- The company ESRI verified that it was issued a subpoena in the [sw: Jerry Lewis] (R-Calif.) investigation. The San Bernardino Sun also reports that the documents released by another subpoena recipient, San Bernardino County, show Lewis recommending "in 2002 that the county hire The Tom Skancke Co., a Las Vegas firm that lobbies Congress and does public-relations work." During the aftermath of the Duke Cunningham conviction when the spotlight turned to Lewis the congressman bluntly declared, "It is an ironclad rule in my office that we do not recommend lobbyists, even if a constituent asks for that recommendation."
- A district aide to [sw: Bob Ney] (R-Ohio) was subpoenaed in the federal investigation into influence peddling by lobbyist Jack Abramoff. According to the Associated Press, "The subpoena for Matthew Parker, director of Ney's district office in St. Clairsville, was issued by a federal magistrate in Washington and announced Thursday."
- Former DeLay chief of staff Tony Rudy is seeking to escape Washington, DC and move to California. Rudy, who pled guilty in the Abramoff investigation, must get an okay from a judge before he can escape the city that was his undoing.
- Former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman (D) was found guilty of "trading government favors for campaign donations". That makes Siegelman the third Governor to be found guilty by a court over the past few years and the second to go to jail. Kentucky's Governor Ernie Fletcher has also been indicted and will face trial. Continue reading
Room 8's story on Iraq War opponent Rep. [sw: Gary Ackerman]'s war profiteering made it to print today in Newsday.
Additionally, the records - reported on www.r8ny.com, a New York City political Web site - show Ackerman (D-Jamaica Estates) accepted a "personal loan" last year for as much as $100,000 from Selig Zises, a large investor in a California-based company that Ackerman called Xenonics Options. However, Ackerman, who denies any improprieties, said the alleged loan was actually a sale of stock that he accidentally misreported. ... On March 9, 2002, Ackerman, a senior member on the International Relations Committee, purchased between $1,001 to $15,000 of stock in Xenonics, which is today valued at between $100,000 and $250,000, according to financial records.The stock had ballooned to as much as $1 million as Room 8 had previously reported. It has since fallen to level reported by Newsday. Ackerman's attempt at playing dumb -- "If I was smart or really knew something, I would have sold it then" -- is pretty lame since, as Gur at Room 8 points out, "said questionable dude not only sits on the House Financial Services Committee, but also on the Subcommittee on Capital Markets - which has oversight on the Securities and Exchange Commission." Ackerman says that he "played no role in steering federal dollars to Xenonics." The real, moral question remains: how does one square opposition to a war with profiting from it? If you oppose said war what would the ethical use of the profits be? Should he give it away to charity? Perhaps an organization trying to bring peace and understanding to said war-torn nation. Or should he spend those war profits on an absolutely awesome bat mitzvah for his little tatalah? It's decision time Ackerman: mensch or schlemeil? Continue reading
- According to the San Bernardino Sun, the top technology firm ESRI has received a subpoena in the ongoing investigation into Appropriations Chairman [sw: Jerry Lewis] (R-Calif.) and his ties to Copeland Lowery Jacquez Denton & White, the lobbying firm representing ESRI and numerous municipalities that have received subpoenas. From 2001 to 2006 Lewis "earmarked more than $90 million for ESRI projects that included defense intelligence systems such as database mapping to assist in rebuilding war-torn Iraq." From 2000 to 2005 ESRI paid the Lowery firm $360,000 in fees to lobby Congress.
- TPM Muckraker reports that Bernard Kerik, the first choice to head the Department of Homeland Security for President Bush's second term, will plead guilty to accepting "improper gifts totaling tens of thousands of dollars while he was a city official in the late 1990's".
- The Wall Street Journal profiles the Han Solo of the Congressional Pork Wars, [sw: Jeff Flake] (R-Ariz.). Flake is "a ringer for actor Owen Wilson who crashes not weddings but his own Republican Party" by asking "colleagues to come to the House floor and explain why taxpayers should pay for pet projects in their districts." He has twice targeted Appropriations Chairman [sw: Jerry Lewis] (R-Calif.) -- the Sith Lord if we are to keep with the Star Wars theme -- and even targeted an earmark inserted by none other than the Speaker of the House [sw: Dennis Hastert] (R-Ill.). Flake questions the culture that underlies much of the corrupt behavior in Congress, "What’s just mystifying is the sense of entitlement now: You have the right to have your projects and to ask for it through the process without anyone else knowing about it or being able to challenge it. That’s your inherent right as a member of Congress."
