This morning the Washington Post featured a great article and video by Dana Milbank highlighting all the locations in the district that hot spots in the current pantheon of political scandals. From Abramoff's restaurant Signatures to the Capitol Yacht Club, where Sens. Ted Stevens and Larry Craig slept while Duke Cunningham ran amok, this scandal tour has everything. So, I decided to do the Web 2.0 thing and turn this tour into a Google Map. I whittled the list of locations down to congressional scandals. (Make sure to zoom in on the D St. locations. That's a central point of muck.) Check it out and let me know what I missed.
View Larger Map Continue reading
CREW may have moved "Beyond DeLay" but federal investigators haven't. The Politico reports that Tom DeLay is under increasing legal jeopardy. John Bresnahan writes that the records of Ed Buckham, former DeLay chief of staff and close Jack Abramoff associate, were supboenaed by a federal grand jury investigating lawmaker and lobbyist ties to Abramoff. According to Bresnahan, "a number of ex-DeLay staffers have been subpoenaed - or voluntarily came in for questioning - by the Justice Dept. to discuss the day-to-day operations of DeLay's office, including the role Buckham played once he left DeLay's staff, according to sources familiar with the investigation."
TPM Muckraker has a great background piece on Ed Buckham and how deeply in the muck he is. Investigators in the Abramoff case, already with 10 guilty pleas and one conviction, are still moving towards other targets. So far, two former DeLay aides, Tony Rudy and Michael Scanlon, have pled guilty. While everyone is concentrated on the Juice, we're waiting to see if the Hammer is going to get nailed.Continue reading
Yesterday, long-time incumbent Rep. Bob Ney announced he wasn't going to run for reelection after all. The results of his ties to lobbyist Jack Abramoff finally registered on the political Richter scale (e.g. his polls) and he withdrew. (And maybe there are some other reasons too.)
It wasn't any great surprise to me, though it did take a little longer than I thought. I really believe that information is power and, as important, that as soon as people are armed with the data that it can have consequences. In short, give people the facts and let them decide. The notion that citizens could care less when it comes to political scandal is a myth perpetuated by Washington insiders. I just can't help but feel a little bit gleeful to see another member of Congress (think former Rep. Tom DeLay) finally see the handwriting on the wall. (Though it would be better for them to see it on the Internet in the form of searchable databases.)Continue reading
Kudos to ThinkProgress for this analysis and presentation of the scandal that is the hallmark of this Congress. Following all the strands of the current Congressional scandal has even defied the best of us. I don't know how many hours it took ThinkProgress' staff to put this together: it's taken a couple of years to unravel the information. If there was real time, online disclosure of trips, gifts, spousal employment, personal financial information, campaign contributions and expenditures, meetings between lawmakers and lobbyists, connections to charities, we'd be a lot better off.
Today, Sunlight is posting an online poll asking the public if Congress is doing enough to address ethics and lobbying reform in the wake of recent scandals. We've posted one serious question and another one with a touch of humor: do you think it more likely that there would be a live sighting of Elvis before the current congressional leadership showed real leadership on the need for reform? (The poll is viewable here, and bloggers are encouraged to copy the source code and post it on their own sites.)
Why the cynical question? Here's a brief guide to the issue.Continue reading
Thunderstorms have become a daily occurence here in DC over the past week. It looks like we're about to get another one. Here's a look at the news before Pennsylvania Ave. turns into a river and my power goes out:
- Jack Abramoff and former Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) chief of staff Ed Buckham "orchestrated a series of multimillion-dollar maneuvers with several charities he or Buckham exerted control over. These charities became a primary tool in his criminal conspiracy," according to Roll Call. The noose continues to tighten around the now retired DeLay.
- Congress doesn't care about cleaning itself up by reforming their ethics or the practice of lobbying. According to the Washington Post, lobbying and ethics reform "has slowed to a crawl. Along the way, proposals such as Hastert's that would sharply limit commonplace behavior on Capitol Hill have been cast aside." Congress, playing the role of a baby, has soiled itself and is incapable of changing it's diapers, let alone become potty trained. It smells.
