Thursday, March 30, 2006

Sweeney out? Treadwell in?

Elizabeth Benjamin at the Albany Times Union reports today:

Speculation has mounted over the past week regarding U.S. Rep. John Sweeney’s future. Rumors are flying that the Clifton Park Republican might not seek re-election this fall.

Between his health, his son’s guilty plea to assault charges, a serious Democratic challenger, the DOJ pulling his financial filings and the Congressional Winter Challenge uproar, Sweeney is under a lot of stress and has been for awhile.

Sweeney's health problems have undermined his ability to perform his job all of this year. News of his wife's ethically challenged sweet deal skimming 10% off his campaign contribtions, his son's behavioral problems, Sweeney's ski junkets, close personal relationships with lobbyists, the DOJ investigating his personal finances, and the policcy failures of he and his Republican colleagues in Washington have dominated the news the last several months as Democratic challenger Kirsten Gillibrand has caused Sweeney further concern with the strongest challenge he has ever faced to his role as the Washington Republican establishments representative to upstate New York.

Asked whether her boss intends to remain in the race, Melissa Carlson, Sweeney’s deputy chief of staff, responded:

"Congressman Sweeney has never backed away from a challenge.

At this point, his priorities are taking care of his health, serving his constituents and doing his job. When the time is right, he will make an official announcement."



Alexander "Sandy" Treadwell, former state Republican chairman and current national committeeman had previously been rumored to be considering a primary challenge to Sweeney.

An ally of Gov. George Pataki, Treadwell has been eyeing the 20th CD for some time, and has made no secret of his desire to run for congress. Sweeney and Pataki have been on the outs with each other for sometime as the New York State Republican party has fragmented under the pressure of their two overly ambitious ego's.

Sweeney has long been known to have little interest in his current role as the Bush-DeLay representative to the 20th district. He has had his eye on Pataki's job for awhile but failed to prepare in time for this years election. Are his health problems serious enough to cause him to join his friends lobbying on Washington's K-Street?

More will be revealed....

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Kirsten Gillibrand and Ethics in Congress

It's been a really busy time for me the last few months and I've been remiss in letting folks know about the really fantastic candidate running for office in my congressional district. Her name is Kirsten Gillibrand and she is exactly the kind of Democrat we want to send to Washington.

Two weeks ago Kirsten made a pledge to all the people of New York's 20th Congressional District. This pledge goes far beyond an currently proposed standards or reforms. It is her statement of the kind of congresswoman she will be if elected.

I want to share this with you and then ask for your help in getting Kirsten elected.

"I am gravely concerned by the abuse of power that has taken root in Washington" said Gillibrand. "After months of discussion, Congress has still not acted to pass legislation that will end the culture of corruption. That is wrong –we have had enough of all the special interest deals that are paid for out of the pockets of the taxpayers here at home. I want to repair the damage that has been done to our country, and bring accountability back to our government.

"The ethics scandals raging in Washington have shown all of us what corruption looks like. I want to change all of that. With some common sense actions, we can return to our great tradition of open democratic debate and get our country back on the right track. My ethics I.O.U. outlines what we must do to put an end the pay to play culture in Washington."

"This is my Pledge to the voters of the 20th district: I will be accountable and accessible during my campaign, and when elected to Congress," said Gillibrand.


Ethics IOU
To the Residents of New York's 20th Congressional District:

Like you, I am gravely concerned by the culture of corruption that has taken root among our elected officials. I am troubled by the special interest deals that are paid for out of the pockets of taxpayers here at home. I'm running for Congress to stop the damage that is being done to our country, and bring accountability back to our government.

The good news is that with some common sense actions, we can return to our great tradition of open democratic debate and start to put our country back on the right track.

This IOU outlines the changes we must make. It is my written, signed commitment to you of the kind of representation you can expect from me.

It's Our Understanding:

I WILL WORK TO ESTABLISH A PERMANENT, INDEPENDENT ETHICS COUNCIL: I will support the creation of a non-partisan council that will provide oversight and investigation into the dealings of Members in the House.

