- The San Diego Union-Tribune gives an inside peek at the infamous Brent Wilkes poker parties in the Watergate and Grand Westin Hotels. The article also mentions that Wilkes was increasingly interested in obtaining CIA contracts and had received one contract to provide clandestine air transport to the CIA. Clandestine air transport...? Can somebody say "extraordinary rendition"?
- Jeff Birnbaum writes in the Washington Post Congress is not moving to reform ethics despite the multiple scandals that have rocked the Capitol. An ethics reform package is unlikely to be passed this year.
- Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), the Democratic Minority Leader, accepted boxing tickets from the Nevada State Athletic Commission while he was working to create a federal boxing commission. It doesn't appear that Reid changed his behavior or his actions in the wake of receiving the tickets. Two Senators, John McCain (R-AZ) and John Ensign (R-NV), accompanied Reid to the matches. McCain reimbursed the NSAC for his tickets while Ensign and Reid did not.
- Finally, Newsweek has its own profile of Brent Wilkes, who is fast becoming to defense contracting what Jack Abramoff was to lobbying. The article notes that Duncan Hunter (R-CA), Jerry Lewis (R-CA), and Tom DeLay (R-TX) all had dealings with Wilkes. Hunter and Lewis have been tied up in some of the same contracts that Duke Cunningham was involved in while DeLay was a very frequent flier in Wilkes' company jet. Continue reading
Justin Rood examines why Congress, the House in particular, has devolved into chaos. Rood, looking at the Majority Republicans, states that a mixture of the loss of Tom DeLay (R-TX), who clearly was amazing at his job as partisan enforcer, the disastrous drop in public opinion of President Bush, and the steady stream of corruption investigations and guilty pleas has sent Republican members into a frenzy. Without any clear, strong leader and with Feds snooping around claiming that campaign contributions can be seen as bribes these members are, rightfully, unsettled. The lack of a strong charismatic figure is terrible for the Republican caucus. Since the 1994 revolution they have always had a strong and determined conservative leader, whether it be Newt Gingrich, DeLay or the President, who has led them in lock step support of conservative issues. It should be noted that DeLay was the one who put Dennis Hastert (R-IL) into the Speakership while he ruled the House from the Whip and Majority Leader post. The combination of Hastert, John Boehner (R-OH), and Roy Blunt (R-MO) has not been able to stop Republican hemmoraging.
This disorder and caucus revolt even bleeds over to the Democratic side where Rood states that they should be "placing advance orders for champagne and cigars and slapping each other on the back". The Congressional Black Caucus, a powerful 40-plus member gourp in the Democratic caucus, is in open revolt against Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) over her public effort to remove the discredited William Jefferson (D-LA) from the Ways and Means Committee. The CBC has had problems with the Democratic leadership for some time now and now that the leadership refuses to support Jefferson those problems are becoming even more strained. So why is Congress in such disarray? They feel that they are besieged and the walls have been breached. As Rood writes:
It should have been no secret to those on the Hilll that Hastert -- and the 30-plus other members who did legislative favors for Jack Abramoff and his clients -- would draw at least a passing query from the Justice Department. But as long as they were asked quietly and off the front pages, the situation was manageable.Members are besieged by the press, distrusted by their constituents, and the Justice Department is invading their territory. It is no wonder that they have turned inward and begun to devour each other. Continue reading
Earlier today Raw Story wrote on the hilarious effort by someone in Alexandria to get Tom DeLay (R-TX), future Virginian, elected to the city council to "stamp out Marxism." Now Think Progress brings us something even funnier. It turns out that DeLay does not understand satire:
This morning, DeLay’s legal defense fund sent out a mass email criticizing the movie “The Big Buy: Tom DeLay’s Stolen Congress,” by “Outfoxed” creator Robert Greenwald. The email features a “one-pager on the truth behind Liberal Hollywood’s the Big Buy,” and the lead item is Colbert’s interview with Greenwald on Comedy Central (where Colbert plays a faux-conservative, O’Reilly-esque character). The headline of the “fact sheet”: Hollywood Pulls Michael Moore Antics on Tom DeLay Colbert Cracks the Story on Real Motivations Behind the MovieI really don't know whether to laugh at this or to feel genuinely sorry for the guy for not understanding satire. What a sad life it must be to have no sense of humor. Continue reading
How do you stop the advance of Marxism east of the Potomac? Why you elect new Virginia resident Tom DeLay (R-TX) to the City Council of Alexandria. From Raw Story:
An email sent to residents of Northern Virginia's city of Alexandria encouraged residents to write in US House Rep. Tom Delay for the City Council, today's edition of ROLL CALL reports. Delay has announced that he is relocating to the Washington, DC suburb after he leaves Congress on June 9.The email says the following:
“EXERCISE YOUR RIGHT TO VOTE on May 2nd in Alexandria’s local election. “More importantly, send a message to the socialists on the City Council and EXERCISE YOUR RIGHT TO WRITE IN A CANDIDATE’S NAME. “He was also able to defeat Marxism in Eastern Europe; perhaps he can help us defeat Marxism west of the Potomac in Alexandria. Let’s drop the ‘Hammer’ on Alexandria’s Politburo! “Please, write in the name of new Alexandria, VA resident, and former House Majority Leader TOM DELAY!!! Tom DeLay for City Council!”Did I miss it when International ANSWER took over Alexandria? Is Virginia Governor Tim Kaine a Soviet plant sent from the past via a time machine? Continue reading
Chris Geeslin was the spiritual advisor to Tom DeLay's (R-TX) chief of staff Ed Buckham and went on to head the Buckham founded U.S. Family Network. Little did Geeslin know that he was being used to mask a front organization that funneled money from shady clients of Jack Abramoff into partisan politics - and into Buckham's bank account. Paul Kiel at TPM Muckraker caught Geeslin talking on NPR about how he learned that the business he was involved in wasn't exactly Kosher:
NPR's John Ydstie: Geeslin first became uneasy when large donations started rolling in, one for $1 million. He said he suggested to Buckham that maybe the group should focus more on being the grassroots organization described in the U.S. Family Network's mission statement. Chris Geeslin: “And [Buckham] looked at me with some disdain. And he said, ‘You know where that million dollars came from? I said, 'Well, no.’ And he told me 'This is the way Washington works.' And he was schooling me, so to speak. He said, ‘That money came from Russian enery magnates, or oil magnates, who wanted to influence Congressman DeLay so he would not vote against the IMF funding of the bailout of Russia.’ And again, he said, ‘That’s the way Washington works, it runs on money.’ At the time, I didn’t know what to do with that. It was like, this has gotta be a joke. It’s beyond belief. It’s surreal.”There's Ed Buckham for you; crusher of ideals, destroyer of moral fiber. He's like a corrupt politician from a Capra film. Continue reading
In Washington people are always dealing in information, money, and secrets. Sometimes you need to peddle information to get a seat at the table or to help write bills for your lobbying clients. Other times you need to throw money around, ingratiate yourself with the locals and take them out to a skybox and watch Gilbert Arenas score 40 points. Throw a fund raiser for your favorite legislator (i.e.: the guy who's vote you need to switch). How else are you going to stop that bill that would help millions of people but hurt your client? Usually you tout these accomplishments and get patted on the back. But sometimes, you do something that you don't want anyone to know about and you need to hide your information, or your money, somewhere. Anywhere. Where do you hide it? Well, we gathered up a group of Washington insiders with first hand experience in hiding stuff and asked them how they would go about hiding money or information in Washington (follow the link):
One of the things that drives the public nuts is when their elected representatives forget their roots. That's one reason that the golfing junkets, the fancy dinners, and trips on corporate jets that master lobbyist Jack Abramoff routinely provided Reps. Tom DeLay and Bob Ney (among others) drove people crazy.Continue reading
Some seats in Congress are famous and carry strong traditions. There is the Daniel Webster desk and the Jefferson Davis desk. There is the New York Senate seat currently occupied by Hillary Clinton that was previously occupied by equally well-known out-of-staters with strong personalities Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Robert Kennedy. But what about seats of infamy? I believe we may have one on the House Appropriations Committee. When Randy "Duke" Cunningham resigned his seat in Congress and was subsequently sent to prison for his role in a sweeping bribery scandal he also left a seat on the Appropriations Committee, a seat from which he did a lot of his dirty work. That seat remained open until Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) resigned his leadership post after being indicted on money laundering charges. DeLay immediately took Cunningham's seat on the Appropriations Committee. DeLay later announced that he was going to resign from Congress after one of his top former aides pled guilty to charges in another Congressional scandal, the one that involved Tom DeLay's "best friend" Jack Abramoff, his former press secretary Michael Scanlon, his former chief of staff Ed Buckham, and lots of money. CongressDailyPM reports that the front-runner for this tainted seat is Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA). Who knows how the seat will corrupt Calvert? Oh wait a second. He's already involved in some dubious actions (noted previously here). From CongressDailyPM:
The Los Angeles Times reported Monday that Calvert made a significant profit off an empty four-acre tract bought last year after steering an $8 million earmark near the area to build a highway, and $1.5 million to boost commercial development. Those earmarks were included not in an appropriations bill, but in last's year's $286.4 billion highway reauthorization bill. Calvert and a business partner bought the lot for $550,000, and sold it for $985,000 a few months after the bill became law -- a 79 percent increase in value.Now that is a sweet deal he's got going for him. Imagine the kind of stuff that Calvert can earmark near his land holdings when he's on the Appropriations Committee. Maybe the seat doesn't corrupt people, it just attracts unseemly types. Or it could go the other way considering Cunningham seemed like an upstanding guy when he came to Congress. One of those chicken or the egg things I guess. Continue reading
After 16 months of deadlock and inaction the House Ethics Committee has launched two investigations into members of the House, according to the Washington Post. The Ethics Committee has agreed to look into the cases of Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH), alleged to have taken bribes from Jack Abramoff in return for favorable action, and Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA), who is alleged to have solicited bribes in an international telecommunications deal. The panel refused to hear the case of the retiring former Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX), who has already been indicted in Texas on money laundering charges and has been closely tied to Jack Abramoff since the mid-90s. The gridlock on the panel actually began due to three admonishments of DeLay in 2004. After the third admonishment Speaker Dennis Hastert and DeLay purged the panel's Republicans, installing DeLay supporters who aggravated the Democrats on the panel by attempting to change the rules on how the ethics process worked. The deadlock ended when the ranking Democrat Alan Mollohan (D-WV) stepped down after he was alleged to have misstated his personal finances and used federal earmarks to enrich himself. The current ranking Democrat is Howard Berman (D-CA) and the chairman is Doc Hastings (R-WA).Continue reading