- Roll Call reports that the lobbying reform bill is "stuck in limbo" thanks to the inclusion of 527 reform in the House reform package. Does anybody think that this bill is going anywhere? No. It doesn't matter much since the reforms that are included in the bills fall far short of what is needed to fix the problems in Congress. It does demonstrate that even after such high-profile guilty pleas and investigations that the leaders in Congress refuse to fix the inherent problems in the system that led to those abuses and guilty pleas.
- Glenn Reynolds provides a Pork Busters update at Instapundit. He provides links to a Heritage Foundation report on reforming the budget process, the new-fangled Pork Busters site, and to a group that has the name Sunlight in its name.
- If Homeland Security is supposed to be so important (and personally I think not getting blown up and emergency disaster assitance are pretty important things) then please explain why everyone wants to cash out of the Department. The New York Times wants to know too:
"If homeland security is the central concern of the Bush administration, one wonders how it managed to create a department in which so many of the top brass were so eager to quit the crusade so soon and cash in so efficiently. But the worst effect of this kind of take-the-money-and-run mentality is on the people left behind. How many of them, having watched others land lucrative jobs as lobbyists, will temper their own judgments about what systems to buy and what consultants to use with an eye on their own private-sector prospects?"
- The San Bernardino Sun keeps reporting on the lobbying and earmarking scandal surrounding their local congressman [sw: Jerry Lewis] (R-Calif.). San Bernardino County released 3,500 pages of documents related to their contacts with Copeland Lowery Jacquez Denton & White, the lobbying firm in question in the scandal. The documents reveal that San Bernardino used the lobbying firm to develop "strategies to get federal funding," work on "problems with endangered species," and "arranging meetings with senator and Congressmen". The key question is why on earth did a county represented by Lewis need to hire a lobbying firm to make contact with their representative. This should be completely unnecessary and it looks rather peculiar.
- And finally a noted conservative opponent of earmarking, [sw: Mike Pence] (R-Ind.), defended his own earmarks to CongressDaily. Pence, who has been a vocal opponent of earmarking and pork-barrel funding, was forced to defend two earmarks that he placed into the recently passed Transportation-Treasury appropriations bill. Pence's spokesman stated that the congressman, "stands by his earmark requests." Pence also stated that he supports earmark reform but does not wish to do away with the process entirely. Of course, his defense of his own earmarks sounds much like the defense given by so many others who have been criticized.
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 print media in Illinois continues to run with [sw: Dennis Hastert]'s land deal, a story that Bill Allison started here at Sunlight. The Chicago Tribune ran a big article over the weekend that included denials of wrongdoing by Hastert and his partners that centered around the incorrect distance of 5.5 miles from the proposed freeway to the land (maps show that the distance is between 2.5 and 3 miles, a distance that Hastert's partner Dallas Ingemunson confirms). The key point in the Trib article comes towards the end where we learn that Hastert has purchased 126 acres in Kendall County with the same business partners. Looks like he intends on receiving continued profits from the federal projects that he is pushing.
- At least 90 former Homeland Security officials from DHS and the White House's Office of Homeland Security left their government jobs to earn millions as lobbyists, executives, and consultants for companies seeking funds from these agencies, according to the New York Times.
- The Department of Homeland Security found the missing letter that [sw: Duke Cunningham] sent to urge the issuance of a contract to Shirlington Limousines. Defense contractor Mitchell Wade's plea agreement contained allegations that Shirlington was hired by Brent Wilkes, alleged Cunningham briber, to ferry prostitutes to the now jailed congressman as payment for his earmarking services. A grand jury is investigating Shirlington's connections to the Cunningham case and their government contracts.
- The lobbying firm at the center of the ethics cloud surrounding Appropriations Chairman [sw: Jerry Lewis] (R-CA) is breaking up, according to the San Bernardino Sun. The two Democrats who are partners at the firm are bolting due to the investigations into two of the three Republican partners. No more shall we refer to the firm as Copeland Lowery Jacquez Denton & White. The firm will now be referred to as Lowery Denton & White. Soon it will probably be called Denton.
