Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Direct help for Katrina's victims


JohnKerry.com
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Dear Friend,

This is a time for all Americans to pull together and do everything we can to assist people whose lives have been devastated by Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath.

If you haven't acted already, I urge you to join in delivering immediate help to the people who need it most. One way to do that is to support the relief and recovery efforts of the Red Cross with a personal donation.

Donate to the Red Cross

As we hold those who are going through so much pain and suffering in our prayers, I know you'll do everything you can to reach out and help.

Sincerely,

John Kerry

P.S. There are a host of other volunteer relief agencies doing essential life-saving work in this emergency. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which is coordinating the federal government's response efforts, has posted a list of recommended groups on its website.

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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Hurricane Katrina: How to Help

Dear Automat:

Donate to the Red Cross

Volunteer with the Red Cross

This week millions of Americans fled Hurricane Katrina. Across the South families abandoned their homes and businesses, not knowing what would be there when they returned.

Many stayed behind and suffered devastating loss and injuries -- nearly a hundred have died that we know of, and hundreds of thousands need our help.

America is at its best when we realize that we are one community -- that we're all in this together. That means that each one of us has the responsibility to do what we can to help the relief effort.

The Red Cross is a great place to start:

http://www.redcross.org

They are already moving people and resources into the region to help. Donations will provide clean water, food, and shelter for disaster victims. The Red Cross web site also has important information for victims and their relatives across the country.

Many local Red Cross chapters are organizing volunteers to travel to affected areas -- doctors and nurses to provide medical care, workers to build shelters, first responders to assist in rescue operations.

You can find your local chapter here to learn what you can do:

http://www.redcross.org/where/chapts.asp

We are still learning the full story of the devastation, but there is no time to wait. Please do something now.

Thank you.
Governor Howard Dean, M.D.

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Friday, August 26, 2005

DCCC @Stake - Fallout of an Indictment

@Stake Brought To You By The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee

Fallout of an Indictment

August 26, 2005

Tearing at the GOP Fabric

What is most awe-inspiring about the Jack Abramoff saga is the extent to which every moldy rock that is lifted seems to send a thousand vermin scattering, revealing more and more about the shady circles in which Abramoff and his friends ran. The indictment of Abramoff in Miami involved a rather obscure situation insofar as Abramoff's shenanigans are concerned, and yet media scrutiny has quickly turned up an entire web of connections. One such connection led to this revelation from Kate Cambor, who writes on Abramoff's lobbying for the General Council for Islamic Banks, chaired by Saudi billionaire Saleh Abdullah Kamel...

Jack and Saleh
TPMCafe - August 17, 2005

"You see, Kamel is also the chairman of Dallah al Baraka Group (DBG), which is suspected of having ties to al Qaeda and other extremist groups, and he was also the co-founder and large shareholder of Al Shamal Bank in Sudan, Osama bin Laden's bank of choice from 1983 onward. He was listed as being one of the seven 'main individual sponsors of terrorism' in this report by French researcher Jean-Charles Brisard submitted to the UN Security Council in December 2002. (You might remember that Omar al-Bayoumi, who befriended and provided money to two of the 9/11 hijackers, was once an assistant to the Director of Finance for Dallah Avco, a DBG company that works with the Saudi aviation authority. And the WSJ has reported that the United States believes the Dallah al-Baraka Bank, another DBG company, was also used by al-Qaeda.)

"Kamel's name also appeared in the 'Golden Chain,' a roster seized by Bosnian authorities in Sarajevo in March 2002 listing Saudi donors to bin Laden and his associates; and he was named as a defendant in two Sept. 11th related lawsuits: one filed by the victims' families in 2003 and another filed by Cantor Fitzgerald in September 2004 (Although claims of two plaintiffs from the first suit were dismissed, the same claims from other plaintiffs have yet to be.)"

These revelations are all relatively staggering on their own merits, but what makes them all the more interesting is the way in which they fit into a little noticed but bitter feud on the right. Grover Norquist, a key member of DeLay, Inc. (specifically Abramoff's Indian casino racket) and perhaps the top White House ally in the conservative advocacy machine, suffered a vicious attack two years ago from Frank Gaffney, an Assistant Secretary of Defense under Reagan and a key foreign policy think-tanker on the conservative side. In a shocking piece entitled "A Troubling Influence," Gaffney cited Norquists ties to a certain Islamic group and accused Norquist of being part of a "radical Fifth Column" trying to undermine America form within on behalf of "Islamofascism."

