TPM News

The RNC has been paying James Tobin's legal bills for going on three years now - at least $2.8 million to date. Why?

The official line - that they believed his innocence - doesn't fly. They've known for quite awhile just what Tobin had done. And Tobin has never disputed the central fact of his involvement. He's argued that he didn't commit a crime, which is something altogether different.

Listen to how it's been spun. Here's the official line, courtesy of The Boston Globe:

Republican Party officials say they are handling his legal bills because the charges arose from his official actions, and because he has maintained his innocence.

And here's the "love is blind" defense, courtesy of Hotline's Marc Ambinder:

...we've talked to several Republican officials and party insiders who believe that the RNC and Tobin's friends in the White House accepted his explanation(s) without applying the requisite skepticism. That's a human reaction, certainly.

So what was Tobin's explanation that was so credulously received? And what do RNC officials mean when they say "innocence?"

First, you have understand what James Tobin's role in the scheme was. According to Tobin's indictment and Chuck McGee's testimony, McGee, the Executive Director of the New Hampshire Republican State Committee, came to Tobin with the idea to tie up Democrat's phones. Tobin, rather than condemning McGee's plan, gave McGee the number for a telephone services vendor (Allen Raymond's GOP Marketplace) to carry out the scheme. That's it. That's the key piece of Tobin's involvement.

Now, Tobin's innocence in this case to you or me would mean that Tobin had no part in this. Maybe McGee was lying, or there was some confusion, or whatever. But certainly for Tobin to be innocent in the common sense of the word, he could not have known the gist of what McGee was asking him to help with.

Read More →

Aha! Two days ago, there was a story in The Hill that Grover Norquist was seeking to trademark "K Street Project."

Well, you can see the application here. It turns out, despite all of Norquist's chest thumping about suing anyone who gets "the real phrasing" wrong, that it really pertains to the "K Street Project" icon - yes, that same icon we've posted here for you to see (since it's not yet trademarked, we can show it to you without fear of hearing from Norquist's lawyers).

Obviously Norquist was just blowing smoke when he said, "We will jealously guard the real phrasing the way Kleenex and Coca-Cola do. We will sue anyone who says it wrong and make lots of money." That doesn't seem likely to happen unless someone uses his icon while saying "it wrong." But you know, just to rib him, we'll be using this little bugger whenever we bring up the K Street Project - his application is likely to take upwards of 18 months to process, so we should get plenty of use out of it.

Read More →

You gotta see this to believe it.

In a bulletin issued yesterday, the Homeland Security Department warns U.S. businesses of the threats they face from animal rights group and "eco-terrorists." Such radical extremist groups may use several tactics -- each devastating in its own way -- including:

- "organizing protests" - "flyer distribution" - "inundating computers with e-mails" - "tying up phone lines to prevent legitimate calls" - "sending continuous faxes in order to drain the ink supply from company fax machines"

That's right. If the ink runs out of your fax machine, that means the terrorists have won.

To be fair, these groups have engaged in vandalism and arson, which DHS also warns of. But, c'mon. E-mail inundation is something a $40 billion security agency needs to worry about?

The real outrage in this is that on the very day some DHS yahoo spent time and government money producing this bulletin, a jury was convicting a white supremacist on five counts of trying to obtain a chemical weapon and stolen explosives. The man's dream: to explode a briefcase "dirty" bomb inside the U.S. Capitol.

Needless to say, I'm told DHS has yet to send out a warning on wackos like him: white supremacists, militias, anti-abortion groups or other violent far-right groups that have actually killed people. It's the vicious left-wing flyer brigades that pose the greatest danger.

Of course, we can't say we didn't see this coming.

Just one day after officially opening his campaign office, the GOP's New Hampshire gubernatorial candidate was hit with the news that his PAC's treasurer had been sued for lying in financial documents.

