Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Sunday, October 15, 2006

  Is it curtains for Ken Mehlman?

The LA Times posted a major story this evening linking Jack Abramoff so closely to Ken Mehlman that it's has to be wondered whether the RNC Chair can survive the revelations. The evidence is documentary—emails--and these have recently been released by a House committee. Republicans will have a fine time trying to impeach the credibility of this evidence.

The new scandal certainly cannot come at a worse time for the Republican Party, since the details will confirm for the public the idea that corruption reaches all the way to the top within the GOP. The behavior of Mehlman in question is pretty despicable on the face of it. Worse, some of would appear to be illegal. And worst of all for everybody, Mehlman committed these acts while he was working as the White House political director.

The main charges are these:

* In 2001 Jack Abramoff decided that he wanted to get Allen Stayman fired from his State Department job. Stayman's sin? He was pushing to enact labor reforms on the Northern Mariana Islands. One of Abramoff's associates met with Ken Mehlman and then emailed Abramoff saying that Mehlman promised to get Stayman fired. Susan Ralston, Rove's disgraced staffer, also was involved in the "Stayman project". She sent Abramoff an email at one stage predicting that Stayman would be fired within 4 months, as indeed he was.

* At the same time that Abramoff was lobbying Mehlman to fire Stayman, Mehlman received tickets from Abramoff to a sold out U2 concert, worth over $260. That would be in violation of ethics rules which "prohibit officials from accepting gifts worth more than $20 from a person doing business with the government".

* Mehlman also had a "role in helping an Abramoff client, the Mississippi Band of the Choctaw Indians, secure $16.3 million for a new jail that government analysts concluded was not necessary".

* There appears to have been a quid pro quo for helping the Choctaws, in the form of a $10,000 donation to the RNC.

Tony Rudy, a onetime aide to former Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas, referred to Mehlman on Nov. 9, 2001, as a "rock star" after Mehlman agreed to "take care of" the Choctaws' jail, despite a Justice Department finding that the tribe's existing jail was adequate.

Several days after that meeting, on Nov. 13, Rudy recommended a $15,000 contribution to the Republican National Committee. "Let's give the check to Ken Mehlman at the White House," wrote Rudy, who later pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges as part of the broader investigation.

On Nov. 15, campaign finance records show, the tribe gave $10,000 to the RNC.

* Department of Justice was not happy about the boondoggle of a jail, but eventually relented to the lobbying campaign, which Mehlman took part in. Abramoff rewarded DoJ figures for playing along.

When Justice Department officials relented and released the money for the jail, giddy Abramoff associates planned to host agency officials in a suite for a Dave Matthews concert.

"I have the suite filling up with DOJ staffers who just got our client $16 million," one wrote. Another replied that the agency officials deserve any reward they want, "opening day tickets, Skins v Giants, oriental massages, hookers, whatever."

This should tie in well with attempts (well, my attempts at least) to revive the moribund Hookergate scandal.

* In 2002 Mehlman also intervened on behalf of Abramoff to get a White House endorsement of the Republican gubernatorial ticket in Guam.

Abramoff received a note from Ralston, then Rove's assistant, saying that Mehlman had gotten a quote from the White House for "your candidate." She also asked Abramoff to send his requests in the future to "Ken only."

Now, with evidence like that, how will it be possible any longer to convince anybody that Bush Co. did not know the extent and nature of Jack Abramoff's influence among White House staff? From Ralson's instructions, it sure appears like Rove was already trying to put some distance between himself and Abramoff already in 2002.

And the reason is that scandals like this were certain to come out some day.

Henry Waxman's office has plenty of documentation, including links to the Committee's report, clear introductions to the main issues from Waxman himself, a spreadsheet laying out the 485 lobbying contacts that Abramoff had with the White House, and PDFs with the texts of the emails that are under discussion in the LAT article. Waxman released this information about two weeks ago, though I did not notice it at the time (more's the shame). I've seen no news coverage of these particular findings of the Committee before today, so in that sense it may all be news to the public.

Crossposted at Unbossed and Daily Kos


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