The Bush Regime is beset by scandals.
Closely related to these scandals are the Smears used by the Neo-Cons.
- Walter Reed Army Medical Center scandal
- Cheney’s former chief of staff, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, is found guilty
- Senate passes GI bill that Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Bush opposed
- Congressional ratings dip to all-time low of 13 percent
Scandals Alone Could Cost Republicans Their House Majority
November 02, 2006 Indictments, investigations and allegations of wrongdoing have helped put at least 15 Republican House seats in jeopardy, enough to swing control to the Democrats on Tuesday even before the larger issues of war, economic unease and President Bush are invoked.
With just five days left before Election Day, allegations are springing up like brushfires. Four GOP House seats have been tarred by lobbyist Jack Abramoff's influence-peddling scandal. Five have been adversely affected by then-Rep. Mark Foley's unseemly contacts with teenage male House pages. The remaining half a dozen or so could turn on controversies including offshore tax dodging, sexual misconduct and shady land deals.
Not since the House bank check-kiting scandal of the early 1990s have so many seats been affected by scandals, and not since the Abscam bribery cases of the 1970s have the charges been so serious. But this year's combination of breadth and severity may be unprecedented, suggested Julian E. Zelizer, a congressional historian at Boston University.
For more than a year, Democrats have tried to gain political advantage from what they called "a culture of corruption" in Republican-controlled Washington. Republican campaign officials insist the theme has not caught on with the public, but even they concede that many individual races have been hit hard.
"So many different kinds of scandals going on at the same time, that's pretty unique," Zelizer said. "There were scandals throughout the '70s, multiple scandals, but the number of stories now are almost overwhelming."
At least nine GOP seats have been affected by scandals and are highly vulnerable to Democratic takeover next week. Foley's abrupt resignation has jeopardized a Florida House district that had been on no one's radar screen. Under indictment and amid a swirl of ethics investigations, former House majority leader Tom DeLay (Tex.) resigned from Congress earlier this year, forcing Republicans to mount a long-shot write-in campaign for their chosen candidate. Rep. Robert W. Ney's guilty plea last month on corruption charges still hangs over the Ohio campaign of his would-be Republican successor, Joy Padgett, especially because Ney still has not resigned from Congress.
The GOP has all but abandoned longtime Rep. Curt Weldon (Pa.), as federal investigators examine charges that he steered lobbying contracts to his daughter. Weldon went on television yesterday with an ad featuring actors pleading, "Would you give a friend the benefit of the doubt? . . . Today, Curt Weldon needs our support."
Republican campaign strategists fear they have also lost the seat of Rep. Don Sherwood (Pa.), who has been dogged by the settlement of a lawsuit filed by a mistress who charged that Sherwood had throttled her.
Congress watchers once saw the swing seat of Rep. Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.) as a missed opportunity for Democrats. But now, as the U.S. attorney's office in Phoenix examines his role in a land deal for a business partner and political benefactor, Renzi's race with political neophyte Ellen Simon (D) has tightened.
Farther west, Rep. Jon Porter (R-Nev.) has had to contend with charges lodged last month by a longtime former aide, Jim Shepard, that the lawmaker made dozens of illegal fundraising calls from his congressional offices. And two reliably Republican districts in California are under assault by Democrats because Reps. Richard W. Pombo and John T. Doolittle have been linked to Abramoff, the lobbyist who pleaded guilty in January to fraud, tax evasion and conspiracy to bribe public officials.
Beyond those nine jeopardized GOP seats, four other Republicans have been tainted by the Foley page scandal. Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds (N.Y.) chose to issue a public apology after he admitted that he had known about inappropriate contact between Foley and a former page this spring. Democrats have repeatedly hit Rep. Deborah Pryce (Ohio), the House Republican Conference chairman, for inaction on the Foley matter. And Democrats have tried to hold two former members of the Page Board, Reps. Sue W. Kelly (N.Y.) and Heather A. Wilson (N.M.), accountable for Foley's actions.
Meanwhile, new allegations continue to spring up. Vern Buchanan, a Republican running for the Florida seat vacated by Rep. Katherine Harris (R), was the target of local media reports this week detailing his use of business entities in Caribbean tax havens to reduce levies on his auto dealerships. The Albany Times Union published an article yesterday charging that the wife of Rep. John E. Sweeney (R-N.Y.) called police late last year to report that her husband was "knocking her around" during a late-night argument.
And Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn.), who made his name pushing campaign finance changes and governance reforms, was confronted with media reports alleging that a 2003 trip to Qatar -- partly funded by a group loosely tied to Abramoff -- had not been properly disclosed.
"The corruption issue plays in two ways: It contributes to the sour mood of the country and to the low job approval of Congress, and it particularly plays in races directly touched by allegations of scandal," said Republican pollster Whit Ayers. "And in those races, it plays a significant role."
House Democrats have had to deal with investigations of their own, involving Reps. William J. Jefferson (La.), Alan B. Mollohan (W.Va.) and Jane Harman (Calif.), but none of those cases have put Democratic seats in jeopardy.
In the Senate, a federal inquiry into Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) and his ties to a nonprofit community agency that paid him more than $300,000 in rent while receiving millions of dollars in federal assistance has provided his Republican challenger with a strong issue and has kept that race close. But the seat of Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) may be in even more jeopardy, primarily because of Burns's ties to Abramoff.
Recent polling suggests that the issue of corruption is beginning to stick. A CNN poll last month found that "half of all Americans believe most members of Congress are corrupt" and that "more than a third think their own representative is crooked."
And where the issue has hit directly, Democrats and their allies have been playing up charges to the hilt. Just yesterday, Christine Jennings, the Florida Democrat running for Harris's House seat, held a news conference to attack Buchanan's alleged offshore tax dodges.
Even the most peripheral contact with a scandal has not gone unnoticed. "Those that knew got to go," Albuquerque's Democratic mayor, Martin J. Chavez, thundered at a rally last month against New Mexico's Wilson, citing her role on the Page Board during Foley's misconduct. "Those that didn't know need to explain why they didn't."
Bush Whitehouse and Administration
HUD Chief Inattentive To Crisis, Critics Say
In late 2006, as economists warned of an imminent housing market collapse, housing Secretary Alphonso Jackson repeatedly insisted that the mounting wave of mortgage failures was a short-term "correction."
He pushed for legislation that would make it easier for federally backed lenders to make mortgage loans to risky borrowers who put less money down. He issued a rule that was criticized by law enforcement authorities because it could increase the difficulty of detecting and proving mortgage fraud.
As Jackson leaves office this week, much of the attention on his tenure has been focused on investigations into whether his agency directed housing contracts to his friends and political allies. But critics say an equally significant legacy of his four years as the nation's top housing officer was gross inattention to the looming housing crisis.
They contend that Jackson ignored warnings from within his agency, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, whose inspector general told Congress that some of the secretary's efforts were "ill-advised policy" and likely to put more families at risk of losing their homes.
During Jackson's years on the job, foreclosures for loans insured by HUD's Federal Housing Administration (FHA) have risen and default rates have hit a record high.
All the while, Jackson enjoyed a chef and a full-time security detail that trailed him to Washington social events. His office launched a new $7 million auditorium and cafeteria at HUD's headquarters, money that some within the agency believed should have been directed toward housing for the poor. His office solicited an emergency bid to obtain oil portraits of Jackson and four other HUD secretaries at a cost to taxpayers of $100,000.
Jackson, who declined to be interviewed, will be remembered as a Cabinet secretary so committed to carrying out President Bush's goal of increasing homeownership that he encouraged policies that threatened to exacerbate the mortgage crisis, according to interviews with more than 30 current and former HUD officials and housing experts, and a review of numerous HUD documents and audits.
In speeches, he urged loosening some rules to spur more home buying and borrowing. "I'm convinced this spring we will see the market again begin to soar," Jackson said in a June 2007 speech at the National Press Club to kick off what HUD dubbed "National Homeownership Month." He also told the audience that he had no specific laws to recommend to prevent a repeat of the lending abuses that caused the mortgage crisis.
"When Congress calls up and asks us, we'll give them advice," he said. "You have 534 massive egos up there, so unless they ask you, you don't volunteer anything."
HUD spokesperson D.J. Nordquist defended Jackson's record in pushing for more flexibility in government-backed loans. "Secretary Jackson is a big believer in the U.S. housing market and won't apologize for saying so," Nordquist said in a written response to questions. She said Jackson hoped that FHA loans could provide a safe alternative for borrowers about to default on subprime loans from the private sector.
A former director of three housing authorities, Jackson came to HUD as a deputy secretary in 2001. He and Bush had been friends since their days as neighbors in Dallas. When Secretary Mel Martinez stepped down to run for the Senate in 2004, Bush promoted Jackson.
A lead smelter's son and the youngest of 12 children, Jackson, 62, has said he "never imagined" he would one day serve in the Cabinet. From his 10th-floor office, he seemed to revel in the entree his new job offered to Washington's elite, according to current and former associates.
At shrimp-cocktail buffets and receiving lines, Jackson and his wife became ubiquitous, making a 2005 list of the "100 most invited" people on Washington's social circuit.
Jackson made a show of having a cook on HUD's staff, visitors said, a perk normally associated with Cabinet members who have international travel schedules. Nordquist said the cook is an assistant who helps with receptions and banquets, and also answers phones and helps with attendance reports.
Though all Cabinet members are entitled to security, some have eschewed the expense. Jackson sought a full-time detail.
He launched the renovation of a larger HUD auditorium and cafeteria to replace what his spokesperson said was a "deplorable" 40-year-old facility. The oil portraits were commissioned by Jackson's office in an emergency contract last fall so that they would be ready in time for a scheduled opening, which was later postponed. Nordquist said HUD is updating the portraits of agency secretaries as part of the American tradition of "commemorating the contributions of our public servants."
"How can you spend that much money on building a shrine to yourself?" asked Peter Sepp, vice president of the National Taxpayers Union, a fiscally conservative watchdog group. Sepp said that "99 percent of Americans would probably not agree with that kind of extravagance."
Cabinet members historically have enjoyed perks, but their spending of taxpayer funds is limited to "legally authorized purposes." The Office of Management and Budget says those can vary from agency to agency.
In the policy arena, Jackson quickly made known his loyalty to Bush and his determination to help increase the number of U.S. homeowners by at least 5 million. Loans by FHA-approved lenders accounted for less than 10 percent of the overall market in the past five years, but its loan programs were supposed to be targeted to low- and moderate-income individuals, many of them first-time buyers.
In 2006, Jackson proposed plans to modernize the FHA lending process. Backed by the White House, his proposal would allow FHA lenders to offer loans with no down payment, eliminating the long-standing 3 percent minimum. Lenders also could increase the size of the loan to cover the median home price in high-cost areas. High-risk borrowers could qualify by agreeing to pay higher premiums.
Jackson said the goals were to encourage first-time home buyers and to help the FHA compete with the booming subprime market. In an online White House forum in 2007, he said the FHA "is undergoing a historic transformation to give homebuyers who do not qualify for prime financing a better alternative to high-cost, high-risk loan products."
But Inspector General Kenneth Donohue chided Jackson and FHA Commissioner Brian Montgomery, a former White House political aide with no previous housing experience. Testifying on Capitol Hill in March 2007, Donohue agreed that the FHA needed changes to help working families, but not to mimic subprime lenders. He said some of the changes could distract the FHA from its affordable-housing mission while helping government-backed lenders reach high-end buyers.
He also expressed concern that Jackson's proposals would do nothing to detect abuse and fraud. At the time, the FHA monitored 6 to 7 percent of the loans in its portfolio.
"Aggressive oversight and enforcement is crucial to prevent a recurrence of what we are witnessing in the subprime market today and the savings and loan industry in years past," Donohue said.
Nordquist said committing fraud in FHA loans is "infinitely more difficult" than in private mortgages and that FHA reform efforts included several steps to manage risks. For example, she said, Jackson objected to waiving required audits for new FHA lenders. In an interview, Montgomery said, "It is beyond outrageous for anyone to suggest we would do anything to put FHA at unnecessary risk."
Members of Congress who oversee HUD said Jackson's emphasis on pushing homeownership -- without many brakes -- ignored the root of the mortgage crisis.
"Homeownership appears to be a bigger priority in the administration than affordability and foreclosure," Sen. Christopher S. Bond (R-Mo.) told Jackson at a recent hearing. He added: "I'll tell you quite frankly, I think the emphasis on homeownership helped to drive the foreclosure crisis we're now in. . . . All these wonderful ideas . . . didn't do them any good when we put them in housing they couldn't afford."
Jackson also issued a rule allowing FHA lenders more self-policing. Under the lender insurance rule that HUD implemented in 2006, lenders could endorse FHA loans without prior review and no longer had to submit loan paperwork to HUD. The agency's inspector general and the FBI objected, and HUD's office of general counsel registered concern because detecting fraud would be more difficult without lenders' paperwork.
Donohue warned the Senate that the rule "permits those with the potential to perpetrate fraud upon the insurance fund" to keep the evidence of a crime.
Nordquist defended the change as removing "mountains of paperwork that increasingly became unmanageable."
Inside HUD, numerous staffers said, Jackson made clear that he believed overregulating and investigating mortgage lenders could harm the president's homeownership goals.
On Jan. 4, 2006, the U.S. attorney in Detroit announced what was then the largest mortgage fraud case ever filed. Based on a HUD audit, law enforcement officers found a pattern of falsified mortgage documents by ABN Amro, one of the largest FHA-approved mortgage lenders. The company agreed to pay $41 million in a civil settlement.
Jackson and Montgomery, according to three current and former government officials familiar with the matter, reacted coolly to the historic settlement. Both complained to their staffs that punishing FHA lenders could backfire if they wanted those lenders' help in increasing homeownership.
