval is not easy." ABC News reported that wiping data from a hard drive or tape backup often requires special software designed explicitly to cover any trace of deleted information.
CLINTON V. BUSH:
On May 5, 1993, then-Assistant to President Clinton and Staff Secretary John Podesta wrote a memo to all presidential staff explaining that the PRA required all staff members to maintain all records, including e-mails.
"Podesta stated that the use of external e-mail networks was prohibited because records would not be saved as required." CREW reports that the Bush administration has refused to make public its own record-keeping policy.
Stanzel said, "We don't share internal White House memos." In Stanzel's press call with reporters this week, he acknowledged that the handbook given to
all White House staffers reads, "Federal law requires the preservation of electronic communications sent or received by White House staff. ... As a result, personnel working
on behalf of the EOP [Executive Office of the President] are expected to only use government-provided e-mail services for
all official communication." Washington Post online columnist Dan Froomkin, who was on the call, reported, "Stanzel refused to
publicly release the relevant portions of the White House staff manual and denied my request to make public the transcript of the call." Said Podesta of the Bush White House, "At the end of the day, it looks like they were trying
to avoid the records act...by operating official business off the official systems."
-- WHITE HOUSE STONEWALLS WAXMAN'S INQUIRY INTO CHENEY-LINKED MZM CONTRACTS:
March 26, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) wrote a letter to White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten demanding "all contracts, subcontracts, and task orders between
MZM, Inc. ... and the Executive Office of the President."
is good reason to believe fired U.S. attorney Carol Lam was targeting the White House's connections to MZM contractor Mitchell Wade, who pled guilty to paying more than $1 million in bribes to former Rep. Duke Cunningham. Despite no
record of having ever received a federal contract, Wade's firm received a $140,000 contract in 2002 to provide a system to
screen the President's mail.
his letter, Waxman requested that the White House provide documents relating to the White House-MZM contracts as soon as possible,
but not later than Friday, April 6. Yet as the North County Times reports, Waxman has yet to receive the information he requested.
White House response is clearly not adequate at this point,' Waxman said in a written response to questions from the North County Times.
Friday, the White House gave its initial response to Waxman's March request, with President Bush's special counsel Emmet T.
Flood saying there would be a delay." Waxman said he is willing to grant an extension, but that "any extension should be accompanied
by a firm and expeditious schedule for production." He noted that on Jan. 23,
his committee asked the Department of Homeland Security to provide it with documents on the Department's $30 billion contract with Boeing to design and build a comprehensive border security plan. Fifteen days later, he received 1,800 pages
in documents in response to the request. By contrast, Waxman noted, "The [MZM] contract is small and complying with the request
should not be complicated."
GOP Advocate Targeted in Abramoff Probe
By JOHN HEILPRIN
Associated Press Writer
The head of a Republican environmental advocacy group has been told officially by federal investigators that
she is a target for criminal prosecution in the Jack Abramoff corruption probe.
Italia Federici, who co-founded the group with former Interior Secretary Gale Norton and conservative GOP activist Grover
Norquist, was told by the Justice Department she faces up to five charges in the influence-peddling scandal that has produced
convictions against one lawmaker, two senior Bush administration officials and several congressional aides.
While running the advocacy group, the Council of Republicans for Environmental Advocacy, Federici was involved in a romantic
relationship with J. Steven Griles, who was deputy interior secretary during President Bush's first term. Griles last month
became the highest-ranking Bush administration official convicted in the lobbying scandal when he pleaded guilty to a felony
charge of obstructing justice by lying to the Senate Indian Affairs Committee in 2005.
Griles, a longtime oil and gas lobbyist, became an architect of Bush's energy policies while serving as No. 2 at the Interior
Department. He admitted in federal court that he lied to investigators about his relationship with convicted lobbyist Abramoff,
who repeatedly sought Griles' intervention at Interior on behalf of Indian tribal clients.
Investigators have been looking at the hundreds of thousands of dollars that Federici's environmental advocacy council
received from Abramoff's Indian tribal clients and from energy and mining companies, including some of Griles' former clients.
Federal prosecutors told Federici in a confidential letter dated Jan. 19 that they are considering bringing charges of
fraud, impeding the Internal Revenue Service, tax evasion, obstructing the Senate committee and testifying falsely to the
committee and its investigators. The letter was first reported by Legal Times.
"The investigation is focused on the allegedly illegal manner in which you operated the Council of Republicans for Environmental
Advocacy, commonly known as CREA," the letter says. "The government has also received information that you may have assisted
others in depriving the American public of the honest services of at least one administration official."
Federici's attorney, Jonathan Rosen, declined Wednesday to comment on the letter or other aspects of the case.
The Senate committee turned up e-mails detailing numerous contacts between Abramoff and Federici and between Federici and
Griles from 2001 to 2003. Many of them seek meetings with Griles or favors from him.
Griles' office calendars, obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests, show meetings with Federici soon after
they were discussed in e-mails between Federici and Abramoff. Griles routinely passed on departmental information to Federici,
who passed it on to Abramoff, according to e-mails and other evidence obtained by the Senate committee.
Abramoff persuaded his Indian clients to pay him tens of millions of dollars to influence decisions coming out of Congress
and the Interior Department. Abramoff awaits sentencing in the bribery scandal, but is serving a six-year prison sentence
for fraud in a Florida casino deal.
Federici was offered the chance to meet with prosecutors and agents in the case, and to negotiate a plea deal that would
require her to plead guilty to at least one felony charge.
Any such cooperation would be voluntary but "time is of the essence," Federici was advised in the letter sent her by a
trial attorney with the Justice Department tax division's criminal enforcement section.
FBI Investigation of Nevada Gov. Gibbons finding More Corruption
WASHINGTON (AP) A defense company that got a federal contract with help from then-Republican Rep. Jim Gibbons, now governor
of Nevada, hired Gibbons' wife to do consulting work, according to a published report Friday.
Dawn Gibbons was paid about $35,000 by Sierra Nevada Corp. of Sparks, Nev., in 2004, the same year her husband, who sat
on the Armed Services and Intelligence committees, pushed for the company to get a $4 million contract to make a helicopter
radar system, the Wall Street Journal reported.
An attorney for Jim Gibbons, who was elected governor last November, didn't immediately return a message left at his office
Friday. Dawn Gibbons couldn't immediately be reached for comment Friday. The Gibbons' have denied wrongdoing.
The new report comes amid ongoing federal scrutiny of Jim Gibbons' business dealings. Federal law enforcement officials
said last month that the FBI is investigating Gibbons' failure to properly report gifts or payments from a software company
that was awarded secret military contracts when he was in Congress.
The company involved in that case is eTreppid Technologies LLC of Reno, Nev., owned by Warren Trepp, a longtime Gibbons
friend who contributed nearly $100,000 to Gibbons' campaign for governor. The case arose out of a civil lawsuit brought against
Trepp by a one-time business partner. In the lawsuit, which involves ownership of software codes, Trepp's former partner made
allegations that Gibbons used his influence to steer tens of millions of dollars in military contracts to Trepp.
According to the Journal, a federal grand jury in Washington has begun issuing document subpoenas in that investigation.
The contract that Dawn Gibbons got from Sierra Nevada was to conduct market surveys and demonstrations of a hand-held emergency-communication
Sierra Nevada got a $2 million contract in 2004 for research to develop a landing system to help pilots land in "brownout"
conditions. Gibbons sought $4 million for the project but Congress signed off on $2 million.
A spokeswoman for Gov. Gibbons told the Journal that there's no relationship between Sierra Nevada's military contract
and the payments to Dawn Gibbons.
Sierra Nevada and eTreppid also got classified contracts, and internal documents and e-mails reviewed by the Journal show
ties between the two companies including a subcontracting relationship.
The payments by Sierra Nevada to Dawn Gibbons were made through a consulting firm she set up called Politek Inc. whose
biggest client was her husband's 2004 congressional campaign.
Fence Execs Sentenced for Illegal Hiring
By ELLIOT SPAGAT
Associated Press Writer
Two executives at a company that once helped build a fence to keep illegal immigrants from crossing the Mexican
border were sentenced Wednesday to six months of home confinement for hiring undocumented workers.
Mel Kay, founder, chairman and president of Golden State Fence Co., and manager Michael McLaughlin had pleaded guilty in
federal court to knowingly hiring illegal aliens. U.S. District Judge Barry Ted Moskowitz ordered each to serve 1,040 hours
of community service and spend three years on probation.
Kay, 64, was fined $200,000 as part of a plea agreement, and McLaughlin, 42, agreed to pay $100,000.
Federal prosecutors took the rare step of seeking prison time after the men acknowledged hiring at least 10 illegal immigrants
in 2004 and 2005. The charges carried a maximum possible penalty of five years in prison.
However, prosecutors were unable to find a previous case in which an employer had been sent to jail for knowingly hiring
"Prosecution is long overdue in this area," Moskowitz said. "Honestly, the government's efforts have been at the border,
not with the employer. Obviously, the government has signaled a change with this case."
In December, company officials acknowledged knowingly hiring illegal immigrants and agreed the firm would pay a $4.7 million
fine, one of the largest for immigration violations.
Moskowitz said he was uneasy with handing down jail time because the company did not deserve to be "the poster child" for
unscrupulous employers. All of Kay's workers paid Social Security taxes and received health benefits, vacation and sick time.
Many earned more than $50,000 a year.
Golden State saw sales soar from $60 million in 1998 to $150 million in 2004, according to a biography of Kay provided
by the company.
Federal authorities said they found no evidence that illegal immigrants were hired in the late 1990s while the company
built more than a mile of the 14-mile fence near a border crossing in San Diego.
Government agents raided Golden State Fence's Riverside office last year and found that more than 100 were unauthorized
to work — including three the company had been ordered not to employ after a 1999 audit by the government.
Kay apologized before he was sentenced and described how his business suffered after the guilty pleas. Golden State was
banned from government work, which accounts for 30 percent of its revenue. The company has laid off about 150 employees, leaving
it with about 500 workers.
"I feel I have paid a tremendous price," Kay said. "I've lost a lot of accounts. (Customers) don't want to be guilty by
McLaughlin said he was relieved at not having to serve prison time.
The company did work at military bases and other government facilities — an irony that Moskowitz noted as he considered
whether to send Kay to prison.
"He'd probably go to one of the camp facilities that he built the fence for," the judge said.
6 Months Later, Still No Charges Vs. Mark Foley
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla.
(AP) Six months after resigning from Congress, former U.S. Rep. Mark Foley remains under criminal investigation for sexually
explicit Internet communications with underage boys but has not been charged, authorities said Wednesday.
"I can't really give any more detail other than to say we're still in the preliminary investigative stance and we are working
with state authorities," said Debra Weierman, spokeswoman for the FBI's Washington field office.
Florida authorities announced their own criminal investigation in November but have remained tightlipped on the status
Foley resigned Sept. 29 after being confronted with the lurid messages to male teenage pages who had worked on Capitol
He checked himself into an Arizona facility on Oct. 1 for what his attorneys said was treatment of "alcoholism and other
behavioral problems." At the time, his attorney said Foley was gay, an alcoholic and had been molested by a priest as a teenage
altar boy in Florida.
Attorney David Roth maintains Foley never had inappropriate sexual contact with the minors. He has declined further comment
on any aspect of the case.
Federal law generally requires a person to meet or attempt to meet a minor for sex for it to be a crime. However, under
laws in some states where the Florida Republican communicated with minors, an attempt to seduce the victim might be enough
for a criminal case.
Under state law in Florida, where the age of consent is 18, a crime may have been committed if Foley is simply found to
have seduced or attempted to seduce a minor using lewd or explicit language.
"It's definitely still an active investigation," Florida Department of Law Enforcement spokeswoman Kristen Perezluha said
Foley emerged publicly in West Palm Beach on Nov. 17 to attend a wake for his father, Edward, who died of cancer, but has
rarely been seen in public since.