- USA Today reports that some lawmakers are questioning the annual cost-of-living adjustment to their salary claiming that they do not deserve to make more money so long as the minimum wage remains at $5.15 an hour or the government does not run a balanced budget. The rank and file member of Congress currently makes $165,200 with leadership earning more. Members today are earning $710 less than they did in 2001 due to inflation. If the raise were to go into effect members would make $168,500 next year. In 2005 the daily salary of members of Congress -- when calculating the days Congress was in session -- was $1149.65.
- According to Newsweek, "White House staffers have accepted nearly $135,000 in free trips since November 2004." Those offering the trips have included conservative organizations like the National Association of Manufacturers, he Southern Baptist Convention, Focus on the Family and the Federalist Society.
- Is the 109th Congress a "Do Nothing Congress?" Are all major actions expected to be political ploys with no expectation of serious action on the serious issues of the day? Continue reading
- [sw: Tom DeLay] (R-TX) gave a "pugnacious defense of the iron-fisted partisanship that defined his decade in power" in a farewell speech to Congress last night, according to the Washington Post. DeLay defended partisanship saying, "You show me a nation without partisanship, and I'll show you a tyranny." DeLay, who is resigning under a cloud of controversy surrounding his ties to a number of convicted lobbyists and his indictment in Texas, stated the he is proud of the controversial K Street Project, "I helped build the largest political coalition in the last 50 years. The K Street project and the K Street strategy I am very proud of."
- DeLay can exit -- "stage right" as he says -- but the controversy never ends. Today the Washington Post looks into the private travel of DeLay's former chief of staff Susan Hirschmann. Hirschmann racked up $85,000 worth of travel -- her husband, a lobbyist for the Chamber of Commerce, accompanied her on a number of these trips -- provided by private interests in just two years. She comes in as the number two recipient of private jet travel over the past five years in just two years and 18 flights. The number one recipient is the current chief of staff to Majority Whip [sw: Roy Blunt] (R-MO) who racked up $87,000 in 39 trips.
- Adam Kidan, Jack Abramoff's business partner in the Sun Cruz Casino purchase, knows who killed Gus Boulis, the man they bought the business from. Kidan, who has previously stated that he knew nothing about the gangland-style murder, told police that John Gurino, an associate of John Gotti, killed Boulis. Gurino has since been killed and the three others associated with the murder have been arrested in connection with the murder. One of those arrested was Anthony Moscatiello who Kidan hired to work as "security" for Sun Cruz Casinos.
- The Democratic Steering Committee has recommended that Rep. [sw: William Jefferson] (D-LA) be removed from his seat on the powerful Ways and Means Committee. They will wait until next week to move forward from the recommendation to action. The Congressional Black Caucus still strongly opposes such action against the New Orleans congressman.
The Wahsington Post reports this morning that [sw: Tom DeLay]'s wife received a $25,000 retirement account from lobbyist and ex-DeLay chief of staff Ed Buckham for paid work she was doing for his firm. Buckham and DeLay have come under increased scrutiny for their connections to the swindling lobbyist Jack Abramoff. DeLay's wife has previously been mentioned as being looked at by investigators trying to determine if DeLay did anything in his official capacity in exchange for the money his wife received. Christine DeLay's take from Buckham, when including the $25,000 retirement package, exceeded $490,300. The Post notes, "Before being paid by ARMPAC for political consulting, Christine DeLay, a homemaker and advocate for foster care, had not done paid work of that type. That circumstance has figured in government investigations of payments to other lawmakers' spouses, on the grounds that, if the compensation began after a lawmaker's election, it might have been meant to influence official acts."Continue reading
- Yet another local government has been issued a subpoena in the federal investigation into Rep. [sw: Jerry Lewis] (R-CA). According to the San Bernardino Sun, the "clerk of Yucca Valley confirmed Tuesday her office has been subpoenaed for records pertaining to Copeland Lowery and Lewis in connection with a criminal investigation being conducted by the FBI, the federal Defense Criminal Investigative Service and the IRS."
