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Did Allen Stanford get the Jack Abramoff treatment from Bob Ney?

Via the Sunlight Foundation, check out what Ney, the Ohio GOP congressman who went to jail for his role in the Jack Abramoff scandal, entered into the Congressional Record in September 2005:

Mr. Ney: Mr. Speaker --

Whereas, Allen R. Stanford has been recognized as the 2006 Recipient of the "Excellence in Leadership Award" by the Inter-American Economic Council ; and

Whereas, Allen R. Stanford has been acknowledged for his performance and leadership in the areas of finance and investments; and

Whereas, Allen R. Stanford should be commended for his service as the CEO of the Stanford Financial Group based in Houston, Texas.

Therefore, I join with the residents of the entire 18th Congressional District of Ohio in honoring and congratulating Allen R. Stanford for his outstanding accomplishments.

We already knew that Stanford and Ney, who sat on the House Financial Services committee, were tight. Here they're positioned right next to each other at a 2004 Washington event put on by the Stanford-backed Inter-American Economic Council.

(Looks like Ney even
got a speaking gig at that event).

And Ney's chief of staff, Wil Heaton -- who also pleaded guilty in connection with the Abramoff scheme -- went on that now-famous (kind of) 2005 junket to Antigua for lawmakers and their aides, paid for by the IAEC.

But the statement unearthed by the Sunlight Foundation suggests the relationship was even cozier. Indeed, it fits an intriguing pattern:

According to Abramoff's plea agreement, one of the "official acts" that Ney took on behalf of Abramoff was an October 2000 agreement "to insert a statement into the Congressional Record which praised the new owner of the Florida gaming company, Abramoff's business partner."

The Abramoff partner was Adam Kidan, who in 2005 pleaded guilty to conspiracy and fraud in connection to his venture with Abramoff. Abramoff and Kidan gave $10,000, in Ney's name, to the National Republican Congressional Committee.

Just as Abramoff and Kidan sought to get a PR boost by having nice things said about them in Congress, Stanford may have also have stood to benefit from Ney's move. Stanford's ability to attract investors depended on maintaining a sterling reputation. Having his "outstanding accomplishments" praised in the Congressional Record could go a long way to polishing that reputation.

What might Ney have gotten in return? Well, he received $26,200 in campaign contributions from Stanford Financial Group employees. And, even more interestingly, the Sunlight Foundation's Paul Blumenthal notes that the majority of that sum, $14,200, came just over a month after the Congressional Record statement -- after Ney had gotten nothing from Stanford for all of 2005.

Blumenthal also notes that, during more trying times for the congressman, Stanford became a contributor to Ney's legal defense fund.

So, memo to federal investigators: if you see Bob Ney praising anyone else in the Congressional Record, it might be worth getting a little suspicious.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs briefed House Democratic press secretaries behind closed doors this afternoon, giving a preview of tonight's presidential speech on health care and the economy.

Gibbs told the aides that the president broke bread with major news anchors this afternoon, depicting himself as "Dr. Obama" (as Katie Couric put it) and the nation as a patient in need of a positive diagnosis.

So it's safe to say that tonight's speech will be optimistic -- but will it break news? What's gone under-reported in the anticipation of Thursday's White House budget release is the fact that the plan will be a broad outline. The full Obama budget isn't expected until April, as this Politico story notes near the bottom.

Jim Tedisco, the Republican candidate for Kirsten Gillibrand's former House seat, sure has an interesting rebuttal to Democrats attacking him over his refusal to say how he would have voted on the stimulus bill.

Tedisco told the New York Times that if he answered this hypothetical question, it would only open the door: "It won't just be this, it'll be, 'How would you vote on the war in Iraq?'"

Isn't he now just leaving himself wide open for questions about Iraq?

So what should we think of the fact that Norm Coleman is still attending Senate GOP policy lunches, even though he's not a Senator?

Here's what Eric Schultz, the new DSCC spokesman (and a former communications man for Franken) told us when we asked him for comment on the story: "Springing for lunch is the least they can do for using his prolonged and increasingly desperate legal battle to obstruct the Democratic agenda."

Schultz is referring here to the widespread perception that this lawsuit is only being done in order to prevent Al Franken from being seated, thanks to the unique Minnesota law that prevents certification of a victory while a legal contest is still going, and which has made it a lot harder for Dems to reach 60 votes on cloture motions.

Norm Coleman appeared yesterday on the Armstrong Williams radio show, and the Minnesota GOP has posted this interesting excerpt of Norm responding to Williams' question regarding how Minnesotans feel about their current lack of full representation.

"Those of us who have had the honor to serve as public servants, public officials, we serve with the consent of the governed," Coleman said. "You're not gonna get that consent if the governed -- if the citizens -- don't think the guy who got the most votes is the guy that got elected, the guy that sits in the office."

He later added: "But people in Minnesota understand that you've gotta get it right."

Where were you eight years ago, Norm, when we really needed you?

Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) just told reporters that he asked Roland Burris (in a very polite manner) to resign. And Burris said no.

"If I were in your shoes, I would consider resigning," Durbin said, reciting what he told Burris.

Durbin said he also asked Burris whether he would be running for a full term in 2010, and Burris said he hasn't made up his mind. Durbin then recalled telling Burris that it would be very difficult to win either the primary or general elections.

"What I've done is, I made my recommendation to Senator Burris," Durbin said. "And he's told me clearly that he will not resign."

Durbin added that he doesn't have much persuasive power with Burris -- he previously advised Burris during the Blagojevich scandal to not seek or accept the appointment, and Burris did that, anyway.

In what could be the first instance of a congressional committee citing reporting by TMZ (or maybe not!), Democrats on the House Financial Services committee, led by Rep. Barney Frank, have sent a letter to the CEO of Northern Trust bank, demanding that the bank re-pay taxpayers for a lavish spending spree -- featuring a Sheryl Crow concert and gifts of Tiffany's trinkets -- surrounding a recent golf tournament it sponsored for clients.

The splurge, which took $1.5 billion in bailout money last fall, was first reported earlier today by, the entertainment site.

TMZ offered a rundown of the trip's highlights:

- Wednesday, Northern Trust hosted a fancy dinner at the Ritz followed by a performance by the group Chicago.

- Thursday, Northern Trust rented a private hangar at the Santa Monica Airport for dinner, followed by a performance by Earth, Wind & Fire.

- Saturday, Northern Trust had the entire House of Blues in West Hollywood shut down for its private party. We got the menu -- guests dined on seared salmon and petite Angus filet. Dinner was followed by a performance by none other than Sheryl Crow.

There was also a fabulous cocktail party at the Loews. And how's this for a nice touch: Female guests at the Chicago concert all got trinkets from ... TIFFANY AND CO.

In the letter, Frank and his colleagues wrote that the spending "demonstrates extraordinary levels of irresponsibility and arrogance," and called on Northern Trust CEO Frederick Waddell to return the money to taxpayers.

In response to the TMZ report, a spokesman for the Chicago-based bank told the Chicago Tribune that the bank had committed to sponsor the golf tournament over a year before it got bailout money. He continued: "The reason Northern Trust sponsors the Open is it's an integral part of its marketing program. It's about client relationships and showing appreciation for clients."

The full letter from the Financial Services committee Democrats follows after the jump ...

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Josh just posted the video of Michael Steele's appearance on Fox News yesterday, when the national Republican chairman suggested that he would be open to denying political funds to the three GOP senators who supported the economic stimulus law.

See more at

It sounds like a brash bit of moxie from Steele. But when I asked him about it today -- the RNC chief joined ex-Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN) as an official lunch guest of Senate GOPers -- Steele backtracked.

"It's totally up to the state parties," he told me, in a stark contrast to his comment on Fox that he would "talk to the state parties" about withholding funds to the three stimulus-supporting Republican senators. (The three in question: Arlen Specter, up for re-election in Pennsylvania next year, and Mainers Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, both out of cycle in 2010.)

Incidentally, the Senate Republican campaigns chief, John Cornyn (TX) was also bearish on Steele's initial vow. When I asked if he was open to blocking party aid to the three Cornyn said simply: "We're going to support incumbents."

[ed. note: This post has been edited from the original, which incorrectly noted that the winner of last week's Northern Trust golf tournament had received a phone call from the president.]

When it rains, it pours ... hours after a major labor group asked the Treasury Department to deny bailout money to a bank that dropped half a million dollars on lobbying in three months, House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank (D-MA) is telling another bank to give back some of its government aid right now.

In a letter to Northern Trust -- which, it should be noted, is the president's personal bank -- Frank and every Democrat on his committee chastise bank president Frederick Waddell for sponsoring a lavish golf tournament in Los Angeles and giving out Tiffany souvenirs to clients while taking taxpayer money.

"We insist that you immediately return to the federal government the equivalent of what Northern Trust frittered away on these lavish events," the Democrats wrote to Waddell.

The Democrats' full letter to Northern Trust is after the jump.

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The House is on the verge of taking up a mortgage aid proposal that would, for the first time, allow judges to modify the terms of primary mortgages for individuals facing bankruptcy -- a reform known as the "cram-down."

The bankruptcy law change is backed by the Obama administration as well as Citigroup (which is increasingly looking like a ward of the Obama administration). But the American Bankers Association, the Mortgage Bankers Association, and other K Street players are no fans of the cram-downs plan.

In a letter sent today to every House member, a group of financial lobbying giants urges Congress to reject the cram-downs bill. Lobbyists are especially concerned about language in the bill "provid[ing] that even minor violations of the Truth-in-Lending Act (TILA) could result in a home equity loan or even a mortgage being disallowed in bankruptcy."

You read that right: K Street is asking Congress to permit lenders to get away with minor violations of the TILA, a 40-year-old law that was passed to protect consumers from banks that hide punitive terms in the fine print of loans.

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