But Nordquist said Jackson and Montgomery completely supported the settlement. Montgomery said he remembers only debating concerns with staff members about how strongly HUD should criticize the alleged fraud. The lender, he said, fully investigated the matter when alerted to a probe and self-reported the bulk of the case.
Enforcement seemed to be a low priority for HUD in both staffing and budget, according to agency observers. David Berenbaum, executive vice president at the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, an association working to prevent foreclosures and abusive lending, said HUD is supposed to be the government's lead enforcer of fair-lending laws. The laws prohibit financial discrimination and exploitation of minority borrowers, who took out a disproportionate share of the subprime loans. Berenbaum said HUD largely paid nonprofits to monitor compliance with fair-lending laws.
Nordquist said HUD opened a fair-lending division last summer, hiring a senior economist and advertising to hire five staffers, to help focus on those problems.
HUD has a standing agreement to refer cases to its inspector general when it suspects mortgage fraud. But an audit by that office of one sample of recent records found that HUD did not refer more than two-thirds of the potentially fraudulent FHA mortgage loans it identified.
"If all of the regulators, including HUD, had looked specifically at mortgage fraud, looking at fair lending and fair housing in a more proactive way, the crisis might have not been as bad," Berenbaum said.
Jackson had insisted he would stay in office until the end of Bush's term. But last month, several Democratic senators who hold HUD's purse strings called for his resignation. He had refused to answer their questions about allegations that he was engaged in political favoritism and cronyism. A federal grand jury is investigating whether Jackson lied to Congress about his involvement in contracts and whether he steered millions of dollars in government work at the Virgin Islands and New Orleans housing authorities to his friends.
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), head of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that oversees HUD, said March 21 that Jackson had become unfit to lead the agency.
"We are in the midst of a national housing crisis," she said. "The allegations of cronyism and favoritism against Secretary Jackson are a worsening distraction at HUD at a time when we must have a credible housing secretary that is beyond suspicion."
Ex-FDA Chief Crawford to Plead Guilty to U.S. Charges (Update2)
Lester Crawford, the former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, will plead guilty to federal charges of failing to disclose owning shares in companies regulated by the agency, his attorney said.
Prosecutors charged Crawford, 68, with filing a false document and violating federal conflict-of-interest laws. Crawford may face as much as six months of jail or house arrest and a fine of $50,000, said his lawyer, Barbara Van Gelder, in a phone interview today.
Government investigators have been probing Crawford's financial dealings since he stepped down as FDA commissioner in September 2005, two months after his Senate confirmation. He stated in 2004 that shares of Sysco Corp. and Kimberly-Clark Corp. had been sold when he and his wife continued to hold them, and he failed to disclose income from Embrex Inc. stock options, U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Taylor said in a court filing.
President George W. Bush nominated Crawford to become FDA Commissioner in February 2005. Crawford, from Demopolis, Alabama, holds a doctorate in veterinary medicine from Auburn University in Alabama.
He also has a doctorate in pharmacology from the University of Georgia. Crawford ran the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine from 1978 to 1980 and from 1982 to 1985, taking time out to serve as head of the department of physiology-pharmacology at the University of Georgia's College of Veterinary Medicine.
He then served as the administrator of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's food safety and inspection service from 1987 to 1991 before taking a job as the chief science officer at a trade group, the National Food Processors Association.
The case is U.S. v. Crawford, 06-438, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (Washington).
Bush 'Faith-Based' Initiative Was Used For GOP Campaigns
Former White House Official Charges In New Book
October 12, 2006 White House Faith-Based Office Is 'Deplorable Sham' And Should Be Shut Down, Says AU's Lynn
A new book by a former staffer in the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives details how the much-ballyhooed Bush “faith-based” initiative was cynically manipulated by Republican operatives to help GOP candidates locked in close races.
David Kuo’s forthcoming book, Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction, also asserts that applications for federal faith-based funds were sometimes rejected by reviewers because they came from non-Christian applicants, that civil rights rollbacks sought by the administration were unneeded and that Bush’s conservative Christian allies were derided behind their backs and bought off with White House cufflinks and other trinkets.
Americans United for Separation of Church and State, which has led opposition to President George W. Bush’s faith-based initiative, said the information is confirmation of critics’ long-standing complaints.
“This is proof that the faith-based initiative was a deplorable sham from day one,” said the Rev. Barry W. Lynn, Americans United executive director. “This initiative was never about helping the poor; it was about shameless partisan politicking. It has undercut the constitutional separation of church and state, and it has been horrible public policy.
“The White House faith-based office ought to be shut down today, before more taxpayer money is misused,” Lynn said. “Kuo’s book confirms evidence that Americans United brought forward four years ago. The faith-based initiative is a travesty that has gone on far too long.”
Kuo alleges that White House strategist Karl Rove and other Republican leaders staged a series of supposedly non-partisan events around the faith-based initiative in states with tight House and Senate races.
According to Kuo, 20 events were held, and Republican candidates subsequently won 19 of those races. Discussing the book on MSNBC’s “Countdown” last night, Keith Olbermann remarked, “The [faith-based] office was literally a taxpayer-funded part of the Republican campaign machinery.”
While the White House was happy to take evangelicals’ votes, it had nothing but contempt for their leaders, Kuo asserts. He alleges that staffers in Rove’s office referred to Religious Right leaders as “nuts” and writes, “National Christian leaders received hugs and smiles in person and then were dismissed behind their backs and described as ridiculous, out of control and just plain goofy.”
Why a Christian in the White House Felt Betrayed
By DAVID KUO
October 17, 2006 For Republicans who fear that the Foley scandal might keep Evangelicals away from the polls in November, here comes another challenge--in hardcover format. A new memoir by David Kuo, former second-in-command of President Bush's Office of Faith-Based Initiatives, has the White House on the defensive with its account of an Administration that mocked Evangelicals in private while using them at election time to bolster its support. In this exclusive adaptation from the book, Kuo writes about how his White House experiences left him disillusioned about the role religion can play in politics.
I stepped into the Oval Office to find President George W. Bush prowling behind his desk looking for something. "Kuo!" he said without looking up. "Tell me about this meeting."
It was June 2003, and I was deputy director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. The office had opened in the West Wing in 2001 to support the President's campaign promise of $8 billion a year in new funding for both religious and secular charities that helped the poor. That money never materialized, however, and I was increasingly stuck with the task of explaining to religious groups why the White House was so bad at helping them do good. This meeting, with a group of prominent African-American pastors who had supported Bush's plan, promised to be no different.
I began to brief the President on the pastors, recommending that he talk about the administrative reforms we had implemented, and the tax credits we were still fighting for ...
He interrupted. "Forget about all that. Money. All these guys care about is money. They want money. How much money have we given them?"
I never doubted the President's own faith or desire to help those who, like him, had once been lost in a world of alcohol or, unlike him, had struggled with poverty or drugs. Because I shared his faith and his vision of compassionate conservatism, I had been a very good soldier. When members of his senior staff mocked the plan as the "f___ing faith-based initiative," I didn't say a word. When his legislative-affairs team summarily dismissed our attempts to shoehorn our funding into the budget, I smiled and continued trying to work neatly within the system. When I heard staff privately deriding evangelical Christians because they were so easily seduced by White House power, I raised an eyebrow but not a ruckus. Like everyone else in the small faith-based office, I didn't speak too loudly or thunder too much. We were the nice guys.
Today, however, I decided to choose honesty over niceness. Two months earlier, I had been diagnosed with a brain tumor that required intensive surgery and rehabilitation. This was my first meeting with the President and Karl Rove since my return. Something about undergoing brain surgery had made me reflect about whether I had really been doing a public service by pretending that our office had been living up to its commitments.
I glanced over at Karl and turned to look the President in the eye. "Sir, we've given them virtually nothing," I said, "because we have had virtually nothing new to give."
The President had been looking down at some papers about the event, but his head jerked up. "Nothing? What do you mean we've given them nothing?" He glared. "Don't we have new money in programs like the Compassion Fund thing?"
I looked again at Karl. He seemed stunned at what I was saying. "No, sir," I told the President. "In the past two years we've gotten less than $80 million in new grant dollars." The number fell shockingly short of the $8 billion he had vowed to deliver in the first year alone.
The President's staff didn't just bad-mouth the faith-based office behind closed doors. Their political indifference also kept us from getting the funding we needed so badly. No episode captured that more clearly than the 2001 negotiations over the President's $1.7 trillion tax cut. In those final negotiations with the Senate and House, the White House voluntarily dropped a centerpiece of the President's compassion promise: a provision to allow 80% of Americans to get credit for their charitable contributions.
Karl stayed behind to share some thoughts and answer questions. "Before I get started, I want to say something. This initiative isn't political," he told them. "If I walked into the Oval Office and said it was going to be political, the President would bash my head in."
Then the questions began. "Since the President brought up money, where, exactly is that money?" asked one pastor. "We've talked to the Cabinet Secretaries, and they say there isn't any new money." They peppered him with questions for several minutes. Finally he smiled at them and said, "Tell you what, I'm going to get those guys in a room and bash some heads together and get to the bottom of this. I'll be back in touch with you." He left confidently.
At the meeting's end, several of the pastors said they wanted to pray for my healing. They placed their hands on my shoulder and called on God to hear their prayers on my behalf. I listened and loved it and said a prayer of my own: that I would have the courage to tell them what was really going on at the White House.
That was more than three years ago. Their prayers have worked on my body. I am still here and very much alive. Now I am finding the courage to speak out about God and politics and their dangerous dance. George W. Bush, the man, is a person of profound faith and deep compassion for those who suffer. But President George W. Bush is a politician and is ultimately no different from any other politician, content to use religion for electoral gain more than for good works. Millions of Evangelicals may share Bush's faith, but they would protect themselves--and their interests--better if they looked at him through the same coldly political lens with which he views them.
Breach of faith
Former White House insider David Kuo talks about how the Bush administration used its most loyal voters, evangelical Christians, for political gain.
October, 17, 2006 The No. 2 man in the White House's Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives from 2001 to 2003, Christian conservative David Kuo grew disillusioned with the Bush administration's attempt to solve social problems with large helpings of federally funded religion. In his new book, "Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction," Kuo tells the story of an administration that used evangelicals for purely political purposes, and that often revealed disdain for the very bloc of voters most responsible for recent Republican success. Kuo, who has also been an aide to William Bennett, an advisor to John Ashcroft, and a speechwriter for Ralph Reed, Pat Robertson and Bob Dole (as well as a chronicler of the dot-com bust), claims members of the administration often disparaged fundamentalists in private; Karl Rove, he says, referred to the Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives as "the fucking faith-based initiative." Kuo says this cynical attitude was reflected in the way the administration actually dealt with evangelical groups, promising sweeping change and billions of dollars and never quite delivering.
Since his book was discussed on MSNBC's "Countdown With Keith Olbermann" last week, and since he was interviewed on CBS' "60 Minutes" on Sunday, Kuo has become a target for the ire of Republicans and Christian conservatives. Focus on the Family's James Dobson has called "Tempting Faith" a "mix of sour grapes and political timing," and Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, told the Washington Post that he "felt sorry" for Kuo. "Once you do something like this," said Perkins, "you get your 15 minutes in the spotlight, but then after that nobody will touch you."
White House, NSA staff said to be buyers from online diploma mill
Trial that could out feds alleged to have bogus degrees delayed
October 18, 2006 Names of 135 federal employees who allegedly bought fake diplomas from an outfit in the western United States will not be revealed for at least one year, if ever, according to a U.S attorney's office.
Last week in Spokane, Wash., during a pretrial hearing for eight people accused of selling counterfeit degrees from nonexistent universities, a defense attorney told the judge that employees from the National Security Agency and the Health and Human Services, Justice and State departments were among 6,000 people who bought the diplomas, according to the Associated Press.
The AP also reported that Peter Schweda, attorney for alleged diploma mill operator Steven Randock, said the names of 135 government employees who supposedly purchased the degrees for promotions or pay raises would be released during the course of the trial.
The trial will not start for another year, though. Judge Lonny Suko of the District Court of the Eastern District of Washington delayed it until Oct. 1, 2007, to give attorneys more time to prepare. Suko said more than 150,000 pages of e-mails, 40 CDs of documents and up to 50 witnesses will be used.
Tom Rice, a spokesman for the U.S attorney's office in Spokane, Wash., which is prosecuting the case, said Schweda's assertions that government purchasers would be revealed "were not necessarily accurate."
Rice also said he cannot confirm or deny that there is a separate Justice Department investigation into federal purchasers of the fake degrees. The case was built around a sting operation by a handful of Secret Service agents.
"It has been said that [names] may become available in that trial, but sitting here discussing it with you, I don't see how it's relevant to the Randock trial who purchased them," Rice said. "That'd be like saying everybody who used cocaine would be introduced in the trial of Manuel Noriega."
The 40-page indictment for defendants Steven Randock, Dixie Randock, Richard Novak, Blake Carlson, Amy Hensley, Heidi Lorhan, Roberta Markishtum and Kenneth Pearson accuses them of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, among other offenses. Pearson pleaded guilty last week.
The defendants allegedly set up a number of bogus universities, including "Saint Regis University," "James Monroe University" and "Trinity Christian School." They then sold diplomas and fake transcripts without requiring any coursework or testing.
One of the fake universities, "Robertstown University," used a photograph of Blenheim Castle, the birthplace of Winston Churchill and home of the Duke of Marlborough, to depict its campus on a Web site, according to the indictment.
In 2004, the Office of Personnel Management held seminars to train federal managers on spotting fake degrees. OPM and congressional overseers stepped up efforts to thwart diploma mills after Laura Callahan, a senior director in the Homeland Security Department chief information officer's office, was found to have purchased her degrees from an alleged diploma mill in Wyoming.
