Saturday, February 25, 2006

Mayor Street for Congress?

Pinch me, somebody. Philadelphia Mayor John Street is talking about continuing his political career in Congress:

Philadelphia Mayor John Street says he might consider running for Congress when his term expires in 2008. But a Democratic congressman who has his eye on the mayor’s office is trying to discourage the idea of swapping jobs.
Representative Chaka Fattah has said it’s “highly likely” he’ll run for mayor in 2007. He says he wouldn’t support Street for Congress because U-S House members are typically younger when elected to it and may stay for a decade. Street is 62.
Fattah says he would prefer to see his district represented by a black woman. And he says if he runs for mayor, he “might even be in a position to make that happen.”
Street says if there is a congressional vacancy, he “will consider it.” But he also says he has given “almost no attention” to his possible “post-mayoral activities.”

This is the same Mayor Street whose administration gave Philadelphians the "pay for play" scandal. By my count, at least 12 people have been indicted in that corruption investigation, and at least nine of those have been convicted or pleaded guilty, including former City Treasurer Corey Kemp. Who knows how many more people might have been convicted if Mayor Street hadn't found the FBI bug in his office?

But, hey, if Democrats like Barney Frank and Alcee Hastings can be respected members of Congress, why not John Street?


UPDATE: The pay-to-play scandal keeps making news regularly in Philadelphia. In just the past week, there was a plea deal in the Rick Mariano bribery case, and the U.S. Supreme Court turned down an appeal by powerful Democratic state Sen. Vincent J. Fumo:

The appeal was related to an FBI search last year of Fumo's offices and the offices of Citizens Alliance for Better Neighborhoods. The nonprofit, its leaders and the senator have been the focus of a federal investigation into whether the charity illegally engaged in political activity. ...

The investigation is widespread, probing the nonprofit's real estate deals and possible obstruction of justice. In addition, records show the nonprofit paid $250,000 for political polling, and, sources said, it spent $17,000 to secretly finance a lawsuit against a Fumo foe, the senior Republican in the state Senate, Robert Jubelirer. ...

No one has been charged in the case, which began three years ago. Sources have said Citizens Alliance executive director Ruth Arnao has received a target letter from prosecutors, signaling that she may face indictment.
A key question in the case is how much control Fumo holds over Citizens Alliance. Although the senator has no official title with the nonprofit, it was founded in 1991 by Arnao and two other former Fumo aides.
Fumo has been responsible for much of Citizens Alliance's funding. He arranged for Peco Energy Co. to give Citizens Alliance $17 million and for the Delaware River Port Authority to give it $10 million.

Wow! $27 million is a lot of money for a local charity, and if even a fraction of that money found its way into political action, it could make a big difference at the state and local level.

Great minds think alike

I hadn't noticed this column by the esteemed Bruce Bartlett when it was published last month, but he really hits the nail on the head:

One of the things that drives Republicans crazy is the media’s enormous double-standard in how it covers various scandals. While day after day we read on the front pages about how awful it was that a Republican congressman played golf with some lobbyist—as if that is the epitome of unethical behavior—cases of actual criminality by Democrats are buried on the back pages. ...

On Jan. 23, the [New York] Times reported that former Atlanta mayor Bill Campbell is on trial for receiving payoffs of $150,000 from companies doing business with the city, as well as $100,000 in illegal campaign contributions and other gratuities. ...

Nowhere in the article was Mr. Campbell’s political affiliation mentioned. I had to do an Internet search to discover that he is a Democrat. ...

Ever since Watergate, a key media template has been that the Republican Party is the party of corruption. Thus every wrongdoing of any Republican tends to get page one treatment, while Democratic corruption is treated as routine and buried on the back pages, mentioned once and then forgotten.
Yet any objective study of comparative party corruption would have to conclude that Democrats are far more likely to be caught engaging in it than Republicans. For example, a review of misconduct cases in the House of Representatives since Watergate shows many more cases involving Democrats than Republicans.
Skeptics can go to the web site of the House Committee on Standards of Official conduct, popularly known as the House Ethics Committee. Click on “historical documents” and go to a publication called “Historical Summary of Conduct Cases in the House of Representatives.”

Holy coincidence, Batman! It's as if he were reading from an advance draft of DONKEY CONS! Mr. Bartlett continues:
By my count, there have been 70 different members of the House who have been investigated for serious offenses over the last 30 years. ... Of these, only 15 involved Republicans, with the remaining 55 involving Democrats.

