Saturday, December 31, 2005

Doolittle - Oddsmakers Step In

Representative John Doolittle (CA-4) doesn't approve of gambling, but that isn't stopping folks from putting together some action on Jack Abramoff's expected plea deal with the feds. Politics1 puts the odds on Doolittle's retirement in the face of an on-going investigation of both he and his wife (and chief fund raiser) at 1 in 3.

“There must be lots of very nervous people on Capitol Hill this weekend -- elected officials and key GOP staffers alike. According to numerous news sources, indicted Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff's lawyers and federal prosecutors in Miami have reportedly agreed upon nearly all the terms of a plea deal. Both sides met briefly with the federal judge on the case on Friday to go over some key elements of the deal. They are expected to formally announce the completed plea deal on Tuesday. In related news, Congressman John Doolittle (R-CA) appears now to actually be one of the purported targets of the investigation.”

2006 is beginning to look like something less than a Happy New Year for Doolittle and his fellow Abramoff disciples.

“Fixed fortifications are monuments to man's stupidity,” George S. Patton, Jr.

Most Republicans are flocking to support the most recent congressional stupidity of their party, H.R. 4437. This bill recently passed by a desperate Republican Congress seeking the shield of a potent wedge issue in advance of the Abramoff tide that may wash away their majority status.

In Southern California, it would be hard to find a more avid supported of H.R. 4427 than Representative Duncan Hunter (CA-52). Hunter not only championed the bill, but he added his own kicker of an amendment to fund and build 700 miles of fence along U.S.-Mexico border.

Hunter is the genius behind a smaller version of this fence in San Diego county that has had one remarkable consequence. It has forced illegals who historically were able to cross the border to work in the U.S., while living in Mexico, to stay permanently in the U.S. and move further from the border. In other word, Hunter's first fence not only did not reduce the number of illegals crossing the border, it also forced a large number of those illegals to stay full time in the United States.

As General George Patton once said, "Fixed defenses are monuments to man's stupidity." And, make no mistake, Hunters $1.5 billion fence project is both a fixed defense and a monument to stupidity.

The North County Times profiles Hunter's fence.

"The fence proposal was approved earlier this month by the House of Representatives as an amendment to a controversial immigration reform bill, which will now go to the Senate for review and possible changes.

In a Thursday interview by phone just before holding a news conference on the border near Brown Field, Hunter said that the fence will not only help to reduce the number of illegal immigrants entering the country, it will reduce the threat of terrorism."

Hunter has no evidence to support either contention, but since when have this generation of Republicans ever been burdened with the need to support their public comments with facts? The facts suggest three things:

1. Increase border enforcement has not reduce illegal immigration. Despite massive increases in border patrol forces and fences, more people are crossing the border than ever.

2. The use of fences and drastically stepped up enforcement at border crossing in more heavily populated areas has resulted in increased loss of life along the border and to a more highly organized smuggling industry.

3. Stepped up enforcement and fences have resulted in forcing illegals to stay in the United States for longer periods as their flexibility to cross the border near where they work in the U.S. has been reduced.

Despite strong Democratic opposition to Hunter's fence and R.R. 4427, I'm going to turn to a conservative Republican to provide the most clear and compelling critique to this foolishness. Let's ask Jack Kemp what he thinks?

"In a recent letter to several members of Congress, I urged my fellow Republicans to oppose such ill-advised anti-immigrant policies and not support an anti-immigration movement that is politically unwise and fundamentally at odds with the best tradition and spirit of our nation and our party.

Immigrants coming to America do so because this is still the city on a shining hill for the poor and persecuted. Most aliens come here out of necessity, looking for work, not welfare, and for opportunities that do not exist in their native countries.

In the long run, the best way to fix our immigration system is not to militarize the border or drive undocumented immigrants further into the shadows..."

Jack Kemp gets it. Just as George Patton understood that building wall and hiding behind fortifications wasn't going to result in victory.

The Republican House is fixated on this foolishness because they understand its emotional impact as a wedge issue. And, let's face it, when you are Randy "Duke" Cunningham's closest friend in Congress and co-beneficiary of (Co-conspirator #1) Brent Wilkes' largess, finding a wedge issue to hid behind has to be priority number one.

(Cartoon credit - Steve Breen, San Diego Union Tribune)

Friday, December 30, 2005

Happy New Year - DeLay, Ney, Doolittle, Burns, the list goes ever on!

The AP reports that a Abramoff plea bargain could be announced as early as Tuesday.

"Federal prosecutors and lawyers for Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff are putting the finishing touches on a plea deal that could be announced as early as Tuesday, according to people familiar with the negotiations.

The plea agreement would secure the lobbyist's testimony against several members of Congress who received favors from him or his clients.

Abramoff and a former partner were indicted in Miami in August on charges of conspiracy and fraud for allegedly lying about their assets to help secure financing to purchase a fleet of gambling boats.

For the past two weeks, pressure has been intensifying on Abramoff to strike a deal with prosecutors since his former business partner, Adam Kidan, pleaded guilty to fraud and conspiracy in connection with the 2000 SunCruz deal.

Abramoff's cooperation would be a boon to an ongoing Justice Department investigation of congressional corruption, possibly helping prosecutors build criminal cases against up to 20 lawmakers and their staff members."

The congress of corruption is about to be exposed for what it is.

"I am the federal government," Tom DeLay

The Washington Post gets serious about Tom DeLay's finances in its New Year's Eve edition.

"Whatever the real motive for the contribution of $1 million -- a sum not prohibited by law but extraordinary for a small, nonprofit group -- the steady stream of corporate payments detailed on the donor list makes it clear that Abramoff's long-standing alliance with DeLay was sealed by a much more extensive web of financial ties than previously known.

Records and interviews also illuminate the mixture of influence and illusion that surrounded the U.S. Family Network. Despite the group's avowed purpose, records show it did little to promote conservative ideas through grass-roots advocacy. The money it raised came from businesses with no demonstrated interest in the conservative "moral fitness" agenda that was the group's professed aim.

In addition to the million-dollar payment involving the London law firm, for example, half a million dollars was donated to the U.S. Family Network by the owners of textile companies in the Mariana Islands in the Pacific, according to the tax records. The textile owners -- with Abramoff's help -- solicited and received DeLay's public commitment to block legislation that would boost their labor costs, according to Abramoff associates, one of the owners and a DeLay speech in 1997.

A quarter of a million dollars was donated over two years by the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, Abramoff's largest lobbying client, which counted DeLay as an ally in fighting legislation allowing the taxation of its gambling revenue.

The records, other documents and interviews call into question the very purpose of the U.S. Family Network, which functioned mostly by collecting funds from domestic and foreign businesses whose interests coincided with DeLay's activities while he was serving as House majority whip from 1995 to 2002, and as majority leader from 2002 until the end of September."

A million here, a million there...........Pretty soon it adds up to a pretty big bribe campaign fund.

Pay-to-play, it's the Republican way.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Torture, Terrorism, Just Words

Blairwatch has published links to a series of memos, emails and other correspondence that outline the close ties between the U.S., British and Uzbekistan. The documents demonstrate the complete lack of interest that the Blair and Bush governments have in the development of democratic institutions in the Middle East and Asia.

This should be of no surprise to anyone, but the depth of detail in the documents and the stunning revelations of torture, rendition and government oppression make for painful reading.

