I spent most of the morning (and afternoon) watching the Gonzalez hearing in the U.S. House Judiciary Committee. (The extra $5 per month to add C-SPAN3 to my cable tier has already been well worth it.)
All of those hours are perhaps best summed up by the nugget of today's hearing found in Rep. Robert Wexler's extremely to-the-point questions, along with a follow up by Rep. Stephen Cohen (some guy named Rep. Tom Feeney went between the two of them, but it was not particular interesting or newsworthy).
So to save you the time of having to watch all 9 hours, or however long it was, here are the 9 minutes or so of video from those two sections. First Wexler's must view clip, followed by Cohen:
The crux of Wexler's very heated questions: If it wasn't anyone at DoJ, and it wasn't Bush or Cheney (as Gonzales said today) then who created the firing list?
Chairman Conyers is wondering exactly that, and his office sent us this statement, following today's hearing:
"After hours of testimony, the first and most basic question remains: who created the list of US Attorneys to be fired and why? As I said in the hearing, the bread crumbs are steadily leading toward 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
"We learned from the media today that Todd Graves was the ninth fired US Attorney, and Thomas Heffelfenger of Minnesota may have been the 10th. That begs the question that my colleague, Rep. Sánchez asked earlier, are there any others?
"My request for more information was met with an untenable response: 'I'll take that back.' To whom will Mr. Gonzales take that back to if he, in fact, is the Attorney General, the one in charge?"
In addition to voting Rep. Rush Holt's dangerous Election Reform bill out of committee today (see this late Tuesday story for details), the U.S. House Administration Committee on Tuesday also unanimously voted to dismiss four of the five U.S. House races from last November which had been challenged in Congress under the Federal Contested Elections Act.
Only the contested Jennings/Buchanan race in Florida's 13th district --- which has gotten a great deal of mainstream media coverage for the 18,000 undervotes recorded by Sarasota's touch-screen voting systems in the election decided by a 369 vote margin --- will move forward. Late last week, the committee voted on party lines to send that contest to the non-partisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) for investigation.
Included in the four dismissals on Tuesday was the contest filed by vote-rigging whistleblower Clint Curtis (D) in his race against (allged vote-rigger) Tom Feeney (R) in Florida's 24th district. Late Monday night we reported that was likely occur.
Tonight, we received some comments from Capitol Hill staffers on the committee's reasons for the dismissals...
Rush Holt's Election Reform Bill (HR811) was successfully voted out of the U.S. House Administration Committee today after a four hour mark-up session. We'll have analysis of the bill in the coming days as we are able to review a copy of the final version which is now headed to the House floor. We have been told that electronic balloting on Direct Recording Electronic (DRE) touch-screen systems will continue to be allowed in the bill.
Apparently, a paper ballot --- one that is actually counted --- for every vote cast in America is of little interest to either the Democratic and Republican members of the committee.
First out of the box to trumpet today's "triumph", naturally, was the bill's top supporter, the public advocacy group, People for the American Way (PFAW). They had a press release good to go before the ink even dried on the dangerous new version of the bill (which, we should add, does include both some improvements to the initial version, along with several watered down provisions as we've been told...but we'll wait until we actually read it before commenting further on any of that.)
For now, however, we have little choice but to characterize the tactics used by PFAW in their press release as despicable, while they continue to knowingly mislead the American people about what the Holt bill will and won't do. (Their press release is posted in full at the end of this article.) This group knows better, and yet, they are doing it anyway.
PFAW can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
202-467-4999 or 800-326-7329
2000 M Street, NW, Suite 400
Washington, DC 20036
We can do little else at this point other than to recommend any donors to their organization cease supporting them immediately, and otherwise let them know exactly why. Their dangerous, disingenuous support for this dangerous and disingenuous bill is counter to the best interests of Election Reform and Integrity in America. Worse still, PFAW --- who has openly lobbied in favor of the use of dangerous, disenfranchising, hackable touch-screen DRE systems, claiming they are preferable to paper-based optical-scan systems --- is willing to lie about facts in order to see the bill move forward...
