Sunday, February 24, 2008

Moyers: Political pork and the military-industrial complex

PBS' Bill Moyers Journal profiles Seattle Times investigative reporters David Heath and Hal Bernton in their investigation of congressional earmarks, and their recipients, in the Pacific Northwest.

So far this year, members of Congress have appropriated 12,881 earmarks for "pet projects," some to be conducted by campaign contributors, which would cost taxpayers over $18 billion.

David Heath, for the Seattle Times' 'Favor Factory' feature, had to build his own database, now available online, in order to research the recipients of earmarks in the 2007 defense budget.

The appropriations bill itself did not list the earmarks, requiring Heath to enlist the help of veteran Washington staffer Winslow Wheeler.

"If you look at a Department of Defense appropriations bill," says Wheeler, "you'll not find very much pork in it. What you need to do is look at the committee report; 99% of the pork is in the committee report, not in the statute."

The committee report for the 2007 appropriations bill contained the data Heath was looking for, but in a barely decipherable code, and in small print. Heath identified 2,700 earmarks, worth around $12 billion, by hunting down the representatives' press releases and matching them with the data on the report.

Heath and military affairs specialist Hal Bernton found a disturbing trend in awards that representatives in the Pacific Northwest were handing out: Money was going towards manufacturing products that would never be used, or that nobody asked for to begin with.

One such product was Microvision Corporation's "Nomad," a helmet with a mounted computer display, meant to flash maps and relevant data to a soldier in combat. In 2001, Senator Slade Gorton (R-WA), who would later join Microvision's board, earmarked $8 million for the development of the "Nomad."

Democratic Senator Patty Murray, his successor, would appropriate a total of $11.5 million more to buy the helmets.

"Junk," one Army commander called the helmets, which have never seen combat; a contractor called Rockwell Collins was awarded the contract instead, but Senator Murray awarded Microvision $6 million for the purchase of their product anyway.

"People tend to talk about earmarks as something that is a bad thing," Sen. Murray told Heath. "I see it as a way to make sure that the tax dollars that are spent are spent in a very wise way and help our state economically."

When confronted with the events surrounding Microvision, the Senator added, "None of us bat a thousand, and obviously this one didn't, or potentially hasn't, and--you know--we'll just keep trying to get as close to a thousand as we can. That's what my job is."

"This is not about an aberration," says Heath. "This is about a culture. This is about a system that's doing this -- it's not just a bad congressman."

The entire feature, "Mr. Heath Goes to Washington," is available to view below. It was broadcast on PBS' Bill Moyers Journal on February 22, 2008.

More information on the work of David Heath and Hal Bernton is available at the Seattle Times.

Original here

Ralph Nader to run for president

Ralph Nader says he will run again as an independent for the US presidency.

The anti-establishment consumer advocate made the announcement in a televised interview on Sunday.

Mr Nader was accused by many Democrats of handing the presidency to George W Bush in the November 2000 elections. He ran again unsuccessfully in 2004.

Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are vying for the Democratic ticket. Senator John McCain is almost certain to run for the Republicans.

Nearly three million Americans - more than 2% of the vote - backed Mr Nader when he stood as the Green Party candidate in the 2000 presidential election.

That election was so close that a small proportion of those votes - particularly in the key state of Florida - would have put Al Gore in the White House.


"I'm running for president," Mr Nader said as he announced the move on NBC's Meet the Press.

He said most Americans were disenchanted with the Democratic and Republican parties - who were not discussing the urgent issues facing American voters

We have to shift the power from the few to the many
Ralph Nader

People, he said, felt "locked out, shut out, marginalised and disrespected".

He called Washington DC "corporate-occupied territory" that turns the government against the interest of its own people.

Mr Nader denied he was seeking to be a spoiler candidate - and accused the main parties of "political bigotry".

Referring to the three main contenders in the race so far, he questioned: "Do they have the moral courage, do they have the fortitude to stand up to corporate powers and get things done for the American people?"

"We have to shift the power from the few to the many."

Mixed reaction

I'm all about a viable third party candidate but the key word here is viable. Nader is not the one, it almost like the Republicans have him on retainer.
Eric H., Maine, US

Democratic candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton were quick to criticise Mr Nader.

"He thought that there was no difference between Al Gore and George Bush and eight years later I think people realise that Ralph did not know what he was talking about," Mr Obama was quoted by the Associated Press as saying.

"I remember when he did this before, it didn't turn out too well, for anyone, especially our country," Mrs Clinton said.

"I hope it's kind of a just a passing fancy that people won't take too seriously."

Republican hopeful Mike Huckabee was much more welcoming:

"I think it always would probably pull votes away from the Democrats, not the Republicans, so naturally Republicans would welcome his entry into the race and hope that maybe a few more will join in," he told CNN.

Consumer agenda

Mr Nader, 73, was born in Connecticut in 1934 and was educated at Princeton and Harvard universities.

He has spent most of his life fighting for consumers and workers against corporations.

In the 1960s his work on car safety led directly to seat belts and shatter-resistant glass being fitted in every American car.

From the 1970s he built a reputation for dealing with issues including workers' rights, public safety, the environment and the influence of corporations.

He founded a number of groups including Public Citizen, which in recent years has been active in organising protests against the World Trade Organization and World Bank/IMF.

Original here

Secret Service Inspector admits destroying documents

A senior U.S. Secret Service inspector admitted today that she destroyed original evidence sought in a long-standing lawsuit alleging that the service routinely discriminates against African American agents.

The team of assistant U.S. attorneys representing the service told U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson today that they did not know that the inspector had placed the documents in a “burn bag” for destruction just two days before she was scheduled to testify in the case.

Inspector Carrie Hunnicutt testified that she questioned more than 150 senior service officials under an order from Robinson about their search for all paper documents related to the promotion of black agents in a civil lawsuit filed in federal court eight years ago.

Nearly 60 African Americans allege in sworn statements that they were leapfrogged by white agents who scored lower on promotional exams and forced to endure the use of the word “nigger” on the job. They are seeking certification for a class-action lawsuit, but so far have not made it past the discovery stage.

Hunnicutt testified that she destroyed surveys from 50 high ranking officials; a statistical report; fax sheets and documents that showed who was contacted during the service’s search for paper documents in the case.

Hunnicutt said she placed the documents in a “burn bag” on Jan. 30, 2008, just two days before she was scheduled to testify about the the service’s efforts to comply with Robinson’s Dec. 21st court order to hunt for documents.

Today’s hearing was the 7th hearing held by Robinson (pictured) to determine whether to sanction the service again for failing to produce credible testimony and evidence in the lawsuit. Robinson has already sanctioned the service three times. Legal experts say that is a highly unusual number especially against a government agency.

Robinson told the lawyers that she was “shocked” that a Secret Service agent would destroy documents. The Secret Service’s own counsel has ordered the agency’s employees to retain all documents relevant to the case.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Marina Utgoff Braswell told Robinson that she and the rest of the legal team did not learn about the extent of the destruction until Hunnicutt testified today.

