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A story from the Boston Globe on the depth of influence lobbyists and money have over GOP lawmakers. Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3

Republicans take over K Street
The Christian Science Monitor, August 2003The hottest speculation in Washington isn't over who will fill a possible Supreme Court vacancy, but who will take over Jack Valenti's perch atop the Motion Picture Association of America - and the buzz is narrowing to three Republicans, all present or former members of Congress.

It's a sign that the ties between the GOP-controlled Congress and the lobby shops on K Street are getting tighter - with significant consequences for issues ranging from tax policy to healthcare. More

Welcome to the Machine
How the GOP disciplined K Street and made Bush supreme. The Washington Monthly, 2003When presidents pick someone to fill a job in the government, it's typically a very public affair. The White House circulates press releases and background materials. Congress holds a hearing, where some members will pepper the nominee with questions and others will shower him or her with praise. If the person in question is controversial or up for an important position, they'll rate a profile or two in the papers. But there's one confirmation hearing you won't hear much about. It's convened every Tuesday morning by Rick Santorum, the junior senator from Pennsylvania, in the privacy of a Capitol Hill conference room, for a handpicked group of two dozen or so Republican lobbyists. Occasionally, one or two other senators or a representative from the White House will attend. Democrats are not invited, and neither is the press. More

K Street Topics & Commentary:
Friday, March 31 (sorry folks, work has been...well, lots of work)
Casting Off Abramoff
The disgraced lobbyists clients spent $72 million on campaign contributions and lobbying, a new analysis finds. So, how much do recipients consider tainted?
Friday March 31 (Capital Eye)What do magazine publishers, a railroad and Microsoft have in common with Indian tribes?

They were all clients of lobbyist Jack Abramoff, the central figure in the corruption scandal unfolding in Washington. And during the time Abramoff represented them, they all made campaign contributions to members of Congress and President Bush.

When Abramoff pleaded guilty in January to corruption charges, some politicians rushed to dump what they saw as politically radioactive money from the high-flying lobbyist and the Indian tribes he admitted defrauding. By one Associated Press count, politicians promised to refund or donate to charity nearly $700,000. There was almost no mention at the time of Abramoffs other clients and what the recipients planned to do with those clients contributions.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist was an exception. Three weeks after Abramoffs guilty plea, appearing on the Jan. 29 edition of NBCs Meet the Press, Frist declared, Any money thats come in from any client (of Abramoff) Im going to give back immediatelygive it back to the client, because I want to have no part of it. Frist got $59,000 from Abramoff clients, but he has only singled out $2,000 to returnmoney his political action committee received from the Saginaw Chippewa Indian tribe in Michigan.

What if Frist returned every dollar of what he called Abramoff-tainted money? And what if every member of Congress who received a contribution from Jack Abramoff or one of his clients did the same? How many lawmakers would be writing refund checks? How much money would disappear from their campaign war chests?

In short, a lot. More

Congressman Denies He Got Deal on House
Friday, March 31 (Washington Post)Rep. Jim Ryun on Wednesday denied allegations by Democrats that he received a "sweet real estate deal" when he purchased a town house from a nonprofit group with connections to lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

The Kansas Republican bought the historic Capitol Hill town house for $410,000 on Dec. 15, 2000. That was $19,000 less than the U.S. Family Network paid for the home about two years earlier, in January 1999, despite a sharp rise in local real estate values during that time.

He denies receiving any favorable treatment in the purchase. He declined to be interviewed but said in a written statement that he paid "fair market value" for the home.

Ryun said he negotiated the sale price after a housing inspector found a structural problem that would require up to $20,000 to repair. He said the seller also saved money on the deal by not having to pay a real estate agent's commission.

The home is currently assessed at $764,310 for tax year 2007, according to the city's Office of Tax and Revenue. More

Ex-DeLay aide pleads guilty
Friday, March 31 (Washington Post)A former top aide to Texas Republican Rep. Tom DeLay pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy on Friday in the influence-peddling investigation involving disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

Tony Rudy, the former deputy chief of staff to DeLay, entered the guilty plea in federal court as part of a deal with Justice Department prosecutors. He was be the second former DeLay aide to plead guilty in the probe.

