In the era of big data, it shouldn't be surprising that some of the biggest lobbying fights are over numbers. In this case, the number is $37.Continue reading
The saga of the Pork Wars continues with news about the battle between conservative bulldog [sw: Jeff Flake] (R-Ariz.) and Appropriations Chairman [sw: Jerry Lewis] (R-Calif.); a new name for earmarks: "projects initiated by a member"; a new face on the Appropriations Committee, but one with the same old problems; more questions about Jerry Lewis' connections to lobbying firm and that firm's connections to a PAC run by Lewis' step-daughter; and [sw: Duncan Hunter] (R-Calif.) makes his earmark requests, or his "projects initiated by a member," public.
- Robert Novak writes about the crusade to stop earmarks and its opponents. Last week Rep. [sw: Jeff Flake] presented amendments challenging numerous earmarks in an appropriations bill only to lose every vote. He even failed to win the vote of the supposedly anti-earmark Majority Leader [sw: John Boehner] (R-Ohio), "At Charlie Palmer's restaurant last Wednesday, assembled Republican campaign contributors cheered as John Boehner was introduced as the majority leader who never has sponsored an earmark. Later that day, Boehner voted against each of Flake's attempted earmark removals. In the House, one conservative reformer commented to another seated beside him, 'With this leadership, we never will get rid of earmarks.'"
- Rep. [sw: Bill Young] (R-Flor.), a member of the Appropriations Committee, say that there are "no more earmarks." That's because, "We don't call them that anymore." According to Young, the chairman of the subcommittee on Defense Appropriations, the new term is "projects initiated by a member." Well, I'm glad we fixed that problem. No more earmarks to worry about.
- Who will take the tainted Appropriations seat vacated by ethical black holes [sw: Duke Cunningham] (R-Calif.) and [sw: Tom DeLay] (R-Tex.)? Looks like [sw: Ken Calvert] (R-Calif.) is still the front runner despite his Dennis Hastert-esque problems. The FBI pulled Calvert's financial disclosure forms and are looking into his connections to the law firm of Bill Lowery. Lowery's firm, under investigation in connection to earmarks secured by Jerry Lewis and the Duke Cunningham case, is one of the top donors to Calvert's reelection committee. Calvert has been accused of earmarking funds around a piece of land that he owned and subesquently sold for a massive profit. In one year Calvert's assets nearly doubled in worth from between $1.7 million and $3.65 million in 2004 to between $2.55 million and $5.25 million in 2005.
- [sw: Jerry Lewis] represents parts of the Inland Empire so why on earth do the cities and municipalities have to hire a lobbying firm to get funds from their congressman? The Los Angeles Times tries to answer the question and finds that nobody has a good answer. The Washington Post also digs deeper into the political action committee run by Julia Willis-Leon, Lewis' step-daughter, and the funds she receives from clients of Letitia White and the Lowery law firm.
- House Armed Services Chairman [sw: Duncan Hunter] (R-Calif.) is making his earmark requests public, according to the Washington Post. Normally earmarks remain hidden in bills only to be discovered by those who find them odious. Hunter has decided that transparency is necessary to defend the practice. Transparency also allows me to point out that two of his earmarks are to one of his biggest campaign donors, Titan, Inc. For more information Hunter's ties to Titan -- a very controversial defense contractor -- check out this blog post by Jason Vest at POGO.
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
- The San Diego Union Tribune looks at San Diego Rep. [sw: Duncan Hunter] (R-CA) and the campaign contributions that he has received from a certain lobbyist with a shady past (read: convicted criminal). "King of Pork" [sw: Hal Rogers] (R-KY) also pops up in the story.
- Rep. [sw: Bob Ney] (R-OH) has a new excuse for going on an all-expenses paid trip to Scotland with Jack Abramoff and friends. His spokesman is saying that he certainly didn't go to play golf because Ney hates golf as much as he hates "an all-night conference committee meeting on an arcane tax issue." He hates dealing with arcane tax issues, good thing he's not in government. Wait a second...!
- Justin Rood reports that David Safavian implicated himself in court today... As a complete and total idiot.
"Did you think you were qualified for the job?" Zeidenberg asked. "Probably not, actually," Safavian said. "Are you intelligent enough to do the job?" Zeidenberg followed up. Safavian gave an extensive pause. "I suppose so."
- Roll Call reports that members of the House and Justice Department officials are scheduled to sit down and hash out issues relating to the raid on Rep. [sw: William Jefferson]'s (D-LA) office and "begin negotiations on a set of procedures for dealing with possible future search warrants for Congressional offices." Meanwhile, House lawyers will file a brief in federal court claiming that the raid was unconstitutional. Continue reading
- The San Diego Union-Tribune gives an inside peek at the infamous Brent Wilkes poker parties in the Watergate and Grand Westin Hotels. The article also mentions that Wilkes was increasingly interested in obtaining CIA contracts and had received one contract to provide clandestine air transport to the CIA. Clandestine air transport...? Can somebody say "extraordinary rendition"?
- Jeff Birnbaum writes in the Washington Post Congress is not moving to reform ethics despite the multiple scandals that have rocked the Capitol. An ethics reform package is unlikely to be passed this year.
- Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), the Democratic Minority Leader, accepted boxing tickets from the Nevada State Athletic Commission while he was working to create a federal boxing commission. It doesn't appear that Reid changed his behavior or his actions in the wake of receiving the tickets. Two Senators, John McCain (R-AZ) and John Ensign (R-NV), accompanied Reid to the matches. McCain reimbursed the NSAC for his tickets while Ensign and Reid did not.
- Finally, Newsweek has its own profile of Brent Wilkes, who is fast becoming to defense contracting what Jack Abramoff was to lobbying. The article notes that Duncan Hunter (R-CA), Jerry Lewis (R-CA), and Tom DeLay (R-TX) all had dealings with Wilkes. Hunter and Lewis have been tied up in some of the same contracts that Duke Cunningham was involved in while DeLay was a very frequent flier in Wilkes' company jet. Continue reading
The former peers of convicted Representative Duke Cunningham are revolted by the fact that he created a ‘bribe menu’ that listed earmarks he could get for a contractor alongside the money and favors that he would ask for in return. According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, fellow California Republican Darrell Issa, even though he doesn’t “want to see anybody rot in jail for the sake of rotting in jail,” is calling for the maximum10 year sentence because, “I believe that anything less is going to send the wrong message about how … you should treat somebody who betrays the public trust at this level.” Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA) and Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), both close to Cunningham and the alleged bribers, Brent Wilkes and Mitchell Wade, refused to comment on the bribe menu. Hunter instead attacked the prosecutors saying that they were, “eking out their most damaging evidence … to bolster their position.”Continue reading