- Roll Call reports that the Justice Department subpoenaed the e-mails of Rep. [sw: William Jefferson] (D-La.) in the ongoing bribery investigation. Jefferson will have the chance to challenge the release of certain e-mails under the Speech and Debate Clause. The congressman could "be allowed to review them and decide whether he wants to try to assert his privilege under the Speech or Debate Clause and withhold them from the federal prosecutors. Jefferson would then have to file a legal motion in federal court in Alexandria outlining the reasons for why they should not be turned over to federal investigators."
- The manager of MZM, Inc., Richard A. Berglund, was accused of violating FEC rules by illegally donating money to Rep. [sw: Virgil Goode] (R-Va.). MZM, Inc. was one of the chief defense contractors charged with bribing Rep. [sw: Duke Cunningham] and the owner, Mitchell Wade, has since pled guilty to the charges. In this case Berglund stands accused of ""aiding and abetting" a scheme by MZM's owner to donate the funds in the name of others."
- The money paid to Julie Doolittle, the wife of Rep. [sw: John Doolittle] (R-Calif.), by Jack Abramoff to do fundraising for a charity event is receiving new scrutiny after the Senate Indian Affairs Committee report detailed the dates that she received the payments. Julie Doolittle "received the lion’s share of her monthly retainer fees long after a canceled charity event, which had been the principal reason cited for her $5,000-a-month retainer deal with the admitted felon’s ex-lobbying firm". Julie Doolittle received just $27,000 around the time of the charity event, but later received a seemingly unconnected $40,000 from Abramoff "three weeks after Rep. Doolittle, an avowed anti-gambling Mormon, wrote a letter of support for a tribal client of Abramoff’s seeking to reopen its casino."
- The Associated Press has more information on the subpoena issued to San Bernadino County in relation to their lobbying contract with Bill Lowery, a close ally of Appropriations Chairman [sw: Jerry Lewis] (R-CA). The subpoena "asked for all records of the county's correspondence with Lewis and his staff and with the lobbying firm, Copeland, Lowery, Jacquez, Denton, & White, which employs former California Republican congressman Bill Lowery". The Inland Valley Daily Bulletin is reporting that Redlands city has been issued a subpoena as well. A spokesman for Lowery's law firm stated, "This work was bread and butter, run of the mill, routine appropriations. ... This kind of work happens in Washington every day, every month and every year on behalf of municipalities."
- Mother Jones has an interesting article tracing the history of Cunningham-Wilkes scandal figures Brent Wilkes and K. Dusty Foggo. It just so happens that a certain Bill Lowery pops up in the article.
San Diego Representative Bill Lowery, for example, first elected to the House in 1980 at the tender age of thirty-three, traveled in the Foggo and Wilkes Honduran road show, part of a Republican task force organized to help sell Reagan's Contra war against the Sandinistas to a skeptical Congress and public. After leaving office, Lowery, who has floated around the edges of every Republican scandal from the Savings and Loan collapse of the 1980s to the recent Jack Abramoff lobbying case, and is now reportedly under investigation by the Justice Department, went on to become a top lobbyist, skilled in the art of "earmarking."
- Rep. [sw: John Doolittle] (R-CA) is in a tight spot this year, according to Bloomberg. The northern California congressman is caught between two of the biggest congressional scandals in history as he has acknowledged friendships with both Jack Abramoff and Brent Wilkes. Doolittle vehemently denies any charges of wrong doing but he is "one of at least four members of Congress whom prosecutors have focused on in their questions to Abramoff".
- TPM Muckraker reports (via the Washington Post) that Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA), already under fire for his relationships with crooked characters Jack Abramoff and Brent Wilkes, "has been paying for babysitters out of his campaign till". Doolittle has spent $5,881 of his PAC money on child care costs since 2001. At least that's better than Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) who used his PAC to pay for groceries and Starbucks.
- Hotline On Call Blog posts a quote from Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) pillorying the Senate for their profligant additions to the emergency supplemental bill. "Any calls from the Senate for an across-the-board cut to make room for a bloated supplemental will be met by a busy signal in the House. The House will not join a shell-game spending spree with taxpayer dollars."
- The aforementioned Sen. Santorum seems to be in trouble again. Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington (CREW) has filed a complaint with the FEC alleging that two former staffers for Santorum "violated several provisions of the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA)." I feel that someone should keep a tally of which legislator receives the most filed complaints against them by CREW in a given year.
- The Los Angeles Times reports that Rep. Dana Rohrbacher (R-CA), once an aspiring screenwriter, "will return $23,000 he received for a screenplay option from a Hollywood producer who pleaded guilty Tuesday to defrauding dozens of people into investing in a bogus television series about the U.S. Department of Homeland Security." This happens to be one of the funnier tales of influence buying in the current Congress but it leaves one question. Why didn't Rohrabacher sell his conservative themed script to his buddy Jack Abramoff, former movie producer? Abramoff produced the unbelievably bad conservative movie "Red Scorpion", why couldn't he help make Rohrabacher's tale of a grizzled war veteran who goes into Baja California with a stereotypical liberal straw man and hijinks ensue. I guess the answer is that if you want to make a wretched movie like that you need to have the backing of the secret intelligence service of an oppressive regime.
- Paul Kiel at TPM Muckraker looks into Rep. John Doolittle's (R-CA) stonewall on his wife's fundraising arrangement. Doolittle has claimed that the House Ethics Committee okayed his wife's questionable practice (that has been denounced by the Association of Fundraising Professionals) but refuses to show evidence. Kiel writes, "if Doolittle asked for the committee's opinion, he would have received it in written form. Unfortunately, the committee keeps such opinions confidential. So it's not coming out unless Doolittle publishes it. And for some bizarre reason he's clinging to that exculpatory piece of evidence. It makes you wonder." Let me just cradle my chin with my thumb and index finger and say, "Yes, it does make me wonder."
