• No Sweat
  • Monday, February 27, 2006

    KATHERINE HARRIS: Corruption in Florida

    The latest in the long litany of corrupt Republicans is none other than the woman who stole 2000 for the Bush family and condemned America to the lousy leadership we currently have: Katherine Harris, former Florida Secretary of State, Congressional Rep. From FL-13, and current candidate for Senate. In addition to being at the center of the 2000 political fiasco, Katherine Harris is also caught up in the same Republican corruption that has brought down Randy Cunningham (R-CA) and Tom DeLay (R-TX) and which is threatening to bring down Bob Ney (R-OH).

    As reported in the Washington Post:

    Washington defense contractor Mitchell J. Wade admitted yesterday in federal court that he attempted to illegally influence Defense Department contracting officials and tried to curry favor with two House members, in addition to lavishing more than $1 million in cash, cars, a boat, antiques and other bribes on convicted Rep. Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.).

    The new admissions, including details that identify Reps. Virgil H. Goode Jr. (R-Va.) and Katherine Harris (R-Fla.) as recipients of illegal campaign contributions, are contained in Wade's agreement to plead guilty to four criminal charges stemming from his role in the Cunningham probe. The congressman resigned after pleading guilty in November to taking $2.4 million in bribes from Wade and others in return for steering federal funds and contracts their way…

    The member identifiable as Harris received $32,000 in illegal donations from Wade and his employees in 2004. Documents filed with Wade's plea say that he took Harris to dinner early last year, where they discussed the possibility of another fundraiser and the possibility of getting funding for a Navy counterintelligence program in the member's district. One source familiar with the inquiry said Harris made such a request for funding, but it was not granted.

    Will Katherine Harris follow Randy Cunningham’s lead and resign? Probably not. Needless to say, Jan Schneider, the once and future Democratic candidate for Harris’ FL-13 seat , is jumping on Harris’ corruption and making the Republican culture of corruption a focal point of her campaign. And rightly so! Democrats have to a.) distinguish themselves from the corruption of the Republicans, and b.) make Republican corruption a major issue in 2006.

    From Jan Schneider’s campaign:

    Overall, according to FEC records, in the 2004 election cycle, Harris appears to have received $50,000 from MZM. This includes $10,000 from the MZM PAC and an additional $40,000 from MZM employees (with 14 checks for $2,000 each written the same day, March 23, 2004). The employees later claimed that their individual contributions were coerced, but Harris declined to return them.

    But the corruption tainting the Harris race against Schneider runs far deeper. In 2004, Harris imported three members of Congress to assist in her campaigning and fundraising against Schneider: former Congressman Randy ("Duke") Cunningham, former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and suspect Congressman Bob Ney. The efforts of these individuals met with considerable success and were instrumental in helping her accumulate the $3.5 million warchest Harris spent against Schneider.

    1. Duke Cunningham. With great fanfare, Cunningham (R-CA) came to Sarasota to lend his name and prestige to Harris in a veterans' forum. Congressman Cunningham resigned after pleading guilty to fraud, conspiracy to commit bribery and tax evasion. In the charges against Cunningham, the man identified as "Co-conspirator #2" is none other than former defense contractor Wade.

    As already mentioned, in last the 2003-04 election cycle, Harris received $50,000 from MZM-related sources. Cunningham's own PAC kicked in another $1,000, bringing the total to $51,000.

    2. Tom DeLay. When Majority Leader DeLay (R-TX) was indicted on charges of violating election laws on September 28, 2005, Congresswoman Harris lost another key political ally. Harris was the keynote speaker at the 2002 fundraiser that is central to the charges, and that same day received a $1000 campaign contribution from the Executive Director of the sponsoring TRMPAC. Shortly thereafter Delay came to Sarasota for a fundraiser for Harris.

    In addition to the Delay fundraising help and $1,000 from the TRMPAC executive, Harris also received $20,000 from Americans for a Republican Majority. AMRPAC, another political action committee created by DeLay, gave Harris $10,000 for each of her 2002 and 2004 Congressional campaigns.

    3. Bob Ney...The third member of the trio, Ney (R-OH), also traveled to Florida, in September 2004, to support Harris. Ney has himself been scandal-ridden in recent months, including being embroiled in DeLay legal battles.

