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I’ve been away on a bit of a self-imposed sabbatical for about a month now.  I have been fortunate to find a place to post regularly at Balloon Juice and I invite anybody who wants to catch up with me to join me there. It is a great community and I thank John for giving me a place to write regularly.

As I left for my sabbatical I held out the option to repost longer bits of original research back here if I thought others were missing the connections that I was making. This is a first go at that to see how and if it works.

To the jump...

It was interesting tonight to note Mile Huckabee’s reaction to the annual CPAC gathering of grifters:

"Because of the way that it solicits sponsors, it’s almost becomes a pay-for-play," he said. "It’s kind of like, who will pay money to be able to be a sponsor and get time in the program. That’s one of the things that has hurt its credibility in the last couple of years."

I hate to break it to you Huck, but the entire Republican Party and the conservative movement is only about "pay-for-play". That’s what puts the "Con" in Conservative.

CPAC is run by the same grifters who are behind the recent and hilarious Mt. Vernon Statement and the people in Washington who actually run the out-of-the-can TeaBagger Astroturf movement. Did anybody catch the very end of CPAC where tribute is paid to Grover Norquist and his weekly Wednesday meetings of conservatives in Washington? I did.

I know that the media narrative is that Democrats are the suck, that we are all doomed and that we can only discuss matters in wing-nut talking points, but that has always been the case. Of course today they predict that the GOP will retake control of the House and Senate. In 2006 it was different. Then they told us that Karl had the math and that there was no way that Democrats could win that year. When it comes to beltway narratives any information is always good news for Republicans.

Don’t believe the hype. There is an eternity of events to pass before November. The rules and the issue often change and we need to be ready to take advantage of these changes. That requires hope, trust, smarts and courage. We need to be ready.

On the Republican side it is all about bringing back together the gang of corruptionists who created the mess were in and convincing the gullible to trust these perpetual weasels one more time. This repost from Balloon Juice talks about the grifters behind the latest iteration of the conservative con:

The return of the grifters

One thing that is predictable about the modern conservative movement is that a grifter can always return and can always get a job.

For example, let's take a look at the real people behind the Tea Party movement and the mad libs rescramble of platitudes also known as the "Mt. Vernon Statement".

A few weeks ago the Washington Post took a look at the people in DC that are actually doing the work to drive the Tea Party Movement.

Not surprisingly, it was a list of grifters.

Because of my years researching Jack Abramoff and his activities since 1978 quite a few of these names jumped out at me. They also caught the eye of another scholar of the modern conservative movement, Thomas Frank.

Tom is the author of "What's the Matter with Kansas" and more recently, "The Wrecking Crew". It was in the Wrecking Crew that Tom took a deep dive into the long history of conservative corruption. In 2008 Tom excerpted The Wrecking Crew in Harper's Magazine and it is an important tutorial for anybody who wants to understand how corruption works in Washington.

These days Tom writes a weekly column in the Wall Street Journal (of all places) and it should be on your list of weekly reads. This week he took a look at the names mentioned in the WaPo article and explained some aspects of their grifter past:

What struck me about the Post's story was the familiarity of it all. In particular, I kept being reminded of that ultimate conservative insider, the now-imprisoned superlobbyist Jack Abramoff, and the work he did on behalf of the Northern Marianas Islands, where garment factories churned out "Made in the USA" clothing under re-education camp conditions. [snip]

Today, as Washington conservatives scramble to stay atop the growing grass-roots right, the cast of characters is remarkably similar. For example, the "Team Abramoff" lobbyist who ran the Marianas trips program in the 1990s, Patrick Pizzella, is reported by the Post to be the "only paid staff member" of the Conservative Action Project. According to the Washington Times, Mr. Pizzella has also been "involved" in the drafting of the Mount Vernon Statement, a conservative manifesto that is meant to rally the tea-partying base.

Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) also makes an appearance in the Post story, as ATR sponsored the first round of tea parties a year ago and as Mr. Norquist's famous Wednesday morning meetings for conservative power brokers have provided a fertile medium for the movement's networking. [snip]

And then there is Dick Armey ... as you may recall, Mr. Armey was once one of Congress's staunchest defenders of the Marianas way. Several of his aides traveled to the free-market paradise, and in 1997 Mr. Armey even wrote a letter jointly with former Rep. Tom DeLay in which he praised the islands' dedication to "the principles of free markets, enterprise, education choice, tax reform and other innovative approaches to governance."