“We are all learning for the first time what happened here,” Braswell said. Hunnicutt’s supervisor told the government lawyers on Tuesday that there were some “scraps of paper” that were destroyed but he did not elude to the destruction of the original surveys.

Braswell said her hands were tied to find out more information about the destroyed documents in advance of the hearing because of a court order forbidding Hunnicutt from talking to anyone about the case.

“We have certainly not been dilatory,” Braswell said.

The team of lawyers from Hogan & Hartson and Relman & Dane representing the plaintiffs in the lawsuit for free said the burning of the documents is an “outrageous act” and in defiance of the service’s own order to preserve all documents in the case.

“I am shocked and disappointed in the U.S. Secret Service and their inability to retain and produce evidence relevant to our claims,” said E. Desmond Hogan, a lawyer with Hogan & Hartson in Washington. “This is representative of a pattern of behavior in this case. It shows how they disrespect and mistreat the plaintiffs in the case.”

Under questioning by assistant U.S. attorney Michelle Johnson, Hunnicutt said she destroyed the documents because she wanted the most accurate ones to be sent to court.

Hunnicutt said she noticed that some of the surveys, about 50, were misnumbered in January. So she “transferred” the correct information to the newly numbered surveys.

But during the cross-examination, Hogan argued that by destroying the original documents, the court would have no way to independently verify her work as accurate.

Robinson had to intervene several times during the questioning to instruct Hunnicutt to answer Hogan’s question. Nearly every single objection was overruled by Robinson in favor of the plaintiffs.

Permalink | Comments (11) | Post your comment |


By vanessa

February 22, 2008 8:46 AM | Link to this

ms. hunnicutt should be fired and the case should be over in favor of the african americans. her actions show they have something to hide and probably trying to cover up. i am seeing more and more racism around american and it is disgusting. we are going backwards. i am fighting my job now for discrimination against african americans. good luck to the african americans in this case. i pray they win. i applaud the judge for showing fairness and sensitivity to planiffs. thank you judge. this case has giving me more hope.

By John

February 22, 2008 11:17 PM | Link to this

Inspector Hunnicutt’s action indicates their is something to hide. Was she told by her superiors to destroy the documents?

By Andy

February 24, 2008 11:13 AM | Link to this

ess whatever evidence she destroyed was really that bad…or just the Secret Service in overkill mode again.

By Tom Ritchford

February 24, 2008 1:01 PM | Link to this

Aren’t there laws against destroying evidence? At the very least she should be held in contempt of court. So despicable!

By Patrick Henry

February 24, 2008 1:22 PM | Link to this

Why is that the FBI/CIA/Police always say “If you have nothing to hide…” but the same theory does not apply to them?

By Mary

February 24, 2008 2:12 PM | Link to this

Good point, Patrick, but then again, almost everyone is a hipocrite once in a while.

This really is odd though. Why did she admit to destroying evidence at all?

By dt

February 24, 2008 2:20 PM | Link to this

She should be held to the same standard as Sandy Berger.

By Gerry

February 24, 2008 4:08 PM | Link to this

Sorry to be off-topic with what many will see as a trivial issue, but it irks me when journalists misuse language and the publication doesn’t bother to edit.

“…there were some “scraps of paper” that were destroyed but he did not elude to the destruction of the original surveys.”

The word that was probably intended was ‘allude’, which means to make an indirect reference, not ‘elude’, which means to evade, avoid, or escape. But ‘allude’ isn’t the best choice either, because this was a direct reference, not an indirect one.

“Allude and allusion are often used where the more general terms refer and reference would be preferable. Allude and allusion normally apply to indirect references in which the source is not specifically identified: “Well, we’ll always have Paris,” he told the travel agent, in an allusion to Casablanca. Refer and reference, unless qualified, usually imply specific mention of a source: I will refer to Hamlet for my conclusion…..”

By Jason

February 24, 2008 7:36 PM | Link to this

This case should be dropped! The ‘African American’ cocks should quit b***, soon enough, there will be a black POTUS, and most of the secret service will be black…

Who gives two s**, suck it up, live with it, and it will come back to you ten fold!

By Pierre Lefeuvre

February 24, 2008 7:39 PM | Link to this

No it wasn’t that bad, it was joke of the day they were burning! My God what is this? You are a trawl or you are a jerk! Corruption is all around and we have jerks like you minimizing the gravity of the situation. Wake up america

By noah

February 24, 2008 8:58 PM | Link to this

they should not end the case right now and vote for the african americans you retard. that would be unconstitutional.

Original here

Timeline Of Bush Admin's Politicization Of Terror, 2002-2008

In case you missed it, on Thursday night's "Countdown" Keith Olbermann presented an impressively detailed timeline he called "The Nexus of Politics and Terror," in which he chronicled the Bush administration's exploitation of terror threats for political gain. Olbermann's exhaustive account weaves from each revelation of an intelligence failure or a Democratic political victory to an almost immediate orange alert or "new threat" from al Qaeda.

The clip is 17 minutes long and entirely worth it, and its conclusion — "what we were told about terror, and not told, for security reasons, has overlapped considerably with what we were told about terror, and not told, for political reasons" — is a dutiful summary of the past six years.


Original here

Texas Early Voting Wave as Reaction to Systemic Disenfranchisement

Texas Republicans have worked overtime to make it harder for key Democratic voting groups to vote and be represented fairly. The redistricting games they’ve played are infamous. And for the Prairie View A&M University precincts, they put the early-polling place more than seven miles from the school.

So what did the students in this video do? They shut down the highway as they marched seven miles to cast their votes on the first day of early voting.

Original here

The Audacity of Hopelessness

WHEN people one day look back at the remarkable implosion of the Hillary Clinton campaign, they may notice that it both began and ended in the long dark shadow of Iraq.
It’s not just that her candidacy’s central premise — the priceless value of “experience” — was fatally poisoned from the start by her still ill-explained vote to authorize the fiasco. Senator Clinton then compounded that 2002 misjudgment by pursuing a 2008 campaign strategy that uncannily mimicked the disastrous Bush Iraq war plan. After promising a cakewalk to the nomination — “It will be me,” Mrs. Clinton told Katie Couric in November — she was routed by an insurgency.

The Clinton camp was certain that its moneyed arsenal of political shock-and-awe would take out Barack Hussein Obama in a flash. The race would “be over by Feb. 5,” Mrs. Clinton assured George Stephanopoulos just before New Year’s. But once the Obama forces outwitted her, leaving her mission unaccomplished on Super Tuesday, there was no contingency plan. She had neither the boots on the ground nor the money to recoup.

That’s why she has been losing battle after battle by double digits in every corner of the country ever since. And no matter how much bad stuff happened, she kept to the Bush playbook, stubbornly clinging to her own Rumsfeld, her chief strategist, Mark Penn. Like his prototype, Mr. Penn is bigger on loyalty and arrogance than strategic brilliance. But he’s actually not even all that loyal. Mr. Penn, whose operation has billed several million dollars in fees to the Clinton campaign so far, has never given up his day job as chief executive of the public relations behemoth Burson-Marsteller. His top client there, Microsoft, is simultaneously engaged in a demanding campaign of its own to acquire Yahoo.

