Yesterday the House and Senate negotiators announced that they would meet today to pare down the pork in the emergency supplemental bill for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the damage inflicted by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Here at this blog, and at many others, we decry the immense amount of pork that was stuffed into this emergency bill, but sometimes, in our outrage, we forget to explain what this pork has done. It has kept this bill from being passed and that has damaged our war efforts and our ability to rebuild our own country:
The White House says a money crunch is threatening military operations and training accounts, especially for the Army, and could slow training and equipping of Iraqi soldiers. ... the Army will impose a civilian hiring freeze Tuesday and has cut spending on spare parts, transportation and travel.And let's not forget that residents of New Orleans are still unable to move back to their homes. Now, there are certainly reasons that these emergency spending bills should not be coming before Congress. We have been at war in Iraq and Afghanistan for three and almost five years respectively and there is no reason for the Bush Administration to continue to hide these costs by not including them in their annual budget request. However, the Senate did not try and argue this point, instead they turned the emergency bill into a pulled-pork sandwich and have held up progress in a war and in rebuilding our scarred country. Next time any of these pork-pushers questions the patriotism of an American they should have to answer for withholding funds from our troops and from our damaged cities and towns. Continue reading
The Associated Press reports today that Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) misstated the ethics rules when defending his receiving of boxing seats and will no longer accept tickets to boxing matches to avoid the appearance of any impropriety. Unfortunately for the AP this story continues to misslead readers. Paul Kiel explains:
In an interview that appeared in Wednesday's The Las Vegas Review-Journal, Reid said that the exception for state agencies only applied to Senators from the state in question. Therefore, the exception applied to him and not Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), who paid for his seat, because he was from out of state. That's wrong. It has nothing to do with what state you're from. The AP caught that and brought it to Reid's people. They admitted the AP was right on this point and Reid was wrong. And that's how Solomon can write that Reid "acknowledged Wednesday night he misstated the ethics rules governing his acceptance of free boxing tickets." ... But let's be clear: What Reid was wrong about wasn't whether he was allowed to take the tickets. He was wrong about whether McCain was allowed to because he was from out of state. On the larger question, whether he was permitted to accept the tickets, Reid didn't admit to being wrong because he wasn't. Zinging Reid on his error would certainly be in order.Here is the misleading lede from the AP:
Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid learned that what happens in Vegas doesn't always stay in Vegas after all. A day after The Associated Press reported Reid accepted free ringside seats to boxing matches from a Nevada agency trying to influence him on federal boxing legislation, the senator offered his own ethics justification to a home state audience in Las Vegas. And he vowed to keep taking such gifts. But Reid's comments Tuesday quickly reached Washington, where several ethics experts concluded the Senate leader had misstated the Senate rules to his constituents. Within hours of being questioned by AP about the ethics experts' assertions, Reid's office abruptly reversed course and acknowledged Wednesday night he had misspoken about the ethics rules.Now, I'm all for muckraking and uncovering what our elected officials are up to in Washington -- what they are doing in broad daylight. But writing a piece that seems intent on misleading the reader is unethical in itself. We already have enough disillusionment with our leaders who actually are corrupt. We don't need some hatchet job article that makes somebody who doesn't seem to have done anything wrong look corrupt. I'm sure that there's more corruption and graft going on in earmarking and government contracting. If the AP wants to break a story why don't they focus there instead of following dead-end trails that force them to make stuff up. Continue reading
Yesterday, I went over why the Associated Press article on Harry Reid and the nonsensical reaction by certain partisans was completely off the mark. I also said that it was my personal opinion that Reid probably should have paid for the tickets to eliminate the appearance of impropriety, even though it appeared that nothing untoward had occured. Well, Paul Kiel at TPM Muckraker and the Las Vegas Review Journal reinforce my first argument while showing that my personal opinion was wrong. You see, it would have been against the law for Reid to have paid for the tickets because they weren't tickets:
But it turns out that it would have been illegal for Reid to reimburse the commission for the seats. That's because these weren't actually tickets - they were credentials with no face value given to V.I.P.'s. And according to the boxing promoter who awarded those credentials to Reid, it is illegal for the commission to accept payment for them. Despite that, McCain insisted on paying, and so the commission simply gave his check (written for a seemingly arbitrary amount) to a charity since it couldn't accept it. What's more, that same promoter says that in other cases where Reid and McCain received tickets that could be reimbursed, Reid paid. That's a key fact which, if true, was left out of Solomon's article.So, Reid didn't break the law and that is a story? Soon we will be seeing headlines like this: "BREAKING NEWS: Over 500 lawmakers may or may not have done something wrong." Continue reading
This photograph is an absolute career killer. (Appearing in the picture are Neil Volz and Ralph Reed on the left, Bob Ney and David Safavian in the middle, and Jack Abramoff on the right.)
