Yoda's World


Poll: Majority of Americans want to end Bush Tax cuts for the rich
Michele Bachmann
Complaints filed with IRS on Hannity and North charity
GOP Unemployed "insignificant"
GOP to President Obama, its our way or nothing at all
Tea Party death threats mimic Muslim Terrorists
Guns at New Mexico teabaggers tea party
Dick Cheney no longer a chickenhawk, now just a chicken
The GOP purity and purge test
Limbaugh the most influential conservative in America
It smells like socialism
Right wing media always giddy when America loses
Glenn Beck: The body on the side of the road
The House on "C" Street
The top 20 Truths about Ronald Reagan
EFCA-Employee Free Choice Act
An Invention that Could Change the Internet for Ever



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 20 years.

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 made,"

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
Benjamin Niolet
The (Raleigh) 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 twofer.


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 the election.”

“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 their money.

“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 insurgency’ instead.”


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
Associated Press

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.

Full Story


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 this year.

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
By Thomas Ferraro

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

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 it.

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 President Bush.


On the Net:

U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia:



Ted Stevens Indicted, Longest-Serving GOP Senator
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
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 said Saturday.

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 Department.

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
Associated Press

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 Nancy Pelosi.

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.



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
Associated Press

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.



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 Thursday.

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.



Under criminal investigation since 2004, Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA) announced yesterday that he will not run for re-election this fall. The nine-term congressman made the announcement amidst an ongoing Justice Department investigation concerning his ties to corrupt lobbyist Jack Abramoff. In September, Doolittle defiantly proclaimed, "I will not step aside."

Yet for the past few months, he has faced intense pressure to resign from fellow right-wing lawmakers, including former congressman Richard Pombo, who lost his seat in 2006 because of ethics problems.

Last year, Doolittle's home was searched by the FBI, members of his staff were subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury, and prosecutors fought to gain access to his congressional records.



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 PAC.

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 bills.

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 lawmakers

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 any wrongdoing.



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."



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."



The Justice Department is investigating "ties between Housing and Urban Development Secretary Alphonso R. Jackson and a friend of Mr. Jackson's who was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by Jackson for rebuilding work in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina."

Jackson was the subject of an investigation by the inspector general for HUD in 2006, which found that he had "advised senior staff...that when considering discretionary contracts, they should be considering supporters of the President."

The current investigation centers around the $485,000 that Jackson's "golfing buddy" William Hairston was paid for Katrina work on a no-bid contract. Investigators are exploring whether Jackson testified truthfully last May when he said that he never intervened in awarding HUD contracts, telling the Senate panel, "I don't touch contracts." 



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." 



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



 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 investigation
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.



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.



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 land. 

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."



 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 clouds.

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 estate developments.

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."



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."

Open-government watchdog 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 requirements.

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."


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.

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.


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.



Last 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.

According 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.

The 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.

In 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."

Also 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 office.

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

Story Highlights
• Former aide to Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, charged in Abramoff investigation
• Mark Zachares accepted trips and $30,000 in tickets from Abramoff
• Zachares is expected to plead guilty with conspiracy Tuesday
• 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, Edward MacMahon.

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 in court.

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
WASHINGTON - 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.


GonzoGate: "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."



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

Story Highlights
• 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 to resign

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 to quit.

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.



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."

Doolittle's ties 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.

As 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."




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 destroyed.

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.


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.


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.


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."


On 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."

There 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.

In 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.

"'The White House response is clearly not adequate at this point,' Waxman said in a written response to questions from the North County Times.

On 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
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
Associated Press

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 device.

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
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 illegal immigrants.

"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 association."

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

(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 since then.

Foley resigned Sept. 29 after being confronted with the lurid messages to male teenage pages who had worked on Capitol Hill.

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 Wednesday.

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.



House 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.

Waxman 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."

Doan's 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."

Previously, 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 business relationship.

Rep. 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."

Further, 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."

According 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."

Doan 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.



At 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.

"Clinton, 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."

Clinton's 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.

Earlier 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."

She 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."

As 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
McClatchy Newspapers

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 a violation.

"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, Brand said.

"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 political motives.

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," Conyers said.

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.



Despite 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.

"Federal 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.

Since 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.


The 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."

While 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.

It also opposes tougher rules regulating asbestos and in 2003, teamed up with the asbestos industry and spent $180,000 opposing asbestos reform legislation.

NAM's 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.


"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 corruption probe." 

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.


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 staff.

The Ohio Republican faced expulsion from the House following his guilty plea to multiple counts stemming from the long-running probe of disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

The six-term 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.

"Bob Ney 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."

Last month 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."

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi of California on Friday criticized the GOP for letting Ney wait weeks to resign after his guilty plea.

"The Republican 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 taxpayer."

Ney pleaded 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.

Justice 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.

Ney also 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.

Ney's resignation comes just before Tuesday's midterm elections. His seat is being sought by Republican Joy Padgett and Democrat Zack Space.

Pelosi noted that Ney is the fourth Republican lawmaker to have resigned under a cloud in the 109th Congress. The others are:

  • Former Rep. Randal "Duke" Cunningham of California, who resigned last year after pleading guilty to bribery charges.
  • Former 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.
  • Rep. 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.


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 bear. 

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.



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 trips abroad.

"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"


By: David Phillips
October 23, 2006

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 Sex Scandal.


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 filed.


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 Election Day.


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.
The 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 this Congress.”

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 pages.

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 consistent throughout.”

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 room, HT-2.

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.”



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.'"