In 2000, shareholders sued Glenn DiBenedetto and other officials of the Del.-based PressTek company, charging they "issued false and misleading reports, misstated earnings, and failed to correct analysts' reports concerning Presstek that contained inflated financial projections," New Hampshire Public Radio reported. DiBenedetto, now treasurer for the Friends of Jim Coburn PAC, was Presstek's chief financial officer.

Read More →

Rep. Dave Weldon (R-FL), who earmarked federal funds to the ultimate benefit of an ex-aide to former majority leader Rep. Tom DeLay (R-TX), says he had "no idea" the former aide would profit from the deal, Florida Today reports.

The former aide, Ed Buckham, owned half a million shares in MapROI, which won a $500,000 contract funded by Weldon's earmark. Buckham's company, Alexander Strategy Group, had lobbied Weldon to insert the earmark.

Christopher Buckley, whose book "Thank You for Not Smoking" was just adapted for the screen, has said that the difficulty of writing satire in Washington is that your most outrageous idea gets trumped by the next day's headlines.

Such is the case with the issue of leaks -- particularly in the last couple weeks.

First, of course, came the ironic revelation that the pre-eminent anti-leaker, President Bush, authorized the leak of classified information via Lewis "Scooter" Libby.

Read More →

FEMA: Still a Costly, Deadly Mess

FEMA spent $900 million to buy more than 26,000 temporary homes for Hurricane Katrina victims, but most can't be used because they're too big or too unsafe for flood zones. That's just one FEMA outrage the Washington Post reports this morning, advancing a Department of Homeland Security report on the agency's Katrina response expected to be released today.

The agency also spent an average $5,100 per month to house evacuees on privately-owned cruise ships, six times the cost of renting two-bedroom apartments, DHS Inspector General Richard Skinner found.

Skinner's report is the most recent indictment of the hapless agency. The House and the White House have already released reports from their investigations; the Senate is expected to issue its own shortly. (WaPo)

Read More →

Since we're on the subject of Rep. Charles Taylor (R-N.C.), it's probably worthwhile for a flashback to another Taylor highlight - the CAFTA vote last summer.

It was a very tight vote, and Taylor was stuck between a rock and a hard place. The Republican leadership was counting every vote, bearing down hard on him, but Taylor comes from a district hostile to free trade. What to do? Yea or nay?

According to Taylor, he meant to cast a vote of "No." But wouldn't you know it? His voting card, which members insert into a machine to record their vote, broke. Or at least, it seems to have broken, even though it worked for a number of other votes the same day.

Soon after he voted (or failed to vote), he disappeared and couldn't be found when it was discovered that he hadn't voted. He only found out about the snafu the next day, he says, when he left the gym.

CAFTA ultimately passed by a razor thin margin of 217-215.

Taylor made an announcement the next day that he'd meant to vote no. He then reinserted his vote - which brought the offical tally to 217-216. One can't help but wonder whether Taylor would have bravely done the same if his vote had been the deciding one.

You can read TPM's highly entertaining coverage of Taylor's remarkable voting debacle last year here.

Heidi Collins, sitting in for Wolf Blitzer, interviewed RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman today, and hit him with a few questions about the New Hampshire phone jamming case.

About the RNC's decision to cover James Tobin's legal bills, Mehlman says, "A decision was made in the past, before I was chairman, that in this case that was going to happen based on assurances he made. I believed it was right to honor that decision."

Transcript* below the fold:

Read More →

Earlier, I mentioned that Chris LaCivita was represented by Richard Cullen in the New Hampshire phone jamming case.

Well, I think that means Cullen has pulled far away as the Republican defense lawyer of the moment.

Why? Let's count 'em: he has clients in the Valerie Plame Investigation, the AIPAC investigation, the Abramoff investigation, and now the phone jamming scandal. And since he represents Tom DeLay, he's also got a piece of the Duke Cunningham scandal - Brent Wilkes, one of Cunningham's defense contractors, also courted DeLay.

It really does make it easier for us muckrakers - no matter what the scandal, we can always call the same man. I've got him on speed dial.