“Last year the US gave half a billion dollars in aid to Uzbekistan, about a quarter of it military aid. Bush and Powell repeatedly hail Karimov as a friend and ally. Yet this regime has at least seven thousand prisoners of conscience; it is a one party state without freedom of speech, without freedom of media, without freedom of movement, without freedom of assembly, without freedom of religion. It practices, systematically, the most hideous tortures on thousands. Most of the population live in conditions precisely analogous with medieval serfdom.”

While our soldiers die to provide democracy to Iraq, we promote dictatorship and repression in Uzbekistan. How can we demonstrate the meaning of a free democratic society, if we continually support the most oppressive dictatorships we can find?

“In the period December 2002 to March 2003 I raised several times the issue of intelligence material from the Uzbek security services which was obtained under torture and passed to us via the CIA. I queried the legality, efficacy and morality of the practice.

I was summoned to the
UK for a meeting on 8 March 2003. Michael Wood gave his legal opinion that it was not illegal to obtain and to use intelligence acquired by torture. He said the only legal limitation on its use was that it could not be used in legal proceedings, under Article 15 of the UN Convention on Torture.”

This is information that needs the broadest possible distribution. I know that most Americans don't have a clue where Uzbekistan is located, but I think that most understand hypocricy when they see it. The Bush and Blair war administrations have raised hypocricy to the level of an art form.

Misinformation Is Better Than No Information - Isn't It?

Media Matters for America recently awarded MSNBC's Chris Matthews their coveted, Misinformer of the Year Award. Chris and I work for the same company and I'm going to be sure to drop him an email on Monday with my congratulations. To be in the same league as Bill O'Reilly is certainly something special.

Chris was a font of misinformation and just plain bullshit this year. Some of this finer moments:

"[S]ometimes it glimmers with this man, our president, that kind of sunny nobility."

"Everybody sort of likes the president, except for the real whack-jobs, maybe on the left," adding, "I mean, like him personally."

"If [Bush's] gamble that he can create a democracy in the middle of the Arab world" is successful, "he belongs on Mount Rushmore."

What ever happened to the liberal media? Maybe the "liberal media" was really a truthful media. Isn't the very idea of a free press, a liberal concept?

A Sight to Behold in the CA-50 Contest

On Tuesday, Scott Turner, a former professional football player entered the contest for Randy "Duke" Cunningham's vacated seat in the CA-50. Turner's candidacy has to be considered a true long shot.

Back in July, The 51st State, published a photo of all of the African-American Republicans in Congress.

If Republican Turner were to win either the April primary or the June run-off, Turner would be the only Republican African-American in Congress. Currently their are 43 African-American Democrats in the House and one in the Senate.

Over at the News Blog, Steve Gillard isn't very optimistic about Turner's chances either in the CA-50 or the Republican Party.

"Look, he may think being a football player open doors for you, but the reality, the California GOP is one of the most racist in the country, and that's saying something. He can talk about Jesus all day long, but the fact is they are not going to send a black man to Congress."

Turner, who has been doing motivations speaking and Christian life mentoring during his off-season breaks, interned for Representative Duncan Hunter (CA-52) last year. I suspect that Turner is a pretty solid guy, with a desire to serve. But, as a judge of character, I think that his association with a pay-to-play slime ball like Hunter suggests that Turner isn't quite ready to play with the political pros.

Hope Springs Eternal

Scripps Howard's Peter Schrag sees a ray of hope in the future.

"Goodbye to 2005 and hallelujah. After the battering the Constitution has taken through five grim years, it's showing some signs of life.

The most conservative court in the country tells the administration to stop trying to manipulate the judiciary in its handling of terrorist suspects.

The most egregious snooping allowed by the Patriot Act may not survive congressional scrutiny next year; the dismantling of Social Security is dead. The phony "deficit-cutting" budget bill squeaks through the Senate on the vice president's tie-breaking vote: there's not a vote to spare.

One congressional crook, California's own Randy Cunningham, has resigned. The Hammer is twisting in the wind. His friend and patron Jack Abramoff is negotiating to rat out his former friends. Two other Californians, Richard Pombo and John Doolittle, are trying to avoid the stench of the Abramoff swamp.

Congress bans torture, despite heavy-handed pressure from America's No. 1 chicken hawk, whose own No. 1 aide has been indicted for lying in the outing of Valerie Plame.

And with the president's poll numbers down, the media, red-faced over their own dereliction of duty in the run-up to Iraq, seem to have found a little courage to challenge and question the administration's strategic leaks. A trial judge in Pennsylvania says intelligent design isn't science; it's thinly veiled religion. The school board that approved it is voted out of office."

I'm not so sure I'm ready to move my name over to the optimist column. I've always been a half-empty type person. And, let's face it, if the cup is full of hemlock, does it matter if it's half full or half empty?

Wilkes Fails to Pay Taxes

Cunningham co-conspirator #1, Brent Wilkes, owes $170,000 in property taxes on the $11 million dollar headquarters of his various sham companies. The North County Times reports that as on December 12, Wilkes failed to pay a $120,000 tax bill. When added to an outstanding tax debt of nearly $40,000 and factoring in penalties, Wilkes total overdue tax bill is close to $170,000.

Wilkes is a partner in Al Dust Properties, LLC, which owns the facility housing many of Wilkes business ventures at 13970 Stowe Drive in Poway.

"The delinquent property tax bill continues to grow for the multimillion-dollar Poway property controlled by Brent Wilkes, one of the alleged co-conspirators alluded to in court documents in the Randy "Duke" Cunningham bribery scandal, San Diego County Treasurer-Tax Collector Dan McAllister said Wednesday.

McAllister said the tax bill plus penalties has now mushroomed to more than $170,000, after Wilkes failed to pay his latest nearly $120,000 tax bill, which came due Dec. 12.

The penalties will continue to grow at the rate of 1.5 percent per month until the back taxes are paid, McAllister added.

"We cannot foreclose on the property to redeem taxes until five years have passed, (but) interest and penalties will continue to grow in addition to the annual taxes not paid," he said in a Wednesday phone interview."

Tax Collector McAllister said that his office had not been contacted by either Wilkes or anyone connected to Al Dust Properties LLC to discuss the company's failure to pay what it owes.

"It's unusual for someone to owe so much and to flounder not paying and not telling us what is going on," McAllister said."

The Stowe Drive facility was put up for sale after the details of Wilkes connections to Cunningham and other Republican members of congress became public.

It certainly appears that the Wilkes empire is collapsing like the house of cards that it is. Income sources drying up, legal fees exploding, building for sale and taxes unpaid.

With Duke Cunningham practices his singing lessons, it appears that the least of Brent Wilkes' worries is an unpaid property tax bill.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Surfs Up, Dude.

I can't believe that wingnuttia hasn't jumped on the case of Clark Foam. If, Grubby Clark, the 74 year old president of the company is to be believed, his 45 year old business was shut down by a combination of the EPA, the Orange County (California) Fire Authority, Orange County Health Department and the South Coast Air Quality Management District.

Clark's company was responsible for the manufacture of 80-90% of world's supply of foam blanks for surfboards. The picture that one gets from the seven page fax that Clark sent to his customers in early December, suggests a business encircled by rapacious regulatory agencies, bent on destroying his business. Clark describes incident after incident of regulatory interference with his operations. Based on his description, Clark Foam was ground zero for every regulator in Southern California. His decision to shut down his business was the only reasonable one he could make. Or was it?