UPDATE 5/8/07 5:45pm PT: The U.S. House Administration Committee voted unanimously to dismiss all of the U.S. House election contests other than the FL-13 Jennings/Buchanan race. More details now here...
The campaign of Clint Curtis (D), the vote-rigging/Tom Feeney whistleblower who challenged Feeney (R-Abramoff) for the U.S. House seat in Florida's 24h Congressional district last November, has told The BRAD BLOG that the U.S. House Administrative Committee is set to dismiss Curtis' Congressional contest of the race --- filed under the Federal Contested Elections Act --- when the committee meets on Tuesday morning.
Though they've yet to examine the "hard evidence" the Curtis campaign says they've collected in the matter, the reason for the dismissal, as given to campaign manager, Marty Ward by a Capitol Hill staffer, was "insufficient evidence". Ward says that two different offices have informed the campaign of the committee's plan to dismiss the case tomorrow.
Ward told us tonight, however, that Congress hasn't even seen, much less investigated, the "hard evidence" in the form of sworn affidavits from voters that the campaign's volunteers have collected over the past several months via door-to-door canvassing in the district. The results of that canvass, the campaign says, reveal that Curtis' votes, as tallied on Florida's paperless touch-screen voting systems, were under-reported by anywhere from 12% to 24% per precinct so far canvassed.
Curtis was declared the loser by some 16 points after the election, despite an "Election Eve" Zogby Poll which declared he and Feeney to be in a "statistical dead heat". An 8 point or better misreporting of the true results in the race, they maintain, would have swung the election in Feeney's favor as they believe likely happened.
Ward sent us these thoughts in response to the Democrats plans earlier this evening...
If anyone knows how to hit just the wrong note, time and again, it's our favorite corrupt Congressman from Florida's 24th district, who's still on the run from charges of Abramoff-related improprieties.
We're running the following item mostly for the Orlando Sentinel's hysterical comment on Tom Feeney's press spokeperson's name. But Feeney's choice of showing off multiple photos of his hot, sweaty bod on a press release concerning U.S. troops being killed in Iraq certainly caught our notice as well...
Feeney's on the run
If it smells fishy, it either has something to do with politics, or fish.
Or in this case, both.
Sporting shirts from a New Smyrna Beach favorite, J.B.'s Fish Camp, U.S. Rep. Tom Feeney last week led "The Anglers" in the annual ACLI Capital Challenge. The three-mile race in Washington features members of the media and leaders of our government hitting the pavement in the kind of race that takes physical, not fiscal, fitness.
Press secretary Pepper Pennington --- no, we don't know whether she picks pickled peppers -- tells us Team Feeney came in at just more than 21 minutes.
NOTE: The URL in the Sentinel article was wrong. So for more hot, sweaty photos of Feeney --- who sure knows how to, gosh darn it, have a little fun with war --- you can check out his very tasteful Iraq Veto/Fish Restaurant Sponsored press release/photo spread right here.
Will the Democrats in the U.S. Congress finally begin to realize their mistake in allowing for DRE touch-screen voting machines now that the Republican Governor of Florida has led the Republican-majority Florida legislature (along with every Democrat in it as well) to do the right thing and move to all paper ballots? Or will U.S. Congressional Dems continue to allow themselves to lose yet another issue that they should be owning?
We'll leave it to the Election Integrity advocates on the ground --- the coalition of GoAllTheWayFlorida.com --- who have worked so long and hard, to give you the great news...
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 3 May 2007
FLORIDA MOVES TO PAPER BALLOTS!
FLORIDA VOTERS COALITION CONGRATULATES GOVERNOR CRIST AND THE FLORIDA LEGISLATURE FOR ENDING PAPERLESS VOTING.
TALLAHASSEE: In a historic vote, the Florida House today unanimously passed CS/HB 537, already passed in the Senate, that provides almost all voters paper ballots in time for the 2008 Presidential election, and bans paperless DREs outright by 2012. The bill now goes to the Governor where he’s sure to sign it since it’s his initiative.