The reason is that the liberal media harp on Republican misdeeds monotonously because to them the subject never gets boring. ...
Of course, another explanation for the disparate treatment may be that Democratic corruption is so commonplace that it really isn’t “news.” Democrats should consider that possibility before launching a campaign against Republican corruption.
Somebody send that man a copy of DONKEY CONS!


Interesting IRS message

The IRS on Friday issued a report on illegal political activities by 501(C)3 non-profits:

The Internal Revenue Service said yesterday it found a "disturbing" amount of illegal politicking in churches and charities after investigating complaints coming out of the 2004 election.
To prevent a repeat in the upcoming congressional elections, the agency said it is gearing up to quickly investigate and quash any violations that arise this year.

Hmmm. One Ohio TV station (it's about them, remember?) believes its reports on a GOP-aligned religious alliance brought the IRS Commissioner to Cleveland to announce the report:
IRS Commissioner Mark Everson came to Cleveland to deliver the warning about the crackdown. ...
This announcement came just a week after a 5 On Your Investigation into two Ohio groups accused of mixing politics and preaching.
5 On Your Side went inside a meeting of a group called Restoration Ohio, led by a Columbus pastor.
The group insists it doesn't endorse candidates, only educates voters. On this day, it gave an award to Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Blackwell for his support on banning gay marriage.
Another group comprised of 31 Ohio pastors believes Restoration Ohio is breaking the law, and has asked the IRS to investigate.
"They crossed the line and they're not acting as a church, in my mind. They're acting more like a political organization to elect a single candidate," said the Rev. Eric Williams.

But I've gone all the way through this IRS report, and can't find a word about the partisan breakdown of the scandals. I can't find any specific mention of any specific violation at all.

So the assumption -- for example, by the left-wingers at Americans United for Separation of Church and State -- that this IRS report is strictly a shot across the bow of the Religious Right, seems to me unfounded. There is such a thing as a Religious Left, after all, and some pulpits have been especially welcoming to Democrats in recent decades.

But we shall see what happens in this election year. Nobody can say they haven't been warned, at least. And nobody who's ever tangled with the IRS would recommend risking it.


Sodom, Gomorrah & Stuyvesant High School

This blog is about two things: (1) Keeping you up-to-date on Democratic Party corruption and (2) promoting our new book DONKEY CONS. (Don't forget our "Annoy a Liberal" Special!) But we occasionally like to liven things up with some other interesting news and, in that spirit, we present ...

The Ultimate Argument for Home-Schooling.


Mayor: "What's in it for me?"

Federal prosecutors rested their case Friday in the corruption trial of former Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell, after Thursday's dramatic testimony from a city subcontractor, Dan DeBardelaben:
The businessman told jurors how, on three separate occasions in 1999, he delivered thousands of dollars in cash bribes from city contractor Samuel J. Barber Jr. directly to Campbell, who was then Atlanta's mayor. Barber, a computer contractor, wanted a multimillion dollar contract to be sure the city's systems were prepared to handle rolling over to the year 2000, a change many experts feared would cause havoc.
DeBardelaben, a subcontractor for Barber, testified that when he asked the mayor about the project as the two headed for the golf course that spring, Campbell responded: "What's in it for me?"
As a signature phrase, it's not quite as good as "Bitch set me up," but not bad.

It is important to keep in mind that no fewer than 10 people have been convicted or pleaded guilty in connection with the Atlanta corruption case, among them contractor Herb Timmerman, strip club owner Michael Childs, and city officials Fred Prewitt, Larry Wallace and Joseph Reid. Unfortunately for the prosecution, a key figure in the case -- Campbell crony Rickey Rowe -- died of diabetes before the case could go to trial, and so the jury has heard only second-hand accounts of Campbell's interactions with Rowe.

Campbell may yet win acquittal -- I've predicted from Day One that no Atlanta jury would ever convict him -- in which case he would be repeating a pattern established by other Democratic mayors in New Orleans (Morial), Chicago (Daley) and Philadelphia (Street). In each of those cities, numerous people close to the Democratic mayor have gone to prison on corruption charges, while the mayor himself remains at large. This is similar to the pattern seen in the Clinton administration: several of Bill and Hillary's associates served time on various charges, but the First Couple themselves never faced any legal consequences beyond the temporary suspension of Bill's Arkansas law license. The big dogs play, the little people pay.