According to the Orange County Register, there was no regulatory crackdown at Clark Foam. Most of the agencies Clark details in his fax had only the most general knowledge of the company and no record of either complaints or on-going investigations.

"Clark, 74, didn't return calls Monday and Tuesday to comment on the closure. In his seven-page statement to customers, he said a crackdown by local, state and federal authorities over his use of certain chemicals forced him to close his 120-employee operation.

But several government agencies, including the Environmental Protection Agency, said Tuesday that Clark Foam was in compliance with local, state and federal codes related to its use of hazardous materials and that they were not responsible for his closure.

"There's a whole bunch of surfers out there complaining we shut them down," said EPA spokesman Mark Merchant. "We didn't shut him down."

Merchant said his agency cited Clark Foam in 2003 for minor infractions, including failing to have a proper emergency response plan in place in the event of a chemical spill. The federal agency gave Clark Foam until May 2004 to comply, which it did.

"We haven't heard from him since," Merchant said."

Clark cites the possibility of civil and criminal proceedings as both the reason to close his business and the reason he can't comment on the specific issues. However, the regulators he identifies as waiting to pounce on both him and his business seem as confounded by his decision to close the company as are his customers.

"Clark wrote that state and county regulators had "made it very clear they no longer want manufacturers like Clark Foam in their area."

However, Capt. Stephen Miller, a spokesman for the Orange County Fire Authority, which tracks hazardous chemicals, said Tuesday that Clark has been in compliance with all the agency's fire codes and that he has no idea why Clark chose to shut down.

"This sounds like this is a business decision," Miller said.

South Coast Air Quality Management District spokesman Sam Atwood said that after an inspection of the plant earlier this year, the regulatory agency questioned the accuracy of Clark's emissions report.

"We believe it had underreported its toxic emissions," Atwood said. Atwood said inspectors were specifically looking at smog and TDI emissions. It was unclear late Tuesday if Clark had re-reported its emissions to the AQMD, Atwood said.

However, Atwood said Clark Foam has never been in violation of AQMD's emission requirements. The agency, which tracks air-quality standards, said it's also never logged any public complaint about Clark.

Miller said the fire authority had not fined Clark and was not "aware of any action taken by any other agency" that would force the facility to shut down."

So, there you have it folks. A 45 year old family business shut down by over-zealous environmentalists.

No, wait.... What it appears you really have is a half century old family business shut down by a 74 year old nut case with a persecution complex. The losers? A broad swath of craftspeople in the surfing industry and surfers in general who will pay higher prices for potentially inferior products.

Abramoff - Heir of the Reagan Revolution

The Washington Post has a in-depth profile of Jack Abramoff in its Thursday edition. The piece starts with Abramoff's beginnings taking over what was the sleepy backwater College Republicans and ends with his legal machinations to cut a plea bargain deal with federal investigators.

Jack Abramoff's story is the story of the Republican Party.
All of this corruption is a reflection of the corruption of men like Grove Norquist, Karl Rove, Tom Delay, Dick Cheney and, ultimately, George W. Bush. Abramoff did not operate in a vacuum. He was very public player with intimate contacts at the top levels of the Republican Party.

"A quarter of a century ago, Abramoff and anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist were fellow Young Turks of the Reagan revolution. They organized Massachusetts college campuses in the 1980 election -- Abramoff while he was an undergraduate at Brandeis and Norquist at Harvard Business School -- to help Reagan pull an upset in the state.

They moved to Washington, maneuvered to take over the College Republicans -- at the time a sleepy establishment organization -- and transformed it into a right-wing activist group. They were joined by Ralph Reed, an ambitious Georgian whose later Christian conversion would fuel his rise to national political prominence."

Can you think of two creeper people to hang out with? Grover and Ralph. The yin and yang of corruption, with a right wing religious twist.

"Shortly thereafter, Abramoff was running Citizens for America, a conservative grass-roots group founded by drug-store magnate Lewis E. Lehrman. Abramoff was in frequent contact with Marine Lt. Col. Oliver L. North, the Reagan White House's Iran-contra mastermind, about grass-roots efforts to lobby Congress for the Nicaraguan contras, according to records in the National Security Archive.

One of Abramoff's most audacious adventures involved Jonas Savimbi, the Angolan rebel leader who had U.S. support but was later found to have ordered the murders of his movement's representative to the United States and that man's relatives. With Savimbi, Abramoff organized a "convention" of anticommunist guerrillas from Laos, Nicaragua and Afghanistan in a remote part of Angola. Afterward, Lehrman fired Abramoff amid a dispute about the handling of the group's $3 million budget.

Abramoff also worked on behalf of the apartheid South African government, which secretly paid $1.5 million a year to the International Freedom Foundation, a nonprofit group that Abramoff operated out of a townhouse in the 1980s, according to sworn testimony to the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission."

Ollie North, Jonaas Savimbi and apartheid. Talk about a trifecta!

"When Republicans wrested control of the House from the Democrats in 1994, Abramoff turned his focus back to Washington politics. With Norquist's help, he reinvented himself as a Republican lobbyist on heavily Democratic K Street. Norquist was one of the intellectual architects of the Republican Revolution and a muse for its leader, Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), soon to be speaker of the House...

Soon the younger Abramoff developed a key alliance with Rep. Tom DeLay, a conservative Republican from Texas who was working his way up in the House leadership. The two met at a DeLay fundraiser on Capitol Hill in 1995, according to a former senior DeLay aide. The aide recalled that Edwin A. Buckham, then DeLay's chief of staff, told his boss: "We really need to work with Abramoff; he is going to be an important lobbyist and fundraiser."

His new best friend - Tom Delay. I hope, Tom isn't listening to any more advice from Buckham. Of course, Ed has his lobbyist shop now.

"Team Abramoff included former staffers to DeLay, as well as to Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.), head of the Senate Appropriations panel's Interior subcommittee; Rep. Robert W. Ney (R-Ohio), chairman of the House Administration Committee; Rep. John T. Doolittle (R-Calif.), who has served on the key House committee that oversees tribes; and Sen. Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), now minority leader."

What a team. Let's play a game. Pick the next member of the team to be indicted.

"The Choctaws were one of a half-dozen Indian tribes who gave more than $80 million dollars to Abramoff between 2000 and 2003. Not only were the tribes paying Abramoff's lobbying firm, they were also paying Abramoff's secret outside partner, Michael Scanlon, who charged the Indians millions of dollars for public relations work and split the money with Abramoff. Scanlon's public relations fees did not have to be disclosed under lobbying rules, thus making it possible for the magnitude of their take from the tribes to be kept from public view. The two dubbed their scheme "Gimme Five," according to e-mails in which Abramoff disparaged their clients as "morons" and "troglodytes."

E-mails show that Abramoff put his money into an array of political and personal projects.

The nonprofit Capital Athletic Foundation, for example, allowed him to schmooze with Washington's movers and shakers at charity affairs. He put a congressional spouse -- Julie Doolittle, wife of the California lawmaker -- on his payroll to plan at least one event. The congressman's office has said that there was no connection between his wife's work and official acts.