OPM did not respond to requests for comment on any current investigation into federal employees involved in the Randock case.
White House, NSA staff said to be buyers from online diploma mill
October 12, 2006 SPOKANE, Wash. -- A White House staff member and National Security Agency employees were among 6,000 people who bought bogus online college degrees from a diploma mill, a federal judge has been told.
Others who paid thousands of dollars for phony diplomas in the operation, which used names such as St. Regis University, James Monroe University and Robertstown University, include a senior State Department employee in Kuwait and a Department of Justice employee in Spokane, defense lawyer Peter S. Schweda said Wednesday.
None of the federal officials was identified during the status conference for five defendants in U.S. District Court, nor would lawyers for either side provide any of their names outside the courtroom, The Spokesman-Review reported Thursday.
"We're not going to disclose who bought these degrees until after the trial is under way," U.S. Attorney James A. McDevitt told the newspaper.
Material provided to the defense by the Justice Department shows at least 135 government employees, also including some from the Department of Health and Human Services, bought college or university degrees to use in seeking promotions or pay raises, Schweda said.
The defense team also is seeking access to an Office of Personnel Management report which reportedly provides more detail on federal employees who are believed to have purchased the bogus degrees to enhance their portfolios.
The White House employee who reportedly bought a degree is the subject of a separate investigation, Schweda said.
The latest twist in the criminal case came Wednesday, a day after Kenneth Wade Pearson, 31, webmaster for the operation, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire and mail fraud and receipt of child pornography.
Pearson said he would provide evidence and testify against Dixie E. and Stephen K. Randock Sr. of Colbert, described by government investigators as the ringleaders, making him the third of eight defendants to reach plea agreements in the case.
Pearson, who likely faces three to five years in prison, remained free on a $10,000 bond he posted after being indicted in January. Judge Lonnie R. Suko postponed his sentencing until December 2007, two months after the Randocks and three others are scheduled to go on trial.
The Randocks also remain free on bail.
More than 10,000 sexually explicit images of children were found in four computers used by the Spokane-based operation, government lawyers said, but only Pearson was named in pornography charges.
The defendants are charged with conspiring to commit wire and mail fraud and laundering almost $2 million in diploma mill receipts in 2002-05.
As webmaster, Pearson set up and maintained as many as 125 Web sites for sales of fraudulent college and high school degrees worldwide, investigators wrote in court filings.
Investigators also have asserted that more than $43,000 in bribes were paid to three Liberian diplomats who also have not been identified, including one handoff that was videotaped by Secret Service agents at a hotel in Washington, D.C. Government lawyers have said diplomatic immunity precludes charges against the diplomats.
The Liberian "Board of Education" offered accreditation for the online diploma mills in exchange for the bribes, according to court filings.
About 40 percent of the estimated 6,000 phony college degrees that were sold with that accreditation went to foreign residents seeking entry into the United States, investigators wrote in court filings.
A task force of state and federal agents served search warrants in August 2005 after investigators found many of the phony degrees were sold in Saudi Arabia, raising national security concerns.
Information from: The Spokesman-Review, http://www.spokesmanreview.com
Laura Callahan resigns from DHS
April 05, 2004 Laura Callahan, former senior director in the Homeland Security Department’s CIO office, resigned from the department late last month.
Callahan had been on administrative leave with pay since last June, after a PostNewsweek Tech Media investigation revealed that she had three questionable degrees from a diploma mill in Wyoming.
DHS spokeswoman Valerie Smith said, “Laura Callahan has resigned effective March 26. It is the agency’s policy not to comment on individual personnel matters.”
Callahan, who before moving to DHS had been deputy CIO of the Labor Department, lost her security clearance following the department’s decision to place her on administrative leave, so she could not work in the CIO office.
Callahan has a legitimate two-year associate’s degree in liberal arts from Thomas Edison State College in Trenton, N.J. She has enrolled again in the accredited distance-learning institution to pursue a bachelor’s degree in computer science, according to the college registrar’s office.
Neither Callahan nor her attorney, Ralph Lotkin, could be immediately reached for comment. GCN and Washington Technology reported last year that dozens of federal employees and contractors have questionable degrees.
Thirty-one Senate Democrats on Thursday asked Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to remove himself from the investigation into the Jack Abramoff scandal, saying the lobbyist's dealings with President Bush and others in the administration should compel Gonzales to step aside.
“FBI officials have said the Abramoff investigation 'involves systemic corruption within the highest levels of government,' “ the Democrats wrote in a letter to Gonzales. “In light of your previous service as White House Counsel and your close connection to many Administration officials, the appearance of conflict looms large.”
New questions have arisen about Abramoff's ties to the White House since a photo emerged over the weekend showing Abramoff with Bush. The White House would not release the photo or any others that Bush had taken with Abramoff.
Bush has said that he, like all presidents, is frequently photographed with people at various events and that Abramoff is not a personal friend.
Also surfacing were the contents of an e-mail from Abramoff to Washingtonian magazine claiming he had met briefly with the president nearly a dozen times and that Bush knew him well enough to make joking references to Abramoff's family.
Three former associates of Abramoff told The Associated Press this week that the lobbyist frequently told them he had strong ties to the White House through presidential confidant Karl Rove.
David H. Safavian, Bush's former top procurement officer, is under indictment on five counts of obstructing investigations into whether he aided Abramoff in efforts to acquire property around the nation's capital controlled by the General Services Administration.
Mr. Rove has known Mr. Abramoff for about two decades, according to White House spokesman Scott McClellan. Both are former top officials of the College Republicans, many of whose alumni have gone on to national prominence within the party.
White House reels as aide quits over links to disgraced lobbyist
October 08, 2006 Republicans have been dealt a fresh blow in their increasingly frantic struggle to cling to power in next month's mid-term elections by the resignation of a key White House aide over links to a disgraced lobbyist.
Already reeling from a Capitol Hill sex scandal, the White House was bracing itself yesterday for further fallout over a widening financial scandal that precipitated the departure of Susan Ralston, executive assistant to Karl Rove, Mr Bush's chief political strategist.
She stepped down after congressional investigators documented her extensive dealings with Jack Abramoff, a lobbyist who has pleaded guilty to multimillion-dollar bribery charges involving Republican members of Congress and government officials. Her departure was announced late on Friday as the unrelated scandal surrounding the alleged cover-up of sexual approaches made by Congressman Mark Foley, a Florida Republican, intensified.
The resignation of Miss Ralston, officially a "special adviser" to President George W. Bush, will remind voters of the row that previously engulfed the Republicans over Abramoff, to whom she had been an aide before she joined the White House in 2001. She was reportedly found to have been involved in more than half of her former boss's 66 recorded contacts with her colleagues and superiors on President Bush's staff. Records showed that Abramoff's lobbying colleagues contacted her 69 times.
Congressional investigatorsindicated Miss Ralston had accepted tickets from Abramoff to nine events, including professional basketball, hockey and baseball games and an operatic recital. E-mails and memos uncovered by investigators suggest she served as a conduit for requests for favours by Abramoff, and at one point discussed the "significant amount of money" it would take to lure her away from the White House to work for him.
There was no suggestion that Miss Ralston acted illegally and it is not known whether she declared her dealings with Abramoff, or paid for the tickets he gave her. "She recognised that a protracted discussion of these matters would be a distraction to the White House and she's chosen to step down," said a White House spokesman.
Irwin Lewis "Scooter" Libby
Libby loses law license. http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/national/1155ap_cia_leak_libby.html
Prosecutor: Former press secretary sought immunity for information in Libby case
WASHINGTON (AP) — Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald took a gamble three years ago that White House press secretary Ari Fleischer might break open his leak investigation.
As Fitzgerald's inquiry was heating up into who revealed CIA operative Valerie Plame's name to reporters, Fleischer stepped forward with an offer: Give me immunity from prosecution and I'll give you information that might help your case.
What prosecutors didn't know was that Fleischer was one of the leakers. And without immunity, he refused to talk. Not even a hint.
Prosecutors normally insist on an informal account of what a witness will say before agreeing to immunity. It's known in legal circles as a proffer, and Fitzgerald said Thursday that he never got one from Fleischer, who was chief White House spokesman for the first 2 1/2 years of President Bush's first term.
"I didn't want to give him immunity. I did so reluctantly," Fitzgerald said in court. "I was buying a pig in a poke."
Once the deal was struck in February 2004, Fleischer revealed that he had discussed Plame with reporters in July 2003, days before leaving his job at the White House.
Fleischer, who made a brief appearance at the courthouse on Thursday, is expected to testify early next week that he learned that the wife of Bush administration critic Joseph Wilson worked for the CIA from I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, a former top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney.
Libby is being tried in U.S. District Court on charges of lying and obstructing Fitzgerald's investigation into who outed the CIA operative.
The Fleischer gamble is the second arrangement prosecutors are known to have made with leakers in the leak investigation.
At the onset of the case, former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said he told authorities that he was the source behind columnist Robert Novak's story that revealed Plame's identity and triggered the investigation.
Fitzgerald has not discussed the arrangement with Armitage but said Thursday that he granted immunity to Fleischer believing only that he had "relevant information."
The deal Fitzgerald made was unusual enough that Libby's defense lawyers questioned whether it could be true. They suggested that Fitzgerald got a secret summary of Fleischer's testimony — a deal they want to discuss with jurors when Fleischer takes the stand against Libby on Monday.
Defense attorneys said they will ask U.S. District Judge Reggie B. Walton to force Fitzgerald to reveal what Fleischer promised him. Fitzgerald told Walton that no promises were made.
"We got no specifics," he said.
Plame suit makes political waves
t is an extraordinary development: the vice-president of the United States and a dozen other administration officials accused, in court, of deliberately leaking the identity of a classified CIA operative.
In their lawsuit Joseph Wilson and his wife, Valerie Plame, accuse Dick Cheney and others of endangering the lives of themselves and their children by revealing her status.
And, they allege, it was all done for revenge.
This on-going saga began in 2002, when former US Ambassador Joseph Wilson was despatched from Washington to Niger - the White House apparently hoping that he could gather detailed intelligence on reports that Saddam Hussein was attempting to buy uranium from the African country in an attempt to build a nuclear bomb.
Ambassador Wilson's investigation found that those allegations were untrue.
His findings were at odds with the administration's expectations and went largely ignored: President Bush and others continued to claim that Saddam Hussein was attempting to acquire uranium from Niger.
Irwin Lewis "Scooter" Libby indicted
The White House has tried to move beyond ethics controversies after the indictment late last year of former vice-presidential aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby in connection with the Central Intelligence Agency leak case. Mr. Rove hasn't yet been cleared in the investigation by special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald.
Cheney authorized leaks
Indicted former top White House aide Irwin Lewis "Scooter" Libby will argue that Vice President Dick Cheney authorized him to leak classified information in 2003 to bolster the case for the US-led war against Iraq, US news media reports.
Libby, who has been charged in a federal investigation into the outing of a CIA agent, will in part base his defense on the claim that Cheney had encouraged him to share classified information with reporters, NBC television news said, citing sources familiar with the case.
Libby's lawyer Theodore Wells discussed Cheney's authorization with federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald and the judge handling the case in a recent teleconference call, NBC News reported.
The online edition of the magazine National Journal reported that Libby had testified to a federal grand jury that Cheney and other White House "superiors" had "authorized" him in mid-2003 to leak classified information to defend the administration's prewar intelligence assertions in making the case to go to war with Iraq.
The magazine quoted attorneys familiar with the matter and court records as sources.
Libby also argued that Cheney authorized him to release details of the classified National Intelligence Estimate, the magazine reported, citing sources with firsthand knowledge.
Senator Edward Kennedy of the opposition Democrats called the new revelations, if true, "a new low" in the "sordid case".
Cheney Says He Has Power to Declassify Info
When Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald revealed Libby's assertions to a grand jury that he had been authorized by his superiors to spread sensitive information, the prosecutor did not specify which superiors.
But in an interview on Fox News Channel, Cheney said there is an executive order that gives the vice president, along with the president, the authority to declassify information.
"I have certainly advocated declassification. I have participated in declassification decisions," Cheney said. Asked for details, he said, "I don't want to get into that. There's an executive order that specifies who has classification authority, and obviously it focuses first and foremost on the president, but also includes the vice president."
Cheney added a ringing endorsement of Libby.
"Scooter is entitled to the presumption of innocence," said Cheney. "He is a great guy. I worked with him for a long time. I have tremendous regard for him. I may well be called as a witness at some point in the case, and it is therefore inappropriate for me to comment on any facet of the case."
George C. Deutsch
George C. Deutsch, the young presidential appointee at NASA who told public affairs workers to limit reporters' access to a top climate scientist and told a Web designer to add the word "theory" at every mention of the Big Bang, resigned yesterday, agency officials said.
Mr. Deutsch's resignation came on the same day that officials at Texas A&M University confirmed that he did not graduate from there, as his résumé on file at the agency asserted.
Officials at NASA headquarters declined to discuss the reason for the resignation.
Such complaints came to the fore starting in late January, when James E. Hansen, the climate scientist, and several midlevel public affairs officers told The Times that political appointees, including Mr. Deutsch, were pressing to limit Dr. Hansen's speaking and interviews on the threats posed by global warming.
Yesterday, Dr. Hansen said that the questions about Mr. Deutsch's credentials were important, but were a distraction from the broader issue of political control of scientific information.
"He's only a bit player," Dr. Hansen said of Mr. Deutsch. " The problem is much broader and much deeper and it goes across agencies. That's what I'm really concerned about."
"On climate, the public has been misinformed and not informed," he said. "The foundation of a democracy is an informed public, which obviously means an honestly informed public. That's the big issue here."