    On November 21, 2005, Michael Scanlon, a Washington lobbyist and former aide to Delay, pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit bribery. Court papers say he and another lobbyist, believed to be Jack Abramoff, bribed a number of public officials, including one identified as "Representative No. 1." Ney has admitted that this reference is to him. While Ney is still under investigation and has not yet been indicted, it is already clear that he received numerous favors from the Abramoff connection (including campaign contributions, lavish dinners at a restaurant owned by the lobbyist and a golfing trip to Scotland).

    Either Katherine Harris is a dumb pawn in the Republican game of looting America, or she is as corrupt as the already indicted DeLay and Cunningham.

    For more information on Tom DeLay’s corruption, click here and here.

    For more information on Randy Cunningham’s corruption, click here.

    For more information on Bob Ney’s corruption (as well as the corruption of Ohio’s Republican party in general), click here.

    Friday, February 17, 2006

    DEMOCRATIC CORRUPTION: I have to report on our own faults as well!

    In the past I have touched on the sad corruption in my own Brooklyn Democratic Party. Well, since then the head of this corrupt machine, Clarence Norman, was convicted on several corruption charges. That is progress. But the new head of the Brooklyn Democrats is Vito Lopez, who was a close ally of the now convicted Clarence Norman, is the new Democratic Party Boss for Brooklyn. Meet the new boss? Same as the old boss? According to Vito Lopez and his allies, Vito is untainted by corruption and will be a reformer. But, sad to say, this is not true. Vito Lopez is nothing more than a more organized version of Clarence Norman's corruption.

    Vito Lopez was an integral part of Clarence Norman’s corrupt machine, and together they did their best to ruin the career of reform-minded judge Margarita Lopez Torrez after Lopez Torres refused to appoint a crony of Vito Lopez.

    From New York Civic:

    Ironically, it was the actions of ex-Assemblyman and Brooklyn Democratic leader Clarence Norman, until his felony conviction in fall 2005, and Assemblyman Vito Lopez, his successor, that began the chain of circumstances that led to this decision. When Margarita Lopez-Torres was elected to a county-wide Civil Court in Brooklyn in 1993 on the recommendation of Vito Lopez, she rejected every job applicant sent to her by the county organization, including Mr. Lopez' daughter who sought employment as a law secretary. The payback for this defiance was the county's refusal to designate her for re-election when her term expired in 2003. She ran anyway, winning re-nomination in a sharply contested Democratic primary. The next year, she sought the county designation for Supreme Court Justice, which was decided by a judicial convention, not a primary. Predictably, the county organization turned her down although she was among the longest serving judges on the civil court.

    In the spring of 2005 the position of Surrogate suddenly became vacant when Justice Michael Feinberg was removed for corruption by the Court of Appeals, upholding the recommendation of the Commission on Judicial Conduct. You can find details of l'affaire Feinberg on our website; just google his name. The vacancy thus created came in time to be filled by a primary. Three candidates competed, and Judge Torres won by an extremely narrow margin, some 200 votes.

    And from the Daily News:

    Brooklyn's ex-boss, convicted felon Clarence Norman, and its new Dem boss, Assemblyman Vito Lopez, did their best to knock Lopez Torres out of a Civil Court position and to block her from a more powerful Supreme Court seat. To her credit, Lopez Torres kept running for Supreme Court and became the public face of reform…

    There's a good chance the state's party bosses will use Albany to recapture control of the judge-making machinery. (Four out of five of the city's Democratic county bosses, after all, are members of the Assembly.)

    That means reform-minded political clubs and ambitious but honest lawyers need to hit the streets and start campaigning for Supreme Court - this year, while the historic window of opportunity is still open.