Clinton fans don’t see their standard-bearer’s troubles this way. In their view, their highly substantive candidate was unfairly undone by a lightweight showboat who got a free ride from an often misogynist press and from naïve young people who lap up messianic language as if it were Jim Jones’s Kool-Aid. Or as Mrs. Clinton frames it, Senator Obama is all about empty words while she is all about action and hard work.

But it’s the Clinton strategists, not the Obama voters, who drank the Kool-Aid. The Obama campaign is not a vaporous cult; it’s a lean and mean political machine that gets the job done. The Clinton camp has been the slacker in this race, more words than action, and its candidate’s message, for all its purported high-mindedness, was and is self-immolating.

The gap in hard work between the two campaigns was clear well before Feb. 5. Mrs. Clinton threw as much as $25 million at the Iowa caucuses without ever matching Mr. Obama’s organizational strength. In South Carolina, where last fall she was up 20 percentage points in the polls, she relied on top-down endorsements and the patina of inevitability, while the Obama campaign built a landslide-winning organization from scratch at the grass roots. In Kansas, three paid Obama organizers had the field to themselves for three months; ultimately Obama staff members outnumbered Clinton staff members there 18 to 3.

In the last battleground, Wisconsin, the Clinton campaign was six days behind Mr. Obama in putting up ads and had only four campaign offices to his 11. Even as Mrs. Clinton clings to her latest firewall — the March 4 contests — she is still being outhustled. Last week she told reporters that she “had no idea” that the Texas primary system was “so bizarre” (it’s a primary-caucus hybrid), adding that she had “people trying to understand it as we speak.” Perhaps her people can borrow the road map from Obama’s people. In Vermont, another March 4 contest, The Burlington Free Press reported that there were four Obama offices and no Clinton offices as of five days ago. For what will no doubt be the next firewall after March 4, Pennsylvania on April 22, the Clinton campaign is sufficiently disorganized that it couldn’t file a complete slate of delegates by even an extended ballot deadline.

This is the candidate who keeps telling us she’s so competent that she’ll be ready to govern from Day 1. Mrs. Clinton may be right that Mr. Obama has a thin résumé, but her disheveled campaign keeps reminding us that the biggest item on her thicker résumé is the health care task force that was as botched as her presidential bid.

Given that Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama offer marginally different policy prescriptions — laid out in voluminous detail by both, by the way, on their Web sites — it’s not clear what her added-value message is. The “experience” mantra has been compromised not only by her failure on the signal issue of Iraq but also by the deadening lingua franca of her particular experience, Washingtonese. No matter what the problem, she keeps rolling out another commission to solve it: a commission for infrastructure, a Financial Product Safety Commission, a Corporate Subsidy Commission, a Katrina/Rita Commission and, to deal with drought, a water summit.

As for countering what she sees as the empty Obama brand of hope, she offers only a chilly void: Abandon hope all ye who enter here. This must be the first presidential candidate in history to devote so much energy to preaching against optimism, against inspiring language and — talk about bizarre — against democracy itself. No sooner does Mrs. Clinton lose a state than her campaign belittles its voters as unrepresentative of the country.

Bill Clinton knocked states that hold caucuses instead of primaries because “they disproportionately favor upper-income voters” who “don’t really need a president but feel like they need a change.” After the Potomac primary wipeout, Mr. Penn declared that Mr. Obama hadn’t won in “any of the significant states” outside of his home state of Illinois. This might come as news to Virginia, Maryland, Washington and Iowa, among the other insignificant sites of Obama victories. The blogger Markos Moulitsas Zúniga has hilariously labeled this Penn spin the “insult 40 states” strategy.

The insults continued on Tuesday night when a surrogate preceding Mrs. Clinton onstage at an Ohio rally, Tom Buffenbarger of the machinists’ union, derided Obama supporters as “latte-drinking, Prius-driving, Birkenstock-wearing, trust-fund babies.” Even as he ranted, exit polls in Wisconsin were showing that Mr. Obama had in fact won that day among voters with the least education and the lowest incomes. Less than 24 hours later, Mr. Obama received the endorsement of the latte-drinking Teamsters.

If the press were as prejudiced against Mrs. Clinton as her campaign constantly whines, debate moderators would have pushed for the Clinton tax returns and the full list of Clinton foundation donors to be made public with the same vigor it devoted to Mr. Obama’s “plagiarism.” And it would have showered her with the same ridicule that Rudy Giuliani received in his endgame. With 11 straight losses in nominating contests, Mrs. Clinton has now nearly doubled the Giuliani losing streak (six) by the time he reached his Florida graveyard. But we gamely pay lip service to the illusion that she can erect one more firewall.

The other persistent gripe among some Clinton supporters is that a hard-working older woman has been unjustly usurped by a cool young guy intrinsically favored by a sexist culture. Slate posted a devilish video mash-up of the classic 1999 movie “Election”: Mrs. Clinton is reduced to a stand-in for Tracy Flick, the diligent candidate for high school president played by Reese Witherspoon, and Mr. Obama is implicitly cast as the mindless jock who upsets her by dint of his sheer, unearned popularity.

There is undoubtedly some truth to this, however demeaning it may be to both candidates, but in reality, the more consequential ur-text for the Clinton 2008 campaign may be another Hollywood classic, the Katharine Hepburn-Spencer Tracy “Pat and Mike” of 1952. In that movie, the proto-feminist Hepburn plays a professional athlete who loses a tennis or golf championship every time her self-regarding fiancé turns up in the crowd, pulling her focus and undermining her confidence with his grandstanding presence.

In the 2008 real-life remake of “Pat and Mike,” it’s not the fiancé, of course, but the husband who has sabotaged the heroine. The single biggest factor in Hillary Clinton’s collapse is less sexism in general than one man in particular — the man who began the campaign as her biggest political asset. The moment Bill Clinton started trash-talking about Mr. Obama and raising the specter of a co-presidency, even to the point of giving his own televised speech ahead of his wife’s on the night she lost South Carolina, her candidacy started spiraling downward.

What’s next? Despite Mrs. Clinton’s valedictory tone at Thursday’s debate, there remains the fear in some quarters that whether through sleights of hand involving superdelegates or bogus delegates from Michigan or Florida, the Clintons might yet game or even steal the nomination. I’m starting to wonder. An operation that has waged political war as incompetently as the Bush administration waged war in Iraq is unlikely to suddenly become smart enough to pull off that duplicitous a “victory.” Besides, after spending $1,200 on Dunkin’ Donuts in January alone, this campaign simply may not have the cash on hand to mount a surge.

Original here

What the Candidates Have Raised and Spent (so far)

Original here

Clintons' Tax Returns

Hillary Clinton has resisted calls from Barack Obama to follow him in releasing personal tax returns, arguing that Senate and presidential disclosure rules already have required her to make public large amounts of personal financial information.