Tom Noe coin dealer and prominent GOP fundraiser
GOP fundraiser gets 18 years in prison
- Defense attorney Bill Wilkinson, left, talks with Tom Noe after Noe's sentencing in the Lucas County Courthouse Monday, Nov. 20, 2006, in Toledo, Ohio. Noe, a politically connected coin dealer, was sentenced to 18 years in state prison Monday for embezzling millions from a state investment in rare coins. (AP Photo/Jeremy Wadsworth, Pool)
November 20, 2006 TOLEDO, Ohio -- A GOP fundraiser who embezzled from a state investment in rare coins was sentenced Monday to 18 years in prison in a scandal that helped bring down Ohio's ruling Republican Party on Election Day.
Tom Noe, 52, was also fined $139,000.
Noe spent money as if he had "a bottomless cup of wealth and luxury" at his disposal, "when in fact it was at the state's expense," Common Pleas Judge Thomas Osowik said.
The sentence handed out to the politically connected coin dealer will be on top of the more than two years he was ordered to serve after pleading guilty earlier this year to illegally funneling $45,000 to President Bush's re-election campaign.
Noe was the central figure in a scandal that dogged the Ohio Republican Party for more than a year. On Election Day, the Democrats won the governor's office, a Senate seat and other major offices after 12 years of GOP rule.
Up until Monday, prosecutors did not say whether Noe used any of the money to make campaign contributions. But after the sentencing, Prosecutor Ron O'Brien said, "You can make those inferences."
Also for the first time, prosecutors calculated that Noe stole $13.7 million in all.
Noe was hired by the state workers' compensation agency and given $50 million to invest in an unorthodox and risky attempt by a state government to make money buying and selling rare coins. A furor erupted when the rare-coin investment became public and when it was learned that millions of dollars were missing.
advertising Democrats charged that Noe got the job because of his GOP ties. He was a top fundraiser who gave more than $105,000 to Republicans, including Bush and Gov. Robert Taft in 2004.
The resulting investigations led to ethics charges against Taft, who pleaded no contest to failing to report golf outings and other gifts. Four former Taft aides pleaded no contest to similar charges.
Noe was convicted last week of theft, corrupt activity and other offenses, and faced a minimum of 10 years in prison on the corrupt-activity charge alone.
Prosecutors said he used the money to pay off business loans, renovate his Florida Keys home and otherwise live in high style.
Noe declined to make a statement before sentencing and stared blankly, his upper lip twitching, as his punishment was handed down.
Defense attorney John Mitchell had asked for the minimum 10-year sentence, saying that other high-profile criminals had received less time for taking more money. The lawyer also assured the judge that Noe's offense "was a one-time crime."
Trial of coin dealer comes at a bad time for Ohio GOP
October 08, 2006 TOLEDO, Ohio – Just a month before Election Day, a former Republican fundraising star is set to go on trial on charges that he stole millions of dollars from a state investment in rare coins.
The timing couldn't be worse for the GOP. Democrats, who haven't won a statewide executive office in Ohio since 1990, are poised to take back the governor's office and are in position to win a majority of the five statewide races, according to recent polls.
National Democratic leaders also are watching closely because Ohio again is widely expected to play a key role in picking the next president. The party believes that if it can capture Ohio's governor's office, it will have a better shot at winning the state in 2008. The trial of Tom Noe will shine a spotlight on Republican Party problems even though its leaders have worked to distance themselves from the former coin dealer who managed the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation's $50 million rare coin investment.
“You couldn't think of much worse to happen to a state party during a critical election,” said William Binning, a political scientist at Youngstown State University who has worked on past GOP campaigns.
The scandal has become a dominant issue in Ohio over the past 18 months along with the state's sluggish economy. Investigations into Noe's coin investments led to separate ethics charges against Gov. Bob Taft, who pleaded no contest last year to failing to report golf outings and other gifts.
Noe has pleaded not guilty to state charges of theft, money laundering, forgery and a corrupt activity charge that includes accusations he stole more than $2 million. He faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted on the corrupt activity charge.
Ohio started its rare coin investments in 1998, giving Noe $25 million, followed by another $25 million in 2001.
Democrats charge that the deal demonstrates a culture of corruption that has set in while Republicans have been in charge.
Investigators began looking into the coin investment after The Toledo Blade wrote about the fund in April 2005.
State officials initially defended the investment, saying it earned more than $15 million. Then Noe's attorney told investigators the fund had a shortfall of at least $10 million.
A state lawsuit later accused Noe of improperly taking more than $4 million from the funds to pay himself and his coin-collection business.
Noe indicted in coin scandal
February 13, 2006 TOLEDO, Ohio -- A coin dealer and prominent GOP fundraiser was charged Monday with stealing at least $1 million from a controversial state investment in rare coins that has embroiled Republicans in scandal during an election year.
The 53 charges against Tom Noe conclude a 10-month investigation by state and federal prosecutors into the $50 million rare coin investment Noe managed for the state insurance fund for injured workers.
He's accused of stealing from the investment by writing checks, sometimes for hundreds of thousands of dollars each, knowing the money was not his to use.
Noe's attorney has acknowledged a shortfall of up to $13 million of the money Noe invested for the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation.
House of Representatives
Speaker J. Dennis Hastert
Investigators Say Speaker’s Aide Hindered Inquiry of Hill Security Contracts
October 27, 2006 Two former House committee investigators who were examining Capitol Hill security upgrades said a senior aide to Speaker J. Dennis Hastert hindered their efforts before they were abruptly ordered to stop their probe last year.
The former Appropriations Committee investigators said Ted Van Der Meid, Hastert’s chief counsel, resisted from the start the inquiry, which began with concerns about mismanagement of a secret security office and later probed allegations of bid-rigging and kickbacks from contractors to a Defense Department employee.
Ronald Garant and a second Appropriations Committee investigator who asked not to be identified said Van Der Meid engaged in “screaming matches” with investigators and told at least one aide not to talk to them. Van Der Meid also prohibited investigators from visiting certain sites to check up on the effectiveness of the work, the investigators said.
Van Der Meid oversaw Capitol security upgrades for Hastert, R-Ill., and worked closely with the office that was charged with implementing them, the investigators said.
K. Lee Blalack, a lawyer for Van Der Meid, said Friday that neither he nor Van Der Meid would comment on the matter.
John Scofield, a spokesman for the Appropriations Committee, said the former investigators were taken off of the investigation, but denied that it was terminated.
“Nothing has been closed down on this study,” Scofield said. “It is a pending study.”
Scofield said it was a case of “sour grapes” because the investigators’ contracts were not renewed. He also said the case was assigned to more senior staff, whom he declined to identify.
The inquiry began in late 2003 or early 2004 and was authorized by former Appropriations Chairman C.W. Bill Young, R-Fla., and the panel’s top Democrat, David R. Obey of Wisconsin. The probe focused on the office entrusted with ensuring continuity of Congress in the event of a terrorist or other attack. That office had grown from a sleepy Cold War relic to one that was spending hundreds of millions of dollars a year on numerous security upgrades on and off Capitol Hill in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist strikes and anthrax attacks the following month.
The investigation was carried out by members of the Appropriations panel’s Surveys and Investigations team, which looks into charges of waste and abuse.
Robert Pearre, the team’s director, ordered the investigators to stop their work on the security contracts in the fall of 2005. Before that, the investigators said they were looking into allegations that security contractors had showered a Defense Department employee with kickbacks in the form of Redskins tickets, golf outings, a set of golf clubs and meals. The allegations of kickbacks did not implicate congressional aides.
The investigators also said they were looking into concerns expressed by contractors that some of the security upgrades would fail to work in the event of a terrorist attack.
The office in charge of the upgrades was funded through the Defense Department and overseen by the Capitol Police Board, but the Speaker’s office took a lead role because of Hastert’s status as third in line to the presidency, the investigators said.
According to the investigators, Van Der Meid sought to stop their investigation shortly after it began.
“We got called into his office,” said Garant, who served previously in the Defense Department’s Comptroller’s Office before becoming an investigator for the Appropriations Committee. Van Der Meid shouted at them, Garant said: “What the [expletive] are you looking at this for? . . . He wanted to shut the operation down right then and there.”
According to the investigators, Van Der Meid was reluctantly persuaded to allow the inquiry into the security upgrades to go forward but continually hindered the investigators’ work.
“They had resisted all along,” the other investigator said about the Speaker’s office. Nonetheless the investigator said he was “stunned” when the inquiry was shelved about a year ago. Pearre, a former FBI agent, had strongly backed the inquiry until shortly before he ordered them to stop their work on it.
The order was “get out of there by sundown,” Garant said, referring to the secure offices they had used for the probe because of its sensitive nature.
Garant said the investigators believed that the Speaker’s office had successfully pressured appropriators to stop their inquiry. “From our perspective it was obvious. . . . The only people who would give a [expletive] was the Speaker’s office because this was an organization very close to them.”
Scofield said that neither Van Der Meid nor the Speaker’s office had ordered that the investigation be shut down.
Rob Nabors, the committee Democratic staff director, declined through a spokeswoman to comment for this story.
Lisa C. Miller, a spokeswoman for Hastert’s office, would not comment directly on Van Der Meid’s role in the investigation. “What I can tell you is what John Scofield has told you is what I know to be true,” she said. “Beyond that, everything else is highly classified.”
The investigation was launched under Young, who had a rocky relationship with House leaders, after the secret continuity office failed to spend more than $100 million before the appropriations expired, prompting an urgent and tardy request to have the money re-appropriated just as another Defense spending bill was being finalized.
The committee and its staff had to scramble to find room in the budget, and launched its investigation of the office.
Young said he does not recall the details surrounding the start of the inquiry.
The former Appropriations chairman said that after the Sept. 11 attacks his panel initially oversaw improvements to the Capitol Hill campus, including protective coatings that were added to windows to reduce the potential damage from a truck bomb. At some point, oversight of upgrades was taken over by House leadership, Young said.
“We were in effect put out of the process by the leadership office,” Young said. “The last two years of my chairmanship they basically cut me out of the loop.”
By the time the investigators said they were ordered to drop their work, Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Calif., had taken over as Appropriations chairman amid expectations by House GOP leaders that he would be more of a team player than Young.
Unsuccessful bidders were the source of some, but not all, of the allegations of problems with the security contracts.
One would-be vendor complained that bid requests drawn up by the Army Corps of Engineers were drafted in such a way that only one contractor would be eligible for the work, Garant said.
“You don’t know how much of it was sour grapes and how much of it was real, but there was enough of it that you started to think there was something here,” Garant said.
Investigators said that in addition to allegations of bid-rigging and kickbacks, they were looking into allegations that some security upgrades would fail to work.
“The word was that what they were trying to do was physically or technically impossible to do but that they were spending a heck of a lot of money trying to do it,” said Garant.
The other investigator said he was told that “people are going to die” because the upgrades would fail to do the job.
“That whole organization was very, very secret and very few people even knew that it existed, but it was a great dispenser of money,” said Garant, who was dismissed in March from his position as a contract investigator.
The Appropriations Committee’s investigation team, formed in 1943, has been in turmoil for several years. The upheaval culminated last week in Chairman Lewis’ decision to dismiss all 60 remaining contractors on the investigative staff, which included many retired investigators from the FBI, CIA and other government agencies. A permanent staff of 16 remains.
Scofield said last week that the contractors’ dismissals were part of a “bipartisan review” of the staff, and said the staff’s work recently “has not been that good.”
Committee Democrats have not commented on the dismissals.
Dem says GOP's port bill tactics hurt bipartisan relations
The top Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee says bipartisan relations on his panel have been damaged from the experience of pushing through a port security bill during last month's rush to recess for the fall elections.
House Homeland Security ranking member Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., told CongressDaily "there's no question" that the process of finishing the bill strained bipartisan relationships on the committee, mainly because Democrats were not allowed to offer amendments during final conference negotiations.
Thompson's comments come about two weeks before the elections, in which Democrats across the country are fighting high-stakes battles with Republicans to win control of the House, with both sides using the issue of homeland security in their campaigns.
Thompson faulted Homeland Security Chairman Peter King, R-N.Y., for not allowing Democrats to offer amendments. King told Democrats when conference negotiations began that it was his intention to allow them to offer amendments. But no follow-up meeting was ever held.
Thompson said he feels that King lied to him. "When a person tells you to your face that you will have an opportunity to offer an amendment and then just absolutely ignores his word, that damages all the good will that has gone before in the committee," Thompson said. "Most of us come to conference with only our word, and when you violate your word to another member that damages relationships."
When asked for a response, a spokesman for King said only, "These comments don't warrant a response."
Democrats intended to offer amendments to the bill that would have boosted funding for rail and transit security and lifted the cap on the number of passenger and baggage screeners that the Transportation Security Administration can employ.
"All Chairman King had to do was give us an opportunity to present our amendments, and if we lost, then so be it," Thompson said.
Republican leaders convened one formal House-Senate conference meeting that allowed full Democratic participation, but the text of the pending port security conference agreement was not available. So, lawmakers gave their opening statements but were not allowed to offer amendments.
But the next day Republican conferees, at the behest of Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., attached a bill to stop banks and credit-card companies from processing payments to the $12 billion online gambling industry. The online gambling measure was a legislative priority of the Family Research Council and other conservative Christian groups who play a critical role in the GOP presidential nominating process.
Though angered by this last-minute maneuver, Democrats ultimately voted overwhelmingly to approve the port security bill, saying it was too important to oppose. The bill was signed into law earlier this month.
Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter
Specter: FBI investigating senate aide
October 12, 2006 WASHINGTON -- Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter has acknowledged the FBI is looking into allegations that one of his aides illegally helped her lobbyist husband get federal dollars for his clients.