He faced a maximum penalty of five years but under the agreement he was expected to serve between two and 2 1/2 years. As part of the agreement he will cooperate and provide "complete and truthful information" in the Justice Department investigation.

Abramoff, the lobbyist at the heart of a scandal that has rattled top Republicans, has been cooperating in the federal investigation into whether Washington politicians gave his clients favorable treatment in exchange for campaign contributions, Super Bowl tickets and other illegal gifts. More

Friday, March 3 (on vacation next week, so make sure you subscribe to the RSS feed for updates from Sun Valley, Idaho)
Rep. Harris misled us; now we know why
Friday, March 3 (Herald Tribune Media Group)Let's not make this fuzzy: U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris lied.

Harris repeatedly misled journalists and the public about her conversations with defense contractor Mitchell Wade. I see no other way to look at this.

Wade, one target in a long federal investigation that is still under way, has now pleaded guilty to bribing one member of Congress and making illegal campaign contributions to two others, all to seek the kind of defense contracts that made MZM Inc. so profitable.
I wrote two columns in the past about the $34,000 in illegal campaign contributions Harris accepted -- without knowing they were illegal, it seems -- from MZM, its employees and some of their spouses.

But for months, there was a mystery: What the heck had Wade, MZM's CEO, wanted from Harris in return for that money? More

Wednesday, March 1 (Sorry, Work is Just Killing Me on a Daily Basis....)
Santorum's Denials on K Street Project Don't Ring True
Wednesday, March 1 (American Enterprise Institute)Like the skunk at the garden party, Jack Abramoff just wont go away. He--and more important, what he represents--now permeate the atmosphere in Washington, D.C., hovering over Tuesdays State of the Union message and the coming votes on Republican leadership posts in the House. The stench will not go away with a spasm of narrowly focused lobbying reform, especially if it is the kind of reform that frames lobbyists as victimizers and lawmakers as their victims.

Congress has to keep its eye on the larger issues out there. One is the underlying honesty of the legislative process. A legislative process that bends rules and breaks norms leads inexorably to broader corruption. Another is the money system in politics, which is an inescapable element of the lobbyist-interest-Member dynamic.

It is a fascinating paradox. Nearly all House seats--at least 375--are considered safe from a general-election challenge. The holders of these 375 seats dont need big bucks for their own campaigns, except for the handful who face possible primary challenges. Yet virtually all of them spend huge amounts of time raising political money.

Anybody immersed in Washington politics sees all around the evidence of an obsession with money that is reflected in Members relationships with lobbyists. I cant go near the Capitol Hill Club or its Democratic counterpart without seeing a long list of upcoming fundraisers. I frequently go into downtown office buildings at the end of the day and see signs in the lobby directing visitors to the appropriate floor for the law firm or lobbying outfit that is hosting a political fundraiser. More

Thursday, February 22
Abramoff ties to Russians probed
US inquiry widens to energy concerns
Thursday, February 22 (Boston Globe)The federal investigation into the lobbying activities of Jack Abramoff has broadened to examine his dealings with the Russian government and a pair of high-profile Russian energy company executives, according to documents made available to the Globe.

A subpoena in the case, issued this month to an Abramoff associate, says the US government is seeking information on Abramoff-related activities with ''any department, ministry, or office holder or agent of the Russian government." The subpoena, which has not been made public, was given to the Globe by a person who is involved in the case.

Abramoff's work on behalf of Indian tribes has been widely scrutinized, but his work for Russian interests has received far less public notice.

It is legal for foreigners to hire lobbyists, but Abramoff's dealings in this area have come under federal investigation because his fees were so large and because investigators are examining whether he might have bribed members of Congress. More
Tuesday, February 21
4:09 pmPoor Ricky's Almanac

From the upcoming American Prospect:

In 2001, he (Santorum) launched the Operation Good Neighbor Foundation. The charity, which seeks to award money to faith-based groups and other organizations that combat poverty and social ills like teen pregnancy, has a Web page loaded with photos of a smiling Santorum, posing with oversized checks and leaders of community groups. So far, according to the site, the Senators charity has doled out $474,000.
But public records show that the group has raised considerably more than that since its inception in 2001.