Sometimes it's just good to make sense. Often times in politics nonsense rules the day. Whether it's a politician spouting some nonsensical rhetoric in an effort to pander, dodge, or maintain ideological blinders or a partisan operative or blogger who just didn't read the article which they are using to support their partisan viewpoint we are inundated with nonsense. Today there was news that Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) accepted boxing tickets from the Nevada State Gaming Authority while he was attempting to regulate the industry. Now for the example of nonsense, courtesy Ed Morrissey at Captain's Quarters, "the Senate Minority Leader has been exposed as taking favors from a notoriously corrupt industry while he intervened on their behalf."
Before Morrissey gets to this piece of nonsense he makes an important point that is true: that the scandals surrounding William Jefferson (D-LA) and Alan Mollohan (D-WV) have undermined the ability of the Democrats to use ethics as a hammer to pound on Republicans. Then he goes about using nonsense to attack Reid and claim that he is discrediting his party as Mollohan and Jefferson have. Let's start with the end of the sentence about Reid: "while he intervened on their behalf." This seems like the key to unlocking the nonsense in his statement because Reid actually voted for more regulation and against the Nevada State Gaming Authority. That would mean that Reid DID NOT intervene on the behalf of the Gaming Authority.
Morrissey also brings up Reid's contacts with his former staffer Eddie Ayoob, who went on to work with Jack Abramoff. Morrissey states that Reid made "four interventions on behalf of clients of Jack Abramoff". Now if this was provable then we would have a problem. Unfortunately for Morrissey all the evidence points to the fact that Reid did not intervene or act in favor of Abramoff clients due to campaign contributions or any other form of graft (honest or not). In one instance Reid, along with Nevada's junior Senator John Ensign (R-NV), wrote a letter to the Interior Department opposing the construction of an off-reservation casino that was also opposed by an Abramoff tribal client. While questions have been raised about the number of letters written regarding this particular off-reservation casino, and questions of some of those letters are valid, the Reid-Ensign letter seems based on protecting an industry vital to their state's commerce.
Reid has a long-standing opposition to off-reservation gambling and has had a number of dust-ups with Indian casinos and tribal gaming authorities. In 2001 he attempted to block the construction of a tribal casino near the san Francisco Bay Area and in 1997 he asked Attorney General Janet Reno to investigate unregulated Indian casinos that were operating without gaming compacts -- at the time there were a number operating in Inland Empire, California. Reid also blocked a bill that would have allowed for more electronic gambling machines in California. It becomes clear when you look at Reid's history that he has consistently and vocally opposed efforts to expand gambling operations that could cost his state's biggest tourist draw, and biggest money-machine, business. So, it doesn't make sense that say that Harry Reid intervened on behalf of an Abramoff client because he was influenced by money and Eddie Ayoob. Plus, I have never heard any credible report that Reid was under any kind of investigation by the Justice Department.
The other interventions that Morrissey mentions involved the Northern Marianas Islands where Abramoff was trying to keep Congress from imposing labor and minimum wage restrictions from being applied. Reid was contacted by Ayoob about this and then voted for the labor regulations and the minimum wage law. I don't understand how voting against the guy you are supposedly intervening for is corrupt -- if anything it is the opposite.