- Yesterday the House Homeland Security Committee held hearings on a contract that was awarded to Shirlington Limousine, the limo service allegedly used to ferry prostitutes to [sw: Duke Cunningham] and others, and discoverd that Cunningham had pressed the Department of Homeland Security to ink a contract with the company and that Shirlington had offered its services to DHS prior to receiving a contract. Homeland Security states that they can not find the letter of recommendation from Cunningham. Paul Kiel at TPM Muckraker reports that a grand jury is looking into Shirlington's DHS contract. Ken Silverstein connects the multiple appropriations scandals in one sentance: "Recall also that Jerome Foster, one of the company's directors, is another defense contractor who was represented by the same lobby shop as Brent Wilkes—the firm of former congressman Bill Lowery (who, coincidentally, is very close to Congressman Jerry Lewis, currently under federal investigation, )."
- The Democratic caucus voted 99-58 to strip Rep. [sw: William Jefferson] (D-Lou.) of his seat on the Ways and Means Committee, a move prompted by revelations that he allegedly solicited bribes in a wide-ranging conspiracy to use his position in Congress to illegally broker deals with African countries. The "no" votes were comprised primarily of the Congressional Black Caucus with members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus joining to vote against the Minority Leader's push to remove Jefferson. Minority Leader [sw: Nancy Pelosi] (D-Calif.) stated: "This isn't about proof in a court of law. It's about an ethical standard ... what is acceptable public behavior for a public servant."
- The City of Redlands, California is considering dropping Copeland Lowery as their lobbying firm after having their records subpoenaed in the federal investigation into the practices of the lobbying firm and the practices of Appropriations Chairman [sw: Jerry Lewis] (R-Calif.). Meanwhile, the City of San Bernardino is mum on whether they have been served a subpoena in the investigation. So far, eight subpoenas have been confirmed by cities, municipalities, and a university.
- Yet another city is subpoenaed in the investigation into Appropriations Chairman [sw: Jerry Lewis]' (R-Calif.) earmarking practices. The San Bernardino Sun reports that Highland, California has become the eighth city, county, or university to receive a subpoena in the federal investigation. The Sun also notes the debate over earmarks that took place on the floor of the House yesterday as [sw: Jeff Flake] (R-Ariz.) forced members to defend their earmarks. Unfortunately, the House voted by 6 to 1 margins to maintain all of the earmarks, which included a $500,000 earmark placed by Lewis to renovate a swimming pool in Banning, California. The Banning swimming pool had previously received a combined $500,000 in earmarks from Lewis.
- Not only did Majority Leader [sw: John Boehner] (R-Ohio) return to the House leadership in an unexpected victory last year, but he also won $2,700 at the slots. Boehner was waiting for an aide at a "pit stop" in northern Michigan and "decided to play the slots ... and won."
- Jeffrey Shockey, revolving door poster boy and central figure to the [sw: Jerry Lewis] scandal, revised his 2004 financial disclosure forms to show that he made $500,000 more from his former lobbying clients while he was working in Lewis' office.
- Roll Call reports that the Senate' millionaires club has expanded by one to 46 Senators. [sw: John Kerry] (D-Mass.) and [sw: Jay Rockefeller] (D-W. Va.) still sit atop the list while presidential aspirant Russ Feingold (D-Wisc.) reported $19,000 in negative net worth. That makes for a total of $2 million.
- The GOP is trying to find a balance on spending restraint and earmark reform, according to The Hill. Republicans in the Senate are "trying to salvage a spending-reform provision empowering individual senators to strip new earmarks out of conference reports without handing the rank and file unlimited power to wage wars of attrition to defeat bills they do not like."
- The Hill has a run-down on the personal finances of members that were released yesterday.
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
- The federal government spent over $1.4 billion on fraudulent assistance to fake victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. One man spent 70 days at a hotel in Hawaii on taxpayer money.
- [sw: Alan Mollohan] (D-WV), who resigned his seat on the House Ethics Committee after he became the subject of a federal inquiry, released corrections to his financial disclosure forms yesterday, according to the New York Times. Mollohan "filed some two dozen corrections to his past six annual financial disclosure forms, saying his accountant had uncovered 'a relative handful of unintentional and immaterial mistakes.'" He had left out one major transaction in which in he took out a "$2.3 million 'back-to-back loan'". Mollohan stated that he did not feel that he had to report this previously because the net value was zero.