- An official at the Interior Department will plead guilty to a misdemeanor charge in connection with the Jack Abramoff investigation. Roger Stillwell was "the desk officer for the Mariana Islands at the U.S. Department of the Interior" and dealt often with Abramoff, who lobbied for the Islands. Stillwell is charged with "[f]ailing to report gifts from a 'prohibited source.'" I'll second Paul Kiel in saying that investigators are most likely starting with a small fish and working their way up. There is certainly a lot of dirt -- and a lot of lawmakers -- involved in the Marianas Islands angle in the web of Abramoff scandals. TPM Muckraker and Think Progress have more.
- Our buddies at Room 8 NY did some digging into the personal finances of [sw: Gary Ackerman] (D-N.Y.) to find that his stock options in the defense contractor Xenonics have skyrocketed over the past four years as the U.S. has been engaged in two wars in Afghanistan and then Iraq. Ackerman purchased stock in Xenonics back in 2002 after the invasion of Afghanistan at a worth of $1,000-$15,000. That stock is now worth between $500,000 and $1,000,000! Since Ackerman's stock purchase and the invasion of Iraq Xenonics has received numerous contracts and multi-million dollar earmarks pushing their stock to higher and higher. Did Ackerman earmark these funds? Well, we don't know because there is no transparency in the process. Perhaps someone should ask.
- Sen. [sw: John McCain] (R-Ariz.) makes his first foray into the blogging world at Porkbusters to assail Congress' use of earmarks and his own party's failure to live up to their ideal of limited government. The conservative blogosphere has picked up on McCain's post. Check out Instapundit, Freeman Hunt, Tim Chapman, and Ankle Biting Pundits. National Journal's Beltway Blogroll also has more. Continue reading
- Rep. [sw: William Jefferson] (D-LA) has a lot of friends and Ken Silverstein at the Harper's.org blog has brought them all together in one place. His friends in the Capitol may be dwindling as the Democratic Caucus is voting right now to decide whether Jefferson will be removed from his seat on the Ways and Means Committee. Two of the most powerful members of the Congressional Black Caucus, [sw: Charlie Rangel] (D-NY) and [sw: John Lewis] (D-GA), have broken ranks with the CBC, staunch backers of Jefferson, and will vote to remove the troubled congressman from the tax-writing committee.
- The Hill documents the powerful defense industry lobby and their congressional connections. The PMA Group stands out for honorable mention as one of those lobby shops that is filled with former congressional staffers. Don't forget this little piece about [sw: Pete Visclosky]'s ties to PMA.
- What you say on the campaign trail, stays on the campaign trail. That seems to be the motto for the newest Congress critter, [sw: Brian Bilbray] (R-CA). According to the Club for Growth blog, Bilbray, who holds the infamous Duke Cunningham seat, denounced earmarking on the campaign trail and called for greater transparency. But yesterday Bilbray voted against all of Jeff Flake's challenges to earmarks in the Transportation-HHS Appropriations bill.
- Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt likes to fly. Mike Leavitt likes to fly on luxury jets that are only intended to be used for emergency purposes. Did I mention Mike Leavitt likes to fly?