The foundation was ostensibly created to help inner-city children through organized sports. There is no evidence money went to city kids, but the foundation did fund some of Abramoff's pet projects: a sniper school for Israelis in the West Bank, a golf trip to Scotland for Ohio congressman Ney and others, and a Jewish religious academy in Columbia that Abramoff founded and where he sent his children to be educated."

Enter the infamous, Julie Doolittle and her amazing fund raise ability, soon to be put to work for her husband, Representative John Doolittle (CA-4) at 15 cents on the dollar.

"Alan K. Simpson (R), the former Wyoming senator who was in Washington during the last big congressional scandal -- the Abscam FBI sting in the late 1970s and early 1980s, in which six House members and one senator were convicted -- said the Abramoff case looks bigger. Simpson said he recently rode in a plane with one of Abramoff's attorneys, who told him: "There are going to be guys in your former line of work who are going to be taken down."

Dozens of lawmakers -- who were showered with trips, sports and concert tickets, drinks and dinners -- are returning campaign contributions from Abramoff and his clients and calling him a fraud and a crook.

Former Republican congressman Mickey Edwards (Okla.), usually a defender of lobbying and Congress, said there have always been members who get caught "stuffing money in their pants." But he said this is different -- a "disgusting" and disturbingly broad scandal driven by lobbyists whose attitude seemed to be "government to the highest bidder."

"This is at a scale that is really shocking," said Edwards, who teaches public and international affairs at Princeton. "There is a certain kind of arrogance that in the past you might not have had. They were so supremely confident that there didn't seem to be any kind of moral compass here."

Let's see pay-to-play, "government to the highest bidder," lack of a moral compass. Sounds like the Republican Party to me. No wonder they all loved this guy so much. Until he got caught.

New Links

Somewhere over in the right hand margin is a section titled, Congress of Corruption Links. As time goes by, our goal is to fill that section with links to blogs that are posting the truth about the clowns and carnies that are working the halls of congress and the lobbyiest of K Street.

Today, we added three sites:

Dump Doolittle - Let's set CA-4 free.

Say No To Pombo - Get rid of the biggest Dick in Congress (CA-11).

Pombo Watch - Stop Dick before he destroys the enviroment.

Give this sites a look and keep an eye out for Democratic candidates in these districts. They need your support.

Someone has to clean up after the circus.

Pernicious Evil

Digby posted this a couple of days ago. The post covered lots of ground, but the central theme is that Republicans are willing to do anything to remain in power. If the Constitution gets in the way, ignore it. Digby finds this Republican propos to limit congressional representation to "citizens only" to be particularly odious.

"A Republican lawmaker on Tuesday proposed changing the U.S. Constitution to exclude non-citizens from the Census for the purpose of drawing congressional districts, a move that effectively would deny them a voice in U.S. politics.

Under the present system, as determined by the 14th amendment to the Constitution, the Census Bureau counts all individuals living in the country once every 10 years. This data is used when drawing up the 435 congressional districts and when determining each state's vote in the Electoral College that decides presidential elections."

Michigan Rep. Candice Miller wants to change that so that both legal and illegal aliens would be excluded."

I presume Representative Miller has no problem with non-citizens paying taxes and being subject to the laws of the United States. Apparently, the Republican problem with non-citizens being counted in the census and congressional districts being drawn up to represent all the "persons" (the word the Constitution uses) in that district is somehow un-American. Digby sees the unseen hand here.

"This is another one of those Karl Rove specials. It's ostensibly about the scourge of illegal immigration, and plays perfectly into people's cultural anxieties, but it's really about structural political change.

Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson's exceedingly interesting book Off Center talks (among other things) about how the Republicans have gone about creating a "backlash proof" system in which Republican seats are safe no matter how unpopular their beliefs or voting records are in the country at large. It's a huge part of their long term strategy to change the political system in their favor. The book doesn't mention this specifically, but it's exactly the kind of thing that Karl and Tom would try to push to assure a long term majority."

Republicans would benefit from this change, which would result in a new round of redistricting. Immigrant ladened states such California would loose congressional seats and Electoral College clout. The Census Bureau would become a law enforcement agency and millions of residents of the United States would have neither public voice nor representation.

"Miller's proposal ran into fierce resistance from Democrats and Hispanic leaders as well as from a former head of the Census Bureau who said it would politicize the count, diminish public confidence in the census and make it more inaccurate.

"The Census Bureau cannot become a quasi-investigatory agency and still perform its basic responsibilities as a statistical agency," said Kenneth Prewitt who headed the agency from 1998 to 2000 and oversaw the last national census.

"Lawful members of our society who pay income, property and sales taxes as well as for your and my Social Security, will ask why they are being denied the earliest and most basic right of our democracy -- political representation," Prewitt said."

In other words, Representative Miller is proposing "taxation without representation." Where have I heard that before?

The founders of our republic faltered when they were forced to compromise between the principles they espoused in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution itself and the compromise required to ratify the Constitution and form the United States. They silently assented to slavery, but they recognized that slaves had a value to society and instituted the 3/5 rule, presuming a slave to be equivalent of 3/5 of a "free person" when counted in the national census.

It is hard to imagine that Republicans want to reduce the value of immigrants and other non-citizens to something less than the founding fathers were willing to grant to slaves.

Actually, it is not that hard to imagine. After all, once immigrants are excluded, can gays (and gypsies) be far behind, followed by non-Christians (Jews, Moslems, Buddhists), then the stinking liberals. It's a proven plan.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

More Lies..........

The Wall Street Journal has a story about Move America Forward (MAF), Howard Kaloogian's astroturf web site.

Good old MAF, always ready with a lie, a distortion or just making stuff up, is running ads that proclaim that the President Bush and his neo-con administration were right all along about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction and ties to al Queda. These new ads seem to fly in the face of both years of actual, verified information to the contrary and more recently, Presidential disclosures that there were no weapons nor terrorist ties.

"The television commercials are attention-grabbing: Newly found Iraqi documents show that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, including anthrax and mustard gas, and had "extensive ties" to al Qaeda. The discoveries are being covered up by those "willing to undermine support for the war on terrorism to selfishly advance their shameless political ambitions."

We have written extensively regarding the real nature of MAF and its role in the Right Wing Noise Machine. Check out this, this and this.

These new ads are just part of the same old package of wingnut rhetoric designed to keep Sacramento political campaign firm Russo, Marsh and Rogers (R,M+R) going strong. Of course the fact that R,M +R is running a PR campaign for the Kurdish regional might have something to do with MAF's love of the Iraqi war.

"In addition to his Iraq political work in the U.S., Mr. Russo has an open-ended political-advertising contract with the Kurdish Regional Government in northern Iraq for whom he produces advertisements that run in the U.S. seeking investment in Kurdistan. Some critics accuse him of having a vested financial interest in prolonging the U.S. presence there."

Now that the WSJ has taken a crack at MAF, maybe a real journalist could take a look at the shabby crew that runs the place. That's probably hoping of too much.

More Doolittle Reporting

The San Francisco Chronicle picks up on California Representative John Doolittle (CA-4). Doolittle's ties to Jack Abramoff are gaining him a large degree of unwanted attention and even driving some Republican challengers for Doolittle's seat out of the Sierra foothills woodwork.

The Chronicle picks up the main topics of investigation regarding Doolittle, but drops the ball in following up on the financial advantage the Congressman enjoys by having his wife as his chief fund raiser.