Media accounts vary widely on whether the prosecution established Campbell's guilt during the past five weeks. The Associated Press says:
[S]ome watching the trial say the only thing proven so far is that Campbell's years in office from 1994 to 2002 were marked by a high-rolling, jet-setting lifestyle, sometimes involving women outside of his marriage.
"You got a lot of smoke, and not a lot of fire," Atlanta defense attorney Bruce Harvey said. "Everybody's out front taking money and at least using Bill's name in vain. But there's been very little, if any, connection to Bill."
(Atlanta residents will recognize Mr. Harvey as the ponytailed lawyer who always turns up to defend guilty-as-hell people in any case likely to get TV coverage. Campbell was smart not to hire Bruce Harvey -- Atlanta's version of Mark Geragos -- which leaves the legal gadfly free to provide press commentary.)

But while Harvey takes a dim view of the prosecution's case, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's reporters see things differently:
He's been portrayed as a married man who lived the double life of a playboy. As a gambler who played $500-a-bet blackjack for hours. As a man who spent more than one-fourth of his eight years in office out-of-town, traveling with a variety of people: attractive young females, city contractors, campaign supporters and friends. He went to Paris, New York, Miami. He went to major sporting events. He gambled at out-of-state casinos. And almost all of his activities were paid for in untraceable cash. ....
The prosecution has made a compelling case. Government attorneys have called witness after witness — including some of Campbell's closest friends and a couple of former friends — to testify that extorting bribes and illegal campaign contributions from contractors who wanted city business was routine.
It's an amazing story: Atlanta is one of the fastest-growing major metropolitan areas in the United States, headquarters for such corporate titans as Coca-Cola and Home Depot. Campbell was the city's mayor when Atlanta hosted the Olympics in 1996, the same year he was a speaker at the Democratic National Convention -- he re-nominated Al Gore -- and was one of the names bandied about as a possible running-mate for Gore in 2000. At his trial, in addition to all the testimony about high-rolling, jet-setting and bribe-taking, there has been testimony from not one but TWO mayoral mistresses, including a beautiful TV news anchor. All in all, the kind of glamorous, high-profile case the media usually can't resist.

Yet ... has anybody seen any national TV news coverage of the Campbell trial? And does anybody imagine this trial would be a non-story on the major networks if the playboy ex-mayor was a Republican?

But my prediction of an acquittal (or at least a hung jury) for Campbell may be in jeopardy, due to a disturbing fact brought out during the trial:

Another witness this week testified that the mayor scalped four tickets to one of the most famous games in Atlanta sports history: The fourth game of the 1996 World Series between the Braves and the New York Yankees, in which Jim Lyritz hit a three-run homer in the eighth inning to tie the game, which the Yankees went on to win en route to the Series.

He sold the four $75 tickets, which were paid for by his campaign, for $2,000 — to a Yankee fan.

If the jury recommends the death penalty, you'll know why.


P.S.: Ann Woolner of Bloomberg News has an excellent column about the Campbell trial, pointing out that "it's hard not to notice what a heel this guy is in his personal life." Hmmm, who does that remind me of?

UPDATE: Thanks to Peach Pundit and Basil's Blog for the linkage!

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Dem indicted for homeless scams

One of the subjects we address in Chapter One of DONKEY CONS is how Democrats' class-warfare ideology allows them to shrug off scandals. After all, what's a little scandal to a party that defends the poor and downtrodden against the rich and powerful?

This is a myth, of course. In Springfield, Mass., veteran Democratic politician Francis G. Keough III got himself appointed director of the local homeless shelter:
Eight months after indicted shelter director Francis G. Keough III was fired, Friends of the Homeless Inc. is still negotiating with state officials to end a funding freeze that has cost the agency more than $250,000 and hindered its rebuilding campaign. ...

Keough, 47, a former five-term city councilor, awaits trial on fraud, perjury, conspiracy, tax evasion, witness tampering and other charges arising from his management of the shelter.

Some more details:

Keough ... is accused of numerous fraud charges – ranging from stealing appliances and other goods from local charities to outfit his $700,000 Rhode Island vacation home to charging the shelter for time he worked on former state Sen. Linda J. Melconian’s failed bid for the mayor’s seat in 2003. ....

