- The former White House procurement official and Jack Abramoff devotee David Safavian is set to go to trial this week. Safavian, accused of lying the officials at the General Services Administration, will be the first court room test for prosecutors in the still unfolding Washington corruption case surrounding the practices of Jack Abramoff, according to Bloomberg. Prosecutors do not plan on calling Abramoff as a witness but will instead use the email exchanges between the two men to detail Safavian's actions. The former chief of staff to Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH), Neil Volz, will be called to testify against Safavian. Jury selection begins today.
- The San Diego Union Tribune reports that staffers to Duke Cunningham believed that he was a "nice guy" and that he was innocent until the day he pleaded guilty to accepting $2.4 million in bribes.
- Some Tennessee lawmakers are making their earmark requests public as a means of showcasing that not all earmarks are boondoggles and a waste of federal dollars, according to the Chattanooga Times Free Press. The lawmakers, a group that includes Reps. Lincoln Davis (D-TN), Harold Ford Jr. (D-TN), and Jim Cooper (D-TN), also hope to show that transparency is the best means to insure that earmarking is not abused.
- The Los Angeles Daily News talks to the new ranking Democrat on the House Ethics Committee Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA).
- Time Magazine reports that another aide to deposed CIA chief Porter Goss is under investigation in the continuing probe of Duke Cunningham and the actions of alleged briber and defense contractor Brent Wilkes. That aide is Brant "Nine Fingers" Bassett, who has been said to have attended the Wilkes run poker games at hospitality suites in the Watergate and Westin Hotels.
Some seats in Congress are famous and carry strong traditions. There is the Daniel Webster desk and the Jefferson Davis desk. There is the New York Senate seat currently occupied by Hillary Clinton that was previously occupied by equally well-known out-of-staters with strong personalities Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Robert Kennedy. But what about seats of infamy? I believe we may have one on the House Appropriations Committee. When Randy "Duke" Cunningham resigned his seat in Congress and was subsequently sent to prison for his role in a sweeping bribery scandal he also left a seat on the Appropriations Committee, a seat from which he did a lot of his dirty work. That seat remained open until Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) resigned his leadership post after being indicted on money laundering charges. DeLay immediately took Cunningham's seat on the Appropriations Committee. DeLay later announced that he was going to resign from Congress after one of his top former aides pled guilty to charges in another Congressional scandal, the one that involved Tom DeLay's "best friend" Jack Abramoff, his former press secretary Michael Scanlon, his former chief of staff Ed Buckham, and lots of money. CongressDailyPM reports that the front-runner for this tainted seat is Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA). Who knows how the seat will corrupt Calvert? Oh wait a second. He's already involved in some dubious actions (noted previously here). From CongressDailyPM:
The Los Angeles Times reported Monday that Calvert made a significant profit off an empty four-acre tract bought last year after steering an $8 million earmark near the area to build a highway, and $1.5 million to boost commercial development. Those earmarks were included not in an appropriations bill, but in last's year's $286.4 billion highway reauthorization bill. Calvert and a business partner bought the lot for $550,000, and sold it for $985,000 a few months after the bill became law -- a 79 percent increase in value.Now that is a sweet deal he's got going for him. Imagine the kind of stuff that Calvert can earmark near his land holdings when he's on the Appropriations Committee. Maybe the seat doesn't corrupt people, it just attracts unseemly types. Or it could go the other way considering Cunningham seemed like an upstanding guy when he came to Congress. One of those chicken or the egg things I guess. Continue reading
- I'm confused. First, Duke Cunningham is said to not be cooperating with the federal investigation into bribery by defense contractors. Now he states, through his lawyer, that he will cooperate fully with a House Ethics Committee investigation and has been cooperating all along with the federal investigation. So, what's the deal here?
