Some of the lawmakers who are grilling AT&T and DirecTV today about a proposed merger got campaign money from ... guess who?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."
- Bob Ney (R-Ohio) told Senate Indian Affairs Investigators that he could not remember meeting with the Tigua Tribe of Texas, a client of Jack Abramoff, when he was interviewed by the committee. Unfortunately for Ney cameras do not forget. The Cleveland Plain Dealer blog has posted a picture of a smiling Ney posing with the Lt. Governor and a governing council member of the Tigua Tribe.
- Ney's buddy Jack Abramoff is such a nice guy. Roll Call reports that he called Gabon, a small African nation, a "monkey coloney" [sic]. Abramoff also liked to call Indians "troglodytes" and "morons". He sounds like such a caring man.
- The Press-Enterprise reports on the details of the subpoena issued to San Bernardino County in the ongoing investigation into the ties between Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) and the lobbying firm of Lewis' friend Bill Lowery.
- Earmark reformers are concerned that the exclusion of joint resolutions from restrictions imposed by earmark reforms would cause the resolutions to be a new place to seed pet projects. Meanwhile, Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) plans on going back to the floor of the House to challenge more earmarks, this time inserted into the Science-State-Justice-Commerce Appropriations bill.
- The New York Times tallies the amount of fraud in relief spending after Hurricane Katrina and determine that 6 percent of the total money "obligated" was wasted. Continue reading
- Roll Call tells Congress to "Start Over" on lobbying and ethics reform instead of heading forward, "[i]n typical GOP fashion," in manufacturing a compromise before the conference committee meets. The newspaper calls the reform the "Big Nothing" as it fails to fix the inherent problems in the matrix between lobbyists and Congress. The revolving door is a specific case that is not adequately addressed, a problem considering the revelations about members of Appropriations Chairman Jerry Lewis' (R-Calif.) staff ferrying between K Street and Capitol Hill.
- The Columbus Dispatch points to the key outcome of the David Safavian guilty verdict, that Bob Ney (R-Ohio) is in deep trouble. The Safavian trial cements Ney's former chief of staff Neil Volz as a credible witness and also provides the prosecution with the ability to coerce more plea agreements from staffers and former staffers of lawmakers. The prosecution's success could signal movement towards other indictments sooner rather than later.
- Looks like Dennis Hastert's (R-Ill.) earmarks are finding enemies within his own party. Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) fired a shot across the bow at Hastert over an earmark Hastert inserted into the defense appropriations bill that would benefit a technology company headed by a former aide to the Speaker. Flake intends on offering an amendment to strip the earmark from the bill.
- Abbe Lowell, the lawyer for Jack Abramoff, pens an op-ed in USA Today that lambasts the Congress for not acting on real reform. He pinpoints the problem in the nexus of money and fundraising work provided by lobbyists who have a particular interest in legislation.
- Laura Rozen gives a round-up of the allegations and discoveries in the investigation into Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.) in this month's American Prospect.
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.
The stuff you miss when you go out to lunch. Today, Rep. [sw: Jeff Flake] (R-Ariz.) challenged earmarks on the floor of the House. This was an outgrowth of the all-out Pork War between Flake, [sw: Mike Pence] (R-Ind.) and their nemisis Appropriations Chairman [sw: Jerry Lewis] (R-Calif.) that began during the debate on lobbying, ethics, and earmark reform. Tim Chapman at Townhall's Capitol Report and Andy Roth from the Club for Growth blog have both blogged the debate. Rep. [sw: Henry Bonilla] (R-Tex.) took the floor to proclaim his displeasure in Flake's earmark challenges by telling Flake that his amendments to strip the earmarks out of the legislation were "the definition of 'insanity'." Earmark hall of famer [sw: Alan Mollohan] (D-W.Va.) makes a cameo -- defending one of his earmarks.Continue reading
- Brent Wilkes, co-conspirator #1 in the Duke Cunningham scandal, is going to put a fight, according to TPM Muckaraker, and not plead guilty. That's good news for a bevy of congressmen who call Wilkes a friend. Wilkes would be facing a number of charges in a federal corruption case. And after today's revelations in the Wall Street Journal it looks like that could include being a pimp. As they say, pimpin' ain't easy.
- Boddington at Redstate.org writes about Appropriations Chair Jerry Lewis' (R-CA) attempt to kill the ethics reform bill before the House. Lewis is urging Appropriations members to vote against the reform because of his opposition to the earmark reform in it. Lewis claims that the earmark reform unfairly targets his committee while letting other committees continue to earmark unrestricted. Boddington is highly skeptical of Lewis' argument and quotes Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) who calls Lewis' attempt to change the bill "a poison pill." Continue reading
Today both the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times ran stories about the pork-filled emergency supplemental bill that contains Sen. Trent Lott's (R-MS) now infamous "Magic Railroad". Some congressmen and Senators are not happy with the $15 billion worth of extra picnic shoulders thrown into a bill that is intended to provide funds for rebuilding New Orleans, the Gulf Coast, and Iraq. Tim Chapman at the Capitol Report writes that both Mike Pence (R-IN) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ) have called on the President to veto the bill if the extra money is not removed. Pence called the bill a "fruit basket" of unrelated spending. John Spratt (D-SC), the ranking Dem on the House Budget Committee, said, "A lot of these things are desirable, and some are even necessary, but they don't belong in an emergency spending bill."
I haven't been by the Capitol lately but I've heard they're hanging this new sign out front:
Why is the Rhode Island School of Design getting federal dollars from an emergency spending bill aimed at repairing damage in the Hurricane Katrina ravaged Gulf Coast? The Washington Times looks at the issue:
A supplemental spending bill for the war in Iraq and hurricane recovery passed the House of Representatives last month calling for $92 billion in federal spending. The Senate added $14 billion for hurricane relief, and another $10 billion in unrelated spending in amendments to be debated when Congress returns this week. Because of the differences in the two spending packages, the bill then will go to a conference committee before final votes in both chambers.Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) and Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) are two lawmakers that are outraged by the unrelated spending. Flake provides his interpretation: ""Unfortunately, too many members of Congress have gotten into the practice of responding to a disaster not by asking 'What can I do to help?' but instead asking 'What's in it for me?'?" Meanwhile, Think Progress has the story on one of these unnecessary earmarks added by Mississippi Senator Thad Cochran (R). Continue reading
The process of earmarking often unites lawmakers across party lines for the purpose of bringing money back to their state and respective districts. The Hill newspaper reports that this bipartisan behavior, rare nowadays on Capitol Hill, could be lost in the wake of earmark reform. The Transportation Bill, which passed the House 412-8, is a symbol of this process, where lawmakers put their pet projects in, and “[exchange] pleasantries on the floor.” In a related story on the pressures of earmark reform the comity of the Republican Conference is being tested. The Washington Times reports that Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA) and other House Republicans are backing the practice of earmarking while conservative stalwart Jeff Flake (R-AZ) denounces the pushback against reform by stating, “The Empire is striking back.”Continue reading