They've got muck; we've got rakes. TPM Muckraker

If you're wondering how Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) is holding up under the pressure of a federal investigation into his dealings with Jack Abramoff -- and the media scrutiny it has invited -- I think we have an answer: Not well.

Paul Krawzak is a DC reporter for the Copley newspaper chain, which has a number of papers in Ohio. Krawzak has been covering the Safavian trial, which is where I met him. Apparently, his reporting -- particularly about the details of Ney's time in Scotland with Abramoff -- got under the troubled lawmaker's skin, according to a piece written by Krawzak's boss, George E. Condon Jr., Copley's D.C. bureau chief. So much so, in fact, that Ney sent Krawzak angry emails, and dared him to print them.

Thankfully, Copley took Ney up on the challenge:

“Let me tell you paul-last week you did not call us for comment ‘you were under deadline,’” began Ney, who then reflected his belief that his critics just keep recycling the same story about the golf trip. “Print the same story-change it to reprint the same story-people in new philly – d’s and r’s call it ‘elk’s politics.’”

He concluded his message with “Go for it – harass my wife and daughter a little bit more big man – maybe I will take out an add talking about your ethics.” The reference to his wife and daughter reflected his continuing anger that earlier this year another Copley News Service reporter, based in Ohio, interviewed his neighbors and knocked on his door seeking comment from his wife.

Lest there be any doubt about either his anger or his desire to vent that anger, the congressman sent a separate note from his Blackberry later in the day. “Please-please-print this paul-you don’t care about ohio-i am sick of your crap. You are a d c person who couldn’t find ohio unless we gave you a map. You don’t give two shoots about our people.”

(Ney's poor capitalization is not a sign of instability, but more likely due to his using a BlackBerry, according to Copley.)

Now, this raises some interesting questions. For instance, how does Ney think the people of Ohio benefited from him inserting glowing testimony into the Congressional Record about the shady Abramoff-linked gambling outfit, SunCruz Casinos? How did he think they would benefit from relaxing sanctions against Iran, which he pushed former Secretary of State Colin Powell to do at the behest of a convicted felon? And how did Ohioans benefit from his efforts to force the reopening of an indian tribal casino in Texas after the tribe -- an Abramoff client, natch -- gave him $32,000?

Dems File Suit to Force DeLay's Name to Stay on TX Ballot Texas Democrats are pushing to keep Tom DeLay's name on the Texas ballot in November. DeLay stayed in the race through the GOP primary, winning that contest before withdrawing from the race. The tactic was meant to ensure that the GOP could hand-pick his successor, but now Dems argue that he should be forced to finish what he started -- even if he has already resigned his seat in Congress and announced he has no intention of serving again. The movement picked up a small win yesterday, when a judge issued a temporary restraining order on the process that would have officially removed DeLay's name from the ballot. (AP)

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About Tom DeLay's hymn to partisanship, I don't have anything more to add beyond this.

But I do recommend that you give DeLay's going away speech a read. It's the last going away speech we'll ever have from Tom DeLay.

You've always gotta keep an eye on the spouses.

We've spilled some ink in the past couple days on Letitia White, Rep. Jerry Lewis's (R-CA) "gatekeeper" at the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee before she moved over to Bill Lowery's lobby shop. Every indication is that she's at the center of the FBI's investigation of Lewis and Lowery.

Here's another thing that may grab investigators' interest. Shortly after Lewis rose to be the chairman of that subcommitee, Letitia White's husband, up until that point a tobacco industry lobbyist, made a curious professional decision: he began lobbying on defense spending issues.

Richard White was a tobacco man until 2000. In 1998, he worked as a lobbyist for the Tobacco Institute. And in 1999, he opened his own lobbying firm, Richard White Public Affairs Consulting, with a single client: Brown and Williamson Tobacco. The company paid him $50,000 for the work. Then, as now, White ran his consulting firm out of the White's home in Fort Washington, Maryland, a Washington suburb.

But in 2000, one year after Jerry Lewis became chair of the defense appropriations subcommittee (taking Letitia White along with him), Richard White registered to lobby for "defense spending items" on behalf of a lobbyist. It's not clear which of the lobbyist's clients White was working for.

That arrangement continued for the next few years, White receiving between $20,000 and $45,000 annually from the firm, called R.C. Whitner & Associates. From 2000 to 2005, White received $205,000 from the group.

But in 2003, something changed. Richard White began picking up defense contractors as clients - without going through Whitner. That was the same year that his wife Letitia left Lewis to join Lowery's lobbying firm.

Also that year, he signed up Tessera Technologies as a client for an impressive $80,000 annual fee. A couple months earlier, Letitia White was hired by a contractor called Isothermal Systems Research. Why is that significant? It was a sterling example of matrimonial synergy for the two lobbyists. According to The San Diego Union-Tribune, Isothermal and Tessera were partnering on a defense project that received $4.5 million in earmarks over 2003 and 2004. The Whites were essentially lobbying for the same earmark.