But the New York senator's tax returns likely would provide information not available in those filings. The returns probably would show at least some of the hundreds of thousands of dollars of income earned in recent years by Bill Clinton that isn't required to be reported on Mrs. Clinton's political disclosure forms. The 1040 form also would show how much taxes the Clintons pay annually and whether they are paying at the standard rate or have used various deductions and shelters to lower their Internal Revenue Service bill.

Howard Wolfson, a spokesman for Mrs. Clinton, said she has committed to releasing her tax information if she does become the Democratic Party's presidential nominee. Calling for release of the tax returns now "is an attempt to create an issue where there isn't one," he said. Mr. Wolfson also said the couple take "traditional" tax deductions but didn't elaborate.

While parties' nominees traditionally release their tax returns, Mr. Obama's disclosure during the primary season is unusual. Mr. Obama released his 2006 tax returns last April. They showed that he and his wife, Michelle, had income of $991,296 in 2006, down from $1.6 million the previous year.

Mrs. Clinton faced pressure to release her returns earlier this month, after announcing that she had lent her campaign $5 million. "I think the American people deserve to know where you get your income from," Sen. Obama told reporters at the time. "I've disclosed my income-tax returns...I think we set the bar in terms of transparency and disclosure."

The presumptive Republican nominee, Arizona Sen. John McCain, hasn't released his tax returns either. His campaign has said it won't decide whether to release the returns until after he is officially the nominee.

Mrs. Clinton's latest Senate disclosure form, filed last May, indicates that the Clintons' 2006 income was as much as $12 million. More than $10 million of that came from speeches the former president made to groups around the world, at up to $450,000 an appearance. In the first half of last year, Mr. Clinton earned an additional $5.8 million from speeches, according to Mrs. Clinton's presidential disclosure form filed in June.

[Hillary Clinton]

However, neither of those forms fully reports Mr. Clinton's income. For certain types of spousal compensation -- such as consulting arrangements -- the forms reveal only the source of funds, and the fact that the payment exceeds $1,000. They don't say how much over $1,000.

Mrs. Clinton's forms make such a notation for infoUSA Inc., an Omaha, Neb., provider of marketing information that is headed by Vinod Gupta, a friend and political supporter of the Clintons.

A filing made as part of a shareholder lawsuit in Delaware state court against Mr. Gupta and others contends that, under a consulting agreement, infoUSA paid Mr. Clinton $2.1 million from July 2003 to April 2005 and agreed to pay him an additional $1.2 million through 2008. The suit contends that corporate assets were misused in various ways.

A person familiar with the matter said these numbers are essentially accurate. Mr. Gupta has denied wrongdoing and said the court has found the payments to Mr. Clinton to be legal. A spokesman for Mr. Clinton didn't respond to a question concerning the magnitude of payments from infoUSA.

Mrs. Clinton's disclosure forms also list her husband's partnership interests in an investment fund operated by Mr. Clinton's longtime friend and political supporter, Los Angeles billionaire Ronald Burkle. As reported, Mr. Clinton has been a senior adviser to Mr. Burkle's closely held Yucaipa Cos. and a partner or profit participant in certain Yucaipa investment funds.

Mrs. Clinton's presidential disclosure form shows that her husband had received as much as $17,500 in interest income from Yucaipa holdings since the beginning of 2006. It also said Mr. Clinton received a "guaranteed" partnership payment of "over $1,000." The Clintons' tax returns likely would give a clearer idea of the precise magnitude of that partnership payment and possibly other details about his partnership arrangement with Yucaipa.

The Clintons' tax returns also could provide information about some of the couple's expenses, said Paul Offenbacher, a Silver Spring, Md., accountant. One possible example: What expenses, if any, Mr. Clinton writes off against his annual income from speeches. When Mr. Clinton travels around the country or the world, he often travels on the private jets of friends or supporters. It isn't fully known whether or how Mr. Clinton reimburses such people for those trips.

The Clintons' tax returns also might give a fuller picture of the magnitude of the couple's charitable giving. Aside from Mr. Clinton's postpresidential foundation, called the William J. Clinton Foundation, the couple have a smaller charitable entity, called the Clinton Family Foundation. Like all charitable entities, the returns for those are public.

The forms for the latter foundation show that in 2006, the Clintons contributed nearly $1.6 million to the foundation. In that same year, the family foundation made nearly $1.3 million in donations to a range of philanthropic, religious and educational entities. Mr. Wolfson, the Clinton spokesman, said "the vast amount" of the couple's charitable donations go through the family foundation.

Candidates -- even presidents -- are under no legal obligation to release their tax returns. Since the 1990s it has been standard practice for party nominees to do so, said Joseph Thorndike, a tax historian for Tax Analysts, a Falls Church, Va., nonprofit provider of tax information.

Mr. Thorndike called Mr. Obama's release of his returns before the primaries "pretty unusual."

Mr. Thorndike said tax returns can point to politicians' inconsistencies. Franklin Roosevelt, whose returns were released after his death, took significant loss deductions on his Hyde Park, N.Y., estate, said Mr. Thorndike.

"That was the kind of tax-avoidance technique he railed against," said Mr. Thorndike.

"The easiest route for a candidate to avoid persistent questions about their finances is to just lay it out there," said Massie Ritsch, communications director for the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit research group that tracks money in politics. "By withholding things, people wonder what you're trying to keep from them."

Write to John R. Emshwiller at and James Bandler at

Original here

Michael Moore says insurance industry would love Clinton’s healthcare plan

en. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s (D-N.Y.) proposal to mandate that all people purchase health insurance would be a boon to the industry, filmmaker Michael Moore said Friday.

“Can you imagine, every time Sen. Clinton says that, the licking of the lips that goes on with these health insurance executives?” Moore said during a conference call with reporters.

Moore, director of the Academy Award-nominated documentary “SiCKO” about the U.S. healthcare system, criticized both Clinton and her rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.), for failing to support a universal system of government-financed health coverage during their runs for the White House. “The two Democratic candidates don’t quite get it,” he said.

Clinton's campaign responded with a shot at Moore.

"His movie notwithstanding, Michael Moore clearly doesn’t know a whole lot about how healthcare policy works," Clinton spokesman Jay Carson said in an e-mail. He said Clinton's healthcare plan would insure every American and make sure that covering people and not profits are the top priority.

He then took a shot at Obama, who battled with Clinton over healthcare Thursday night during a Texas debate, by stating that Obama's plan would leave 15 million people uninsured.

Moore, a flame-throwing liberal documentarian, who previously took on the Iraq war in “Fahrenheit 9/11,” gun violence in “Bowling for Columbine” and General Motors in “Roger & Me,” released “SiCKO” last June. The movie grossed $24.5 million in the United States and is up for best documentary film during Sunday’s Academy Awards.

Moore credited Clinton and Obama with good intentions but suggested they were too influenced by campaign contributions from healthcare interests.

“I think in their hearts, they want to get it. But it’s not just their hearts that’s speaking, it’s their wallets,” he said.

Moore noted that Clinton and Obama have received more campaign contributions from healthcare interests than any other presidential candidates, including all those who ran for the Republican nomination. Healthcare interests “know which way the wind is blowing” and believe the next president will be a Democrat, Moore said.