POGO's Blog provides an additional important point to the Titan-[sw: Duncan Hunter] story line. Turns out that Titan's lobbyist is none other than Letitia White, the "Queen of Earmarks".Continue reading
What we are seeing here is a reverse California Gold Rush. We have politicians who are from California coming back east to Washington, DC to find gold. These politicians discovered that they didn't need to find gold, they could create it. They could hide their gold inside of cavernous Appropriations legislation or in Armed Services bills, where nobody would dare look -- the site of thousand page bills can turn-off the most daring spelunker. And thus we have come to the point where almost an entire party's delegation from one state, the great state of California, is tied up in scandal. From [sw: John Doolittle] to [sw: Duke Cunningham], from [sw: Jerry Lewis] to [sw: Richard Pombo], and now we have [sw: Ken Calvert] and [sw: Duncan Hunter]. CongressDailyAM provides the goodies on Hunter, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee:
Despite strong objections from the Navy, House Armed Services Chairman Hunter added $25.7 million to the FY07 defense authorization bill to upgrade an experimental high-speed vessel based in San Diego and developed by one of his biggest political donors. ... From 1998 to 2003, Hunter received $47,200 in campaign donations from Titan Corp., more than any other lawmaker, according to the Center for Public Integrity. Cunningham, whose district adjoined Hunter's, came in third -- just behind another Southern Californian, House Appropriations Chairman Lewis -- with $43,050 in Titan donations.Titan was bought up by L-3 Communications last year. L-3 Communications has contributed a total of $34,350 to Hunter's campaign committee and his political action committee in this cycle alone. Calvert turned up in the Roll Call article that contained information on the investigation into [sw: Jerry Lewis]. It turns out that investigators are also looking at Calvert's earmarking practices:
In Calvert’s case, the search of his financial disclosures came eight days after the Los Angeles Times reported on earmarks that went to redevelopment of land around an airfield near where he had invested in a parcel of land. The paper reported that in one instance, after a $1.5 million earmark for fixing up the closed air base, Calvert and a partner sold the land for a nearly 100 percent profit a year after its purchase.Looks like these reverse gold rushers had their day in the sun, but now the party's over. I think I found a motto for these California Reps. to live by. From Tupac Shakur and Dr. Dre's song "California Love": It's all good, from Diego to tha Bay Your city is tha bomb if your city makin pay I'm sure that Hunter and Calvert could agree. No doubt. Continue reading
- Yet another local government has been issued a subpoena in the federal investigation into Rep. [sw: Jerry Lewis] (R-CA). According to the San Bernardino Sun, the "clerk of Yucca Valley confirmed Tuesday her office has been subpoenaed for records pertaining to Copeland Lowery and Lewis in connection with a criminal investigation being conducted by the FBI, the federal Defense Criminal Investigative Service and the IRS."
- The Los Angeles Times reports on the details of Rep. [sw: William Jefferson]'s (D-LA) deals with the Nigerian Vice President Atiku Abubakar. Jefferson, in a meeting with the FBI informant Lori Mody, provides this classic quote about Abubakar: "He's a very, well, the word might be … corrupt." The new affidavit also reveals that on one trip to Abubakar's home Jefferson's driver was actually an undercover FBI agent.
- The House Minority Leadership of [sw: Nancy Pelosi] (D-CA) and [sw: Steny Hoyer] (D-MD) invited Jefferson to make his case to the Democratic Steering Committee on why he should remain on the Ways and Means Committee. Pelosi and Hoyer have both publicly stated that Jefferson should be removed from the committee with Hoyer stating "he had $90,000 found in his freezer ... I think he's got a tax problem". The main support for Jefferson comes from the Congressional Black Caucus who have nine members on the Steering Committee. Roll Call reports that a vote on Jefferson's committee seat will show whether the CBC is in open revolt against the leadership or is split itself.
- The Houston Chronicle reports on the end-of-week exit of [sw: Tom DeLay] (R-TX) from Congress. DeLay says that he has no regrets and that he "fight[s] for what I believe in". We'll have more on what DeLay believes in at the end of the week.
- According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, more items that belonged to [sw: Duke Cunningham] will be up for sale tomorrow. If you are around Los Angeles why not go buy a piece of history.
- And finally, The Hill reports that defense lobbyists are rethinking how they do business in Washington in the wake of Cunningham's perp-walk and imminent earmark reform. You see, they need to find a way to get appropriations that doesn't involve bribing members of Congress with hookers. But seriously, this shows that sunlight, and even the threat of more sunlight, causes these guys to, like vampires, alter their behaviors.
The top ranking Air Force General and his predecessor are under federal investigation for allegedly steering a contract for the aerial performance Thunderbirds to a friend, who is a retired Air Force General, according to Reuters:
The FBI investigation began after complaints from Air Force insiders and a rival company whose bid was for half the amount, the network said. The contract was canceled earlier this year when the Air Force General Counsel questioned the "integrity of the process" and the involvement of four-star generals, ABC said. The case was referred to the Inspector General for the Department of Defense, and the FBI later joined the investigation, it said.Continue reading
It was rather sobering to read about blank check buying of government contracting firms in this morning's Washington Post. One of the issues we don't hear about from either party (except for the occasional, ritualistic invocation of the specter of Halliburton) is the extent to which government has become dependent upon and even defers various responsibilities to the private sector. The recent prescription drug plan is a case in point -- while the Secretary of Health and Human Services may not be permitted to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies to get discounts in drug prices, those private companies that offer the myriad plans are allowed to negotiate discounts to their hearts' content. Indeed, all those prescription drug benefit plans are a species of government contract: The federal government pays private companies money to administer a program (the Medicare Part D benefit).Continue reading