TPM News

A number of folks have noticed that Rep. Alan Mollohan may soon control the purse strings to the FBI, despite being under FBI investigation, as we reported Nov. 30.

And some folks on the Hill are just not happy about it. In particular, members of the all-Democrat Congressional Black Caucus are said to be grumbling that the party's leadership is exhibiting a double standard by letting Mollohan,who's under FBI investigation, keep his seat on the Approps committee (where he'll likely control the Justice Dept. budget) after forcing a CBC member, Rep. Bill Jefferson (D-LA), to step down from another powerful committee for facing a similar federal investigation.

Under scrutiny for bribery allegations, Jefferson got a sharp elbow from now-Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to leave his seat on the House Ways and Means committee.

I chatted recently with Rep. Mel Watt (D-NC), chairman of the CBC. He made it pretty clear his group's members were unhappy with what they perceived as a double-standard. Asked if the caucus had any plans to disrupt Mollohan's bid for a powerful Approps subcommittee chair, Watt said no. But it's a few weeks until January, when the full Democratic caucus will vote (by secret ballot) to approve the nominees for those slots.

Incoming Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) announced yesterday that the Republicans' three day workweek for Congress is over: starting January, the Democrat-led 110th Congress will be working five days a week.

As Hoyer explained (sub. req.), all that promised oversight will take time -- time that somehow wasn't available in the Do-Nothingest Congress:

“First, you could argue there was no time for oversight, or you could argue there was no oversight and therefore no necessity to meet. But in any event, we are going to meet sufficient times, so the committees can do their jobs.”

Some Republicans have a different take -- congressional oversight destroys families:

"Keeping us up here eats away at families," said Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), who typically flies home on Thursdays and returns to Washington on Tuesdays. "Marriages suffer. The Democrats could care less about families -- that's what this says."

Update: For those curious as to how Democrats will begin their busy reign, Hoyer says they're sticking with their planned first 100 hour agenda ("implement proposals by the bipartisan committee that investigated the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, raise the federal minimum wage, reduce prescription drug prices for Medicare recipients, promote stem-cell research, lower the interest rate for student loans and repeal certain tax benefits for the oil industry"). Only after that will they address the numerous appropriations bills that Republicans will leave unfinished, in an effort to bog down the Democrats' agenda.

Race for Fla. 13th Heads to House "It could be well into the 110th Congress before a Member from Florida’s 13th district is seated by the House — and the next several weeks could prove to be explosive as the fight plays out in the courts and on Capitol Hill.

"The Democratic candidate in the highly contentious race, bank executive Christine Jennings, is in Washington, D.C., this week, meeting with party leaders and drumming up financial support as she continues to dispute the results that appeared to hand auto dealer Vern Buchanan (R) a 369-vote victory.

"Although Jennings already has filed suit in a Florida circuit court seeking a revote, she said in an interview Tuesday that she also intends to contest the result with the House Administration Committee — which has oversight over federal elections — by the Dec. 20 deadline. Jennings and her attorneys already have met with Democratic staff members from the committee to discuss the filing process." (Roll Call)

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More fun down in Florida, where Democrat Christine Jennings is challenging the official tally that shows she lost by fewer than 400 votes to Republican Vern Buchanan.

First, a little inappropriate commentary from the officials: in today's Sarasota Herald Tribune, David Drury, who's overseeing the audit, opined on its probable outcome:

... [Drury] said he expects "nothing" to be revealed from [the audit's examination of voting machines' source code]. "They're not going to find anything. It is my belief, and I rarely like to speculate but it is based upon the parallel testing, that there will be nothing found in the source code that will explain the undervote."

Hey, it's Florida! What do you expect from the election officials down there?

A little better than what we're getting, apparently. As People for the American Way protested in a statement reacting to Drury's remarks, one doesn't want "the guy in charge of the audit announcing his predictions about the outcome before the investigation of software code even begins."

Second, an analysis of Election Day data by the Herald Tribune has led the paper to declare that they know the primary reason that more than 18,000 Sarasota County voters failed to register a vote in the race: ballot design.

The reason they think that? Take a look at the ballot:

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The House and Senate committees on government operations have some of the most broad-ranging authority in Congress. That doesn't mean you're going to see aggressive investigations coming out of both sides, however.

Player: Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) Position: Chair, Committee on Government Reform

In the 110th Congress, the House Committee on Government Reform will be chaired by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA). His zeal for investigations for legendary. Even from the minority he pursued malfeasance within the administration: he created an online database of Bush officials' on-the-record assertions about Iraq, challenged RNC leader Ken Mehlman about taking U2 tickets from Jack Abramoff, probed the administration's obsession with secrecy and fought against corruption in Iraq contracting.

Player: Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) Position: Chair, Committee of Homeland Security and Government Affairs.

As Waxman's Senate counterpart, Lieberman has remained largely quiet by comparison. "Issues like Halliburton have been sitting there like an 800-pound gorilla, and the committee has ignored it for years," a Senate Democratic aide said of Lieberman's committee to CQ reporter Patrick Yoest last month. Yoest noted Lieberman's "chumminess" with the panel's chair, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME). "[S]ome critics find [it] all too close and all too sweet," he wrote.

To Lieberman's credit, following the government debacles after Hurricane Katrina, he and the committee went to work uncovering what went wrong. He even bared his teeth at the White House, accusing it of leading a cover-up.

Still, expectations are being tempered for what Lieberman might attempt from his chair. By contrast, Waxman is expected to be one of the lead chairmen pursuing investigations into the administration.

We just picked up our copy of Defense secretary nominee Robert Gates' financial disclosure forms. This gent has certainly found ways to keep the money coming in -- Take a look.

