Thursday, June 15, 2006

LeftBlog Launches on The Daily Advertiser

Greetings All,

As you may have heard, the Daily Advertiser has launched a Political BLOG that will appear weekly on their websites and Teasers will be placed in the Print Paper. I hope you will all let me know what you think of our first round.

I have to say, my "opponent" seems to have some issues... issues that he needs to "work out" and perhaps this column will be therapy for him. But I have to say with the comments I am getting on this BLOG and the comparison between the Left and Right... this seems to be a definate good thing...

One person told me:
Your Republican Counterpart seems so angry and his column is all about fear mongering ... the American People see through the fear mongering - and they are tired of it. They want bold vision and change for the better.
Another person stated:
Tritchler isn't even on the same level. Yours is filled with facts,
examples, concreteness. You apply what you say directly to people's
lives. His is filled with bluster and buzzwords.

Whatever your opinion is, please share it with me... I am open to all critiques and I would love suggestions for topics in the upcoming issues.

Stephen Handwerk

Friday, June 09, 2006

Louisiana Congressmen Vote Against Net Neutrality

When the U.S. House of Representatives voted to defeat Rep. Ed Markey's (D-Mass) Network Neutrality amendment on Thursday evening, EVERY member of the Louisiana Congressional delegation voted against Markey's amendment.

That is, Reps. Charles Boustany, Charles Melancon, Bobby Jindal, Richard Baker, William Jefferson, Rodney Alexander and James McCrery voted in favor of giving AT&T and Verizon the legal cover to manipulate access to content on the Internet.

One thing that can now be said about our House delegation without regard to party affiliation: They really just don't get this Internet thing!

Boustany Triple Dips on Tainted Lewis Money!

Whoa! The more information that comes out on the Jerry Lewis (R-CA) stem of the Duke Cunningham Bribery Investigation, the more it appears that Cholly Boustany's 2004 campaign benefited from the tainted money.

Lewis, Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, is under investigation for tying earmarks in appropriations bills to campaign contributions. As documented earlier on this blog (here and here), Boustany took money from Lewis and from the husband (Richard) of the lobbyist (and former Lewis staffer), Letitia White who is a central figure in the investigation.

Today, an Associated Press story revealed that a current Lewis aide, Jeff Shockey, received a, uh, "generous" severance package from the lobbying firm in which White is a partner -- --Copeland, Lowery, Jacquez, Denton and White. Shockey left the lobbying firm to go to work for Lewis. In 1999, Shockey had left Lewis's staff to go to work for the lobbying firm.

To call the relationship between Lewis's staff and the lobbying firm a revolving door is to elevate revolving doors to a status to which they might be accustomed.

Well, it turns out that Jeff Shockey's wife Alexandra also donated to Boustany's 2004 campaign. Recall that Lewis's contributions to Boustany were part of his efforts to win commitments for votes that would make him chairman of the Appropriations Committee after the 2004 election. Letitia White helped raise money for Lewis and his PAC in order to make those contributions. Was her husband's contribution part of that effort? Was Alexandra Shockey's?

Government no longer works for regular people because our voices are drowned out by the power of contributions in expensive campaigns. Has 'one man, one vote' been replaced by 'one dollar, one vote'?

We report. You decide.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Boustany 'Doubles Up' In Emerging Lewis Scandal

In an earlier post, I mentioned that it was possible that Cholly Boustany had received contributions not only from Congressman Jerry Lewis, but also from the husband of former Lewis aide (now lobbyist) Letitia White, who has emerged as a person of interest in the investigation of corruption that first centered on Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham.

Well, it looks like Richard White (husband of Letitia White) is a contributor to Boustany as well as a player in the 'earmarks for contribution' scandal that started with Cunningham and has now ensnared Lewis.

In his 2004 campaign, it appears that Boustany doubled up on the Lewis camp! He got money from Lewis's PAC and he got money from Letitia White's husband during a time when Lewis was earmarking projects for White and battling other Republican Congressmen to become chairman of the House Appropriations committee.