The feud seemed to have died down, but even before the revelations of Abramoff's lobbying for the General Council for Islamic Banks, it was just heating back up. Citing a New Yorker article which marvels somewhat at Norquist's power and organization, Gaffney concludes that it can only be part of some leftist conspiracy:

"An alternative explanation for the New Yorker's puff piece about Norquist is more sinister. In recent years, the influence he exercises within what he calls center-right circles has proven very valuable to assorted causes embraced by the left - and anathema to the majority of conservatives. In his online interview, author Cassidy also spoke of this agenda: 'The Democrats need to do a better job of exploiting the divisions and potential divisions within the Republican coalition.'

"And who better to help in exploiting such divisions than the right's purported 'ringleader'? For instance, Norquist champions an extreme libertarian view about illegal immigration - essentially advocating open borders without regard for the associated security, financial or social implications. He makes no secret of his contempt for conservatives like Phyllis Schlafly who rightly disagree. He told the New Yorker, 'I think Phyllis's theory is: Foreigners suck.'

"Norquist is also a prominent advocate for the prohibition of the use of secret evidence, a tool U.S. law enforcement authorities have relied upon to deport dangerous aliens without compromising sensitive intelligence sources and methods. His contribution to the left's campaign against secret evidence - which, but for 9-11 would have resulted in president Bush's disallowing its utilization in deportation proceedings - earned Norquist an award in 2001 from one of the most radical left-wing organizations in America, the National Coalition for the Protection of Political Freedom.

"Norquist has also lent conservative political cover to the left's effort to undermine the USA Patriot Act. His advocacy and lobbying has helped fracture the movement and encouraged Republican legislators to break with President Bush on re-enacting the most important of his domestic counterterrorism initiatives.

"These three agenda items not only have in common that they are at odds with the preponderance of conservative thinking and coincident with the left's agenda. Even more troubling, they are all priorities for the Islamists who dominate the Arab-American and Muslim-American organizations that are the best organized and most vocal of such groups and that - thanks, usually, to the Saudis - have the deepest pockets.

"As the Soviets used to say, 'This is not an accident, comrade.' Starting in 1998, Norquist put his considerable political skills in the service of such Islamists as Abdurahman Alamoudi and Sami al-Arian. The former was then the driving force behind the American Muslim Council, or AMC. At the time, Alamoudi's Council was arguably the pre-eminent Islamist front group in America. (As it happens, Alamoudi was also associated with a number of the two dozen or so other such organizations as well, serving on their boards of directors, as a financier or in other capacities.) The AMC's success at dissembling its true purposes was underscored when a spokesman for FBI Director Robert Mueller described it in 2002 as the 'the most mainstream Muslim group in the United States.'"

We'll leave the "fifth column" accusations to the Republicans and leave alone the question of whether Gaffney has any idea what he is talking about. We only hope that Mr. Gaffney's head does not explode if or when he finds out what Norquist's partner Abramoff was up to in the year after 9/11.


Making the Rest Look Bad

Republican successes have rested largely on their rather shameless party unity at all costs. Presenting a unified partisan argument gives the impression that it must be a legitimate position, no matter how absurd that position might be. When there is dissent in the ranks, and even the loyal Republican base is given a choice of positions, suddenly things become much more complicated. Thus, when Tom DeLay's future in politics came into doubt after a flurry of ethics scandals, it was not the independent moderate voter which he counted on to save him. Instead, he furiously pandered to the extreme in the base, successfully intimidating virtually every Republican to keep quiet on his disgraces by wielding the fringe of the party as a bludgeon.

So it is hard to overstate the potential significance of reports like this...

2nd N.J. legislator remits lobbyist's donation
Asbury Park Press - August 18, 2005

"A second New Jersey congressman is returning a political donation from a Washington lobbyist indicted last week on fraud charges while another lawmaker said he plans to keep the money.

"Rep. Frank LoBiondo, R-N.J., plans to give back the $1,000 contribution he received in 2001 from Jack Abramoff, a former top Republican fund-raiser, according to the congressman's spokesman.

"Rep. Jim Saxton, also R-N.J., already gave back a $1,000 contribution Abramoff made in 2001."

A spokesman for Lobiondo went on to explain that "The congressman didn't feel it was appropriate to accept his donation." We cannot help but agree, but that certainly puts quite a few Republicans under the spotlight for having accepted thousands from Abramoff and the clients he directed donations from. Suddenly, we have two classes of Republicans, those who feel that money taken from the operations of an indicted super-lobbyist are acceptable, and those who don't. And there are so few in that second category that one cannot help but feel that the first category has put much of the Republican Party to shame. Indeed, a brief glimpse at the DeLay-related records of Congressman Lobiondo and Saxton reveal a rather low standard for "the good kind of Republican"...