I WILL REPORT ALL MEETINGS I HAVE WITH LOBBYISTS: I will disclose any meetings that I have lobbyists and what was discussed.

I WILL NOT HELP MEMBERS CASH IN: No member of Congress that I have served with who becomes a lobbyist will be allowed to lobby me or my staff on any issue after that member has left Congress.

I WILL NOT HELP LOBBYISTS CASH IN: No former member of my staff who becomes a lobbyist will be allowed to lobby me or my staff on any issue after they have left my employment.

I WILL NOT GIVE SPECIAL FAVORS TO FAMILY MEMBERS: No direct relation to me or any member of my staff who is a lobbyist will be allowed to lobby me or my staff.

I WILL NOT HAVE FAMILY MEMBERS ON PAYROLL: No family member of mine or any of my staff members will be on my congressional or campaign payroll. There will be no "slush funds" to pay family members.

I WILL NOT TAKE PRIVATELY FUNDED TRIPS: I will not accept any privately funded trips paid for by lobbyists or lobbyist's charities. If I take a campaign-related trip, the campaign will pay for it. If I take an official trip, my Congressional office will pay for it. If I take a vacation, I will pay for it.

I WILL NOT TAKE LOBBYIST GIFTS: I will not accept gifts from any lobbyist. My staff will not accept such gifts either.

I WILL BE ACCOUNTABLE AND ACCESSIBLE: I will be accessible to everyone regardless of party, location in the district, or position. I will hold monthly open meetings during the campaign and when elected.

Kirsten E. Gillibrand
Candidate for Representative to the United States Congress - NY 20


I have had the pleasure of knowing Kirsten for 2 years now. These are not just words. This is the basic sort of sense of right and wrong behavior that she brings to the table.

Following up on this pledge she gave her first "Sunshine" report:

Kirsten's Sunshine Report
Meetings with lobbyists this filing period:
National Organization for Women, 3/9/2006 in Washington, D.C.

Meeting Attendees:
§ Melody Dranch (Not a lobbyist; meeting organizer)
§ Pat Reuss, lobbyist

Subject of the meeting:
To discuss the possibility of an endorsement for Kirsten’s candidacy.

*** Note ***
Two gentlemen claiming to be from the lobbying firm McKinley and Quinn dropped by a reception held for Kirsten on Wednesday, March 9th. They gave no money and had no real conversations with anyone, and McKinley and Quinn have no one by the name "Ray" and "Mike" who work there. Since our guests did not sign in or provide last names we are not able to tell you more about them.


And now the "ask"...

Actually, two asks. You have no doubt heard about Sen. Russ Feingold's Progressive Patriots Fund and hopefully about the "Pick a Progressive Patriot" contest he is holding.

Please click the link and vote for Kirsten Gillibrand (click this link to read more about her and the other candidates - they are all good one's).

The Gillibrand for Congress campaign, in the finest Dean tradition, has also started an internet fund raising campaign. Rather than the Dean baseball bat they have decided to go with a March Madness basketball theme. Works for me. I hope it works for you as well.

As you'll see in the link for the 20th CD that I provided at the beginning of all this John Sweeney gets about 40% of his money from PAC's. I haven't done the math but he easily gets more than another 10% from lobbyists. Kirsten's contributions are coming from us, regular people. 97% of her total contributions have come from individuals.

Please consider contributing a few dollars to electing Kirsten Gillibrand. Her opponent is the sort of politician we want gone from Washington and Kirsten is the sort that understands a Representatives job is to represent the people not the corporations and their lobbyists. If you have lots of cash to burn please send it our way this is a very winnable race in a district that is not an easy one for a Democrat. If you only have $10 spare dollars that's ok too. Small contributions from regular everyday American citizens are the best kind.

< Sally Struthers >Won't you please help? Won't you please help poor little ol' me to have a representative that actually represents me?< / Sally Struthers >

Monday, March 13, 2006

Is there something you're not telling us John Sweeney?