Counties will have the option to pitch DREs immediately and provide ballot marking devices for voters with disabilities. “FVC urges all 67 counties to convert to uniform paper ballot systems without delay and leave no voter behind voting on failed electronic voting machines,” said FVC Co-Founder, Dan McCrea.
The bill is funded with $27.9 million in HAVA funds and there’s plenty more money in that account should more be needed next year. Counties will get help from the state to purchase optical scan equipment to count the paper ballots; ballot-on-demand equipment to ease paper congestion problems in Early Voting; and ballot marking devices to serve the disabled.
While there was talk earlier in the legislative session about retrofitting printers to failed touchscreen DREs, that talk faded as legislators saw it would be throwing good money after bad...
In still more very good FL news, a U.S. House panel has asked the non-partisan GAO to investigate the contested FL-13 election between Christine Jennings and Vern Buchanan where 18,000 votes disappeared on the DRE touch-screen voting systems in Sarasota.
Congratulations, Florida voters! And especially to the tireless patriots down there who have been fighting so hard, for so long! There are still many fights ahead down there before true Election Integrity returns to Florida, but there is no denying that this is an enormous victory. Let's hope it rubs off on the other 49 states...and the U.S. Congress!
In today's Orlando Sentinel, Florida still-unindicted Rep. Tom Feeney (R-Abramoff) pens an op/ed --- titled "Let me clarify facts about trip" --- in which he speaks about some mysterious trip to Scotland with some unnamed lobbyist.
Since the omissions in the op/ed may not help to fully clarify the facts about his trip as Feeney has intended --- and as a public service to America and those Googling for more information on one of the House's most corrupt GOP congressmen concerning his business relationship with one of the GOP's most corrupt lobbyists --- The BRAD BLOG is happy to reprint Mr. Feeney's op/ed in full below, along with a few words he must have accidentally left out from his attempted clarification; Words such as "Jack Abramoff" and "golf".
So here is Mr. Feeney's complete Sentinel op/ed, as supplemented by our hopefully clarifying additions (in bold)...
When asked to explain the similarity [between the cost of his trip to play golf in Scotland with Abramoff and the amount which Abramoff's office told him to report, despite claims by Feeney that he didn't know Abramoff had paid for the trip] his press secretary would say only that: "Representative Feeney is anxious to discuss this matter further when the time is appropriate."
If the congressman believes his constituents and a public fed up with scandal can wait until "the time is appropriate, " he is mistaken. Eleven people now have been convicted in the Abramoff investigation, and Feeney is being labeled in court records as "Representative #3." He has said he was "duped and lied to, " but these records make his office look complicit.
Feeney's attorney may be urging him to keep quiet, but his legal tactic is at odds with his official responsibilities. He is a congressman with a cloud over his head, and the public is owed some answers.
While over at the Orlando Sentinel, Scott Maxwell --- who has historically been far too kind to Feeney in light of his storied transgressions --- is still being very kind. Even if he's finally beginning to show some doubts as of yesterday:
Tom Feeney is smart, thorough and careful.
Smart, thorough and careful people don't usually get duped --- which is essentially Feeney's defense in this whole mess.
"Tom has never written a letter for Abramoff," Tom Feeney's former Chief of Staff, Jason Roe insisted in an email to the St. Petersburg Times last year. "There is no accusation of a quid pro quo. No quid pro quo exists," he claimed.
WASHINGTON - Rep. Tom Feeney insists he never helped convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff, but in 2003 Feeney was among several lawmakers who wrote to the Energy Department opposing changes to a federal program that also were being fought by an Abramoff client.
Five months later, Abramoff treated a small group of people, including Feeney, to a luxury golf trip to Scotland that began with a trans-Atlantic flight on a private jet and featured twice-daily golf at world-famous locales.
It's unclear why Feeney, an Orlando area Republican, took a position on the rule change in the Energy Star program [that rates consumer products for energy efficiency].
Congress had no say in the decision but a letter obtained by the Times shows that 10 Republican members, including Feeney, urged the department not to change certain criteria.