The Republican lawmaker on Wednesday provided The Associated Press a copy of a letter sent by the FBI in August to his office that said staff member Vicki Siegel Herson is under investigation in connection with allegations reported earlier this year.
USA Today first reported in February that Specter helped direct $48.7 million in Pentagon spending over the past five years to clients of the staff member's lobbyist husband, Michael Herson. Specter has said the institutions that ultimately got the money were represented by people not associated with Herson. He added that he was never lobbied by Herson or his firm.
Siegel Herson was Specter's legislative assistant for appropriations at the time.
Specter said the FBI asked for and received the findings of an internal investigation of the matter conducted by his former chief of staff.
Specter, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, has denied violating any Senate ethics rules.
Specter Says Staffer Didn't Steer Funds To Husband
February 17, 2006 Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) yesterday denied a published report that suggested that one of his staffers may have helped her lobbyist husband get federal appropriations for his company's clients.
Responding to a story in USA Today, Specter conducted a telephone news conference to defend the actions of his office and of his former appropriations aide, Vicki Siegel Herson. He added, however, that his chief of staff would ask further questions about the situation and that he would refer the issue to the Senate ethics committee.
The newspaper reported that Specter claimed credit for securing 13 narrowly focused allocations, called earmarks, worth $48.7 million over the past four years for six clients represented by Michael Herson and the firm he co-founded, American Defense International.
Herson's wife, Vicki Siegel Herson, had been an appropriations aide to Specter, but six months ago took a one-day-a-week job in Specter's office dealing with issues related to Israel.
The senator said the appropriations went to Pennsylvania institutions, including $11 million for bioterrorism research at Philadelphia's Drexel University. He added that neither Herson nor his firm had lobbied his office, but rather that other firms had done the lobbying. In addition, he said that as far as he knew, Vicki Siegel Herson had not been involved in recommending that the senator push for the earmarks.
In addition, Specter said he was not lobbied personally by Herson. "I don't know that I would recognize him if he was in a crowded room," Specter said.
But given the controversy now swirling on Capitol Hill over earmarked appropriations, Specter said he intended to ask more questions. He said he is making an inquiry to see what information his staff had on the appropriations, what the competitive factors were and why the recommendations were made.
Congresswoman on page board buried file on husband's child abuse allegation
A file allegedly suppressed by Congresswoman Heather Wilson (R-NM) has been obtained by RAW STORY.
In 1995, just three days into her tenure as Secretary of the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department, Wilson removed a routine working file alleging that her husband had engaged in inappropriate contact with a minor. The file was then transferred to the department's attorney in her own Albuquerque office, where it soon went missing.
At the time, a local investigative news team learned about the swap, but could not confirm certain details of the file. They were not able to recover the document itself.
More than ten years later, RAW STORY has uncovered and confirmed the authenticity of the police incident report believed to be contained in the missing dossier. Filed as a case of child abuse in 1993, it contends that Wilson's husband Jay Hone, an Albuquerque attorney, touched a then-16 year old boy "in a manner that was not welcome."
Charges were never filed against her husband, but Wilson's handling of the affair drew the ire of Bob Schwartz who at the time served as district attorney in Bernalillo County. He described Wilson's actions to the news team as "absolutely inappropriate," citing her "obvious conflict of interest." He also admonished Wilson for not following official procedure for the removal of official documents. "If this file is behind Secretary Wilson's desk," Schwartz said, "then she shouldn't be behind this desk anymore. She should resign."
Wilson originally denied to the news team that she had removed the file. Footage from that investigation was available on the internet site YouTube as recently as several days ago, but has since been removed by the site over concerns regarding copyright infringment.
In that video, also uncovered by RAW STORY, Wilson flatly denies ordering the removal of the document. The Congresswoman ultimately admitted to doing so in a press conference just days later.
Six years after the incident, in 2001, Wilson began a three year term on the House Page Board, where she sat while rumors of Mark Foley's inappropriate behavior with underage men were reportedly widespread. Her campaign staff told the Albuquerque Tribune that she only became aware of the Congressman's behavior after an ABC news report on the matter prompted him to resign.
Wilson also currently serves on the Congressional Missing and Exploited Children's caucus.
RAW STORY spoke with members of Wilson's legislative and campaign staffs, but neither office was able to provide comment before press time.
Bush campaigns for Pennsylvania congressman enmeshed in sex scandal
Don Sherwood, (R-Pa) in 2001 courtesy of the Congressman's office
October 19, 2006 LA PLUME, Pa. - He said she was "a casual acquaintance." She said they were extra-marital lovers, but told police that he tried to choke her. His wife says she forgives him. So does President Bush.
In fact, Bush traveled to northeastern Pennsylvania Thursday to help the wayward husband, Republican Rep. Don Sherwood, keep his seat in Congress. Perhaps it's a measure of the Republicans' plight that the president would throw his prestige behind a candidate whose marital misbehavior conjures memories of Bill Clinton.
Sherwood's five-year fling with a woman half his age has all the elements of a bad soap opera, but voter reaction to his performance could help decide whether Republicans keep control of the House of Representatives. Polls show Sherwood trailing Democratic challenger Chris Carney in a district that had been considered a lock for the GOP.
"It looks like he's in pretty serious trouble," said Jonathan Williamson, chairman of the political science department at Lycoming College in Williamsport, Pa. "If they didn't need the seat so much, the national Republicans would cut Sherwood loose. This may be one of the firewalls - they have to have this one, even though they're not all that thrilled with their guy."
Bush gave Sherwood his wholehearted endorsement as he helped the candidate raise more than $300,000 at a fundraiser at Keystone College. The president addressed Sherwood's adultery head-on by praising the candidate's wife, Carol, for standing by him.
In a letter to voters last weekend, Carol Sherwood accused Carney of exploiting her family's trauma by casting the congressional election as a referendum on moral values.
"Chris Carney might be trying to make himself look squeaky clean, but we have all made mistakes we regret over the years," she wrote. "I am certainly not condoning the mistake Don made, but I'm not going to dwell on it, either."
Bush said he was "deeply moved" by her comments.
"Carol's letter shows what a caring and courageous woman she is," he said as the Sherwoods and one of the couple's three daughters looked on.
The congressman's marital misdeeds have become a frequent topic of discussion in his conservative, rural district, where the mountains are now covered with trees in shades of yellow, orange and red. Sherwood's problems started in September 2004, when Cynthia Ore called police to the congressman's Capitol Hill apartment claiming that he'd choked her for no apparent reason.
She was 29 at the time; he was 63.
Sherwood was never charged, and the matter attracted little attention until the following spring, when Ore threatened legal action and provided details of a relationship that Sherwood had initially denied. The two met in 1999 at a gathering for young Republicans.
"We had such good chemistry," Ore told the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader. "I saw Don as a small-town all-American. He has that pink, rosy skin. When I first met him, he had those big glasses."
Sherwood, a wealthy car dealer, settled Ore's $5.5 million civil suit for an undisclosed sum, but his indiscretion continues to haunt him. Carney's efforts to exploit the scandal and the furor over former Rep. Mark Foley's sexually explicit Internet messages to congressional pages have added fuel to the issue.
Sherwood has all but pleaded for voters to forgive him.
"I made a mistake that nearly cost me the love of my wife, Carol, and our daughters. As a family, we've worked through this," he said in one of his television ads. "Should you forgive me, you can count on me to continue to fight for you and your family."
But some Republicans aren't ready to forget or forgive. Former Sherwood supporter Joseph Lech of Tunkhannock, Pa., Sherwood's hometown, vented his anger in an ad for Carney.
"This incident with Don Sherwood just cuts right at the core values of our district. I've spoken to my daughter about that incident, and she's disgusted by it," Lech says in the ad. "I love my daughter tremendously. How can I tell her that I support Don Sherwood and feel good about myself?"
Carney's efforts to benefit from his opponent's failings mirror Bush's references to Clinton's infidelity during the 2000 presidential campaign. Bush presented himself as a morally upright alternative to the outgoing president by repeatedly assuring voters that he would "uphold the dignity of the office."
Sherwood admittedly fell short of Bush's pledge, but White House spokesman Tony Snow noted the congressman's contrition in explaining the president's decision to campaign for him.
"Mr. Sherwood has certainly admitted to what has gone on, and the president believes that we're all sinners, we all seek forgiveness," Snow said last week.
Pressed on the issue again Thursday, Snow seemed eager to change the topic. He defended the president's visit, then said: "I'm not going to go any further."
The Redder They Are, The Harder They Fall
Republicans More Damaged by Scandals
October 03, 2006 Sex scandals involving politicians are as old as Thomas Jefferson, but the outcome seems to depend on which party you represent. In recent years, for the most part, Democrats have been able to survive their sordid escapades while Republicans have paid with their political lives.
The latest example: Mark Foley, a Republican congressman from Florida, who abruptly became an ex-congressman from Florida last week amid revelations that he had sent sexually explicit e-mails to teenage boys who were serving as House pages.
Foley's creepy behavior might have done him in even if he'd been the most liberal of Democrats. But that's not assured. With a Republican at the center of the seamy scandal, however, it was almost a slam-dunk that Foley would have to quit.
That's how it usually turns out for members of the conservative, traditional-family-values party. Just ask Bob Livingston, Jack Ryan, Bob Packwood, Dan Crane or others in the GOP who've watched their careers go pffft! with salacious disclosures. Or ask Bill Clinton, Gerry Studds, Barney Frank and other Democrats who've withstood embarrassing revelations to govern another day.
List of political sex scandals
Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.)
Committee Says GOP Left Foley Unchecked
Ethics Panel Faults Many, Punishes None
- Now former House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.)
December 09, 2006 The House ethics committee concluded yesterday that House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) and his top staff probably knew for months, if not years, of then-Rep. Mark Foley's inappropriate contact with former House pages but did nothing to protect the teenagers.
Top GOP House leaders also "failed to exercise appropriate diligence" in the matter, the committee's report found, and tried "to remain willfully ignorant of the potential consequences of Foley's conduct." The ensuing scandal contributed to the Republicans' losses in the midterm elections. The report speculated that some officials were reluctant to act too aggressively for fear of exposing Foley's homosexuality or for political reasons.
But the ethics panel, officially known as the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, decided against taking any action against the leaders, aides or House officials involved in the saga, declining even to describe their actions as bringing ill repute on the House.
"The requirement that Members and staff act at all times in a manner that reflects creditably on the House does not mean that every error in judgment or failure to exercise appropriate oversight and sufficient diligence establishes a violation" of House rules, the long-awaited report concluded.
The committee's bipartisan probe was launched two months ago after reports by ABC News that Foley, a Florida Republican, had sent sexually explicit online messages to male former House pages. The 89-page report is sharply critical of Hastert and his chief of staff, Scott Palmer, and chief counsel, Ted Van Der Meid.
The report also chides House Majority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) for not showing sufficient curiosity in the matter, and retiring Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.) is criticized for failing to divulge Foley's actions, both years before they were exposed and after they came to light.
Democratic aides are also criticized, for shopping around inappropriate Foley e-mails to media outlets as far back as November 2005, apparently for political gain.
To critics of Congress, the report's release in the final hours of the session is a fitting end to a Congress tainted by scandal, indictments and resignations. Next month, Hastert will take a seat in a new, Democratic-controlled House as a back-bench member of the minority.
"It is unfathomable that the ethics committee has held no member or staff member individually accountable for the manner in which the Foley scandal was handled in the House," said Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, a watchdog group.
Two former pages whose revelations added to the scandal expressed disappointment with the committee's decision not to discipline those who knew about Foley's behavior. One of the pages, involved in providing the first questionable e-mails to the media, said, "I'm surprised they aren't doing anything, but it's not shocking, given the lack of real accountability we've seen in Congress in general."
The other former page, whom Foley propositioned after the boy had left the page program, said, "My fear is that by not holding anyone accountable it sets a precedent that political fallout is more important than young people's safety."
Committee members of both parties defended their conclusions. "This is not the jerry-rigged result of a series of compromises," said Rep. Howard L. Berman (Calif.), the committee's ranking Democrat.
Hastert issued a statement late yesterday stressing that the investigation had uncovered no evidence that any House member, officer or employee, or any member of the media, knew of the overtly sexual instant messages that led to Foley's sudden resignation.
Much about Foley's courting of male pages has been made public, but the committee's report breaks new ground. As far back as 1995, the year Foley took office as part of the Republican takeover, Jeff Trandahl, then assistant clerk of the House, saw Foley as a nuisance for lavishing inordinate attention on pages. Trandahl, who would be elected clerk in 1999, testified that he thought of Kolbe, an openly gay House Republican who is retiring this year, the same way.
Peggy Sampson, the Republicans' chief page supervisor, said Foley's behavior gave her a "creepy feeling" for years. Evidence emerged that on two separate occasions, Foley went to the page dormitory late at night. In the first incident, before 2000, he was suspected of being intoxicated and was turned away by Capitol Police. In another incident, in June 2000, he reportedly appeared in his convertible during the pages' end-of-semester "all-night party" and sped off with at least two pages before supervising staff could react.
Perhaps the biggest revelations involved Kolbe. The Washington Post reported in October that one of his former pages had received a sexually explicit instant message from Foley, which the former page had shown to Kolbe as long ago as 2000. After the story appeared, Kolbe said that the contact was with his staff, not him, that he did not see it and that he was unaware it was explicit.
Kolbe's assistant, Patrick Baugh, told the committee that the former page had contacted Kolbe directly and that the former page revealed the explicit nature of the message.
Moreover, after the Foley matter exploded in the media, the former page contacted Kolbe again to ask whether he should divulge the instant message. He testified that Kolbe responded: "It is best that you don't even bring this up with anybody. . . . There is no good that can come from it if you actually talk about this."