A review of federal tax returns filed by the foundation for 2001, 2002, and 2003 shows that the charity spent just 35.9 percent of the nearly $1 million raised on its charitable grants, while spending 56.5 percent on expenses like salaries, fund-raising commissions, travel, conference costs, and rent. Charity experts say that charitable groups should spend at least 75 percent of their money on program grants, and that donors should beware of organizations that spend as little as Santorums has.
The majority of organizations are able to meet that 75 percent figure, says Saundra Miniutti of Charity Navigator, a watchdog group. Without addressing Santorums charity specifically, she noted that nonprofits spending in the range of just one-third on programs are extremely inefficient.

Moreover, the foundation is not registered with the Pennsylvania Department of State. A spokeswoman for the state agency said that any charity that solicits and raises more than $25,000 in Pennsylvania is required by law to register. Records included on the foundations 2002 tax filing list $94,000 in donations from sources in the state. State law says that violators of the registration law run the risk of civil penalties and possible legal action by the state.

The list of 2002 donors -- displayed on a Web page marked not open to public inspection -- includes several major donors to Santorums political campaign. Most notable is Philadelphia Trust Company, the same private bank that refinanced Santorums Virginia home in 2002, which gave $10,000. The CEO of Philadelphia Trust, Michael Crofton, is chairman of the charitys board of advisers. The foundation also raised $25,000 from the PMA Foundation, the charitable arm of a risk-management firm in suburban Philadelphia; $25,000 from the suburban Philadelphia development firm Preferred Real Estate; and $10,000 from J. Brian ONeill, the brother of that firms founder and himself a developer. The charity also received $10,000 from the Keystone Sanitary Landfill, owned by Louis DeNaples, a controversial Scranton businessman who is fending off published allegations that he associates with organized-crime figures.

Wow, someone is really going after Santorum. Intelligently, soberly, and correctly. Ricky better put that home on the market now....
Monday, February 20
Prosecutors recommend 10-year maximum sentence for ex-Rep. Cunningham
Monday, February 20 (Sign on San Diego)Prosecutors recommended that disgraced former Rep. Randy Duke Cunningham receive a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for his stunning betrayal of the public trust, according to a sentencing memorandum filed Friday.

Cunningham used his status as a war hero to get into Congress, and then he used his congressional office to get rich, prosecutors wrote in the 35-page memorandum. For the better part of a decade, Cunningham, in effect, erected a 'for sale' sign upon our nation's capital.

Cunningham, 64, resigned from Congress last year after pleading guilty to accepting $2.4 million in bribes from defense contractors and others in exchange for defense contracts and other favors. The former Top Gun flight instructor and Vietnam War flying ace is scheduled to be sentenced March 3 in U.S. District Court in San Diego. More

Ed note: Read Cunningham's sentencing memorandum here.

U.S. Rep. John Doolittle, R-Roseville, sat down with David Whitney of The Bee Washington Bureau this week. The following is a transcript of the interview.
Monday, February 20 (Sacramento Bee)Q: After all these months of stories about Jack Abramoff and Brent Wilkes and all that, and you not wanting to talk publicly about it, why are you consenting to do this interview now?

A: Well, David, there has been so much written and speculated about this that I would like to get the facts out there so that people will feel, well, so they will know what I know and hopefully feel reassured based on what I will tell you -that there really isn't what this is being made to seem. I guess people are trying to sell newspapers or television media or something. This has been the most irresponsible amount of speculation and blowing up of something that I have ever seen. And I just felt that it is not going to go away in any timely fashion. And so I would rather tell you my story and get the facts out there.

Q: You are going to announce next week you are running for another term?

A: Absolutely.

Q: Is this related to that?

A: Well, yes and no. It is not really related to that. But that fact is, that's coming. This whole thing is rapidly morphing into the campaign. I am hoping that before we get into the campaign that at least we can get this out there.

Q: When did you meet Jack Abramoff?