Behold your Third Great Awakening, America. Lobbyists, sweatshops, and the junkets designed by lobbyists to make sweatshops seem like liberty are, presumably, the sort of things tea partiers should have trouble with. Will the grass-roots nation call these gentlemen to account for their freedom flimflamming of the past?

I wouldn't count on it.

There are many other names on the list with connections to Abramoff as well. Take Matt Kibbe, the President of Dick Armey's FreedomWorks--he was one of Abramoff's junketeers to Saipan and a reliable think tank defender of sweatshops and human trafficking upon his return. Or then there is the reliable grifter-for-hire, Brent Bozell, who runs the Media Research Center--a conservative PR spin shop designed to extrude press releases and commentary on command. Bozell was another traveler to the Marianas Islands and a reliable media voice to defend the abuse ever since. And the there is Horace Cooper who has been indicted in the Abramoff scandal and is awaiting trial for his crimes. Cooper is a former long-time Dick Armey staffer who connects Dick to Jack in a tight and dirty way.

There are more connections as well in the list of names behind the resurgence of the converative movement. Some of these grifters go back to the sixties, some the seventies, some the eighties, nineties and some come from the zeros. Regardless where they come from, the Tea Party movement is becoming a full employment movement for the Republican grifters who drove up the debt, stole from tax payers and got rich during the Gingrich/DeLay/Bush era actively destroying the Government of the United States. To call the movement these grifters are promoting "grassroots" is an insult to astroturf.

Tom Frank is an entertaining fellow. As I drove into work this morning I was pleasantly surprised to here him on C-Span this morning. It is a fun segment and you can find a link to it here.

The Republican Tea Party movement is blatantly embracing the corruptionists who have done so much damage over the last thirty years. This is good new for Abramoff as he can be sure that he will always have a job with the Tea Party movement when he gets out of jail in a few years. After all, his BFF Grover is basically running the scam.

Across the Nation, the old co-conspirators of Abramoff, Delay, Norquist, Gingrich and the gang are getting the band back together. It could be Dick Pombo running for Congress again in California, or Roy Blunt running for Senate in Missouri, or JD Hayworth running in Arizona or any of the many other races where the old corruptionist are seeking more power to enrich their grifter pals.

The race in Arizona is especially interesting when it come to Republican corruption because here some chickens are coming home to roost:

The Grifter and the Coward...

As some may have heard there is an interesting primary shaping up in Arizona. Long-time Senator John McCain is being challenged by J.D. Hayworth, a disgraced former Congressman who lost his seat in 2006 in no small part because of his involvement with Jack Abramoff and that major corruption scandal named after him.

Hayworth is the Grifter and McCain is the Coward in this race. (Yes, I know that we are all supposed to be aware of reports that as a young man John McCain was a courageous POW, but history is filled with tales of men who were courageous heroes in their youth and craven cowards in their later years. John McCain's story is one of those stories).

Both men are also linked to the Abramoff scandal. It will be fascinating to see if McCain will decide to release details about the Abramoff scandal that he has kept covered up for years in a desperate effort to hold onto his Senate seat. Yesterday he gave an indication that he was ready to take that step.

Hayworth is a classic backbencher low level Congressional grifter who wants to take his skills of selling out his constituents to lobbyists, corporations and special interests from the House to the Senate. At one time, he was under investigation by the DOJ for his involvement in the Abramoff Scandal but the Feds decided to stop chasing him after he lost his House seat in 2006. This was not a surprise as the Bush DOJ did everything they could to slow-walk the Abramoff investigation and it was a ploy that kept most co-conspirators like Hayworth safe from any legal jeopardy (Republican do tend to take care of each other--especially when a scandal is involved).

Hayworth went into debt to defend himself from possible charges related to the Abramoff scandal and he set-up the Freedom In Truth Trust to get others to help him retire this debt before he officially announced his run against McCain. Naturally, many of Jack's other pals contributed to JD's defense fund. I found Hayworth's defense on the site to be laughable. Documents released so far in the Abramoff scandal prove him to be a liar. For example, JD says:

Here are the simple facts:

  1. Abramoff contributed a grand total of $2,250 dollars to my political efforts. ($250 in 1996, $1,000 in 1998, and $1,000 to our leadership political action committee, TEAMPAC, in 1999.)
  1. I never met with Abramoff concerning any legislation.
  1. He never came to my office.
  1. He never lobbied me directly on any issue.

