Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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May 24, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

HASTERT AND THE LAW....ABC News reports that House Speaker Dennis Hastert is under investigation by the FBI:

Part of the investigation involves a letter Hastert wrote three years ago, urging the Secretary of the Interior to block a casino on an Indian reservation that would have competed with other tribes.

....The letter was written shortly after a fund-raiser for Hastert at a restaurant owned by [Jack] Abramoff. Abramoff and his clients contributed more than $26,000 at the time.

In previous years this kind of thing would have been business as usual. After all, the fundraiser was legal, the contributions were reported normally, and there was almost certainly no specific, documented connection between the contributions and the letter. But as Jeffrey Birnbaum reports in our cover story this month, the Justice Department has taken an unusual approach to the Jack Abramoff scandals:

At the center of the scandal is something more prosaic, and potentially far more explosive: good old-fashioned campaign donations. Deep in the plea agreements won by Justice Department lawyers are admissions by the defendants Abramoff and his cronies, ex-DeLay aides Tony C. Rudy and Michael Scanlon that they conspired to use campaign contributions to bribe lawmakers. Even though these gifts were fully disclosed and within prescribed limits, the government said they were criminal, and the defendants agreed. This aspect of the case has received little attention. But it is sending shudders down K Street.

....The Abramoff and Scanlon pleas get very specific. The contributions that they swapped for favors included $4,000 to the campaign committee of "Representative #1" and $10,000 in contributions to the National Republican Congressional Committee "at Representative #1's request." Representative #1 has been widely identified as Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio), who is under investigation as part of the Abramoff scam. Ney denies any wrongdoing. Officials close to the investigations say that possible campaign-donation bribery is also being looked at as part of the ongoing probes of as many as six other lawmakers.

Read the whole thing. Hastert might be one of "six other lawmakers" named here, and it's possible that he could be in serious trouble even if he fully reported the Abramoff contributions. The rules of the game may be changing.

UPDATE: Hastert flatly denies that he's under investigation.

Kevin Drum 8:14 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (60)

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Comments

And now we know why he and the other GOP leaders in Congress are so up in arms about the FBI raid of Jefferson's office.

Posted by: Edo on May 24, 2006 at 8:19 PM | PERMALINK

Blame Clinton someone, quick!

Posted by: POG on May 24, 2006 at 8:27 PM | PERMALINK

Apparently the Justice Department doesn't agree: http://hotlineblog.nationaljournal.com/archives/2006/05/doj_hastert_is.html

"Speaker Hastert is not under investigation by the Justice Department."

Posted by: Nathan on May 24, 2006 at 8:31 PM | PERMALINK

Well Bolton could be Speaker of the House - he/she can be any American citizen 25 years or older - you don't have to be a member of the House. Anyone who meets the requirements and chosen by a majority of the House becomes Speaker.
And thus second in line for President - so if Bush and Cheney left office simultaneously, Bolton would become president.

Posted by: hopeless pedant on May 24, 2006 at 8:32 PM | PERMALINK

Any normal American citizen would understand immediately that campaign contributions made in exchange for legislative action are corrupt. Only in a Congress utterly dominated by a party with no interest in the public good, in a city as cynical as Washington, DC, could that be forgotten. ("But the paperwork was all in order! How can they DO this to us?")

"The rules are changing"? What a laugh.

Posted by: Bill Camarda on May 24, 2006 at 8:36 PM | PERMALINK

Darn liberal Justice Department!
Can't remember the last time we saw a "revolution" spin out so quickly.

Posted by: Nathan64 on May 24, 2006 at 8:40 PM | PERMALINK

Hahahaha. Fatty fat fat Hastert! You got a pertty mouth!

Posted by: enozinho on May 24, 2006 at 8:42 PM | PERMALINK

Is it any wonder that politician's approval numbers are so low? Does any politician actually care about the future of America, because behind all the broken promises and puppet-shows, it seems most care more about lining their own pockets, getting pork-barrel crap passed for their own states, and cutting taxes and capital gains for themselves so they'll have a nice cushy retirement, while the middle class gets sold down the river. These clowns are governing another country entirely.

