Thursday, March 06, 2008

Clients Getting Smarter All the Time

San Diego's seldom-read alternative paper, the San Diego Weekly Reader, has a brief story this week on the decision of the San Diego State University Research Foundation to terminate its relationship with lobbyist and former Rep. Bill Lowery, now under investigation along with House Appropriations Committee Ranking Minority Jerry Lewis.
The San Diego State University Research Foundation has parted company with the firm of ex–GOP congressman Bill Lowery, its longtime lobbyist, who is currently under scrutiny by a federal grand jury in Los Angeles for his role in obtaining congressional earmarks for defense contractor Brent Wilkes, convicted in the Randy “Duke” Cunningham bribery case. The ongoing investigation reportedly centers on allegations that Lowery funneled campaign contributions to his friend and former colleague, Republican congressman Jerry Lewis of San Bernardino, in exchange for Lewis’s assistance in earmarking hundreds of millions of dollars for Wilkes and other clients, including the foundation. Both Lowery and Lewis have denied any wrongdoing. Campaign filings show that Lewis has spent a total of $1.27 million on legal fees over the past three years, $105,000 of it in the last quarter of 2007.

It's nice to know that the investigation continues, since the Justice Department has consistently put lawyers inches from retirement in charge of the case, and then had to start over following their retirements. Especially since Lewis had the gall in mid-February to come out in defense of earmarks, right around the same time that reports surfaced on his eye-popping $137 mllion in earmarks the previous year.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

So much news gets lost in the relentless campaigning...

There's nothing I find more annoying than the relentless media focus on the Presidential campaigns -- the only saving grace being that the California primaries are over so I don't have to sit through any more of those idiotic ads. Among the items generally overlooked:
     o President Bush's disapproval rating is at 65 percent, only two points off the all-time record. You go, boy!
     o The House Democrats have developed a potential compromise on legislation allowing the government to tap our phones willy-nilly again: split the bill in two, one bill specifically on the issue of immunity for phone companies. That would allow liberal Democrats to vote against the immunity bill while supporting the overall legislation; and, since they will lose on immunity, allow the program to continue as the President wants. End result: an enormous amount of time wasted pulling together a sham vote designed to save face.
     o Futzing continues in an effort to bring the ethics panel reform back to the Floor of the House. It will probably take one more indictment to bring it over the top, but the ways things have been going, that shouldn't delay things very long.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

The toe tapping lessons will be an added benefit...

Thanks for Los Angeles Times blogger Andrew Malcolm for catching on this Sen. Larry Craig item, which he picked up on from The Washington Post's Sleuth blog:

Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho is looking for some college interns to work in his Senate office this summer. Parents, what do you think?...
Craig's news release last week says, "Interns have the chance to be an essential part of a working congressional office. They participate in the legislative process as well as ensure that constituent services run smoothly."

Last weeks' Craig news item was the increasing cost of prosecuting him for lewd conduct in the now-famous Minneapolis Airport men's room stall shown above. While some wonder why the state keeps spending money on this, I'm more curious why he stays in office despite having disgraced his state and destroyed his career.

Craig's Washington office, by the way, is in the Hart Senate Office Building, the newest and most modern of the Senate buildings. It has the nicest men's rooms, too...

Friday, February 29, 2008

George Bush has a George Bush Moment...

Remember when George H.W. Bush had that encounter with a supermarket scanner? The technology everyone in the country had encountered a thousand times over, but the elder Bush looked at with awe? Well, GW's had his own moment in the sun, expressing surprise at the idea of $4 gasoline when every driver in America knows that's coming this summer.

The Bushes seem to suffer from a complete lack of awareness of the common man's woes, something that's hardly surprising given their high-society upbringing. GW, though, goes beyond the rest by his complete lack of interest in the key issues that face most Americans. Check out the video on this White House news site to see how articulate he was this week talking about baseball when the 2007 World Series champion Red Sox visited; that's because he finds baseball interesting. The people's economic woes? Booooooooo-ring!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Ethics Reform, Schmethics Reform...

The House of Representatives has delayed a vote on the new ethics process involving outside ethics experts. The delay, of course, was due to a revolt among rank-and-file members, both Republican and Democrat, obsessed with the idea that someone from the outside world might sit in judgment on them. Remember, this is the same House of Representatives that made sure to make ethics rules changes passed in 2007 "rules of the House" rather than laws. That prevents the Justice Department from enforcing those "rules," leaving Congress itself in the catbird seat.

The New York Times has a good strategy for pressuring a vote on this: just keep saying the name "Jack Abramoff" over and over. Works for me.

Meantime, AP has a nice summary piece on the first forays of Rep. William Jefferson into Africa with then-President Bill Clinton, the trip that started Jefferson down the road to his upcoming corruption trial. It's evidence of a new Washington truism: "Corruptions always start small in Washington."

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Who are they kidding?

Senator Robert C. Byrd, the inveterate crank from West Virginia, fell at his home recently and has been hospitalized, raising the question: is death the only way to get this crazy old coot out of the Senate?

In December, Politico blogged on rumors that Senate Democrats were looking at ways to remove Sen. Byrd from the Chairmanship of the Senate Appropriations Committee; those rumors were quickly quashed, and Byrd retains the chair. This despite the fact that everyone in Washington knows he's not up to the job -- see this June 2007 AP report posted on MSNBC describing his inability to manage the Committee's business.

Congress has a long history of people staying too long, including former Democratic appropriations chairs Rep. Jamie Whitten and Sen. John Stennis, and House Rules Committee Chairman Claude Pepper. As Pepper's decline progressed, then-Rep. Joseph Moakley of Massachusetts used to sit next to him at Rules Committee meetings, nudging him along and helpfully pointing out when Committee Members had questions or comments. It's sad to watch legislative giants in their decline; it verges on the criminally negligent that their colleagues let them continue to chair Congress's most powerful committees in the name of collegiality.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Well, at least somebody's making money...

What better way to wake up than to learn that lobbying revenues in Washington increased 9 percent in 2007 compared to the prior year. The weekend web posting by The Hill will be followed up tomorrow by a full list, but its look at the top ten for 2007 is an eye-opener.

Old-line firms Patton Boggs and Akin Gump topped the field, each up in the range of $6-7 million at $42.7 and $32 million respectively. Must have been American companies investing more to keep the in new Democratic majority: a strong trend was seen in formerly Republican firms going bipartisan, including BGR Holdings, which slipped in at number 5 overall with $22.7 million.

BGR Holdings is the new name, of course, of Barbour Griffith and Rogers, the shameless sludgebuckets who decided that representing an opposition leader in Iraq in the middle of a U.S.-led civil war was somehow patriotic.