In a statement, Kolbe said, "The report demonstrates that members of my office and I took prompt action in 2001 to address the complaint," by a college student from his district who had previously served as a House page. "I did not review a copy of the communication Congressman Foley sent . . . and I never knew whether or not it was sexually explicit," Kolbe said. "The simple fact that Foley had made the student feel uncomfortable was enough for me to take action by, among other things, notifying the Clerk of the House."
Another incident was also brought to light in the report. After the Foley matter became public on Sept. 29, The Post quoted Boehner saying that he had told Hastert that spring of concerns about Foley and that Hastert had said the matter was being taken care of. When the story appeared on The Post's Web site that night, Palmer, Hastert's chief of staff, contacted Boehner's chief of staff to discuss what the report called "the perceived inconsistency" between Boehner's story and Hastert's statement denying all knowledge of the concerns.
That led to a late-night strategy session of House GOP leaders in Boehner's office, which some members at the time feared was inappropriate because the case had been referred to the ethics committee.
Democrats receive their share of scrutiny in the report. In August 2005, a former page of Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-La.) sent Alexander aide Danielle Savoy e-mails he had received from Foley asking him for a picture and asking what he wanted for his birthday. Savoy passed them on to a friend, who showed them to her boyfriend, Justin Field, who worked for the House Democratic Caucus.
Democratic Caucus communications director Matt Miller saw the e-mails as inappropriate, but rather than taking them to authorities, he shopped them to the press, first to the Miami Herald and the St. Petersburg Times that November, then to the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call. He also gave the e-mails to the communications director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, a point apparently validating Republican charges that senior Democrats were behind the revelation of Foley's conduct.
On the central question of Hastert's involvement, the committee firmly sided with Trandahl and former Foley chief of staff Kirk Fordham, who testified that they brought Foley's behavior to the attention of Palmer and of Hastert counsel Van Der Meid years ago. Fordham also testified that Palmer assured him he had brought the issue directly to the speaker in late 2002 or early 2003.
Trandahl said Palmer had told him: "I've talked to Kirk Fordham. I understand the problem. I'm on it." He said he remembered it "vividly."
Palmer testified repeatedly that he remembered no such meeting, and Hastert said he did not remember learning anything of the Foley matter.
But the committee found "the weight of the evidence supports" Fordham and Trandahl. Moreover, "the weight of the evidence supports the conclusion that Speaker Hastert was told, at least in passing, about the e-mails" by Boehner and Reynolds in spring 2006.
Lawmaker Saw Foley Messages In 2000
Page Notified GOP Rep. Kolbe
October 09, 2006 A Republican congressman knew of disgraced former representative Mark Foley's inappropriate Internet exchanges as far back as 2000 and personally confronted Foley about his communications.
A spokeswoman for Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.) confirmed yesterday that a former page showed the congressman Internet messages that had made the youth feel uncomfortable with the direction Foley (R-Fla.) was taking their e-mail relationship. Last week, when the Foley matter erupted, a Kolbe staff member suggested to the former page that he take the matter to the clerk of the House, Karen Haas, said Kolbe's press secretary, Korenna Cline.
The revelation pushes back by at least five years the date when a member of Congress has acknowledged learning of Foley's behavior with former pages. A timeline issued by House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) suggested that the first lawmakers to know, Rep. John M. Shimkus (R-Ill.), the chairman of the House Page Board, and Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-La.), became aware of "over-friendly" e-mails only last fall. It also expands the universe of players in the drama beyond members, either in leadership or on the page board.
A source with direct knowledge of Kolbe's involvement said the messages shared with Kolbe were sexually explicit, and he read the contents to The Washington Post under the condition that they not be reprinted. But Cline denied the source's characterization, saying only that the messages had made the former page feel uncomfortable. Nevertheless, she said, "corrective action" was taken. Cline said she has not yet determined whether that action went beyond Kolbe's confrontation with Foley.
In interviews with The Post last week, multiple pages identified Kolbe as a close friend and personal confidante who was one of the only members of Congress to take any interest in them. A former page himself, Kolbe offered to mentor pages and kept in touch with some of them after they left the program, according to the interviews.
Kolbe once invited four former pages to make use of his Washington home while he was out of town, according to an instant message between Foley and another former page, Jordan Edmund, in January 2002. The pages planned to attend a first-year reunion of their page class. But because of a snowstorm, they did not take Kolbe up on his offer, according to one of the four pages.
Kolbe, the only openly gay Republican in Congress, is retiring at the end of the year.
Mark Foley claims being molested as teen
Roth, who spoke for Foley while the congressman is in rehab for alcohol abuse and mental illness, said Foley denied having inappropriate sexual contact with minors and said he was under the influence of alcohol when he wrote the notes.
The lurid communications were first reported last week by ABC News, which released more instant messages Tuesday that indicate Foley allegedly interrupted a vote on the House floor to chat online with a teen.
"I miss you," Foley said in one message, according to ABC.
"ya me too," the teen replied.
"we are still voting," Foley responded.
Roth said Foley was never under the influence of alcohol while conducting business on Capitol Hill. He could not explain his previous comments that Foley was intoxicated at the time he sent all the messages.
Foley Saga No Shock to Some
The Florida Republican was known to have an interest in younger men, Capitol Hill workers say.
October 03, 2006 WASHINGTON — Years before sexually explicit electronic messages sent by Rep. Mark Foley to teenage House pages became public last week, some on Capitol Hill say, the Florida Republican was known to have a special interest in younger men.
In interviews with the Los Angeles Times, several current and former congressional employees and others said they recalled Foley approaching young male pages, aides and interns at parties and other venues.
"Almost the first day I got there I was warned," said Mark Beck-Heyman, a San Diego native who served as a page in the House of Representatives in the summer of 1995. "It was no secret that Foley had a special interest in male pages," said Beck-Heyman, adding that Foley, who is now 52, on several occasions asked him out for ice cream.
Another former congressional staff member said he too had been the object of Foley's advances. "It was so well known around the House. Pages passed it along from class to class," said the former aide, adding that when he was 18 a few years ago and working as an intern, Foley approached him at a bar near the Capitol and asked for his e-mail address.
Foley's Exchange With Underage Page
Hastert's staff first knew of Foley emails in 2005
October 01, 2006 House Speaker Dennis Hastert’s (R-Ill.) staff was first informed of Rep. Mark Foley’s (R-Fla.) unusual email exchange with a 16-year old page in the fall of 2005, according to a timeline released by the Speaker’s office Saturday afternoon.
Hastert’s chief of staff Scott Palmer and outside counsel Randy Evans initiated an internal investigation Friday shortly after Foley announced his resignation. The timeline is based on their preliminary report, according to the release.
The release of the timeline comes on the heels of a statement by National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Tom Reynolds (R-N.Y.) on Saturday that the campaign chief first told the Speaker about the email exchange earlier this year, shortly after the race to succeed former Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas).
The Speaker’s office does not dispute that conversation in its own release.
"While the Speaker does not explicitly recall this conversation, he has no reason to dispute Congressman Reynolds’ recollection that he reported to him on the problem and its resolution," states the release.
The Washington Post reported Saturday that Majority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) learned of some "contact" this spring between Foley and the page. The paper quoted Boehner as saying he told Hastert and that the Speaker assured him "we’re taking care of it."
Amid growing scandal, Rep. Foley resigns
September 29, 2006 Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) announced Friday that he has resigned from Congress amid allegations that he exchanged sexually explicit e-mails and instant messages with a former 16-year-old page.
"Today I have delivered a letter to the Speaker of the House informing him of my decision to resign from the U.S. House of Representatives, effective today," Foley said in a statement issued by his congressional office. "I thank the people of Florida's 16th Congressional District for giving me the opportunity to serve them for the last twelve years; it has been an honor. I am deeply sorry and I apologize for letting down my family and the people of Florida I have had the privilege to represent."
Foley, who served on the Ways and Means Committee, also chaired the Missing and Exploited Children Caucus. Earlier this year, he sponsored legislation overhauling sex offender and notification laws that passed Congress and was signed into law.
ABC News reported Friday that Foley also engaged in a series of sexually explicit instant messages with current and former teenage male pages. In one message, ABC said, Foley wrote to one page: "Do I make you a little horny?"
In another message, Foley wrote, "You in your boxers, too? … Well, strip down and get naked."
The first e-mail messages to one male page, sexually suggestive but not explicit, were reported by ABC News on Thursday. Mr. Foley, a member of the House Republican leadership, dismissed them as “overly friendly” but not inappropriate.
But by Friday, other pages had come forward with more blatant instant messages. “What ya wearing?” Mr. Foley wrote to one, according to the network. “Tshirt and shorts,” the teenager responded. “Love to slip them off of you,” Mr. Foley replied.
The 20 Most Corrupt Members of Congress
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) released its second annual report on the most corrupt members of Congress.
California's `Big 6': Masters of the New Lobbying Game
Welcome to the new world of congressional committee chairs, their aides, friends and lobbyists.
It is a cozy world where personal relationships count for millions of dollars and a latter-day "Triangle Trade" has developed among powerful committee chieftains (who are expected to raise vast sums in campaign contributions), business and other interests (which seek favorable treatment), and lobbyists (who can make a fortune bringing the two parties together).
It is also a world dominated by a few California Republicans.
Despite the state's predilection for voting Democratic, six of its 20 Republican Congress members are chairmen of major committees. Their rise has brought millions of federal dollars and other benefits to parts of the state. Thomas snagged about $755 million for his district in last year's highway bill. Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Redlands), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, tucked $4.25 million for his district into one recent spending bill — more than the individual allocations for 11 states.
Some congressional leaders, however, have grown so close to well-connected lobbyists and have been so aggressive in channeling tax dollars to favored interests that their activities have sparked scrutiny and calls for reform. One California chairman, Lewis, is the subject of a federal grand jury investigation.
The November elections will decide whether five of California's "Big Six" chairmen — Thomas is retiring at the end of the year — continue to hold their powerful positions. The others are: Lewis; Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-El Cajon) of Armed Services; Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon (R-Santa Clarita) of Education and the Workforce; Rep. David Dreier (R-San Dimas) of Rules; and Rep. Richard W. Pombo (R-Tracy) of Resources.
Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Redlands
House ethics panel okays Shockey buyout
September 23, 2006 The House ethics committee has ruled that Jeffrey Shockey, the deputy chief of staff of the House Appropriations Committee, did not violate the law or House rules by accepting a $1.96 million severance package from his former employer, the lobbying firm Copeland, Lowery, Jacquez, Denton & White. But it also warned him to avoid the appearance of impropriety.
The firm has since broken up into two groups under the pressure of allegations that it had improper ties to House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.). The U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles is reportedly examining the relationship between Lewis and the firm, which specializes in winning federal spending earmarks for clients.
Shockey made headlines earlier this year when he revealed in a financial disclosure report the size of his compensation package he agreed to in January of 2005 as he was preparing to work on the Hill.
A close-knit circle of money, power. Contractor adds layer to Rep. Lewis' sphere
When defense contractor Nicholas Karangelen launched a political action committee directed by the stepdaughter of the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, he added another dimension to a tight circle of Capitol Hill relationships that is under federal investigation.
The relationships revolve around Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Redlands, who leads the Appropriations Committee and has extraordinarily close ties to lobbyists Letitia White and Bill Lowery.
White worked for Lewis for 21 years before joining Lowery's lobbying firm in 2003. Lowery, a former San Diego congressman who sat on the Appropriations Committee, is one of Lewis' closest friends and his principal fundraiser. Companies that hire the two lobbyists, including Karangelen's Virginia-based Trident Systems Inc., follow a pattern that has become common Capitol Hill practice in recent years.
They make substantial investments in lobbying fees and campaign contributions to key legislators, then wait for their projects to be tucked into bills in line-items known as earmarks. Trident's projects involve software programs that Karangelen's engineers develop for military use.
In Karangelen's case, the contractor-lobbyist-legislator connection has taken on several more layers of financial ties and political connections.
White became Trident's lobbyist in February 2003, a month after she left Lewis' office, where she had helped Lewis shape the earmarking of the Pentagon's budget.
In April, $8.4 million in earmarks for a Trident project were inserted into an emergency spending bill to fund the war in Iraq. The project used digital maps and laptop computers to improve troops' ability to monitor changing battlefield conditions.
Just eight months later, Karangelen and White bought a $1 million Capitol Hill townhouse together. The house eventually became the address for a political action committee they launched to encourage congressional support for small businesses like Trident that seek Pentagon contracts.
They chose Lewis' stepdaughter, former Las Vegas wedding planner Julia Willis-Leon, to be director of the Small Biz Tech Pac. The PAC has paid Willis-Leon $42,000 of the $115,000 it has raised. Meanwhile, it has directed just $15,600 to political campaigns.
The PAC's biggest contributors have been Letitia White and her husband, who also lobbies on behalf of defense contractors. They contributed $15,000, while Karangelen kicked in $10,000, and other White clients added $11,500.
According to Trident's former chief financial officer, Karangelen has yet another financial tie with White: He has arranged to pay her a bonus based on the company's profitability. The former executive spoke on the condition that her name not be used, saying publicity would complicate her job search given the controversy swirling around the company.
FBI widens Lewis probe
Former defense contractor Tom Casey, who accused Rep. Jerry Lewis this week of trying to trade his influence for favors and stock options, is either a subject of the same federal investigation or should be, a former employee said Thursday. Meanwhile, the FBI has widened its probe of Lewis' ties to lobbyists Copeland Lowery Jacquez Denton & White to include Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Corona.
In San Diego, an engineer who used to work for Casey at Audre Recognition Systems Inc., said Casey violated campaign contribution law in his efforts 13 years ago to gain favor with Lewis and the House appropriations panel.
