Jeffrey Birnbaum’s column in today’s Washington Post is a must-read for anyone who wants to see the level to which serious money has invaded the world of Washington lobbying. It’s also a reminder of the enduring importance of the revolving door that shuttles people back and forth between Capitol Hill and K Street, ground zero for Washington’s lobbyist community.
Normally the windfall for Hill staffers comes when they move from the Capitol to K Street. In this case, the windfall – amounting to nearly $2 million – was a severance package given to an ex-lobbyist moving in the opposite direction.Continue reading
Vanity Fair reports on the ongoing Cunningham investigation and where it will go next. The article notes that Cunningham was seeking bribes days before he pled guilty; Brent Wilkes, the defense contractor at the center of the investigation, made connections in Washington by introducing congressmen to women in Honduras; Bill Lowery, the former congressman and current lobbyist embroiled in the scandal, introduced Cunningham to Wilkes. So who goes next in the investigation: Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.), Kyle "Dusty" Foggo, [sw: Katherine Harris] (R-Fla.), Wilkes, Lowery, or Rep. [sw: Virgil Goode] (R-Va.)?Continue reading
- Conservative activist Grover Norquist called [sw: John McCain] (R-Ariz.) "delusional" for exposing Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) as a shadow lobbying operation and a conduit for Jack Abramoff's money laundering. (The Hill)
- Congress put itself in a crunch this year when it decided to set a schedule that, in total, is shorter than a school year and may prove to be shorter than any meeting schedule in the past sixty years. They must now push through numerous important bills with only July and possibly September left. (Christian Science Monitor)
- Democrats are upset with one of their main funding sources, labor unions, because they are contributing campaign funds to highly vulnerable Republicans. One labor lobbyist believes that "Democrats can’t expect unions to place all their bets on Democratic candidates and risk being shut out of the legislative process if they lose." (The Hill)
- Clients continue to drop the lobbying firm Copeland Lowery because of its involvement in the growing investigation into Appropriations Chair [sw: Jerry Lewis] (R-Calif.). Riverside County, Boeing Co., and now the Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority have all severed their ties to the embattled lobbying firm. (San Bernardino Sun)
TPM Muckraker is all over the latest, and future, developments in the [sw: Jerry Lewis] (R-Calif.) investigation. Justin Rood reports that the clients of the lobbying firm in the middle of the scandal, Copeland Lowery, continued to donate to Lewis' campaign committee and PAC "just days after news surfaced of a federal investigation into" Lewis' connection to the firm. All of the contributing clients happen to be defense contractors, likely seeking an earmark or two. Rood asks if any of these contractors may be the next recipient of a subpoena in this widening investigation. (Read More...)Continue reading
- The company ESRI verified that it was issued a subpoena in the [sw: Jerry Lewis] (R-Calif.) investigation. The San Bernardino Sun also reports that the documents released by another subpoena recipient, San Bernardino County, show Lewis recommending "in 2002 that the county hire The Tom Skancke Co., a Las Vegas firm that lobbies Congress and does public-relations work." During the aftermath of the Duke Cunningham conviction when the spotlight turned to Lewis the congressman bluntly declared, "It is an ironclad rule in my office that we do not recommend lobbyists, even if a constituent asks for that recommendation."
- A district aide to [sw: Bob Ney] (R-Ohio) was subpoenaed in the federal investigation into influence peddling by lobbyist Jack Abramoff. According to the Associated Press, "The subpoena for Matthew Parker, director of Ney's district office in St. Clairsville, was issued by a federal magistrate in Washington and announced Thursday."
- Former DeLay chief of staff Tony Rudy is seeking to escape Washington, DC and move to California. Rudy, who pled guilty in the Abramoff investigation, must get an okay from a judge before he can escape the city that was his undoing.
- Former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman (D) was found guilty of "trading government favors for campaign donations". That makes Siegelman the third Governor to be found guilty by a court over the past few years and the second to go to jail. Kentucky's Governor Ernie Fletcher has also been indicted and will face trial. Continue reading
The firm at the center of the [sw: Jerry Lewis] (R-Calif.) scandal apparently failed to report $2 million in lobbying fees, according to TPM Muckraker.
Now a review of the firm's reporting shows that, just weeks before Copeland Lowery's status as a target of the investigation became publicly known, the firm filed more than 90 revised disclosures to Congress, alerting officials that they had misreported income from dozens of clients from 1998 to 2005. Over three-quarters of the corrections disclosed previously unreported income totalling approximately $2 million; others corrected over-reported income of roughly $500,000.Justin Rood points out that the revisions came in only a few key clients. One of those clients is ADCS, the defense contractor at the center of the Duke Cunningham bribery case:
From these four key clients, Copeland Lowery failed to report ... - at least $260,000 from ADCS, the San Diego-based defense contractor owned by accused briber Wilkes; - at least $270,000 from the San Diego-based Foundation for the Improvement of Math and Science Education; - at least $210,000 from the Rochester Institute of Technology; - at least $210,000 from the South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD).Lowery's lobbying firm is "in serious legal jeopardy" according to money in politics expert and Washington lawyer Brett Kappell. Rood lays out a possible outcome, "The likely charge -- making a false statement, a felony -- has been used by prosecutors in recent corruption investigations to win plea bargains." 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
- The San Bernardino Sun reports on the release of documents in the [sw: Jerry Lewis] (R-Calif.) investigation. In the documents Lewis' wife, Arlene Willis, recommends the lobbying firm at the center of the investigation, Copeland Lowery Jacquez Denton & White, to San Bernardino County.
- The San Diego Union-Tribune traces the arc of success for defense contractors that have hired the Lowery law firm to lobby Appropriations Chair [sw: Jerry Lewis]. Orincon, a software engineering company, hired Bill Lowery in the late 1990s and, through the earmarking of funds by Lowery's friend Lewis, saw their "growth curve turned sharply upward." Daniel Alspach, the head of Orincon, and "Lowery would visit Lewis' office, meeting with Letitia White and sometimes with Lewis himself". From the mid-1990s to 2003 Orincon's sales, "heavily dependent on federal contracts," shot from $10 million to $52 million. When Alspach eventually sold his company to Lockheed in 2003 Lowery cashed out too having collected thousands of shares in the company which he lobbied for. Trident Systems, Inc. follows a simliar path having found success after hiring Lowery lobbyist Letitia White to collect earmarks from Lewis. White and Trident owner Nicholas Karangelen own a DC townhouse together which serves as the mailing address for Karangelen's Small Biz Tech PAC, which happens to be run by Lewis' stepdaughter. White also has deal with Trident that seems to similar to Lowery's receipt of shares in Orincon. Karangelen "has arranged to pay [White] a bonus based on the company's profitability."
- The Washington Post reports that conservative power house Grover Norquist's Americans for Tax Reform "served as a "conduit" for funds that flowed from Abramoff's clients to surreptitiously finance grass-roots lobbying campaigns. As the money passed through, Norquist's organization kept a small cut, e-mails show." Abramoff also used, with the acquiesance of the heads of the organization, numerous other non-profits associated with the conservative movement to funnel money, hiding his activities, in his illegal schemes. These organizations included the National Center for Public Policy Research, headed by Amy Ridenour and the Council of Republican Environmental Advocacy, headed by Italia Federici. 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.