In today's edition, The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune reports that the annual Washington Mardi Gras party kicks off tonight at the Washington Hilton, a weekend-long event billed as "one of the most sought-after tickets in any season in Washington." The event's parties, the paper says, "are arguably the most intimate gatherings of businesspeople, politicians and lobbyists left in Washington" after new congressional ethics rules were adopted. Writing that the parties are"a throwback to the days when politicians and lobbyists socialized regularly outside the glare of the public spotlight," the paper added that they are "largely immune to the new ethics standards."
A secretive, Louisiana-based group headed by a lobbyist and former aide to now lobbyist and former Sen. John Breaux (D-La.) organizes the event. The organization declined to name this year's corporate sponsors, but in years past they included R.J. Reynolds, BellSouth, and Lockheed Martin, according to the paper.Continue reading
This afternoon, our friends at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) got a major victory for all who care for openness and transparency.
A federal judge ruled that the logs kept by the Secret Service of visitors to the White House and the Vice President's residence are public records and subject to Freedom of Information Act requests. The Bush White House had been fighting the release of the documents in an effort to hide evidence and details of visits from disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and prominent religious conservative leaders. The White House insists that the logs are presidential records and should not be public, and wants the Secret Service to destroy its copies of the logs once they are turned over to the White House. They were wrong.
In sum, according to CREW: "As a result of today's ruling, records of visits to both the White House complex and the residency of the vice president are now publicly available through the FOIA."Continue reading
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has released its third annual report on the most corrupt members of Congress, entitled Beyond DeLay: The 22 Most Corrupt Members of Congress (and two to watch). The report highlights the corrupt activities of each of the 25 on the list.Continue reading
Tomorrow is the big press day for this story as the House and the Senate will hold hearings into the alleged Attorney purge and look into what role, if any, politics and pressure from congressmen led to the ouster of seven U.S. Attorneys. Two of these Attorneys have already generated a large amount of media attention as their removal is highly controversial. David Iglesias claims that Sen. Pete Domenici and Rep Heather Wilson pressured him to bring an indictment against local New Mexico Democrats prior to the 2006 election and Carol Lam was in the midst of prosecuting two alleged conspirators in the Duke Cunningham corruption case, Brent Wilkes and K. Dusty Foggo, both highly connected to the Bush Administration. What about the other Attorneys?Continue reading
Late in December, just before our holiday break, Sunlight approved several final grants for 2006, bringing our total grantmaking to just over $1.1 million for the year. As we look back over each of the grants we made, we are impressed by the quality of work that's been produced, the openness to collaboration amongst our grantees, and to the strides being made as each of these organizations enter the world of the Web 2.0. Our investments have paid off well. And yes, to answer the obvious question, Sunlight will expand its grantmaking in 2007.
We made three final grants at the end of the year. The first one of $117,000 went to Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Government (CREW) to fund the launch of its "Open Community Open Document Review System." CREW had already developed a demonstration version of an online reviewing process that is a really cool tool. It lets anyone review, tag and comment on any of the thousands of pages of documents that CREW has in their possession. (CREW has thousands of pages of governement records as a result of their thorough and repeated FOIA requests.) Our grant will help them build a massive publicly searchable database of every document they receive -- a database put together by citizen journalists. Look for the beta version at the end of March.Continue reading
- TPM Muckraker reports (via the Washington Post) that Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA), already under fire for his relationships with crooked characters Jack Abramoff and Brent Wilkes, "has been paying for babysitters out of his campaign till". Doolittle has spent $5,881 of his PAC money on child care costs since 2001. At least that's better than Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) who used his PAC to pay for groceries and Starbucks.
- Hotline On Call Blog posts a quote from Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) pillorying the Senate for their profligant additions to the emergency supplemental bill. "Any calls from the Senate for an across-the-board cut to make room for a bloated supplemental will be met by a busy signal in the House. The House will not join a shell-game spending spree with taxpayer dollars."
- The aforementioned Sen. Santorum seems to be in trouble again. Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington (CREW) has filed a complaint with the FEC alleging that two former staffers for Santorum "violated several provisions of the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA)." I feel that someone should keep a tally of which legislator receives the most filed complaints against them by CREW in a given year.
- The Los Angeles Times reports that Rep. Dana Rohrbacher (R-CA), once an aspiring screenwriter, "will return $23,000 he received for a screenplay option from a Hollywood producer who pleaded guilty Tuesday to defrauding dozens of people into investing in a bogus television series about the U.S. Department of Homeland Security." This happens to be one of the funnier tales of influence buying in the current Congress but it leaves one question. Why didn't Rohrabacher sell his conservative themed script to his buddy Jack Abramoff, former movie producer? Abramoff produced the unbelievably bad conservative movie "Red Scorpion", why couldn't he help make Rohrabacher's tale of a grizzled war veteran who goes into Baja California with a stereotypical liberal straw man and hijinks ensue. I guess the answer is that if you want to make a wretched movie like that you need to have the backing of the secret intelligence service of an oppressive regime.
It's against the law to solicit a trip or a gift of any value if you are a member of Congress. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is asking the Department of Justice to open an investigation into Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) to determine whether the congressman "violated federal law by soliciting a trip to Germany and Liechtenstein from the International Management and Development Institute (IMDI)."Continue reading
Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington (CREW) filed an ethics complaint in the Senate Ethics Committee against Sen. Rick Santorum for receiving a loan from a private bank, whose “policy is to lend money only to its "affluent" investors, which the senator is not.” According to the Philadelphia Daily News, CREW “alleges that the mortgage from Philadelphia Trust Co. is a gift in violation of Senate Rule 35, which says that senators can receive loans or other banking services only on terms ‘generally available to the public.’”Continue reading