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27 posts from February 2008

February 29, 2008

Plagiarist White House aide quits

The man the AP called "President Bush's middleman with conservatives and Christian groups" resigned because a blogger caught him plagiarizing.

Timothy Goeglein stepped down as deputy director of the Office of Public Liaison after blogger Nancy Nall discovered considerable overlap between a recent Goeglein column on education in the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel and this essay by Jeffrey Heart from the Dartmouth Review.

 

One percent of American adults now incarcerated

For the first time in history, more than one in a hundred American adults is behind bars--not on parole, or probation, but actually locked up right now.

Kay Steiger notes that prison spending is creeping up on higher ed spending:

Twenty years ago we spent 32 cents on prisons for every dollar we spent on higher ed, today, it's 60 cents. This is due in large part to the crunch on state budgets--the first thing to be trimmed from the budget is usually colleges and universities. The reasoning is that students can pay higher tuition rates to make up the difference, but with prisons, an increased population must be supported by the state. [TAPPED]

How 'bout that war on drugs, eh?

February 28, 2008

RNC won't bother to recover emails

The RNC is reneging on its promise to attempt to restore the "lost" emails on its servers:

After promising last year to search its computers for tens of thousands of e-mails sent by White House officials, the Republican National Committee has informed a House committee that it no longer plans to retrieve the communications by restoring computer backup tapes, the panel's chairman said yesterday.

The move increases the likelihood that an untold number of RNC e-mails dealing with official White House business during the first term of the Bush administration -- including many sent or received by former presidential adviser Karl Rove -- will never be recovered, said House Democrats and public records advocates. [WaPo]

Somebody needs to serve the RNC with subpoenas for all their hardware.

It's ridiculous that the RNC is allowed to conduct the recovery operations in the first place. They have no incentive to succeed and every opportunity to sabotage the mission.

If the RNC doesn't hand over the hardware, our next president's first official act should be to order US Marshals to raid RNC headquarters and seize the computers--or at least copy all the data on them at take it back for independent analysis.

There's an ongoing legal dispute about whether those emails must be preserved. These emails may be key evidence in any number of criminal and civil disputes. The RNC must not be allowed to do anything to those emails until these disputes have been resolved.

February 26, 2008

60 Minutes on Siegelman, Simpson, Rove, and the Canaries

60 Minutes finally ran their long awaited segment on the Don Siegelman case.

Siegelman is the former governor of Alabama who is serving a long jail term as the result of what looks like a spurious, politically-motivated prosecution at the hands Alabama Republicans and at least one US Attorney.

The 13-minute segment is remarkable because it includes an exclusive TV interview with whistleblower Dana Jill Simpson. Simpson testified before Congress that she was a sometime dirty trickster/spy for the Alabama GOP for an extended period of time. Simpson claims to have heard Republican operative Bill Canary promise to orchestrate the political prosecution of Siegelman.

In the 60 Minutes interview, Simpson publicly asserts for the first time that she met with Karl Rove on behalf of the Riley campaign, an allegation Rove denies. The Alabama GOP has flatly denied that Simpson ever worked for them. 

Unfortunately, 60 Minutes doesn't provide any context for the viewer to assess the plausibility of Simpson's charges.

If you didn't know the backstory, Simpson's claims might sound far fetched. Why would senior figures in the Alabama GOP and the Bush White House be working with this obscure local lawyer? Why is there no proof that Simpson was ever on any Republican payroll?

What 60 Minutes doesn't explain is that Simpson is an old friend of Rob Riley, Jr., son of Gov. Bob Riley. Their friendship dates to their days in student government at the University of Alabama.

Simpson testified that she and Rob Riley had an informal arrangement: She would do oppo research and other political stuff for Jr.; and, in exchange, he would use his daddy's connections as a congressman, and later as governor, to secure favors for Simpson's clients.

60 Minutes also neglects to mention that Simpson has phone records to back up her claim that she was on the phone with Bob Riley immediately after the 2002 election. Those records don't establish what was said, or who was on the call. Still, it's significant that Simpson had direct line to Riley during that critical period. The GOP says they've never worked with her, but how did she get an 11-minute call to the governor?

Simpson swore in an affidavit that it was during this conversation that operative Bill Canary, promised to sic his wife Leura and another US Attorney on Don Siegelman. Riley and the others deny this conversation ever took place, but I've never heard any of them address Simpson's evidence that she placed a call that day.

February 25, 2008

Hivemind: Corporate charity funds

I've heard that some law firms require their associates to contribute a certain percentage of their income to corporate-sponsored charity funds, known as "donor advised funds."

Besides the rather cursory information available on the IRS website, I'm having a hard time finding out much about these structures. There's lots of information about donor advised funds for individuals, but I'm not finding a lot of info on funds sponsored by businesses and other organizations.

So, I'm throwing the questions out to the hivemind.

1. Is it possible to determine from public records whether a firm has a donor advised fund(s), and how the fund is disbursing the money?

2. What rights do associates have to monitor the activities of their firm's fund?

3. Why would a law firm want to start such a fund in the first place?

February 24, 2008

McCain and the sleaze factor

I think it's important to restate in plain English what John McCain did wrong when he held out public money to secure a private campaign loan.

