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Congressional aide-turned lobbyist Letitia White is under federal investigation for allegedly using her connections to her former boss, Rep. Jerry Lewis (R- Calif.) to obtain earmarks for her lobbying clients, according to an Associated Press review of the case. Ten subpeonas have already been issued, and White's disclosure forms are under scrutiny. White and her husband, lobbyist Richard White, were featured in the Public Citizen report The Bankrollers, which detailed how much money lobbyists have given in campaign contributions since 1998. The Whites ranked 36th in a list of over 7,000 lobbyists who have made contributions, giving at least $171,499, all to Republicans. The couple is the second-largest lobbyist contributor to Rep. Lewis, with $31,500 as of early 2006.
According to the The Dallas Morning News, Texas Governor Rick Perry (R)received $5,000 from Texas power company TXU and $2,000 from its retired chairman last year within days of signing an executive order speeding up the permitting process for coal-fired power plants. Then in April, the former chairman gave Perry's campaign $25,000 in the same month the power company and the state announced plans for TXU to build 11 coal-fired plants in the state.
The New York Times writes that the Brennen Center for Justice is releasing a report today that says one of two types of voting machines being considered to modernize New York's voting sytem has a higher rate of unrecorded votes than the other — and that the problem is worse in precincts with more minority and low-income voters. The report says the problem involves machines that display all candidates in all races on a single screen (as New York requires) and then has voters to use buttons or a touch screen to make their selections. This suggests that the system is too confusing for voters. The other machines being considered are optical scan systems where voters mark a paper ballot that is then scanned into a machine that allows them to make corrections. Their rate of unrecorded votes is lower, according to the Brennan study.
Former governors Dick Thornburgh (R-Penn.) and Richard Celeste (D-Ohio) wrote an Op-Ed in today's Washington Post calling for back-up plans in every precinct in case of machine failure on Election Day. This year will be the first time that electronic voting systems are used in many jurisdictions as officials rush to meet the deadlines established by the Help America Vote Act of 2002 without adequate testing of the new machines. In the absence of backup plans ready to go, there is the chance that many voters will end up not having their votes count, or counted correctly, at least. And that is vital to ensure fair elections.
Kentucky Governor Ernie Fletcher signed a plea deal for his connection to a hiring scandal, reports The New York Times. He was indicted in May for hiring practices that placed large donors in governmental positions. According to the plea agreement, Gov. Fletcher takes responsibility for the wrongdoing but avoids any criminal charges. Fletcher, the first Republican Governor in Kentucky in over 30 years, still plans to seek re-election, despite the controversy.
The Washington Post reports that former White House aide David Safavian is asking that his conviction be overturned. Safavian was convicted of obstruction of justice and making false statements in regards to his relationship with disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, in particular relating to the sale of two pieces of General Services Administration-controlled property. Safavian's lawyers are arguing that he did not lie to GSA officials, but rather used ambiguous wording.
Presidential hopefuls are already visiting key primary states and wooing campaign managers, according to The New York Times. Local politicians and parties are enjoying the stump speeches, endorsements and campaign funding. Individuals are being treated to dinners, visits to the race-track, and one-on-one meetings.
Alaskans voted to unseat two-term incumbent Gov. Frank Murkowski (R) in the Republican primary yesterday, according to the Washington Post. Murkowski came in third, with under 20 percent. Alaskans have been critical of many of the governor's decisions, including his appointment of his daughter Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) to the U.S. Senate and his purchase of a state jet after the state Legislature and the federal government denied his request.
In the News:
Sen. George Allen (R-Va.) is not the only senator up for re-election who has been accused of making racist comments. The Washington Post reports that Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) has repeatedly joked about the immigration status of the Latinos who work on his house. Burns is also taking a lot of heat for his connections to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who steered more than $130,000 in campaign contributions to Burns. And Republican Wisconsin candidate for the House, Paul R. Nelson, called for racial profiling at airports. When asked how one would identify Muslims, he said "Well, you know, if he comes in wearing a turban and his name is Muhammad, that's a good start."
The New York Times writes that while the Democrats are taking a step in the right direction by placing the more diverse states of Nevada and South Carolina in the front of the presidential primary season, along with the traditional states of Iowa and New Hampshire, more work needs to be done. With a front-loaded, fast-paced primary season, voters who do not live in one of the earlier states are ignored by many of the candidates, the Times argued.
Texas GOP leaders decided to back a single write-in candidate to replace former House Majority Leader Tom Delay (R-Texas) on the 22nd District's ballot in November, according to the Associated Press. With the Supreme Court refusing to hear the Republicans' case for officially placing a new candidate's name on the ballot, Texas Republicans are forced to run a write-in campaign for Dr. Shelley Sekula-Gibbs, a Houston city councilwoman.
