You can file this under stuff that we more or less knew already, but the NYT has a brief preview of indictments-to-come:
Testimony in the trial of a former White House budget aide accused of lying about his contacts with the lobbyist Jack Abramoff is expected to result in new scrutiny of Representative Bob Ney, an Ohio Republican caught up in the influence-peddling scandal centered on Mr. Abramoff.[…]Mr. Ney’s former chief of staff, Neil G. Volz, who has pleaded guilty to conspiring with Mr. Abramoff to give illegal gifts to Mr. Ney, has been called to testify this week at the trial of David H. Safavian, the White House aide. Mr. Volz is expected to describe how Mr. Abramoff organized a $130,000 golf trip to Scotland by private jet in August 2002 for a group that included Mr. Ney and three House aides. […]Mr. Volz’s testimony is scheduled to take place in the wake of several embarrassments for Mr. Ney, who is facing a difficult re-election fight this fall. These include the disclosure last week that his current chief of staff and another former House aide were resisting defense subpoenas and threatening to assert their Fifth Amendment rights against compelled self-incrimination if called to the stand in Mr. Safavian’s trial.
To sum up: Abramoff is cooperating, Ney’s former chief-of-staff has already plead guilty to funneling illegal contributions to Ney, most of Ney’s staff plans to plead the Fifth and the Ken Lay/Jeff Skilling trials just proved that you should probably just give up if your only option is to play the blind-as-a-bat defense. If I was a prominent GOP campaign contributor I have no idea why I would donate to a campaign that would most likely end up using my cash for a legal defense. Maybe he’s calling the same suckers who gave to DeLay.
On a similar note the AP’s John Solomon has another story purporting to make Harry Reid look bad. Just like before, there’s no meat in that bun. For the seocnd time running Solomon’s story boils down to Reid accepting a gift that breaks no legal or ethical guidelines and then voting against the people who supposedly bought his influence.
Let’s hold a brief ethics seminar for the slow and hackish. In order for a gift to raise eyebrows it has to break the existing rules, as was the case with the Safavian/Ney affair described above. In order for a gift to break the law it has to involve a clear quid pro quo where quo is a legislative favor offered in return for the illicit quid. Jack Abramoff, for example, gave a swank golf trip in return for inside information on government land and no expansion of workplace protections for his clients in the Marianas Islands.
Interestingly the recent Hastert indictment story has at least one important scoop that doesn’t involve whether Dennis Hastert is in legal trouble – prosecutors have decided that perfectly legal campaign contributions may constitute an illegal quo if they can attach it to a specific quid. That expands the potential reach of the Abramoff affair dramatically and may well wreck the entire K Street model of doing business. The LA Times:
[S]ome long-established practices — including one known as earmarking, where lawmakers slip favored legislation into spending bills — are coming under scrutiny. There is concern that they are being used for self-enrichment or payback to supporters and campaign contributors.
“In the past, the Justice Department turned its eye away from official conduct linked to campaign contributions. Now that premise is being questioned,” said Abbe Lowell, a Washington defense lawyer who has represented many members of Congress. He also represents Abramoff.
“It is a huge policy issue,” Lowell said. “It goes to the heart of the private [campaign] contribution system.”
This news no doubt has a pork king like Don Young shaking in his bed. For Reid, who did the opposite of what his solicitors wanted, not so much. Given Reid’s rectitude in an age of payback it seems like Solomon has chosen a strangely inappropriate target for smearing.