Posted by: Mr. K. on May 24, 2006 at 8:43 PM | PERMALINK

OK, it was my fault.

Posted by: Clinton era on May 24, 2006 at 8:57 PM | PERMALINK

These clowns are governing another country entirely.

That's right! The State of Dementia!

Posted by: craigie on May 24, 2006 at 8:58 PM | PERMALINK

Someone pass me my anal dildo. The green one.

Posted by: GOP on May 24, 2006 at 9:08 PM | PERMALINK

Is there one of these guys, just one, who isn't completely corrupt? Just one who's not a full-fledged crook?

[pause]

No? Ok, then....

Posted by: Stefan on May 24, 2006 at 9:13 PM | PERMALINK

Where do you go to get your reputation back?

Posted by: Clinton era on May 24, 2006 at 9:15 PM | PERMALINK

I don't know why I post garbage with no credible sources. Somebody help me!

Posted by: Kevin Drum's conscience on May 24, 2006 at 9:45 PM | PERMALINK

I heard the federal penitentiary at Leavenworth, KS is looking for a wrestling coach, morbidly obese preferred. I think Denny's in luck!!!

Posted by: Stephen Kriz on May 24, 2006 at 9:49 PM | PERMALINK

Ah, the mealy-mindedness of the fat Republican,


http://www.abcnews.go.com/Politics/wireStory?id=2001422


Hastert was among nearly three dozen lawmakers who pressed the Interior Department to block a Louisiana Indian casino's casino application. An Associated Press review of campaign reports, IRS records and congressional correspondence found that Hastert and the other lawmakers had collected large donations from Abramoff and his tribal clients.

Between 2001 and 2004, Hastert collected more than $100,000 in donations from Abramoff's firm and tribal clients. He also had used Abramoff's restaurant to hold fundraisers.

Posted by: cld on May 24, 2006 at 9:49 PM | PERMALINK

Meanwhile back at the ratcave...

Bobbin: Holy fuck ratman! Didn't you write about a ' president Hastert' last year?
Ratman: Never fear boy blunder - there is still the penguin, the riddler, the joker and catwomen in the line of suck-cession. Now give me a hummer the way Jeff taught you and rim me the way Kevvy taught you.

Posted by: professor rat on May 24, 2006 at 10:00 PM | PERMALINK

I told you that I wasn't a crook and I'm telling you - neither is Denny!

Posted by: Richard Nixon on May 24, 2006 at 10:03 PM | PERMALINK

Drum: Read the whole thing...

Sorry I don't need to.

When I heard that Hastert was pissed about the FBI's raid of a Democrat's office... it told me all I needed to know.

Posted by: koreyel on May 24, 2006 at 10:06 PM | PERMALINK

Get this,

http://www.businessweek.com/bwdaily/dnflash/may2006/nf20060523_2210.htm?campaign_id=rss_daily

President George W. Bush has bestowed on his intelligence czar, John Negroponte, broad authority, in the name of national security, to excuse publicly traded companies from their usual accounting and securities-disclosure obligations. Notice of the development came in a brief entry in the Federal Register, dated May 5, 2006, that was opaque to the untrained eye.


Unbeknownst to almost all of Washington and the financial world, Bush and every other President since Jimmy Carter have had the authority to exempt companies working on certain top-secret defense projects from portions of the 1934 Securities Exchange Act. Administration officials told BusinessWeek that they believe this is the first time a President has ever delegated the authority to someone outside the Oval Office. It couldn't be immediately determined whether any company has received a waiver under this provision.

Posted by: cld on May 24, 2006 at 10:14 PM | PERMALINK

William McLucas, the Securities & Exchange Commission's former enforcement chief, suggested that the ability to conceal financial information in the name of national security could lead some companies "to play fast and loose with their numbers." McLucas, a partner at the law firm Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale & Dorr in Washington, added: "It could be that you have a bunch of books and records out there that no one knows about."