Richard White's client list has continued to grow - last year, he pulled in $280,000 from six clients, all defense contractors. Not bad for a guy working from home.

The folks at National Journal noticed a strange pattern in the news coming out of the investigation into House Approps chief Jerry Lewis (R-CA) and the Copeland Lowery lobbying firm: so far, six towns and counties and one university have been identified as having hired Copeland Lowery to lobby Lewis for them.

And they're all located in Lewis' district.

Isn't Jerry Lewis in Congress for the very purpose of representing the interests of those towns and counties? Regardless, the seven have paid to Copeland Lowery (headed by longtime Lewis pal Bill Lowery) over $4 million in fees, the National Journal finds. And they were represented by Jeff Shockey, a longtime Lewis aide and confidante, and a native of that very district. In return, they've been helped to nice slices of the taxpayers' pie.

Is that really how the system is supposed to work?

Update: According to a new BusinessWeek article, the practice is more widespread than I expected. The magazine found 800 state and local governments or government organizations which had a private lobbyist in Washington, D.C. However, the piece doesn't identify any other lawmakers who have as exclusive and brazen a setup as Lewis has with Copeland Lowery.

During the early months of the FBI's Valerie Plame leak probe, former Attorney General John Ashcroft kept close tabs on what investigators knew and believed about White House staff, before finally recusing himself and allowing the appointment of a special counsel, reports National Journal's Murray Waas today.

For at least the last four weeks of that period -- and possibly longer -- Ashcroft knew the FBI suspected senior White House aides Scooter Libby and Karl Rove were being dishonest about their roles in the affair. Rove had previously worked for Ashcroft on his Senate and gubernatorial campaigns. As well, Ashcroft was a political appointee who owed his position to the White House. Despite those obvious conflicts of interest, Ashcroft remained as the Justice Department's top overseer of the investigation until the end of 2003.

Yesterday, the General Counsel for the House of Representatives weighed in on the FBI's raid of Rep. William Jefferson's (D-LA) congressional office, filing an amicus brief on behalf of Jefferson.

The search, according to the House, was both "unconstitutional and unnecessary."

You can add that to Jefferson's lawyer's argument that the search was "an affront to the Constitutional separation of powers and a violation of the absolute privilege and immunity that Members of Congress enjoy under the Speech or Debate clause."

The Justice Department, for its part, argues that the issue is simple: as the Supreme Court has decided before, Members of Congress aren't above the law.

And in response to the House's brief yesterday, which argues that lawyers from the House should have been warned of the search, a Justice Department official told The Washington Post "that the suggestion that 'a target of a criminal investigation be informed before a search takes place is a nonstarter. That clearly places a congressman above the law.'"

We've posted all the briefs in our document collection. All TPMm separation-of-powers junkies are encouraged to give the briefs a read.

Chief U.S. District Judge Thomas F. Hogan will hear arguments on this June 16.

Meanwhile, the question is being pursued on two other fronts: the Justice Department is negotiating directly with the House about search procedures in the future, and Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) is pressing forward with his "Reckless Justice" Hearings, during which he has discussed the possibility of legislating the problem away.

Wanna smell something fishy?

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) -- one of the five lawmakers known to be under investigation as part of the Cunningham scandal -- is forcing the Pentagon to spend nearly $26 million on a giant killer catamaran, "despite strong objections from the Navy," reports CongressDaily this morning.

That gets us to the water's edge -- but here's the stinking fish smell, courtesy of POGO: The boat is made by Titan Corp., who uses as a lobbyist Letitia White, the former staffer for Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA) who now works at the Copeland Lowery lobby firm. (White, Lewis, and the firm are all under scrutiny as part of the Cunningham investigation.)

Hunter has also pushed the Navy to buy $27 million worth of Titan missiles which don't fly right, POGO says. I wonder if the feds are looking into this one?

Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) tells U.S. News and World Report that ain't no stinkin' indictment gonna keep him down.

Phew. For a second there, I thought Ney was wavering.

Back in January, he told The Hill the same thing:

“I’m running -- if I’m indicted, I’m running.”

But then he softpedaled that answer during an interview on Fox News shortly after his chief of staff, Neil Volz, implicated him in his guilty plea:

Q: If there's an indictment before election day, will you continue forward with your campaign?

Ney: Well, I am not going to comment on hypotheticals. I don't believe I will be indicted.

But now he's back!:

"I don't normally comment on hypotheticals," he says, "but I'm in this race till the end."

I wonder if there's any reason that he's willing to entertain hypotheticals again?

James Tobin, the high-level Republican operative convicted for his role in the New Hampshire phone jamming, may soon be heading off to jail, but the case lives on.

New Hampshire Democrats want to talk to the higher level Republicans Tobin reported to (like Tobin's contact at the White House, Alicia Davis), and so they've filed a motion in their ongoing civil suit against Republicans for the jamming to do just that.