Federal Prosecutors Suggests Reducing Abramoff Sentence
MIAMI (AP) — US Federal prosecutors took the first steps toward reducing the prison sentence of former Washington
lobbyist Jack Abramoff, currently scheduled for release in 2011 for a Florida fraud conviction.
Documents filed in federal court say Abramoff has provided "substantial assistance" in a separate Washington corruption
scandal investigation and continues to work with investigators from his prison cell in Cumberland, Md.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul F. Schwartz did not recommend how much Abramoff's sentence should be cut.
In the court papers filed Wednesday, Schwartz said prosecutors would recommend a reduction in his sentence and would file
further documents describing the "nature, extent and value" of his cooperation.
Abramoff, once a powerful Washington lobbyist, and ex-partner Adam Kidan were sentenced in Florida last March to nearly
six years in prison for concocting a fake $20 million wire transfer during their 2000 purchase of the Fort Lauderdale-based
SunCruz Casinos gambling fleet.
The bogus transfer enabled the pair to get $60 million in financing for the deal.
Abramoff also has pleaded guilty to three federal charges arising from the Washington corruption probe. He has yet to been
sentenced in that case.
Neal Sonnett, Abramoff's attorney in Miami, declined to comment Thursday other than to say that his client was continuing
to cooperate with investigators.
-- SENIOR BUSH OFFICIAL HAVE VIOLATED LAW TRYING TO BLOCK PELOSI FROM APPEARING AT EVENT:
Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA) has uncovered more potentially illegal activity by the head of the General Services Administration, Lorita Doan.
has discovered that Doan "used a January 2007 teleconference to ask senior GSA officials to help 'our candidates' in the next elections through targeted public events, such as the opening of federal facilities around the country."
inappropriate behavior included exploring "how to exclude House Speaker Nancy Pelosi from an upcoming courthouse opening in
San Francisco and how to include Republican Senator Mel Martinez."
questions arose surrounding Doan's attempts to award a $20,000 non-competitive GSA contract to a firm headed by Edie Fraser, an individual with whom Doan has had a "long-standing," undisclosed
Waxman has since discovered that "Fraser used her professional connections to advance Doan's nomination to GSA and to provide personal favors, and ... Ms. Fraser continued to provide services with the expectation
of payment to Ms. Doan after she became GSA Administrator."
Waxman discovered that while Fraser's contract was eventually canceled because GSA regulations required all contracts over
$2,500 to be competitively bid, Doan continued to pressure her staff "to find a way to award the contract to Ms. Fraser."
to Waxman, Doan even went so far as to suggest "that if GSA were to make the contract available through a competitive bid,
Ms. Fraser could write the 'Statement of Work' describing the award for which her company would be competing."
has dismissed Waxman's assertions as "scurrilous" personal attacks and said she would be "delighted to have the opportunity to set the record straight" when she appears before the House Oversight Committee on March 20.
-- FORMER CLINTON CHIEF OF STAFF REBUTS ROVE CLAIM THAT CLINTON PURGED PROSECUTORS TOO:
a speech in Little Rock last Thursday, Karl Rove described the Bush administration's purge of federal prosecutors as "normal and ordinary," claiming that Clinton did the same thing.
when he came in, replaced all 93 U.S. attorneys," Rove said. "When we came in, we ultimately replace most all 93 U.S. attorneys
-- there are some still left from the Clinton era in place."
former chief of staff John Podesta told The Progress Report that Rove's claim is "pure fiction." "Replacing most U.S. attorneys
when a new administration comes in -- as we did in 1993 and the Bush administration did in 2001 -- is not unusual. But the
Clinton administration never fired federal prosecutors as pure political retribution," he said.
this week, Mary Jo White, who was U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York from 1993-2002, also stated that the
Bush administration's prosecutor purge is unprecedented in "modern history."
told NPR, "Throughout modern history, my understanding is, you did not change the U.S. attorney during an administration,
unless there was some evidence of misconduct or other really quite significant cause to do so. And the expectation was, so
long as that was absent, that you would serve out your full four years or eight years as U.S. attorney."
White noted, attorneys need to serve "without fear or favor and in an absolutely apolitical way." By firing well-respected federal prosecutors and replacing them with Republican loyalists, the Bush administration has politicized the judicial system.
GOP lawmakers tried to influence federal investigation
By Marisa Taylor
WASHINGTON - Sen. Pete Domenici and Rep. Heather Wilson of New Mexico pressured the U.S. attorney in their state to speed
up indictments in a federal corruption investigation that involved at least one former Democratic state senator, according
to two people familiar with the contacts.
The alleged involvement of the two Republican lawmakers raises questions about possible violations of House of Representatives
and Senate ethics rules and could taint the criminal investigation into the award of an $82 million courthouse contract.
The two people with knowledge of the incident said Domenici and Wilson intervened in mid-October, when Wilson was in a
competitive re-election campaign that she won by 875 votes out of nearly 211,000 cast.
David Iglesias, who stepped down as U.S. attorney in New Mexico on Wednesday, told McClatchy Newspapers that he believed
the Bush administration fired him Dec. 7 because he resisted the pressure to rush an indictment.
According to the two individuals, Domenici and Wilson called to press Iglesias for details of the case.
Wilson was curt after Iglesias was "non-responsive" to her questions about whether an indictment would be unsealed, said
the two individuals, who asked not to be identified because they feared possible political repercussions. Rumors had spread
throughout the New Mexico legal community that an indictment of at least one Democrat was sealed.
Domenici, who wasn't up for re-election, called about a week and a half later and was more persistent than Wilson, the
people said. When Iglesias said an indictment wouldn't be handed down until at least December, the line went dead.
So far no one has been charged.
Press aides for Domenici and Wilson wouldn't comment. Justice Department officials have denied hearing of any such interference
and said they didn't fire Iglesias over it.
Iglesias said in an earlier interview that he regretted not reporting the contact to his superiors, and he said he didn't
have evidence that it led to his firing.
Some Democrats are questioning whether the two lawmakers could be accused of ethics violations for inappropriate contact
with an executive branch official.
Stanley Brand, a former federal prosecutor and former Democratic counsel to the House, said such interference could be
"There's a general ethical principle that members should not unduly interfere in adjudicative proceedings in front of courts
or agencies," he said. "This happens to be a criminal prosecution. There would seem to be a special concern about reaching
out to a U.S. attorney and asking about a pending case.
"The House and Senate have not taken much notice of these things," he said. "But they don't usually rise to this level."
The allegations also could give defense attorneys in the corruption case in New Mexico legal ammunition to attack an indictment,
"Even if he (Iglesias) didn't submit himself to the pressure, if I'm a defense attorney, I'm going to scream bloody murder
and say it looks like he did," he said.
The allegations have fueled a weeks-long controversy over whether the Bush administration forced out eight Republican-appointed
U.S. attorneys because of partisan politics.
Justice Department officials have said that most of the firings were for "performance-related" issues and denied partisan
On Thursday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, D-Mich., issued subpoenas to require Iglesias and three other
ousted U.S. attorneys to testify before Congress.
The judiciary subcommittee on administrative law authorized the subpoenas by a 7-0 vote. The five Republican members of
the subcommittee didn't show up for the vote.
The subpoenas require Iglesias, and former U.S. attorneys Carol Lam of San Diego, H.E. "Bud" Cummins of Little Rock, Ark.,
and John McKay of Seattle to appear before the subcommittee next week.
"The former U.S. attorneys are alleging very serious charges against the administration and we need to hear from them,"
The Senate Judiciary Committee is sending letters to the same four asking them to testify voluntarily on Tuesday.
In the last several weeks, other U.S. attorneys have spoken out against the administration to dispute that they were fired
because of how they handled their jobs.
The administration has said that politics played a part only in the firing of Cummins. Officials said he was removed to
make way for Tim Griffin, a former aide to White House political operative Karl Rove.
-- LOBBYING RESTRICTIONS ON 'REVOLVING DOOR' ARE 'COMPLETELY INEFFECTUAL':
restrictions on the relationship between lawmakers and lobbyists, former lawmakers are still able to take lucrative
positions lobbying the federal government after they leave Congress.
law requires lawmakers to wait a year after leaving office to lobby Congress," reports USA Today. These rules, however, do
allow the ex-lawmakers to lobby executive branch officials and direct a firm's congressional lobbying.
November, five of the 39 ex-members of Congress who were defeated have landed jobs at firms lobbying Congress, including former Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT), who claimed that "Congress is not for sale" during his campaign.
Conservative senators blocked ethics reform legislation last month that would have reduced the influence of congressional lobbyists and required more transparency
in earmarks. Furthermore, "the Senate passed a bill last month that would extend the lobbying ban to two-years and prohibit ex-lawmakers from all lobbying-related activities during that time." During debate of this bill, Sen. Bob Bennet
(R-UT) called the initiative "silly" and called the "idea of the revolving door vastly overrated." The House of Representatives
will likely take up this legislation this week.
TO NOMINATE ANTI-REGULATORY LOBBYIST TO OVERSEE CONSUMER PROTECTION:
Consumer Product Safety Commission is charged with protecting the public from dangerous consumer products. Currently, the three-person commission
has a vacancy. Media reports indicate that President Bush will likely fill the position with Michael Baroody, "executive vice president of the National Association of Manufacturers, a trade group that opposes aggressive product safety regulation" and "has called for weakening the Consumer Product Safety Commission."
at NAM, Baroody repeatedly lobbied for looser business regulations, at the expense of public safety. In 2000, NAM successfully killed a bill in the Senate that would have helped reduce safety risks to motorists by requiring tire manufacturers
to report accident data and potential defects to the National Highway and Transportation Safety Board.
also opposes tougher rules regulating asbestos and in 2003, teamed up with the asbestos industry and spent $180,000 opposing asbestos reform legislation.
official position states that scientific data have "not confirmed evidence of global warming that can be attributed to human
activities" and calls for "voluntary" measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It "opposes any federal or state government actions regarding climate change that could adversely affect the international competitiveness of the U.S. marketplace economy." In 2001, Baroody wrote to Bush and personally
thanked him for rejecting the Kyoto Protocol. Bush has repeatedly attempted to weaken regulations that protect the American public. Recently, he issued
a directive that would give the White House greater control over federal regulations.
OIL LOBBYIST AND TOP BUSH ENVIRONMENTAL PROSECUTOR SHARE $1 MILLION VACATION HOME:
"Nine months before
agreeing to let ConocoPhillips delay a half-billion-dollar pollution cleanup," the government's top environmental prosecutor
Sue Ellen Wooldbridge "bought a $1 million vacation home with the company's top lobbyist," the AP reports.
"Also in on the
Kiawah Island, S.C., house deal was former Deputy Interior Secretary J. Steven Griles, the highest-ranking Bush administration official targeted for criminal prosecution in the Jack Abramoff
Griles, now an oil
and gas lobbyist, "began dating Wooldridge while he was her boss at Interior. He was the department's No. 2 official from
July 2001 to Jan. 2005, behind only former Secretary Gale Norton. He and [Donald] Duncan, a ConocoPhillips vice president
who runs the company's Washington office, both served on President Bush's presidential transition team -- Griles for the Interior
Department, Duncan for the Energy Department.
Duncan has played
a major role in getting the Bush administration's backing for a proposed $25 billion natural gas pipeline reaching from Alaska
to Midwest markets."
The Justice Department
says Wooldbridge's involvement in the deal was cleared by ethics officials, which Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) said signaled a
"breakdown of ethics" at the department. Waxman's House Oversight and Government Reform Committee says it will investigate and request documents on the real estate deal.