Posted by: cld on May 24, 2006 at 10:19 PM | PERMALINK

Let's call our present era The Sack of Washington.

Posted by: cld on May 24, 2006 at 10:35 PM | PERMALINK

Let me be the first to call for Hastert's resignation - I nominate Bolton as new Speaker of the House.
Posted by: Cheney on May 24, 2006 at 8:29 PM | PERMALINK

You sure? Bolton's probably dirty too. His fingerprints are all over that report with the classified paragraph. Pretty soon, it's going to be hard to find at least one Republican who isn't either indicted or under investigation. Damn those Partisan Democrats - they control EVERYTHING!

Posted by: Mammon on May 24, 2006 at 10:40 PM | PERMALINK

I wonder if anyone here has stopped to think about the fact that these investigations are politically motivated. While President Bush is trying to prepare for the next terrorist attack and cut taxes to keep our economy moving, all of these trumped up charges are a distraction. Politicians have been doing fundraisers since the stone age and all you people want to do is try to find an excuse to keep the president and congress from cutting taxes.

Posted by: tbrosz on May 24, 2006 at 10:46 PM | PERMALINK

Gee, I wonder if my mom will stop voting for Denny now.

Posted by: shortstop on May 24, 2006 at 10:46 PM | PERMALINK

Meanwhile, back at the North Pole:

Cheney May Be Called in CIA Leak Case - New York Times

Published: May 24, 2006

Filed at 10:13 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Vice President Dick Cheney could be called to
testify in the perjury case against his former chief of staff, a
special prosecutor said in a court filing Wednesday.

Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald suggested Cheney would be a logical
government witness because he could authenticate notes he jotted on a
July 6, 2003, New York Times opinion piece by a former U.S. ambassador
critical of the Iraq war.

Fitzgerald said Cheney's ''state of mind'' is ''directly relevant'' to
whether I. Lewis ''Scooter'' Libby, the vice president's former top
aide, lied to FBI agents and a federal grand jury about how he learned
about CIA officer Valerie Plame's identity and what he subsequently
told reporters.

Libby ''shared the interests of his superior and was subject to his
direction,'' the prosecutor wrote. ''Therefore, the state of mind of
the vice president as communicated to (the) defendant is directly
relevant to the issue of whether (the) defendant knowingly made false
statements to federal agents and the grand jury regarding when and how
he learned about (Plame's) employment and what he said to reporters
regarding this issue.''

[...]

Posted by: rmck1 on May 24, 2006 at 10:50 PM | PERMALINK

And the lesson children?

Absolute Power Corrupts.

And Absolute Assholes who are already corrupt will often attain Absolute Power.

Or to put it a different way:
Shit Floats.

Posted by: Teacher on May 24, 2006 at 11:07 PM | PERMALINK

Teacher:

And as they say in the sewage treatment business:

All the big chunks rise to the top.

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on May 24, 2006 at 11:12 PM | PERMALINK

And as they say in the sewage treatment business:
All the big chunks rise to the top.

LOL. Hastert certainly is a big chunk. Although where I come from, he's just a fat piece of shit.

His concern about executive branch intrusion into the legislative branch now makes a lot more sense.

Posted by: Ringo on May 24, 2006 at 11:29 PM | PERMALINK

"UPDATE: Hastert flatly denies that he's under investigation."

Kevin, that's a typo isn't it?

You meant fatly right?

Posted by: koreyel on May 24, 2006 at 11:32 PM | PERMALINK

I agree with Cheney, I think Michael Bolton would make an excellent Speaker of the House. He's got soul.

Just one rousing rendition of Disney's "Go the Distance" in front of the entire Republican conference is all it would take to swell those black little hearts with shame and remorse until finally they burst out of their grimy wire containers en masse with a couple hundred "ka-boinggggggs!"

Then Tom Delay could come sliding down the aisle in his prison blues with a giant sack full of all the things he's taken from the American people and given to corporations and campaign contributers, and with the help of his entire party redistribute them equally among the nation's citizens.

