On day one of the new Democratic Congress staffers are already finding that an old problem is giving them new headaches. Already Rep. William Jefferson - under investigation for accepting bribes and hiding $90,000 in cash in his freezer - has violated House rules by using his Congressional stationary to send a letter "asking colleagues to donate money to help him retire his campaign debt." Roll Call notes, "It’s a no-no to use taxpayer resources to raise campaign dough." One staffer jokes, "He’s got $90,000 in his freezer, why can’t he buy some stationery and stamps?" Jefferson's staff say it's a "tremendous staff error". But, hey, New Orleans you guys voted for him! (Subscription free at Political Insider.)Continue reading
Rep. William Jefferson’s, D-La., current race for reelection is being described as “like being in a fight with an octopus”. The nine-term incumbent is currently facing 12 opponents in what is his toughest race to date. Jefferson’s difficulties stem from a federal investigation that has already netted one guilty plea, $90,000 in cash in Jefferson’s freezer, and an unprecedented FBI raid on Jefferson’s congressional office. Absent these factors it is unlikely that most of Jefferson’s opponents would have challenged him.Continue reading
- 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 full House voted unanimously to strip Rep. [sw: William Jefferson] (D-Louis.) of his seat on the Ways and Means Committee.Continue reading
- 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.
- Rep. [sw: William Jefferson] (D-LA) has a lot of friends and Ken Silverstein at the Harper's.org blog has brought them all together in one place. His friends in the Capitol may be dwindling as the Democratic Caucus is voting right now to decide whether Jefferson will be removed from his seat on the Ways and Means Committee. Two of the most powerful members of the Congressional Black Caucus, [sw: Charlie Rangel] (D-NY) and [sw: John Lewis] (D-GA), have broken ranks with the CBC, staunch backers of Jefferson, and will vote to remove the troubled congressman from the tax-writing committee.
- The Hill documents the powerful defense industry lobby and their congressional connections. The PMA Group stands out for honorable mention as one of those lobby shops that is filled with former congressional staffers. Don't forget this little piece about [sw: Pete Visclosky]'s ties to PMA.
- What you say on the campaign trail, stays on the campaign trail. That seems to be the motto for the newest Congress critter, [sw: Brian Bilbray] (R-CA). According to the Club for Growth blog, Bilbray, who holds the infamous Duke Cunningham seat, denounced earmarking on the campaign trail and called for greater transparency. But yesterday Bilbray voted against all of Jeff Flake's challenges to earmarks in the Transportation-HHS Appropriations bill.
- Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt likes to fly. Mike Leavitt likes to fly on luxury jets that are only intended to be used for emergency purposes. Did I mention Mike Leavitt likes to fly?
- The Club for Growth Blog reports that Rep. [sw: Jim Moran] (D-VA) is really excited about earmarking. “When I become chairman [of a House appropriations subcommittee], I’m going to earmark the s—t out of it,” Moran buoyantly told a crowd of 450 attending the event.” Can we please get earmarking transparency -- QUICK!
- The David Safavian trial is about to be handed to the jury to decide the former Bush administration official's fate. Did Safavian abuse his position to help Jack Abramoff? Was it a mistake for the prosecution to not send Abramoff to testify? Will Safavian's bumbling testimony lead to a guilty verdict as Ken Lay's did? I'm putting my money on the latter.
- CongressDailyAM reports that the Democratic Caucus will vote on Thursday on the Steering Committee's recommendation that [sw: William Jefferson] be stripped of his seat on the Ways and Means Committee.
- Also in CongressDailyAM, Speaker [sw: Dennis Hastert] (R-IL) plans on naming conferees to the lobbying and ethics reform conference committee. Don't expect much of the conference committee or the legislation that they create. Whatever comes out of that committee it will not be reform.
- The Washington Post's Jeff Birnbaum reports that Congress is about to make it infinitely more difficult to lobby members of Congress through email. If you wish to send an email to your representative you will now have to complete a math problem. I'm going to go with MoveOn's Eli Pariser's statement about this: "We should be living in the golden age of politics -- an age in which every member of Congress can easily have a two-way conversation with his or her most engaged constituents. Instead, we're seeing bunkerization." Exactly. And why don't we have instant, searchable Internet disclosure of all information reported in Congress? This is the 21st Century isn't it? 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 Democratic Steering Committee looks headed towards stripping Rep. [sw: William Jefferson] (D-LA) of his perch on the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee. The Congressional Black Caucus voted again to back Jefferson's continued stay on the Committee at least until an indictment is filed. The CBC has opposed the Democratic Caucus taking any action against Jefferson until he has been formally indicted. Two of the most powerful CBC members, [sw: Charlie Rangel](D-NY) and [sw: James Clyburn] (D-SC), have remained quiet so far.
Meanwhile the Washington Post reports that the FBI was prepared to pick the lock of Jefferson's congressional office if the acting U.S. Capitol Police chief refused to open it. Leaders in the House want the raid to be ruled unconstitutional.