Archive for ‘Chris Dodd’

August 8, 2009

3d Loser Award: Lawrence O’Donnell

by Smitty (h/t Hot Air)

This blog hasn’t given out a 3-D Loser Award in a while.Then again, Lawrence O’Donnells don’t just grow on trees–the whole forest would die.

Possibly, the Argument Clinic is the only boondoggle that didn’t make the Longevity Abatement Legislation. Yet.

August 1, 2009

Dodd-Gate and IG-Gate: The Connection

OK, Byron York ate my lunch on IG-Gate Friday, so I was calling Hill sources trying to scare up a break. Called one source to ask him about the Justice Department angle York was looking at.

“Have you seen York’s column?”
“Sorry, but it’s been all Countrywide all day up here.”
“Ah, our old friend Senator Dodd!”
“Yeah, it’s been crazy.”

Michelle Malkin devotes her latest column to Chris Dodd and the Countrywide VIP scandal, and she joins Instapundit in linking to an AP story about House Democrats refusing to investigate:

Rep. Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said he has other work to do on the causes of and fixes for the financial crisis and will not interfere with other investigations of the VIP loans.

And here we see how the Dodd-bone is connected to the IG-bone, as it were. For weeks, Republican sources on the IG-Gate story have been suggesting that Democrats on the Hill are less interested in finding the truth than in playing P.R. games. The American Spectator July 14:

Investigations of the inspector general firings are “moving forward in a bipartisan fashion,” I was told . . . in separate face-to-face meetings with both Democrat and Republican staffers on Capitol Hill. The Democrat said it with apparent sincerity, while the Republican’s repeated the same words with transparent irony.
Exactly how “bipartisan” are these investigations? Republicans remain skeptical of Democratic sincerity. Some telephone interviews with key witnesses have been scheduled as bipartisan conference calls. Sometimes Democratic investigators are on the call; other times, they’re no-shows.

The same theme was repeated in my July 21 report at the Hot Air Green Room:

Behind closed doors on Capitol Hill last week, I asked a Republican source about the investigative efforts of Democratic staffers for the House Oversight Committee.
“Honestly?” the source said. “They’re useless.”
More than three weeks have passed since Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.) joined the committee’s ranking Republican, California Rep. Darrell Issa, to launch an investigation into the case of former Amtrak inspector general Fred Wiederhold Jr. . . .
Despite the “grave concerns” expressed by Towns and Issa three weeks ago, however, Republican sources on Capitol Hill have complained that Democratic staffers on the Oversight Committee have not shown much zeal for the investigation.

This is all very delicate business. Democratic chairmen control every committee in Congress now, and nothing is going to happen in terms of hearings and subpoenas until the Democrats say so. Therefore, the Republican minority, both staffers and members, don’t want to alienate the majority by making direct, public accusations of mala fides.

A couple of weeks ago one GOP staffer breached that protocol in an interview with The Hill about the Bank of America/Merrill Lynch merger investigation:

“You would think that the majority would be just as vested as we are at exposing who knew what and when,” said Kurt Bardella, spokesman for committee Republicans. “What exactly is the majority afraid we’ll find?”

Obviously, the spokesman wouldn’t have fired that kind of hard shot without authorization from Issa, which gives you an idea of how intensely frustrated Republicans on the Hill are about this clear pattern of non-cooperation. So now let’s go back to Larry Margasak’s AP story about Dodd and Countrywide:

The senior Republican on Towns’ committee, California Rep. Darrell Issa, has been trying for months to get Towns to subpoena Bank of America for Countrywide’s records. He said in an interview with The Associated Press that he asked Towns again this week to issue the subpoena. . . .
Daniel Frahm, a Bank of America spokesman, said the bank is ready to turn over the Countrywide VIP documents if it receives a subpoena. The bank’s lawyer sent Issa the same message in a June letter.
“They have it packed and ready to go,” Issa said in the interview.

Early into my reporting on IG-Gate, a source told me that it’s important to ask the right questions. OK, so back to the Walpin investigation. As I reported last week, Republican investigators on the AmeriCorps firing are curious about what role pressure from Rep. Doris Matsui (D-Calif.) played in the events that led to the firing of IG Gerald Walpin.