-- DESPITE BEING DEFEATED, LAWMAKERS WILL REMAIN THE SUBJECT OF FEDERAL INVESTIGATIONS:
The electoral defeat of many scandal-ridden lawmakers may not end their legal troubles. Roll Call writes
that several of them "still face the prospect that they will remain ensnared in ongoing criminal probes that could last well into their post-Congressional careers."
For example, there is an ongoing federal probe into whether Rep. Curt Weldon (R-PA), who lost
Tuesday in his bid for re-election, used his influence to help his daughter, a registered lobbyist, win consulting contracts.
Also, Rep. Katherine Harris (R-FL), who lost in bid for a Senate seat, remains the subject of an investigation
into whether she sought campaign contributions from guilty lobbyist Mitchell Wade in return for political favors.
Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT) continues to be investigated for his dealings with Jack Abramoff.
Without commenting on those specific cases, an aide at the Justice Department said Wednesday that the
key focus of an investigation is the activity that might have been illegal, not a politician’s current standing with
his or her constituents.
“As a general matter, the department investigates allegations of illegal conduct, which is independent of one’s title or position,” said Tasia Scolinos, a Justice spokeswoman.
Roll Call writes, "It’s unclear how much the loss of a Congressional seat hurts an ex-Member
still dealing with a corruption investigation... [but] one critical element of any Member’s defense disappears, that
being the ability to raise money into a campaign account that can be used to pay legal bills."
Ohio congressman linked to Abramoff resigns
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Rep. Bob Ney delivered his resignation from Congress on Friday, according to his chief of
Republican faced expulsion from the House following his guilty plea to multiple counts stemming from the long-running probe
of disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
Congressman and former chairman of the House Administration Committee faces more than two years in prison. House Speaker Dennis
Hastert, R-Illinois, had been pushing Ney to resign, threatening to expel him from the House if he refused. GOP leaders said
Ney's expulsion would be their "first order of business" when Congress returned later this month.
must be punished for the criminal actions he has acknowledged," Hastert said in a joint statement with Majority Leader John
Boehner of Ohio, Republican Whip Roy Blunt of Missouri, and Rep. Deborah Pryce of Ohio, the leader of the House Republican
Conference. "He betrayed his oath of office and violated the trust of those he represented in the House. There is no place
for him in this Congress."
Ney's attorney said he would resign sometime before his January 19 sentencing, but not immediately.
In his resignation
letter, dated Friday, Ney wrote, "I am proud of the many accomplishments that have helped improve the lives of people in the
18th Congressional District of Ohio during my tenure of public service. Having completed all outstanding work in my congressional
office, I now hereby resign."
Leader Nancy Pelosi of California on Friday criticized the GOP for letting Ney wait weeks to resign after his guilty plea.
leadership has allowed Bob Ney to receive his paycheck and benefits for seven weeks after his admission of guilt to criminal
conspiracy charges," Pelosi said in a statement. "It is an embarrassment to this institution and an insult to the American
guilty in October to one count of conspiracy to commit fraud, deprive his constituents of honest service and violate his former
chief of staff's one-year lobbying ban, and a second count of making false statements to the House. Prosecutors have said
they would seek a prison term of up to 27 months and $60,000 in fines at sentencing.
Department documents said Ney sought to help the owner of a British company get a U.S. visa and a waiver to allow him to sell
American-made aircraft parts to another country. In return, Ney got thousands of dollars in gambling chips from the businessman
during a trip to London and used a staffer to carry $5,000 back into the United States for him to avoid disclosure requirements.
helped other Abramoff clients by advancing an application of one of their clients for a license to install a wireless telephone
infrastructure in the House and placing statements in the Congressional Record regarding a Florida casino deal. In exchange,
he and his staff received items including a golf trip to Scotland, meals at restaurants, tickets to sporting events and campaign
contributions, prosecutors said.
comes just before Tuesday's midterm elections. His seat is being sought by Republican Joy Padgett and Democrat Zack Space.
that Ney is the fourth Republican lawmaker to have resigned under a cloud in the 109th Congress. The others are:
Rep. Randal "Duke" Cunningham of California, who resigned last year after pleading guilty to bribery charges.
Majority Tom DeLay of Texas, who announced his resignation in April in hopes the move would keep his Houston-area district
in GOP hands while he battled state money-laundering charges.
Mark Foley of Florida, who abruptly quit in September after sexually explicit electronic messages he sent to teenage congressional
pages surfaced, triggering a scandal that led to calls for Hastert's resignation.
-- OHIO GOP SMEARS AL FRANKEN WITH DOCTORED PHOTO AND FAKE QUOTE:
Last week, the Ohio Republican Party sent out a news release attacking Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) for enlisting the support of comedian Al Franken.
"What is troubling," the press release said, "is that Brown would solicit support from someone [Franken]
who compared conservatives to Nazis 'who should drink poison and die.'"
The quote used in the news release is taken from Bernard Goldberg book, 110 People Who Are Screwing Up America, in an alleged interview between Goldberg and Franken. But in his book, Goldberg makes it clear that
the exchange is completely fictional.
The Ohio Republican Party represented it as fact. The news release was accompanied by this photograph showing Franken dressed up like a baby bunny, wearing adult diapers and clutching a fluffy white teddy
Andy Barr, director of Franken’s Midwest Values PAC, confirmed, “The picture is a fake.” A 2004 AP photo of Franken was used for the doctored image.
CORRUPTION -- MEMBERS BREACH ETHICS RULES ON OVERSEAS TRIPS:
In a clear violation of ethics rules, "it has been routine for House members to accept meals from private interests on official government trips abroad," an expose in the Wall Street Journal reports. In an official 2003 trip to Europe, then defense appropriations
chairman Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA) and seven other members of Congress enjoyed meals provided by "a parade of defense contractors and lobbyists," including Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman.
Most of these companies had "sent personnel to Europe to host the meals" in order to score "private access to legislators who control billions of dollars in government contracts."
In 2005, Rep. James Walsh (R-NY), chairman of an appropriations subcommittee in charge of military facilities, visited Heidelberg, Germany
where "a big federal contractor paid for dinner."
House ethics rules, designed to prevent undue influence on lawmaking, bar members from accepting such meals on congressional
"The ethics committee says it isn't responsible for day-to-day oversight of codels and per diems,"
said a committee spokesperson, "but if an infraction of the rule were brought to our attention, that would be another matter."
More of that "Don't ask, Don't tell"
CORRUPT REPUBLICAN CONGRESSMEN
THE LAST TWELVE MONTHS
By: David Phillips
Former Congressmen Randy “Duke” Cunningham
(R-CA) was found guilty last November of receiving $2.4 Million in bribes. Cunningham is currently in Prison.
Cunningham was sentenced to eight years four months, this is the longest sentence ever given to a Congressmen, or former congressmen.
Former Congressmen and Majority Whip Tom DeLay
(R-TX), has resigned from Congress, because he was indicted on money laundering charges in Texas. He is currently
waiting for his trial, that was postponed till January because of this Novembers election.
Congressmen Bob Ney (R-OH), plead
Guilty last week for receiving bribes from former lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Congressmen Bob Neys plea agreement, calls for a
27 month prison sentence. Congressmen Bob Ney has yet to resign from Congress.
Former Congressmen Mark Foley (R-FL)
recently resigned from congress, because of his e-mails to congressional pages, which contained explicit sexual content. Since
his resignation more e-mails, and instant messages with sexual content have surfaced.
Congressmen and Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert
(R-IL), is currently being investigated by the FBI, and the House Ethics Committee, for covering up the Mark Foley
Congressmen Curt Weldon (R-PA), and
his daughter a lobbyist, are currently under investigation by the FBI, for Influence Peddling. Last week the FBI raided the
offices and home of Weldon’s daughter looking for incriminating files.
Congressmen Don Sherwood (R-PA) apologized
last week for having a mistress. The Congressmen in his latest campaign ad show’s Sherwood apologizing for the five
year affair, and at the end of the ad, he still has the nerve to ask people to vote for him.
Congress Jon Porter (R-NV) this past
weekend has been accused of using his Congressional office, and district office to make campaign calls to solicit money. This
is a violation of Federal Election Laws, as well as being an ethics violation.
The GOP has an office of phone banks set up right across
the street from Porter’s Congressional office in Washington, DC. The Las Vegas Sun Newspaper suggested that they have
copies of e-mails that will confirm these allegations.
Congressmen Jim Gibbons (R-NV) last
week was accused of making unwanted sexual advances with Chrissy Mazzeo, who the congressmen had been drinking with along
with his campaign manger and three other women.
Mazzeo made three 911 calls, and a police report has been
There are several unanswered question by Gibbons, who is
running for Governor of Nevada. These allegations if left unanswered by the Congressmen will certainly dog him right up to
Don’t vote for the person who will be Washington’s
voice to you…
Vote for the person who will be your voice in Washington…
Vote this November 7th…
Former FDA commissioner Crawford to plead guilty after charged with lying about conflicts of interest
Former U.S. Food and Drug Administration commissioner Lester Crawford is set to plead guilty today to charges of filing
false financial disclosure forms and conflicts of interest, according to court papers filed yesterday by the Justice Department.
government charges that Crawford and his wife owned stock in several companies that fell under FDA regulation, and failed
to fully disclose that information as required by federal law.
The court papers also charge that Crawford assured federal ethics officers that he and his wife had sold stock in those
companies, when they had not.
Crawford's attorney, Barbara Van Gelder, said that under a plea agreement, her client would not dispute the government's
charges, and would likely face fines and a possible prison term of up to two years.
"At the end of the day, he owned these stocks and he will admit he owned them while he was at the FDA and he will take
responsibility for that," Van Gelder said.
The Justice Department found that Crawford and his wife owned stock in Pepsico Inc., Sysco Corp., Kimberly-Clark Corp.,
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and other companies regulated by the FDA. At one point, Crawford -- who owned at least $140,000 of stock
in soda maker Pepsico and food distributor Sysco -- acted as chairman of an FDA panel charged with studying the obesity problem.
Crawford's decision on that panel would have affected both companies.
The court papers also charge that Crawford did not disclose his income from exercising stock options in agricultural biotechnology
company Embrex Inc., for which he had been a member of the board of directors.
Crawford -- a food safety expert and veterinarian -- unexpectedly resigned from his position as head of the FDA in September
2005 without giving reason. He'd officially held the position for two months, though he had been acting head of the agency
for more than a year.
FDA critic Mike Adams, author of "Grocery Warning," calls the FDA a "criminal organization" and claims it puts pharmaceutical
and food industry profits ahead of public safety. Adams called the charges against Crawford "yet another serious blow to the
illusion of FDA credibility.
"Crawford's guilty plea now establishes as indisputable fact what myself and other FDA critics have been saying for years:
The agency is headed by white-collar criminals who deliberately make regulatory decisions that are in the best interests of
drug companies and junk food giants, rather than protecting the health of the public," Adams said.
Congressmen Bob Ney (R-OH) Pleads Guilty Over Abramoff Bribes
WASHINGTON, Representative Bob Ney of Ohio pleaded guilty to corruption charges today in connection
with the scandal swirling around the lobbyist Jack Abramoff. He said he was ready to take his punishment for selling his integrity and his office.
In a calm and clear voice, Mr. Ney admitted before Judge Ellen S. Huvelle in Federal District Court
that he had indeed engaged in a wide-ranging criminal conspiracy and made false statements about gifts he accepted while representing
the people of Ohio’s 18th District.
“I accept responsibility for my actions, and I am prepared to face the consequences of what I
have done,” Mr. Ney, a Republican, declared in a statement distributed to reporters after the court session.
The main consequence will be a term of up to 27 months in prison when Judge Huvelle pronounces sentence
on Jan. 19, assuming that she follows the recommendation of federal prosecutors. The congressman’s crimes could bring
him a term of up to 10 years and up to $500,000 in fines, although the judge gave no indication that she would depart from
the prosecutor’s recommendation.