    In addition to the cronyism that got Margarita Lopez Torrez in trouble with Vito Lopez, Vito has favored his girlfriend with lucrative development deal in 2004 and gave his girlfriend’s brother a judicial position. From Lambda Independent Democrats:

    The lengthy lead story in the Real Estate section [of the NY Times] credited Lopez with sparking a massive rebuilding effort in Bushwick, way back when he was a graduate student in 1971, and then carrying it through. The story also mentioned that Angela Battaglia's agency is the developer for a $20 million component of the rebuilding effort. It even pictured Lopez and Battaglia standing together in front of new housing construction. But the story omitted that Battaglia is Lopez's girlfriend. Does that connection at least deserve mention? Might the article have explained why there was or wasn't a conflict of interest present? Was it a coincidence that Lopez's girlfriend's outfit was put in charge of the $20 million deal? Inquiring minds would like to know. It may well be that everything was done on the up-and-up. But given Lopez's tendency to do favors for his friends-for example, he helped make his girlfriend's brother Jack Battaglia a Civil Court judge-the Times should have explored the question.

    And despite claims from Vito Lopez and his followers that the new boss is different from the old, not convicted, boss, so far Vito Lopez has been right there in the middle of the judicial corruption of the Norman machine.

    From the Daily News:
    Livin' la Vito Lopez

    Declaring that he saw no evil and heard no evil, former Brooklyn Democratic boss Clarence Norman says he can speak no evil about corruption among the borough's judges. He'll not be talking to District Attorney Charles Hynes anytime soon, so hopes for quick disinfection have faded for the moment.

    Just as dispiriting, party regulars chose as the convicted Norman's successor Assemblyman Vito Lopez, an old-time ward heeler from Bushwick who has never shown a zeal for reform until, gee whiz, now. He vows the party will consult a panel of learned men and women, such as Brooklyn Law School's dean, about picking quality judges.

    We've seen this movie before, and the ending stinks. Two years ago, Norman and party district leaders, Lopez included, pledged they would never support a candidate for a judgeship who had not been approved by an independent screening commission. This year, for the first time, the panel reviewed Civil Court candidates.

    And guess what? The party shoehorned two lawyers onto the bench without any screening. Kenny Sherman, son of district leader Roberta Sherman, will get a 10-year Civil Court term without so much as a primary. And Canarsie Assemblyman Frank Seddio was awarded an uncontested ballot line for Surrogate's Court. So much for quality control. So much for keeping your word.

    And Vito Lopez has his own legal problems. From the November, 25, 2005 NY Post via Judicial Accountability:

    Instead, say the activists, Lopez for years has shacked up in a Queens condo owned by his girlfriend, Planning Commissioner Angela Battaglia, who also happens to be executive director of a housing nonprofit Lopez founded.

    A spokesman confirmed that the district attorney had received the complaint, dated Oct. 24, but declined to say if an investigation has begun.

    Falsifying a voter-registration address is a felony…

    Property records show that the address where Lopez is registered to vote, 64 Conselyea St. in Williamsburg, is owned by a woman named Tillie Tarantino.

    Tarantino is executive director of the Swinging 60s Senior Center in Greenpoint, which is funded by a Lopez-backed nonprofit…

    Vito Lopez seems embroiled in corruption and cronyism on a level similar to the kind I rail at the Bush Administration and Republicans for. Considering Vito Lopez a reformer is similar to the Republicans declaring Tom DeLay’s replacement, John Boehner (R-Ohio), a reformer. It just isn’t true! I don’t believe apologists for Republican corruption and I refuse to believe apologists for Democratic corruption either. The Brooklyn Democrats are in desperate need of reform and Vito Lopez is NOT the person to do it except through his indictment for his own corruption.

    Saturday, February 04, 2006


    Well, the Republicans once again passed over the extremely corrupt Roy Blunt of Missouri for Tom DeLay's replacement, picking Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) instead. This is clear recognition that replacing one disgustingly corrupt Republican (Tom DeLay) with an even more disgustingly corrupt Republican (Roy Blunt) wasn't going to fly with the American people. Here is what I wrote earlier on Blunt and Boehner.

    Interestingly, Blunt and Boehner come from two of the states that, along with Kentucky, have the absolute most corrupt and immoral Republican state parties in the nation--Missouri and Ohio. Missouri has the many scandals of Roy Blunt and his son Matt Blunt. Ohio has the coingate scandal as well as others. These two states also have Republican governors who are among the most corrupt and unpopular in the nation from EITHER party. Why did the Republicans pick Representatives from these corrupt state parties as the top contenders to replace corrupt DeLay? It seems outright stupid.

    Blunt needs to be ousted and prosecuted for his corruption. But what about Boehner?