- We do know that Mitchell Wade, the contractor convicted of bribing Duke Cunningham, is talking to prosecutors. The Boston Globe looks into who he might be talking about. Two lawmakers, who both received illegal campaign contributions from Wade and tried, one successfully and the other unsuccessfully, to secure federally earmarked funds for his MZM, Inc., look like ready targets for this expanding investigation. They are Rep. Virgil Goode (R-VA), who successfully earmarked funds for an MZM office in his district, and Rep. Katherine Harris (R-FL), who, after dining with Wade to the tune of $2,800, attempted to insert an earmark that would established an MZM site in her district.
- That loophole is so big I could fit a few hundred million dollars through it. (Wall Street Journal)
- The Torch is back! Former Sen. Robert Torricelli (D-NJ) is back in the news, and as you would expect it's bad news for the Torch. The Financial Times reports that Torricelli is now being connected to the UN oil for food scandal. Just recently I read a piece about how Torricelli was still a player and was doling out advice to Democratic Senators and consultants. That will probably stop if this report proves true. I think the guy might become even more radioactive than he used to be.
- TPM Muckraker reports on the Democrats' choice to have Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL) as the top Dem on the House Intelligence Committee. "That's right: Pelosi wants to replace House Intel Committee Ranking Member Jane Harman (CA) with Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-FL), who "was forced to surrender his job as a federal judge after being indicted in 1981 on bribery charges," as the LA Times reports it. He beat the rap, but "was impeached in 1988 by the House for conspiracy and making false statement" in connection to the case."
- On the emergency supplemental front Mark Tapscott reports that there may be a victory at hand with the Senate agreeing to "cap spending in the emergency spending bill for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and Gulf Coast hurricane recovery to $94.5 billion."
Roll Call is reporting that the Justice Department is expanding their investigation in the Duke Cunningham case to include the actions of three House committees, Intelligence, Appropriations, and Armed Services. Justice investigators are "seeking to interview at least nine current or former staffers" on these three panels while "also seeking “tens of thousands of pages” of Congressional documents, some going back to 1997, related to Cunningham and government programs he may have had influence over". Many of the earmarks and projects created in the Intelligence and Armed Services Committees are "black" (classified) programs and the staffers and congressmen may decide to block investigators from obtaining information about these programs. The two defense contractors accused of bribing Duke Cunningham both received earmarks for controversial "black" programs. Mitchell Wade, who pled guilty to bribing Cunningham, had a "black" contract that was tied to domestic wiretapping. Brent Wilkes, who investigators have yet to indict, maintained "black" programs relating to rendition of prisoners.Continue reading
The San Diego Union-Tribune delves into the details of the FBI's recently revealed investigation of the powerful Appropriations Chair Jerry Lewis (R-CA):
But a federal government source told The San Diego Union-Tribune that investigators were probing Lewis' dealings with lobbyist and former Republican Rep. Bill Lowery of San Diego. The source said the investigation was a spin-off from the corruption probe of now-imprisoned former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham.Lewis adamantly denies that he was a close friend of Cunningham's and stated that Cunningham "betrayed his oath of office, his constituents, and his fellow members of Congress." He does not of course mention this:
According to government and defense industry sources, Lewis and Cunningham worked together to help Poway military contractor Brent Wilkes as he pursued contracts on Capitol Hill. Cunningham admitted taking bribes from Wilkes, who has been identified as co-conspirator No. 1 in Cunningham's plea agreement. On April 15, 1999, three months after Lewis was named chairman of the House defense appropriations subcommittee, he received $17,000 in campaign contributions from Wilkes and his associates. At the time, Wilkes was vying for a project to digitize military documents in the Panama Canal Zone, which the United States was about to return to Panama. ... On July 6, 1999, Wilkes wrote to Cunningham saying “We need $10 m(illion) more immediately . . . This is very important and if you cannot resolve this others will be calling also.” Wilkes' memo – contained in federal documents accompanying Cunningham's guilty plea – then named two people whose names were blacked out by the prosecutors. According to military and defense industry sources, Lewis and Cunningham got the money for Wilkes, founder of ADCS Inc., by using their clout to threaten the funding of the Pentagon's F-22 fighter jet.Laura Rozen at War and Piece has a picture up of the blacked out document where one of the blacked out names clearly begins with the letter "J". Continue reading