"If I was the federal government, I'd be investigating him," Dirk Holland said of Casey. "I worked with him six years. He used to encourage employees to make campaign contributions, and the company refunded them. That's illegal ...
"It was always suspicious why a small company like ours, 60 people at most, got so much attention from congressmen. (Randy "Duke") Cunningham, Duncan Hunter (R-Alpine), Jerry Lewis, even Pete Wilson, the governor at the time. They all came to visit."
Casey also landed a $3 million contract through Hunter and General Dynamics that was unusually profitable, Holland said.
"He got the money, but he never delivered any software," Holland said. "There was never an investigation."
Holland worked with Casey in the 1990s when another defense contractor, Brent Wilkes, came to Audre Inc. Wilkes has ties to former Rep. Cunningham, R-San Diego, who was sentenced to eight years in prison in March after he pleaded guilty to accepting $2.4 million in bribes.
While federal investigators attempt to go quietly about their business in a criminal probe of D.C.-based California lawmakers and deep-pocket lobbyists, elected leaders and influence peddlers are still openly proclaiming mutual admiration for each other.
The 2006 executive committee for California State Society, a social organization that gives parties in the nation's capital, includes representatives for several lawmakers and lobbyists who have gained unwanted attention in recent months.
Among those maintaining a presence on the executive committee are:
- Lewis, whose ties to a lobbying firm are a focus of an investigation that grew out of the probe that eventually sent Cunningham to prison.
- Copeland Lowery, the influential K Street (Washington) lobbying firm, whose founder, Lowery, is close friends with Lewis.
- Calvert, whose finances are under investigation in the same federal probe examining ties between Lewis and Copeland Lowery.
- Platinum Advisors, a Sacramento lobbying firm contracted by San Bernardino County. Last year, an independent investigator found Platinum Advisors lobbyist Brett Granlund involved himself in negotiations for the county's $28 million purchase of a privately-owned jail facility. Granlund represented both the buyer of the jail -- the county -- and the seller of the jail -- Terry Moreland of Bakersfield.
Also on the society's executive committee are representatives for:
- Rep. David Dreier, R-Glendora, a leader of California's 53-member Republican delegation in Congress.
- Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-California, one of the Democratic Party's most outspoken critics of the Bush administration.
House Majority Leader John Boehner
A White House aide who was once chief of staff to House Majority Leader John Boehner helped plan a 1996 trip to the Northern Mariana Islands that was organized by fallen lobbyist Jack Abramoff, billing records from Abramoff’s firm show.
Barry Jackson, now chief deputy to White House adviser Karl Rove, accepted an invitation to travel to the island of Saipan in April 1996 but later decided not to go, White House spokeswoman Erin Healy said Tuesday.
Boehner spokesman Don Seymour said Tuesday that Boehner now does recall meeting Abramoff once, in “a brief, incidental conversation at a widely attended event that he estimates was about five years ago.”
In an e-mail to the AP, Seymour also said Boehner did not intentionally downplay Jackson’s role on his staff.
Boehner has declined to give up more than $30,000 he got from Abramoff’s Indian tribe clients, saying his own work on tribal issues justifies the contributions. He did not receive any money from the tribes until Abramoff represented them.
Rep. William Jefferson
In January, former Jefferson aide Brett Pfeffer pleaded guilty to bribery-related charges, saying Jefferson demanded money in exchange for help in brokering two African telecommunications deals.
Vernon Jackson, chief executive of iGate Inc., a Louisville, Ky., telecommunications firm, subsequently pleaded guilty to bribery, admitting he paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to Jefferson and his family members in exchange for the congressman's help obtaining business deals in Nigeria, Ghana and Cameroon.
The House Ethics Committee has opened an inquiry into the case.
'Clinton Vs. Starr': A 'Definitive' Account. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=123653000
Though his judicial reputation earned him popularity for three and a half years after his appointment, particularly after his aggressive emphasis on confronting political corruption in Arkansas - culminating in the successful fraud prosecution of then-sitting Arkansas Governor Jim Guy Tucker and Clinton real estate investment partners James and Susan McDougal.
Starr was accused of doing the bidding of Richard Mellon Scaife, who had funded a position at Pepperdine University that Starr first accepted but later relinquished. (He now holds a different position at Pepperdine.) Rumors began spreading that members of Starr's staff were gay, and Doug Ireland alleged in The Nation that White House aide Sidney Blumenthal was spreading them. Susan McDougal, in the book and film documentary The Hunting of the President, alleges that Starr's office pressured her to lie under oath in order to back up its allegations against Clinton.
Most importantly, the now-defunct monthly magazine Brill's Content accused Starr's office of leaking grand jury testimony in violation of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, based in part on editor Stephen Brill's interview with Starr himself. Acting on motions of Clinton defense attorneys, US District Court Judge Norma Holloway Johnson ordered an investigation into whether Starr's office had improperly leaked grand jury information (July 1998). She further authorized President Clinton's lawyers to conduct the investigation, by subpoenaing and questioning Starr and members of his staff under oath. The federal appeals court in Washington reversed Judge Johnson's decision and said that any investigation would have to be conducted by a court-appointed Special Master, not by President Clinton's lawyers. Throughout, Starr's office maintained that the information alleged to have been leaked was not uniquely available to it, but was also possessed by Clinton's lawyers, who monitored the grand jury through witnesses' lawyers participation in a joint defense arrangement, and who may have strategically leaked it in order to neutralize the damage and at the same time to blame Starr. After an investigation, a Special Master concluded that no evidence indicated that Starr's office had unlawfully leaked grand jury information. During the leak investigation, however, Charles Bakaly, spokesman for Starr's office, resigned (March 11, 1999). He was later charged with having signed a false affidavit, but acquitted at trial (Oct. 6, 2000). Critics such as Joe Conason and Gene Lyons maintain that the Starr office systematically leaked grand jury information to the press.
Starr's investigation eventually led to the impeachment of President Clinton, with whom Starr shared Time Magazine's Man of the Year designation for 1998. President Clinton was acquitted on both articles of impeachment by the Senate and continued to serve the rest of his term.
Starr's lengthy investigations forced Clinton and his staffers to devote many days and hours responding to requests from the Office of Independent Counsel. Critics of Starr's investigations charged that that years of depositions, subpoenas and court hearings demanded by Starr's office distracted the Clinton White House from devoting full attention to the problem of terrorism and the growing threat of the Al Qaeda organization.
From Whitewater to Blackwater: Ken Starr, the Mercenaries' New Lawyer
Blackwater USA, the private military contractor in the Bush Administration's "war on terror," has a new lawyer working to defend it against a ground-breaking wrongful death lawsuit brought by the families of four of its contractors killed in Iraq. The new "counsel of record" for the North Carolina-based company is none other than former Whitewater investigator Kenneth Starr--the independent counsel in the 1999 impeachment of President Bill Clinton over the Monica Lewinsky sex scandal. Starr was brought in last week by Blackwater to file motions in front of the US Supreme Court in a case stemming from the killing of four Blackwater contractors in the Iraqi city of Fallujah on March 31, 2004.
"I think that Blackwater has brought in Kenneth Starr to somehow leverage a political connection to help them succeed in a case where they can't win on the merits," says Marc Miles, an attorney for the families of the Blackwater contractors. Starr takes over from Blackwater's previous counsel, Greenberg Traurig, the influential Washington law firm that once employed lobbyist Jack Abramoff. "They bring in all these big-time lawyers from nationwide firms with hundreds of attorneys. Blackwater is really painting this David and Goliath picture themselves."
In the lawsuit, originally filed in January 2005 in state court in North Carolina, the families of the men argue that Blackwater cut corners in the interest of profits, and sent the men into Fallujah without proper personnel, armored vehicles and adequate weapons. The men were ambushed, their vehicles burned and their charred bodies hung from a bridge. The incident sparked the first US siege of Fallujah, which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Iraqis and the destruction of the city.
Since the suit was first filed, Blackwater has fought rigorously in various courts to have the case dismissed or moved to federal court. On August 24 the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed Blackwater's appeal, paving the way for a trial in state court in North Carolina. Lawyers for the four families believe they will have a more favorable playing field in state court, where there is no cap on damages and the families would not need a unanimous decision to win.
Starr's name first appeared in connection with the case in Blackwater's October 18, 2006, petition to US Chief Justice John Roberts asking for a "stay" in the state case while Blackwater prepared to file its petition for writ of certiorari, which if granted would allow Blackwater to argue its case for dismissal before the US Supreme Court, now dominated by Republican appointees. Starr and his colleagues argued that Blackwater is "constitutionally immune" from such lawsuits and said that if the Fallujah case is allowed to proceed, "Blackwater will suffer irreparable harm." In the eighteen-page petition to the Supreme Court, Blackwater argued that there are no other such lawsuits against private military/security companies in state courts "because the comprehensive regulatory scheme enacted by Congress and the President grant military contractors like Blackwater immunity from state-court litigation."
Blackwater asserts that its mercenaries, and other private contractors, are part of the US "Total Force" constituting "its warfighting capability and capacity...in thousands of locations around the world, performing a vast array of duties to accomplish critical missions." Therefore, the company says, the only remedy available to the families of security or military contractors killed or injured in Iraq is the federal government's taxpayer-funded insurance program, known as the Defense Base Act. The actual number of private contractors killed in Iraq is impossible to verify because there is no official tally. According to the Labor Department, at least 647 private contractors died in Iraq between March 1, 2003, and September 30, 2006. Under the government insurance program, the maximum death benefits available to the families of the contractors is limited to $4,123.12 a month. The lawsuit against Blackwater could result in much greater payments to the families of the four men killed in Fallujah--but from Blackwater, not US taxpayers. Attorney Miles says that Blackwater has attempted to use the federal Defense Base Act as "essentially insurance to kill."
Citing the numerous court battles Blackwater has lost in this case--from attempting to get it dismissed to fighting for a change of jurisdiction--Starr and his colleagues appealed to Justice Roberts, writing, "This Court is therefore Blackwater's last resort." On October 24 Justice Roberts simply wrote "denied" on Blackwater's application, providing no reasoning for his decision.
This outcome was not unpredictable, and it is not the last appeal Blackwater will make before the Supreme Court. The company is expected to file its full motion for a review of its case at the Court, possibly within days. In their petition, Starr and his colleagues also alluded to a fear that this lawsuit, similar to early tobacco litigation, could send shock waves through the war-profiteering community: "[I]f companies such as Blackwater must factor the defense costs of state tort lawsuits into the overall costs of doing business in support of US 'public works' contracts overseas...American taxpayers will pay more for less operational results." Blackwater has raked in hundreds of millions of dollars a year in federal contracts, and was accused in a 2005 government audit of trying to include profit in its overhead and its total costs, which would have resulted "not only in a duplication of profit but a pyramiding of profit since in effect Blackwater is applying profit to profit."
There are undeniable benefits to having Starr, the US Solicitor General under President George H.W. Bush, represent Blackwater--a highly partisan GOP company--in front of a Supreme Court stacked with Bush appointees. Starr also has a personal connection to Blackwater. Starr and Joseph Schmitz, the general counsel and chief operating officer of Blackwater's parent company, the Prince Group, have both worked closely with the arch-conservative Washington Legal Foundation. Since 1993 Starr has served on the legal policy advisory board of the organization for which Schmitz has frequently acted as a spokesperson and attorney.
In April 2006, in the midst of the battle over whether Blackwater could remove the Fallujah case to federal court, the foundation issued a "legal backgrounder" arguing that "regulating conduct on a foreign battlefield is a matter of foreign affairs where state law should not interfere.... Both the Courts and Congress can play a role...by affording battlefield contractors the procedural protection of removal to a federal venue when faced with a tort action alleging negligence while supporting our Armed Forces overseas." Schmitz, whom Blackwater also listed for the first time as an attorney on the Fallujah case in its Supreme Court filing, is the former Pentagon Inspector General once responsible for overseeing companies operating in Iraq, including Blackwater. He left the Pentagon in 2005 amid mounting accusations that he stonewalled investigations.
Stephen Gillers, a professor of legal ethics at New York University, says that the fact that Starr is a "Republican lifelong supporter of the party and perhaps even a friend of some of the justices is not going to help" in the case. (In the 1980s, Starr served with Justices Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.) "Ken's Republican credentials and his friendships are not going to help him in this court," Gillers says. "What's going to help them is their respect for his intelligence and his creativity in trying to persuade them to do what his client wants." Despite Blackwater's new high-profile lawyer and the conservative dominance of the Supreme Court, attorney Marc Miles predicts that Blackwater's appeals will be rejected and that ultimately the company will face trial. "The real irreparable damage to Blackwater is that the truth will come out," Miles says. Starr did not immediately return calls requesting comment.
Bogus letters sent to governor asking to spare client's life
Lawyers for a death row inmate, including former Whitewater independent counsel Kenneth Starr, sent fake letters from jurors asking California's governor to spare the man's life, prosecutors said Friday.
The jurors denied they thought Michael Morales deserved clemency because some of the testimony at his trial may have been fabricated, said Nathan Barankin, spokesman for Attorney General Bill Lockyer.
Kenneth Starr is best known as the special prosecutor in the Monica Lewinsky affair during President Bill Clinton's administration.
"We showed each person the declaration on their behalf and they all said they didn't say that," Barankin said.
San Joaquin County prosecutor Charles Schultz also said the letters sent to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last week were "untrue" and "pure fiction."
White Water Tax Scam
Monica Lewinsky affair
Lanny J. Davis (born in 1946) is a lawyer and former Special Counsel to the President for Bill Clinton. Davis started his legal career as an associate at Patton Boggs in 1975 and became a partner in 1978. He served as special counsel to the President from 1996 to 1998, during which time he also was the spokesman for Clinton in issues regarding campaign finance investigations and other legal issues, including President Clinton's impeachment trial. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lanny_Davis
also see Mt. Soledad Cross
'Dr. Dino' guilty on all counts
Couple could get more than 200 years
Pensacola evangelist and tax protester Kent Hovind winked at his wife and gave her a reassuring smile as he was led away to jail.
