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

As Michael Crowley points out over at TNR, Rep. Bob Ney's (R-OH) spokesman Brian Walsh is sticking to his line that Ney's junket to Scotland with Jack Abramoff wasn't about golf. No. In fact, golf is a mild form of torture to him:

“For anyone who actually knows Bob Ney, the idea that golfing in Scotland is his idea of a great time is absolutely absurd. For some people the idea of playing a round at the Old Course might be a dream come true, but for the Congressman it’s up there with an all-night conference committee meeting on an arcane tax issue.”


So why was Ney dragged all the way over to Europe for golf, golf, golf!?



We've heard a couple explanations before - the most recent being that Ney thought he was there to fundraise for children. Before that, it was to meet with the Scottish Parliament, which was, unfortunately, not in session.

But whatever the purpose of the week long golf-filled journey, it most certainly was not golf.

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There were few surprises in the Safavian trial today, where David Safavian himself resumed his seat on the witness stand to answer questions from the prosecution.

Safavian conceded to Justice prosecutor Peter Zeidenberg that he most likely didn't believe he had the qualifications to be chief of staff at the Government Services Administration, the position he held when he had the dealings with Jack Abramoff he is accused of covering up.

"Did you think you were qualified for the job?" Zeidenberg asked.

"Probably not, actually," Safavian said.

"Are you intelligent enough to do the job?" Zeidenberg followed up.

Safavian gave an extensive pause. "I suppose so."

Perhaps it's false modesty. It's more likely he believes that, as one observer noted during a break, "he's got a choice -- he can appear criminal, or he can appear stupid," and looking stupid might be humiliating, but it beats prison.

For instance, he refused to take Zeidenberg up on repeated challenges to guess the cost of a commerical flight to Europe. "You have no conception of what a flight to Europe might cost?" Zeidenberg asked. Safavian insisted no, he didn't. "Could it be $1000, or $10,000, or $100?" Zeidenberg asked. Were those, to Safavian, all equally possible prices for a trip to Europe? Safavian said he just didn't know. When he finds a $100 ticket to Paris, I hope he'll let the rest of us know.

Thus, his challenge is to convince the jury that he is naive enough that he truly never questioned the low $3100 price of his luxurious 7-day Abramoff-arranged trip to Scotland and England; that he never thought to carefully read the ethics decisions he falsely represented as exonerating him of wrongdoing; and he innocently failed to tell investigators crucial details that would have exposed his favors for Jack Abramoff, or the true extent of Jack's favors.

The questioning will resume shortly. More later.

Even I'm surprised by this.

The Center for Public Integrity, along with American Public Media and Northwestern University's Medill News Service, has just released the results of their massive study on Congressional travel since the beginning of 2000. The grand total is $50 million spent by non-profits and private interests flying around Members and staffers on 23,000 trips.

That's an impressive number. But more impressive to me is their finding that at least 90 of those trips, valued at about $145,000, "were sponsored or co-sponsored by firms registered to lobby the federal government." That's just flat out against the rules - lobbyists aren't allowed to cover travel. But in every case the trip was approved. People just didn't care what the rules are.

Many lobbyists at least take the trouble to have a sham non-profit sponsor the travel - as was the case with Jack Abramoff. But apparently it's been such a lobbyist-friendly environment that some lobbyists don't even bother.

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If the snickers in the gallery during David Safavian's cross examination were any indication, things aren't looking too good for him. But he's still on the stand right now, and who knows? Maybe his lawyer will be able to put the pieces back together when she questions him again on re-direct.

Justin will be back later in the day to report how she did.

Almost immediately after the Homeland Security Department announced its grant awards to major cities, condemnations were launched. What appeared to be deep cuts in funding for New York City and Washington, D.C. were decried by lawmakers and pundits as incompetence and worse (my favorite: Buzzflash said it was "raw, oozing evil"). Some have called for the resignation of Tracy Henke, the DHS official who oversees the grant program; some have even called for DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff to step down.

Let's take a deep breath.