Yes, a Bolton for Speaker indeed. As long as it's not the ridiculous asshole John Bolton. Guy's got that personality of a toad and the heart of a Gila Monster. If the Republicans succeed in finally turning the country into a Soviet-style failed state then we'll need Bolton to run either the secret police or head up the forced labor camps.

Posted by: Big Broadway Ending on May 24, 2006 at 11:37 PM | PERMALINK

Gee, I wonder if my mom will stop voting for Denny now. Posted by: shortstop

Could happen. My parents, life long Republicans, didn't vote in the last two presidential elections because they dislike Bush so. The "punch line," however, is that they voted for McCain in the 2000 primary. Looks like they may get their candidate next time around.

Posted by: JeffII on May 24, 2006 at 11:54 PM | PERMALINK

OK, I'm on my soap-box again. Here's my strong opinion, FWIW.

Not from the constitution or anything, but all brought up in the US know: Government of the people, by the people, for the people." Seems apt.

Doesn't say anything about corporations, just people. All corporate, organizational and institutional interests are subsumed to the good "of the people" which is synonimous to the state.

There's no need for any money for politicians except from the people. Not corporation, nor unions, nor support groups, just individuals.

Put a maximum donation on that and the ability to bribe goes away. It leaves only outright corruption and illegal payments.

Free speech will not be able to stop people spending their own money on adverts and such, but, if origin has to be clearly declared, the field will be a lot more level and more brightly lit.

Posted by: notthere on May 25, 2006 at 12:31 AM | PERMALINK

koreyel: "When I heard that Hastert was pissed about the FBI's raid of a Democrat's office... it told me all I needed to know."

Precisely! I lived in Hastert's district and this just makes my day.

Posted by: Varecia on May 25, 2006 at 12:42 AM | PERMALINK

Hastert flatly denies that he's under investigation.

the liberal media gets it wrong again. At what point does it lose so much credibility that it stops being such a valuable assett to the democrat party?

Posted by: American Hawk on May 25, 2006 at 12:53 AM | PERMALINK
Despite a flat denial from the Department of Justice, federal law enforcement sources tonight said ABC News accurately reported that Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert is "in the mix" in the FBI investigation of corruption in Congress.

Speaker Hastert said tonight the story was "absolutely untrue" and has demanded ABC News retract its story.

Law enforcement sources told ABC News that convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff has provided information to the FBI about Hastert and a number of other members of Congress that have broadened the scope of the investigation. Sources would not divulge details of the Abramoffs information.

"You guys wrote the story very carefully but they are not reading it very carefully," a senior official said.

One focus involves a letter Hastert wrote in 2003 urging the Secretary of the Interior to block an Indian casino that would have competed with tribes represented by Abramoff.

The letter was written within days of a fund-raiser held for Hastert at Abramoffs restaurant in Washington. Federal campaign records show more than $26,000 was raised at the time from Abramoff and his clients.

Hastert has denied doing anything unlawful and says he has a long history of opposing certain types of Indian casinos.

ABCs law enforcement sources said the Justice Department denial was meant only to deny that Hastert was a formal target or subject of the investigation.

"Whether they like it or not, members of Congress, including Hastert, are under investigation," one federal official said tonight.

Posted by: Semantics on May 25, 2006 at 1:15 AM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: biu991 on May 25, 2006 at 1:24 AM | PERMALINK

very interesting indeed. Novakula reported last week that Denny was mad as hell that his friend Porter was thrown into dumpster then Denny requested to meet Chimpy to air his anger about Porter firing. Bam, today Denny boy is in the headlines. very interesting.

Posted by: dave on May 25, 2006 at 1:27 AM | PERMALINK

The Constitutional crisis has deepened considerably since yesterday. Before we get all happy about this, we should become extremely worried at the erosion in the faith the Citizenry has in the People's House. Frankly, I have more faith in that Branch, with all its flaws, gaffaws, and faux pas than the Executive--give me a Parliment over a King any day! If you agree, continue to support the House against the Executive.

