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

Brian Ross Crosses Mickey Mouse Because of the report from ABC's investigative unit that House Speaker Dennis Hastert has attracted interest from federal investigators in the Abramoff matter, ABC's corporate parent is expecting headaches as it lobbies on unrelated legislation. In particular, Disney was pushing to roll back a provision in a recent tax bill that they project costs movie studios $180 million* over a decade. (WSJ)

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Earlier this month, the LA Times broke the story that House Appropriations Chairman Jerry Lewis (R-CA) was under investigation by the FBI. The Times, and other papers that followed up on the story, cited anonymous law enforcement sources.

Well, now the AP has a San Bernadino county official on the record saying that the county has just received a subpoena from the FBI. The subpoena asks for records connected to Lewis and the lobbying firm of Bill Lowery, the former Congressman who is very, very close to Lewis. The county was a client of Lowery's. The investigation is said to be focusing on Lewis' ties to Lowery.

So there's no longer any room for doubt: Lewis is under investigation.

AP reporter John Solomon seems to think that the best defense is yet more bamboozlement.

Remember back to Solomon's initial version of his story on Harry Reid's acceptance of ringside boxing seats. Solomon claimed that Reid shouldn't have accepted them to avoid the appearance of impropriety. He didn't explicitly note that Reid actually voted against the guys who gave him the ringside seat credentials. But he didn't allege a quid pro quo either.

But now he seems to be saying that maybe it was a quid pro quo.

Check down in today's piece on Reid:

Reid told AP the free tickets did not influence his position, noting he voted for the legislation when it passed the Senate. However, Reid had forced a change in the bill that let the federal commission regulate the TV networks when they promoted fights. After the change, the House never approved the legislation.


For those of us who speak the English language these two sentences have a pretty straightforward meaning. Reid says the tickets didn't influence his position, "however", ergo, on the contrary, he pushed for this change about regulating TV networks. And "after the change" the House didn't approve the bill. Again, going by basic English, the pretty clear suggestion is that Reid's change had something to do with the bill not making it through the House. In other words, Solomon is saying one of two things, or maybe both. Either the Commission -- the folks who gave Reid the credentials -- wanted this TV network change or maybe the TV network change was a poison pill, meant to torpedo the bill the House, a backdoor way of killing the legislation.

If there's some other way to understand Solomon's words, seriously, let us know.

I don't know much about boxing regulation. So I got on the phone to make some calls.

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The Federal Election Commission fined the campaign of Sen. Bill Frist $11,000 for failing to properly report a $1.4 million loan, Roll Call reports.

The FEC took action after the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a complaint about the loan.

“We win,” CREW's founder, Melanie Sloan, told the paper.

Turns out that the "yellow badge" fiasco isn't the first time Amir Taheri has landed himself in a controversy over charges of sloppy reportage. (Put on your oven mitts, this stuff comes pre-heated.)

In the pages of the New Republic noted Iranian scholar Shaul Bakhash reviewed Taheri's 1989 book, "Nest of Spies: America's Journey to Disaster in Iran." He appears to not only have pored over Taheri's text, but also checked his sourcing. Guess what? He found problems. Oh, did he ever. [You can read the review here.]

Taheri "Repeatedly refers us to books where the information cited does not exist," Bakhash wrote. He found Taheri "capable of generalizations of breathtaking sweep and inaccuracy." "His interpretations of the documents are often egregiously inaccurate." Taheri "has trouble transcribing even the simplest information."

Now, this wasn't everyone's opinion. Christopher Hitchens called the book "finely written and highly intelligent." The Times of London said it was "well documented and well written." The Washington Post determined it was a "well-researched book. . . highly readable" and "indispensable."

But after reading the review by Bakhash -- a member of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and a professor at George Mason University -- it's hard to understand how Taheri won those plaudits.

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Oh my. John Solomon just keeps it comin'.

Via Greg Sargent, I see that John Solomon has rewritten the lead to his follow-up piece on Harry Reid. The distorting lead I pointed out yesterday has been replaced by a more narrative approach.

But he didn't stop there. And really, why should he? It's so much easier to cherry pick facts to boost your story than submit to the drudgery of countervailing details.

So here's another example of Solomon's bamboozlement. And, I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to take you once again into the weedy specifics of this story. But it's worth it, believe me.

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It's strange to see a good name show up in a bad story. So we were quite surprised at the inexplicable -- or, at least, unexplained -- support that the respected Simon Wiesenthal Center gave to the bogus Iranian "yellow badge" story. As you certainly already know, the Wiesenthal Center works around the world to preserve the memory of the Holocaust, teach tolerance and raise warnings about discrimination, racism and genocide.

But that only makes the Center's role in this case more disappointing and difficult to explain.

The Center's leaders, Rabbis Abraham Cooper and Marvin Hier, confirmed the story to reporters apparently without checking it first. And now that the hoax has been revealed -- in fact, Iran has no plans to force its Jewish citizens to don identifying yellow badges -- the two men are not coming clean by explaining their role in helping to perpetuate it.

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Remember Karl Zinsmeister, the Washington-hating conservative editor picked by Bush to replace Claude "Sticky Fingers" Allen as new White House domestic policy adviser?

That's right, the one who selectively edited quotes and details in a published newspaper profile of himself, and posted his "improved" version on his magazine's Web site.

Now, the newspaper -- the Syracuse, N.Y. New Times alt-weekly -- says it is considering "legal action" against Zinsmeister. From Editor and Publisher:

[New Times editor Molly] English said the paper had not decided if it will, or can, take any legal action against Zinsmeister for altering its content and presenting it as the original version. But she said a lawyer is being consulted. "It is a tough one. I am not sure, frankly, what we could do," she said. "We haven't gotten to that point."


Before the paper's lawyers could get to Zinsmeister, however, the Washington Post editorial page fired off its own condemnation of the man's covert red-penning (which it has dubbed "Zinsmeistering"):

Almost anyone who's been the subject of a profile has wished he or she could take back some words, maybe tweak them a bit. No one else that we know of -- certainly no one who's about to become the president's chief adviser on domestic policy -- has had the gall to simply make those changes unilaterally. . . . Imagine how convenient it would be for the administration if it could do this with all reporting.

I spent a good part of yesterday tracking down and talking to some of the more respected Iran policy scholars here in the U.S., and their opinion was unanimous: Amir Taheri, most recently the author of the Iranian "Yellow Badge" fabrication, isn't taken seriously by those who study mideast politics. I even had a reporting colleague familiar with Taheri's oevre warn me off the guy.

We'll have more on this later today -- and it's good stuff, believe me -- but in general, he's simply not trusted. "This is a person who doesn't have any credibility," one scholar said. Of Taheri's recent piece alleging Iran was going to force religious minorities to wear color-coded badges, another established expert told me, "unfortunately, it's a pattern with him."

Because Taheri is still kicking around with some powerful friends (note his Monday visit to the White House), no one would be quoted.

But doesn't this make his White House visit all the more perplexing?

Ethics Watchdogs: Safavian Wasn't Honest In the waning days of the prosecution's case against Jack Abramoff pal and former White House official David Safavian, government lawyers dispatched a short parade of two government lawyers and an investigator who said Safavian had lied to them about his dealings with disgraced superlobbyist Abramoff. Safavian faces five counts of lying to investigators. (AP)

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