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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.
The Washington Post reports that K Street lobbying firms, trade associations, and corporate offices are anticipating that Republicans will lose a majority in at least one chamber of Congress, and are looking to hire more Democrat-friendly staff. Some Democrats have claimed in recent years of being shut out of lucrative lobbying jobs on K Street, largely because of the efforts by Grover Norquist and ex-Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) to strengthen Republican dominance over the lobbying profession (referred to as the “K Street Project”).
Many Democrats welcome the sea change in the lobbying profession. James J. Blanchard, former Democratic governor of Michigan and a new chairman in the prominent lobbying law firm, DLA Piper Rudick Grey Cary LLP, said, “This is going to be a big Democratic year.” Time will tell what this means for the public. The Democrats are not immune to charges of ethics and lobbying abuses, as noted most recently by the investigation into ex-Rep. William Jefferson (D-La).
The AP reports that
Salon reports on six states where citizens are facing obstacles to register and to vote in November –
Over the past decade, earmarks inserted into federal legislation have more than tripled, yet Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA) defended their use yesterday, the Inland Press-Enterprise of
Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) has withdrawn his name from the November ballot, according to the Houston Chronicle. Texas Republicans exhausted all legal options in an attempt to secure a Republican candidate to replace DeLay, who was indicted on money-laundering charges. Also, the Columbus Dispatch chews over the official withdrawal of Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio) from his re-election campaign due to involvement in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal. Ohio state law now requires that a special election be held to replace the embattled Congressman with another Republican candidate.
The Washington Post writes about the ethical conflict of interest that exists when government officials, whose salaries are paid for by taxpayer dollars, are allowed to moonlight as Republican mouthpieces on television.
The Washington Post reports on the need for lobbying reform in the state of Virginia, where the current rules do not limit campaign contributions or lobbyists' gifts to their favorite politicians. Proponents of the current policy argue that disclosure is enough; however, it is also clear that special interests in Virginia do not thoroughly or consistently report their lobbying expenditures.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports on the latest development in the controversy surrounding the election for Rep. Bob Ney’s (R-Ohio) seat after he abandoned promises to run for re-election due to involvement in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal. Ney’s hand-picked replacement, state Sen. Joy Padgett, was confirmed to be legally eligible to run yesterday, Her eligibility was in question due to an Ohio state election law that bars a candidate from running if they lost an election in the same year. Ohio state Attorney General Jim Petro opined that the “sore loser” law does not apply to Padgett because, although she ran for Lieutenant Governor, the law applies only to the gubernatorial candidate leading the ticket.
The Washington Post highlights their Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporting of the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal over the past two years. Click here to choose from dozens of news articles, a list of key players enveloped in the scandal, and a timeline of significant events.
The Washington Post reports on the resignation David A. Burtt II as Director of the Defense Department’s Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA). Last March federal investigators began investigating CIFA contracts that went to companies involved in the bribery scandal of former Rep. Randall “Duke” Cunningham (R-Calif.), who is now serving an eight-year prison term. Cunningham sought $16.5 million for CIFA on a 2004 defense authorization bill.
The Hill reports on yesterday’s announcement by former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) that he would not run for re-election, forcing Texas Republican officials to conduct a write-in campaign to keep the seat in Republican hands. DeLay, under indictment for money-laundering charges on the state level and linked to the corruption investigation of Jack Abramoff, cannot be replaced with a different candidate after Texas Republicans lost multiple court battles on the issue.
The Athens News describes the latest development in the campaign for Rep. Bob Ney’s (R-Ohio) congressional seat, reporting that Republicans are making their uphill battle even harder with their choice of replacement candidate, state Sen. Joy Padgett. In addition to being hand picked by Ney, who is tainted by corruption ties, Padgett may be barred from running due to Ohio's “sore loser” law which prohibits politicians from entering a primary race if they have already lost another during the same year. Padgett unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor in May.
The Hill details the controversy surrounding Rep. Gary Miller (R-Calif.) who allegedly violated House ethics rules when he took close to $7.5 million in promissory notes from a campaign contributor and business partner, Lewis Operating Corp., and used it to purchase real estate from the company.