To get back to the boxing tickets, it seems that Reid should have paid for his tickets so that he could avoid an appearance of being influenced. Often times that is the biggest problem with accepting these gifts and with the excess of campaign contributions. They give an impression to the average American that the entire system is corrupt, that democracy is only for those who can afford it, and that they are locked out of the process. The appearance here is more important than anything else, especially considering that no law was broken and no vote was influenced. But for Morrissey and others who engage in this kind of nonsense, from either side of the aisle, I'll leave you with the words of the late, great Bill Hicks: It doesn't make any sense, if you just walk it back.Continue reading
- Jack Abramoff's emails to GSA official David Safavian were introduced in the trial of the former Bush administration official yesterday. In one email Abramoff expresses outrage over the possibility of losing the Old Post Office Building, which he was trying to get Safavian to sell to him to turn into a five-star hotel, to a women's group intent on turning the building into a women's history museum. "'What idiots!' the lobbyist wrote. 'This would kill any five star hotel for sure.'"
- Brian Ross reaffirmed his story about Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) in today's Washington Post although he adds that it "could wash out and be nothing."
- Two more aides to Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) have been subpoenaed in relation to the Jack Abramoff bribery investigation, according to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. The aides, Patrick Vinovich and Will Heaton, both accompanied Ney, Abramoff, Safavian, and Ralph Reed on the infamous 2002 "golf golf golf" trip to Scotland. Vinovich will exercise his Fifth Amendment rights to not testify in the Safavian case, however his financial records will be provided as evidence.
- "When they found the money in the freezer, man … I was kind of shocked. I just never thought he would get caught up — allegedly — in that type of situation." Rep. William Jefferson's (D-LA) alleged misdeeds are the new talk of the town in hurricane ravaged New Orleans, according to the Los Angeles Times. Residents are in shock over the allegations with some finding it incomprehensible for Jefferson to have done these things while others finding his alleged actions to confirm long-standing doubts about his character. The most meaningful quote in article reads, "I personally liked the man. After Katrina, we need him in the House Ways and Means Committee. It's a blow, not just for the city but the whole state. We need more positive things down here right now to get on our feet."
- Hi, I'm a journalist and I'm not going to tell you that I'm being paid by a candidate for office to write this column in support of his candidacy. Ethical schmethical!
Earlier today Raw Story wrote on the hilarious effort by someone in Alexandria to get Tom DeLay (R-TX), future Virginian, elected to the city council to "stamp out Marxism." Now Think Progress brings us something even funnier. It turns out that DeLay does not understand satire:
This morning, DeLay’s legal defense fund sent out a mass email criticizing the movie “The Big Buy: Tom DeLay’s Stolen Congress,” by “Outfoxed” creator Robert Greenwald. The email features a “one-pager on the truth behind Liberal Hollywood’s the Big Buy,” and the lead item is Colbert’s interview with Greenwald on Comedy Central (where Colbert plays a faux-conservative, O’Reilly-esque character). The headline of the “fact sheet”: Hollywood Pulls Michael Moore Antics on Tom DeLay Colbert Cracks the Story on Real Motivations Behind the MovieI really don't know whether to laugh at this or to feel genuinely sorry for the guy for not understanding satire. What a sad life it must be to have no sense of humor. Continue reading
How do you stop the advance of Marxism east of the Potomac? Why you elect new Virginia resident Tom DeLay (R-TX) to the City Council of Alexandria. From Raw Story:
An email sent to residents of Northern Virginia's city of Alexandria encouraged residents to write in US House Rep. Tom Delay for the City Council, today's edition of ROLL CALL reports. Delay has announced that he is relocating to the Washington, DC suburb after he leaves Congress on June 9.The email says the following:
“EXERCISE YOUR RIGHT TO VOTE on May 2nd in Alexandria’s local election. “More importantly, send a message to the socialists on the City Council and EXERCISE YOUR RIGHT TO WRITE IN A CANDIDATE’S NAME. “He was also able to defeat Marxism in Eastern Europe; perhaps he can help us defeat Marxism west of the Potomac in Alexandria. Let’s drop the ‘Hammer’ on Alexandria’s Politburo! “Please, write in the name of new Alexandria, VA resident, and former House Majority Leader TOM DELAY!!! Tom DeLay for City Council!”Did I miss it when International ANSWER took over Alexandria? Is Virginia Governor Tim Kaine a Soviet plant sent from the past via a time machine? Continue reading
At any rate, members of Congress who are offended by an unannounced late-night raid on an office might profitably be asked what they think about late-night unannounced raids on private homes, which happen all the time as part of the Congressionally-mandated War on Drugs. If anything, it ought to work the other way. I think if you searched 435 randomly selected American homes, and 435 Congressional offices, you just might find more evidence of crime in the latter. . . .Exactly the point I made below. UPDATE: And more sense making from streiff at Redstate:
If the search was truly a concern then that same concern should more rightfully have been raised when Jefferson’s home was raided. Clearly, a raid on your domicile is much more intimidating than a raid on your office. The idea that somehow a legislative agenda was imperiled by the FBI raiding Jefferson’s office is laughable on its face. First and foremost, any legislation or correspondence a congressman is working on is not more important than a lot of other things in government and private life. Businesses who are raided are at risk of losing trade secrets and business models. The FBI has raided CIA offices and other federal offices containing really classified information and perhaps put it in danger of exposure. So while I could agree in principle that confidential information might be exposed, that is the price of breaking the law. The detailed special instructions in the search warrant, beginning on page 78, show that uncommon deference was given to Jefferson and great deal of effort was devoted to searching the effects of William Jefferson, Democrat, Louisiana, the man, not William Jefferson, Democrat, Louisiana, the member of Congress.Continue reading
So, Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA) will not resign his office, has declared the allegations "outrageous", and says that, while there are two sides to the story here, now is not the time to give that other side. Well, like James Carville and Dana Milbank, I'd like to know what that other side is. Seriously, you were videotaped by the FBI taking $100,000 in cash from an FBI agent as a bribe and then the FBI found $90,000 of that cash in your freezer. Now, Milbank in today's Washington Post gives even more detail to the FBI sting:
He said it would be "extraordinarily foolhardy" to talk about the case. But, then again, it would not be the only foolhardy thing Jefferson had done lately. Didn't he know that the Pentagon City complex where he was stung was an FBI favorite? Both Monica Lewinsky and Pentagon official Larry Franklin (of the AIPAC espionage affair) were undone by agents in the same place Jefferson put the $100,000 in his Lincoln Town Car while "video taped by the FBI from several vantage points."And now the congressman is claiming that the separation of powers has been violated in the search of his congressional office. Sorry congressman, but it's not the time for indignant statements about the Constitution. It's time to resign. And for all the other members of Congress who are claiming that this is some intrusion on the separation of powers I will let Justin Rood put you in your place:
Wow. After sitting largely silent for more than five years of assaults against citizens' constitutional rights, our legislators have been moved to protect the Constitution because one of their own -- a man who meets contacts in hotel parking lots to accept briefcases full of money, and actually kept $90,000 in cash bundled in his freezer -- had his offices searched by the FBI.Unbelievable. What ever happened to "law and order" politicians? A sitting Congressman acts like a drug smuggler and then the FBI gets attacked after they treat him how they have been told to treat alleged criminals. Congress has been dishing out criminal justice legislation that supports these kind of heavy handed techniques that are aimed at deterrence of future crimes and now it gets turned on them and they can't take it. Boo hoo. Jefferson's lucky he was just involved in an international bribery scheme that involves corrupting a public office and violating the public trust, further tarring the political process in the eyes of many Americans. If he was doing drugs he'd have been carried off to jail along with his belongings, which would then be sold at a profit for the police. Continue reading