California blogger Eric Hogue brought attention to a March interview in which Matsui vowed that the St. HOPE Academy scandal involving Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson wouldn’t prevent Sacramento from getting its share of “stimulus” money. Gerald Walpin told me Tuesday that he’s curious about the Matsui connection, too. (So far, I’ve been unable to get a response from Matsui’s people.)

The questions now being asked on Capitol Hill have taken an interesting turn, as Byron York’s column in the Examiner makes clear:

Within days of Matsui’s [March] statement, a settlement was reached. Johnson was unsuspended, and in a particularly unusual move, acting U.S. Attorney [Lawrence] Brown issued a press release hailing the arrival of stimulus funds. “The lifting of the suspension against all parties, including Mayor Johnson, removes any cloud whether the City of Sacramento will be prevented form receiving much-needed federal stimulus funds,” Brown wrote.
Republicans on the Judiciary Committee want to know why a U.S. attorney was touting his own actions in bringing stimulus money to the city. That’s not the normal role of prosecutors. “We need to hear whether the settlement in this case was tainted in any way by political influence or political factors,” says the senior Republican aide.
So far, Brown has refused to answer any questions. In June, Rep. Darrell Issa, the ranking Republican on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, sent a list of 20 questions to Brown and received no response. A follow-up in July was similarly ignored. “Your unwillingness to be cooperative with our investigation raises further questions about your role in this matter,” Issa wrote Brown.

Ah, so here we are back to Issa again, you see? Issa says Brown is not cooperating on the AmeriCorps probe. Issa also says that the committee chairman, Towns, is not cooperating on the Countrywide probe.

So there’s a whole lot of non-cooperation going on — not all of it involving Issa or these two particular investigations — and the question that intrigues me is whether all this non-cooperation is merely a coincidence. We must resist the urge to slide into connect-the-dots DKos “question-the-timing” mode. But if there’s no evidence that there is a cover-up or a conspiracy at work here, it’s sure as heck starting to look like a pattern.

Lots of questions, as York says, and you should definitely read his entire column. As Dan Riehl said today, York is “is doing some terrific work for The Examiner. Best hire they’ve made since I’ve been looking in.” And I agree completely. The healthy competition on this story — Jake Tapper of ABC and Ed O’Keefe of The Washington Post have also done excellent reporting on IG-Gate — is something that folks on the Hill very much want to encourage. The more media, the merrier, as far as they’re concerned.

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t give full credit to Michelle Malkin, whose June 17 column on the Walpin case got me paying attention to the IG-Gate “dominoes.” And she is, after all, the author of the Best. Book. Evah!

When you’re working a competitive story like this and another guy eats your lunch, you can’t pretend you just accidentally misplaced your brown bag. So I hope you enjoyed that sandwich, Byron.

However, I don’t aim to be missing too many meals in the future. I’ve recently finished a 3,000-word article about IG-Gate for the September print edition of The American Spectator (subscribe now), and I just outlined to Mrs. Other McCain my plan for The Mother Of All Shoe-Leather Trips to D.C., so I can work the Hill for several days in a row.

Readers, please hit the tip jar, and be sure to see all the updated links at Bob Belvedere’s IG-GATE BLOG.

July 20, 2009

IG-Gate: Behind Closed Doors

From my latest report at The American Spectator:

Those familiar with the investigations caution against “playing connect-the-dots” with these three distinct cases. However, some informed Republican sources are beginning to call attention to other evidence of a concerted effort to blindfold, muzzle or neuter watchdogs — especially those who dare to growl at Democrats.
Why, for instance, did Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.) rush through the House a bill that would give President Obama power to hire or dismiss five inspectors general — including the IG for the Securities and Exchange Commission — who under existing law report to the agency heads?
The IGs themselves have protested against the Larson bill, which has yet to be debated in the Senate, and it has not escaped notice on Capitol Hill that Larson is a prominent “Friend of Chris.” That would be Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.), chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. Dodd is under intense scrutiny for a number of shady-looking activities — “Chris Dodd Update” has become a regular feature at Professor Glenn Reynolds’ popular Instapundit blog — and Dodd is also facing a tough re-election bid next year.
No one on the Hill has yet directly suggested that the Larson bill — which could effectively muzzle watchdogs at five federal financial agencies — was specifically intended as assistance to the embattled chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. But as liberal bloggers used to say about the Bush administration’s activities, some Republicans have begun to “question the timing.” . . .

There’s lots more juicy goodness where that came from — today’s article is more than 1,400 words — so please read the whole thing.

I’m very grateful to those loyal readers who have helped fund my trips to Capitol Hill by hitting the tip jar. There are some things that can be accomplished only by the skilled application of shoe leather, such as accidently walking into the wrong office — but there are no accidents.

By the way, something I omitted from the “citizen-journalist” account of my Friday trip. After I missed my lunch appointment because of the Tourist Drivers Damned to the Fiery Pit of Hell, I found myself with time to kill because the next person I was supposed to meet was (of course) caught in tourist-infested traffic. Noticing the grody condition of my shoes, and observing the nearby location of a shoeshine stand, I decided to indulge myself: $7 for a shoeshine while I read the newspaper and tried to relax.

The cheerful gentleman did such a thoroughly professional job that when he was done, I handed him $10 and said, “Keep the change.” A foolish indulgence. Little did I suspect, however, that a few minutes earlier, a homeschooling mom had hit my tip jar with . . . $10.

Coincidence? Right. Somebody ask The Anchoress who she was linking Sept. 24, and why.

PREVIOUSLY AT THE SPECTATOR:

July 15, 2009

IG-Gate: Whispers of hints of shadows

Ever been in one of those situations where you don’t know exactly what’s going on, but somebody’s hinting that something’s going on?

Read every word of this.

The subject was raised in an indirect sort of way. I just jotted down some notes and didn’t think too much about it. But my drive home from D.C. is more than an hour long, and as I mentally rehearsed what I’d seen and heard . . . Well, what was that about?

Maybe it was nothing. But maybe it was something. I’m trying to stay calm. Don’t try to predict the future.

Shoe leather is an amazing journalistic resource. This is the kind of reporting that gets the blood pumping. Because of unexpected complications in my itinerary, I didn’t park my car at Union Station until 4:09 p.m., but after I got through on the Hill, I was whistling a happy tune while I walked back down First Avenue, re-entering the marble lobby of the station at 6:37 p.m., as my meticulous notes show.

From the start: Tourists were still standing in line for a chance to get into the Sotomayor hearings, and I’d left my cell phone in the car. “Deep Cleavage” hadn’t returned my calls, and nobody was expecting my arrival on the Hill. It was pleasantly sunny but not hot, and the biggest hassle I had was having to empty my pockets and remove my belt — the buckle sets off the metal detectors — to enter the different congressional office buildings.

“The Other McCain,” said the receptionist, becoming accustomed to my unannounced arrivals. X is on vacation. Hmmm. What about X’s Deputy, Y? Not in. Well, how about Z?

I’m sitting on the sofa and, on the lobby TV, Lindsay Graham is applying a flamethrower to Sotomayor, trying to produce that “meltdown” he’d previously suggested was so unlikely. Get ’em, Goober! I’m almost willing to take back some of those homophobic slurs . . .

Good news! The receptionist says that Z will be there momentarily. Z is “Deep Cleavage.” We had never previously met but are already becoming . . . eh, bosom buddies. Z arrives and, as we make our way down the elevator to the basement cafeteria, this unexpected subject arises.

It must have been important, otherwise I wouldn’t have a full page of notes about it. But it wasn’t what I came to ask about. Deep Cleavage raises the subject and discusses it at some length before I even get a chance to start asking questions.

At the time, however, it didn’t register. We were both in somewhat of a hurry. I had other people to see, and Deep Cleavage had a 5 o’clock conference call. It seemed like we talked for 45 minutes but since I didn’t even go through the metal detectors until 4:25 p.m. — meticulous notes, you see — it couldn’t have been that long.

Au revoir, Deep Cleavage, and off I go. Another office, another TV screen with Sotomayor hearings. The person I came to see is not in, but the deputy is available. OK. Actually, much better than OK. Introduction to a staffer who is eager (!) to help. All the charm I can muster is employed in a quick chat in the hallway and I take my leave with a courtly bow. This could become a very important source.

Quickly cutting across the Capitol grounds toward Independence Avenue. The woman walking across from the other side of the avenue is talking on a cell phone, but looks up. “Excuse me, ma’am, but which one is [name of office building]?” She points to the building.