A: I do want to say before -and I will answer that question -that I have always tried to- I mean you and I have always had a pretty straightforward relationship. You ask me a question and I will try and give the best answer I know how. And I make mistakes like everybody else does. If I am aware of them I act to correct them. And I don't think that will prove to be the case here. But, and that's really why I wrote the attorney general and asked him to investigate me, hoping that I would get my name cleared. The thing that concerns me - and this has caused my family a huge amount of angst - is we know what the truth is but the truth isn't coming out. I mean the attorney general I presume, or the Justice Department, knows what the truth is but they are in the middle of a big investigation that encompasses supposedly various members of Congress and staff. And they have their timetable. So while the truth, I guess the truth will eventually come out that they're dealing with, we can't wait until the end of the year for it to come out. So ... I just wrote in the letter ... "please investigate me." OK. So I just wanted to get that out there. And we are sick of having death by a thousand cuts. We'd rather tell you what we know and have it be out there. OK. When did I meet Jack Abramoff? More

Monday, February 6
Lobbyists aim largesse at Capitol Hill staffers
It's not just members of Congress whom lobbyists are out to influence; they target young aides, too.
Monday, February 6 (Austin-American Statesman) Young congressional staff members may draw meager salaries, but they dine in the capital's best restaurants, attend receptions where they are offered top-shelf scotch, stay in deluxe hotels on "fact-finding" trips and attend ballgames all courtesy of lobbyists.

During late night sessions to draft legislation, aides often have only to crook a finger to a lobbyist and pizza will be on its way. More

Friday, February 3
The House That Boehner Built
Friday, February 3 (DCCC)Just yesterday, America got a taste of what the Boehner leadership will mean to them.

$22 Billion in HMO Giveaways. After intense lobbying from the health insurance industry, yesterday's budget saves HMOs $22 billion dollars. "House and Senate GOP negotiators, meeting behind closed doors last month to complete a major budget-cutting bill, agreed on a change to Senate-passed Medicare legislation that would save the health insurance industry $22 billion over the next decade, according to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office." [Vote #4, 2/1/06, Washington Post, 1/24/2006]

Medicaid Changes in Budget Bill Forces Some Seniors To Pay More For Nursing Home Care. The budget bill will make it tougher for seniors who enter nursing homes to get Medicaid to pay the bill. The new requirements would extend the period of time in which transferred assets are still counted in figuring an individual's eligibility - from three to five years before applying for benefits. In addition, anyone with more than $500,000 in home equity could not receive nursing home benefits from Medicaid. More

Thursday, February 2
Scandal increases scrutiny of K Street
Thursday, February 2 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer) K Street bisects the nation's capital on a route that stretches from tony Georgetown through the city's business district into a working-class neighborhood. But "K Street" also has long been invoked as shorthand for the monied lobbyists who ply influence in this town from offices scattered along the avenue or nearby.

Now, as an influence-peddling scandal unfolds in Washington, the doings of K Street lobbyists and their interactions with Congress and the Bush administration are under heightened scrutiny. And a Republican initiative known as the "K Street Project" is becoming a whipping-child.

Democrats and even some Republicans are vowing to shut down the project; others in the GOP are rushing to put it at arm's length and all sides are trying to define it to their own advantage.

The idea behind the project was simple, says its creator, conservative activist Grover Norquist: Encourage trade associations and corporations to hire lobbyists who have compatible views on lower taxes and less government regulation.

Ultimately, that goal translated into an aggressive effort to pack the ranks of industry lobbyists with Republicans and weed out Democrats - who Norquist says are more philosophically suited to a labor union than a corporate conference room. More

Tuesday, January 31 (In Memoriam of Coretta Scott King 1927-2006)
U.S. Says Abramoff Tipped Tyco to GSA Move
Tuesday, January 31 (Washington Post)Lobbyist Jack Abramoff gave his client Tyco International an early warning in 2003 that the government was about to suspend Tyco's federal contracts -- inside information he received from a General Services Administration official now under indictment, federal prosecutors alleged yesterday.

David H. Safavian, who has been charged with obstructing the Abramoff corruption investigation, alerted Abramoff in November 2003 that the GSA was about to suspend the contracts of four Tyco subsidiaries, prosecutors said in court papers. Safavian provided "sensitive and confidential information" about internal GSA deliberations, as well as advice about how to get around the suspension, the prosecutors said.

