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97 posts from July 2008

July 31, 2008

McCain's campaign co-chair also tied to disgraced Stephen Payne

Picture_1 Another close political ally of John McCain is listed as a member of the executive team of disgraced lobbyist Stephen Payne's international petro-lobbying venture.

Fred Zeidman, a McCain campaign co-chair and on of the candidate's top fundraisers, is listed as a member of the advisory board of Worldwide Strategic Energy in a pre-prospectus memo circulated in 2007. [Click on thumbnail to view his bio from the WSE pre-prospectus.]

Zeidman is an elite Bush fundraiser. Like Stephen Payne and Jack Abramoff, Zeidman was a Bush Pioneer in 2004. Zeidman apparently improved over his 2000 performance where he didn't quite raise the $100,000 required for full-fledged Pioneer status.

Bush appointed him to head the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2002 and reappointed him in 2007. Ziedman has accompanied the president abroad on official trips. In 2003, he accompanied Tom DeLay to Israel.

In 2006, Bush appointed Fred's son Jay Zeidman to the post of White House Liaison to the Jewish Community. Zeidman fils left that position in 2007 for a stint with the McCain campaign.

Zeidman pere initially backed Rudy Giuliani, now of Bracewell Guiliani (WSE's official law firm). He later switched his allegiance to McCain. Now he co-chairs the GOP's 2008 Victory Jewish Coalition with Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Va).

Zeidman is senior director of government affairs at Jack Abramoff's old law firm, Greenberg Traurig. Abramoff resigned as director of government affairs in 2004 and Zeidman joined the firm shortly thereafter. Oddly, a search of Open Secrets suggests that Zeidman had never registered to lobby the federal government before he joined Greenberg Traurig's Washington practice.

One of Worldwide Strategic Energy's main business projects is to obtain oil and gas leases in near the Caspian Sea. McCain adviser Randy Scheuneman lobbied for the Caspian Alliance, a WSE subsidiary. It just so happens that Zeidman was recently appointed to the board of Transmeridian Exploration Incorporated dedicated to oil and gas exploration in the Caspian region. TMEI's headquarters are located in the same Houston building as WSE's headquarters at 5847 San Felipe Plaza.

[Original reporting, please credit Lindsay Beyerstein.]

KBR's faulty wiring blamed for deaths of at least 16 soldiers in Iraq

A congressional report released yesterday blames faulty electrical work by contractor KBR for the deaths of at least 16 American troops in Iraq:

The denials leave an accountability problem that may ultimately lead to the Pentagon officials in charge of overseeing KBR.

"Who is to blame for this?" Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), the ranking Republican on the committee, asked Bruni. "Was it the army? Was it the soldier responsible for taking the shower?"

"The responsibility lies with the army," Bruni said after initially dodging the question.

The army, meanwhile, remains uncertain how many soldiers have actually been electrocuted.

Gen. David Petraeus, commander of the multinational force in Iraq, said last month that 13 soldiers had been electrocuted. Last week the Pentagon said the number was 16. Now the oversight committee says it has documents indicating 19 deaths.

At the hearing, Jeffrey Parsons, executive director of the Army Contracting Command, said that the Pentagon is still in the process of investigating the electrocutions. Parsons also noted that Pentagon auditors lack "sufficient skill sets or expertise to perform adequate oversight of electrical work being performed by KBR." [Washington Independent]

KBR, a subsidiary of Halliburton until last year, recently won yet another contract for Iraq reconstruction.

July 30, 2008

Shanghai steamed soup dumplings recipe

I've often wondered how they get the soup inside the soup dumpling. Now I know, thanks to this remarkable illustrated recipe from Jaden's Steamy Kitchen.

House panel votes to hold Karl Rove in contempt

Fireworks, originally uploaded by Lindsay Beyerstein.

The House Judiciary Committee voted 20-14 to hold Karl Rove in contempt for ignoring subpoenas and refusing to testify.

July 29, 2008

Sen. Ted Stevens (R-AK) indicted on seven criminal counts


Stevens allegedly failed to disclose gifts worth more than $250,000.

