TPM News

Just about weekly, there's a bit of new spin from Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) on his unfortunate legal predicament. And today, I got my weekly fix.

Past gems include:

-- That the abrupt departure of his entire senior staff was the result of "inevitable" turnover

-- That his famous Scottish golf junket with Jack Abramoff, rather than a cosmopolitan good time, was a week of drudgery akin to poring over an "arcane tax issue"

Today's spin builds on spin first floated a couple of weeks ago by "a person close to" Ney. The idea was that the Justice Department's recent subpoenas of his staff members could actually be helpful to Ney -- the reasoning being that voters would be outraged at the DoJ's clear attempts to sabotage his candidacy. The subpoenas, issued in late June and early July, come only a few months before the election.

Now Ney himself is touting that line, or rather, hinting at it:

"I will tell you this that don’t you find it unusual that after 17 months that the Justice Department all of the sudden, 120 days before the election, subpoenas a staffer. They could have called him within the last 17 months. I’ll leave it right at that. I find it very unusual.”

Expect to hear Ney wondering, when the indictment finally does come down, why the DoJ indicted him close to his election, when they could have indicted him any time within the last 17 months.

The feds have subpoenaed the former NSA employee who identified himself as one of the New York Times' sources for its domestic wiretapping scoop, according to a whistleblower advocacy group.

The subpoena directs Russ Tice to testify before a grand jury on August 2.

Lobby reform efforts have slowed to a virtual standstill since House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL), in the wake of Jack Abramoff's guilty plea in January, called for a slate of tough measures.

Since the Abramoff plea, Justice Department prosecutors have made little public progress aside from a guilty plea from a former congressional staffer here and there. Nothing to really grab the public's attention -- and spur calls for Congress to clean up its act. So when House Republicans finally passed lobby reform legislation, it didn't have the reforms (e.g. a gift ban) Hastert had promised.

Now we have news that the bill, weak though it may be, probably won't pass at all. House Republican leaders say that they'll make rule changes regarding earmarks and call it a day. Reform accomplished. Right?

Not so fast. From today's Washington Post:

...the legislation could be revived if the Abramoff investigation produces any indictments of lawmakers, [Paul A. Miller, president of the American League of Lobbyists] said. "That's my biggest concern," he said. "If you have an indictment of a member of Congress or more than one, then it's a foregone conclusion you are going to get lobbying reform and it's probably going to be extreme."

[Jan W. Baran, a leading Republican ethics lawyer] agreed, saying, "Indictments do focus congressional minds on passing legislation." Such criminal charges, he added, "could revive the bill, especially as we get closer to the [mid-term] election."

The Washington Post drops a big one today, revealing unseemly ties between Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA) and a longtime friend-cum-lobbyist.

Since coming to Congress in 1994, Davis has made a name for himself as a hard-nosed reformer -- and for pushing new technology programs on the federal government. His constituency includes many of the tech companies most actively involved in delivering those programs to different agencies.

So is it any concern that a longtime friend of the House Government Reform Committee Chairman makes thousands of dollars helping tech companies gain access to federal contracts? Or that he touts his ties to Davis to potential clients -- ties which are pretty strong, judging by the 15 appearances the lawmaker or his staffers have made before the pal's group, as well as the praises the pal's clients sing about the access to Davis they got by using him.

Moreover, the pal -- Donald Upson -- typically doesn't register as a lobbyist for a single one of his clients. And he put Davis' wife on his payroll. She makes nearly $80,000 a year to work half-time from home.

Not enough to raise your eyebrows? Try this: despite his stance as a good-government bulldog, Davis apparently has a reputation among some insiders as a pork-chaser for tech companies in his district. "The businesses in Mr. Davis district are primarily government contractors and he wants to make sure the $$ are free flowing without much regard to the fiscal consequences," e-mailed senior White House procurement official Angela B. Styles to her boss in 2002.

Davis says he has broken no laws and sees no ethics or disclosure violations; Upson, he says, receives no special access to his office. His wife has a right to earn a living, he said, and besides she has no business on Capitol Hill.