In place of the Clinton and Obama plans, Moore touted legislation sponsored by Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) that would extend Medicare benefits to the nation’s entire population. Conyers has endorsed Obama for president.

Moore would not say whether he would campaign for the candidate who wins the Democratic nomination.

He also said he will not offer an endorsement unless a candidate at least moves closer to his position on single-payer healthcare. Moore dismissed out of hand the healthcare proposals of presumptive Republican nominee Sen. John McCain (Ariz.).

But as he did in his film “SiCKO” and in recent writings on his Web site, Moore reserved some of his harshest criticisms for Clinton, who as first lady spearheaded President Bill Clinton’s efforts to enact a healthcare system overhaul in the 1990s.

Clinton has made efforts to differentiate the healthcare proposals in her platform from those of Obama, largely by pointing out that her plan would use mandates to require people to purchase health insurance as a means of getting coverage for all people. Clinton has even said she would not rule out garnishing individuals’ wages if they failed to comply. Obama would only mandate coverage for children.

“They’re having nutty debates about who’s going to mandate how many people,” Moore said. “We’re not cars,” he quipped, referring to the argument that health insurance mandates are equivalent to state laws requiring drivers to carry automobile insurance.

On Obama’s healthcare positions, Moore pointed to statements the senator has made that would support a single-payer system if he were “starting from scratch,” statements the Clinton campaign has used to criticize Obama. “He needs to go back to his original position,” Moore said.

Obama spokesman Tommy Vietor defended the senator's healthcare plan, saying it would significantly cut down on consumer costs. He also noted that Obama oes not accept contributions from federal lobbyists.

Moore said he was pressuring friends on Capitol Hill and Hollywood who have endorsed Clinton and Obama to push them closer to single-payer healthcare.

But, he said, the makeup of Congress could prove more crucial to the healthcare reform debate than whether Clinton or Obama is president.

“It’s equally, perhaps even more, important on this issue that people across the country elect members of Congress who support” Conyers’s bill, Moore said. “The Democratic president is not going to veto that bill,” he said. “At that point, they’re going to have to ride the wave.”

Moore held the conference call to promote a Capitol Hill rally scheduled for Tuesday to call for greater funding to treat the medical conditions suffered by rescue and cleanup workers who assisted on at the World Trade Center site in New York on Sept. 11, 2001, and the weeks following the terrorist attacks. Among the more than 200 workers and families expected to attend are some of the people portrayed in SiCKO," whom Moore took to Cuba to receive medical treatments.

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Clinton tells Obama: 'Shame on you'; Obama fires back

CNN) -- A visibly angry Sen. Hillary Clinton lashed out Saturday at Sen. Barack Obama over campaign literature that she said he knows is "blatantly false," while Obama called her outburst "tactical."


Sen. Hillary Clinton waves campaign literature she says is false. Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland is behind her.

Clinton jabbed the air with her hands as she told a crowd in Cincinnati, Ohio, that two Obama mailings spread lies about her positions on universal health care and the North American Free Trade Agreement.

"Shame on you, Barack Obama," she said.

Polls show Clinton and Obama are in statistical dead heats in delegate-rich Ohio and Texas, which both hold votes March 4.

With Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland nodding in agreement behind her, Clinton accused Obama of emulating the tactics of Karl Rove, President Bush's former political director who is reviled by Democrats.

Obama "is continuing to send false and discredited mailings with information that is not true to the voters of Ohio," Clinton said. Video Watch Clinton demand a 'real campaign' »

One mailing says her health care proposal would force everyone to buy health insurance, regardless of ability to pay, a charge Clinton vehemently denied.

"Sen. Obama knows it is not true that my plan forces people to buy insurance even if they can't afford it," she said.

The NAFTA mailer says Clinton was a "champion" for NAFTA while first lady, but now opposes it. NAFTA was negotiated by the first President Bush and signed into law by President Bill Clinton.

"I am fighting to change NAFTA," Hillary Clinton said Saturday.

"Enough with the speeches and the big rallies and then using tactics right out of Karl Rove's playbook. This is wrong, and every Democrat should be outraged," she said.

Obama denied Clinton's assertions that the literature was false.

"There's nothing in that mailing that is inaccurate," he said, adding that he was puzzled by the sudden scrutiny since the mailers had been around for days, if not weeks.

"We have been subject to constant attack from the Clinton campaign, except for when we were down 20 points. And that was true in Iowa. It was true in South Carolina. It was true in Wisconsin, and it is true now," Obama said.

He described Clinton's anger as "tactical" and defended his campaign.

"The notion that somehow we're engaging in nefarious tactics I think is pretty hard to swallow." Video Watch Obama respond »

Clinton challenged Obama to "meet me in Ohio, and let's have a debate about your tactics and your behavior in this campaign."

The two are scheduled to meet for a debate next week in Cleveland, Ohio.

Obama spokesman Bill Burton said his campaign looked forward "to having a debate this Tuesday on the facts, and the facts are that Sen. Clinton was a supporter of NAFTA and the China permanent trade treaties until this campaign began. "

"And she herself has said that under the Clinton health care plan, she would consider 'going after the wages' of Americans who don't purchase health insurance, whether they can afford it or not," he added.

Saturday was not the first time the Clinton campaign has criticized mailings from the Obama campaign.

In late January, leading up to Super Tuesday contests on February 5, the Clinton camp said Obama mailings distributed in Connecticut took Clinton's statement about her Iraq war vote out of context.

The Obama flier said the New York senator had admitted voting in favor of the war even though she had not read an intelligence report that cast doubt on claims that Saddam Hussein's government possessed weapons of mass destruction.

The Clinton campaign called the mailer misleading, saying only "a handful of senators" had read the report itself -- and that most, like Clinton, had instead opted for a briefing by the report's authors.

Obama has accused both Clinton and her husband of engaging in unfair attacks.

Obama, who has rolled to 11 straight wins since Super Tuesday, leads Clinton by 140 pledged delegates, according to CNN estimates, going into the Texas and Ohio primaries.

Vermont and Rhode Island also hold primaries on that day.

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AP Survey: Superdelegates Jump to Support Obama

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Democratic superdelegates are starting to follow the voters—straight to Barack Obama.

In just the past two weeks, more than two dozen of them have climbed aboard his presidential campaign, according to a survey by The Associated Press. At the same time, Hillary Rodham Clinton's are beginning to jump ship, abandoning her for Obama or deciding they now are undecided.

The result: He's narrowing her once-commanding lead among these "superdelegates," the Democratic office holders and party officials who automatically attend the national convention and can vote for whomever they choose.

As Obama has reeled off 11 straight primary victories, some of the superdelegates are having second—or third—thoughts about their public commitments.

Take John Perez, a Californian who first endorsed John Edwards and then backed Clinton. Now, he says, he is undecided.

"Given where the race is at right now, I think it's very important for us to play a role around bringing the party together around the candidate that people have chosen, as opposed to advocating for our own choice," he said in an interview.