Abramoff has pleaded guilty to fraud and conspiracy and is cooperating with a federal investigation into political corruption. He has been accused of improperly obtaining inside information from contacts in Congress and executive branch agencies.

George Terwilliger, Tyco's attorney, said yesterday that Abramoff's tip was of substantial benefit to Tyco but was unsolicited. Tyco's senior lawyer, Timothy Flanigan, contacted the GSA and "asked for an opportunity to address the suspension issue on the merits," Tyco said in a statement yesterday.

Tyco said it turned the matter over to its law firm, McKenna, Long and Aldridge, which persuaded the agency that the suspension was unwarranted. The GSA had been concerned about the alleged criminal misconduct of former Tyco executives, but the company told the agency that it had brought in new management, Terwilliger said. More

Donors Underwrite DeLay's Luxury Lifestyle
Tuesday, January 31 (BreitBart.com/AP)As Tom DeLay became a king of campaign fundraising, he lived like one too. He visited cliff-top Caribbean resorts, golf courses designed by PGA champions and four-star restaurants _ all courtesy of donors who bankrolled his political money empire.

Over the past six years, the former House majority leader and his associates have visited places of luxury most Americans have never seen, often getting there aboard corporate jets arranged by lobbyists and other special interests.

Public documents reviewed by The Associated Press tell the story: at least 48 visits to golf clubs and resorts with lush fairways; 100 flights aboard company planes; 200 stays at hotels, many world-class; and 500 meals at restaurants, some averaging nearly $200 for a dinner for two.

Instead of his personal expense, the meals and trips for DeLay and his associates were paid with donations collected by the campaign committees, political action committees and children's charity the Texas Republican created during his rise to the top of Congress.

Put them together and an opulent lifestyle emerges. More

Papers Link GOP Lawmaker, Abramoff Clients
Tuesday, January 31 (AP)A California congressman who accepted campaign cash from disgraced ex-lobbyist Jack Abramoff and used his sports box for a fundraiser interceded on behalf of two American Indian tribes that were represented by Abramoff's firm, documents show.

GOP Rep. John Doolittle wrote Interior Secretary Gale Norton in June 2003 criticizing the Bush administration's response to a tribal government dispute involving the Sac & Fox Tribe of the Mississippi in Iowa. In October 2003, Doolittle appealed in a letter to the secretary for quicker action for a Massachusetts tribe, the Mashpee Wampanoag, that was seeking federal recognition.

Both tribes signed on with Abramoff's lobbying firm, Greenberg Traurig, that year. Sac & Fox hired the firm in May, the Wampanoags in November. Neither tribe appears tied to Doolittle's rural Northern California district, and Doolittle is not on the House committee that handles Indian issues.

The letters were obtained by The Associated Press under a Freedom of Information Act request.

Doolittle's spokeswoman did not immediately respond to requests for comment. More

5:25 pm Check out the TPM "Grand Ole Docket"

A compendium of who's going to trial when, who plead what to which charges, and who's being sentenced on what date. Mind you there are Democrats, just 2 of many. But they're there for non-Abramoff related scams. They managed to be dumb enough on their own. Idiots.

Monday, January 30
Editorial | Santorum and the Lobbyists
'K Street? K Street? Never heard of it'
Monday, January 30 (Philadelphia Enquirer)Sen. Rick Santorum (R., Pa.) is trying to do an extreme makeover, in broad daylight.

He's trying to paper over his central role in a now-infamous program to boost Republicans' clout among Washington lobbyists.

As the huge and seedy Jack Abramoff scandal unfolds in Congress, Santorum has discovered a newly urgent desire to restrict lobbying. Well and good, all willing hands welcome.

But no voter should fall for the senator's attempt to obscure his ties to the so-called "K Street Project," named after the street that is home to many lobbying firms.

Santorum was an enthusiastic, high-profile supporter of the project, which sought to install movement conservatives in top lobbying jobs. It also sought to ensure that lobbyists and trade associations supported only Republican issues and candidates.

That's not illegal, per se. When Democrats dominated Congress, they threw their weight around, too. But the K Street Project took the practices to a new level of blatancy. More

Friday, January 27
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