The Chronicle does demonstrate Doolittle's ambivalent attitude toward the growth of casino gambling. Apparently, he is for it - when he's not voting against it.

"Abramoff, whose clients operated casinos, gave Doolittle, an opponent of casino gambling, use of his skybox at a Washington, D.C., arena for a fundraiser in February 1999. Doolittle has since paid Abramoff for the use but failed to report the in-kind contribution it represented until February of this year, after news reports about the fundraiser.

In 2002, Doolittle was one of 27 lawmakers who signed a letter urging the Bush administration to reject a proposed Louisiana casino opposed by Abramoff's casino-operating clients on the grounds that gambling is societal evil.

Two months later, Abramoff's Indian casino clients contributed $16,000 to Doolittle and an additional $15,000 by the end of the year. Abramoff's restaurant also catered a Doolittle campaign event."

Not a bad deal for Doolittle, he is "morally" opposed to gambling and one could have expected that he would vote "no" out of those personal convictions, but he got a nice $15,000 contribution from Abramoff's Indians for voting "no".

Back in 1994, when every Indian tribe in the country, and in California in particular, was looking for a way to jump on the Indian gaming bandwagon, Doolittle helped the 170 member United Auburn tribe get back it's federal recognition. The newly reorganized tribe then proceeded to build a gambling casino in Doolittle's district.

“In 1994, Doolittle carried legislation to re-establish federal recognition of the United Auburn Indian tribe, which is within his district.

Doolittle has said the tribe told him at the time it had no plans to build a casino, it wanted federal recognition only for various benefit programs.

The tribe now operates Thunder Valley, a 200,000-square-foot casino near Lincoln (Placer County). “

For it, against it. Let the money decide.

John Doolittle is starting to feel the heat from the Abramoff flame and, if Abramoff starts to sing, then Doolittle is likely to be burned.

Hat tip to Defeat Doolittle's Daily Kos note.

Who Are These Guys?

Someday soon the public might find out about Brent Wilkes (a.k.a. Co-conspirator #1) in the case of former Representative Randy "Duke" Cunningham. With Cunningham cooperating with federal investigators, it is only a matter of time before the details of Wilkes business spill out.

Wilkes' flagship company, ADCS Incorporate, appears to be a legitimate business enterprise. It is housed in an impressive building in a San Diego business park. ADCS routinely posted job openings on its website. In fact until a short time ago the ADCS website was what one would expect from a fully function technology oriented company. Today that website is a place holder, a single page with no links nor any business function.

Until the public disclosure of his involvement with the Cunningham scandal, Brent Wilkes appears to be a big time entrepreneur, spinning out new companies and technologies at a rapid pace. Today, it appears that most of the new companies Wilkes spun off are just storefronts. Billing addresses in search of government clients. Clients, no doubt generated by "earmarks" from Duke Cunningham and other powerful Republican members of Congress.

Much like Cunningham's other major benefactor, Mitchell Wade and his MZM Incorporated, Wilkes business was apparently trolling for government money and then building a business around that money. MZM and Wilkes' companies received government contracts, with little oversight and for which, to this day, there has been no accounting relative to the services provides and their use to the agencies that paid for those services.

Wilkes' lobbying arm, Group W Advisors, has some interesting connections and defines the essence of Wilkes' business almost as well as his up-coming federal indictment will.

"Brent R. Wilkes, President and Founder of Group W Advisors, has 20 years of experience on Capitol Hill as an advocate for companies in many diverse industries such as bio-tech, defense and intelligence...

Association and Advocacy Development- Mr. Wilkes has also succeeded in the creation and on-going management of an association of like-minded corporations with the goal of developing advocacies within the Federal Government. He has guided this association by creating an effective education platform for the purposes of gleaning congressional funding for pilot projects and multiple year plus-ups of existing appropriations.

This association, in 8 years, has been involved with appropriations totaling $120 million. Mr. Wilkes has key contacts and relationships in the House and Senate, the White House and all parts of the Executive Branch." (emphasis mine)

In essence, Wilkes created a string of companies whose purpose was to the "gleaning of congressional funding."

Over at Connonfire, Joseph Cannon has done an excellent job pulling together information regarding Wilkes and his "association of like-minded corporations."

In Part 1: Wilkes - the invisible empire, Cannon looks at several of Wilkes' "businesses" and reminds us that a website does not a company make.

"Remember the go-go days of the internet? Remember when a snazzy web page could make a tiny, under-financed company appear to be a massive conglomerate -- even when the firm conducted little actual business?

Update that scenario to the post-9/11 era, and you have the Wilkes corporation. Apparently, they did provide the military with document services -- which means, basically, that they scanned a lot of hard-copy pages that had been yellowing in file drawers. For example -- and this may be the only example -- ADCS worked on a project involving digitizing documents related to the building of the Panama Canal.

And Brent Wilkes' wife Regina had her own catering enterprise.

If you can discover anything else of practical value that the Wilkes family of firms actually did, let me know."

In Part 2: Deeper into the Wilkes /MZM scandals , Cannon looks at the means that Wilkes used to distribute money to his congressional allies.

"The truth: Wilkes was a mechanism by which public funds earmarked for national defense were funneled to G.O.P. candidates and causes."

Cannon looks at the strange history of Wilkes' company, Mirror Labs, which shares the same address as Wilkes' ADCS PAC, which funneled money to congressional Republicans.

"I believe that, for all practical purposes, there is no Mirror Labs, although a firm by that name may well have performed an actual service at one time. So where did the money go? When that nice fat check filled with taxpayer dollars was sent to 15092 Avenue of Science, who opened it? And what did they do with the money?

Here is the organization that really has -- or had -- offices at that address: ADCS PAC. That's where the money went."

Cannon goes on to highlight the efforts of California Representatives Duncan Hunter (CA-52) and Jerry Lewis (CA-41) in insuring the two way flow of money between the United States Treasury and their campaign coffers was secure.

"Did all these pols understand the ultimate source of the funds? Perhaps not. However, we know that Duncan Hunter -- chairman of the House Armed Services Committee -- was a big ADCS pusher...

And then there's Republican Appropriations Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis, who ordered continued funding of ADCS even after the DOD raised objections.

Obviously, Hunter and Lewis must go under the microscope. Even so, you're missing the point if you waste much time castigating the above-named politicians for receiving the money. What is significant is the device itself -- using "false fronts" to translate IRS-collected revenues into Republican campaign commercials."

Cannon finishes this second piece with an examination of the similar tactics used by Mitchell Wade at MZM to insure payments were made to the members of congress who insured funding to Wade's enterprise. There is no doubt that MZM operated in the same way as Wilkes' business.

From its inception, MZM was a shell company chasing after government business. Remember, MZM's first government contract was for furniture for the White House and then all of a sudden MZM is a prime government contractor in some kind of secure data management business. Doesn't that seem odd?

I guess it's not so odd, if you have the right contacts and you know how the procurement process works and you have the means to grease the right palms in congress, anything is possible.

Should we just wait for the indictments? Or, should we try to find out how many more Wilkes and Wades there are out there stealing our tax dollars. Clearly, no one in the Republican controlled congress is going to mount a real investigation.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Doolittle, Delay, Abramoff - Family Ties

As noted below, interest in California Congressman John Doolittle's ties to Jack Abramoff is beginning to shine the light on some very interesting fund raising practices and associations of the powerful Northern California (CA-4) representative.