Frank Lobiondo:

1 Contributions from ARMPAC: $5,692

2 Voting percentage with DeLay: 88%

3 Vote to weaken ethics rules: YES

4 Flip-flopped to vote to repeal weakened ethics rules: YES

5 Vote to table Democratic solution: YES

6 Closed door indictment rule vote: YES

Jim Saxton:

1 Contributions from ARMPAC: $10,006

2 Voting percentage with DeLay: 92%

3 Vote to weaken ethics rules: YES

4 Flip-flopped to vote to repeal weakened ethics rules: YES

5 Vote to table Democratic solution: YES

6 Closed door indictment rule vote: YES

Again: those are "the good ones."



Making Hay of Bob Ney

On Wednesday August 17, Chillicothe Mayor Joseph Sulzer announced his intentions to run against scandal-ridden Ohio Congressman Bob Ney in Ohio's 18th district. The former Democratic state representative decided to run against Ney to "bring more integrity to Congress," an offer Ney can hardly match...

Chillicothe Democrat challenges troubled Ney
Cleveland Plain Dealer - August 18, 2005

"In a sign that Ohio Democrats plan to exploit Republican ethics scandals in the 2006 elections, Chillicothe Mayor Joseph Sulzer announced Wednesday that he is formally launching a campaign to defeat six-term Republican congressman Bob Ney.

"The announcement by Sulzer, a former Democratic state representative, came less than a week after a federal grand jury in Florida indicted Jack Abramoff, a prominent Washington lobbyist whose ties to Ney and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay have come under scrutiny recently."

Bob Ney, although claiming he was "duped" by Jack Abramoff, did in fact have close operational ties with the recently indicted lobbyist as well as with Republican Leader Tom DeLay, particularly in the scandals surrounding Abramoff's role in allegedly swindling Indian tribes out of millions of dollars.

Timothy Noah of Slate also gets in a few licks...

Bob Ney, Character Witness
Slate - Aug. 15, 2005

"It never fails to astonish me how cheaply a politician can be bought. Consider the case of Rep. Bob Ney, R., Ohio. Ney entered comments in the Congressional Record not once, but twice, for the sole apparent purpose of helping Jack Abramoff and Adam Kidan acquire and then maintain control of SunCruz Casinos, a transaction that is now the basis for a bank-fraud indictment against Abramoff and Kidan..."

"Kidan was judged by Forbes late in 2001 "to have some unsavory connections," including some indirect (possibly coincidental) ties to the Gotti family. Yet Ney had publicly praised Kidan the year before for his "renowned reputation for honesty and integrity." What did Ney get from Abramoff, Kidan, and Scanlon during the 2000 election cycle for making this extremely unwary remark? Campaign contributions totaling a big ... $4,000."

To add to the new problems facing Ohio Republicans, current Ohio Governor Bob Taft was formally indicted on charges of ethics violations on Wednesday August 17.

Ohio Governor to Enter No Contest Plea
Associated Press - August 18, 2005

"Taft was charged Wednesday with four misdemeanor ethics violations. He is accused of failing to report 52 gifts, including dinners, golf games and professional hockey tickets.

"Taft could be fined $1,000 and sentenced to six months in jail on each count, though time behind bars was considered unlikely.

"The gifts were worth about $5,800 and given over four years, prosecutors said. Taft earlier had revealed that he failed to report some outings but said the omissions were accidental.

"Prosecutor Ron O'Brien said the gifts included two golf outings worth $100 each paid for by embattled coin dealer Tom Noe. Noe is a Republican fundraiser whose $50 million investment of state money in rare coins launched the scandal that led to Taft's revelation that he failed to list golf outings on financial disclosure forms.

"State law requires officeholders to report all gifts worth more than $75 if the donor wasn't reimbursed. O'Brien said the gifts also included meals and tickets for a Columbus Blue Jackets hockey game."

Governor Taft is the first Ohio Governor to be charged with a crime, much less plead "No Contest" while in office, but problems for the Ohio GOP may just be getting started...



NC-08: A Patriot and a Flip-Flopper

A few weeks ago, we told you about the latest chapter in Republican "Government by Juggernaut" - the shameful vote on CAFTA. Once again we saw the vote held open well beyond the set time while Tom DeLay and his band of muscle men bullied Republicans into switching their vote. But as Bloomberg reported, it was the spinelessness of one Republican in particular that finally broke the damn:

"In the end a 40-minute delay in the vote was broken after the Republican leadership convinced Representative Robin Hayes of North Carolina to switch his vote to yes."