Perhaps of greatest interest ot the public, Gates holds a total of between $450,000 and $1 million worth of stock options in companies he advises, including Parker Drilling Company, restaurant group Brinker International, and NACCO Industries.

NACCO has roughly $30 million in Department of Defense contracts, according to Conflict? The government's ethics police allowed the last Defense chief, Donald Rumsfeld, to hold on to stock worth up to $25 million in a company, Gilead Sciences; its business with the Pentagon soared after Rumsfeld took over, according to the LATimes. (He cleared $5 million on the deal, the paper found.)

According to its Web site, Parker Drilling, an oil services company, has operations around the world including Kuwait, Russia, Kazakhstan and Colombia. Since 1994, the company has worked with Halliburton on a Chinese offshore drilling effort.

But Gates has a variety of other income streams. From January 2005 to the present, Gates has been paid $752,788 as president of Texas A&M, and earned over $135,000 in deferred pay, according to his filing.

During the same period Gates also earned $143,000 in fees for speaking to private groups, including the National Pest Management Association, numerous investment groups, and the retail giant Target. He made about $15,000 a pop with that gig.

Gates also picked up $788,366 as a director or adviser to companies.

The nominee also has money spread around a vast array of investment funds, including a few he shares with his wife and son.

Keep in mind that for all his wealth, Gates isn't even approaching the wealth amassed by Rumsfeld. According to, Rumsfeld, worth as much as $199 million, could buy and sell Gates many times over.

Abramoff Sentencing Delayed Until At Least March "Even in prison, disgraced former lobbyist Jack Abramoff still is valuable to federal prosecutors.

"A federal judge on Friday approved another three-month delay in Abramoff’s sentencing for corruption charges stemming from a Washington, D.C., investigation. Abramoff will not be sentenced in this case until at least March 2007, according to the order issued by U.S. District Judge Ellen Huvelle.

"Abramoff pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy, fraud and tax evasion last January related to his work as a powerful Washington lobbyist, and he faces a sentence of 108 to 135 months....

"Abramoff already has begun serving a 70-month sentence for a Florida case that involved the purchase of gambling-cruise ship company. He currently is incarcerated in the Cumberland Federal Correctional Institute, which is located in Cumberland, Md. The minimum-security facility is 130 miles northwest of Washington, D.C., and it is home to a license-plate manufacturing plant. Abramoff is eligible to be released from prison in December 2011." (Roll Call)

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A number of readers have sent in tips to help the folks at Powerline, who recently admitted to having trouble remembering administration officials (beyond Scooter Libby) who had been accused of corruption or resigned in the face of scandal.

How could you foresake us! cry our old pals Claude Allen, David Safavian, Brian Doyle. Who could forget former FDA commissioner, Lester Crawford? After the jump, you'll find our partial (but fast-growing) list. If we're missing a name, please send it along!

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Finally, Vanity Fair has delivered their take-out on the Mark Foley scandal (or Pagegate, if you prefer). And it's chock full of satisfyingly sordid details.

One figure in particular gets a drubbing: the out-going House Speaker, Dennis Hastert.

Here's Hastert, standing dumbly by when Kirk Fordham, Foley's former chief of staff and then Rep. Tom Reynolds' (R-NY) chief of staff, brings word of the coming calamity -- that ABC News has copies of sexually explicit instant messages sent by Foley to underage pages:

Fordham thought he made it clear that his old boss needed to quit, but Foley couldn't bring himself to do that. The N.R.C.C. headquarters was around the corner, and Fordham made it his next stop. There he found Representative Reynolds and Speaker Hastert. But before he could finish relaying the awful news, Reynolds's face got purple and he began to shout, "He needs to resign, and he needs to do it right now!" The Speaker just sat there, silent, according to Fordham: "He didn't react at all. This was weeks before the election, and they're thinking how this is going to impact us."

And here's Hastert trying to attempt damage control:

Hastert, believing the leadership needed to present a united front, as one by one his colleagues were repudiating his foggy recollections, called a Republican-leadership meeting. That same day, an ethics-committee investigation was pressed for by Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi (over the objections of those who wanted an independent counsel), its purpose to discover who knew what when about Foley. Blunt, Boehner, and Reynolds were all summoned "to basically get their stories straight for the press," according to a knowledgeable source, who adds, "That to me is where Hastert attempted a cover-up."

Reynolds balked at having such a meeting. "This is stupid! We can't all go and meet privately and try to get our stories straight, because this matter was just referred to the ethics committee," he told Hastert, according to the same source. "In fact, none of us are supposed to be talking to each other, because we are not supposed to talk to potential witnesses." Worse, added Reynolds, "I can tell you anything we say at this leadership meeting is something we have to share with the ethics committee."

The meeting eventually became a conference call, but without Reynolds's participation.

Read the whole thing here.

The post-election dispute in Florida's 13th District won't have an easy answer, it seems.

The state completed their second test run of the machines on Friday without a hitch in the congressional race. Election officials will continue on to the next phase of the audit, which involves a variety of tests on the machines' hardware and software, but hopes (never very high among Democrats) are diminishing that the state's tests will find the reason that the Sarasota County machines failed to register more than 18,000 votes in the congressional race Election Day.

As election officials continue a less public array of tests on the machines (here's a good rundown on the audit), Democrat Christine Jennings, whose lawyer has argued that Florida's audit is hopelessly inadequate, will argue in court that she should be able to run outside checks on the machines. No court date has yet been set for that showdown. Jennings also has until December 20th to contest the election in the House of Representatives.

But as all that moves forward, it's worth giving this a look -- video of some of the dozens of Sarasota County voters who showed up to a recent People for the American Way meeting to recount their troubles voting on the machines. Jennings' lawsuit challenging the election results also included a host of voter testimonials.