AP writes about the increase in campaign contributions in Vermont since the U.S. Supreme Court threw out Vermont 's campaign finance law when it ruled that Vermont's spending and contribution limits were unconstitutionally low. Both campaigns said they had benefited more from small contributions, some as low as $5, than they did from their big-dollar supporters.
The Washington Post reports on the latest twist in the fight for the seat of former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay’s (R-Texas). After the courts decided that Texas Republicans could not replace the embattled ex-congressman with another Republican on November’s ballot, DeLay announced yesterday that he will remove his name from the ballot, leaving no Republican nominee. That would clear the way for the GOP to put forth a write-in candidate. The article also reports on the latest complication relating to the decision of Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio) not to seek reelection. The presumptive Republican candidate to replace Ney, state Sen. Joy Padgett, may be barred from running due to
BayouBuzz.com profiles the Democratic challenger to embattled Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.), who is currently the focus of a federal bribery investigation. Regina Bartholomew (D-La.), the challenger, has served as general counsel for the Orleans Parish school board. She also has worked as a lawyer in private practice and at the U.S. Department of Labor. Bartholomew is a native of
After yesterday’s announcement that Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio) will not seek re-election, the Washington Post describes a meeting last week in which House Majority Leader Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) urged Ney to step down. In that meeting, Boehner reportedly reminded Ney that he will need money both for his children's college funds and for the mounting legal fees piling up due to his role in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, and if he lost in the upcoming election, then a lucrative career as a K Street lobbyist would not be possible. The New York Times reports that Rep. Bob Ney (R- Ohio) is the latest political casualty from the Abramoff scandal and highlights others who have been involved such as ex-Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas), former Bush aide David Safavian, and former Christian Coalition leader Ralph Reed (click on names to see them in our Hall of Shame).
The Houston Chronicle reports on the U.S. Supreme Court’s rejection of the petition to hear the Texas Republican Party’s appeal. The Party was asking the Court to hear the case and to allow it to replace ex- Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas) with another Republican candidate. The Texas GOP has now exhausted every legal attempt to change candidates in the middle of the election, an act which every reviewing court has deemed illegal and unconstitutional.
BayouBuzz.com, a Louisiana online news site, reports on the new democratic challenger, Derrick Shepherd (D-La.), who will run against the embattled Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.). Jefferson faces a tough campaign due to an ongoing federal investigation into his role in a bribery scandal. The scandal already led to the FBI uncovering $90,000 in cash hidden in the congressman’s freezer, and led House Democrats to remove Jefferson from his powerful Ways and Means Committee Seat.
The Washington Post writes about the hypocrisy of Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio) who announced yesterday he will no longer seek reelection because he must think of his family. The editorial points out that Ney obviously was not thinking about his family earlier, when he accepted Abramoff's all-expense paid golf trip to Scotland, or when he regularly accepted free food at Abramoff’s restaurants, as well as numerous tickets to sporting events and concerts used for campaign fund raisers.
With Congress out of town celebrating the August recess, it is extremely unusual that we have such a hard-hitting line up of corruption news to recount. First, Rep. Bob Ney (R- Ohio) has become the second and latest victim of the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal. Ney announced today that he will be dropping out of his re-election race. Second, the lobbyist who convicted ex-Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-Calif.) and was fingered as “co-conspirator no. 1” speaks out for the first time since the scandal broke in a tell-all interview with the New York Times. We will come back to what the influential lobbyist professed during the interview, but let us first direct our attention to Rep. Bob Ney, and the scarlet letter which is forcing him out of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Today, Rep. Bob Ney (R- Texas) announced that he will no longer seek re-election from the voters of Ohio’s 18th congressional district. Ney (see our Hall of Shame entry) was one of a handful of influential lawmakers who went on the now-infamous St. Andrew’s golf trip to Scotland, where Jack Abramoff paid for a chartered jet, numerous rounds of gold, lavish meals, and drink tabs. While Ney has not yet been indicted by federal investigators, he is under fire for allegedly lying on House travel disclosure forms, and his former Chief of Staff, Niel Volz, already pleaded guilty to corruption and bribery charges. The announcement came as a surprise, since Ney has been saying that he would not resign, even if indicted over his dealings with Jack Abramoff. It also is the second political casualty arising from the lobbying scandal, as former Christian coalition leader Ralph Reed (R-Ga.) (who also went on the golf trip) lost his party’s primary for Lieutenant Governor of Georgia last month. This may be a sign that any candidate with the audacity to run for re-election while bearing the scarlet letter of A for Abramoff will face the same fate.