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."



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."


By: David Phillips
October 2, 2006

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.


 Kidding 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…






The House Government Reform Committee has released a 95-page report documenting 485 contacts between top White House officials and former lobbyist Jack Abramoff, "as well as tens of thousands of dollars worth of meals and tickets to sporting events and concerts."

The contacts "raise serious questions about the legality and actions" of those officials, Roll Call reports. During a three-year period beginning in early 2001, "Bush administration officials repeatedly intervened on behalf of Abramoff's clients"; 82 of the 485 documented contacts were between chief White House strategist Karl Rove and Abramoff's lobbying team. 

After attending a NCAA basketball game with Rove in 2002, Abramoff described Rove in an e-mail: “He’s a great guy. Told me anytime we need something just let him know through [his secretary].”

Other e-mails cited in the report add evidence that former White House political director Ken Mehlman "was Jack Abramoff's prime favor man in the White House."

The most damaging e-mails reveal that Mehlman pressured Justice Department appointees "to release millions of dollars in congressionally earmarked funds for a new jail for the Mississippi Choctaw tribe, an Abramoff client."

Check out this comprehensive database on the Abramoff investigation.


Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) will plead guilty to Abramoff-linked charges
Associated Press

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 records.

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 2003.

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.



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 to happen.'

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.



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 aides said.

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 a vehicle.

"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
Ruling expected to aid investigation into the lobbyist's illegal activities

Associated Press

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.



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.



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.



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.)

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."



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."



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?"



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 been disclosed."

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."



Federal investigators are now investigating whether two federal contractors -- Brent Wilkes and Mitchell Wade -- provided former Rep. Randy "Duke Cunningham (R-CA) "with prostitutes and free use of a limousine and hotel suites."

Wilkes, identified as a co-conspirator in the Cunningham case, rented several hospitality suites at the Watergate Hotel and the Westin Grand Hotel.

Wade, who has pleaded guilty to bribing Cunningham, allegedly told federal prosecutors that a "limousine would pick up Cunningham and a prostitute and take them" to the hospitality suite.

The San Diego Union-Tribune's Dean Calbreath suggested that "as many as a half a dozen other congressmen may have been involved in this" prostitution scandal.

Ken Silverstein at Harper's writes that "those under intense scrutiny by the FBI are current and former lawmakers on Defense and Intelligence committees -- including one person who now holds a powerful intelligence post."

Wilkes also hosted parties and poker games, where "CIA officials as well as members of the House Appropriations and Intelligence committees" were frequent guests.

Cunningham attended the parties, as did Kyle Dustin "Dusty" Foggo, executive director at the CIA, the agency's third-highest position.



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 weapons.

The vote followed an “aggressive lobbying campaign” by a “coalition of industry groups” who pressed conservative members to oppose the amendment.

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.



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."



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.



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."



"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."



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 letter.

The month after the letter, the Saginaw delivered another $4,000.



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.'"



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



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."



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 Bush.

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]."



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 felonies."

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." 



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."



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.



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 companies."



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 States Senate."

Burns, who faces a tough fight for re-election in November, has become ensnared in the corruption investigation involving Abramoff.
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.



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."



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 and counsel."



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 organization.

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 case.


INTELLIGENCE -- ROBERTS ONCE AGAIN ENGAGES IN COVER-UP FOR THE WHITE HOUSE: Last week, the Senate Intelligence Committee chaired by Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) "voted against an investigation of the president’s warrantless domestic spying program" and made a deal with the White House to produce legislation allowing "wiretapping without warrants for up to 45 days."

Ranking Member Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) called the move "proof that the White House controls the Intelligence Committee.”

This isn't the first time Roberts has carried the Bush administration's water on the issue. Last month, rather than bring up a vote to consider an investigation into the domestic wiretapping program, Roberts instead held a vote to adjourn the "closed-door session without considering the investigation."

Roberts "wholeheartedly" endorses the program, and once said in support of the program, "You really don’t have any civil liberties if you’re dead."



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."



"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."


Ethics-Senate lobbying 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 now.

But in an 11-5 vote, the committee dropped a provision that would have set up an office of public integrity.



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. 



Fallen lobbyist Jack Abramoff had extensive contacts with conservative members of Congress and with members of the Bush administration, raising more than $100,000 for President Bush's 2004 re-election campaign.

David Safavian, formerly the government's top procurement official, has already been arrested for his dealings with the lobbyist.

Thirty-one Senate Democrats have asked Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to recuse himself from the investigation, but Gonzales has refused.

"In light of your previous service as White House Counsel and your close connection to many Administration officials, the appearance of conflict looms large," wrote the senators. "If there ever was a case that was both sensitive and rife with potential conflict, it is this one," said Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY).



Having a wife on the staff of Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) has paid off for lobbyist Michael Herson.

Over the past four years, Specter has directed almost $50 million in Pentagon contracts to six of Herson's clients.

The money for Herson was set aside through 13 earmarks; Herson's wife "deals with Specter's work on the Senate Appropriations Committee and its defense subcommittee, where all the earmarks originated."

Senate rules prohibit senators or their staffs from using their positions to further their financial interests.

American Defense International, the firm Herson co-founded, also saw its earnings grow during the past four years. "In 2002, when the 2003 budget was being prepared, the firm made $320,000 from the six clients that eventually got Specter earmarks.

It made the same amount during the first six months of 2005, the last period for which lobbying records are available."



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 Public Integrity.

"The feeding frenzy for reform right now is mostly a war of words."



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.



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."



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."



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