Keough also stacked the shelter's board of directors with friends and those beholden to him. ...
Among others, he appointed his real estate lawyer, Frank A. Caruso, who allegedly paid Keough $5,000 to gain forgiveness of a city loan; Michael R. Wells, a one-time School Committee candidate whom Keough helped to get jobs with the New England Farm Workers Council and as a state probation officer; and two tenants for whom he secured rental assistance meant for the poor and homeless, even though they were neither.
In exchange, Keough's board-approved salary jumped from $40,000 to $95,000 between 1994 and 2005. His vacation time doubled to six weeks. He scored a $500 monthly car allowance, plus other bonuses including a "performance award" of $10,000 in 2001.

In addition to (allegedly) enriching himself in the name of helping the homeless, Keough is also accused of getting himself a little Clintonesque action:
Keough handed out no-show jobs. ...

Keough traded rooms at the shelter for sex with two female residents.

Keough collected $50,000 in “consulting fees” from the Springfield Housing Authority for helping to obtain a city department head job for the son of former authority director Raymond B. Asselin, who is charged in a separate corruption investigation. His son, James, is serving federal prison time for bilking the city out of $600,000 while he worked at the Hampden County Employment and Training Consortium, a city agency.
Keough used shelter employees and inmates recruited to perform community service to perform maintenance, landscaping and other chores at his residences here and in Rhode Island, at his rental properties and at the homes of his friends.
In all, Keough is accused of charging city, state and federal agencies that reimburse the shelter for salaries and supplies: $230,000 in bogus salaries; $27,500 for maintenance supplies purchased from his brother-in-law; and thousands more for phony rental vouchers intended for the homeless.

Remember Mr. Keough's "ministry" to the homeless, next time some Democrat tells you how much they care about the poor.


Dem scandal in N. Carolina

Writing in Opinion Journal, Brendan Miniter calls our attention to a scandal that's damaging Democrats in North Carolina:
It's been somewhat of a mystery why North Carolina, a conservative leaning state that went decidedly for George W. Bush in the last presidential election, has remained a Democratic stronghold at the state level. Tar Heel Democrats control the governor's mansion and both houses of the legislature at a time when Republicans have been competitive and even dominant in bordering states and throughout the South.
But now it appears the Democrats' grip on power may be loosening amid a scandal that has members of his own party comparing Speaker of the State House Jim Black to Congressman Tom DeLay.
To make a long story short, it appears that Rep. Black bought control of the state House:
The State Board of Elections and the Wake County district attorney are looking into what prompted Republican Rep. Michael Decker to suddenly switch parties in 2003. The GOP had just won a one seat majority in the House. ...

Mr. Black's fundraising is legendary. In a state where $10,000 can make all the difference in a State House race, he's been able to amass a $1 million campaign war chest. ... Mr. Black apparently steered some $43,000 in campaign donations to Mr. Decker at about the time he switched parties.
Mr. Black's problems are even deeper -- and more interesting -- than Miniter suggests. See, Mr. Black is an optometrist and apparently controls a political action committee run by eye doctors. Guess what kind of legislation got pushed through the North Carolina state House?
Nearly a dozen local school boards sued the state Tuesday over a new law requiring comprehensive eye exams for children entering kindergarten. ...

[L]local schools representatives said the examinations, which cost from $65 to more than $120, are too expensive and unnecessary since children already must receive vision screenings before entering school.
"The effect of this new law is to put an unconstitutional price tag on admissions to public schools," said Ann Majestic of the North Carolina School Boards Association. ...

The law set aside $2 million to help parents pay for exams uncovered by Medicaid or other government programs. Opponents say that won't go very far. ...

While Gov. Mike Easley is listed among the lawsuit's defendants, the largest booster of the "Gov.'s Vision Care Program" has been House Speaker Jim Black, a Charlotte-area optometrist. The program was inserted into the House version of the budget last June and passed without even a public hearing. ...