When I get there, neither the communication director nor the press secretary is in the office. The receptionist — actually, “staff assistant” is her title — isn’t exactly eager to help. It’s past 5:30 now, she’s running out the clock, and she doesn’t know me from Adam’s housecat.

Ah, but there is more than one way to skin Adam’s housecat and, with the help of directions from an older gentleman, I’m on my way through an underground tunnel to another office building.

In the tunnel, I encounter a cluster of young aides. Obviously, Republicans. The girls are too pretty to be Democrats. Turns out they’re Georgians and blonde Shannon, who just finished her junior year at UGA, went to Lassiter High. Ah, once dated a girl from Lassiter, and another one at Sprayberry, but that redhead from North Cobb — her backyard was the 10th tee at the country club and . . .

The Georgians think I’m joking (I’m not) and they razz me when I start humming the University of Alabama fight song. This is fine amusement as we’re walking through the tunnel.

Reaching my destination, I connect with my source of last resort. We’re talking in the office vestibule when the Congressman, his wife and children pass through. My source doesn’t want to trouble the boss, but I know the magic.

“Congressman!” And immediately I’m shaking hands and schmoozing it up, making sure to praise the excellent services peformed by the congressman’s staffer, my source.

The congressman and family exit and, as soon as the door closes behind them, I high-five my source. That, my friend, is how it’s done: Impose yourself. They’re public servants, right? Well, I’m the freaking public.

Explain to the source who it is that I need to get direct contact with. We briefly discuss — of all people — Conor Friedersdorf, whose satire of my methods was both funny and accurate. If only I’d remembered to bring my pink camera . . .

Assured that I’ll be contacted by the person I need to talk to, I’m ready for the return trip. I ride down the elevator with a recently-elected Democratic member of Congress. I cut back across the Capitol grounds and a few minutes later, as I cross the intersection of First and C, I’m jazz-whistling “Georgia On My Mind.” The policeman on the corner says, “That’s something you don’t see anymore — people whistling while they walk.”

No, you sure don’t, I answer. What I don’t say is that you also don’t see reporters take their leave with a courtly bow. A sense of history — an evocative name — now occupies my mind, and I find myself switching the tune to “Shenandoah” as I cross past the Columbus monument toward Union Station. In a few days, there will be a major deadline, but this is far from my thoughts.

I’m going to beat you today — and didn’t I?

A 150-mile round-trip drive, 2 hours and 28 minutes on the Hill, and I’ve got notes for my next article, as well as a quick blog post at AmSpec, plus promises of connections to more sources in coming days. No sir, you can’t beat shoe leather, and it’s good for the soul.

Quick shout-out to Obi’s Sister, Dan Collins, The Rhetorican and WWU-AM/Camp of the Saints, and this from Jimmie Bise:

So, keep the faith, folks. We may well get that accountability and transparency Barack Obama promised us yet, no matter how hard he fights to break that promise.

Ah, Jimmie, my boy! When will you be back in DC? Check your schedule for Friday. What tales I have to tell, and what new friends you must meet. Y’all be sure and hit the tip jar — another courtly bow, and good-night!

February 22, 2009

Draft Schiff movement grows

Look at this “Draft Schiff” site, trying to recruit financial expert Peter Schiff as a Republican challenger to Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Corrupt) in 2010. Via Eric Dondero at Libertarian Republican, who’s been following the Connecticut drumbeats.

This phenomenon, I would suggest, is why some hawks in the GOP were wrong to diss the Ron Paul movement as harshly as they did. Paul was always solid on economic issues — much better than John McCain from a free-market perspective (or any other perspective, for that matter).

The Paulistas are jazzed on Schiff, and if you can knock out a Democratic kingpin like Dodd with a free-market guy like Schiff, anything else is gravy, baby. Crazy? It’s exactly crazy enough to work. Shiff was one of the first to predict the collapse of the bubble, and now he’s predicting the “stimulus” will lead to economic disaster.

Can you say, “libertarian populism“? Tea Party U.S.A.? With Congress pissing away borrowed money like there’s no tomorrow, now is the time to fire up that hard-core Spirit of ’94 message. If you want to argue foreign policy, fine — let’s do that after we return Chris Dodd to the private sector.