Audit confirms that Blackwater isn't a small business

An audit by the Inspector General of the Small Business Administration shows that the giant mercenary firm Blackwater may have misrepresented itself as a small business in order to obtain tens of millions of dollars in set-aside contracts:

Blackwater Worldwide and the private security company's affiliates may have misrepresented their size to win more than $100 million in government contracts set aside for small businesses, according to a report released Monday by the Small Business Administration's Office of Inspector General.

The audit found that from fiscal 2005 to fiscal 2007, Blackwater and affiliates won 32 small business contracts worth more than $2.1 million even though the work was restricted to companies with revenue of $6.5 million or less.

In the same period, Blackwater's airline affiliate won more than $107 million in contracts set aside for companies with revenues of less than $25.5 million or fewer than 1,500 employees.

The IG report questioned whether Blackwater could meet any of those limits and says the company may have misrepresented itself. Blackwater executives said last week they are on track to reach annual revenues of $1 billion per year by 2010.

Blackwater's scam involved misclassifying employees as contractors, thereby making the company appear much smaller on paper while simultaneously dodging payroll taxes.

Color of Change demands investigation into death of soldier likely murdered in Iraq

The Color of Change is circulating an online petition calling upon the House Oversight Committee to hold a hearing into the death of Pfc. LaVena Johnson, whose violent death in Iraq was falsely deemed a suicide:

Dear Congressman Waxman:

I'm calling on you, as chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, to conduct a hearing into the death of Pfc. LaVena Johnson. Despite overwhelming evidence that Pfc. Johnson was brutally murdered in Iraq three years ago, the US Army continues to call her death a suicide — refusing to investigate the case and prosecute the perpetrators of this terrible crime.

Congress should not allow the US Army to ignore powerful physical evidence from investigators, withhold requested information and force family members through years of denials and delays. Worse, it appears that the LaVena Johnson case is not unique, and there is a pattern of the Army calling rape-murders suicide and covering up the crimes. This is a disgrace.

I'm standing with the family of LaVena Johnson and requesting that you immediately conduct a hearing into the cause of her death and the US Army's handling of this case and others like it.


[Click here to add your name.]

July 28, 2008

Bob Novak diagnosed with brain tumor

Journalist Bob Novak has been diagnosed with a brain tumor. The diagnosis comes a week after Novak plowed into a homeless man on K Street and drove off. He later claimed he had no idea he'd hit anyone, despite an eyewitness's report that the victim was splayed across Novak's windshield.

The tumor might have had something to do with the crash, and with Novak's impaired speech in news footage recorded after the incident.

"I know Bob will confront this challenge with the same courage with which he has taken on the political establishment in Washington for decades," said House Republican Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio.

Novak was criticized after he was the first to publicly reveal the name of CIA operative Valerie Plame in a 2003 column. His column came out eight days after Plame's husband, Joseph Wilson, said the Bush administration had twisted prewar intelligence to exaggerate the Iraqi threat. [AP]

Doctors don't yet know whether the tumor is malignant.

[HT: Norm Costa.]

Darcy and Seth

Darcy and Seth, originally uploaded by Lindsay Beyerstein.


Whipping up some scrambled eggs and wasabi-tequila Bloody Marys before The Dark Knight Returns.

Petro-loybbist Stephen Payne offered to get UN travel documents for client

The Times of London reports that international influence peddler Stephen Payne offered to obtain UN travel documents for the son-in-law of the dictator of Kazakhstan:

Stephen Payne, the lobbyist who was caught in the White House “cash for access” scandal, has indicated that he helped to obtain a United Nations travel document for one of his clients.

In a covertly recorded video Payne appeared to confirm that he had been instrumental in getting a UN certificate for Timur Kulibayev, the billionaire son-in-law of Nursultan Nazarbayev, the president of Kazakhstan.

The document is not a passport but according to UN spokesman it confers “privileges which are akin to those of representatives of governments” on the bearer when travelling abroad.

In practice this means he or she is less likely to be impeded at airports by customs or other regulatory bodies.

This is doubly disturbing in light of the fact that Payne served on the Secure Borders Open Doors advisory committee to the Department of Homeland Security--a post he was forced to resign after the Times caught him on tape offering access to Dick Cheney, Condi Rice, and Stephen Hadley in exchange for donations to the George W. Bush Library.

[Via TPMM.]