One of the central issues under investigation is the relationship of the company owned by Congressman Doolittle's wife and several shady operations that fall under the Abramoff/Delay umbrella. Julie Doolittle is the president of Sierra Dominion Financial Solutions, a company that does fundraising for her husband's powerful Superior California Federal Leadership Fund, a political action committee (PAC).

The Sacramento Bee points out that the relationship between Mrs. Doolittle's business and her husband's fund raising has been highly beneficial to their joint income.

"A business operated by the wife of Rep. John Doolittle has pumped more than $136,000 into the family's finances over the last three years from commissions on fundraising for the Roseville Republican's federal political action committee.

Julie Doolittle's company has been paid commissions amounting to about 15 percent of the $905,000 the congressman's PAC has received in contributions over the last three years, a figure the congressman's office did not dispute. At that rate, more than $10,000 of her company's earnings would have come from a handful of large contributors linked to ongoing corruption investigations."

Sierra Dominion Financial Solutions' records were subpoenaed by the federal grand jury looking into Abramoff's dealings. Company officials will not disclose any of the company's other clients, but based on the grand jury activity, Julie Doolittle's business as a fund raiser for Abramoff's Capital Athletic Foundation is one of the areas of interest upon which prosecutors are focusing. The Washington Post detailed this connection last month.

"Abramoff's connections to Doolittle are also of interest to investigators, sources said. Doolittle's former chief of staff, Kevin A. Ring, went to work with Abramoff. Doolittle's wife, Julie, owned a consulting firm that was hired by Abramoff and his firm, Greenberg Traurig, to do fundraising for a charity he founded. Two sources close to the investigation said that Ring, while working for Abramoff, was an intermediary in the hiring of Julie Doolittle's firm, Sierra Dominion Financial Solutions Inc., which last year received a subpoena from the grand jury investigating Abramoff.

Julie Doolittle's attorney, William L. Stauffer Jr., said Sierra Dominion Financial was hired by Greenberg Traurig to provide "event planning, marketing and related services, as requested by Mr. Abramoff" for Abramoff's Capital Athletic Foundation and his Signatures restaurant. Sierra Dominion received a monthly retainer from Greenberg Traurig from January 2003 until February 2004, at a rate similar to that paid by other Sierra Dominion clients, Stauffer said.

Abramoff frequently used the athletic foundation as a pass-through organization to run lobbying efforts and to pay for expenses, records show."

Another of Julie Doolittle's clients has emerged as a result of the Abramoff investigations, the Korea-U.S. Exchange Council.

"... created by South Korean industrialist Kim Seung-youn for which Sierra Dominion provides bookkeeping services. In recent years, the group has flown nearly a dozen Democratic and Republican House members to South Korea, John Doolittle among them.

The council was set up with the help of former staffers to Tom DeLay, the Texas Republican who was then the House majority leader and for whom Doolittle has been a loyal lieutenant."

The Washington Post brought this all expenses paid Korean trip taken by Congressman Delay to light in March.

"Justice Department documents show that the Korea-U.S. Exchange Council, a business- financed entity created with help from a lobbying firm headed by DeLay's former chief of staff, registered under the Foreign Agents Registration Act on Aug. 22, 2001. DeLay; his wife, Christine; and two other Republican lawmakers departed on a trip financed by the group on Aug. 25 of that year.

...It spent at least $106,921 to finance the three-day trip in 2001 from Washington to Seoul by the Republicans, which DeLay (Tex.) and accompanying staff assistants described at the time as having an "educational" purpose."

So here is what the public record shows. A business run by Congressman John Doolittle's wife has three known clients:

1. Her husbands political action committee, for which her company provides fund raising services. Estimated take $136,000 in the last 3 years.

2. Fund raising and event planning for Jack Abramoff's money laundering Capital Athletic Foundation. Estimate take - unknown - paid on a retainer basis.

3. Bookkeeping services for a registered foreign agent, the Korea-U.S. Exchange Council, an organization designed by former Delay staffers and funded entirely by wealthy South Korean industrialist Kim Seung-youn.

It would be interesting to find out who the rest of Sierra Dominion Financial Solutions clients are? And, of equal importance would be the question of how much these clients enriched the family bank account of Congressman John Doolittle.

Doolittle May Have Done-A-Lot

Powerful California Congressman John Doolittle (CA-4) is finding himself under intense scrutiny in his own district for his ties to Republican rainmaker, Jack Abramoff and Duke Cunningham money man, Brent Wilkes.

The Auburn Journal takes a close look at Doolittle's connections and denials. The Journal points out that Doolittle's links with the growing circle of Republican scandals is finally starting to resonate in his eastern California district.

"Tied to the headline-grabbing Abramoff scandal, linked by his close association to embattled former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, and with funding for the political action committee he administers coming from co-conspirators in the "Duke" Cunningham political corruption case, Doolittle has become embroiled with dozens of other lawmakers in a series of developments that threaten to bring down the Republican House majority his party has held since the mid-1990s.

Thousands of miles away from the growing political storm clouds in Washington, D.C., Auburn-area residents are beginning to hear more about Doolittle's connections to a series of developments linking lobbyists and politicians. Doolittle has served as the District 4 congressman since 1991, rising to positions on the influential Appropriations Committee and as Republican conference secretary."

Doolittle's connections to Abramoff include what is a very familiar Abramoff tactic of hiring a congressman's staff members and spouses.

"The nation's leading newspapers, including the New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times have all weighed in, with the Post quoting unnamed sources close to the Abramoff investigation saying that "Abramoff's connections to Doolittle are also of interest" to investigators and prosecutors.

The Post report outlines the connections between the congressman and the lobbyist that the unnamed sources state are now under Justice Department scrutiny. Kevin Ring, Doolittle's chief of staff in the mid-1990s and now a lobbyist for the city of Lincoln, worked for Abramoff. Doolittle's wife, Julie, also worked for Abramoff and his firm raising funds for a charity the lobbyist had created.

"Two sources close to the investigation said that Ring, while working from Abramoff, was an intermediary in the hiring of Julie Doolittle's firm, Sierra Dominion Financial Solutions Inc., which last year received a subpoena from the grand jury investigating Abramoff," the Post reported."

Mrs. Doolittle's business is apparently a very successful PR and fund raising venture. It's major customer is Congressman Doolittle's very own Superior California Fed Leadership PAC. Mrs. Doolittle's company receives a piece of the action for every dollar she raises for her husband's political activities. Considering Doolittle's powerful position on the House Appropriation Committee, his PAC is of interest to those wishing to buy influence Washington.

"Doolittle Chief of Staff Richard Robinson defended Julie Doolittle and Sierra Dominion's fund-raising activities. Describing Julie Doolittle as "one of the most capable and hardest-working people I know," Robinson characterized Sierra Dominion as an effective small business owned by the congressman's wife that provides marketing, event planning, fundraising and related services to several clients, including her husband's Superior California Fed Leadership PAC.

"Consistent with other fund raisers, Sierra Dominion receives a commission on all funds it is directly involved in raising," Robinson said. "Through Julie Doolittle's highly skilled personal efforts as part of Sierra Dominion work, she has caused the congressman's leadership PAC to be increasingly successful in raising funds for the preservation of our Republican majority."