- The Los Angeles Times reports on the details of Rep. [sw: William Jefferson]'s (D-LA) deals with the Nigerian Vice President Atiku Abubakar. Jefferson, in a meeting with the FBI informant Lori Mody, provides this classic quote about Abubakar: "He's a very, well, the word might be … corrupt." The new affidavit also reveals that on one trip to Abubakar's home Jefferson's driver was actually an undercover FBI agent.
- The House Minority Leadership of [sw: Nancy Pelosi] (D-CA) and [sw: Steny Hoyer] (D-MD) invited Jefferson to make his case to the Democratic Steering Committee on why he should remain on the Ways and Means Committee. Pelosi and Hoyer have both publicly stated that Jefferson should be removed from the committee with Hoyer stating "he had $90,000 found in his freezer ... I think he's got a tax problem". The main support for Jefferson comes from the Congressional Black Caucus who have nine members on the Steering Committee. Roll Call reports that a vote on Jefferson's committee seat will show whether the CBC is in open revolt against the leadership or is split itself.
- The Houston Chronicle reports on the end-of-week exit of [sw: Tom DeLay] (R-TX) from Congress. DeLay says that he has no regrets and that he "fight[s] for what I believe in". We'll have more on what DeLay believes in at the end of the week.
- According to the San Diego Union-Tribune, more items that belonged to [sw: Duke Cunningham] will be up for sale tomorrow. If you are around Los Angeles why not go buy a piece of history.
- And finally, The Hill reports that defense lobbyists are rethinking how they do business in Washington in the wake of Cunningham's perp-walk and imminent earmark reform. You see, they need to find a way to get appropriations that doesn't involve bribing members of Congress with hookers. But seriously, this shows that sunlight, and even the threat of more sunlight, causes these guys to, like vampires, alter their behaviors.
- The San Bernardino Sun reports that two more cities have been subpoenaed in the federal investigation of Appropriations Chairman [sw: Jerry Lewis] (R-CA) and his ties to the lobbying firm Copeland Lowery Jacquez Denton & White. The subpoenas issued to the two cities, Loma Linda and Twentynine Palms, push the total number of subpoenas issued so far to six in the investigation of Lewis' earmark practices.
- David Safavian, aside from testifying that he is a doofus, also stated that he provided "a lot of insight and advice" to Jack Abramoff, according to the New York Times.
- House Democrats are holding a steering committee meeting today that many expect to center on Rep. [sw: William Jefferson]'s (D-LA) seat on the Ways and Means Committee. Jefferson, facing an imminent indictment for his role in a number of crooked deals, was asked to step down by Minority Leader [sw: Nancy Pelosi] (D-CA) but refused. Pelosi is expected to ask the Democratic Caucus to remove Jefferson from his committee seat and possibly replace him with another member of the Congressional Black Caucus.
- According to The Hill, [sw: Tom DeLay] (R-TX) will be leaving Congress this Friday and it looks like he'll be slipping out the back door and not leaving with the bluster and pomp that he was known for during his tenure as one of the most powerful men on Capitol Hill.
- The Hill reports that the oil and gas industry is ramping up the fear rhetoric after the House voted to force oil companies to renegotiate their oil leases signed in 1998 and 1999. The industry is declaring that if this law passes the Senate than it would increase foreign investment in the Gulf of Mexico. After the vote in the House I did a quick run-down on oil-and-gas contributions to the Republicans who voted "Yea" and found that they took a significantly less from the industry than the average Republican. My colleague Larry Makinson did a more extensive review of career numbers and found the same pattern.
- And for some lighter news: "A struggling art galley is hoping a showing and possible sale of a pair of paintings by imprisoned ex-U.S. Rep. James A. Traficant Jr. will keep it open."