Black received tens of thousands of dollars in campaign donations from fellow optometrists during the 2003-04 election cycle. A State Board of Elections investigators said earlier this month that Black's campaign and the N.C. State Optometric Society's political action committee appear to have violated the law by filling in the payee line on incomplete checks from committee members.
Rather inconvenient, you see, for any N.C. Democrats who might want to jump aboard the Nancy Pelosi-Harry Reid "culture of corruption" campaign bandwagon. Hard to argue that Tarheels should elect Democrats to "clean up the mess in Washington" when the "mess in Raleigh" is all over the front page.
And interest in Mr. Black's electoral efforts has now spread beyond local authorities:
A federal grand jury may be interested in what optometrists know about incomplete checks they gave to the leader of their political action committee, which then sent them to candidates in an apparent violation of state law.
At least seven optometrists came to the federal courthouse Thursday -- the same day a grand jury convened to hear testimony. As they left, none of the optometrists would discuss whether they testified behind closed doors.
"Our clients are cooperating with the authorities," said Press Millen, an attorney for the optometrists and the North Carolina State Optometric Society PAC.
"Cooperating with the authorities"?! Something tells me that Mr. Black's $1 million campaign chest may be about to become a Legal Defense Fund.


Wednesday, February 22, 2006

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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Harry and Jack: Closer than you think

While magazines like the AMERICAN PROSPECT are paying money for analyses that paint the Abramoff scandal as purely Republican, the ASSOCIATED PRESS and KLAS TV are reporting the news:

Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid wrote at least four letters helpful toIndian tribes represented by Jack Abramoff, and the senator's staff regularly had contact with the disgraced lobbyist's team about legislationaffecting other clients.

The activities -- detailed in billing records and correspondence obtained by The Associated Press -- are far more extensive than previously disclosed.They occurred over three years as Reid collected nearly $68,000 in donationsfrom Abramoff's firm, lobbying partners and clients.
(Emphasis ours.)

As we show again and again in our forthcoming book, Donkey Cons: Sex, Crime and Corruption in the Democratic Party, Democrats have for decades repeatedly and audaciously tried to tar Republicans with the brush of scandal while spitting feathers from their own mouths. They did it in Monica-gate ("Henry Hyde had an affair 30 years ago! Ignore what that man behind the curtain is doing with an intern and a cigar!"). They did it in Whitewater ("Ken Starr's the real villain!"). And they did it in Chinagate, pole-dancing for Red Chinese cash then crying out for campaign finance reform.

Now they're doing it again:

Reid, D-Nev., has led the Democratic Party's attacks portraying Abramoff's lobbying and fundraising as a Republican scandal. But Abramoff's records show his lobbying partners billed for nearly two dozen phone contacts or meetings with Reid's office in 2001 alone.

Most were to discuss Democratic legislation that would have applied the U.S.minimum wage to the Northern Mariana Islands, a U.S. territory and Abramoff client, but would have given the islands a temporary break on the wage rate,the billing records show. Reid also intervened on government matters at least five times in ways helpful to Abramoff's tribal clients, once opposing legislation on theSenate floor and four times sending letters pressing the Bush administration on tribal issues. Reid collected donations around the time of each action.

There appear to be two scandals in play here: Republican and Democratic lawmakers' ties to the scoundrel Abramoff and Democrats' continuing pattern of treating the American people like they're stupid.


Philly "pay to play" update

The latest conviction in the Philadelphia corruption scandals:
Faridah Ali, the wife of prominent Muslim cleric Shamsud-din Ali, was sentenced to 24 months in prison yesterday for her role in what the government said was a "money-for-nothing" corruption scheme. ...

Shamsud-din Ali was convicted last year and sentenced to seven years and three months in prison. ...

Ali said she was guilty of defrauding Community College of Philadelphia, a Mercedes-Benz dealership, and a bank. She also admitted to wire fraud, tax evasion, and filing false tax returns. ...

Among other things the couple were charged with was using their mosque, the Philadelphia Masjid, and the Sister Clara Muhammad School that they ran as conduits for illegal income.
One scheme involved collecting funds from Community College for adult literacy classes that were never held.
"At the same time that they were maintaining the image of working for the improvement of the city and their community, Shamsud-din Ali and Faridah Ali were secretly operating a criminal enterprise designed to enrich themselves through the accumulation of criminal proceeds," prosecutors said in a sentencing memo filed as part of yesterday's proceedings.
Faridah Ali was convicted in 2004 of separate fraud charges in the Community College scam. She is serving a one-year house arrest sentence for that conviction.

This story fails to mention that Faridah's husband was a supporter of Philadelphia's Democrat Mayor John Street and "used his political connections to obtain dubious loans, donations and city contracts." More than a dozen people have been convicted in the so-called "pay to play" scandal.


Monday, February 20, 2006

The emerging difficulties

When Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid first began their "culture of corruption" drumbeat over the Abramoff scandal, Democrats' hopes of retaking Congress soared. After all, Jack Abramoff, Michael Scanlon and Adam Kidan -- the men at the heart of the scandal -- were all Republicans, and both Abramoff and Scanlon had ties to GOP House leader Tom DeLay.

