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

The Defense Department built a giant database of "geospatial" information, including data on churches, mosques, schools and other locations in the United States, Knight Ridder reports tonight from its Washington bureau.

The work was performed by MZM Inc., the company once owned by Mitchell Wade, who has admitted to several felony counts of bribery and conspiracy in the Randy "Duke" Cunningham scandal.

The Pentagon built the database at its Counterintelligence Field Activities office, known as CIFA, which has made headlines for recording protest activities by U.S. citizens. Its mission is to protect defense facilities against foreign terrorists and spies.

As we reported on March 7th, crooked defense contractor Mitchell Wade's MZM, Inc. got three contracts from the White House for "intelligence services" in 2004. That seemed odd to us, since this was with the Executive Office of the President, i.e. the White House complex, whose budget requirements generally reflect the logistical needs of a large office. What "intelligence services" did they want that couldn't be fulfilled by the various intelligence and security agencies designed to provide them?

One question in particular stood out: how common is this? Just how many contracts has the White House given out for "intelligence services?"

The answer? Four. And three were to Mitchell Wade's MZM.

Our search of the Federal Procurement Data System, going back to the beginning of the Bush administration, returns only one other contractor who got a contract for "Intelligence Services" from the White House.

That one went to Pushkin Operational Consultants, Inc. (POC), a small contractor based in Pembroke Pines, Florida owned by Matthew Pushkin. POC's contract for $247,060 was signed August 13th, 2004 and lasted through May 31st of 2005. The only other indication of the nature of the contract is that POC classifies its industry as "Administrative Management and General Management Consulting Services."

Several factors suggest that POC may have been working with MZM on the same project. Wade's contracts with the White House, for instance, worth a total of $254,437, started about the same time as Pushkin's - all in the Summer of '04. And one of Wade's 3 contracts also ended the same day as Pushkin's - May 31st, 2005.

Making their collaboration more likely, POC's business, like MZM's, was information systems. The Federal Procurement Data System shows that POC's other work (3 contracts worth $687,140.13) was for the Federal Technology Service, a government agency that provides IT and telecommunications services to various federal agencies.

He did not return our calls seeking comment.

So what does this tell us?

MZM's intelligence work for the White House, which began in the summer of 2004 and ended on July 22nd, 2005, just after Wade's involvement in the Cunningham scandal broke, was close to unprecedented. The Bush White has a history of 'stovepiping' intelligence and generally going outside proper channels in the field of intelligence. Given Wade's status as a convicted felon, his unique role as an intelligence contractor directly to the White House certainly raises questions.

As we've been telling you, Wade's company, MZM, was involved in some pretty shady stuff. Just what was this contract for? Was it related to the Iranian Democratization Foundation Wade established shortly before he received the contract? And how did MZM, whose owner is known to have bribed at least one congressman to obtain contracts, land this contract?

In Gautier, MS, U.S. Secret Service agents posed as FOX journalists when doing advance security surveillance in preparation for a presidential visit, the Biloxi Sun-Herald newspaper reports. They sure fooled local homeowner Jerry Akins!

Akins said he saw no problem with what happened and the government agents laughed about their fooling him. In the long run, he said, he'd rather have had a visit from the president than be on a segment of Fox News, anyway.

Oh, ha ha. Ashton Kutcher would be proud.

Update: Reader WV points out no one could positively identify the men as Secret Service, and there is a chance they could be volunteers, White House staff, or some other civilian component of the president's entourage.

The ink's not dry on Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne's nomination papers to be Interior Secretary, and folks are already cracking wise on the man who bounced a $111 check for a haircut.

"Now that's what I call FANCY!" writes reader KM. And from reader KC: "Do you mean to say that the hair cut displayed in your picture of Gov. Kempthorne is what $111 buys in Boise? Dude, go to the Hair Cuttery in DC! For $14 you can't possibly look worse."