The record proves him to be a liar on points 1 and 4. Point 2 is certainly a lie if you include a phone call as a "meeting". There are numerous records citing direct discussions between Abramoff and Hayworth. It is unclear if these meetings/discussions took place in Hayworth's "office", so point 3 could technically be true, but only if you exclude meetings between Hayworth's staff and Abramoff's staff.

There are missing donations as well. In some records, it is clear that Jack is directing specific clients to give Hayworth money. In others it is clear that Jack is using the PAC from his lobbying firm to send Hayworth money after meetings/discussions with Jack about a specific issue before Congress.

The relationship between Hayworth and Abramoff goes back to the beginning of Jack's superstar lobbyist career in 1996. One quick example. In the fall of 1996 Abramoff was trying to get Congress to kill Legislation that would give the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands (a US Territory in the Western Pacific) a Delegate to the US Congress. Jack and his sweatshop owning pals did not want the corrupt Governor they controlled from the Territory to have competition in Washington. In August of 1996 Jack and his sweatshop pals went to the GOP National Convention to meet and greet folks. In September Jack made a number of calls to Congressmen on the Resources Committee to lobby for defeating the effort. On 9-18-96 Jack directly lobbied Hayworth. A donation was made. The effort was defeated (Hayworth voted with Jack). And on 11-21-96 Jack made a "thank you" call to JD.

The Abramoff related records release to date show that this pattern was repeated (with Hayworth and many, many others), and that as time went by the way Abramoff moved money to a given Congressman or Senator was laundered with greater and greater sophistication to hide the connection to Jack and his clients (this was why some folks thought what Abramoff and his pals in Congress were doing was a scandal).

Only a small fraction of the millions of pages of emails, billing records and other evidence linking Abramoff to his co-conspirators has been released. Most of these documents are under wraps and that lets many of Jack's old Congressional grifter buddies run for office again in 2010. In an ironic twist, a grifter like Hayworth can thank John McCain for the fact that he is out of jail and able to scam gullible voters once again. You see, John McCain had the goods on Hayworth but did not have the courage to put Country over Party or the integrity to let duty trump his ambitions.

In 2004 as the Abramoff scandal broke John McCain launched an investigation of the scandal from position as Chairman of the Senate's Indian Affairs Committee. In that investigation McCain collected ALL of Abramoff's emails, billing records and the same for many of Jack's other associates. For McCain it was personal, back in the 2000 Election it was Abramoff and his pals Grover Norquist and Ralph Reed who led the effort to smear McCain in South Carolina. At first, McCain went after these guys with gusto and during a November 17, 2004 Hearing on the scandal, John McCain made a promise:

I pledge, as a member of the Committee on Indian Affairs, that we will not stop until the complete truth is told.

It turns out that McCain did not have the courage to keep that promise. Before that same hearing was over, McCain started to backtrack as it became clear just how big and deep the scandal was and how much harm exposing the details of the scandal would do to McCain's Party. By March 10, 2005, Roll Call was reporting that McCain met with his colleagues and promised them protection from their crimes:

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has assured his colleagues that his expanding investigation into the activities of a former GOP lobbyist and a half-dozen of his tribal casino clients is not directed at revealing ethically questionable actions by Members of Congress.

He made his self-directed impotence and casual regard for justice clear in a December 2005 interview with Terry Gross on NPR (emphasis added):

Sen. McCAIN: We're going to write a report, and there may be additional information we may have to look at, but we've pretty well wrapped it up. [snip]

We'll be making legislative recommendations and other things. But it's not the job of the Indian Affairs Committee to investigate members of Congress. That's the Ethics Committee and other committees to do that.

And then he really explained his cowardice to Tim Russert in another 2005 interview:

MR. RUSSERT: Senator, you said you're going to follow the money, but are you also going to investigate which legislators may have taken money and used that to influence legislation, to write into law what you're suggesting...

SEN. McCAIN: Tim...

MR. RUSSERT:...the behavior of senators, your colleagues? Are you going to investigate them?