Hayes had promised his district, heavy in manufacturing, just days before that he would vote against the trade agreement. That was too much for Iraq War veteran Tim Dunn.

The Charlotte Observer reported...

"Iraq vet likely to face Hayes Potential challenger cites CAFTA vote as reason to run An Iraq war veteran from Fayetteville says he'll probably run for the congressional seat now held by Rep. Robin Hayes, R-N.C., of Concord.

"Democrat Tim Dunn, a lieutenant colonel in the Marine Corps Reserves, got back from Iraq late last year. A trial lawyer by profession, Dunn spent six months in Baghdad helping the Iraqi Special Tribunal investigate and begin prosecuting Saddam Hussein and other former Iraqi leaders on charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

"'When I got back from Iraq, my intention was to go back ... But I feel now is the time for a different type of service,' Dunn, 45, told the Observer over the weekend. 'I am seriously interested in this race' to represent the 8th congressional district, which stretches from east Charlotte to Fort Bragg.

"If Dunn jumps into the race, he would join a growing platoon of veterans from conflicts in Iraq or Afghanistan who are challenging GOP congressmen in 2006. Dunn said he'll make a decision in the next few weeks, but added, 'I am a likely candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives.' National Democrats, eager to knock off Hayes after his vote switch helped save CAFTA, are excited about the prospect of a Dunn candidacy in a district home to more registered Democrats than registered Republicans.

"And they cite Paul Hackett as proof Dunn could be a tough contender.

"Hackett is the Iraq war veteran who, earlier this month, nearly won an open congressional seat in Cincinnati that had been in the 'safe Republican' column for decades. He came close after criticizing President Bush's handling of the war."

[...]

"In the interview with the Observer, Dunn took a political poke at Hayes for saying he would vote against CAFTA, then voting for it after a last-minute meeting with House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill.

"'I have a concern when our incumbent congressman told us how he was going to vote and then -- seemingly under political pressure -- changed his mind,' Dunn said. 'With the number of jobs lost in the 8th district -- especially in the textile industry -- I certainly think that will be an issue.'"

Republicans may have gotten CAFTA - but they may have lost a Congressman.



News From the Blog

Meanwhile, In Guam...
An odd demotion of a Justice Department official in the midst of a case related to Abramoff raises questions.

A Reasonable Question
A complaint was filed with the FEC by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) requesting an investigation into illegal campaign contributions made to Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert.

Tough Spot
In the face of a federal investigation, activists around the country are calling for Representative Randy "Duke" Cunningham's resignation.

Wingnuttia
A round-up of the recent Justice Sunday II.

Rubberstamps
A look at the lack of vetoes from President Bush throughout his term in office and what that says about the Republican Congress.

Vets for Congress
A look at some new Democratic recruits for Congress.


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"We are seen as occupiers, we are targets. We have got to get out. I don't think we can sustain our current policy, nor do I think we should."
-- Republican Senator Chuck Hagel on Iraq

The deterioration of Iraq serves as an unmistakable reminder of the flawed manner in which we carried out this mission. A global democracy works only when countries trust one another. America?s insistence on burrowing into Iraq without substantial proof that they possessed weapons of mass destruction frayed that trust, and will inevitably sew problems into our foreign relations missions for decades to come.
-- Armstrong Williams, conservative columnist formerly paid by Bush Administration

"There is just no enthusiasm for this war... Nobody is happy about it. It certainly is not going to help Republican candidates, I can tell you that much."
-- Representative John Duncan Jr. (R-TN)

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Thursday, August 25, 2005

John Roberts and Civil Rights

Dear Automat:

80,000 signatures on our FOIA request are boxed up and sent to the Justice Department

More than 80,000 people signed on to our Freedom of Information request for all the work done by Supreme Court nominee John Roberts on 16 crucial cases during his tenure in the first Bush administration's Office of the Solicitor General. This week we delivered your signatures -- tens of thousands of them -- as part of our request.

So what will we learn if the Bush stonewall ends and the Department of Justice fulfills our FOIA request? We'll know what John Roberts actually thought about the vital Constitutional issues at stake in each of the 16 cases. We'll get his unvarnished opinion, expressed in the memos he wrote to the people he worked with every day.

