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Paul has been raking muck at a furious pace on these Doolittles -- how Julie Doolittle, wife of Rep. John Doolittle (R-CA), took campaign cash from, among others, accused bribers, and how he cut her in on the action. One palm greases the other!

Funny thing, though: no one knows how much grease there was.

The San Diego Union-Tribune, which first reported the story, couldn't nail down exactly what Julie's cut was. Off of roughly $118,000 Doolittle collected from associates of Brent Wilkes, a crooked contractor accused of felony bribery charges in the Cunningham case, they ballparked her cut at around $14,400.

The UT further estimated that Julie Doolittle's total take from her husband's fundraising was $180,000. But given the evidence we've seen and the other Abramoff-related clients she allegedly had, we're curious, what was Julie Doolittle's total income?

I trotted down to Congress, thinking Doolittle's financial disclosure forms would show the number. Lawmakers are required to disclose their spouse's income, don't you know. But lo and behold -- in his paperwork, John Doolittle (R-CA) declined to state his wife's income!

I checked the law, and it turns out he's not required to: if a lawmaker's spouse is self-employed -- and it appears Julie was an independent contractor -- the lawmaker doesn't have to say how much she's making. Even if he's the one paying her.

If it's all above board, of course, what is there to hide? Perhaps we'll give him a call tomorrow and ask.

Below we noted that John McCain's new "senior aide" Terry Nelson played a central role in the money laundering scheme for which Tom DeLay is being prosecuted in Texas.

But 2002 was a busy year for Terry Nelson.

He was deputy chief of staff of the Republican National Committee, where in addition to being in a position to funnel money back to Texas congressional candidates, he was the superior of one James Tobin, the New England political director for the RNC. Tobin, you'll remember, was convicted late last year for his role in a scheme to jam the phone lines for Democratic get-out-the-vote efforts.

Maybe Nelson had nothing to do with it. But if he didn't, it makes you wonder why he was on the government's witness list to testify at Tobin's trial. He was never called, so it's not clear what he knows, but clearly he knows enough that the government thought he might be helpful for their case.

It seems the White House believes the Secret Service is sworn to protect not only the President's life, but also his fragile ego.

According to the Denver Post, an internal Secret Service investigation has confirmed that "White House staff" were the ones who ordered three attendees to be removed from a "town hall" event in Denver last year. The trio's only crime was disagreeing with the President, but the White House staffers called in the Secret Service to have them thrown out.

The agents responded -- although one can only imagine they did so grudgingly.

Last week, we learned some administration staffers find it easier to simply pretend they're Secret Service. If you were charged with the noble duty of protecting the President's life, wouldn't you find this stuff insulting?

Rep. John Doolittle's (R-CA) wife, acting as his fundraiser, was getting a 15% cut of contributions coming into his campaign. That sounds sketchy to us, but you never know in D.C., so we asked around to people who do know. The verdict: it sounds as bad to experts as it does to you. And a strong case can be made that Doolittle broke the law.

Neither Fred Wertheimer of Democracy 21 nor Naomi Seligman of CREW could think of another example of a lawmaker's wife or other family member getting a cut of contributions, and it's not hard to figure why: because it sets off all sorts of warning bells. It is against the law for lawmakers to convert campaign money to personal use. And that's just what was going on here.

Now, as with all matters legal, it's more complicated than that. The FEC ruled on a matter very similar to this one back in 2001, when Jesse Jackson, Jr. was seeking to use his wife for consulting work. And what the FEC said back then was that it was OK as long as his wife was paid the "fair market value" for her services.

In that case, Jackson's wife had plenty of experience. In this case, Doolittle's wife had no experience. And she was being paid a 15% commission, which sounded high to Naomi Seligman.

So: no experience and she was being paid top dollar. Is that "fair market value?" Sounds like a pretty clear violation of the law to me.

The Houston Chronicle runs a piece today on the dueling investigations into Tom DeLay and how they're likely to last at least through the election in November.

The Jack Abramoff investigation is likely to start with lower-level casualties, like DeLay's former staffer Tony Rudy, who is reportedly expected to reach a plea deal with prosecutors. They'll work their way up the chain from there, and it may be months and months before they've finally got DeLay cornered.

And Ronnie Earle's prosecution of DeLay in Texas isn't likely to see a trial date until late July, according to DeLay's attorney. So those charges will continue to hang over his head as well.

It seems like DeLay is in for a slow roasting until November.

There have been a number of signs lately that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), eyeing 2008, is cozying up to the Republican establishment, but this just might be the surest one yet.

The Washington Post reported yesterday that McCain had hired Terry Nelson to be a senior advisor to his political committee, the Straight Talk America PAC. Who is Terry Nelson? George W. Bush's national political director in 2004, for one. It's just the latest example of McCain's strategy of taking what he can of Bush's money infrastructure - as the Post reports, he's been busily recruiting Pioneers, Rangers and Super Rangers from '04.

But there's one crucial, telling detail about Terry Nelson that the Post leaves out. And that's his role in the money laundering scheme for which Tom DeLay is being prosecuted down in Texas.

Nelson was the deputy chief of staff of the Republican National Committee in 2002 when the alleged crime occurred. His role was crucial, although he hasn't been charged. He's named right there in the indictment.

DeLay and his money men, John Colyandro and Jim Ellis, are accused of trying to get around a Texas law against using corporate money to fund candidates. To do that, they wrote a check to the RNC and had the RNC bounce the money back to the Texas candidates they wanted to fund. According to the indictment, the scheme was laid out to Terry Nelson, and he made sure the RNC carried it out.

So what gives? Sen. McCain, Mr. Campaign Finance Reform, has just hired a man who (allegedly) played a key role in breaking a campaign finance law to advise him on how to spend his PAC's money. Anything to win in '08?

Without Challengers, Incumbent Candidates Spend, Spend, Spend

Many incumbent Congressional candidates raise money aggressively and spend lavishly on their campaigns, despite running practically unopposed. Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL), who has has captured at least 70 percent of the vote in each of his last six elections, spent $415,000 last year in campaign money on "meals, travel, entertainment and other election-related operations," despite facing no serious challenger? The Washington Post reports:

He said he has no choice but to keep up the spending even without a serious challenger.

"Since the campaign registration season remains open in Alabama, I have no assurance at all I won't have serious competition again this year," he said in a statement. ""It is only prudent I be prepared."

(Washington Post)

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The Washington Post's Charles Babcock and Renae Merle break news tonight on how MZM Inc.'s Mitchell Wade spun a $40,000 Pentagon contract into over $170 million in work, using bribery, personal favors to lawmakers and Defense officials, lavish recruiting practices, strongarm practices and hiring big-name principals.

Wade has confessed to felony charges of bribery and corruption in connection to the Randy "Duke" Cunningham scandal.

Wade's tactics made him a power player within the Defense world, the Post team reports. Here's how he was perceived by Pentagon employees:

According to excerpts of e-mails collected by a Pentagon employee and provided to The Washington Post, one contract official inaccurately thought Wade was a former undersecretary of defense. Another wrote that "Mitch Wade is a force to be reckonned (sic) with . . . he has a lot of perceived power that can slow us down . . . maybe even grind us to a halt."

For a long time, details about just what Mitchell Wade's company was doing for their $170 million have been very difficult to come by. Now that ball of yarn is unraveling, and the more we learn, the more we want to know.

More soon.

So where are we with this lobbying reform thing?

Lobbyists are openly gloating in the Post that they've fought off any meaningful reform - that's where.