CREW may have moved "Beyond DeLay" but federal investigators haven't. The Politico reports that Tom DeLay is under increasing legal jeopardy. John Bresnahan writes that the records of Ed Buckham, former DeLay chief of staff and close Jack Abramoff associate, were supboenaed by a federal grand jury investigating lawmaker and lobbyist ties to Abramoff. According to Bresnahan, "a number of ex-DeLay staffers have been subpoenaed - or voluntarily came in for questioning - by the Justice Dept. to discuss the day-to-day operations of DeLay's office, including the role Buckham played once he left DeLay's staff, according to sources familiar with the investigation."
TPM Muckraker has a great background piece on Ed Buckham and how deeply in the muck he is. Investigators in the Abramoff case, already with 10 guilty pleas and one conviction, are still moving towards other targets. So far, two former DeLay aides, Tony Rudy and Michael Scanlon, have pled guilty. While everyone is concentrated on the Juice, we're waiting to see if the Hammer is going to get nailed.Continue reading
Thunderstorms have become a daily occurence here in DC over the past week. It looks like we're about to get another one. Here's a look at the news before Pennsylvania Ave. turns into a river and my power goes out:
- Jack Abramoff and former Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) chief of staff Ed Buckham "orchestrated a series of multimillion-dollar maneuvers with several charities he or Buckham exerted control over. These charities became a primary tool in his criminal conspiracy," according to Roll Call. The noose continues to tighten around the now retired DeLay.
- Congress doesn't care about cleaning itself up by reforming their ethics or the practice of lobbying. According to the Washington Post, lobbying and ethics reform "has slowed to a crawl. Along the way, proposals such as Hastert's that would sharply limit commonplace behavior on Capitol Hill have been cast aside." Congress, playing the role of a baby, has soiled itself and is incapable of changing it's diapers, let alone become potty trained. It smells.
- USA Today reports that some lawmakers are questioning the annual cost-of-living adjustment to their salary claiming that they do not deserve to make more money so long as the minimum wage remains at $5.15 an hour or the government does not run a balanced budget. The rank and file member of Congress currently makes $165,200 with leadership earning more. Members today are earning $710 less than they did in 2001 due to inflation. If the raise were to go into effect members would make $168,500 next year. In 2005 the daily salary of members of Congress -- when calculating the days Congress was in session -- was $1149.65.
- According to Newsweek, "White House staffers have accepted nearly $135,000 in free trips since November 2004." Those offering the trips have included conservative organizations like the National Association of Manufacturers, he Southern Baptist Convention, Focus on the Family and the Federalist Society.
- Is the 109th Congress a "Do Nothing Congress?" Are all major actions expected to be political ploys with no expectation of serious action on the serious issues of the day? Continue reading
The Wahsington Post reports this morning that [sw: Tom DeLay]'s wife received a $25,000 retirement account from lobbyist and ex-DeLay chief of staff Ed Buckham for paid work she was doing for his firm. Buckham and DeLay have come under increased scrutiny for their connections to the swindling lobbyist Jack Abramoff. DeLay's wife has previously been mentioned as being looked at by investigators trying to determine if DeLay did anything in his official capacity in exchange for the money his wife received. Christine DeLay's take from Buckham, when including the $25,000 retirement package, exceeded $490,300. The Post notes, "Before being paid by ARMPAC for political consulting, Christine DeLay, a homemaker and advocate for foster care, had not done paid work of that type. That circumstance has figured in government investigations of payments to other lawmakers' spouses, on the grounds that, if the compensation began after a lawmaker's election, it might have been meant to influence official acts."Continue reading
Chris Geeslin was the spiritual advisor to Tom DeLay's (R-TX) chief of staff Ed Buckham and went on to head the Buckham founded U.S. Family Network. Little did Geeslin know that he was being used to mask a front organization that funneled money from shady clients of Jack Abramoff into partisan politics - and into Buckham's bank account. Paul Kiel at TPM Muckraker caught Geeslin talking on NPR about how he learned that the business he was involved in wasn't exactly Kosher:
NPR's John Ydstie: Geeslin first became uneasy when large donations started rolling in, one for $1 million. He said he suggested to Buckham that maybe the group should focus more on being the grassroots organization described in the U.S. Family Network's mission statement. Chris Geeslin: “And [Buckham] looked at me with some disdain. And he said, ‘You know where that million dollars came from? I said, 'Well, no.’ And he told me 'This is the way Washington works.' And he was schooling me, so to speak. He said, ‘That money came from Russian enery magnates, or oil magnates, who wanted to influence Congressman DeLay so he would not vote against the IMF funding of the bailout of Russia.’ And again, he said, ‘That’s the way Washington works, it runs on money.’ At the time, I didn’t know what to do with that. It was like, this has gotta be a joke. It’s beyond belief. It’s surreal.”There's Ed Buckham for you; crusher of ideals, destroyer of moral fiber. He's like a corrupt politician from a Capra film. Continue reading
- According to Florida Today, Florida Congressman Dave Weldon (R) said that "he had no idea that Edwin Buckham" had a stake in Map Roi when he wrote a $1.55 million earmark to Florida Tech, of which $500,000 went to Map Roi. The original Los Angeles Times story quoted a university newletter that pronounced, "U.S. Rep. Dave Weldon was instrumental in bringing Map Roi to Florida Tech."