Clinton still leads among superdelegates—241 to 181, according to the AP survey. But her total is down two in the past two weeks, while his is up 25. Since the primaries started, at least three Clinton superdelegates have switched to Obama, including Rep. David Scott of Georgia, who changed his endorsement after Obama won 80 percent of the primary vote in Scott's district. At least two other Clinton backers have switched to undecided.

None of Obama's have publicly strayed, according to the AP tally.

There are nearly 800 Democratic superdelegates, making them an important force in a nomination race as close as this one. Both campaigns are furiously lobbying them.

"Holy buckets!" exclaimed Audra Ostergard of Nebraska. "Michelle Obama and I are playing phone tag."

Billi Gosh, a Vermont superdelegate who backs Clinton, got a phone call from the candidate herself this week.

"As superdelegates, we have the opportunity to change our mind, so she's just connecting with me," Gosh said. "I couldn't believe she was able to fit in calls like that to her incredibly busy schedule."

In Utah, two Clinton superdelegates said they continue to support the New York senator—for now.

"We'll see what happens," said Karen Hale. Likewise, fellow superdelegate Helen Langan said, "We'll see."

Other supporters are more steadfast.

"She's still in the race, isn't she? So I'm still supporting her," said Belinda Biafore, a superdelegate from West Virginia.

Obama has piled up the most victories in primaries and caucuses, giving him the overall lead in delegates, 1,361.5 to 1,267. The Illinois senator's half delegate came from the global primary sponsored by the Democrats Abroad.

It will take 2,025 delegates to secure the nomination at this summer's national convention in. If Clinton and Obama continue to split delegates in elections, neither will reach the mark without support from the superdelegates.

That has the campaigns fighting over the proper role for superdelegates, who can support any candidate they want. Obama argues it would be unfair for them to go against the outcome of the primaries and caucuses.

"I think it is important, given how hard Senator Clinton and I have been working, that these primaries and caucuses count for something," Obama said during Thursday night's debate in Austin, Texas.

Clinton argues that superdelegates should exercise independent judgment.

"These are the rules that are followed, and you know, I think that it will sort itself out," she said during the debate. "We will have a nominee, and we will have a unified Democratic Party, and we will go on to victory in November."

Behind the scenes, things can get sticky.

David Cicilline, the mayor of Providence, R.I., indicated this week that his support for Clinton might be wavering after—he contended—members of her campaign urged him to cave to the demands of a local firefighters union ahead of her weekend appearance there. The firefighters, in a long-running contract dispute with Cicilline, have said they would disrupt any Clinton event the mayor attends. A Clinton spokeswoman said the campaign would never interfere in the mayor's city decisions.

Obama has been helped by recent endorsements from several labor unions, including the Teamsters on Wednesday.

"He's our guy," said Sonny Nardi, an Ohio superdelegate and the president of Teamsters Local 416 in Cleveland.

The Democratic Party has named about 720 of its 795 superdelegates. The remainder will be chosen at state party conventions in the spring. AP reporters have interviewed 95 percent of the named delegates, with the most recent round of interviews taking place this week.

The superdelegates make up about a fifth of the overall delegates. As Democratic senators, both Clinton and Obama are superdelegates.

So is Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory, which is one reason his phone rings often.

He is a black mayor, and Obama has been winning about 90 percent of black votes. His state has a March 4 primary with 141 delegates at stake. The Democratic governor, Ted Strickland, is stumping hard for Clinton—and perhaps a spot on the national ticket.

A phone call from former President Clinton interrupted Mallory's dinner on a recent Saturday.

"I continue to get calls from mayors, congresspeople, governors, urging me one way or another," said Mallory, who is still mulling his decision. "The celebrities will be next. I guess Oprah will call me."


Associated Press Writers Ace Stryker in Salt Lake City, Laura Kurtzman in Sacramento, Tom Breen in Charleston, W.Va., John Curran in Montpelier, Vt., Joe Milicia in Cleveland and Dan Sewell in Cincinnati contributed to this report.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Monty Python and Barack Obama

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Monty Python and Barack Obama

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Glenn Greenwald

Glenn Greenwald's Unclaimed Territory

I was previously a constitutional law and civil rights litigator in New York. I am the author of two New York Times Bestselling books: "How Would a Patriot Act?" (May, 2006), a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power, and "A Tragic Legacy" (June, 2007), which examines the Bush legacy. My third book, "Great American Hypocrites: Toppling the Big Myths of Republican Politics", examines the manipulative electoral tactics used by the GOP and propagated by the establishment press, and will be released April 15, 2008, by Random House/Crown.

Newsweek catches McCain in a serious contradiction

(updated below - Update II - Update III)

I agree completely with Greg Sargent, the editor of The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and many other McCain critics that the NYT's story on McCain yesterday was extremely poor journalism -- filled with unsubstantiated irrelevancies (his alleged affair with a lobbyist) and, where relevant (McCain's intervention on behalf of Paxson), composed exclusively of long-disclosed news to which the story added nothing new. It shouldn't have been published, at least not in that form.

But what is significant is the seriously misleading statements that McCain made when denying key parts of the NYT story. One of the central claims of that story was that Paxson Communications, a major McCain contributor and provider of jet travel, repeatedly requested that McCain intervene on its behalf with a pending FCC matter, and thereafter, McCain personally contacted the FCC to demand that it expedite its ruling on a matter of vital important to Paxson (a contact which prompted a "scolding response" from the FCC Chairman, who called McCain's letter on behalf of Paxon "highly unusual" and inappropriate).

In issuing a very specific, point-by-point denial of the NYT story, McCain specifically denied that he ever talked to Paxson's CEO, Lowell Paxson (or any other Paxson representative) about this matter:

No representative of Paxson or Alcalde and Fay discussed with Senator McCain the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proceeding. . . . No representative of Paxson or Alcalde and Fay personally asked Senator McCain to send a letter to the FCC regarding this proceeding.
But Newsweek's Mike Isikoff today obtained (or was given) the transcripts of deposition testimony which McCain himself gave under oath several years ago in litigation over the constitutionality of McCain-Feingold. In that testimony, McCain repeatedly and unequivocally stated the opposite of what he said in this week's NYT denial: namely, that he had unquestionably spoken with Paxson himself over the pending FCC matter:
"I was contacted by Mr. Paxson on this issue," McCain said in the Sept. 25, 2002, deposition obtained by NEWSWEEK. "He wanted their approval very bad for purposes of his business. I believe that Mr. Paxson had a legitimate complaint."

While McCain said "I don't recall" if he ever directly spoke to the firm's lobbyist about the issue -- an apparent reference to Iseman, though she is not named -- "I'm sure I spoke to [Paxson]."

It's hard to imagine how there could be a clearer contradiction in McCain's statements than (a) "I'm sure I spoke to [Paxson]" and (b) "No representative of Paxson or Alcalde and Fay discussed with Senator McCain the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) proceeding."