But the Democrats have been unable to get traction on the scandal for a few obvious reasons. First, there was no cover-up: Abramoff, Scanlon and Kidan all pleaded guilty and cooperated with federal investigators. In the Bush administration, Justice Department prosecutors appeared to cut no slack to these GOP allies. This is in stark contrast to the Clinton-era Chinagate scandals, when several witnesses fled the country and others pleaded the Fifth Amendment.

Secondly, DeLay resigned his leadership post, and House Republicans elected new leaders pledged to reform.

Third and most important, however, Democrats have been unable to "spin" the fact that their own members received hefty contributions from Abramoff's clients -- about $1.1 million in the 2000-2006 election cycles, according to the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics (CRP). Facts are stubbon things, and this little fact clearly frustrates Democratic leaders. Remember: Only Democrats were implicated in Chinagate, perhaps the worst campaign-finance scandal in American history. Yet, though Harry Reid and others insist that the Abramoff affair is strictly a "Republican scandal," there remains the inescapable fact of the "Abramoff Democrats" -- Reid himself prominent among them, having collected $30,500 from Abramoff's clients.

A desperate Democrat effort to spin the Abramoff scandal is represented by a recent article in the American Prospect reporting a special study commissioned by that liberal journal, which comes up with slightly different numbers than the CRP -- but the same basic conclusion:
[I]f you total up all the contributions Abramoff’s clients made, it comes to $1,845,975 to Republicans and $794,483 to Democrats -- well over twice as much to Republicans as to Democrats.

So, according to this liberal analysis, Democrats got 30% of contributions from Abramoff's clients. The CRP figures show that 34% of the tribal contributions went to Democrats. But either way, it's around one-third. The American Prospect holds this up as an "a-ha" exculpation of Democrats -- but wait a minute. How is it that Democrats managed to get something like 1/3 of the rakeoff in a Republican scandal?

Consider that the GOP has controlled the House since 1995, has held the White House since 2001, and has had a majority in the Senate for all but the few months when "Jumping Jim" Jeffords created a short-lived Democratic majority. In other words, Republicans have dominated the federal government during this period -- yet Democrats still got at least 30% of the campaign contributions made by Abramoff's tribal clients.

Moreover, according to CRP, several Democrats were among the top recipients of tribal cash from Abramoff's clients: Sen. Patty Murray ($40,980); Rep. Charles Rangel ($32,000); Rep. Patrick Kennedy ($31,000); Sen. Harry Reid ($30,500); and Sen. Byron Dorgan ($28,000). If all cash connected to Abramoff is tainted by the "culture of corruption," then what can the Democratic leadership say about these five Dems who, between them, pocketed over $160,000 from Abramoff's clients?

That Abramoff, a Republican, directed his clients' giving in such a way as to favor the GOP is not surprising. But why were these Democrats so happy to take the money that they now loudly denounce as tainted?

Moreover, as Charles Hurt of The Washington Times reported last week, if taking campaign contributions from lobbyists amounts to a "culture of corruption," Democrats are actually worse offenders than Republicans:
Democrats have taken more money from lobbyists than Republicans during the past 15 years, according to an independent analysis of campaign contributions.
Since the 1990 election cycle, Democrats have accepted more than $53 million from lobbyists while Republicans have taken more than $48 million for their election campaigns, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Data provided by the nonpartisan group also shows that when Democrats controlled Congress in the early 1990s, they consistently hauled in more than 70 percent of the town's lobbyist money.

Contrary to the obvious hopes of Reid, Pelosi and liberal spinners, American voters are not stupid. As bad as the Abramoff scandal is for the GOP, it's obvious that Democrats have their own ethical problems and -- if past history is any indication -- electing a Democratic majority to Congress would actually make the "culture of corruption" much worse.

Karl Rove must be smiling as watches the "Abramoff Democrats" putting all their 2006 election eggs into this flimy basket of scandal.



Wait! Are you telling me that an American Prospect-commissioned analysis showed that after gambling tribes hired a staunchly Republican lobbyist, those tribes increased their giving to Republicans? Holy scoop, Batman! Stop the presses and get me Lois Lane!

The American Prospect's analysis, clearly meant to be "damning" to the GOP, actually means this: Nothing.