- The judge ruling in the David Safavian trial is weighing whether to toss a juror because she spoke to persons outside of the juror pool about the case. The prosecution wants her tossed, while the defense wants her to stay.
- The Defense Appropriations bill for FY 07 contains $1 billion less in earmarks than the previous year's bill did. Well, they did get rid of [sw: Duke Cunningham], so that's about what I'd expect.
- Yesterday Redstate reported that [sw: Jerry Lewis] (R-CA), under fire for earmarking and connections to lobbyists, inserted a $500,000 earmark to renovate the swimming pool in Banning, California. Today, the San Bernardino Sun picks up the story along with criticism of Lewis from his fellow caucus members. Jeff Flake (R-AZ): "It's just ridiculous. Cities ought to pay for their own pools." Banning is represented by lobbyist David Turch, who has lost numerous county and municipal clients to the now-radioactive lobbying firm of Copeland Lowery Jacquez and White.
- The White House rejected a new EPA rule to "keep groundwater clean near oil drilling sites and other construction zones" after receiving complaints from oil and energy company executives. Ernest Angelo, a Texas oil man and a Republican activist, expressed his anger over the EPA rule by writing that many in the energy world "openly express doubt as to the merit of electing Republicans when we wind up with this type of stupidity." As always we like to remember that President Bush is the biggest recipient of campaign cash from the oil and gas industry in the entire history of elections in America.
- Anti-pork hardliner [sw: John Shadegg] (R-AZ) has fired the latest salvo in the Pork Wars between conservative Republican congressmen and [sw: Jerry Lewis]' (R-CA) Appropriations Committee by "circulating a newspaper story linking Rep. Jerry Lewis to 'the inherent risk of corruption at the heart of the congressional earmark process.'"
- Several weeks ago [sw: Jerry Lewis] (R-CA) retained a lawyer to handle to federal investigation into his and his aides' earmarking practices. One of Lewis' lawyers is Barbara Comstock who is currently representing I. Lewis Libby in the Plame case.
- In Scotland, the famous destination of Jack Abramoff and his merry band of travellers, no one knows about the lobbyist's well-documented golfing trips. Favorite quote: “'We have the same scandals,' said Neil Paton, the head professional in the town’s only certified pro shop, 'except our politicians go the beach in Spain or Italy.'"
- At least the corruption in this country doesn't fuel an insurgency. In Iraq, that appears to be a huge problem. Continue reading
...your local newspaper has a special page dedicated to the investigation into your congressman. Check out the San Bernardino Sun's page on [sw: Jerry Lewis].Continue reading
On Friday the New York Times reported that Jeffrey Shockey, aide to [sw: Jerry Lewis]' (R-CA) Appropriations Committee, received a $1.9 million buyout from his previous employer, the lobbying firm of Copeland Lowery, that was contingent on the future success of his former clients. The Times article reported that "the firm waited to see how much money the clients he signed paid the firm in 2005 to determine the full payment." So Shockey's severance package was to be determined by the success of his former clients in obtaining earmarks from the committee where Shockey was employed. Josh Marshall summed this up perfectly over the weekend:
In other words, Shockey didn't just have a continuing financial interest in Copeland Lowery to the extent he needed them to make enough money to honor their buy-out agreement. His income was still directly tied to how much his 'former' clients paid the firm in 2005 -- while he was working as a congressional staffer. ... Who took over Shockey's client list when he returned to government service? Well, when Shockey left Copeland Lowery, Copeland Lowery turned around and hired Shockey's wife Alexandra, who also used to work for Lewis. And in an email to Copley News Service's Jerry Kammer back in December, Alexandra "acknowledged that her client roster includes some of her husband's old clients."I continue to marvel at how these guys get their spouses involved in these schemes. Every single one of these scandals, whether it be the Jack Abramoff scandal or [sw: William Jefferson], involves spouses making money off of corrupt schemes. Continue reading