I'm hardly a loyalist and defender of the Homeland Security Department. But in this case I think they may be the dog that's whipped when it's the owner who deserves the punishment. In fact, the future may show DHS is -- gasp -- forward-thinking.

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Roll Call: Lewis Probe Heating Up The investigation into dealings involving House Appropriations Chairman Jerry Lewis (R-CA) appears to be picking up steam. At least four clients of Copeland Lowery Jacquez and Denton -- a lobby firm with notoriously close ties to Lewis -- are confirmed to have received subpoenas. Feds are looking at the ties between Lewis and Copeland Lowery. "Copeland Lowery’s clients, many of which are in Lewis’ own district, are heavy donors to the California Republican," Roll Call explains, "and they have received tens of millions of dollars in federal earmarks thanks to Lewis’ clout."

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The Washington Post goes front page Monday morning with a new story on William Jefferson (D-LA). There's nothing new here, no - except that reporters Jonathan Weisman and Allan Lengel would like to announce to the world that they've finally got their mind around the Jefferson case.

Everybody knows why Jefferson's in trouble (and about the $90,000 in the freezer). But over the past couple months, I've read a number of different attempts by journalists to explain the facts, and usually my head is spinning by the third paragraph.

Here's why: the case involves several deals "involving at least seven business entities, nearly a dozen family members [his wife, two brothers, five daughters and two sons-in-law] and hundreds of thousands of dollars sloshing through bank accounts."

Well, the Post does the best job I've seen so far this morning. So if you're curious about what the case is against Jefferson, give it a read.

More details on the Lewis investigation.

Last week, Justin reported on Rep. Jerry Lewis's (R-CA) top aide at the House Appropriations Committee, Letitia White. The FBI's investigation of Lewis is reportedly revolving around Lewis' very close ties to lobbyist Bill Lowery, and Letitia White was one of a few aides who moved from Lewis's office to Lowery's. As Justin pointed out, she was flown to Italy for a 10-day all-expenses-paid trip by a defense contractor while with Lewis; a couple months thereafter, she left the Hill and registered to lobby for the company with Lowery's firm.

White was about as powerful as an aide can be on Capitol Hill. And investigators are interested. As we noted yesterday, the FBI recently subpoenaed San Bernadino County, a client of Lowery's firm. White was one of their lobbyists.

And The New York Times reports that "prosecutors are looking into" White's ties to Lewis and Lowery.

According to the Times, White had a real hold on Lewis. And she got all sorts of special attention from lobbyists while she worked with him, including Brent "Boom shaka laka" Wilkes and Lowery:

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That Shirlington Limousine story isn't over.

On Thursday, the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee went on Hardball and gave it to the Homeland Security Department with both barrels -- first for cutting preparedness funding to New York, and then for making what he thinks may be a corrupt deal with the Shirlington Limo company.

"[T]here’s issues we’re looking into as to whether or not other companies were asked not to bid" on the $21 million contract, said Rep. Peter King (R-NY). The contract ultimately went to Shirlington, the troubled transportation company with strange ties to powerful Republicans.

I didn't catch the show, but in the transcript King -- declaring "I am at war with the Department of Homeland Security" -- sounds nearly apoplectic:

You had the orgies going on at the Watergate Hotel, with prostitutes, pimps, booze, card games, Duke Cunningham, lobbyists, CIA. The people were driven and the prostitutes were driven to the Watergate Hotel in limousines owned by a company which was run by a crook, which lost two of its previous contracts but was given a $21 million contract by the Department of Homeland Security to drive the top executives of the department around Washington. . . .

And there’s a lobbyist who was involved with the company who is also involved with Duke Cunningham and somehow mysteriously this company gets a $21 million contract to escort or to drive around the Department of Homeland Security’s top officials.


I'll grant DHS this much: It takes guts to cut funding to a Congressman's state when he's sitting on a pile of corruption allegations about you, and holds the power to subpoena your documents and testimony. (Thanks to CQ's Patrick Yoest for pointing this transcript out to me.)

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