Interestingly, what we have here is an example of power shifting to the Executive to a surprising level. It would seem that the Bushmen have sensed considerable weakness in the Republic and are continuing to destabilize it...or, maybe they're just ignorant and blundering through like they seem to have done with almost no Congressional "oversight" in recent years.

And speaking of "oversights", how about the fact that the House itself has not been policing itself...like it should...so that this sort of Constitutional showdown could be avoided in the first place. Of course they went after a Democrat first, the Bushmen. They're testing the waters. If they get away with it, then all the crooks in the House will be fearful of having all their goodies carted away in the middle of the night by the King's Men.

So, which is it fellas? Do you want a King and no Parliment? Or a Parliment, flaws and all, without a King. I'd rather have a corrupt Parliment than an "above it all" King anyday. But, what say you? And you? And you?

See, a Parliment can be turned out and reconstituted every two years...in this country. But not a King. A King is there until the King decides to abdicate...or is turned out by the mob. And rather than settle for mob rule, I'll go with the unstable but predictable corruptions of Parlimentarianisms. Wasn't that something Winston Churchill once alluded to? Not that he was a great admirer of a weak Executive or anything...just that he had some sense at times...

Posted by: parrot on May 25, 2006 at 1:35 AM | PERMALINK

Putting 50 or 150 members of Congress behind bars could hardly help but improve the moral tone of the place.

Posted by: CapitalistImperialistPig on May 25, 2006 at 1:39 AM | PERMALINK

The Constitutional crisis has deepened considerably since yesterday. Before we get all happy about this, we should become extremely worried at the erosion in the faith the Citizenry has in the People's House.

Personally, the only thing I think could top what's happened so far, with regards to national embarrassment, would be a military coup. I mean, really, after Clinton's blow job, then these jokers, with the son of a president who got tossed out on his kiester? The "Dog ate my homework" excuse for a war? I don't know if there's a way America can restore her honor after this. It just gets worse and worse.

Posted by: osama_been_forgotten on May 25, 2006 at 2:29 AM | PERMALINK

I just hope ABC News didn't get Rathered.

Posted by: Nathan64 on May 25, 2006 at 2:35 AM | PERMALINK

'the liberal media gets it wrong again. At what point does it lose so much credibility that it stops being such a valuable assett to the democrat party?'

--American Hawk

It's "Democratic" party, dipshit, and asset has one "t". Are you on inhalants or are you just friggin' senile? Your posts are retarded and just embarassing....

Fred

Posted by: Fred Flintrock on May 25, 2006 at 5:58 AM | PERMALINK

It is all about controlling Congress so the executive branch is the only game in town. They (the white house, not the GOP) are close to having total control of COngress.....

Posted by: i dunno on May 25, 2006 at 7:22 AM | PERMALINK

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Posted by: dsfd on May 25, 2006 at 7:52 AM | PERMALINK

Michael Moore is fat, Hastert is fatter. hmmm.
Americanchickenhawk is a brainless coward. How fat is he?

Posted by: gus on May 25, 2006 at 8:33 AM | PERMALINK

Does anyone out there seriously believe that the Democratic Party or the Republican Party is not full of corrupt politicians? Is there anyone out there who would seriously argue that the Republicans have a culture of corruption, but the Democrats do not have a culture of corruption? Both parties are wretched and full of corruption. Both parties hold the U.S. Constitution in contempt, seeing it as only an obstacle to re-election.

Posted by: Harry Crumb on May 25, 2006 at 8:50 AM | PERMALINK

You're right, American Hawk, none of the scandals enveloping the GOP are really happening! They're all just being fabricated by the librul media. And Army Group Steiner is on the way to relieve Berlin!

Posted by: Red on May 25, 2006 at 8:55 AM | PERMALINK

Hastert's response to the FBI raid on Jefferson's office and now his repsonse to the ABC report that he is part of the widening Abramoff corruption investigation is ironic on so many levels it cries out for a Shakespeare to help us appreciate the situation.

