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

Maybe We Will Have DeLay to Kick Around Anymore

Former House majority leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) raised nearly half a million dollars in the six weeks before he dropped out of his election, the Houston Chronicle reports this morning. All that cash can go towards his legal fund. And once he beats his rap, K Street beckons, the Washington Post says. Proving they can still write satire better than anybody, the paper reports:

I called top lobbyists and asked a simple question, "Could Tom DeLay become a lobbyist now that he's leaving government?"

The answer was a resounding "Yes." DeLay may have found himself on the wrong end of several ethics committee reports, they said. He may have been too radioactive a few years ago to run for speaker of the House. He may even have been too tainted by his ties to convicted felons to be reelected to Congress this year.

But he could still make a bundle on K Street, they concurred. Leaders of law and lobbying firms made it clear that they would happily hire him, especially if federal prosecutors don't indict him as part of the Abramoff affair.

(Houston Chronicle, Washington Post)

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Yes, he did:

Three weeks after Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty to three federal felony crimes, Rep. John Doolittle turned for legal advice concerning his own association with Abramoff to a former associate of special prosecutor Ken Starr whose legal specialties now include white-collar crime and public corruption. . . .

A Doolittle aide, Richard Robinson, said the attorney handling Doolittle's inquiry is David G. Barger. Barger is the former president of the Virginia Bar Association's criminal law section and a former assistant U.S. attorney, who later was an associate of Starr's in the Whitewater investigation. . . .

Robinson said that the campaign hired Barger to address the congressman's concerns about how he should respond to questions from the press as he contemplated having to talk about the scandal as part of his campaign for re-election.

Did Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA) lawyer up as a result of the spreading Abramoff scandal?

Just three weeks after fallen superlobbyist Jack Abramoff agreed to cooperate with prosecutors, Doolittle's 2006 campaign committee cut a $10,000 payment for "legal fees" to the firm of Williams Mullen, government records show.

There were no other payments to the firm in the months before or after that check was cut, according to reports filed with the Federal Elections Commission.

We can't determine conclusively what the check was for -- neither the campaign nor the firm will return phone calls. But we can rule out some possibilities. It doesn't seem to be for Doolittle's traditional campaign law counsel; for that, the campaign appears to pay the firm Wiley Rein & Fielding roughly $1,000 a month.

Nor is it for providing a treasurer for his campaign; records show that role is filled by David Bauer, who is not listed among Williams Mullen's attorneys.

Since Abramoff became the target of government and media investigations, Doolittle's name has repeatedly surfaced as one of the lawmakers likely to face legal problems as a result of their dealings with Abramoff. He took over $140,000 from Jack, his associates and his clients; he held fundraisers in Jack's skybox and restaurant, but sometimes failed to report them; he took repeated actions on behalf of Abramoff's clients; and his wife took money from two Abramoff-connected operations.

Here's some interesting midday reading: Over at Harpers Magazine's new blog, Washington editor Ken Silverstein sharpens the focus on a fuzzy period of Jack Abramoff's biography, his time working with South Africa's apartheid regime. Everything Jack knew about dirty tricks -- "cut-outs, bogus charities, financial trickery, and double- and triple-budgeted projects" -- he learned from apartheid-era spooks, Silverstein says. Check it out.

Pegged on Jay Rosen's anointment of Murray Waas as "the Bob Woodward of Now," the Washington Post's Howard Kurtz does a thumbnail profile of the National Journal reporter who has dug deeper into the current administration, and its use and misuse of classified information, than just about anyone else. To Waas, a Muckraker salute.

Former GOP Gov. George Ryan of Illinois found guilty of racketeering. . .

The newly-enterprising New York Sun got its hands on a key State Department memo from 2003 that identifies Valerie (Plame) Wilson as the wife of Joe Wilson. It's an informative new piece of the Plame puzzle -- only the Sun uses it to prove pretty much the exact opposite of what it shows. At least that's what an high-ranking intel source familiar with the memo tells us.

Here are the basic details.

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Over the weekend, a new profile by Copley News Service added to our understanding of former GOP Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham's "Co-conspirator #3," the mysterious Thomas Kontogiannis. Today, we can add a bit more.

Recall that Kontogiannis bribed Cunningham through purchasing a yacht from the congressman -- and paying several hundred thousand dollars more than it was worth. His finance company also handled some of Cunningham's questionable mortgages.

But reporters and investigators have struggled to understand what Kontogiannis was getting from Duke for all the money he spent on the lawmaker.

The latest theory seems to be that Duke was introducing him to world leaders. As Copley reports:

Cunningham "introduced him to people. It was like he had a congressman on retainer," [a Justice Department official] added.

The Copley story notes that he twice accompanied Cunningham to the White House, and kept a picture of himself meeting President Bush in his house. Now, TPMmuckraker has learned he apparently met the man who would shortly become king of Saudi Arabia.

It's been known that Kontogiannis, a wealthy businessman and two-time felon, in 2004 accompanied Cunningham and a Saudi constituent, San Diego real estate mogul Ziyad Abduljawad, to Saudi Arabia. Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA) also went. Abduljawad paid for the trip.

Until now, we haven't known much about the trip -- who the group met with, why, what they talked about. Cunningham is said to have gone in order to promote U.S.-Saudi ties, or some other such pap. Beyond that, we've had nothing.

I called Calvert last week to ask him more about the trip. (He's the only one of the crew who's talking these days: Cunningham's in the pen, Abduljawad declined an interview, Tommy K's lawyer doesn't return calls.) Calvert's memory wasn't perfect, but he had some details to share. The group met with Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah -- then the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, and now its king.

Kontogiannis was at the meeting, Calvert recalled, although "he didn't say anything, as I remember," the lawmaker told me.

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On Friday we wrote about a Homeland Security Department bulletin warning corporations of "terrorist tactics" used by animal and environmental extremists. Among the groups' repertoire, DHS said, was "tying up company phone lines to prevent legitimate calls."

A number of readers noted the irony that escaped me at the time. As reader KM succinctly put it:

Phone-jamming is a terrorist tool. Ergo, Republicans are terrorists, at least in New Hampshire.


Phone Jamming -- Conspiracy Weed Edition

Phone jamming is now a felony in the state of New Hampshire -- on Election Day, anyway. The state senate voted unanimously to make it that way, in response to the simmering scandal over GOP operatives' dirty tricks in the 2002 election. Speaking of which, former NH GOP chair Jayne Millerick again insists she knew nozzing.

"These liberal groups are smoking too much conspiracy weed," said attorney and GOP activist Charles Douglas, one of the lawyers who received some of Millerick's Election Day calls, which have fueled speculation that GOP higher-ups knew of the scam. We assume Douglas and Millerick, by contrast, smoke just the right amount of conspiracy weed -- which would explain Millerick's repeated phone calls to the same people throughout Election Day 2002. "You high?" "Yeah." (later) "You high?" "You just called me." (later) "You high?" Repeat until polls close.

Elsewhere, the New York Times soberly muses on whether the New Hampshire phone jamming scandal is our generation's Watergate. (NH Union Leader, NH Union Leader, NYTimes)

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