Former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-Calif.) made headlines when he admitted to accepting $2.4 million in bribes from Brent Wilkes and other lobbyists before going to jail. Today, Brent Wilkes speaks out in his first on-the-record interview since the scandal. According to today’s New York Times, Mr. Wilkes characterized the process in which federal contracts were granted as a “‘cutthroat’” system in which campaign contributions were a prerequisite, and that the process was “little more than a shakedown.” Wilkes argues that this is the way business is done in Washington and that he was taught the ropes by Bill Lowery, a former representative who became lobbyist and now celebrates extremely close ties to House Appropriation Committee Chairman Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.). Wilkes went on to describe that Chairman Lewis would make a request and if someone did not make contributions, they would "'get left behind.'" Wilkes also alleged that Lowery hinted that Lewis might block future earmarks if Wilkes stopped making campaign donations.
Today’s Progress Report by The Center for American Progress points how both the Cunningham prosecution and the Abramoff scandal caused the Congressional leadership to make noise about these high level ethics abuses earlier this year. Eight months later, as it turns out, it was only noise. Although Cunningham pleaded guilty, the Defense Department inspector general has not yet determined whether any of the government projects he granted were improper. Lobbying reform has also been abandoned by Congress as House and Senate leaders failed to come to any agreement on a bill with the teeth needed to address such a perverse problem.
MSNBC chronicles the latest victim to succumb to a political downfall over involvement in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal. Rep. Bob Ney (R- Ohio) (Hall of Shame inductee) announced yesterday that he will not seek re-election, despite earlier promises that he would not drop out even if he was indicted over his dealings with now-convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff.
The New York Times details the first interview defense contractor from Brent R. Wilkes since former Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-Calif.) named him “co-conspirator No. 1” when he pleaded guilty to accepting $2.4 million in cash and gifts from the contractor and other lobbyists. Wilkes offers a rare insider’s view of the “cutthroat” world of government appropriations where campaign contributions are a prerequisite and legalized bribery is a way of life.
NBC’s First Read reports on the contested and controversial campaign surrounding former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas). DeLay, who tried to drop out of the race after being indicted on money laundering charges, will not be able to have his named replaced on the ballot after four separate court decisions have ruled the change is illegal. NBC describes about a nationwide survey which overwhelmingly rated DeLay negatively.
The Houston Chronicle writes about a new congressional map drawn in the wake of a recent Supreme Court ruling that the previous map violated the Voting Rights Act because it diminished the voting strength of Hispanics. The new districts will open up election opportunities for challengers, especially former Rep. Ciro Rodriguez (D-Texas).
Everybody remembers the glittering smile on Tom DeLay when he posed for his mug shot in Texas after being booked on conspiracy and money laundering charges in October of 2005. The corruption charges eventually led to DeLay’s resignation and "The Hammer" officially fell on June 9th, 2006 with his departure from the halls of Congress. In between DeLay’s mugshot and his deeply partisan farewell address (in which he said that he had "few regrets, no doubts," and assured his colleagues that he always served "honorably and honestly"), DeLay also ran for reelection and won a Texas Republican primary in March.
But after winning the primary and subsequently resigning from Congress, DeLay bought a house in Virginia and claimed to have "moved" out of Texas. Texas Republicans then tried to place another candidate on the ballot to avoid a campaign focusing on the corruption of their candidate. The Texas GOP claimed that since Tom DeLay "moved" to Virginia, he no longer lived in Texas and was therefore ineligible to run. Republicans failed to mention that DeLay maintains his house in Sugar Land, Texas, where his wife still lives.