Making matters much worse, when the McCain campaign today was confronted by Newsweek with this glaring contradiction, they plainly told another untruth. They said that when McCain testified that "he" spoke with Paxson, he merely meant that his staff did:

"We do not think there is a contradiction here," campaign spokeswoman Ann Begeman e-mailed NEWSWEEK after being asked about the senator's sworn testimony five and a half years ago. "We do not have the transcript you excerpted and do not know the exact questions Senator McCain was asked, but it appears that Senator McCain, when speaking of being contacted by Paxson, was speaking in shorthand of his staff being contacted by representatives of Paxson."
But just look at what McCain actually testified to, and there is no doubt that the McCain campaign's excuse -- that Paxson merely spoke with his staff members, not McCain himself -- is patently false:
[T]he campaign's insistence that McCain himself never talked to Paxson about the issue seems hard to square with the contents of his testimony in the McCain-Feingold case.

[Deposition questioner Floyd] Abrams, for example, at one point cited the somewhat technical contents of one of his letters to the FCC and then asked the witness, "where did you get information of that sort, Senator McCain?"

McCain replied: "I was briefed by my staff."

Abrams then followed up: "Do you know where they got the information?"

"No," McCain replied. "But I would add, I was contacted by Mr. Paxson on this issue."

"You were?"


Abrams then asked McCain: "Can you tell us what you said and what he said about it?"

McCain: "That he had applied to purchase this station and that he wanted to purchase it. And that there had been a numerous year delay with the FCC reaching a decision. And he wanted their approval very bad for purposes of his business. I said, 'I would be glad to write a letter asking them to act, but I will not write a letter, I cannot write a letter asking them to approve or deny, because then that would be an interference in their activities. I think everybody is entitled to a decision. But I can't ask for a favorable disposition for you'."

Abrams a few moments later asked: "Did you speak to the company's lobbyist about these matters?"

McCain: "I don't recall if it was Mr. Paxson or the company's lobbyist or both."

Abrams: "But you did speak to him?"

McCain: "I'm sure I spoke with him, yes."

That is nail-in-the-coffin testimony demonstrating the deliberately false nature of McCain's denials this week.

As I indicated, the one relevant part of the NYT story -- whether McCain inappropriately intervened with the FCC on behalf of a major contributor and all-around McCain benefactor -- is an old story, and the NYT story added little or nothing to it. But what is not old is McCain's deliberately dishonest claims in response to that story. Denying that he ever spoke with Paxson's CEO when he testified under oath that he did -- and then misleadingly claiming that he was using the royal "I" and meant only that his staff spoke with Paxson -- is clear and deliberate deceit.

* * * * *

Harper's Ken Silverstein has published an interview with me regarding various issues concerning the media and its coverage of presidential campaigns.

UPDATE: Kevin Drum says that "it's genuinely not clear to [him] whether this really amounts to anything serious," and that this "sounds more like a political misdemeanor than a felony."

Kevin might have a point if this had been a case where poor recollection could credibly explain McCain's behavior. That would be the case if the McCain campaign, once it was asked about this discrepancy, had said something like this:

When Sen. McCain issued his statement this week, he had forgotten that he had, in fact, spoken with Lowell Paxson about the FCC matter. The deposition testimony he gave was more than five years ago; his conversations with Paxson were far before that; and he didn't recall those contacts when responding to the Times' story this week. Having reviewed his deposition testimony, Sen. McCain now realizes he was mistaken about that one part of his statement, and only that part, and regrets that error.
Had they been straightforward about it that way, then it could be chalked up, at least theoretically, to honest lack of recall.

But that isn't what they did. Instead, when confronted with the discrepancy, the McCain campaign lied about the testimony, offering a patently absurd explanation for what McCain meant when he testified: "I'm sure I spoke with him, yes." That behavior is highly suggestive of a deliberate attempt to mislead -- just going into full-blown defense mode and saying anything without regard to truth.

If deliberately misleading the public about communications with key campaign contributors is not a "serious" offense -- and, more generally, if the instinct to jump into full, fact-free, self-defense mode when confronted with accusations of wrongdoing (rather than admitting errors and honestly confronting them) isn't "serious" -- then what is?

UPDATE II: For those interested, the transcripts of the relevant McCain deposition, in .pdf form, are here and here (h/t Jonathan Singer).

UPDATE III: The Washington Post reports that Lowell Paxson himself says he spoke personally with McCain about the FCC matter:

Broadcaster Lowell "Bud" Paxson yesterday contradicted statements from Sen. John McCain's presidential campaign that the senator did not meet with Paxson or his lobbyist before sending two controversial letters to the Federal Communications Commission on Paxson's behalf.

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 said yesterday, "I remember going there to meet with him." He recalled that he told McCain: "You're head of the Commerce Committee. The FCC is not doing its job. I would love for you to write a letter."

McCain's denial in this regard -- and his campaign's re-affirmation of his denial even in the face of his deposition testimoney -- were both clearly false.

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Republican Rep. Rick Renzi has been indicted for extortion, wire fraud, money laundering and other charges related to a land deal in Arizona.

A 26-page federal indictment unsealed in Arizona accuses Renzi and two former business partners of conspiring to promote the sale of land that buyers could swap for property owned by the federal government. The sale netted one of Renzi's former partners $4.5 million.

Nearly a year ago, as RAW STORY reported, the embattled congressman denied newspaper reports and rumors that he planned on resigning, as the FBI probed. The congressman did relinquish all three of his House committee assignments, including his seat on the House Intelligence Committee. He has since decided not to run for re-election.

Renzi also is a co-chairman of Republican presidential candidate John McCain's Arizona leadership team. And the Arizona Senator aided Renzi's re-election bid.

Speaking to reporters at a campaign stop in Indiana Thursday, McCain, an Arizona senator, demurred when asked about the indictment.

"I'm sorry. I feel for the family; as you know, he has 12 children," McCain told reporters, according to the Associated Press. "But I don't know enough of the details to make a judgment. These kinds of things are always very unfortunate.... I rely on our Department of Justice and system of justice to make the right outcome."

House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) is reportedly urging Renzi to resign, according to The Hill. "I have made it clear that I will hold our members to the highest standards of ethical conduct," Boehner is quoted as saying in a statement. "The charges contained in this indictment are completely unacceptable for a member of Congress, and I strongly urge Rep. Renzi to seriously consider whether he can continue to effectively represent his constituents under these circumstances."

Renzi was under FBI investigation before the 2006 mid-term elections, but the Justice Department delayed approving necessary investigation tools for federal investigators in Arizona before November.

In April 2007, federal agents raided a Sonoita, Arizona business owned by Renzi's wife, Roberta. At the timeSpeculation mounted that former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales may have intervened to slow down the probe before Renzi was re-elected.

The AP summed up the indictment as follows:

The extensive legal document says Renzi refused in 2005 and 2006 to secure congressional approval for land swaps by two unnamed businesses if they did not agree to buy [former Renzi business partner James W.] Sandlin's property as a part of the deal.

Renzi had previously owned some of Sandlin's property, the indictment says.