Let's see, former chief of staff - worked for Abramoff and now an independent lobbyist. Wife - worked for Abramoff and now gets paid from PAC funds for doing PR work for husband. Cozy relationships that appear to be profitable to all.

In fact, Julie Doolittle's business also profited from Cunningham C0-conspirator #1, Brent Wilkes' largess to her husband.

"Federal filings show Brent Wilkes and his wife, Regina Wilkes both contributing $5,000 to the Superior California fund on Feb. 10, 2004 - part of $46,000 in contributions that were made during the 2003-04 funding cycle by Wilkes and associates. A total of $496,941 in contributions to the fund was made from all sources during the two-year cycle.

During the same 2003-2004 election funding cycle, Sierra Dominion Financial Solutions received $74,939 in what are described in the filing as fundraising commissions. The total includes a payment of $4,500 received five days after the Wilkes' donations. Over the 24-month filing period, Julie Doolittle would receive eight payments of $4,200 or more, plus several smaller payments."

What a convenient and effective way for big buck contributor's such as Wilkes to give money directly to a congressman. If Duke Cunningham has used this sort of this money laundering scheme he would still be in Congress.

So far the Republican congress of corruption has three solid members on the House Appropriations Committee:

Jerry Lewis (CA-41) Chairman UNIDICTED
John Doolittle (CA-4) Member UNIDICTED
Randy Cunningham (CA-50) Member INDICTED AND CONVICTED

One down, two to go.

Yoo Hoo.... It's the Constitution, Stupid!

The Washington Post has an extensive profile of the right wing's favorite lawyer, John Yoo.

Yoo, whose appeal to right wing idealogues and proto-facists, is undismayed that his pro-torture, screw the Constitution, the President is God, approach to the law would create so much controversy. One doesn't have to look far into Yoo's past to find where this fatal flaw in his character developed.

"Coming of age in an anti-communist household, Yoo said, he associated strong opposition to communist rule with the Republican Party and was himself "attracted to Reagan's message." What he liked most in conservatism was "the grounding in reason and reasonableness."

How many real, honest conservations has Ronald Reagan destroyed?

firedoglake takes Yoo to task for his failings as a real lawyer.

"Unfortunately for Mr. Yoo, he fails on multiple counts. Not the least of which because he failed to follow the cardinal rule of lawyering: present all sides of the issue, not just the ones your client wants to hear -- because it is the bad news that can be the most important thing in decision-making in any enterprise."


You do not adequately serve your client by telling him only those things he wants to hear. Period. The most important function you can have as an attorney is to tell your client all the things he does not want to hear -- for the sole reason that he must hear them in order to make a fully informed decision. To do less is to fail at your job.

Another cardinal sin is to believe that your argument is the only right one. One of the first things you learn as a litigator is that there is always another side. Always, always, always. And you must give due consideration to every side of an issue to adequately do your job. A true believer makes for an emotional argument, but not for a clear-headed, well-reasoned, intellectual argument in most cases."


"It is the President who makes the key decisions, and who is responsible for the ramifications of them. But John Yoo, who grew up in a rabidly anti-Communist household with parents who escaped Korea when he was but a baby should have known better.

Totalitarian government, in whatever guise, is not a friend of liberty. Just because what you are saying makes the Preznit happy because he gets to do what he wants, it doesn't mean it's good for him. Or the rest of the country, for that matter. Shame on Yoo, and every other enabler and excuse-maker for these actions."

It appears that the most effective way to curry favor with President Bush is to only tell him what he wants to hear. John Yoo, certainly did a good job at that.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

We Are All Seekers

"And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord."

Luke 2: 1-11

The Government As Enemy

For most of my life I have considered the argument that the 2nd Amendment "right to keep and bear arms" provision was to provide us protection against our own government to be libertarian paranoia. What a fool I have been. Now that President Bush has trashed the 4th Amendment, I can see that the provisions of the 2nd and all the rest might soon follow.

The New York Times details the vast scope of President Bush's spying on Americans in complete and utter violation of the provisions of the 4th Amendment (sidebar at the right).

"The National Security Agency has traced and analyzed large volumes of telephone and Internet communications flowing into and out of the United States as part of the eavesdropping program that President Bush approved after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to hunt for evidence of terrorist activity, according to current and former government officials.

The volume of information harvested from telecommunication data and voice networks, without court-approved warrants, is much larger than the White House has acknowledged, the officials said. It was collected by tapping directly into some of the American telecommunication system's main arteries, they said."

America's major telecommunications companies made their networks available to the government spying without complaint and, illegally, in the absence of any government warrent or evidence of probably cause. Americans might want to think about a class action lawsuit against those companies for their illegal activities.

"As part of the program approved by President Bush for domestic surveillance without warrants, the N.S.A. has gained the cooperation of American telecommunications companies to obtain backdoor access to streams of domestic and international communications, the officials said...

What has not been publicly acknowledged is that N.S.A. technicians, besides actually eavesdropping on specific conversations, have combed through large volumes of phone and Internet traffic in search of patterns that might point to terrorism suspects. Some officials describe the program as a large data-mining operation."

I don't think 19 extremists could destroy the Constitution in just five years unless they had a group of willing accomplices in positions of power in the United States government, the media and corporations.

Friday, December 23, 2005

TPM Picks Up Lewis Story

Hopefully, TPM will turn its investigative powers onto Representative Jerry Lewis (CA-41) and help bring another member of the Republican congress of corruption to light. Maybe Copley's Jerry Kammer will follow in the footsteps of Marcus Stern and completely turn over the rock under which Lewis has been hiding. His story in today's Union Tribune is a start.

Words Have Power has been looking at Lewis' pay-to-play involvement since this report on his association with Cunningham's pal Brent Wilkes came to light. And, of course, our summary of the UT article here.

Republican don't think Americans care about their corruption.

Jerry Lewis - Another Congressman for Sale

Representative Jerry Lewis' (CA-41) close ties to big buck lobbyists and the expanding Republican earmarking scandal are highlighted in an article appearing at the top of today's San Diego Union Tribune. Copley New Services Jerry Kammer shows the close linkage between Lewis and San Diego congressman turned lobbyist, Bill Lowery.

"From powerful positions on the House Appropriations Committee, California Rep. Jerry Lewis has greenlighted hundreds of millions of dollars in federal projects for clients of one of his closest friends, lobbyist and former state Congressman Bill Lowery.

Meanwhile, Lowery, the partners at his firm and their clients have donated 37 percent of the $1.3 million that Lewis' political action committee received in the past six years."

If former and indicted San Diego Congressman Randy Cunningham was the "Duke" of earmarking as a process to insure his benefactors receive big buck government contracts, then Lewis must certainly be the "King" of earmarking.

"Beyond their close friendship, the essential ingredient in the Lewis-Lowery relationship is earmarking, the congressional practice in which special projects, sometimes derided as "pork," are slipped quietly into the federal budget without public review. Some earmarks are added just before final votes on appropriations bills, so they receive no scrutiny or analysis.

Earmarks have more than tripled in the past seven years. In 1998, Congress approved 2,000 earmarks, worth $10.6 billion. Last year it passed 15,584 earmarks, worth $32.7 billion.

As the number of earmarks has grown, so has the number of lobbyists, some of whom specialize in appropriations lobbying. The nation's capital has nearly 35,000 registered lobbyists, more than twice as many as it had five years ago. They now outnumber the 535 members of the House and Senate 65-to-1."