First, the analysis is just one among several metric snapshots of the Abramoff scandal, each one showing a different level of Abramoff's involvement with the two major parties. Second, it is not illegal for tribes to contribute money to members of Congress, and it is not even illegal for tribes to ask members of Congress to do what they want them to do. This is called lobbying and is protected by the Constitution as citizens' right to petition their government.

What is illegal is influence-peddling, something some Republicans and, it appears, some Democrats may be guilty of with respect to Abramoff clients. So, until it is known whether any, some, or all of Abramoff's clients' dollars were quids that purchased quo, it cannot be known whether the Abramoff scandal is Republican, Democratic, or bipartisan.

The only legitimate answer to that question will come not from the breathless pigeonholing of partisan magazines, but from -- as we've already seen in the case of Duke Cunningham -- the Bush justice department. That's something we couldn't count on when Janet Reno was in charge.


Sunday, February 19, 2006

Hotlanta mayor's love triangle

No wonder former Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell was (allegedly) on the take: He was supporting a wife and two girlfriends. His Viagra prescriptions alone must have cost the 52-year-old mayor a pretty penny. Girlfriend No. 2, Martina Jimenez, testified last week at Campbell's federal corruption trial that she was 26 when she began dating the married mayor, then 44, in 1998:

[S]he was working as a mortgage broker when she met Campbell at a work-related party in September 1998. ...
She continued to see the married mayor, 18 years her senior, through fall 2001. Campbell was carrying on an affair with TV reporter Marion Brooks during 1998, 1999 and part of 2001, Brooks testified.

(This is from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, but is acting squirrelly and I can't get the linking to work.)

Between juggling a wife and two girlfriends, you have to wonder how the mayor ever found time for all that (alleged) racketeering, bribery and tax fraud.

Anyway, the federal prosecutor "questioned Jimenez about dates she traveled to meet the mayor in distant cities in a methodical style. Jimenez said she seldom traveled with Campbell, but met him in New York, Miami, Savannah, New Orleans and Washington and at gambling casinos in Mississippi." (Gambling in Mississippi? Wonder if they bumped into Jack Abramoff while they were down there?)

Corruption and horndogging tend to go naturally together. The original corrupt Democrat, Aaron Burr, was also somewhat notorious as a lady's man. And it's logical, if you think about it: If a man will cheat on his wife, why won't he cheat on the taxpayers, too?

And Campbell apparently needed the extra money, because he liked to show the ladies a big time. Last week, Girlfriend No. 2, former WSB-TV anchorbabe Marion Brooks (left) testified that Hizzoner was a high roller who took her on trips to Jamaica, San Francisco, Mexico and Paris. Of course, Little Miss Journalism ethics -- whose affair with Campbell began in 1996 when she was 29 and he was 42 -- didn't think any of her romantic getaways with the married mayor were newsworthy enough to report to her Atlanta TV viewers. She ought to feel right at home in Chicago. (Mrs. Daley, have you checked up on your husband lately?)

Brooks testified that Campbell loaned her $16,000 in cash to make a down payment on a Chicago apartment. ...
She said Campbell bought her gifts, including bracelets, a necklace, and a $2,400 dress.
And this lavish jet-setting lifestyle was not incidental to the corruption, according to prosecutors:

They claim that United Water, which won a 20-year contract to take the city's water system private, paid for the Paris trip for Campbell and Brooks.
Prosecutors say Campbell signed documents as he was leaving office, giving United Water $80 million more than its original contract.
And people wonder why it's called "Hotlanta."