Among the other members who signed the letter was California Rep. John Doolittle, whose Virginia home was raided recently by FBI agents investigating fundraising by his wife as part of the Abramoff case.
In a related item, which we didn't get to pick up late last week, Feeney's golf junket to Scotland with Abramoff --- or as he called it, a "fact-finding trip" --- was paid for out of an Abramoff slush fund, according to documents obtained by Senate investigators as reported by the Sun-Sentinel...
This just in from Henry Waxman's House Oversight Committee office...
Following media reports that at least 20 political briefings were given to officials of at least 15 federal agencies, Chairman Waxman writes to government agencies requesting further information and documents about any briefings mentioning elections or candidates provided to agency employees by officials in the White House. For a list of all agencies, please visit http://oversight.house.gov/story.asp?ID=1272.
A sample of one of Waxman's letters is posted in full at the end of this article.
TPMMuckraker has WH spokesperson Dana Perino's amusing response to questions on the issue, including video. To the point, her most impressive talking point laden response: "There’s nothing wrong with political appointees providing other political appointees with an informational briefing about the political landscape in which they are working."
Rep. Tom Feeney's (R-FL) office followed the specific instructions of Jack Abramoff's office in reporting the precise cost of his golf junket to Scotland with the disgraced lobbyist as $5,643, instead of the $20,000 the trip actually cost, according to an email obtained by the St. Petersberg Times.
The brief email is posted at the bottom of this article.
Feeney, the corrupt, once-powerful GOP congressman and very close friend of the Bush Family, has denied for years that he knew the lobbyist had paid for the trip, but the email from Abramoff's assistant seems to suggest otherwise, according to the Times Anita Kumar:
The e-mail from Holly Bowers, Abramoff's then-assistant, instructs recipients to say a conservative think tank, the National Center for Public Policy Research, paid for the trip at a cost of $5,643 per person.
In reality, the extravagant trip that began with a trans-Atlantic flight on a private jet and featured twice-daily golf at world-famous locales cost about $160,000, or $20,000 per person for each of the eight attendees.
Feeney, 48, an Orlando-area Republican who has been contacted by the FBI as part of the Abramoff investigation, reported precisely the details supplied by Abramoff's office in his congressional travel report on the Scotland trip.
The email fails to list thousands of dollars in greens fees incurred by the Scotland contingent's twice-a-day rounds of golf at the legendary Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St. Andrews, one of the world's oldest and most exclusive courses. Feeney now claims he paid those greens fees himself...
Given this morning's Fox "News"/AP switcheroo, here's a bit of headline bait-and-switch that's at least as nifty from UPI and Washington Times tonight (both owned by Sun Myung Moon's Unification Church):
Curtis released a statement last week in regard to the contest he's filed in the U.S. House last December under the Federal Contested Elections Act following his House race against Feeney in Florida's 24th district last November. (The statement is posted at end of this article.)
In an exclusive BRAD BLOG interview from early March, Curtis spoke about "hard evidence" gathered by his campaign showing that his votes were under-recorded --- and/or Feeney's over-recorded --- on the paperless touch-screen voting systems used in the race. Their evidence has been gathered via a precinct-by-precinct, door-to-door canvass being carried out by the campaign volunteers.
"We have now found absolutely…more votes for Democrats than the official results show," Curtis told us earlier this year. "Absolutely more votes. No trends, no guesses. More votes. That should never happen."
The campaign's news release claims that "In every precinct studied, the data shows that Curtis received 12-24% more votes than stated in the official result."
The House recently announced the formation of a panel to investigate the contested election between Christine Jennings and Vern Buchanan in Florida's 13th district, but has failed to take similar action on the other three contested Sunshine State elections which "remain in limbo," according to Curtis's campaign. Another House race from Louisiana has also been contested in Congress. All of the contests were filed last year under the federal act meant to carry out Congress's Constitutionally specified mandate as the final arbiter of the seating of its members.
"Only an official independent investigation, backed by the authority of the U.S. House, can dispel lingering questions regarding the accuracy of the 2006 election results," in Florida's 24th district and the other contested races, the campaign says. They are calling for the immediate formation of a panel in Congress to "determine the accuracy of the electronic voting systems in question, and ensure legitimate representation for the voters in those districts."