Cholly Boustany: He's not corrupt; he's just drawn that way!

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Another Boustany Contributor/Colleague Under Criminal Investigation

Separate stories in Saturday's Los Angeles Times and the New York Times look at the growing federal criminal investigation that is focused on U.S. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Jerry Lewis of California. Like indicted former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, like convicted former Congressman Duke Cunningham, Lewis contributed to Charles Boustany's 2004 campaign for Congress.

The investigation into Lewis is linked to the Cunningham corruption probe and has elements of the Abramoff and DeLay scandals through the revolving door role of Lewis staffers who became lobbyists. It involves federal funding for specific projects (known as earmarks) in return for campaign contributions.

The investigation centers on ties between Lewis and his staff and the lobbying firm of former California Republican Congressman Bill Lowery, the man who Lewis succeeded in his congressional seat.

The Los Angeles Times reports that a federal grand jury is focusing its investigation on earmarks for projects in San Bernardino County, California. The county is a client of Lowery's firm:
A federal grand jury conducting a criminal investigation has subpoenaed San Bernardino County records related to a Washington lobbying firm with close ties to Rep. Jerry Lewis, chairman of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, according to federal documents.

Federal investigators are looking into the relationship between Lewis (R-Redlands) and a Washington lobbyist linked to disgraced former Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Rancho Santa Fe), three people familiar with the investigation told The Times last month. The city of Redlands also received a grand jury subpoena.

Investigators are said to be particularly interested in whether intermingling between Lewis' aides and lobbyist Bill Lowery's staff led to favorable treatment for Lowery's clients, sources told The Times. Lewis and Lowery have denied any wrongdoing.

The subpoena delivered to the county was issued "in connection with an official criminal investigation," according to a cover letter from the U.S. attorney's Public Corruption and Civil Rights Section in Los Angeles.

The investigation is part of a federal probe stemming from Cunningham's conviction for accepting $2.4 million in bribes and favors from defense contractors.

In the May 17 subpoena, obtained by The Times, the Los Angeles Grand Jury asks for e-mails, memoranda, contracts and other records regarding the county's decision to hire Lowery's firm — Copeland Lowery Jacquez Denton & White — as well as billing records and all other communications between the county and Lowery or members of his firm.

The grand jury also demanded "all documents relating to communications by and between you [San Bernardino County] and United States Rep. Jerry Lewis … and/or any member of his congressional or committee staff'' and "all documents relating to communications by and between CLJ [Copeland Lowery Jacquez Denton & White] and Lewis and/or any member of his congressional or committee staff."

The investigation is being conducted by the FBI, the IRS and the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, a federal prosecutor stated in a letter that accompanied the subpoena.
The New York Times story focuses on a partner in the lobbying firm who once worked for Lewis, Letitia Hoadley White:
WASHINGTON, June 2 — Letitia Hoadley White arrived on Capitol Hill 25 years ago as a 22-year-old receptionist with a bachelor's degree in fashion design, fresh from a job at Women's Wear Daily.

When her boss, Representative Jerry Lewis, Republican of California, assigned her to work with the appropriations committee in 1986, Ms. White found her calling: cramming spending bills with narrow provisions to finance lawmakers' pet projects. When she left the Hill three years ago, she quickly became K Street's queen of earmarks, as those provisions are known, landing tens of millions of federal dollars lobbying for her clients.

Now, Ms. White's success has drawn less welcome attention. Federal prosecutors are investigating whether Mr. Lewis and other lawmakers may have traded earmarks for illicit payments from lobbyists and contractors — an outgrowth of the bribery indictment of Randy Cunningham, a former congressman from California.

Speaking on condition of anonymity because the inquiry is continuing, federal officials who have been briefed on it say prosecutors are looking into Ms. White's ties to Mr. Lewis, her old boss, and to his friend Bill Lowery, a former California congressman who is now Ms. White's lobbying partner.