And my favorite: "You mean he paid $111 to get a haircut? Which one?"

All right, nobody sent that one in. It's just my favorite haircut joke.

As in Florida, government prosecutors in D.C. and Jack Abramoff's defense lawyers have agreed that he needs much more time to tell the government what he knows - only this time the judge has said OK. According to court documents, a status conference that had been set for March 24th has been pushed back to June 6th, when Abramoff should find out his sentencing date for the bribery investigation. In the meantime, he's talking away....

He's due to be sentenced for the SunCruz fraud March 29th. That should be a good show, and possibility a glimpse of what's to come. Remember his lawyer promised that he'll "name names."

It can be no surprise that President Bush has selected someone wtih an incredibly dismal environmental record to head up the Department of Interior. But it appears that he's gone one step further and found someone who will follow through on Gale Norton's legacy of overseeing a department that was rife with muck.

Norton's Interior was Jack Abramoff's personal playground. Now, Kempthorne doesn't have any ties to Abramoff as far as I can tell (and you never know), but he does know how to creatively entertain a special interest or two.

Somehow missed in all the news reporting about Kempthorne's career as governor of Idaho was a scandal there back in 2003 over his use of corporate campaign contributions for extra perks. Here's how it went: there was a loophole in Idaho law that allowed donors to exceed the contribution limit by donating to Kempthorne's "office account." It was supposed to be for general expenses. But eight corporations all chipped in and, beyond the $5,000 each had already paid to his campaign, paid him a total of $23,000 for this special "office account."

But this didn't go to staplers, paper clips and water coolers, no. He used the money for "restaurant meals, travel, National Governors Association activities, flowers, books and a haircut." And at least one of those donors, Qwest, got a lot of help from Kempthorne on a key piece of legislation that year.

After an uproar in the Idaho press and legislature, the Idaho Attorney General moved to pass a law that closed the loophole.

And it seems that Kempthorne really suffered for it. Last year, he bounced a $111 check paying for a...haircut.

Hmm...I wonder who it will be covering Kempthorne's haircut now that he's at Interior?

From the Helena Independent Record:

Bob Keenan, the top Republican leader in the Montana Senate, said Thursday he is considering challenging Sen. Conrad Burns in the primary election because he is "concerned" about Burns' re-election chances because of a lobbying scandal.

The Montana Democrats have done an excellent job of making the case against Burns, who was really tied in to Jack Abramoff (See our bio here for just how tied in). But last week's Vanity Fair piece has really sent the Republicans into a panic. It's easy to see why:

"Every appropriation we wanted [from Burns' committee] we got. Our staffs were as close as they could be. They practically used Signatures as their cafeteria."

I don't know how much of a chance this guy's got, but it sure would be fun.

A third Democrat has entered the race for Rep. John Doolittle's (R-CA) seat: Michael Hamersley, who's best known for blowing the whistle on his superiors at KPMG for sham tax shelters. It resulted in a big criminal investigation, he was removed from his job, etc. In his press release, he calls himself a "Tax and Ethics Expert," and it sounds like he's going to be running hard on integrity.

Doolittle, you'll remember, has remarkably managed to be a big part of both the Abramoff and the Cunningham scandal - Tom DeLay is the only other congressman who was so ambitious.

Yesterday we reported that Mitchell Wade's company, MZM, had at least one contract with an intelligence office within the Department of Energy. What does it mean?

One point jumps out: The stain is bigger than we thought. This deal between Wade -- who's confessed to bribing now-jailed Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-CA) -- and DoE's Office of Counterintelligence adds a third government body to the list of those who used Wade. First were two offices within the Defense Department, then the White House, and now Energy.

But, like an episode of 'Lost,' it raises more questions than it answers. What was MZM doing for DoE's CI office? How did they land the deal? Was it related to MZM's arrangements with the White House and DoD? We don't know. We aim to find out. If you have any leads, don't be shy -- drop us a line.