Once we know what he thought of these issues, we'll know more about the kind of Supreme Court Justice he will make. Will John Roberts fight to protect our most fundamental freedoms? Or will he advocate a narrow, partisan interpretation of the Constitution that strips Americans of our rights or erodes the progress we have made?

Just looking at the public record, you can discern a pattern of hostility to civil rights. Here are a few of the cases we requested information on:

Metro Broadcasting v FCC (1990)
Roberts argued against letting the FCC use affirmative action in distributing broadcast licenses. This case was a rare instance of the Solicitor General stepping in to block an action of the federal government to increase opportunity.

Board of Education of Oklahoma City v Dowell (1991)
In a brief signed by John Roberts, the Solicitor General's office argued against a court ruling that ordered a school district to prevent racial segregation. Roberts's brief opposed the efforts of African American families to argue that Oklahoma schools would become segregated again.

Freeman v Pitts (1992)
Roberts signed a brief urging the Supreme Court to overturn a lower-court decision that required a Georgia school district to ensure its schools were fully desegregated.

Lee v Weisman (1992)
Roberts filed a Supreme Court brief arguing that a school district should be permitted to invite clergy to lead public prayers at a graduation ceremony.

Voinovich v Quilter (1993)
Roberts co-authored a brief supporting an Ohio redistricting plan that minority voters said violated the Voting Rights Act by concentrating minority voters in a small number of districts.

What little we know about John Roberts's record on civil rights is troubling -- at the very least. In his work in the Reagan and first Bush administrations, he demonstrated a consistent hostility to efforts to ensure equal opportunity and justice as guaranteed to every American under our Constitution. But there's more that we just don't know. That's why we need the full story.

The Bush Administration now has less than 20 days to respond to our FOIA request. We'll continue to update you as we learn more, and tell you about some of the other important issues covered in the cases we requested.

Thank you for your support,
Tom McMahon
Executive Director



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Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Finally, the truth about Iraq

 

Dear Friend,

"What we expected to achieve was never realistic given the timetable or what unfolded on the ground... We are in the process of...shedding the unreality that dominated at the beginning."
If you want the truth, help elect Democrats NOW.
Unfortunately, this statement didn't come from President Bush or Defense Secretary Rumsfeld or Tom DeLay or any Republican in Congress, but an anonymous, senior official.

The truth is despite the rosy pronouncements by the President and the Republican majority, the situation in Iraq is not improving and the insurgency is not in its "last throes."

And American soldiers, newly-recruited Iraqi security forces, and Iraqi civilians continue to be killed at an alarming rate.

Meanwhile, Tom DeLay and the Republicans in the House just continue to give the President all the money he asks for without demanding a plan to get out or an explanation of why so little progress is being made.

Donate now to elect a House that will hold the President accountable!

Only with a Democratic majority will this Administration be held accountable and be forced to answer the tough questions, such as:
  • Who's responsible for the faulty intelligence that claimed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction?
  • What's the standard for success and how will we achieve it?
  • How long will American troops be in Iraq and what's the plan to bring them home?
Despite what the Republicans want us to believe, it is patriotic to ask questions and expect our government to be honest with the American people. Holding open, honest Congressional hearings will help America support our troops by demanding the accountability they deserve. Lives have been lost, billions have been spent and the American people deserve answers now.

If you want the truth, click here to elect a Democratic majority to demand accountability.

Democrats are committed to actually making our country safer instead of just saying it. Right now, Democrats are on the forefront of the legislative fights to protect our troops and care for our veterans as Republicans refuse to provide adequate health care for our National Guard and Reserve and won't provide the resources necessary to help our troops when they return home. In recent polls, more and more Americans are expressing growing concern over the situation on the ground in Iraq and saying they disagree with the Bush Administration's claims that everything is fine.

In fact, it seems like the only people who aren't worried are the Bush Administration and Republicans in Congress.

We applaud the Iraqi government that was elected to write a new constitution and the Iraqis who are joining the security forces and working to re-build their country. But the lives of too many Iraqis are full of water shortages, electrical outages, bombs and news of assassinations.

It's clear that the Bush Administration planning underestimated the resistance and problems that American troops and Iraqis would face. What is not clear is why our plans haven't changed and why President Bush and the Republican majority in Congress refuse to acknowledge the current reality in Iraq.

If you want to hear the truth, help elect Democrats!

Sincerely,



Nancy Pelosi
House Democratic Leader

P.S. Until we break the stranglehold of Republican control of both the White House and Congress, we are never going to get answers. Electing a Democratic majority in 2006 will ensure that the President Bush can't ignore the majority of this country who disagree with the way he has conducted the war.

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