While working for Mr. Lewis, Ms. White helped direct several hundred million dollars in contracts to clients of Mr. Lowery's firm. The firm and its clients, meanwhile, accounted for more than a third of the $1.3 million Mr. Lewis's political action committee has raised since 2000.
The NYT reports that Ms. White worked to get Lewis elected chairman of the Appropriations Committee after the 2004 election by helping him raise money during that election cycle, which Lewis then gave to Republican candidates to win their allegiance for votes in the Republican caucus once the new Congress was elected.

Federal campaign finance records indicate that Lewis gave Boustany three separate $1,000 contributions in 2004. Those records also indicate that Ms. White's husband, Richard H. White, may have also contributed $1,000 to Boustany's 2004 campaign.

This is not to imply that Boustany has done anything wrong. But it does highlight the corrosive effect of the power of money in politics, particularly in the House of Representatives with its two-year election cycle.

Earmarking money for specific projects in return for contributions has became a hallmark of Republican majority rule in the House. It is even recognized by some members of the party as a form of corruption.

A possible solution for this would be to require public financing of campaigns and for broadcasters to allocate fixed amounts of time to candidates.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Boustany Franks Campaign Propaganda

Cholly Boustany has resorted to using his franking privilege as a Congressman to distribute campaign literature.

That's the inescapable conclusion given by the slick piece on alleged immigration reform that arrived in constituent mail boxes across Louisiana's Seventh Congressional District today.

The piece is indistinguishable from a campaign mailer, save for the absence of an overt Boustany plea for votes and his candidate number.

The address side contains a four-color photograph of a stop sign that reads: "STOP illegal immigration NOW!" It then claims that what follows on the flip side is "A report on border security and illegal immigration from Congressman Charles Boustany, Jr., MD."

What actually follows on the flip side is campaign blather about the House Republican agenda on immigration reform. Typically, it is misleading.

For instance, the flier claims that "Boustany helped pass the Border Protection, Anti-terrorism and Illegal Immigration Control Act to help better secure our borders and keep our nation safe." As anyone following the issue knows, the House version of this Republican grandstand on immigration reform is wholly incompatible with the version passed by Republicans (and some Democrats) in the U.S. Senate. Even many Republicans are doubtful that House and Senate Republicans can reach common ground on this legislation. Desperate for something to write home about, Cholly is claiming success just for having voted 'for' a bill. Talk about cheapening language!

Boustany is following the lead of Congressman Sensenbrenner and other Republicans who are hoping that some tough posturing on immigration might divert voter attention away from the broad range of failures that this Republican administration and this Republican Congress have inflicted on the American people.

Perhaps Boustany is hoping that this chest-beating about immigration hardball will make people in his district forget the failure of the federal government to provide timely and effective support for the victims of hurricane Rita.

Fat chance, Cholly!

But, this use of tax-payer dollars to covertly support his campaign is nothing new for Boustany. In fact over the past three years (2004, 2005 and 2006) Seventh District tax payers have footed the bill for a number of Boustany's campaign fund-raising events. Didn't know that? Well, you may recall that Vice President Dick Cheney has flown into the district on a number of occasions to attend fund raisers for Boustany.

In each event, local law enforcement agencies were required to provide security services for the vice president. Tens of thousands of local tax payer dollars on each trip used to enable Cheney to raise campaign money for Boustany.

So, using tax payer dollars to support his campaign is nothing new for Boustany. The use of congressional franking privileges, though, merely confirms the basic Republican tenant that government is their personal tool when they are in office.

Unable to make his Republican leaders take the hurricane recovery needs in his district seriously, Boustany is trying to change the subject.

Sorry, Cholly! The failure of the federal government to respond to genuine need in the wake of hurricane Rita in Southwest Louisiana is the unshakable, unspinnable reality that you are stuck with!