Drawing a contrast with the FL-13 contest, which Curtis's campaign aptly notes is based on largely circumstantial evidence --- though a mountain of it --- at this time, his group of volunteers in South Florida claim to have "gathered hard evidence" in the form of sworn affidavits from voters, which show "exactly where the election results are inaccurate."
"The evidence that the election integrity group has gathered can be independently reproduced and can determine whether or not the voting machines recorded accurately," the campaign contends.
UPDATE 4/26/07: Here's a video, courtesy of Ginny Ross of the Election Defense Alliance, featuring an interview with Curtis detailing his campaign's efforts "Walking for Democracy" efforts to canvass the district:
The complete press release from the Clint Curtis campaign is posted in full below...
Signs indicate things are getting worse, and quickly, for one of Congress' most corrupt members, Rep. Tom Feeney, a once-powerful Florida Republican whose extensive career of documented lies, political favors, and routine partisan smear-mongering The BRAD BLOG has covered in great detail over the last two and a half years.
Yesterday, Feeney was fingered as "Representative #3" in recent court filings related to the guilty plea of Republican Congressional Aide Mark Zachares, who admitted receiving some $40,000 in cash and gifts from Jack Abramoff. A day earlier, it was revealed that the FBI had recently interviewed Feeney and requested documents related to his 2003 golf junket to St. Andrews, Scotland with Zachares and the disgraced GOP lobbyist.
Today, court documents reveal that the cost of the 2003 trip was closer to $20,000 per person instead of the $5,643 Feeney claimed when he "paid back" that amount in January of this year, after the House Ethics Committee found him to be in violation of House Rules prohibiting lobbyist-paid travel.
Further news reports indicate much more trouble may be ahead for the beleaguered Congressman, as Abramoff is said to be chattering away to federal investigators --- "so much he doesn't have time to eat," according to one news report --- in hopes of reducing a prison sentence he's currently facing in relation to conspiracy fraud charges to which he's already plead guilty in Florida.
But if that weren't indication enough that Feeney may be in big trouble, it's also now being reported this morning that his former Chief of Staff, Jason Roe --- who, along with his wife, Patricia, has also been the target of corruption allegations --- abruptly resigned from his new position as Deputy Campaign Manager for Presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Amusingly, the reason he cited for the resignation was "familial obligations."
Those "familial obligations" might include the fact that Patricia reportedly received some $50,000 from the Feeney campaign for fundraising duties, before becoming Chief of Staff for Rep. Rick Renzi (R-AZ) --- whose wife's office was raided last week by Federal investigators leading to his resignation this week from all Congressional Committees.
Further, in what TMP's Josh Marshall aptly described last night as "a classic scandal harmonic convergence," the case against Renzi, which included federal wiretaps prior to last year's November election, also has direct implications in the the U.S. Attorney Purge scandal.
And all of the "familial" wives are involved as well.
Following all of this? You may need to take notes. We'll try to make it easy for you...
In addition to what looks like trouble in the case for at least two other GOP Congressmen, it looks like Feeney is being fingered as "Representative #3" in yesterday's filing...
1) Rep. Tom Feeney (R-Fla.), who went to St. Andrews in Scotland with Abramoff in August 2003, finally made the case as "Representative #3." This is not good news for Feeney, and the FBI is reportedly looking into his dealings with Abramoff, according to the St. Petesburg Times. At the direction of the House ethics committee, Feeney has already agreed to pay a fine of $5,643 for improperly reporting the trip.
That can't be seen as good news for Feeney who, we'll remind readers, is a very close friend of the Bush family, having run (unsuccessfully) as Jeb's Lieutenant Governor during his first run in Florida in '98, serving as point man in the FL House during the 2000 Election Debacle (when he promised to give the state's Electors to GWB no matter what the Supreme Court ended up deciding), and much, much more.
We'll also remind readers that the imprisoned Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) was once designated as "Representative #1" before being indicted in the Abramoff affair himself....