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

Move along people, nothing to see here! Move along now.

By some strange coincidence, Robert Novak had the following item in his column today:

Disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff has advised friends that he has no derogatory information about former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and is not implicating him as part of his plea bargain with federal prosecutors.

Funny. Seems like there was plenty of derogatory information in that story today in the Post.

Today's Washington Post story on the U.S. Family Network adds crucial details about how Ed Buckham, Jack Abramoff and Tom DeLay worked their money wheel. Go read - but first, keep this in mind.

Ed Buckham, who founded and controlled the U.S. Family Network, was DeLay's chief of staff. He left at the beginning of 1998 to run his own lobbying firm, Alexander Strategy Group - but even then he was widely known to be at DeLay's right hand. He was serving essentially the same function; he'd just privatized his role.

Buckham's business model at Alexander Strategy Group was simple - he provided access to DeLay, something that companies would pay a lot for. And what we've learned is that Jack Abramoff was the first customer in line; in fact, for quite awhile, he was the only customer. It's key to keep that in mind as the Abramoff scandal unfolds: Alexander Strategy really started up as an extension of Abramoff's machine.

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I've been trying to keep up this week with Tom DeLay's various schemes and the details of Gov. Rick Perry's sweet lobbying deal, but it seems like Texas Republicans are always going to be one long step ahead of me. News of further ingenuity from the San Antonio Express News:

Exactly how much did a major political donor give a state official as a gift? According to the Texas Ethics Commission, the public doesn't have a right to know.

State law requires officials to file personal financial disclosure statements including a description of gifts they get in excess of $250.

But the commission, in a case involving a check received by a prominent Republican and trustee of the Employees Retirement System of Texas, has found that describing such a gift simply as "check" is enough. No amount is necessary.

That means the gift could be $251 or any amount over that - whether it's $1,000 or $1 million - in a decision one lawmaker called an "Alice in Wonderland" interpretation.

Genius! Let's see if the trend catches on.

A judge has approved subpoenas to force Jack Abramoff and his business partner, Adam Kidan, to testify in the trial of the man accused of killing Gus Boulis.

Abramoff and Kidan bought the SunCruz casino business from Boulis months before he was gunned down in a mob-style hit. The duo have insisted they know nothing about the murder. But as Josh points out, the federal prosecutor isn't so sure.

I believe it was Emerson who once wrote that a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.

Rep. Katherine Harris (R-FL), running for Senate in her state, knows no such hobgoblins. The Recount Queen has managed to flip-flop on her biggest campaign promise to date, which she made less than two weeks ago.

On the March 15 edition of Fox News' Hannity and Colmes, Harris told the world she planned to spend $10 million she received from her father's death on her campaign.

On March 21, she told the world on ABC's Nightline that she planned to sell all of her assets to put towards her campaign.

Due largely to her repeating the phrase, "I'm putting everything on the line," folks assumed she meant she was adding that cash to the inheritance money she'd already pledged to spend. In other words, we understood she was actually putting "everything" on the line.

But now her campaign says she's not spending her inheritance, only her liquidated assets, which Harris says also total $10 million.

Money quote: "I think I'm being pretty clear," her campaign spokeswoman Morgan Dobbs told the Orlando Sentinel.

(Thanks to reader EB for the tip.)

Knight-Ridder last night published new details about Mitchell Wade's "Iranian Democratization Foundation," a non-profit he founded in 2004 that we first reported.

The group appears to have been a failed attempt to cadge U.S. funds for democracy-building. (I shudder to imagine what Wade's lessons on democracy would cover.)

Wade, admitted briber of jailed former lawmaker Randy "Duke" Cunningham, formed the group with two pals. Behrooz Behbudi, a Canadian resident, was a big-money GOP donor and a former friend of the late shah of Iran. Sonny Lee, a New York real estate developer, also donated heavily to the Repubs.

From what the Knight-Ridder fellows found, the project never got off the ground. As Lee told the reporters, the project was stopped "after the government told us they would take care of that themselves." No record of funds to the group could be found.

For more insight and analysis, check out Josh's post on the topic.

Yesterday, Josh pointed out that the business model for Neil Bush's education company Ignite! seems to be that "Neil goes around the world finding international statesmen, bigwigs and criminals who want to 'invest' in Ignite! as a way to curry favor with the brother in the White House."

But just who are those statesmen, bigwigs and criminals?

The company declines to name private investors, but documents filed with the SEC show that it raised $7.1 million from 53 investors. There are a number of unnamed investors from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and the British Virgin Islands.

Here are the ones we do know about. It's quite an international grab bag:

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The case against Tom DeLay just got stronger.

Back in December, the Washington Post dropped a bomb on the now-deposed Majority Leader with their article on the U.S. Family Network, an organization that posed as a grassroots outfit, but was really a slush fund pumped full of cash by Jack Abramoff clients trying to curry favor and buy favors from DeLay. Well, a new piece from the National Journal (unfortunately, not online) adds some crucial details to the story and provides much more concrete evidence that DeLay was bought.

First, here's what we knew from the Post's story from December.

Ed Buckham founded the U.S. Family Network in 1996 while still serving as DeLay's chief of staff. By 1997, Abramoff's clients, the Northern Marianas and the Mississippi Choctaw Indians, were dumping buckets of money into it. The biggest payoff was the $1 million from two executives of Naftasib, a Russian energy giant. Buckham actually admitted to the U.S. Family Network's director that the money was paid to influence DeLay's vote on an IMF loan for Russia.

Peter Stone's new piece in the National Journal reveals another bundle of money from the Russians and what they got for it. Stone reports that the Russian energy execs invested $299,975 in DeLay back in 1997, before they really took the plunge later with the $1 million. $250,000 of that came (as a reward or a bribe, I'll let you decide) just two weeks before DeLay flew to Moscow with Abramoff to see the sights with Abramoff's Russian clients.

I'll let Stone tell it from there:

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A former Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee staffer is expected to plead guilty to illegally obtaining the credit report of MD Senate GOP candidate Michael Steele.

With the plea, Lauren Weiner's expected to avoid hard time in the pokey, but that doesn't mean her trouble's run its course -- Steele's threatening to sue her personally for damages.

Here's a TV show worth canceling your weekly Friday Night Pancakes-n-Beer Extravaganza: Tonight, PBS' NOW is going to try to explain -- at least partially -- what goes on at the obscure Pentagon office called Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA).

It's surprising that for all the heat focused on the place, it hasn't faced much light until now: after all, CIFA awarded contracts to Mitchell Wade, who bribed congressman-turned-inmate Randy "Duke" Cunningham. In December we learned CIFA has maintained a database on anti-administration protesters within the United States, infuriating civil libertarians. And questions linger about how the product of the NSA's domestic surveillance program may have fed into CIFA.

CIFA Director David Burtt will be on the show -- I'm eager to hear what he's got to say -- as well as Bill Arkin, a Washington Post blogger (one of the good ones!) who broke the story of CIFA's domestic spying. Check it out - PBS NOW at 9 p.m.

Update: Reader BW notes that PBS affiliates air the show at different times, so be sure to check your local listings.