Lowery's lobbying firm also represented the company of one of Brent Wilkes, Co-conspirator #1, in Cunningham's bribery case.

"Earmarking has drawn scrutiny since Cunningham pleaded guilty to taking bribes from two defense contractors – including Lowery client Brent Wilkes of Poway-based ADCS Inc. – who received earmarks with Cunningham's support.

Between 1998 and 2002, Wilkes paid Lowery's firm about $200,000 to lobby for his company's defense projects."

Lowery has another link to Cunningham. Cunningham took Lowery's congressional seat away from him in 1992 when redistricting moved Lowery from the 42nd to the 50th district. Had Lowery not been force to face Cunningham, he might still be in Congress despite his heavy involvement in the House Banking Scandal and his close ties to savings and loan robber, Don Dixon.

"Lowery was identified as one of the worst offenders in a group of lawmakers who flagrantly wrote bad checks and expected the House bank to cover them. The "Rubbergate" scandal came just two years after he nearly lost re-election because of his cozy relationship with the fast-living financier Don Dixon, who plundered a Texas savings and loan and stuck taxpayers with a $1.3 billion tab.

Before Dixon was indicted, Lowery rode on Dixon's corporate jet and hosted parties on Dixon's yacht. Dixon held a Christmas fundraiser for Lowery at Dixon's Del Mar beach home, with miniature Christmas trees floating in the pool.

When "Rubbergate" erupted, Lowery was running against freshman Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham in the Republican primary for the newly created 51st District. Cunningham set out to make the race a referendum on character, touting himself as "A Congressman We Can Be Proud Of."

So, a quick recap, one of Jerry Lewis' best friends is a lobbyist who Duke Cunningham bested in a contest based on character.

Moving on.... Bill Lowery's lobbying operation has remarkably close ties to Representative Lewis' office. Staffers mover back and forth between Lowery's company and Lewis' office. Representative Lewis oversaw an "explosion" of earmarking.

"Many of the earmarks went to clients of Lowery's firm, which grew even more prosperous when Lewis' principal defense-earmarks gatekeeper, Letitia White, joined the firm in 2003. White declined to be interviewed other than to say she chose the Lowery firm from among "five excellent offers."

Lowery had worked with White when she was on Lewis' staff, treating her to occasional meals and gifts of her favorite wine, Veuve Clicquot champagne. She often received him and his clients at her office, where they discussed the clients' earmark proposals.

At the firm, White quickly acquired a client roster of two dozen defense firms for which she seeks earmarks and other special treatment. In 2004 she brought in $1.44 million in lobbying fees.

White's husband, a former tobacco industry lobbyist, had switched to defense lobbying by that time. He began lobbying for earmarks after Lewis took charge of the defense appropriations subcommittee."

And, when staffers move back from Lowery's firm to the lower pay of Lewis' staff, their wives take over their clients and work out of Lowery's offices.

"When Jeffrey Shockey, 39, left Lowery's firm in January to return to work for Lewis, he accepted a salary of just under $160,000.

Although that puts him among the best-paid congressional employees, it's a big comedown from the $1 million or so he likely was earning as a prolific "rainmaker" for Copeland Lowery Jacquez Denton & White.

But the firm helped cushion the income drop by hiring Shockey's wife, Alexandra, as a subcontractor.

Alexandra Shockey, also a former Lewis employee, has her own lobbying venture, called Hillscape Associates. But Hillscape's address on federal disclosure forms is identical to that of the Lowery firm, where she keeps her office."

The Republican congress of corruption. 35,000 lobbyists all working to ensure that corrupt members of congress quietly and surreptitiously fill their campaign and personal coffers with mostly legal bribes for services rendered.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Bush's Same Old Song

Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi gives us the backstage story on what he calls President Bush's "Magical Victory Tour." This is more than good stuff, it is priceless.

"There are no T-shirts for this concert tour, but if there were, the venue list on the back would make for one of the weirder souvenirs in rock & roll history. U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, November 30th, no advance publicity, closed audience: check. Here at the Omni, December 7th, again no advance warning, handpicked audience, ten reporters max (no one else knew about it), with even the cashiers in the hotel's coffee shop unaware of the president's presence: check. Dates three and four, venues and dates unknown for security reasons: check and check.

This is how President Bush takes his message to the people these days: in furtive sneak-attack addresses to closed audiences of elite friendlies at weird early-morning hours. If you want to catch Bush's act in person during this tour, you have to stalk him for days and keep both ears open for last-minute changes of plan; I actually missed the Annapolis speech when I made the mistake of briefly taking my eye off him the day before."

Only friendly audiences. Limited reporters. No questions. Sound bites for television. It seem more like PR than policy. Oh wait, it is PR.

"In the Obey Your Thirst/Image Is Everything era of American politics, Bush's National Victory campaign is a creepy innovation. It features the president thumping a document -- the "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq" -- that was largely written not by diplomats or generals but by a pair of academics from Duke University named Peter Feaver and Christopher Gelpi. Essentially a PR document, the paper is basically a living political experiment, designed to prove that Americans will more readily accept military casualties if the word "victory" is repeated a great many times in public.

"This is not really a strategy document from the Pentagon about fighting the insurgency," Gelpi told The New York Times. "The document is clearly targeted at American public opinion."

Taking his PR document in hand, who makes the grade and is allowed to hear first hand the National Victory Strategy? When Bush cracked open the plan at the Council on Foreign Relations, the audience included lots of ordinary rich right wing military industrial complex Republican fat cats.

"The Council on Foreign Relations was good enough to pass out a list of the expected attendees at the speech. Here are some of the names that one could find in Bush's audience: Frank Finelli, the Carlyle Group; Adam Fromm, Office of Rep. Dennis Hastert; Robert W. Haines, Exxon Mobil Corp.; Paul W. Butler, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer and Feld LLP; Robert Bremer, Lockheed Martin Corp.; Scott Sendek, Eli Lilly and Co.; James H. Lambright, Export-Import Bank of the United States.

The point is obvious; Bush's audience was like a guest list for a Monster's Ball of the military-industrial establishment. And even in this crowd full of corporate lawyers, investment bankers, weapons makers, ex-spooks and, for Christ's sake, lobbyists, the president of the United States couldn't cook up more than two tepid applause lines for his Iraq policy -- and one of those was because he was finishing up and, one guesses, freeing the audience to go call their brokers."

There lots more insight into the way the Bush Administration works in this excellent piece, including how the National Victory campaign is playing in the White House pressroom. One final excerpt and then go read it yourself.

"I'd been following the national tour for more than a week. If the reception at the Omni was stale, that was nothing compared to how it was going over in the White House briefing room. On the day before the Omni speech, I actually worried that gopher-faced administration spokescreature Scott McClellan might be physically attacked by reporters, who appeared ready to give official notice of having had Enough of This Bullshit.

In fact the room at one point seemed on the verge of a Blazing Saddles-style chair-throwing brawl when McClellan refused to answer the cheeky question of why, if we weren't planning on torturing war-on-terror detainees in foreign prisons, we couldn't just bring them back to be incarcerated in the United States."

If only this were a rock tour and not the government of the most powerful nation on the planet.

Impeachment is our only hope.

Big hat tip to Down With Tyranny.