Yesterday the North County Times reported that Duke Cunningham was not cooperating in the ongoing federal bribery investigation. Now, from information received from San Diego Union-Tribune reporters, TPM Muckraker provides an interesting twist: Cunningham may NEVER have cooperated:
There is no evidence that Cunningham has provided any significant information to the government beyond the proof the government already had - much of it from Wade - when Cunningham approached prosecutors about a plea agreement. People closely involved with the case privately admit as much. ... When the prosecution argued for a stiff jail sentence for Cunningham, it said Cunningham had cost the country financially and had harmed it. But it never said how much Cunningham's crimes had cost the country or how much damage had been done. That's because nobody knows. Most of the money Cunningham directed to Wade and Wilkes involved classified programs. Many of these so-called "black" or secret programs were funded in response to the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. ... The larceny might have involved many different contractors, projects and appropriations bills over many years. So, only Cunningham could know for sure.Well this certainly explains why prosecutors wanted to give the Dukestir the full 10 year sentence that he was facing. Continue reading
Federal prosecutors have begun an investigation into Rep. Jerry Lewis, the Californian who chairs the powerful House Appropriations Committee, government officials and others said, signaling the spread of a San Diego corruption probe. The U.S. attorney's office in Los Angeles has issued subpoenas in an investigation into the relationship between Lewis (R-Redlands) and a Washington lobbyist linked to disgraced former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Rancho Santa Fe), three people familiar with the investigation said. The investigation is part of an expanding federal probe stemming from Cunningham's conviction for accepting $2.4 million in bribes and favors from defense contractors, according to the three sources.The investigation revolves around Lewis' relationship with former congressman and current lobbyist Bill Lowery. Lowery, who lost his congressional seat to Duke Cunningham, was a mentor to Brent Wilkes, the central figure in the Cunningham bribery case. Continue reading
Randy Cunningham has not been helping federal authorities as they continue to probe the former North County congressman's web of corruption, a top Pentagon investigator said Tuesday. Rick Gwin, special agent in charge of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service's western regional office, said he is troubled by the lack of assistance, particularly in light of Cunningham's plea agreement that calls for him to tell all that he knows. "In my opinion, he has not been cooperative and I have not gotten any information from him to further develop other targets," Gwin said in a telephone interview from his office in Mission Viejo. "I was hoping that from a jail cell, he might become more cooperative, but we just don't have the cooperation that I think we should have." ... "This is much bigger and wider than just Randy 'Duke' Cunningham," he said. "All that has just not come out yet, but it won't be much longer and then you will know just how widespread this is."Continue reading
From Justin Rood at TPM Muckraker:
We've been hearing a lot about this guy "Nine Fingers," a CIA veteran who was a regular at Brent Wilkes' poker parties. On Sunday, Newsweek identified him as Brant Bassett, who had a career at the CIA before he went to work as a staffer for then-chairman Rep. Porter Goss (R-FL) at the House Intelligence Committee in 2000. Well, now here's another weird thing about Bassett: Just before he went to work for Goss at the committee, Brent Wilkes cut him a check for $5000. It's right there on his financial disclosure forms. In fact, his forms actually show two payments -- but it seems he may have reported the same check twice.Harpers.org also has more on "Nine Fingers" and Foggo. Continue reading
Brian Ross and Richard Esposito of ABC News are reporting that K. Dusty Foggo, the Executive Director of the CIA is expected to resign soon. Foggo has been the subject of an internal CIA investigation regarding his role in the Duke Cunningham bribery/contracting scandal. Foggo is also known to have attended late night poker games thrown by defense contractor Brent Wilkes - referred to as co-conspirator #1 in the Cunningham plea deal - which allegedly led to even later nights with prostitutes. Foggo is an old friend of Wilkes and was handpicked by the recently resigned Porter Goss to be the number three man at the CIA. For details on Foggo, Wilkes, and the scandal I would check out Laura Rozen's blog, War and Piece.Continue reading