- The Washington Post reports on a taxpayer funded junket that Senators Arlen Spector (R-PA) and Jeff Sessions (R-AL) are on right now to visit "the actual birthplace of the matzoh ball." Okay, they're also talking about drug interdiction, guest worker plans, and global warming but it's Passover so I had to go with the matzoh ball angle.
The dirt keeps piling up for ex-DeLay chief of staff Ed Buckham. The Los Angeles Times is reporting that Buckham got Rep. Dave Weldon (R-FL) to insert a $1.55 million earmark for the Florida Institute of Technology which then turned around and signed a lobbying client and business partner of Buckham to do the work.
With the assistance of Rep. Dave Weldon (R-Fla.), a DeLay political ally, Buckham had $1.55 million set aside in late 2003 in a federal appropriations bill for the U.S. Department of Labor to fund a program for small businesses. The money was awarded to the Florida Institute of Technology, which promptly signed a contract with Map Roi Inc., a client and partner of lobbyist Buckham. At the time, Buckham's lobby company, Alexander Strategy Group, held options on 500,000 shares of Map Roi stock, records show.Map Roi, a Guam-based company, enjoyed success after securing the FIT contract attracting $3 million from a group of venture capital firms. Buckham had encountered Map Roi through his dealings with Jack Abramoff in Guam. The FIT earmark was not the only one sought by Map Roi. There was an effort to obtain $20 million in earmarks from the federal government that strikes current Abramoff lightening rod Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT):
In a May 13, 2003, speech to Guam legislators and other officials, Gutierrez's successor as governor of Guam, Felix P. Camacho, said that a $20-million pact with Map Roi was in the works. In the speech, he credited Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) with pushing for the appropriation. A Burns spokesman said the project was never funded.Continue reading
Yesterday the New York Times reported on the involvement of spouses and family members in the Jack Abramoff scandal. Julie Doolittle, the wife of Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA), “has been subpoenaed … and questioned by the F.B.I.” about her “marketing and events-planning work for Mr. Abramoff’s lobbying firm and for his Washington restaurant, Signatures”. Rep. Tom DeLay’s wife Christine “received $115,000 in consulting fees from 1998 to 2002” from the U.S. Family Network, a nonprofit run by former DeLay chief of staff Ed Buckham who is currently “under scrutiny by the Justice Department because of his lobbying contacts with Mr. DeLay’s House office.” Lisa Rudy, the wife of Tony Rudy, the ex-deputy chief of staff to DeLay who pled guilty last week, “received $50,000 in consulting fees as a result of what her husband has acknowledged was a corrupt scheme with Mr. Abramoff to influence the workings of Mr. DeLay’s office and promote the concerns of Mr. Abramoff’s clients on Capitol Hill.” Wendy Buckham, the wife of Ed Buckham, “shared more than $1 million in consulting fees with her husband from the U.S. Family Network, a nonprofit group tied to Mr. DeLay. The group has drawn the scrutiny of law enforcement officials because so much of its income was directed to the Buckham family and appears to have come from Russian businessmen eager to court favor from Mr. DeLay.” The Times also provides a graphic illustrating the connections to family members in this bribery scheme.Continue reading
Former Majority Leader Tom DeLay’s (R-TX) ex-deputy chief of staff Tony Rudy pleaded guilty to fraud charges stemming from “a bribery scheme that began in 1997 and ran through 2004,” according to Roll Call. The bribery scheme is the same one that brought Jack Abramoff and former DeLay spokesman Michael Scanlon to justice and has ensnared numerous members of Congress, most notably Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH), who is mentioned in the plea deals of Abramoff, Scanlon, and now Rudy. While DeLay was not singled out in the Rudy plea his “single closest adviser” and former chief of staff Ed Buckham was implicated in the scheme. The majority of the actions noted in the Rudy plea occur from 2000-2002. Rudy’s actions from 1997 to 1999 are not detailed in the plea deal. The New York Daily News notes that the corruption probe is encircling DeLay. A “knowledgeable source” notes that Rudy and Buckham, “were Batman and Robin. Tony didn't do anything without Buckham's say-so. ... Buckham was Batman.”Continue reading
Want to know what the U.S. Family Network spent its money on? The Washington Post has an illustrative graphic on their site that is a must-see.
- Ed Buckham, the former chief of staff and religious advisor to former Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX), collected over $1 million through a non-profit group created while he was still under DeLay’s employ. (Washington Post) TPM Muckraker has been following Buckham’s money trail for some time. Check out their three parts series here, here, and here.
- The founder of “compassionate conservatism” Marvin Olasky is assailing former Christian Coalition head Ralph Reed over his connections and dealings with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. (Washington Post)
- Robert Novak claims that Jack Abramoff is clearing DeLay from charges of corruption in his talks with investigators. Of course, the steady stream of stories like the Washington Post Ed Buckham story indicates that Abramoff is not the only corrupting influence on Capitol Hill. (Townhall.com)
- Laura Rozen notes that the wife of the mysterious Thommas Kontogiannis – one of the alleged bribers in the Duke Cunningham corruption case – gave “$18,000 to eighteen vulnerable Republican US House candidates” in 2004. Rozen writes, “These are not her local candidates, or broad nationally known candidates. Who was directing these payments to these obscure, vulnerable national Republican candidates? Who gave the Kontogiannis the Republican House play map? These payments suggest a degree of connection to someone far more central to the GOP House machine than even Cunningham.” (War and Piece)