Despite his disgrace, Mr. Ney is still a member of Congress, drawing his $165,000-a-year salary, although
his lawyer, Mark Tuohey, told the judge that Mr. Ney will resign his seat “in the next few weeks.” Mr. Ney has
said he wants to help his employees find new jobs before he quits.
But by this afternoon, House Republican leaders were calling for him to leave at once and said that,
unless he does, they would move to expel him “as our first order of business” when Congress reconvenes in November.
“He betrayed his oath of office and violated the trust of those he represented,” Speaker J. Dennis Hastert and other members of the leadership declared in a joint statement. “There is no place for him in
The White House also said he should go quickly. “What Congressman Ney did is not a reflection
of the Republican Party, it’s a reflection of Congressman Ney, and he ought to step down,” said Tony Snow, the
White House spokesman.
Meanwhile, Mr. Ney’s Web site features a sadly outdated, now poignant picture of the smiling
congressman against a farm background. “It is an honor to represent you in the United States Congress,” Mr. Ney
declares in his welcome message.
Mr. Ney’s formal admission that he betrayed that honor came in a courthouse not many blocks from
the Capitol, where in his sixth term in office he had seemed poised to rise high in the House leadership.
Then came the Abramoff scandal and, eventually, Mr. Ney’s admission that he had accepted illegal
gifts — including lavish overseas trips, thousands of dollars of gambling chips from London casinos and other enticements
— in return for official actions on behalf of Mr. Abramoff and his clients.
Mr. Ney is the first member of Congress to acknowledge criminal acts so far in the investigation of
Mr. Abramoff, once a leading Republican fund-raiser and a man of great wealth and power. Mr. Abramoff pleaded guilty last
January to conspiring to corrupt public officials, including Mr. Ney.
The Abramoff affair is viewed on Capitol Hill as one reason that Representative Tom DeLay of Texas, the former Republican majority leader who was once a good friend of Mr. Abramoff, decided to
retire from politics this year.
The affair threatens to ensare other Republican lawmakers, and it has caused discomfort for the White
House as well. Last June, a former White House aide, David H. Safavian, was convicted of lying to investigators about his ties to Mr. Abramoff. Mr. Safavian was on Mr. Abramoff’s
staff before joining the Bush administration.
Mr. Ney, 52, has said that a dependence on alcohol was a factor in his loss of a moral compass. In
response to Judge Huvelle’s questions on what problems he is being treated for, Mr. Ney replied, “Right now, alcohol,
last 30 days.” He said he had not had a drink in that time.
Ex-Aide to Former Congressmen Foley (R-FL) Testifies on Warning
WASHINGTON, A longtime aide to former Representative Mark Foley testified before the House ethics committee for nearly five hours on Thursday, repeating under oath his
account of having explicitly warned Speaker J. Dennis Hastert’s office at least three years ago that Mr. Foley should be told to keep his distance from Congressional
The aide, Kirk Fordham, was the first sworn witness to appear before
the bipartisan ethics panel, which is investigating whether any Republican leaders knew about Mr. Foley’s conduct, which
was ultimately exposed in a series of sexually explicit exchanges with former pages, and whether anything was done about it.
“Kirk has been forthcoming with them,” said Timothy J.
Heaphy, a lawyer representing Mr. Fordham, speaking to reporters as he walked from the committee room. “He’s been
Mr. Heaphy, with his client at his side, declined to answer questions
about the long afternoon of questioning by three members of the committee and a team of investigators, which he would describe
only as “thorough.” As Mr. Fordham left the closed-door session, the sun had started to fall over the Capitol,
and before getting into a taxi, he said: “I feel a lot of relief right now. It went well.”
A person close to the inquiry who is sympathetic to Mr. Fordham said
that Mr. Fordham decided to break his loyalties to Mr. Foley, a Florida Republican whose political career he had protected
and scripted for a decade, in hope of getting his boss to change his behavior. The person agreed to speak about the matter,
which is under investigation by federal prosecutors and by the House, only on the condition of anonymity.
Mr. Fordham has said he discreetly told Scott Palmer, Mr. Hastert’s
chief of staff, about a pattern of Mr. Foley’s behavior.
The person sympathetic to Mr. Fordham said that one incident had pushed
Mr. Fordham into action after years in which he heard minor complaints about Mr. Foley’s conduct. The person said that
Jeff Trandahl, then the House clerk, had told Mr. Fordham that Mr. Foley, who seemed drunk, had gone to the pages’ dormitory
near the Capitol after hours.
Mr. Palmer denies receiving a warning about Mr. Foley. Mr. Trandahl
has declined to comment, saying he will save his remarks for investigators.
Mr. Fordham’s testimony rests at the center of what investigators
are trying to determine. The notion that he is, essentially, testifying against the word of Mr. Hastert and his closest aides
underscores how the page scandal has upended the midterm election campaign and created unlikely political casualties.
Mr. Fordham, a respected Republican operative, resigned last week
as chief of staff to Representative Thomas M. Reynolds, Republican of New York.
The fallout from Mr. Foley’s case has increased complications
for Republican candidates across the country, beginning with Mr. Reynolds, the chairman of the party’s Congressional
campaign committee, whose advisers now believe may be on the cusp of losing his re-election fight.
The House ethics panel, formally known as the Committee on Standards
of Official Conduct, convened Thursday in the basement of the Capitol. Throughout the day, the current class of House pages,
dressed in blue coats and gray slacks and skirts, passed through a dim corridor by the closed wooden doors of the committee
A locker room for House pages is one door away.
For the committee, the investigation into how Mr. Foley’s case
was handled is the first high-profile inquiry in nearly two years. Quarreling by Republicans and Democrats over the rules and the membership of the committee had essentially left the panel dormant.
Representative Doc Hastings, a Washington Republican who was appointed
last year by Mr. Hastert to lead the committee, and Representative Howard L. Berman, of California, the ranking Democrat,
have vowed to follow the investigation “wherever the evidence leads.” Representative Judy Biggert, an Illinois
Republican, was also present for the questioning.
The committee is scheduled to reconvene Friday, when Representative
John Shimkus, an Illinois Republican who oversees the Congressional page program, is set to testify. Mr. Shimkus is the first
of several Republican lawmakers who are expected to go before the committee, including the majority leader, Representative
John A. Boehner of Ohio, and, ultimately, Mr. Hastert.
The speaker’s office declined to issue a new comment on Thursday
for Mr. Fordham’s appearance. A spokesman, Ron Bonjean, said, “The ethics committee is investigating the matter,
and we are confident in its ability to determine the real facts.” Before Mr. Fordham arrived, Representative Shelley
Moore Capito, Republican of West Virginia and a member of the page board, testified before the committee.
Ms. Capito declined to comment specifically on her testimony, but
told reporters: “I’m a member of the page board who was not informed of the e-mail messages that were sent. I
want the investigation to go forth quickly and reach a conclusion.”
ETHICS-HASTERT (R-IL) MEETS WITH FAR-RIGHT SPIRITUAL ADVISER ABOUT FOLEY:
House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) met last Tuesday with his spiritual adviser Kilari Anand Paul, "who hoped to persuade [Hastert] to step down because of the congressional page sex scandal."
During the 30-minute meeting at Hastert's home, Paul prayed with Hastert and said he must resign because
the Foley scandal is "distracting the country from other issues."
Hastert's choice of Paul as an adviser is worth noting. A self-described "Hindu-born follower of Jesus,"
Paul is reported to have counseled numerous dictators, including Liberia's Charles Taylor, Yugoslavia's Slobodan Milosevic, and Iraq's Saddam Hussein.
The day before their meeting, it was reported that Paul called for voters to "oust congressional Republican
leaders because U.S. foreign policy is delaying the second coming of Jesus Christ."
Through his Global Peace Initiative, Paul has traveled around the world for "causes aimed at peace and humanitarian aid."
An investigation by the Houston Press found that Paul "flies around the globe using Jesus to pull in
worldwide donations -- unfortunately spending more money on jet fuel than orphans."
The Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, "a group which monitors charitable and religious
groups, has 'cut ties' with Paul's organization...after it 'failed to provide information about its board of directors and the use of its resources.'"
ETHICS -- RECORDS CONTRADICT CONGRESSMEN POMBO'S (R-CA) CLAIMS
HE NEVER WORKED WITH ABRAMOFF:
Rep. Richard Pombo (R-CA) has repeatedly stated that he never worked with fallen lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
But according to Abramoff's billing records, he and Pombo talked at least twice in 1996. Two days after the first meeting, Abramoff gave Pombo $500.
The congressman eventually received a total of more than $35,000 from Abramoff and his Native American tribal clients. $27,000 of that money came from the Mashpee Wampanoag
of Massachusetts, "which received federal recognition from a bill Pombo passed through the committee in 2004."
The Mashpee tribe had been seeking federal recognition since 1975, when it hired Abramoff.
As chairman of the House Resources Committee, Pombo was able to push forward the tribe's request.
Records also show that former Pombo staffer William Dennis Stephens, "who worked with Abramoff at the
time, had at least 11 other contacts with either Pombo or his staff."
ETHICS -- NEIL BUSH SEEKS TO PROFIT FROM NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND:
President Bush's younger brother Neil Bush, a prominent figure in the Silverado Savings and Loan scandal, is aiming to tap into the $1.9 billion instructional software industry newly energized by the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) initiative.
Neil's company, Ignite!, develops an educational teaching system called "Curriculum on Wheels" (CoW) that help students prepare
for the comprehensive tests required under NCLB.
Ignite! Inc. has sold 1,700 CoW systems since 2005, mainly in Texas, including an $200,000 contract with the Houston School District that was tied to private donations.
But Neil is expanding his sales efforts, in an attempt to "roll his high-tech teachers helpers into classrooms nationwide."
In January, Barbara Bush donated an undisclosed amount of money to the Bush-Clinton Katrina relief
fund with explicit instructions that the money be used to purchase Ignite!'s CoW units.
Ignite!'s investors are an international gallery of rogue financiers with ties to the Bush family, including "Saudi Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal and onetime junk-bond king Michael
R. Milken" and the Reverend Sun Myung Moon.
Says Neil Bush on his name and family connections: "I'm not saying it hasn't opened any doors. It may have helped with some sales."
Losing the Faith
"More than five years after President Bush created the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives,"
David Kuo, the former special assistant to President Bush on faith-based issues, is "going public with an insider's tell-all
account that portrays an office used almost exclusively to win political points."
Kuo is a "self-described conservative Christian" who has worked with former
Sen. Jack Kemp (R-NY), prominent conservative activist Bill Bennett, and former Attorney General John Ashcroft. In his book
"Tempting Faith," Kuo accuses Karl Rove and others in the Bush administration of "cynically hijacking the faith-based initiatives idea for electoral gain," ignoring issues such as poverty, and limiting faith-based
grants to organizations that are "politically friendly to the administration."
Rove's office, according to Kuo, referred to evangelicals as "boorish," "nuts," "ridiculous," "out of control," and "just plain 'goofy.'"
The revelations come as right-wing politicians "worry that angry evangelicals may stay home from the polls" because of the House leadership's mishandling of the Foley scandal.
Kuo's new book reveals a conservative agenda which values crass politics over the
"values" agenda. As E.J. Dionne writes, the current political climate presents a "national opportunity to break free from empty, politically
driven rhetoric that has nothing to do with strengthening families and everything to do with electoral advantage."
GOP: WE MUST MAINTAIN CONTROL AT ALL COSTS
By: David Phillips
The GOP controlled Congress will stop, or stoop at nothing,
to keep a majority hold of the House.
Former Rep. Mark Foley R-FL resigned this past Friday,
because he was sending e-mails and instant messages to current, and former male teenagers who were Congressional Pages.
Congressional Pages are high school students who attend
classes under congressional supervision, and work as messengers in Congress.
Former Rep. Mark Foley wrote in one message to a page,
“Do I make you a little Horney?”