Did McCain's loan deal break laws or FEC rules? Does it lock McCain into the public system until the primary? I'm going to leave those arguments to the lawyers.

I'm asking whether McCain's campaign finance scheme is consistent with the image of moral rectitude he so confidently projects.

McCain applied for public financing back when his campaign was struggling. When his fortunes improved and spending limits became inconvenient, McCain wanted out. Ironically, a champion of campaign finance reform couldn't live with his own system.

By this point, the FEC had already approved $5.8 million in matching funds for him, but the money hadn't changed hands yet. This is an important point because once a candidate accepts public money, s/he can no longer opt out of the program.

So, McCain still had time for a quasi-honorable bailout, if he had been willing to make a clean break and proceed at his own risk--but he wasn't willing to forgo the safety net.

If McCain refused matching funds, he would need big loans. Back in December, when the loan deal was hatched, it wasn't clear that McCain was going to win.

Banks aren't stupid. They won't lend you millions of dollars without some assurance that you'll pay them back. So, the bank had a legitimate concern: How would McCain pay back the loan if his primary campaign imploded?

Here's how the McCain team reassured the bank that they were good for the money:

The plan was to opt out and fund raise like hell. If that worked out, great. But if they started losing, they promised to opt back into the public system. Then, they'd take that $5.8 million the government had already promised them, and use it to repay the bank.

McCain's deal had very serious political and ethical implications. If worse had come to worst, he would have been contractually obliged to stay in a hopeless race, just to get his hands on those matching funds.  An ethical candidate weighs many factors when deciding whether to stay in a losing race, including the best interests of country, party, and family. McCain was willing to give final say to the bank.

McCain was all for public financing when his campaign needed public assistance. When the attendant restrictions became inconvenient, he wanted out. That's a little embarrassing for a self-styled ethics crusader, but it's understandable given the exigencies of politics.

But instead of making a good faith decision to set out on his own, at his own risk, McCain fell back on the promise of government money to get a private loan.

He didn't risk his own house or any of his considerable personal wealth. No, he put up our money as security for his gamble.

John McCain got that loan by holding out the promise of a public bailout. 

McCain was gambling with public money to secure debt he incurred when he decided to ditch public financing! How's that for integrity?

February 23, 2008

Paxson contradicts McCain on FCC letters

Sen. John McCain claims he never met with broadcaster Lowell "Bud" Paxson, or his lobbyist Vicki Iseman, before writing two letters to the FCC on Paxson's behalf.

Paxson says he met with McCain in 1999 and asked him to intercede with the FCC:

Paxson said he talked with McCain in his Washington office several weeks before the Arizona Republican wrote the letters in 1999 to the FCC urging a rapid decision on Paxson's quest to acquire a Pittsburgh television station.

Paxson also recalled that his lobbyist, Vicki Iseman, likely attended the meeting in McCain's office and that Iseman helped arrange the meeting. "Was Vicki there? Probably," Paxson said in an interview with The Washington Post yesterday. "The woman was a professional. She was good. She could get us meetings." [WaPo]

[HT: Think Progress]

February 22, 2008

FEC says McCain can't drop out of public financing

Before John McCain became the Republican front runner, he signed up for public campaign financing. Now, he wants to out of the program.

Candidates are allowed to quit, provided they haven't already accepted public money.
The thing is, McCain seems to have used the prospect of public money to secure private funding

WASHINGTON (Map, News) - The government's top campaign finance regulator says John McCain can't drop out of the primary election's public financing system until he answers questions about a loan he obtained to kickstart his once faltering presidential campaign.

Federal Election Commission Chairman David Mason, in a letter to McCain this week, said the all-but-certain Republican nominee needs to assure the commission that he did not use the promise of public money to help secure a $4 million line of credit he obtained in November.

In plain English, McCain got the loan by promising a publicly-funded bailout, if anything went wrong. The FEC is not amused.

McCain opted for public financing when his campaign was struggling last summer. Then, when his electoral fortunes rebounded, he told the FEC he wanted out again. 

Rick Hansen of the Election Law blog writes, "Meanwhile, as Marc Schmitt has documented (see here, here, and here), McCain, in applying for a campaign loan, apparently promised to remain a candidate and opt back in to the system in the event his campaign faltered again."

McCain didn't get the public money in his pocket, but he borrowed against the promise of public money. In the eyes of the FEC, benefiting from the prospect of public money may be tantamount to taking the cash.

McCain could be in big trouble if the FEC won't release him from the program. Public financing imposes strict spending and fund raising limits. McCain has already burned through about $46 million, betting on his ability to raise still more money from private donors. 

What a smarmy sleazeball. The McCain of McCain Feingold can't even make it to through the primary without embroiling himself in shady private financing schemes.

February 21, 2008

McCain aides booted one lobbyist in 1999

John McCain's closest advisers allegedly told one telecom lobbyist to get lost in 1999.

I suppose that's good start...

But what have they done to follow up on that achievement in the intervening 9 years?







February 20, 2008

Wake


Wake, originally uploaded by Lindsay Beyerstein.