    It seems that Boehner is no change from the Tom DeLay era of corruption. His appointment, though not as bad as the even more corrupt Blunt would have been, is merely Republican business as usual.

    Here is information from Public Campaign:

    Like Tom DeLay, John Boehner has close ties to K Street
    Boehner played a key role in Tom DeLay's vaunted "K Street Project" to encourage lobbying firms to hire Republicans. In fact, beginning soon after the GOP took control of Congress in 1995, Boehner held weekly meetings with about a dozen of the most powerful lobbyists in the speaker’s suite in the Capitol. "He was a policy traffic cop for the business community,” said a colleague of Boehner’s of his role as chairman of the GOP conference. “He … translated business outreach into votes.”1 Across the span of his career, Boehner has raised nearly 95% of his money from business interests.

    Like Tom DeLay [and, I would add, like Roy Blunt], John Boehner raises money from the industries he regulates
    Special interest groups and lobbyists have two paths by which to try to influence John Boehner: his campaign account and his leadership PAC, the Freedom Project.

    Boehner chairs the powerful Committee on Education and the Workforce, which has jurisdiction over minimum wage, worker safety and compensation, and employee protections, as well as student loan policy. Boehner also serves as vice chair of the powerful Committee on Agriculture, which has jurisdiction over a broad range of agribusiness including the tobacco industry. From student loans to tobacco, Boehner has favored special interests over the public interest.

    Boehner’s 10th highest contributor over the span of his career is tobacco giant RJR Nabisco/RJ Reynolds Tobacco. The cigarette manufacturer is also a consistent and generous donor to Boehner’s Freedom Project leadership PAC. Some argue that Boehner and other Republican leaders reneged on a promise to introduce legislation in 1998 to prevent children from smoking after they received large contributions from tobacco industry PACs. John Boehner (R-OH) took $10,800 from the tobacco industry during that cycle. At the time, the average contribution from the tobacco industry to Boehner and other members of the Republican leadership was $12,700, over five times more than the average House member's $2,360.2 In 1996, Boehner came under fire for distributing campaign checks from tobacco interests to colleagues on the House floor.

    Last year, Rep. Boehner supported legislation that would benefit banks that make student loans and increase payments for millions of students. Between 2003 and 2004, banks and other institutions that provide loans to students donated nearly $60,000 to Boehner and nearly $70,000 to his leadership PAC, the Freedom Project.3

    Like Tom DeLay, John Boehner Curries Favor with fellow Republicans
    Of the $8.7 million he has raised in his congressional career, John Boehner has donated $2.7 million to Republican colleagues and candidates since 1998, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. "Money talks, and John is listened to," said Rep. Bob Ney (R-OH) who is himself embroiled in the Abramoff scandal.4

    Like Tom DeLay, Boehner Likes to Travel on the Dime of Special Interests
    A group of Washington lobbyists led by Richard Kessler under the umbrella of the Ripon Educational Fund and the Ripon Society has spent millions of dollars taking lawmakers to European capitals and U.S. resorts, thereby skirting congressional ethics rules that forbid registered lobbyists from paying for congressional travel. John Boehner took two trips costing a total of at least $13,920.5

    Like Tom DeLay, Boehner has Connections to the Abramoff Scandal
    John Boehner received $32,500 in political contributions from Indian tribes represented by fallen lobbyist Jack Abramoff, placing him in the top tier of lawmakers who got donations from the lobbyist or his clients. Only 12 other members of Congress raked in more money than Boehner.6

    Boehner votes with Tom DeLay
    John Boehner voted with Tom DeLay 96% of the time between 1991 and 2005.7

    1) The Hill, Oct 6, 2005..

    2) Public Citizen

    3) Center for Responsive Politics.

    4) Associated Press, June 26, 2000.

    5) Public Citizen report, January 23, 2006.

    6) Center for Responsive Politics, The Cincinnati Post, January 5, 2006,


    Clearly the Republicans don't get it. America should NOT be about corruption. Americans don't LIKE the corruption of the Halliburton Republicans. Americans are getting tired of the Greedy Old Party. Why are Republicans so soft on corruption? Why do they seem to favor their MOST corrupt members rather than force them into line?

    Write the media and complain about the Republican culture of corruption and their failure to realize that America hates corruption.