SEN. McCAIN: The--I will not, because I'm a chairman of the Indian Affairs Committee. This was brought to our--this whole thing started--was brought to us--attention by some disgruntled tribal council members in a small tribe in Louisiana, and we took it as far as we thought was our responsibility, which is where the money ends up. I'm not as--we are responsible for Indian affairs. We have an Ethics Committee. We have a government--we have other committees of Congress, but we also have a very active media. And believe me...

MR. RUSSERT: Does the Ethics Committee work?

SEN. McCAIN: I don't think...

MR. RUSSERT: In all honesty?

SEN. McCAIN: I don't think the ethics committees are working very well. The latest Cunningham scandal was uncovered by the San Diego newspaper, not by anyone here...

MR. RUSSERT: Duke Cunningham, the congressman from California.

SEN. Washington.

MR. RUSSERT: Do you believe that some legislators have committed a crime?

SEN. McCAIN: Well, I don't want to--everyone deserves the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. I'm not a judge and jury.

MR. RUSSERT: But there's strong evidence to suggest that.

SEN. McCAIN: There's strong evidence that there was significant wrongdoing, but I'm not a judge or jury.

MR. RUSSERT: Do you think some legislators may be indicted?

SEN. McCAIN: All I know is what I read in the media. We stopped in the Indian Affairs Committee with where the money went, and that was our--the extent of our responsibilities.

At one point McCain had Grover Norquist in his sights. He was on the verge of issuing a subpoena for Grover's financial records and urging the Senate Finance Committee to investigate the front groups like Americans for Tax Reform that Abramoff used to launder money. Then McCain dropped it, made peace with Grover, got Norquist's support for his run for the White House and helped to bury the evidence linking Norquist to Abramoff. The Senate Finance investigation released a report that left more question unanswered than answered and that seemed like it stopped half-way through the process.

McCain's investigation of the Abramoff scandal collected over 750,000 pages of documents. He has sent these documents to the National Archives where they will sit under seal for the next twenty years--it is a great way to sweep the largest Congressional scandal in decades under the rug. Still, it looks like he has kept a copy of these documents for other uses as McCain told the conservative National Review in an interview published yesterday (emphasis added):

"When the tea partiers take a close look at Mr. Hayworth’s record and see all of his earmarks and all of his ties to Jack Abramoff, they’ll find a record that demands scrutiny," McCain says. "We have the letters and legislative records to prove it. And we will."

Too bad McCain didn't keep his promise to "not stop until the complete truth is told" that he made back in 2004. If he had then Hayworth, Norquist, Reed and a host of other grifters would be in jail and/or discredited. Instead, McCain let his cowardice and ambition conceal crimes that he knew they had committed. McCain actively hid evidence of corruption from the American people, but it looks like he kept a copy of that evidence readily at hand just in case he ever needed it. This is most likely why Norquist is still supporting McCain--John has the goods on him. And now, McCain is suggesting that he'll dig into these hidden documents to release selective attacks on JD Hayworth. While this should make for an entertaining GOP primary in Arizona, it is just more evidence of John McCain's failure to place justice and the needs of his Country before his ambition and his fear of exposing the corruption in his own Party. If McCain had a courageous bone in his body he would release all the documents and let the chips fall where they may. He doesn't and so the bulk of these documents will be kept hidden for another twenty years.

Both the Grifter and the Coward should lose this election. I hope the Democrats recruit a decent candidate for this race.

The point of this diary is to remind folks to keep an eye on Republican corruption. They have already completely co-opted the so called Tea Party movement. The DC-based conservative grifters have already converted TeaBagger anger into a profit center. CPAC, as Huckabee noted, it just a way to swipe funds from naïve conservatives fools. Hell, that is the point of the endless conservative flim-flam. The hustle they run is out there in the open just waiting to be exposed. These "angry" white guys and gals need to be confronted with the fact that the Republican Party thinks that they the filth who only exist to be exploited.

The political narrative of February will not be the narrative of October. We need to be ready. While we had some success in 2006 and 2008, it is 2010 that is the real test of the progressive netroots, the Democratic Party and our ability to take this Nation back.

I hope we are up to the task. We shall see.

And now I’ll continue my walk-about. If you read this, thanks. I am not ready to wade back into the comments, so flamers get a free pass from me. My sabbatical continues, but you can fin me over at Balloon Juice if you wish.

Be well



Originally posted to dengre on Sun Feb 21, 2010 at 07:52 PM PST.

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