- Chris Cillizza takes a look at Democratic Leadership PACs at the Washington Post's The Fix.
- Mark Tapscott continues the outrage fest at the very, very unkosher emergency spending bill. He links to a Heritage Foundation study that shows how out of control pork-barrel spending is getting.
- And finally, Matt Stoller posts at Daily Kos to vent his frustration at Bobby Rush (D-IL) - and to get the many Kossacks to call up Rush's office - for cosponsoring the Internet give-away bill while receiving funding for his community center from the very phone companies supporting the bill. Stoller says, "Not cool."
The Washington Post wags their finger at Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA) and his wife for her shady job as his campaign fundraiser:
Imagine that every time members of Congress received a $1,000 campaign contribution, they could skim $150 off the top and put it straight into their personal bank accounts. Sound shady? That is, in effect, how Rep. John T. Doolittle (R-Calif.) and his wife, Julie, operate. According to our review of campaign finance records, Mrs. Doolittle has received at least $215,000 from Mr. Doolittle's various campaign committees since 2001. This doesn't include $6,800 in payments to another of Mrs. Doolittle's companies, Events Plus, before she started doing his fundraising work. She's taken in nearly $100,000 during the 2006 campaign alone.This is an unbelievably questionable arrangement that I have written about here before. Yesterday the Sacramento Bee reported that the head of the Association of Fundraising Professionals denounced Mrs. Doolittle's percentage-based fees as "absolutely not the standard in the industry" and declared that the ethics code of Fundraising Professionals "explicitly prohibits percentage-based compensation". Mrs. Doolittle, and congressmen as well, will easily eclipse Congressman Doolittle's annual congressional salary if their fundraising continues at this pace. One would imagine that an operational House Ethics Committee would hold hearings on such a suspect fundraising arrangement. Continue reading
Yikes, I wouldn't want to face those kind of numbers. According to the Sacramento Bee, Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA) is going to have to:
Rep. John Doolittle's practice of paying a 15 percent fundraising commission to a company owned by his wife violates the ethical standards of the industry, a national group of fundraising professionals told the congressman this week. The 27,000-member Association of Fundraising Professionals said in a letter to Doolittle that its long-standing ethics code "explicitly prohibits percentage-based compensation" and urged his campaign to cease doing so with Julie Doolittle's company, Sierra Dominion Financial Solutions.Of course, Doolittle's top aide and political advisor Ricahrd Robinson says that their percentage-based compensation is "common in the industry, but it is consistent with the history of Congressman Doolittle's own campaigns." The head of the Association thinks otherwise:
Association head Paulette Maehara said she was so alarmed when she read the campaign's explanation for the practice in a weekend story in the Washington Post that she wrote Doolittle's office to complain. She said she also would have written Julie Doolittle except that her company is not publicly listed. "This is absolutely not the standard in the industry," she said. "Fundraisers can charge a flat fee, an hourly fee or a combination of both. We do support incentive compensation as long as it is not based on the percentage of the money raised."The controversy surrounding Julie Doolittle's fundraising, which has netted her $180,000 in commissioned fees since 2003, may cause her to move to a flat rate fee. Continue reading
According to the Sacramento Bee, Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA), who has come under fire for his connections to Jack Abramoff and his wife's job as a fundraiser, is hiring a lawyer. Doolittle's lawyer is David G. Barger "the former president of the Virginia Bar Association's criminal law section and a former assistant U.S. attorney, who later was an associate of Starr's in the Whitewater investigation." Barger is perhaps best known for his prosecutorial harrassment of a 52-year old single mother in connection to unsubstantiated claims made by Kathleen Willey that former President Bill Clinton groped her. This Washington Post story from over the weekend provides a good look as to why Doolittle is hiring a lawyer this week.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
Roll Call reports that the Department of Justice has pulled the personal financial disclosure reports of nine members of Congress, some of them directly connected to Jack Abramoff. Those directly connected to the Abramoff case include Representatives Tom DeLay (R-TX), Bob Ney (R-OH), John Doolittle (R-CA), Senator Conrad Burns (R-MT), and a number of their aides. The other members listed, three Democrats and two Republicans, do not appear to have any connection with the Abramoff case and their records may have been accessed for separate matters. The article notes that, “Searching the financial disclosure forms of these lawmakers and ex-staffers is likely part of Justice’s efforts to match up actual ‘things of value,’ as they are known in legal terms, with so-called ‘official acts.’ While campaign contributions can be a part of an indictment against lawmakers and staff, Justice has usually shied away from bringing corruption cases unless they can show that politicians were actually receiving things of cash value for their own personal use.”Continue reading
Alleged ‘co-conspirator #1’ in the Duke Cunningham bribery investigation Brent Wilkes parlayed his ability to secure earmarks into profitable business ventures. According to the Washington Post, Wilkes found promising technology companies and made a deal with them: he would secure millions of dollars in earmarks and in return he would receive a 51 percent interest in the company. The Post reports that, “Although it is common for lobbying firms to charge clients large fees to pursue earmarks, Wilkes's demand for a majority interest in the resulting contract is highly unusual”. Wilkes did not only get Cunningham to insert earmarks for his companies. He also had Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA) place a $37 million earmark into the defense budget for PerfectWave Technologies in 2002. From 2002 to 2005 Doolittle received $85,000 in campaign contributions from Wilkes.Continue reading