We were remiss in not linking sooner to this fabulous New York Post piece, by scribes Erin Calabrese and Lauren Elkies:

A State Department worker cruising down 34th Street with three scantily clad women in what appeared to be a government car with flashing lights collided with a yellow cab last night after allegedly running a red light, police said.

The man -- 26-year-old Jason Giuliani, reportedly a member of State's Diplomatic Security Service -- was armed at the time, according to observers. Before the crash, he was yelling to passers-by, "stay to the right! Stay to the right!" over the loudspeaker of his government-issue Buick LeSabre, as he piloted it west down the eastbound lane.

After the crash, witnesses noted the presence of a cooler in the backseat, and a case of Heineken in the trunk. Before Giuliani was taken away by police, he was caught on videotape handing a "small brown bag" to one of the women, the Post reported.

No word on Giuliani's status at the State Department; we've got our fingers crossed he's reassigned to Washington, D.C., or gets a job with Shirlington Limo.

Here's a tidbit from an AP article that lead Reader JF to scratch his head. The story concerns a decorated Army Arabic specialist who was dismissed for being gay:

On Dec. 2, investigators formally interviewed Copas and asked if he understood the military's policy on homosexuals, if he had any close acquaintances who were gay, and if he was involved in community theater.


It looks like one of MZM's Pentagon boondoggles will shut down soon, the Roanoke Times reports today. It's good to hear the DoD is pulling back from its MZM contracts, but it looks like bad news for the folks in the rural town that's home to the operation.

The program -- the Virginia-based Foreign Supplier Assessment Center -- was created in 2003 by an earmark tucked into a classified appropriations bill by Rep. Virgil Goode (R-VA), to be operated by MZM. He kept it alive with another earmark in 2005.

Before inserting the first earmark, Goode accepted many thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from MZM. Before the second earmark, he enjoyed the same largesse. In all, Goode took about $90,000 in campaign contributions from MZM president Mitchell Wade and other employees. Goode has since given the money to charity; Wade has pleaded guilty to bribing convicted congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham. Cunningham, of course, has gone to jail.

But here's the curious, and sad, thing: Goode didn't just fleece a few million bucks from U.S. taxpayers to give the military a facility they didn't want. He also screwed his own constituents -- the less-than-prosperous residents of Martinsville, Virginia.

Read More →

Yesterday, we reported on the Copeland Lowery lobbying firms' remarkable success in winning earmarks for California State University, San Bernadino (CSU-SB).

One of the more entertaining emails we came across in reviewing the school's correspondence with their lobbyists was an exchange between a school official and Jeff Shockey, the firm's star lobbyist who's now under federal investigation as part of the probe into the firm's relationship with Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA).

Last fall, Copley News Service's Jerry Kammer -- who won a Pulitzer Prize for helping expose the Duke Cunningham scandal -- was sniffing around Shockey, his firm and its clients.

"This guy is really focusing in on my relationship with the university -- I can't quite figure it out," Shockey wrote to his university contact about Kammer.

"He does not understand eamarks," the school official moodily replied, "nor like them."

Three weeks later, Kammer broke the Lewis scandal with a raft of stories on Lewis and his lobbyist buddy Bill Lowery. Today, Lewis, Lowery and Shockey count themselves among the subjects of the spreading federal investigation into congressional corruption -- which began with, and has been buoyed by, Kammer's reporting.

Who doesn't understand the earmark process?

Stop it, dad, you're embarrassing me:

The 81-year-old father of U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman [(R-MN)] was cited for lewd conduct and indecent exposure Tuesday for allegedly having sex in a vehicle with a 38-year-old woman, according to a police report.

Police responded to a call early Tuesday evening and arrested Norman Bertram Coleman Sr. and the woman, Patrizia Marie Schrag of St. Paul, outside a pizza restaurant on the eastern edge of downtown St. Paul.

. . .

Sen. Coleman has often referred to his father, a veteran of the Normandy invasion and the Battle of the Bulge and a former businessman, as one of his personal heroes.