In another message Rep. Foley wrote, “You in your
boxers too…well, strip down and get relaxed.”
This Former Republican Congressman was the chairman of,
The Missing and Exploited Children’s Caucus.
There are several other messages that
this pervert sent in his e-mails and instant messages, but I will not list those, because I think you understand what was
going through this mans sick mind.
Senior House Republicans knew about
these e-mails, in fact Dennis Hastert R-Ill who is the Speaker of the House, was aware of Rep. Foley’s messages to the
teenage boys for more than a year now.
Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert,
R-Ill, was willing to put teen-age boys in jeopardy, rather than come out with these facts, just so he could keep Former Rep.
Foley’s seat in Republican hands.
In my book Speaker Dennis Hastert R-Ill.,
is guilty of leaving these boys in harms way, and he should resign.
Speaker Hastert R-Ill, said, while
he knew about the e-mails, he did not know about the instant messages, and said he thought they were just kidding around.
around, can you believe that BS from Hastert?
There can be only one reason why Speaker
Dennis Hastert R-Ill. kept quite, and was willing to put teenage boys in jeopardy with this pervert, he does not want to lose
control of the House.
Over the last several months, we have
seen how far the Republicans will go to maintain control of Congress.
This year alone we have seen the most
powerful Republican in Congress, Rep. Tom Delay R-TX, resign because he was indicted on money laundering charges in Texas.
Rep. Bob Ney R-OH, got caught in the
Jack Abramoff Scandal, and pleads guilty to bribery charges a couple of weeks back.
Former Rep. Randy “Duke”
Cunningham R-CA, resigned last November for taking 2.4 million in bribes, and is now in jail.
Earlier this year Rep. Jeff Flake,
R-AZ said, "We simply have too much power,"
The FBI has said that the Jack Abramoff
Scandal involves many more in Washington, and that over the next 12 to 18 months more indictments will be handed down.
We know that the Republican Leadership
was aware of Former Rep. Mark Foley’s messages with teen age boys for more than a year, but did absolutely nothing to
protect the boys, and did everything in his power to protect a Republican seat in Congress.
Senator Harry Reid D-NV has asked the
Attorney General, to investigate Former Rep. Mark Foley R-FL, to see what laws were broken.
Congressman John Murtha D-PA, is asking what did the
senior republican leadership know, and why they waited a year to disclose the information.
If there’s any justice, Speaker Dennis Hastert
R-Ill. will resign. But I’m sure pigs will fly, before that happens…
Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) will plead guilty to Abramoff-linked charges
By TED BRIDIS
WASHINGTON — Ohio Rep. Bob Ney admitted improperly accepting tens of thousands of dollars worth of trips, meals,
sports tickets and casino chips while trying to win favors for a disgraced Washington lobbyist and a foreign aviation company
run by a gambler known as "the Fat Man."
Ney, a six-term Republican, had defiantly denied any wrongdoing for months, but he reversed course and
agreed to plead guilty in court papers filed today. Prosecutors will recommend he serve 27 months in prison. Ney was expected
to formally plead guilty in court Oct. 13.
"I have made serious mistakes and am sorry for them," said Ney, 52, whose lawyer said he had begun treatment for alcohol
dependency. "I am very sorry for the pain I have caused to my family, my constituents in Ohio and my colleagues."
Ney became the first lawmaker to admit wrongdoing in the election-year congressional corruption probe spawned by disgraced
lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Ney said he was hopeful "that someday the good I have tried to do will be measured alongside the mistakes
I have made."
He agreed to plead guilty to making false statements and conspiracy to commit fraud, make other false statements and violate
U.S. lobbying restrictions. The charges could carry a prison sentence of up to 10 years and fines of up to $500,000 plus repayment
of any improper gifts.
Prosecutors said Ney improperly accepted trips to play golf, gamble or vacation in Scotland, New Orleans and New York between
August 2002 and August 2003. The total cost of the trips by Ney and others exceeded $170,000, court papers said. Ney also
admitted accepting meals and sports and concert tickets for himself and his staff from Abramoff and his lobbyists.
Separately, Ney twice flew to London during 2003 to meet with a foreign businessman who was not identified by name in court
papers. The foreign businessman is Fouad al-Zayat, a Syrian-born partner in FN Aviation of Cyprus, according to two people
close to the investigation. These people spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the plea agreement.
Al-Zayat is known in Britain as a prominent gambler nicknamed "The Fat Man."
Ney's congressional travel records indicate he and an aide met with al-Zayat's business partner in FN Aviation, Nigel Winfield.
The February 2003 meeting with FN Aviation was arranged to discuss U.S. sanctions against the sale of aviation parts to
Iran, but those involved did not discuss specific sales or proposals, according to one of the people familiar with the case.
The Justice Department said Ney on those trips accepted thousands of dollars worth of free casino chips from the foreign
businessman and parlayed them into $50,000 in total gambling winnings playing card games. On one occasion, Ney gave $5,000
to a staff member to carry through U.S. Customs so that Ney could report receiving a lesser amount, prosecutors said.
FN Aviation paid the $5,414 cost of the four-day February trip by Ney and an aide, according to Ney's congressional travel
Al-Zayat could not be reached immediately for comment by The Associated Press.
The Justice Department said the foreign businessman and his partner sought Ney's help obtaining a travel visa and selling
U.S.-made airplanes and parts to a foreign country, and that the businessman's company paid for Ney's trip to London in February
FN Aviation's former U.S. lobbyists, Roy Coffee and David DiStefano — a former Ney aide — have said they worked
with Ney to seek a special government permit to let FN Aviation sell plane parts to Iran despite U.S. trade sanctions. The
permit never was awarded.
DiStefano was Ney's chief of staff before becoming a lobbyist and coordinated Ney's first congressional campaign in 1994.
"People must have faith and confidence in their elected officials," said Alice Fisher, who runs the criminal division of
the Justice Department. She said Ney had "acted in his own interests, not in the interests of his constituents."
House Majority Leader John Boehner, also from Ohio, described Ney as a skilled lawmaker and good friend. "Clearly Bob made
mistakes, and he is now feeling the full weight of those mistakes," Boehner said. "His actions violated the law, and he must
be held accountable."
Ney did not participate in any of the 10 roll call votes in the House on Thursday, an indication he was away from the Capitol.
Republican voters in Ney's district selected a replacement candidate Thursday as word of legal developments surfaced. State
Sen. Joy Padgett, backed by party leaders, won easily and will face Democrat Zack Space in the fall.
Ney had a unique power perch in the House when the year dawned, as chairman of the committee with jurisdiction over the
internal workings of the 435-member chamber. Speaker Dennis Hastert pressured Ney into surrendering his chairmanship earlier
this year as concern rippled through the GOP ranks about the Abramoff scandal.
Still, as recently as early summer, Ney said he intended to seek re-election in the sprawling, rural district in eastern
Ohio he has represented since 1994. He changed his mind at the prodding of party leaders who feared the loss of his seat in
November if he remained on the ballot.
At Abramoff's request, prosecutors said, Ney proposed four amendments in early 2002 that would have helped Abramoff and
his lobbying clients. These included proposals to allow commercial gambling by two Indian tribes, help a Russian drink manufacturer
and compel the U.S. government to give property to a religious school founded by Abramoff.
None of the amendments succeeded.
Ney had sought to add them to the "Help America Vote Act," a law aimed at election reform.
ETHICS -- INTERIOR WATCHDOG REPORTS 'ANYTHING GOES' AT
HIGHEST LEVELS OF DEPARTMENT:
Testifying at a hearing of the House Government Reform subcommittee on energy last week, Interior
Department inspector general Earl E. Devaney said, “Simply stated, short of a crime, anything goes at the highest levels of the Department of the Interior.”
He continued, “I have observed one instance after another when the good work of my office has
been disregarded by the department.”
Among the series of complaints listed by Devaney, his office's documentation of the ethical lapses
of former deputy secretary Steven Griles serves as one prominent example of the "anything goes" attitude.
The New York Times writes, "In a 145-page report in 2004, the inspector general described Mr. Griles as a 'train wreck waiting
But on last Wednesday, Mr. Devaney said he was appalled that the Interior Department’s office
of ethics dismissed 23 out of 25 potential ethical breaches against Mr. Griles and that Gale A. Norton, then secretary of
the interior, decided not to act on the two remaining allegations."
Griles advised criminal lobbyist Jack Abramoff how to get members of Congress to pressure the department. In return, Abramoff offered Griles at his law firm, which Griles refused.
FBI RAIDS ALASKA LAWMAKERS, INCLUDING U.S. SENATOR'S SON
JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) -- The offices of at least six Alaska legislators, including the son of Sen. Ted Stevens, were raided
by federal agents searching for possible ties between the lawmakers and a large oil field services company, officials and
Tam Cook, the Legislature's top attorney, said the company named in the search warrant was VECO Corp., an Anchorage-based
oil field services and construction company whose executives are major contributors to political campaigns.
Four different teams of at least six federal agents each spent hours searching offices on each floor of the Capitol.
Among the offices searched was that of Republican Senate President Ben Stevens, the son of Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska.
Agents left Stevens' Capitol office Thursday evening with 12 boxes of documents labeled "Evidence" and loaded them into
"I don't know what they're going to do with it," said Special Agent Wade Dudley. "We collect it for the case agent's review."
There was no immediate response to calls seeking comment late Thursday from Ben Stevens, other lawmakers or Senate Republican
majority spokesman Jeff Turner.
Two legislative aides, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because federal agents told them not to talk to reporters,
said the FBI agents were looking for any ties including financial information and gifts.
One aide said he demanded to read the warrant before allowing the search and saw that it named VECO officials Bill Allen,
Rick Smith and Pete Leathard.
The second aide said agents did not show him the warrant but described what was in it, covering searches of computer files,
personal diaries and other documentation. He said that among documents that were taken included a lawmaker's 2006 day planner,
travel itineraries, Alaska Public Office Commission reports and paperwork related to a draft natural gas contract the governor's
office gave to every legislator in May.
There was no immediate response to a call seeking comment from VECO representatives.
FBI spokesman Eric Gonzalez said the FBI and Internal Revenue Service executed search warrants in Anchorage, Juneau, Wasilla,
Eagle River and Girdwood, but he would not say who was served search warrants.
The warrants had not been filed with the clerk's office at the U.S. District Court by Thursday afternoon. A woman who answered
the phone at the U.S. Attorney's office in Anchorage said no one locally could answer questions about the raid, and referred
questions to a Department of Justice spokeswoman in Washington who didn't answer her phone.
Also searched were offices in both Juneau and Anchorage belonging to state Sen. John Cowdery, the Senate Rules chairman;
Republican state Rep. Vic Kohring; Republican state Rep. Bruce Weyhrauch; Democratic state Sen. Donald Olson, and Republican
state Rep. Pete Kott.
Kohring said he cooperated and was told he was not a target of the investigation.
Cowdery, a Republican from Anchorage, said Friday he didn't know why he was included in the raid or why agents seized items
"unrelated to anything," including the stubs of his legislative salary checks. Cowdery said he has not retained an attorney
to deal with the matter, but probably will.
It's pretty bizarre," he said. "That's all I know, it's pretty bizarre. I certainly haven't done anything wrong."
Former Bush Official, David Safavian Found Guilty of Hiding Abramoff's Favors
expected to aid investigation into the lobbyist's illegal activities
By PETE YOST
WASHINGTON - The Justice Department on Tuesday won its first trial in the probe of influence peddler Jack Abramoff, convicting
a former Bush administration official in a case that touched on questionable behavior by members of Congress.
A jury found David Safavian had hidden details of his relationship with Abramoff from a General Services Administration
ethics lawyer, the GSA's Inspector General's office and the Senate Indian Affairs Committee and had obstructed the IG.