This minor discrepancy has taken a toll on the Texas Republican party in the courts. Yesterday, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Texas Republican's attempt to replace DeLay with another Republican candidate violated both state law and the U.S. Constitution. The decision upheld a July ruling by a federal judge.
The Texas GOP has said it will seek an expedited appeal from the U.S. Supreme Court, arguing that a failure to replace DeLay "makes a mockery of our democratic system and denies voters a meaningful choice" (Houston Chronicle). Republicans fail to acknowledge removing DeLay from the ballot is a removal of the candidate elected in March and would replace him with an unelected alternative.
If anyone is making a "mockery" of the democratic system, it is the latest have-your-cake-and-eat-it-too shenanigans from Mr. Tom DeLay.
The Houston Chronicle reports on yesterday’s 5th Circuit Appellate Court decision, which held that the Texas Republican Party violated both state law and the U.S. Constitution when they tried to put a new Republican candidate on the ballot by naming former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) ineligible after he was indicted on money laundering charges and resigned from Congress. Republicans will once again appeal the decision, which they have already done several times, and will seek an expedited appeal from the US Supreme Court.
The Washington Post recounts yesterday’s Republican failure to cut the estate tax. The Republican leadership crafted the bill, which included an increase in the minimum wage. Democrats labeled the proposal as a Republican ploy to further enrich the wealthy with an enticement for Democrats to cave on the estate tax.
The Washington Post highlights U.S. Senatorial candidate Chris Wakim (R-W.Va.), who recently revised language on his resume after criticism that he allegedly misled the public about his education and military service (see our blog from earlier in the week). Wakim is challenging Sen. Alam B. Mollohan (R-W.Va.), who is currently under federal investigation for ethics abuse (see previous blog entry).
NBC’s First Read reports on the latest development regarding the struggling campaign of Rep. Katherine Harris (R-Fla) for the U.S. Senate. Harris is declining to say whether she was subpoenaed by a grand jury in connection to her relationship with former defense contractor Mitchell Wade, who already pleaded guilty to bribing now-jailed former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.). Harris is known for her controversial role in influencing the 2000 presidential election, in which she was both Florida's top election official and co-chairwoman of the Florida Bush-Cheney campaign (click here for a New York Times article from 2004 on Harris).
USA Today writes that the number of privately funded trips members of Congress take has been cut in half in the wake of numerous lobbying scandals which became a major issue in the fall elections. Analysts predict that the decline in travel sponsored by special interest groups will diminish the influence they have on public officials.
The Washington Post reports on the Senate showdown on Capitol Hill, where the Republican leadership has strategically introduced a bill to increase the minimum wage while cutting the estate tax at the same time. Update: In late-night voting, the bill failed as Democrats resisted the trade.
NBC’s First Read reports that President Bush is in
Republican candidate Chris Wakim (R-W.Va.), who is challenging Rep. Allen Mollohan (D-W.Va.), is facing criticism for claiming on his resume to be a “Gulf War Veteran” despite the fact that he never served overseas, Roll Call reports (subscription only). The article also expounds on the controversy surrounding Mollohan, who is under FBI investigation for receiving campaign contributions from officials connected to organizations that received earmarks.
Roll Call (subscription only) describes a late night lobbying episode involving Rebecca Cox, lobbyist and wife of former Rep. Christopher Cox (R-Calif.). Apparently Cox, who was lobbying for Continental Airlines on a recent pension bill, wore a House member’s spouses’ pin to gain access to restricted areas of the Capitol.
NBC’s First Read reports on the arguments heard yesterday in a federal appeals court regarding the Texas GOP battle to replace former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas) with another candidate. The Houston Chronicle reports that the three-judge panel seemed to favor the Democrats’ position in keeping DeLay on the ballot.
The Washington Post is reporting that the Pentagon has decided not to renew a contract with a company caught up in the scandal involving former Congressman Randy “Duke” Cunningham (R-Calif.).
Roll Call (subscription only) reports on the dismal state of lobbying and ethics reform on Capitol Hill where House and Senate Republican leaders have failed to come to any form of agreement on the issue, despite numerous promises and public statements in the wake of the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandals.