Thursday, October 19, 2006

Today's Talking Points 10/19/06

From Center for American Progress:

  • The White House was more involved with Jack Abramoff than they admitted. On Oct. 6, key White House aide Susan Ralston resigned "in the wake of congressional report that listed hundreds of contacts between disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff and the White House." Ralston received her job with Karl Rove on a recommendation from Abramoff. She was lobbied 69 times—the most of any White House official—and received tickets from Abramoff to sporting events and concerts. But former White House political director Ken Mehlman may have been the real "go-to" guy for Abramoff. "Everyone would appreciate it if you would contact Ken only and not others here at the WH," read one message to Abramoff from Ralston, "because they just forward it to him anyway." In 2002, Abramoff asked the White House to remove Allen Stayman, a State Department official who had opposed the interests of an Abramoff client in the Northern Mariana Islands. The emails reveal that Mehlman agreed to "get him fired."

  • Lawmakers continuously abuse the earmarking process. Lawmakers have masterfully figured out how to insert spending proposals known as "earmarks" into federal legislation without public scrutiny. Unfortunately, these earmarks often benefit few people except the lawmaker and his or her wealthy donors. Perhaps no lawmaker has come to represent earmark corruption more than former Rep. Duke Cunningham (R-CA) who pled guilty in Nov. 2005 to accepting at least $2.4 million in bribes from government contractors. Another new report this week by The Wall Street Journal found that Rep. Charles Taylor (R-NC) has earmarked more than $30 million for nonprofits which he either created or are run by his supporters. A $4.8 million earmark in last year's transportation bill went to "widen parts of U.S. Highway 64, a winding mountain road that runs near tracts of timberland" that one of Taylor's companies owns. To date, there have been 15,832 earmarks in 2006, at a cost to taxpayers of $71.77 billion.


  • The right-wing Congress refuses to clean house. Despite pleading guilty, Congressman Bob Ney (R-OH) is not resigning from Congress immediately, but rather "in the next few weeks." Instead of cooperating with Harman to release the report on Cunningham, House Intelligence Committee chairman Peter Hoekstra (R-MI) condemned the release of the report before the November elections, stating that Harman's actions were "disturbing and beyond the pale." Conservative lawmakers continue to donate heavily to Rep. Don Sherwood, who is now facing a lawsuit by a woman with whom he had an affair. She alleges that he repeatedly beat her and "seriously injured her physically and emotionally." Weak lobbying bills passed by the House and the Senate earlier in the year have stalled; lawmakers have yet to set up a committee to reconcile differences between the two bills.

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