Jo Hovind clutched the necktie he had been wearing. She kept her eyes on her husband until he was out of sight.
A 12-person jury deliberated for 2½ hours on Thursday before finding the couple guilty of all counts in their tax-fraud case.
Kent Hovind, founder of Creation Science Evangelism and Dinosaur Adventure Land in Pensacola, was found guilty of 58 counts, including failure to pay $845,000 in employee-related taxes. He faces a maximum of 288 years in prison.
Jo Hovind was charged and convicted in 44 of the counts involving evading bank-reporting requirements. She faces up to 225 years in prison but was allowed to remain free pending the couple's sentencing on Jan. 9.
Kent Hovind briefly held onto her arm as the verdict was read. Neither reacted at first. But minutes later, she held her face in her hands.
"Nobody likes to pay taxes," Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Heldmyer said in her closing argument. "But we do because it's the law, and he is not above the law."
The jury also granted the prosecution's request for the Hovinds to forfeit $430,400. That amount equals the value of the checks signed and cashed by Jo Hovind in the 44 counts.
U.S. District Judge Casey Rodgers released Jo Hovind until sentencing but denied Kent Hovind's request to be released. He most likely will be detained at either Escambia County Jail or Santa Rosa County Jail until sentencing.
Heldmyer said Kent Hovind was a flight risk and a "danger to the community."
His attorney, Alan Richey, argued that the Internal Revenue Service pursued his client because of his religious beliefs.
Kent Hovind, whose life's mission is to debunk evolution, says he and his employees are workers of God and therefore exempt from paying taxes. He pays his employees in cash and does not withhold their taxes or pay his share as an employer.
"There's a difference between wrong and committing a crime," Richey said in his closing argument. "You can do all the wrong things you want and still not commit a crime."
Jo Hovind's attorney, Jerold Barringer, argued that his client was a simple piano teacher and grandmother who was not aware of bank-reporting regulations concerning large amounts of cash. Any cash transaction at a bank more than $10,000 triggers a currency-transaction report forwarded to the IRS. She was found guilty of using several methods to take out just enough money to avoid triggering the report.
The Hovinds and their attorneys declined comment. Their supporters, who took up most of the six rows in Rodgers' courtroom, dwindled in number as the day went on.
Jo Hovind's son, Kent Andrew Hovind, and two women escorted her out of the U.S. District Courthouse in downtown Pensacola.
Richard Hogan, an acquaintance of Kent Hovind who observed the last day of the two-week trial, said he felt especially bad for Jo Hovind.
"He was the leader, and she probably went along with him," said Hogan, 53. He first met the Hovinds when their children were homeschooled.
"It's pretty tough to fight Goliath," Hogan said. "The first time the IRS calls, you should go ahead and deal with it. It didn't have to come down to this."
The Christian Coalition founder and former GOP presidential candidate has said American agents should assassinate Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and suggested that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's stroke was divine retribution for pulling Israel out of the Gaza Strip.
Robertson started out as a Southern Baptist, but today he is a charismatic evangelical and believes that God is involved in guiding world events, said Barry Hankins, professor of history and church-state studies at Baylor University. He tries to interpret contemporary events as "being part of the drama of God's activity in the world."
"He puts the most fantastic spin on things to have a gripping quality about them to keep the ground troops alert," Hankins said.
On the other hand, Brian Britt, director of the Religious Studies Program at Virginia Tech, said Robertson's remarks aren't just "off-the-wall, crazy uncle stuff" but part of a strategy that earns him headlines.
When people attack Robertson, he wins sympathy for appearing to be an underdog, Britt said.
"It reinforces an image of Christianity as a persecuted religion, a religion that is being hounded by the secularists out of the public square, rather than a dominant and hegemonic force," Britt said.
Military, Iraq War, Graft and Fraud
Iraq War, Torture, Rape and Abuse
Reagan Regime scandals
More Executive branch appointees were indicted and convicted of felonies during the Reagan Administration than any other administration.
More than likely the Bush 43 regime will push Reagan to second place in the 'Most Corrupt' rating.
Reagan Budget Head Stockman Is Charged With Fraud
March 27, 2007 NEW YORK -- David A. Stockman, a chief architect of President Ronald Reagan's economic revolution turned Wall Street money man, was indicted Monday on charges of conspiracy, securities fraud and obstruction of justice.
Stockman, 60, who faces the prospect of three decades in prison, is accused of defrauding investors and banks during his stewardship of Collins & Aikman, a large Southfield, Mich., auto-parts maker that descended into bankruptcy in 2005.
First elected to the House of Representatives at age 30, the boy wonder grew in stature when he was named Reagan's first director of the Office of Management and Budget. In that post he became the highly visible point man for the "trickle-down" economic doctrine of the 1980s. But his private conversations about the budget with a journalist instigated a falling out with Reagan, who took him, he said, to the "woodshed." Disillusioned with Washington, Stockman eventually left for the world of investment banking in New York.
Stockman turned himself in at the U.S. Postal Inspection Service on Church Street in lower Manhattan shortly before 10:30 a.m., when investigators removed his blue-and-gold tie as a security precaution. Two hours later, he appeared in court wearing a navy pinstriped suit, tasseled loafers and a pair of tortoiseshell glasses. In a firm voice, Stockman pleaded "not guilty." He was released on a $1 million personal recognizance bond.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Michael J. Garcia said that Stockman and a team of handpicked executives entered into secret agreements with suppliers, created false documentation to fool auditors and lied repeatedly about a cash squeeze to ensure that banks would continue to finance their operations. Stockman also misled company investigators examining deals between Collins & Aikman and a business owned by a board member, according to the grand jury indictment.
"Stockman did not only have money at stake," Garcia said at a news conference. "His reputation was on the line as well."
Prosecutors charged three other former Collins & Aikman officials, including a former finance chief and a former controller. Four other employees have pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against their onetime supervisor.
Outside the courthouse, Stockman presided over an impromptu news briefing, calmly discussing his efforts to move to a motel and work 16-hour days to save the company in the midst of an unprecedented cash crunch. "I took from my pocket to help," Stockman said. "I didn't line my pockets in any way."
By all accounts, Stockman operated Collins & Aikman with both hands on the wheel, fielding questions from reporters and analysts, negotiating directly with key clients, hoisting a canvas sack filled with fiscal projections and installing trusted subordinates into top posts at the auto firm, which once equipped more than 90 percent of all North American vehicles with dashboards, floor mats and other parts.
He is pursuing his defense in the same driven, detail-oriented way. Stockman blasted the charges against him as "hypertechnical" disputes about accounting policies and business judgments in an environment where board members still run scared from lawsuits after scandals at Enron and WorldCom. Stockman and prominent New York defense lawyer Elkan Abramowitz met twice with law enforcement officials in an unsuccessful bid to prevent the government from bringing the case after nearly two years of investigation.
At their news conference Monday, investigators pointed to what they called "purposeful lies" by Stockman and his team, all with an eye aimed at digging Collins & Aikman out of an ever-deepening financial hole. Ron Walker, inspector in charge of the Postal Inspection Service's New York division, said Stockman and his allies engaged in "increasingly desperate attempts to lie to lenders . . . to get them to throw good money after bad."
Stockman blamed his May 2005 ouster from the company and the multiple federal probes that followed as a "reckless spasm" of the Sarbanes-Oxley corporate accountability law. He argued that his case could not be more different than accounting scandals five years ago. "This wasn't any kind of joyride," he said. "This was Detroit" at a time when auto suppliers and the Big Three car makers were struggling to survive.
Stockman is almost certain to take the witness stand when the case goes to trial no earlier than next year, in part because he already has provided sworn testimony to securities regulators. Abramowitz told reporters Monday that the idea of a guilty plea "never came up."
A former babysitter for then-Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.), Stockman enjoyed a meteoric rise. He served two House terms as a Republican from Michigan and, at 34, was appointed the youngest Cabinet secretary in a century. Stockman's eventual exit from government in the mid-1980s made him hugely wealthy. The long-haired workaholic with the oversized eyeglasses wrote a book about the perils of political life and the struggles of truth-telling in Washington. Eventually he joined the Blackstone Group, a lucrative private investment partnership that brought him tens of millions of dollars.
But he remains best known for his bold projections as Reagan's first OMB director. Reagan chastised his young budget chief for expressing doubts to a Washington Post editor about massive defense spending, tax cuts and the resulting deficits at the same time he was selling the plan to the public and the Congress. The article threw Washington into uproar.
Stockman and his advisers hasten to point out that he and his Greenwich, Conn., investment firm, Heartland Industrial Partners, lost more than any other investor when Collins & Aikman veered off course. Heartland poured $360 million into the auto business, and Stockman lost $13 million more. Moreover, Stockman said he and Heartland continued to buy stock throughout his tenure at the company, on more than 150 trading days between 2002 and 2004, without unloading shares on the open market.
Linda Chatman Thomsen, enforcement director at the Securities and Exchange Commission, which filed related civil charges against Stockman on Monday, said that Heartland had received $45 million in fees and services over Stockman's tenure, half of which she said Stockman personally collected. Government lawyers are seeking forfeiture of more than $1.35 billion, a portion of the $1.6 billion in outstanding debt and financing the company received from such banks as Credit Suisse and J.P. Morgan Chase, lead prosecutor Helen V. Cantwell said.
In the end, Collins & Aikman, founded in 1843, will not survive intact. The company, which will pay no criminal or civil fines in connection with Monday's court filings, shed more than 11,000 employees. Current officials are selling off the company in pieces, a process that may be complete long before the Stockman case goes to trial.
#26: Michael Ledeen: Improving on Mussolini
Ledeen has been called the driving philosophical force behind the neoconservative movement and (by me) "the most influential and unabashed warmonger of our time." A resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (#7), contributing editor at National Review and former Pentagon, State Department and White House consultant under Reagan (when his Israeli intelligence contacts were used to help broker the illegal Iran-contra affair), Ledeen is often quoted by top Bush officials, including Cheney, Rumsfeld and former Under Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz. But they don't quote quotes like these--at least not in public: In March 2003, Ledeen, a leading and longtime proponent of the invasion of Iraq--and of Iran, Syria and no doubt other countries yet to be named--told a forum that "the level of casualties [in Iraq] is secondary" because "we are a warlike people...we love war."
He has written that "Change--above all violent change--is the essence of human history"; "the only way to achieve peace is through total war"; and "The purpose of total war is to permanently force your will onto another people." He was quoted approvingly by National Review Online editor Jonah Goldberg as saying, "Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business."
In April 2003--one month into the Iraq war--Ledeen gave an address titled "Time to Focus on Iran," and declared, "the time for diplomacy is at an end." Ledeen's attacks on Iran, even when Iran was assisting the US, "helped keep the Bush administration from seeking any rapprochement with Tehran," wrote William Beeman of the Pacific News Service in 2003. "Were it in Ledeen's hands, we would invade Iran today."
Most Americans have never heard of Michael Ledeen, Beeman noted, but if the US "ends up in an extended shooting war throughout the Middle East, it will be largely due to his inspiration."
Nixon Era scandals
Dirty political tactics
In Tapes, Nixon Rails About Jews and Blacks. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/11/us/politics/11nixon.html
A long history of sexism in politics. In 1950, Helen Gahagan Douglas lost a vicious Senate battle to Richard Nixon, a contest that was the breeding ground for today's campaign trench warfare. http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-denton22-2009dec22,0,3556325.story
Follow the Dark Money The down and dirty history of secret spending, PACs gone wild, and the epic four-decade fight over the only kind of political capital that matters. http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/06/history-money-american-elections
How a dead dog came back to bite Richard Nixon's Watergate conspirators. Nixon operatives Bob Haldeman and John Ehrlichman pioneered their dirty tricks on the UCLA campus – baiting reds like me. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/jun/17/richard-nixon-watergate-conspirators-40-anniversary
Remembering Watergate http://hnn.us/articles/remembering-watergate
Nixon's Biggest Crime Was Far, Far Worse than Watergate. http://hnn.us/articles/nixons-biggest-crime-was-far-far-worse-watergate
Woodward and Bernstein: 40 years after Watergate, Nixon was far worse than we thought. http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/woodward-and-bernstein-40-years-after-watergate-nixon-was-far-worse-than-we-thought/2012/06/08/gJQAlsi0NV_story.html
Among the documents Dean submitted in evidence June 27 were lists "several inches thick" of Nixon's "political enemies." http://web.archive.org/web/20030621235432/www.artsci.wustl.edu/~polisci/calvert/PolSci3103/watergate/enemy.htm
The Nixon library's split personality. Since being taken over by the National Archives, two views of the president are evident. The Nixon Library was, until last year, the only presidential library since Franklin Roosevelt's time to be run by boosters instead of the archives, and the difference showed in its almost reverential approach to a disgraced president. Now the film lauding Nixon for bringing "peace with honor" in Vietnam is preceded by a clip in which the new director, Tim Naftali, promises -- or, depending on your point of view, threatens -- that changes are in store, starting with a new Watergate exhibit to open late next year. When I first visited the library nearly five years ago, its greatest quirk was the Watergate exhibit, which asserted that the break-in and coverup that ushered in an era of mistrust of government were actually caused by the zeal of two unethical Washington Post reporters "to create a Watergate story." It was such an oddity that it became a bit of Nixoniana in its own right, and parts of it will be displayed alongside the truth in the new exhibit. http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/editorials/la-ed-library6-2008dec06,0,2241042.story