Talking Points Memo reports that according to today's Roll Call (subscription only) the United States Department of Justice began investigating Rep. John Sweeney's financial disclosures last summer. Sweeney was named along with several other congressmen and their staff as being of interest to the DOJ. Many of the names are associated with the Jack Abramoff bribery and corruption scandal that is currently taking down many congressmen, their staffs, and various lobbyists and firms. It is unclear whether the investigation into Sweeney was related to the Abramoff scandal or some other investigation.

Is there something you aren't telling us John?

According to Roll Call:
The Justice Department pulled the personal financial records of at least nine Members of Congress and at least seven former staffers last summer and fall, many of whom have been identified publicly as having links to ex-lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

In a stretch running from June to October, a pair of aides at Justice examined the financial disclosure forms of Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.), Reps. Tom DeLay (R-Texas), John Doolittle (R-Calif.) and Bob Ney (R-Ohio), as well as ex-staffers for three of those lawmakers, according to House and Senate records.


These names are not unexpected as it is widely known that these four men are unlikely to return to Congress due to their unethical and apparently illegal actions.

Roll Call says further:
While Justice officials declined to comment, many of the financial searches appear to be connected to the continuing two-year probe of Abramoff’s dealings on Capitol Hill and with the Bush administration. In addition, the agency looked over the financial records of several lawmakers who have had no public connection to the investigation: Reps. Jim McDermott (D-Wash.), Earl Pomeroy (D-N.D.), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) and John Sweeney (R-N.Y.), as well as Del. Eni Faleomavaega (D-American Samoa).

Aides to most of those lawmakers denied their bosses had any connection to the Abramoff probe, suggesting Justice must have been pulling their records for some other, unrelated reasons.


Skiing with lobbyists John? Not too bright but not necessarily illegal all by itself. Is there more to the story John? Why is the DOJ interested in your financial records? Is there more to the story then the massive campaign contributions you receive from corporate PAC's and their lobbyists? Is there "other money" involved too?

Full disclosure is the way to go John. It's good for the soul, the moral and ethical thing to do.

We already know you have received funds from several lobbyists at "the firm Alexander Strategy Group, which was run by DeLay’s former chief of staff, Ed Buckham, a close ally of Abramoff’s," as well as from Ed Buckham himself.

Hmmm... interestingly enough that was during the time frame that the DOJ was doing it's investigation too. Hmmmmm.

Up until now there was no evidence or indications that you were implicated in any of the many on-going Republicans scandals on the Hill (Abramoff, DeLay, Cunningham, Doolittle, Ney, Burns, Libby, Rove, Harris, Pombo, take your pick) but the Department of Justice is obviously interested in something. You gotta wonder now.

Say it ain't so John. Say it ain't so.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Secret Prosecution; Secret Judicial Decisions; Illegal Surveillance

Late last night I posted Regarding a note I had received from a lawyer involved in a local "terrorism" (entrapment) case. I am reposting it here along with additional information from today's New York Times article.

Information on part of the argument that was denied can be found here.

Background information on the case can be found here.

The original diary and additional commentary below the fold....

A note from a friend involved in a local case challenging NSA spying was waiting for me when I got home tonight:

When I got back to my office after lunch today, I found out the government had submitted their "response" to our wiretap motion - it said, in its entirety: "classified." Their entire legal memo was classified! I got a call from the NYCLU immediately, and spoke to Corey Stoughten, who said this is completely unprecedented and wrong and illegal. So then we were talking about objecting to it, etc, and THEN the order came in from Judge McAvoy summarily denying the whole motion! No hearing, no amicus, no reply, NOTHING! AND the actual order was classified!! Terry wasn't there and then I had to leave, but I just spoke to him on the phone. He said the NYT already called him and he told them what happened. He definitely wants to fight this very strongly - it's just so insane that it's hard to know exactly what to do next. But we want to let people know. At this point any ideas would be appreciated. Thanks, Kathy"


More information on the case can be found in some of my old posts here at The 10,000 Things.

More to come....