Here is a man (Hastert) who literally paved the way for the Iraq War and widening the government's investigative authority under the name of the Global War on Terror. Thanks to Hastert and the party HE LEADS regular citizens are now presumed guilty until proven innocent. Their phone calls are monitored, tapped, their homes are invaded, they are detained, held in secret prisons, rendered to foreign governments.

So why aren't these tactics appropriate for members of Congress? Are they above the laws and policies they themselves have helped the President establish?

Now that Hastert is being presumed guilty he has suddenly discovered the separation of powers. Problem is, it's too late -- he has no credibility on the issue.

How about rendering Hastert to a prison farm in Arizona and water boarding him until he confesses and implicates others in the conspiracy to undermine the Constitution?

Posted by: pj in jesusland on May 25, 2006 at 9:02 AM | PERMALINK

Cheney May Be Called in CIA Leak Case - New York Times

You'd think he'd have other things to worry about rather than posting here (and worrying about double negatives!).

Posted by: MeLoseBrain? on May 25, 2006 at 9:15 AM | PERMALINK

Hastert flatly denies being investigated.

Rove flatly denied leaking Plame's name.

Consider the source. I'd say might be time to double that bet! Wish London bookies were running bets on all of this, that'd be cool. Bloody World Cup is distracting them from the real fun and games.

Posted by: Samuel Knight on May 25, 2006 at 9:41 AM | PERMALINK

Putting 50 or 150 members of Congress behind bars could hardly help but improve the moral tone of the place.Posted by: CapitalistImperialistPig

And which place would that be, prison or Congress?

Posted by: JeffII on May 25, 2006 at 11:22 AM | PERMALINK
The Constitutional crisis has deepened considerably since yesterday. Before we get all happy about this, we should become extremely worried at the erosion in the faith the Citizenry has in the People's House.

No, we shouldn't. Faith in government, or any branch thereof, is toxic to freedom. The price of liberty, as it has been said, is eternal vigilance. But when there is faith in institutions, vigilance is abandoned.

Popular soveriegnty is achieved by demanding accountability of government, not by faith in it.

Posted by: cmdicely on May 25, 2006 at 12:04 PM | PERMALINK

"The speaker is dismayed and disappointed that the Washington Monthly continues to place their bets on the wrong team," said said Pete Jeffries, Hastert's communications director.

Oh wait. It wasn't Washington Monthly Hastert was asking to pony up. It was the gaming industry. Never mind.

Posted by: raisin on May 25, 2006 at 12:27 PM | PERMALINK

Hastert has sent a legal letter to ABC News asking who will accept service for a suit asserting libel after they repeated the story in spite of the Justice announcementn that he is NOT under investigation. Want to get in line for a lawsuit, Kevin ? The burden of proof is high for public figures but this might meet it.

That, of course, does not excuse his stupid comments about the FBI raid on the DEMOCRAT.

Posted by: Mike K on May 25, 2006 at 5:43 PM | PERMALINK
Hastert has sent a legal letter to ABC News asking who will accept service for a suit asserting libel after they repeated the story in spite of the Justice announcementn that he is NOT under investigation. Want to get in line for a lawsuit, Kevin ? The burden of proof is high for public figures but this might meet it.

Assuming ABC isn't entirely making up their anonymous sources that contradict the official announcement, this doesn't even stand a chance of meeting the standard for libel concerning a private person on a matter not of public concern.

Posted by: cmdicely on May 25, 2006 at 6:52 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely, I don't expect this to actually go to court. However, if it did, I would think ABC would have to reveal the name of their anonymous source in order to show that his leak was reliable. Would ABC and the source breech confidentiality for ABC's defence?

Posted by: David on May 25, 2006 at 7:18 PM | PERMALINK

Fake but accurate?

Got it!

Maybe they're just ahead of the news cycle.

Fitzmas will arrive this summer. I just know it!

Check your blood pressure. I know it will help.

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