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John Solomon's at it again.

Tonight, the AP released a new story on Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV). It purports to show Reid admitting that Solomon was right all along, that Reid mistated senate ethics rules when he initially defended himself against Solomon's piece -- and now he's coming clean.

We were pretty surprised to see Reid admit that. And as it turns out, he didn't.

Solomon just arranges the lead in such a way as to mislead readers into thinking Reid said something he didn't.

Going through all the details involves slogging through some minutiae. But it's worthwhile because it's a good illustration of Solomon's MO in his reporting about Reid: write a hit piece and then distort a follow-up response into looking like the target admitted you're right (he did a similar thing after his earlier story on Reid's ties to Jack Abramoff was undermined).

Solomon's piece begins with the following lead:

Reversing course, Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid's office acknowledged Wednesday night he misstated the ethics rules governing his acceptance of free boxing tickets and has decided to avoid taking such gifts in the future.


99% of readers - and the AP has many, many readers - will read that lead paragraph and interpret it to mean that Reid has admitted that he misstated Senate ethics rules when he said they allowed him to accept the tickets. He's chastened and he's agreed not to do it again.

But as Solomon writes in his next paragraph, Reid still thinks it was "entirely permissible" to have accepted the tickets. It's hard to square that with Reid's admission, though, right?

Let's jump down into the details.

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OK, so we've nailed this down. It would have been against state law for Harry Reid to have reimbursed the Nevada Athletic Commission for credentials.

Clearly, this is pretty far down in the weeds. But the AP actually got a pretty significant fact wrong. So let me run through the details.

Bob Arum, the boxing promoter who gave the credentials to Reid and Sen. John McCain, made that claim to The Las Vegas Review Journal. But I wanted to check up on that, so I called Keith Kizer, the Executive Director of the Nevada Athletic Commission. Kizer should know - he is a lawyer and former Chief Deputy Attorney General for the state of Nevada.

"It would be illegal," Kizer said, explaining that it fell under a state law prohibiting agencies or individuals for charging access to government property. The credentials provide access to the commission's area near the ring. "It would be like charging someone for access to a senator's office," Kizer added with no apparent sense of irony.

He went on to explain that credentials are given out to governmental officials and others in order to observe the commission's activity. Sometimes the credentials are provided in addition to tickets - sometimes officials sit in the commission's area.

Reid's office, meanwhile, confirmed that Reid received a credential, and not a ticket to the bout: "We know it for a fact that he had a credential.”

I have written to the AP asking whether they planned on issuing a correction and was promised a reply "this afternoon." In his piece, John Solomon referred to Reid having received (reimbursable) "tickets" to the fight.

This just in from the Toledo Blade:

Former GOP fund-raiser Tom Noe admitted today that he used politicians, former aides to Gov. Bob Taft, coworkers, and friends to illegally pour thousands of dollars into the effort to reelect President Bush.

Noe, in a hearing this afternoon in federal court in Toledo, entered a guilty plea to all three campaign finance charges he faced.

One more detail that the AP's John Solomon left out in his piece on Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV).

The crux of Solomon's story was that Reid acted wrongly by accepting free boxing tickets from the Nevada Athletic Commission. In particular, Solomon focused on a title bout in September 2004 that Reid and McCain both attended. "Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., insisted on paying $1,400 for the tickets he shared with Reid for a 2004 championship fight," Solomon wrote.

But it turns out that it would have been illegal for Reid to reimburse the commission for the seats. That's because these weren't actually tickets - they were credentials with no face value given to V.I.P.'s. And according to the boxing promoter who awarded those credentials to Reid, it is illegal for the commission to accept payment for them. Despite that, McCain insisted on paying, and so the commission simply gave his check (written for a seemingly arbitrary amount) to a charity since it couldn't accept it.

What's more, that same promoter says that in other cases where Reid and McCain received tickets that could be reimbursed, Reid paid. That's a key fact which, if true, was left out of Solomon's article.

This from today's Las Vegas Review Journal, hardly a friendly paper to Reid:

[Marc Ratner, then executive director of the Nevada Athletic Commission] said Tuesday the seats Reid and McCain got weren't tickets available to the general public but "credentials" the commission gives only to public officials hoping to observe the commission's activity.

Skip Avansino, current chairman of the athletic commission and a commission member since 2002, said Reid, McCain and the athletic commissioners sat on folding chairs in a small, cramped area, not in the posh ringside seats for which pricey tickets are sold....

Boxing promoter Bob Arum said Reid and McCain also sat in ticketed seating at about three matches each but paid for their tickets "invariably." Arum said McCain and Reid's seats at the Hopkins-de la Hoya fight, on the other hand, were credentials from the commission, not tickets from Arum. But McCain, who brought his wife to the fight, sent Arum a check for the price of two ringside seats.

Arum said he didn't know what to do with the money.

"Those credentials cannot be sold," he said. "There's no price on them. (They are given to) governors, attorney generals, boxing commissioners of other states. ... It's illegal to accept money for a credential."

Arum said he couldn't accept McCain's money but McCain wouldn't take it back, so Arum donated it to Catholic Charities.