UPDATE 3/4: While Googling for some facts about Campbellgate figure Larry Wallace, I came across this hilarious article by Scott Henry of Creative Loafing, which is Atlanta's alt-weekly tabloid. Henry has some great stuff:
Brooks, who now works the anchor desk at Chicago's WMAQ-TV/Channel 5, said that when Campbell booked accommodations on their frequent travels to other cities, they enjoyed the high life: the Ritz-Carlton in L.A., the Park Hyatt in D.C., the Tides Hotel in South Beach, the Luxor in Vegas, and San Francisco's Fairmont.
And he paid these staggering bills with large wads of cash -- always cash, testified Brooks, who never saw the mayor use a credit card or an ATM. According to her, Campbell was peeling off two or three Benjamins per flunky.
The crown jewel of their jet-set affair was the notorious 1999 Paris junket, where prosecutors say the mayor blew through a $12,000 expense account footed by then-city contractor United Water. To show jurors how much fun Campbell could have on someone else's dime, the feds loaded Brooks' surprisingly bad snapshots into the overhead projector over the objections of defense attorneys.
Look, there's Bill in a striped golf shirt on the Arc de Triomphe. And here he is wearing a ball cap outside a sidewalk cafe in Montmartre, yukking it up in Napoleon's tomb. It brought to mind Where's Waldo? taking an Amelie tour.
LOL! And, shades of JFK's cozy relationship with the press, Miss Brooks wasn't the only Atlanta media figure keeping mum about Hizzoner's horndogging:
Of particular interest to CL readers was confirmation of the rumor that the couple had been introduced by former Loaf columnist and Campbell apologist Tom Houck back in early 1996, when Brooks was WSB's noon anchor. Guess Houck forgot to put that in his column.
But then, in a passage that probably only seems funny to an Atlanta native like me, Henry takes notice of how the race card was played during Miss Brooks' testimony:
Campbell's defense team, which painted their client as a virtuous champion of affirmative action, understandably wanted to quickly whisk the mayor's ex-lover offstage. But first they had to address a potential image problem posed by the newswoman, whose skin is so light that the defense team apparently wanted to confirm her race for the jury.
"Ms. Brooks, you say you attended college in Atlanta; which one?" asked attorney Jerry Froelich.
"No further questions, your honor."
And no further comment, your honor.


Hire 'em all

The office of Chicago's inspector general received 3,000 applications for 17 investigative job openings -- 176 applications for every vacancy:

"We were surprised at the high volume. It tells me people want to come work here," said Inspector General David Hoffman.
"Part of it is my appointment was in the news. That had people paying attention to the office and what it had the potential to do. People are inspired to be part of a team that can make a difference." ...

Daley's 2006 budget handed the inspector general a 40 percent pay raise -- to $149,940-a-year -- and increased Hoffman's budget by 27 percent. There was no increase in the 51-employee staff, but Hoffman was authorized to fill vacancies that make up 35 percent of his staff.

Hoffman is a former federal prosecutor. But I predict he wouldn't be able to clean up the corruption in Chicago if he had the budget to hire all 3,000 applicants. Chicago has been a corrupt one-party Democrat-controlled town for over 50 years. And it is amazing that while Mayor Daley was surrounded by corruption -- the local Democratic machine was deeply involved in the "hired truck" scandal -- people in Chicago think that Daley's appointment of Hoffman will clean up the problem.

How long before the Chicago machine takes control of the inspector general's office, installs its stooge in the top job and turns the other positions into the IG's office into "no-show" jobs for party loyalists?


Union corruption exposed

One of the most jaw-dropping chapters in DONKEY CONS is Chapter 5 ("The Union Label") about the corrupting influence labor unions have had on the Democratic Party.

Democrats are heavily beholden to organized labor. In the 2000 election cycle, for example, labor unions made $90 million in contributions, 94 percent to Democrats. An FEC investigation in 1996 revealed that the AFL-CIO exercised an effective veto over the Democratic National Committee's campaign strategy. As Linda Chavez says, the Democratic Party is "a wholly-owned subsidiary" of Big Labor.

Even union members know the labor movement is profoundly corrupt. This is the case of Robert Fitch, author of Solidarity for Sale: How Corruption Destroyed the Labor Movement and Undermined America's Promise. In this new book -- reviewed here in the San Francisco Chronicle -- Fitch says that labor unions promote a semi-feudal "fiefdom syndrome -- a kind of protection system based on exclusive jurisdictions, exclusive bargaining, and job control":
Those who control the jobs become the bosses; those who want the jobs become their clients. Loyalty to the [union] boss becomes the highest virtue. It's an ethic of dependence rather than solidarity, one that promotes the most wide-ranging corruption.

Anyone who cares to investigate the subject of union corruption must reach a similar conclusion: the corruption is systemic, not episodic. In fact, if you research both organized crime and labor unions, as we did, you quickly discover an enormous overlap. For instance, the infamous "Murder Incorporated" gang was led by Louis "Lepke" Buchalter, a brutal killer whose primary criminal enterprise was labor racketeering.

The liberal reviewer for the Chronicle resists the Fitch book's conclusions, but I have no doubt that Fitch -- who has been a union organizer and remains a union member -- knows his stuff.