Safavian, the GSA's former chief of staff, could face up to five years in prison on each of those four counts. He was acquitted
of obstructing the Senate probe.
The guilty verdict is expected to give a boost to a wide-ranging federal investigation that includes lawmakers, their aides
and members of the Bush administration.
"The message of this verdict is clear: In answering questions posed by Congress and by federal agencies, public officials
have the same obligation as does the public for which they serve — to tell the truth," said Alice Fisher, the assistant
attorney general in charge of the Justice Department's criminal division.
In Miami, meanwhile, a judge granted Abramoff and ex-business partner Adam Kidan another three months before they must
begin serving prison sentences for fraud convictions stemming from the purchase of a gambling boat fleet. Abramoff also faces
sentencing on federal charges of conspiracy, tax evasion and mail fraud.
The delay will give the two more time to cooperate with investigators.
In persuading a jury to convict Safavian, prosecutors introduced a photograph of Rep. Bob Ney, R-Ohio, and Abramoff standing
next to a private jet that whisked them and others to Scotland for five days at the storied St. Andrews Old Course. Safavian
was in the photo too, as were two of Ney's aides who also went on the Abramoff-organized junket.
Recent Justice Department court papers say Ney engaged in 16 actions on behalf of Abramoff at the time the congressman
and his staff were accepting gifts from the lobbyist.
In response to Tuesday's verdict, Ney's office blamed Ney's problems on "the lies and deception of Jack Abramoff."
Ney "has never, at any point, engaged in any improper, unethical or illegal activity," his office said.
Prosecutors never called Abramoff to testify, instead relying on e-mail traffic to detail the relationship between the
lobbyist and Safavian.
Abramoff, the e-mails showed, showered the GSA chief of staff with the lobbyist's largesse, while badgering him for information
about two pieces of government property the lobbyist wanted.
ETHICS -- HOMELAND SECURITY UNDER FIRE FOR
COVERING UP ROLE IN CUNNINGHAM BRIBERY PROBE:
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has come under intense criticism
from Congress for awarding $25 million in contracts to a limousine company whose selection "was recommended by Randy 'Duke' Cunningham, the former San Diego-area congressman convicted of accepting millions
of dollars in bribes from defense contractors."
The company's president, Christopher Baker -- who has
a criminal record, including attempted robbery, auto theft and drug possession -- had done business with Brent Wilkes,
a San Diego defense contractor identified as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Cunningham case.
Cunningham was the only member of Congress to support the Shirlington Limo
contract, and he wrote a letter on behalf of the company -- a letter that has apparently mysteriously disappeared from DHS files.
DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff was told
about Cunningham's role in the awarding of the contract two weeks ago, but he never told Congress.
Rep. Peter King (R-NY) lambasted Chertoff
yesterday and accused him of "gross dereliction of duty" for contracting with the limo company and failing to disclose it.
"I find it disgraceful that Secretary Chertoff, who knew that a convicted
felon [was] at the center of one of the worst scandals ever, which has had ramifications all over this city, has not said
a word to us," King said.
ETHICS -- HOMELAND SECURITY UNDER FIRE FOR
COVERING UP ROLE IN CUNNINGHAM BRIBERY PROBE:
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has come under intense criticism
from Congress for awarding $25 million in contracts to a limousine company whose selection "was recommended by Randy 'Duke' Cunningham, the former San Diego-area congressman convicted of accepting millions
of dollars in bribes from defense contractors."
The company's president, Christopher Baker -- who has
a criminal record, including attempted robbery, auto theft and drug possession -- had done business with Brent Wilkes,
a San Diego defense contractor identified as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Cunningham case.
Cunningham was the only member of Congress to support the Shirlington Limo
contract, and he wrote a letter on behalf of the company -- a letter that has apparently mysteriously disappeared from DHS files.
DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff was told
about Cunningham's role in the awarding of the contract two weeks ago, but he never told Congress.
Rep. Peter King (R-NY) lambasted Chertoff
yesterday and accused him of "gross dereliction of duty" for contracting with the limo company and failing to disclose it.
"I find it disgraceful that Secretary Chertoff, who knew that a convicted
felon [was] at the center of one of the worst scandals ever, which has had ramifications all over this city, has not said
a word to us," King said.
Gonzales Said He Would Quit in Raid Dispute
Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, the F.B.I. director, Robert S. Mueller III, and senior
officials and career prosecutors at the Justice Department told associates this week that they were prepared to quit if the
White House directed them to relinquish evidence seized in a bitterly disputed search of a House member's office, government
officials said Friday.
Mr. Gonzales was joined in raising the possibility of resignation by the deputy attorney general, Paul J. McNulty, the
officials said. Mr. Gonzales and Mr. McNulty told associates that they had an obligation to protect evidence in a criminal
case and would be unwilling to carry out any White House order to return the material to Congress.
CORRUPTION -- SENATE INDIAN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE SET TO WRAP UP
Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Byron Dorgan (D-ND), who have headed the Indian Affairs Committee's two-year
investigation into Jack Abramoff, said they will conclude their work with a final report to be issued this summer.
"In the early stages of the Abramoff probes, Indian Affairs served as the most public stage for the
scandal, first revealing that Abramoff and his public affairs associate Michael Scanlon had charged at least $82 million to
a half-dozen tribes for lobbying and public-relations fees." (Both Scanlon and Abramoff have filed guilty pleas in federal court.)
The committee's investigation showed Abramoff referred to his tribal clients in emails as "morons" and "troglodytes," and other emails showed former Christian Coalition activist Ralph Reed begging Abramoff to help him "start humping in corporate accounts."
The hearings also uncovered the role Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) played "in trying to a secure provision in
the 2002 electoral reform bill that would have allowed an Abramoff client to reopen its tribal casino, around the same time
that the lobbyist ferried the lawmaker and others to Scotland on a trip that cost $166,000." (Ney's former chief of staff
Neil Volz has also pleaded guilty to multiple federal counts.)
CORRUPTION -- FLORIDA SENATOR REFUSES TO RETURN ABRAMOFF FUNDS:
In January, Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL) returned $2,500 in campaign contributions from embattled Rep.
Bob Ney (R-OH) because, according to a statement, he wanted "to make it crystal clear to his constituents that he is not interested
in any campaign donation that has even a hint of impropriety in this matter."
But the Miami Herald reports Thursday, that the senator "continues to hold on to $250,000 that his 2004 campaign collected at a Washington kickoff fundraiser that was co-chaired and attended
by" criminal lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
U.S. Senate lobbyist disclosure records show that Abramoff was registered to lobby at the Department
of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for the Michigan-based Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe during much of Martinez's tenure
as HUD Secretary.
From 2002-2004, HUD awarded the casino-wealthy tribe about $4 million, including $400,000 earmarked
in 2003 for facilities for a crime-victim program.
Last week, Martinez spokesman Ken Lundberg said the senator would keep the $250,000, despite whatever
"hint of impropriety" it might carry, because "it has nothing to do with Jack Abramoff."
DEMOCRACY -- MAJOR CRACKDOWN IN EGYPT CONTINUES AS BUSH SECRETLY WELCOMES MUBARAK'S
Violence has erupted in Egypt, where police have "recently launched an offensive against democracy activists on several fronts," the Washington Post reports.
Pro-democracy demonstrations have been violently suppressed during the last several weeks, and an Egyptian
court Thursday upheld a trumped-up fraud conviction again Ayman Nour, "the candidate who challenged President Hosni Mubarak
and his 25 years of one-man rule in elections last year, effectively consigning the fiery lawyer to five years in prison."
Said Georgetown University Arab studies professor Samer Shehata, "The charade is over. Egypt is going back to an earlier period of repression."
The State Department has condemned the violence, though last Wednesday, C. David Welch, the assistant
secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, testified before a House International Relations subcommittee that Egypt is "a
cornerstone of our foreign policy in the Middle East."
Last week, "a day after Cairo police beat scores of demonstrators...Gamal Mubarak, the president's son, secretly visited the White House."
According to the Post, "He was greeted by President Bush and met with Vice President Cheney, national
security adviser Stephen J. Hadley and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
The meeting became public only because a reporter for al-Jazeera, the pan-Arab satellite television
news channel, observed Mubarak entering the White House."
ETHICS -- HUD SECRETARY TO POTENTIAL CONTRACTORS: GET ON 'THE LIST,'
THEN WE’LL ‘JUST KEEP GIVING YOU TAX DOLLARS':
A new report from the Dallas Business Journal reveals that Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Alphonso
Jackson’s story about canceling a government contract because the contractor criticized President Bush was part of a larger effort to “educate” influential minority business leaders about how
things “work” in Washington.
Jackson also told the group "we started this process where every time a businessperson of color came
in to see me, I’d tell them, ‘Go down to the (minority small business) office and get registered — then
I can work with you."
Once you get on the list and get a contract, HUD will "just keep giving you tax dollars.” Jackson stressed that “HUD provides ‘business opportunities for many in this
room to get rich,’” adding that “one contract can make you wealthy.”
Jackson now claims that the story of the businessman who lost his contract with HUD because he criticized Bush
-- an act which would be illegal -- was a fabrication.
The Washington Post opines: "Whatever his intention in telling the story -- and whether the story is
true or false -- it appears to lead to only two possible conclusions: Either Mr. Jackson broke the law and then lied about it, or he lied that he had broken the law. Which of those actions makes him fit to be secretary of housing and urban development?"
CORRUPTION -- ABRAMOFF VISITED WHITE HOUSE TO SECURE FAVORS FROM
Last Wednesday the Secret Service released White House visitor logs showing that disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff made two visits to the White House, on March 6, 2001 and
on January 20, 2004.
Judicial Watch, the public interest group that filled out the Freedom of Information Act request for the documents, noted that the logs "appear to be incomplete" and that "there are additional details about Jack Abramoff's visits to the White House that have not
The Bush administration has publicly acknowledged Abramoff's visits to the White House complex on three
other occasions, not included in the Secret Service logs -- in 2001 and 2002 for Chanukah receptions and on May 9, 2001, when Abramoff and several of clients met with the President.
The documents released yesterday did not reveal the place, participants, or purpose of the meetings,
but the Washington Post reports that at the March 2001 meeting,
"Abramoff asked to have two people placed at the Interior Department, but that Rove declined to get involved and referred him to the White House personnel operation."
Also on that same day, President Bush announced his intent to name Abramoff-associate Patrick Pizzella to be Assistant Secretary of Labor for Administration and Management. Pizzella was on Abramoff's team at the lobbying firm Preston Gates.
In January 2004, Abramoff went to the White House to meet with "an Office of Management and Budget
official who had been blocking his efforts to secure use of the Old Post Office Building for a development project."
HOMELAND SECURITY -- HOUSE CONSERVATIVES BLOCK 100 PERCENT CARGO
Conservatives in the House Homeland Security Committee yesterday
voted down an amendment by Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) that would have mandated 100 percent scanning of American-bound shipping containers for radiological
The vote followed an “aggressive lobbying campaign” by a “coalition of industry groups” who pressed conservative members to oppose the
Last Tuesday, committee chairman Peter King (R-NY) announced that he was caving to industry interests.
His excuse was that Markey’s plan was "not realistic": "There’s no sense putting something in the bill if it’s not realistic, if it’s not
going to be implemented and can’t be done.
We want a real bill, not a headline." In fact, the plan is realistic: for well over a year, Hong Kong
has been successfully using high tech screening machines to inspect every single container.
Achieving that in the United States will undoubtedly take time, but it is technologically feasible,
and should be our number one port security priority.
Businesses that rely on shipping simply don’t want to spend the money, and conservatives are
bending to their will at the expense of our homeland security.
NATIONAL SECURITY -- SENATE VOTES TO DIVERT FUNDING FROM TROOPS IN IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN:
The Senate voted 59-39 yesterday to "divert some of the money President Bush requested for the war in Iraq to instead increase security on the nation's borders."