Two weeks ago, Amir Taheri published an op-ed in Canada's National Post about an Iranian law that forced Jews to wear a yellow stripe. The story, reminiscent of Nazi Germany, quickly provoked outrage, but was just as quickly revealed to be a total fabrication. It also ran in the New York Post.

Apparently this is just the sort of reliable advice that President Bush needs. Yesterday, Taheri had a face-to-face with the President as one of a small group of "experts" on Iraq that visited the White House.

According to Press Secretary Tony Snow, the experts were invited to the White House for their "honest opinions" on Iraq.

Yesterday, prosecutors in the David Safavian trial introduced pictures of the August 2002 golf junket to Scotland.



In this picture (here's a larger version), you can see from left to right, Neil Volz (former Ney aide, then Team Abramoff member, now felon), Ralph Reed, Paul Vinovich (Ney aide), Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) [a.k.a. Representative #1], William Heaton (Ney aide), David Safavian (on trial), Michael Williams (member of Team Abramoff), Alex Abramoff and Jack Abramoff. They're standing in front of the chartered plane that Abramoff booked to Scotland.

And here is a picture on the Scottish links. I believe this is Michael Williams, Volz, Safavian and Paul Vinovich:



Ah, good times, good times.

I spent yesterday afternoon watching David Safavian's lawyer cross-examine Neil Volz, a former Hill staffer and Team Abramoff lobbyist who is cooperating with Justice in the Abramoff scandal. Volz appeared to keep what credibility he has largely intact, although Safavian's lawyer did get him to admit that neither he nor his former employer, Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH), were very good golfers.

That morning, Volz had given some powerful testimony against Safavian, a White House official accused of lying to investigators about his relationship with Abramoff. Volz said Safavian was a "champion" for Abramoff's interests inside the Administration, who actively sought to help Abramoff and his associates find advantages within the government to benefit their clients.

In her opening statement, Safavian's lawyer Barbara Van Gelder assailed Volz for "climbing out of jail on David Safavian's back," so naturally I was expecting some exciting confrontations during her cross-examination of the guy. In particular, it seemed important to see how Volz -- the first government cooperator to testify in the Abramoff scandal -- would hold up under pressure. If Van Gelder found a way to destroy his credibility, it would make him (and possibly other government cooperators) less useful in future prosecutions, and theoretically make those cases harder for Justice to win.

Van Gelder had over four hours with Volz on the stand. At best, she managed to portray him as a self-interested schmuck who cared more about his own hide (and bank account) than the rule of law -- which, forgive me, isn't hard to do.

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Despite Abramoff Scandal, Burns Drops Modesty in Lobbyist Fundraising In January, Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT) moved a $1,000-a-plate "birthday party" from its original venue -- the offices of powerful lobbying firm Cassidy and Associates -- to the National Republican Senatorial Committee headquarters. It was just a temporary thing: Next month, Burns is planning a $500-a-person (and $1000-a-PAC) breakfast fundraiser at the offices of law/lobby firm Patton Boggs.

The event is hosted by three lobbyists who specialize in winning earmarks for their customers. "One of the hosts, Kevin O'Neill, has 'secured more than $100 million in federal appropriations for his clients,' according to the [firm's] Web site," AP reports.

Burns recently gave up $150,000 in campaign donations he had received from Abramoff, his partners and his clients. (AP)

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I didn't think it was possible, but the Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA) case just got even uglier.

Today the Justice Department filed their response to Jefferson's lawyer's motion, where he argued that the search violated the "Speech or Debate" clause of the Constitution and demanded that the FBI return the seized documents. It is a lengthy, detailed dismantling of that argument - and TPMm readers interested in the Constitutional questions here should give it a read.

But beyond the legal argumentation, prosecutors supply the most detailed version of their case against him so far. And they explain why it is that they needed to raid his office - because they don't trust him to turn over evidence. According to an FBI agent's affidavit appended to the filing, Jefferson tried to "surreptitiously remove" documents while the FBI was searching his home in August of last year.

The agent provides a detailed narrative of catching Jefferson trying to hide the document. According to her, Jefferson, while sitting at his kitchen table during the search, hid the papers under a copy of the subpoena that agents had served on him. He then asked to move to the living room after it had been searched and placed the documents in a blue bag there which agents had already been through. She continues:

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Apparently all that talk of cooler heads on Capitol Hill considering the FBI's raid of Jefferson's Congressional office this weekend wasn't worth much.

Day One of Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner's "Reckless Justice" hearings was today. And after calling the decision to authorize the raids "profoundly disturbing," Sensenbrenner went on to explain his plans for the hearings:

Representative Sensenbrenner said that ... he would call Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and F.B.I. officials to testify. He also said the committee was considering drafting legislation that would specifically protect materials used in making laws.


Huh. The FBI and Justice Department are in talks with the House counsel over how to handle searches of Congressional offices, and meanwhile Sensenbrenner is talking about legislating his way through the problem. Don't you think that might irk some people at the FBI and DoJ?

Like I said last week, this fight is going to last for a while.

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