Not all members of the party support the decision, however. Sugar Land's mayor, Republican David Wallace, has decided to run as a write-in candidate, regardless of the GOP vote.
The New Republic published a tell-all interview with Former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham's (R-Calif.) wife Nancy Cunningham. Mrs. Cunningham (seperated from her jailed husband) spoke with presidential and celebrity biographer Kittie Kelley, giving details on her husband's personality, and denying any knowledge of his illegal actions.
The New York Times editorialzed in favor of a bill to reform the presidential public-financing system while the Washington Post printed a favorable op-ed column. Introduced in the Senate by Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) and in the House by Reps. Chris Shays (R-Conn.) and Marty Meehan (D-Mass.), the legislation would increase the funds available to candidates, raise the spending limits, and make many other changes. But most importantly, as both papers noted, it would help ensure that Presidential candidates aren't beholden to special interests.
Rep. James Sensenbrenner's (R.-Wis.) hearings on the constitutionality of the FBI raid of Rep. William Jefferson's (D-La.) is keeping that issue in the headlines. The Times-Picayune reports on both the hearing and Jefferson's attempt to conceal documents during the August search of his house. The Justice Department has offered a compromise on the papers seized from his office, according to the LA Times.
The trial of former White House aide David Safavian continues, with Neil Volz, convicted former top aide to Rep. Robert Ney (R-Ohio), testifying about Safavian's link to Abramoff, reports AP.
Rep. John Doolittle (R-Calif.) has raised more than $1 million for his 2006 re-election campaign despite the fact that the Congressman has been linked to two ongoing corruption investigations, according to the Sacramento Bee.
Dana Milbank at the Washington Post comments on Sensenbrenner's haste to investigate the constitutionality of the FBI raid when he has been so reluctant to hold hearings on other potential constitutional issues in the past. And the Baltimore Sun asks if perhaps some House Republicans "doth protest too much."
An op-ed in the Buffalo News asks if Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-NY) can truly be representing his constituents if he accepts more in special-interest-funded travel funds than many can "imagine spending... over the course of a lifetime."
The uproar over the FBI raid of Rep. William Jefferson’s (D-La.) office still dominates the headlines going into this long-weekend and congressional recess. The Washington Post reports on President Bush's entry into, and attempted squelching of, the fray. The President, apparently to appease House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), told the Justice Department to seal the seized files for 45 days.
The recent news trail related to David Safavian, a friend of disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, enters its third day today. The Associated Press provides coverage of the first trial to come out of the Abramoff scandal.
The "is he-isn't he" debate over House Speaker Dennis Hastert's (R-Ill.) possible investigation by the Justice Department continues, with the Baltimore Sun reporting that news organization ABC is standing by its earlier claim that the Speaker is reportedly "in the mix" of an ongoing probe into wrongdoing.
Today's editorials mirror the headlines in that they focus on the Jefferson fracas. The AP writes about possible voter-backlash from Congress' reaction to the raid. Dana Milbank at the Washington Post writes about Hastert's decision to fight, and Bush's attempt to placate the Speaker. And USA Today focuses attention back where it belongs -- on Jefferson's alleged actions.
The FBI "Saturday Night Raid" on Rep. William Jefferson’s (D-La.) office still dominates the corruption headlines, but it's Congress's reaction that is making the news. The Washington Post reports on the rare "bi-partisan" call by House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for the return of files seized by federal agents during the raid.
The Associated Press, however, notes that not every member of Congress agrees with the fight the party leaders are waging. In particular, Rep. Barbara Cubin (R-Wyo.) and Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) are concerned that the electorate "will come to one conclusion: that congressional leaders are trying to protect their own from valid investigations." We couldn't agree more.
House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) may or may not be under investigation for his connections to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. ABC News reports that federal officials say the Speaker is being investigated, but, according to AP, the Justice Department is denying the claim. (Even the denial is unusual, since the Justice Department routinely refuses to comment on its investigations.)
Sen John McCain (R-Ariz.) returned $20,000 in campaign contributions from two Texas businessmen when it was discovered that one of their companies is under investigation, the Washington Post reports.
Congressional travel isn't the only federal travel being funded by private special interests. The Washington Post reports on a new study showing that federal judges also accept free trips from organizations funded by corporations.
With Abramoff out of the way, Rep. Robert Goodlatte (R-Va.) is making a fourth attempt at banning on-line gambling. A Washington Post story explains how the bill, which was at the center of the Abramoff scandal, might get a boost from the corruption backlash.
Commenting on the controversy over the raid of Jefferson's office, John Kass at the Chicago Tribune writes that party leaders are now rushing to "shut the freezer door" on ethics investigations of members of Congress.