The $106.5 billion supplemental spending bill, which is nominally reserved for "emergencies," is full
of bloated earmarks that could be trimmed.
But an amendment offered by Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) yesterday diverted $2 billion from a pot of
money that was specifically directed for defense appropriations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Gregg defended his measure, stating it was "pure poppycock" for anyone to allege that he was redirecting money intended to support the troops on the ground.
But in fact, that's exactly what Gregg did, according to President Bush and Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY).
In requesting the defense spending, Bush said, "These funds support U.S. Armed Forces and Coalition partners
as we advance democracy, fight the terrorists and insurgents, and train and equip Iraqi security forces so that they can defend
their sovereignty and freedom."
Clinton added yesterday that by passing the amendment, the Senate took "money from troop pay, body armor and even [the] joint improvised explosive device defeat fund."
She called the bill "a false, cheap choice to score political points."
CORRUPTION -- DETAILS EMERGE OF WADE'S COURTING
When former defense contractor Mitchell Wade pled guilty to election law fraud
in February, it was revealed that he had made at least $32,000 in illegal contributions to Rep. Katherine Harris (R-FL).
Harris claimed she was not aware of the wrongdoing, saying the incident "demonstrates the perils of a process in which candidates are sometimes asked to
determine the intent of a contributor."
Today, the Orlando Sentinel discloses details of a deeper relationship between Wade and Harris. Seeking Harris's help in acquiring a $10 million intelligence contract last
year, Wade took her to one of Washington's most exclusive restaurants, "where he paid for a meal that may have cost as much
as $2,800 and offered to sponsor a campaign fundraiser for her." (Harris later submitted the funding request to a House appropriations
subcommittee, where it was rejected.)
Harris acknowledged to the paper that Wade paid for her dinner at Citronelle, but said it was "news to me" that the total bill had been that expensive.
Harris originally claimed that her campaign had "reimbursed" the restaurant
for the dinner, but later amended her statement to say that the campaign "would be reimbursing" the cost of her meal.
CORRUPTION -- REP. WELDON ACCUSED OF LINKS TO NEPOTISM HIRES AT
Rep. Curt Weldon (R-PA), "a powerful member of the House Armed Services Committee, has been a good
friend to the Italian firm Finmeccanica, and it appears that his good deeds on its behalf have been rewarded."
Weldon was a "key supporter of a long-shot bid" by Finmeccanica's helicopter unit AgustaWestland
"to land a $1.6-billion contract to build the new presidential helicopter" -- a bid it ended up winning.
Now, Harper's magazine reports, AgustaWestland has hired Weldon's daughter, Kim.
The firm claims she "got the job in the normal way," but Melanie Sloan of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, is doubtful: “It seems incredibly unlikely that Weldon's daughter was the one candidate that they
happened to pick.
The coincidence is overwhelming.” Indeed, as Harpers notes, this hiring is part of a pattern.
"Weldon’s twenty-something daughter Karen was once hired by Boeing, one of the congressman's major campaign donors,
and later became a high-powered lobbyist who built her company on her father’s connections."
Another "family friend" of Weldon's was hired by Oto Melara, "yet another subsidiary of Finmeccanica,
and by several other firms with close ties to the congressman as well."
NATIONAL SECURITY -- MORE GENERALS CALL FOR RUMSFELD'S RESIGNATION:
"We are witnessing the rumblings of an officers' revolt, and things could get ugly if it were to take hold and roar," Slate's Fred Kaplan writes.
In recent weeks, numerous high-ranking military officials -- including Generals
Anthony Zinni, Paul D. Eaton, and Gregory Newbold -- have warned that senior Pentagon leadership has undermined U.S. national security interests and called
on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to resign.
Officials continue to come forward. In last Thursdays Washington
post, retired Army Maj. Gen. John Batiste, who commanded the 1st Infantry Division in Iraq in 2004-2005, says, "We need leadership
up there that respects the military as they expect the military to respect them.
And that leadership needs to understand teamwork." Another retired officer,
Army Maj. Gen. John Riggs, shared his sense that "everyone" in his peer group "pretty much thinks Rumsfeld and the bunch around
him should be cleared out," and that he "emphatically agrees."
"Batiste's comments resonate especially within the Army," the Post reports,
since it is "widely known there that he was offered a promotion to three-star rank to return to Iraq and be the No. 2 U.S.
military officer there but he declined because he no longer wished to serve under Rumsfeld."
ETHICS -- NEW E-MAILS SHOW ABRAMOFF USED DONATIONS IN EXCHANGE FOR
According to fallen lobbyist Jack Abramoff, the Saginaw Chippewa Tribe of Michigan was "(easily) our most important project."
Abramoff leveraged his congressional connections to eventually win a $3 million government award for
the Saginaws to build a school. The federal funds were originally intended for "impoverished Indian tribal schools," but in
2003, the Interior Department ruled the Saginaw tribe too rich to participate.
New e-mails show that Abramoff "bluntly discussed with a Republican Party official using large political donations as a way to pressure lawmakers and the administration into securing federal money for the Saginaw" tribe.
Abramoff's "multi-pronged" approach to lawmakers included having his colleague Tony Rudy, former staffer
to Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX), reach out to his old boss.
Additionally, Rep. Charles Taylor (R-NC) and Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT) took up the fight, writing a
May 2003 letter to the Interior Department on the Saginaws' behalf.
In April 2003, Abramoff's firm threw Taylor a fundraiser where Abramoff donated $2,000 and the Saginaws
donated $1,000. The tribe donated $3,000 more to Taylor a month after the letter.
Burns also received $1,000 from the Saginaw and $5,000 from another Abramoff tribe shortly before writing
The month after the letter, the Saginaw delivered another $4,000.
NATIONAL SECURITY -- ADMINISTRATION MADE SECRET AGREEMENT TO HIDE RECLASSIFICATION EFFORTS:
In February, the New York Times revealed that "thousands of declassified documents had been reclassified by executive branch agencies and removed from public access in questionable circumstances."
The Federation of American Scientists declared the reclassification "a threat to the integrity of the
entire national security classification and declassification program," and warned that the efforts would reduce the National
Archives to a "mere repository of officially-sanctioned history."
Most recently, the non-profit National Security Archive, located at George Washington University, exposed
how the reclassification scheme came about.
According to a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) obtained through a Freedom of Information request, "The National Archives and Records Administration secretly agreed
to a covert effort, led by the Air Force, the CIA, and other still-hidden intelligence entities, to remove open-shelf archival
records and reclassify them while disguising the results so that researchers would not complain."
As part of the secret agreement, the National Archives "agreed that the existence of the program was
to be kept secret as long as possible" and that "the withdrawal sheets indicating the removal of documents would conceal any
reference to the program and 'any reason for the withholding of documents.'"
HOMELAND SECURITY -- TESTIMONY REVEALS ADMINISTRATION INCOMPETENCE ON DISASTER RELIEF, TERRORISM:
Two more examples of the Bush administration's inability to effectively manage programs geared to protect
the American people were addressed in Capitol Hill testimony last week.
Speaking before the House Government Reform Committee, federal officials from FEMA and other agencies
admitted that "confusion over how to handle the emergency supplies, offers of military assistance and $126 million in cash
that poured in from foreign governments after Hurricane Katrina meant delays, and in some cases wasted opportunities, in aiding storm victims."
"Thousands of ready-to-eat meals donated by governments, as well as loads of medicine, were never used,"
and only $10.5 million out of $126 million in donations have been spent thus far.
"It looks here like we have a bureaucratic jumble," committee chairman Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA) said.
Elsewhere in the House, the Bush administration that admitted Project BioShield - a $5.6 billion program
"meant to build an elaborate national stockpile of drugs and other measures to counter biological and radioactive weapons"
- "still lacks a strategic plan for countering bioterror threats two years after Congress created" the program
HUMAN RIGHTS -- UNITED STATES WITHDRAWS
SUPPORT FROM U.N. HUMAN RIGHTS COUNCIL:
In 1946, under the leadership of Eleanor Roosevelt, the United States led the
way in creating the first U.N. human rights commission.
How things have changed.
The United States announced yesterday "that it would not be a candidate for the new United Nations Human Rights Council, which was approved last month by the General Assembly with Washington nearly alone in opposition." (Read
more about the new council.)
The U.S. decision comes despite the urging of key allies, such as the United Kingdom, and represents a significant reversal by numerous U.S. officials, who pledged
as recently as last week to fully support the new rights council.
"[W]e have agreed that we will do everything that we can to make it work, because
we think it's important to have a Human Rights Council," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said, while U.N. Ambassador John
Bolton promised to "work cooperatively with other Member States to make the Council as strong and effective as it can be."
NATIONAL SECURITY -- BUSH GAVE SPECIFIC PERMISSION
TO LEAK PLAME'S IDENTITY:
For nearly two and a half years, President Bush has maintained that he wanted
to "get to the bottom" of the issue of who in his administration leaked the identity of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame.
He said, "If there is a leak out of my administration, I want to know who it is."
But, according to a new court filing in the case of Scooter Libby -- the former vice presidential aide who has been indicted for misleading
prosecutors and covering up his knowledge of the leak -- Libby leaked Plame's identity with the specific permission of President
Libby claims he first "rebuffed" Vice President Cheney's suggestion to release
the information because it was confidential.
But, according to the New York Sun, "Cheney specifically got permission for the release directly from Mr. Bush."
The prosecution filing said, "Defendant
testified that the vice president later advised him that the president had authorized defendant to disclose the relevant portions
of the NIE [National Intelligence Estimate containing Plame's identity]."
MILITARY -- NO-BID CONTRACTS LEAD TO ARMY'S HIRING OF BASE SECURITY
GUARDS WITH CRIMINAL RECORDS:
A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released last week, found that the "Army spent nearly $500 million on no-bid contracts for
private security guards, and also used contractors that hired people with criminal records."
According to the report, the "Army's procedure for screening prospective contract guards is inadequate
and puts the Army at risk of having ineligible guards protecting installation gates."
Eighty-nine guards were hired despite having criminal records that included "assaults and other
The source of the problem is the continued reliance on no-bid contracts - or "sole-source contracts"
- "despite the Army's recognition early on that it was paying considerably more for its sole-source contracts than for those awarded competitively."
MEDIA - BLOGS UNCOVER TRUTH ABOUT KALOOGIAN'S
FAKE IRAQ PHOTO:
Howard Kaloogian, who is running to replace disgraced former Rep. Duke Cunningham, argued that the news media was focusing on the
bad news in Iraq "because many journalists are opposed to the U.S. effort to fight terrorism."
To prove his point, Kaloogian put a photo up on his website to show that Baghdad
"is much more calm and stable than what many people believe it to be."
Attytood blog's Will Bunch quickly spotted the photo as a fake, and asked his readers to "see how many, um, mistakes you can spot
in the photo."
Other blogs, such as Talk Points Memo, Echaton, and Daily Kos continued the "ace detective work," "as eagle-eyed experts proposed alternative locales, with Turkey a likely suspect."
Ultimately, a commenter on Daily Kos pinpointed the locale of Kaloogian's picture
as the "Istanbul suburb of Bakirkoy." Kaloogian soon admitted the photo was inaccurate, but told TMP Muckracker, "You're
being really picky on this stuff. It's not that big a deal. It was
a mistake. I'm sorry."
Newsweek and the New York Times have since written about the whole episode.
"It demonstrates that there's a reserve army of unpaid researchers," USC Professor Martin Kaplan said "with delight", "ready to mobilize at a moment's notice."
MEDIA -- MEDIA IGNORE ALTERNATIVE NATIONAL
Reporters and news analysts have "repeatedly commented on the Democratic Party's
purported lack of a clear plan or concrete set of alternatives on issues ranging from Social Security to the war in Iraq."