Peace,

Andrew

Update: Just received a copy of the order. All that is known of the governments legel memo is the one word...

classified

The Judge's decision:
United States District Court
Northern District of New York

United States of America
vs
Yassin Aref and
Mohammad Hossain

Crim No. 04-CR-402
(Hon. Thomas J. McAvoy)

Mar 10 2006
Lawrence K. Baerman, Clerk
Albany

Order Denying Defendants' Motion for Reconsideration

THIS MATTER is before the court pursuant to Defendants' Motion for Reconsideration seeking orders suppressing all evidence as tainted by illegal electronic surveillance, dismissing the indictment, and directing the government to affirm or deny the existence of electronic surveillance pursuant to 18 U.S.C. 3504.

In response to Defenants' Motion, the government filed, on March 10, 2006, its in camera, ex parte classified response.

Having considered the government's submission and entered a classified Order on it, it is hereby

ORDERED that the defendants' motion for reconsideration is denied.

ENTERED at Albany, New York this 10th day of March 2006.

Thomas J. McAvoy
The Honorable Thomas J. McAvoy
United States District Judge
Northern District of New York

cc: U.S. Attorney's Office
Defense Counsel



I am told that the defense attorney's and most likely the NYCLU will definitely be appealing this decision. What shape that will take is unclear. The defense attorney has security clearance yet not only has he not been allowed to see much of the evidence in the case he has not been allowed to see the governments argument against his motion to dimiss nor even the logic and reasoning involved in the Judge's decision to deny his motion.

How do you build a case to appeal a decision you can't read based on an argument you haven't seen?

The government is essentially arguing:

1. that they have proof that a crime was committed... but you can't see it.

2. that the evidence against the defendant was obtained through a secret program... but you can't be allowed to know how.

3. that the secret program was legal... but you can't be allowed to see the argument defending it's legality nor can you be allowed to see the decision of the Judge deciding that the unseen argument is sound.

4. that the defendants are guilty as charged and are not allowed to confront the evidence against them.

The governments case is the "trust me baby" argument.

Despite all evidence that the governments domestic spying is completely and totally illegal and unconstitutional the government states that it is not... so there!

Bill of Rights? Bill'o'schmites!

Friday, March 10, 2006

Fascism grows in the dark of our current government

A note from a friend involved in a local case challenging NSA spying was waiting for me when I got home tonight:

When I got back to my office after lunch today, I found out the government had submitted their "response" to our wiretap motion - it said, in its entirety:  "classified." Their entire legal memo was classified! I got a call from the NYCLU immediately, and spoke to [snip], who said this is completely unprecedented and wrong and illegal. So then we were talking about objecting to it, etc, and THEN the order came in from Judge McAvoy summarily denying the whole motion! No hearing, no amicus, no reply, NOTHING! AND the actual order was classified!! [snip] wasn't there and then I had to leave, but I just spoke to him on the phone. He said the NYT already called him and he told them what happened. He definitely wants to fight this very strongly - it's just so insane that it's hard to know exactly what to do next. But we want to let people know. At this point any ideas would be appreciated. Thanks, [snip]"


More information on the case can be found in some of my old posts here.

More to come....

UPDATE: Just received a copy of the order. All that is known of the governments legel memo is the one word...

classified

The Judge's decision:
United States District Court
Northern District of New York

United States of America
vs
Yassin Aref and
Mohammad Hossain

Crim No. 04-CR-402
(Hon. Thomas J. McAvoy)
Mar 10 2006
Lawrence K. Baerman, Clerk
Albany

Order Denying Defendants' Motion for Reconsideration

THIS MATTER is before the court pursuant to Defendants' Motion for Reconsideration seeking orders suppressing all evidence as tainted by illegal electronic surveillance, dismissing the indictment, and directing the government to affirm or deny the existence of electronic surveillance pursuant to 18 U.S.C. 3504.

In response to Defenants' Motion, the government filed, on March 10, 2006, its in camera, exparte classified response.

Having considered the government's submission and entered a classified Order on it, it is hereby

ORDERED that the defendants' motion for reconsideration is denied.

ENTERED at Albany, New York this 10th day of March 2006.

Thomas J. McAvoy
The Honorable Thomas J. McAvoy
United States District Judge
Northern District of New York

cc: U.S. Attorney's Office
Defense Counsel