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

After abruptly pulling the lobbying reform bill earlier and retreating to a private room, it looks like House Republicans have hammered out some sort of compromise on the earmark mutiny, because they've brought the reform bill back to the floor.

According to the AP:

Grievances were aired at a closed two-hour meeting at which House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., and other party leaders pledged that the final bill that comes out of House-Senate negotiations will expand the earmark language to cover all bills.

I'm watching C-SPAN now, and Rep. David Dreier (R-CA) just euphemistically referred to that meeting as an opportunity to hear "more input." Right.

So they won't change the bill, but have sworn that they'll change it down the line. We'll see how that flies with Rep. Lewis (R-CA) and his fellow earmark mutineers.

The company belonging to Mitchell Wade -- the guy who helped Duke Cunningham get laid -- had a contract to provide staff to the National Counterterrorism Center, and may still, according to former employees. NCTC is the hub of the intelligence community's counterterrorism efforts, and keeps a master list of over 200,000 names associated with terrorists or terrorist organizations.

NCTC is a super-secret place, for good reason: its computers have access to more classified data than those of any other government installation in the world. It was created in large part to "fuse" the reams of intelligence generated and held separately by the many different U.S. spy agencies, and it does a respectable job at it, from what I hear. It looks kind of like a bigger, fancier version of CTU from the TV show "24" -- although, I'm not kidding you, it has a Starbucks.

The employees once placed in NCTC by Wade's company, MZM Inc., may still be there under the corporate banner of Athena Innovative Solutions -- that's what MZM was renamed after Wade left. Athena has not returned my call, and NCTC declined to comment.

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How long did Duke Cunningham -- and other lawmakers, possibly -- have sex with hookers, courtesy of Brent Wilkes and Mitchell Wade?

The Wall Street Journal piece this morning doesn't say. From talking with sources, I gather that most of the indiscretions in the piece probably happened over the past few years, ending only when the San Diego Union Tribune ran its first piece on Cunningham last June.

But many people looking into the case believe it started long before that -- as far back as 1994, some say. After all, Wilkes was working D.C. from the early 1990s, with Wade by his side, winning friends and influencing legislation.

I'm hearing that Wilkes and Wade regularly hosted Congressmen and others to drink, play cards, smoke cigars -- and, yes, be entertained by prostitutes. (Remember that "hospitality suite, with several bedrooms?")

And I'll stick by my statement from earlier today: We're going to hear more about this. We'd better -- we haven't had a sex scandal in this town since forever, it seems like.

We hear whispers that a story linking an elected GOP official to the New Hampshire phone jamming is coming down the pike today, likely to hit late afternoon / early evening. Stay tuned...

The muddying has begun.

Sen. Conrad Burns (R-MT) is in political (and legal) trouble because he was a favorite of Jack Abramoff's - but there's been one earmark in particular that's made him look particularly bad, and that's the $3 million grant he inserted for Abramoff's client the Saginaw Chippewa of Michigan.

Dems have harped on this because it makes for a great sound bite: Burns delivered $3 mil to an Abramoff client, a filthy rich tribe that's not even in his state. Every member of the Saginaw gets $70,000 a year in gambling profits. The grant was from a program intended to help poor tribes repair dilapidated schools; but Burns forced the funding through over the objections of the Interior Department. What a filthy, filthy man.

Recently there's been an offensive of sorts to muddy the waters, to keep Burns from looking so bad. The Hill reported yesterday that Burns was simply helping out his Democratic colleagues, Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin of Michigan. And today there's an AP piece about Stabenow's money from Abramoff.

So was Burns bought? Let's review the facts.

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You'd think that it would be pretty easy to pass a lobbying reform bill that accomplishes nothing. But as I reported before, the Republicans have been forced to pull the bill, because they don't have the votes to push it forward.

Here's the sticking point: one measure of the bill (the only with any real teeth) reforms the way earmarks are inserted into appropriations bills. But Republican appropriators don't like it, so House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis (R-CA) has mounted a revolt with their help. He says they won't vote for the bill unless the reform is broadened to other forms of earmarks - pork comes in a variety of forms and can be tacked on to other kinds of bills besides appropriations.

That sounds like a good idea, right? It doesn't make sense to target one form of earmark, but leave the others untouched. But of course, the broader the reform, the more Republicans would be affected, making the reform bill even less popular.

So is Lewis doing this for the high-minded reason of ensuring stronger reform legislation? Or is this a canny effort to tank earmark reform altogether? As he well knows, the leadership needs every vote they can get, since Democrats plan to vote against it.

Republicans apparently think they won't be penalized at all in November for passing a weak bill - they say voters don't care. So don't be surprised if they solve this problem the easy way: just kill the controversial reform.

Update: Here's the AP's version of today's debacle. Republicans are now in a closed-door meeting, trying to get the votes together.

The new CIA -- now, dissent-free:

The CIA has imposed new and tighter restrictions on the books, articles, and opinion pieces published by former employees. . . According to several former CIA officials affected by the new policy, the rules are intended to suppress criticism of the Bush administration and of the CIA. The officials say the restrictions amount to an unprecedented political "appropriateness" test. . .

The CIA acknowledged for the first time last week that the Publications Review Board subjects former officials under contract to a two-part test. "First, material submitted for publication cannot contain classified information," CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano wrote in an e-mail. "Second, it cannot impair the individual's ability to do his or her job or the CIA's ability to conduct its mission as a nonpartisan, nonpolicy agency of the executive branch."

What? Agency officials are being forced to hew to the administration line? I thought that didn't happen.

House Republicans were supposed to vote today on their watered down lobbying reform legislation, but it seems that they can't even muster the votes to pass that.

Rep. David Dreier (R-CA) has just pulled the resolution from consideration, and the House has gone into recess. I guess they're going back to the drawing board.

More on this soon.

Pleading guilty is for chumps like Mitchell Wade, apparently.

Brent Wilkes, that's Duke Cunningham's Mr. Coconspirator #1 to you, will not plead guilty, according to today's WSJ expose. That must be very good news to Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA), Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), his buddy at the CIA, and others whom Wilkes had bought into.

Even though prosecutors have a fair amount on Wilkes, somehow he thinks he can beat this rap. And he's in for a long, expensive haul. Maybe that's why in February, he took out a $1.5 million loan on his home.

Expect more juicy details (eeew) on the Cunningham sex scandal shortly.

I'm told that while the Wall Street Journal was first to press with details on the prostitute angle of the Cunningham-Wade-Wilkes scandal, at least two other publications have been delving into the matter for months. What's more, they've got details that are a good deal more salacious than what the WSJ reported. I'd look for them to rush what they've got into print as soon as it gets past the lawyers.

We may soon have more details of our own, so stay tuned. . .