In early 2005, one of the businesses seeking surface rights for a copper mining project in Renzi's district failed to buy Sandlin's land. As a result, the indictment says, Renzi allegedly told the business, "No Sandlin property, no bill."

At the time, Sandlin owed Renzi $700,000 out of the land's selling price of $800,000. Renzi also allegedly concealed his business relationship with Sandlin, even though the company had expressly asked if there was one.

Meanwhile, Renzi allegedly pushed the land on a second firm, an unnamed investment group, that was trying to secure a federal land swap. If the firm accepted Sandlin's property as part of the transaction, Renzi allegedly said investors would receive a "free pass" through the House Natural Resources Committee, according to the indictment.

In April 2005, the investors reluctantly agreed to the deal.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, an independent ethics watchdog, listed Renzi in its annual "Beyond DeLay" report on corruption in Congress.


(with wire reports)

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Russ Feingold: "I Voted for Barack Obama"

FEINGOLD'S VOTE... Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold, a progressive icon who briefly considered seeking the Democratic presidential nomination himself, said he voted in Tuesday's Wisconsin primary for Barack Obama.

Asked directly about his choice, Feingold answered directly.

"I voted for Barack Obama," said the senator, who indicated that he was "extremely likely" to cast his superdelegate vote at the Democratic National Convention for his colleague from Illinois.

Feingold is still blunt about his differences on particular issues -- such as trade policy -- with both of the remaining Democratic candidates.

"I said I would be highly likely to vote (as a superdelegate) for anybody who did very, very well in Wisconsin," said Feingold, who noted that Obama won 58 percent of the vote in the state and carried 62 of 72 counties.

But this is not merely an attempt by the senator who cast a lonely vote against the Patriot Act in 2001, proposed the first timeline for bringing the troops home from Iraq and sought to censure President Bush over the warrantless wiretapping program, to reflect his state's sentiments.

"I really do think that, at the gut level, this is a chance to do something special," Feingold said of the Obama campaign and the potential of an Obama presidency, which he said has "enormous historical opportunities for America and for our relationship with the world."

Feingold expressed high regard for New York Senator Hillary Clinton, with whom he has clashed in the past. But he spoke at great length about having worked with Obama on ethics legislation in the Senate, and hailed the Illinois senator's ability to judge people and hold firm against pressure from interest groups and party insiders.

And the anti-war senator said that Obama's opposition to authorizing President Bush to attack Iraq had to be seen as a great strength in the race for the Democratic nomination and an eventual race with Arizona Senator John McCain.

Feingold did say that, after Thursday night's debate where the Democratic contenders ended on a remarkably warm note, he thought that an Obama-Clinton ticket might be "possible" and "attractive."

And he made it clear that he would campaign for a Democratic ticket led by Obama or Clinton against one led by McCain, with whom he worked for so many years to advance campaign finance reform. McCain, Feingold said, might be a "good man" but, "He would not lead the country in the right direction, especially with this talk about 100 years of war."

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Patience Pays Off! (PIC)

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RIAA Reminds Me of The Mafia, says Musician

Former Dead Kennedys vocalist Jello Biafra has torn into the RIAA, likening them to the mafia, threatening to leave a horse’s head in the beds of old women and children alike, whilst destroying the education of student file-sharers. Don’t even get him started on the media: “Goebbels would be proud” he said.

jelloBorn Eric Reed Boucher in 1958, Jello Biafra is no stranger to controversy. He first became well known as songwriter and lead vocalist with the band Dead Kennedys. The band split in 1986 but 1998 saw the start of a six year battle over the royalties to the band’s music. No doubt this was a miserable experience, so maybe Biafra’s outburst this week was to be expected.

In a translated interview with Norway’s Aftenposten entitled “Goebbels Would Be Proud”, Biafra tells us a little bit about how he feels about the RIAA, big record labels and even the media. He isn’t pulling any punches either.

“I have two different opinions on file-sharing” says Biafra, drawing a metaphorical line in the sand - with good (small labels) on one side, and bad (big labels) on the other.

“You may take from the big labels,” he orders, “because the only thing they do is steal from both the artists and the audience.” Not many would disagree with you there, Jello.

The ‘good’ side are the small guys, explains Biafra to potential file-sharers: “Don’t take from the smaller, independent labels. Then fantastic bands would have to surrender way too early, because they can’t afford it,” he says, whilst completely forgetting that popularity fills concerts and downloads are a good way to achieve that these days. According to MAMA Group who manage the Kaiser Chiefs and Franz Ferdinand, future profit is there to be unlocked - and it lies in the live concert. Popularity through free downloads could be the key to these, time will tell.

“Support the independent labels, but the big ones –fuck’em. Anyways, I haven’t found anything in many years which come from a large label worth buying” says Biafra, as he tosses aside his attacks on singular big labels and gets his teeth into the collective might of the RIAA:

“The RIAA reminds me most of the Godfather,” Biafra says, tipping his head to the side and changing his voice to Marlon Brando mode:

“We will sue you. If you want out of this without going to court, we can make an arrangement: Give us $5000. If not, you will find a horses head in your bed.”

Suddenly he is back to being Jello Biafra again, and talks about why RIAA action against file-sharers is wrong: “They are doing this to 12 year old girls, they are doing it to 80 year old women, and they do it to students. There are plenty of examples that show people having to quit school because they had to give all their money to the recording industry instead,” he says gravely.

Biafra then explains that he doesn’t do any downloading himself as he doesn’t have a computer before launching himself at the media: “It’s so dumb, that even the American edition of CNN is just a bunch of right-twisted parrots babbling about the primary elections, letting the war in Iraq pass in silence. Then it is up to the artists to fill the void.”

Then, in a final show of support for the small guy, Biafra concludes: “When smaller performers express their political views they are gagged. But when Mel Gibson or Arnold Schwarzenegger does it, then it’s okay. Because they fit better into the media profile.”

Goebbels would be proud.”

For those who haven’t seen it yet, here’s a RIAA training video, that may give some insight into the organization.

Many thanks to Håvard

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George W. Bush Is President Of Africa

George W. Bush has been having so much fun in Africa that he took up the Africans’ offer that he remain forever, as their President King. Here’s the former U.S. chief executive at his new “executive mansion in Monrovia, Liberia.” Join us for an AP Photo Tour of Bush’s crazy African vacation.
Now this looks like a fun group. They are performers in Ghana, while the fellow in the white Guayabera holiday shirt is really enjoying having fun with the locals.
Here’s George and Laura arriving in Rwanda. Note how the actual elite politicians are kind of looking with disdain at the local entertainment, and Laura looks kind of exhausted and is doing the polite First Lady smile at the natives, but then there’s George W. — he looks positively entranced and delighted, ready to cast off his jacket and boogie with these guys. Because he’ll do it! He’s done it before, he’ll do it again.
The great thing about these lame-duck “victory lap” eighth-year presidential vacations is that it just doesn’t matter what you do — so if you’re George W. Bush, you just follow your heart! And that means smushin’ up beans with a stick.
You’ll kind of miss him, won’t you? Well, sure, not really. But at least he can dance away the pain now.

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