Yet, after a broad alternative national security strategy was announced
Wednesday, the media's interest in such plans seemed to vanish.
According to Media Matters, CNN "largely ignored the news," devoting "an hour and a half of uninterrupted coverage to a speech by President Bush on Iraq, his third
in two weeks," compared to two minutes for the plan introduced by House and Senate Minority Leaders Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)
and Harry Reid (D-NV).
The New York Times failed to include a single story on the strategy, despite printing quotes attacking the document on Tuesday before it was released.
Neither the USA Today nor the Los Angeles Times ran news reports on it yesterday either.
ETHICS -- FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION OFFICIALS ACCEPT FAVORS FROM
THE INDUSTRY THEY OVERSEE:
Food and Drug Administration (FDA) policy "bars employees from taking trips paid for by the drug, medical device and other companies the agency regulates or by their trade groups."
But a Center for Public Integrity (CPI) investigation has found that since 1999, the FDA has allowed
hundreds of its employees to accept $1.3 million in sponsored travel from nonprofit groups closely tied to pharmaceutical
and medical device companies.
These nonprofit associations "draw their members, their boards and even some of their funding from
medical and pharmaceutical-related companies" who often have business before the FDA.
This investigation isn't the first instance of the FDA being too close to the industry it regulates.
In 2004, the FDA faced intense criticism for failing to warn the public of the dangers of the painkiller Vioxx.
Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) described the FDA's relationship with drug companies as "far too cozy"
and is therefore "incapable of protecting America against another Vioxx."
CPI identified "20 former FDA officials who took trips sponsored by one of the five associations that went on to work for medical and pharmaceutical-related
ETHICS -BUSH STANDS WITH SENATOR WHO RECEIVED BRIBE FROM ABRAMOFF
President George W. Bush expressed support recently for Montana U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns, who is linked with Jack Abramoff,
a Republican lobbyist at the heart of an influence-peddling scandal.
Bush said "I'm proud to stand by this man. I strongly urge the people of Montana to reelect Conrad Burns to the United
Burns, who faces a tough fight for re-election in November, has become ensnared in the corruption investigation involving
Abramoff said that he has worked closely with many top Republicans, and Burns was especially cooperative.
In December, Burns said he would return $150,000 he had took from Abramoff.
ETHICS -- MCCAIN STUMPED WHEN CONFRONTED WITH SENIOR AIDE'S SCANDAL
Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) presents himself as a reformer and good government advocate. Yet McCain recently hired Terry Nelson, President Bush's national political director in 2004, as a senior adviser, notwithstanding Nelson's
role in two recent high-profile political scandals.
Nelson was referenced in the indictment detailing the money laundering scheme for which Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) is currently being prosecuted in Texas.
He was also the superior of James Tobin, the New England political director for the Republican National Committee, who "was convicted late last
year for his role in a scheme to jam the phone lines for Democratic get-out-the-vote efforts." (Nelson was on the government's witness list to testify at Tobin's trial.)
On Tuesday, McCain was confronted with these facts by a caller to a talk radio show. McCain claimed
ignorance: "I will check it out.
But I've never heard of such a thing. I know that he was a grassroots organizer for President Bush
year 2000 and 2004, and had a very important job in the Bush campaign as late as 2004, but the other charges I will go and
look and see if any of them are true, but I've never heard of them before."
HOMELAND SECURITY -- BUSH ADMINISTRATION
APPOINTS POLITICAL CRONY TO BE STRATEGIC COUNSEL:
The Bush administration recently announced
the appointment of 28-year-old Doug Hoelscher to be the executive director of the Homeland Security Advisory Committees.
In his new position, Hoelscher will gather information "on behalf of the president
and the Homeland Security secretary" for the "key areas of homeland security, including threats to infrastructure and preventing
terrorist attacks that use weapons of mass destruction."
Hoelscher has no management experience, and only few years
ago was working "as a political coordinator for the president, dealing mostly with Bush’s domestic travel."
DHS Assistant Secretary for Policy Stewart Baker said "the Administration has named a qualified and talented professional."
"Doug will provide strategic counsel to the Secretary and increase overall
coordination between department leadership and our homeland security partners," Baker said, "and I look forward to his contributions
ETHICS -- CUNNINGHAM CO-CONSPIRATOR HAD LINKS
TO IRAN GROUP, PAID BY WHITE HOUSE:
TPM Muckracker notes that in 2004, the White
House was doling out money to Mitchell Wade -- who has pled guilty as Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham's co-conspirator and faces several years in prison -- for an Iran regime-change
Wade, former head of MZM, Inc., "registered as the 'registered agent' for an outfit called the 'Iranian Democratization Foundation'" on April 5, 2004.
Records show that the Executive Office of the President paid out three contracts
worth $254,437 for unspecified "intelligence services" to MZM, Inc. in 2004.
The White House has refused to comment on these contracts and TPM notes that "a cursory check has turned up no other filings for Wade's nonprofit: no employer
ID number, 990 filing, or anything else.
Nexis shows no mention of the group in any news coverage." Roll Call reports that
the Defense Department missed its chance to "forestall one of the worst bribery cases ever involving a sitting Member of Congress"
in 2000, when it began a criminal investigation into the former congressman's co-conspirator #1, defense contractor Brent Wilkes.
The U.S. attorney's office in San Diego decided not to bring charges in the 2000
ETHICS -- CONSERVATIVE ETHICS POINTMAN BRAGS OF BEING IN 'HIP
POCKET' OF LOBBYISTS:
Despite numerous recent lobbying scandals, House conservatives
"had no problem inviting a roomful of tech lobbyists to attend the unveiling of their competitiveness and innovation agenda for 2006 last week."
In fact, one congressman "was brazen about his cozy relationship with the industry,"
The Hill reports. Rules Committee Chairman David Dreier (R-CA) proclaimed that he "proudly pleads guilty"
to being in the "hip pocket" of the high-tech lobby.
In January, House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) hand-picked Rep. Dreier to "head" the conservative
effort "to draft new lobbying rules."
INTELLIGENCE -- WEAKENED INTELLIGENCE DIRECTOR SPENDS HOURS EACH
DAY AT PRIVATE LUXURY CLUB:
"On many a workday lunchtime, the nominal boss of U.S. intelligence,
John D. Negroponte, can be found at a private club in downtown Washington, getting a massage, taking a swim, and having lunch, followed by a good cigar
and a perusal of the daily papers in the club’s library,"
Congressional Quarterly (CQ) reports. "He spends three hours there [every] Monday through Friday," says a "senior counterterrorism official" quoted by the paper.
What explains all the leisure time? As reporter Laura Rozen notes, the larger point is that "Negroponte
has the free time because [Defense Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld and [Defense Under Secretary of Intelligence Stephen] Cambone
are the ones running intelligence policy, with scarce oversight from anybody, either the White House intel czar, or Congress."
Indeed, "Washington's conventional wisdom" is that Negroponte's position "is a joke," CQ reports. "
The main reason is that Negroponte’s group has little power over the Pentagon’s covert
actions. It's not his fault. Congress set it up that way after Rumsfeld and company worked the rooms of the House and Senate office buildings."
bill drops ethics office
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Legislation that would force lobbyists to disclose more about their spending to influence the political
process advanced Thursday in the Senate, but without a key provision that would have established an independent office to
monitor congressional ethics.
The 12-1 vote in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee sends the bill to the Senate floor.
Under the bill, lobbyists would have to file reports of their activities quarterly, instead of twice a year as they do
But in an 11-5 vote, the committee dropped a provision that would have set up an office of public integrity.
ETHICS -- SOME CAMPAIGN DONATIONS GOING
TO LEGAL DEFENSE FUNDS FOR LEGALLY TROUBLED GOP:
Scooter Libby, the indicted former chief of staff to Vice President Cheney,
now has his own website.
The website is a product of the the Libby Legal Defense Trust, which was
formed to help defray Libby's defense costs as he confronts the obstruction of justice, false statements, and perjury charges against him.
With so many conservatives in legal hot water these days, legal defense funds
have become a common sight.
"Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) raised more money for his legal defense in 2005 than
ever before but still owes hundreds of thousands of dollars to lawyers."
Former Congressman Duke Cunningham (R-CA) set up his own legal defense fund and sought permission from his campaign contributors to apply their contributions to the fund.
And embattled Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) is now establishing his own legal defense fund.
ETHICS -- CORPORATE LOBBYIST SAT IN ON HILL SESSION HOURS BEFORE
Last Tuesday, the Senate cast a "crucial vote" on legislation that would end decades of lawsuits against
asbestos manufacturers and their insurers, "potentially saving them great sums of money."
Hours before the vote, retired North Carolina Senator Lauch Faircloth attended a session
of Senate conservatives to discuss the legislation.
The problem: Faircloth also happens to be a registered lobbyist for asbestos producers such as Honeywell and the Dow Chemical Co., which are advocating passage of the bill to limit their
liability from lawsuits. "It's business as usual in Washington," said Roberta Baskin, executive director of the Center for
"The feeding frenzy for reform right now is mostly a war of words."
ABRAMOFF HAS PHOTOS WITH BUSH ON DISPLAY IN HIS HOME:
According to Kim Eisler, the national editor of Washingtonian magazine, Jack Abramoff
has several photos with President Bush and First Lady Laura Bush in his house, "just sitting in his office."
Bush said flatly of Abramoff, "I don't know him." According to Eisler,
however, Abramoff said that Bush "SAW ME IN ALMOST A DOZEN SETTINGS, AND JOKED WITH ME ABOUT A BUNCH OF THINGS, INCLUDING
DETAILS OF MY KIDS."
McClellan has previously said if photos of Bush with Abramoff exist, they are shots
taken at "widely attended" Hanukkah receptions in 2001 and 2002.
That's not what Eisler saw in Abramoff's home office. He reports that none of the
photos at Abramoff's house were from holiday parties.
One photo at Abramoff's home depicts Bush shaking hands with Abramoff inside the
Old Executive Office Building. Another shows Bush with Abramoff at what appears to be the Corcoran Gallery of Art. A third
photo, which has not previously been disclosed, is of Abramoff's wife with Laura Bush.
CORRUPTION -- TOM DELAY AWARDED CUNNINGHAM'S SEAT; ETHICS COMMITTEE
Criminally-indicted Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX) "scored a soft landing Wednesday as GOP leaders rewarded
him" with Duke Cunningham’s former seat on the powerful Appropriations Committee.
It should be a smooth transition: contractor Brent Wilkes, a co-conspirator in Cunningham's plea agreement,
has given $30,000 to DeLay, "who flew on Wilkes' jet several times and has been a frequent golfing buddy."
DeLay also yesterday claimed a seat "on the subcommittee overseeing the Justice Department, which is currently investigating an influence-peddling scandal involving disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff
and his dealings with lawmakers."
In related news, CongressDaily (subscription only) reports that the House ethics committee "has not begun any full-scale investigations into members in question, including Reps. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, Bob Ney, R-Ohio, and William Jefferson, D-La., among several other
potential cases." Said one Republican source, "They are not going to meet for many, many months."
HOMELAND SECURITY -- SHOWER CURTAINS, SHOWER DOORS, OR BULLET-PROOF
The new headquarters of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms is at least $19 million over budget,
in part because "ATF Director Carl J. Truscott put through or proposed unnecessary plan changes and upgrades to the 438,000-square-foot building in the past two years."
The Washington Post reports that Truscott "has devoted much of his time" recently to critical decisions
like "the relative merits of shower curtains vs. shower doors, and soap dispensers vs. soap dishes for the building's gymnasium area."
He also requested "nearly $300,000 in extras for the new director's suite, including a $65,000 conference
table and more than $100,000 for hardwood floors, custom trim and other items."
Meanwhile, the Post reports, "the agency is considering sharp cuts in the number of new cars, bulletproof vests and other basics it provides agents."