Monday's must-reads


Geraldine Sealey
July 12, 2004 5:55PM (UTC)

To: Ken Lay
From: Enron lobbyists
Subject: Tom DeLay wants $$ for TX redistricting

The Washington Post's front-page scoop today reveals that Tom DeLay enlisted some corporate cronies in 2001 -- who else but Enron executives -- to fund his aggressive redistricting effort in Texas that put Republicans in control of the Texas House for the first time in 130 years and likely assured that the GOP would retain control of the U.S. House after the November elections. His strategy was effective -- but there's a catch. It's also illegal in Texas for corporations to finance campaigns for state legislatures, the Post points out, "and a Texas criminal prosecutor is in the 20th month of digging through records of the fundraising, looking at possible violations of at least three statutes. A parallel lawsuit, also in the midst of discovery, is seeking $1.5 million in damages from DeLay's aides and one of his political action committees -- Texans for a Republican Majority (TRMPAC) -- on behalf of four defeated Democratic lawmakers."

"DeLay has not been named as a target of the investigation. The prosecutor has said he is focused on the activities of political action committees linked to DeLay and the redistricting effort. But officials in the prosecutor's office say anyone involved in raising, collecting or spending the corporate money, who also knew of its intended use in Texas elections, is vulnerable."

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"Documents unearthed in the probe make clear that DeLay was central to creating and overseeing the fundraising. What the prosecutors are still assessing is who knew about the day-to-day operations of TRMPAC and how its money was used to benefit Texas House candidates."

"Several weeks ago, DeLay hired two criminal defense attorneys to represent him in the probe. He previously created a fund for corporate donors to help him pay legal bills related to allegations of improper fundraising, and is now considering extending its reach to include the fees for these attorneys."

Doug Feith's questionable intelligence
A supplementary annex to the Senate Intelligence Committee report released Friday focuses on Pentagon official Doug Feith's production of alternative intelligence in 2002 that made a link between al-Qaida and Iraq when the CIA would not do so, the Telegraph reports. Although the committee will not all-out scrutinize the administration's role in handling faulty pre-war intel until after the election, the report's appendix, written by Democrats, says Feith told the administration to ignore the CIA's conclusion that Saddam and al-Qaida had a "murky relationship" -- one of the only things the CIA seems to have gotten right in the run up to war -- and instead pushed his own "evidence," and may have run afoul of laws in the process.

"In sharp contrast to the Senate intelligence committee's criticisms of 'over-reaching' and "exaggeration' by CIA agents, the Pentagon briefing criticised the agency for requiring 'juridical evidence' for its findings and for the 'consistent underestimation' of the possibility that Iraq and al-Qa'eda were attempting to conceal their collaboration.

In another incident, Mr Feith's Pentagon cell postponed the publication of a CIA assessment of Iraq's links to terrorism after a visit to CIA headquarters at which "numerous objections" were made to a final draft. In particular, Pentagon officials insisted that more should be made of an alleged meeting between the September 11 hijacker Mohammed Atta and an Iraqi official in Prague in April 2001. The CIA judged reports of the meeting not to be credible, a verdict vindicated on Friday by the Senate committee report.

Most remarkably, on September 16, 2002, two days before the CIA was to produce its postponed assessment, Mr Feith's cell went directly to the White House and gave an alternative briefing to Vice-President Dick Cheney's chief of staff, and to the National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice's deputy. The briefing contained the section alleging 'fundamental problems' with CIA intelligence-gathering. It also gave a detailed breakdown of the alleged meeting between Atta and an Iraqi agent. The following week, senior Bush officials made confident statements on the existence of a link between Saddam and al-Qa'eda. Mr Tenet would learn of the secret briefing only in March 2004."

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Abu Ghraib's common criminals
Newsweek obtained documents related to the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal and found that many detainees pictured in some of the most haunting, trademark images from the prison debacle -- the growling dog, naked pyramid and what Iraqis call the "Statue of Liberty" image, the hooded, wired detainee -- were common criminals, not terrorists -- and some of the Abu Ghraib torturers were, Newsweek concluded, "just having a good, if sadistic, time."

"'This is a prison that was clearly out of control,' says Joseph Margulies, an attorney who represented Guantanamo detainees in their recent successful Supreme Court appeal. 'There was either a deliberate or a negligent breakdown within the prison such that they don't even know who's there.' The U.S. military is reviewing the deaths of 32 Iraqis in detention, many of them at Abu Ghraib. One was Munadil al-Jumaily, a healthy 40-year-old who died Feb. 10 of a cerebral contusion and hemorrhage. But his family didn't learn about it until his 12-year-old son Mustafa saw al-Jumaily's body May 22 in an Iraqi newspaperon ice, with MPs Sabrina Harman and Graner posing with thumbs-up gestures over the battered corpse. 'They will say they were following orders,' says al-Jumaily's brother Majib. 'But you could see they were enjoying themselveslook how they smile.' However the scandal plays out, that image will be hard to erase."

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Kerry and Edwards, "good for each other"
In case you missed the 60 Minutes sit-down with Johns Kerry and Edwards and their wives, here's the CBS News report on last night's show. The conversation ranged from whether Edwards' greatest asset is his "energy" rubbing off on Kerry and making him more personable:

"But he's definitely got energy without me, you know," adds Edwards. "You don't have to be a rocket scientist to see a number of things. One is that we like each other. Two is that we we're having a great time on the campaign trail. And three is we're good for each other."

... To Kerry's assessment that Edwards is more qualified to be president now than Bush was four years ago:

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"I've seen people be president. I've worked with presidents. I understand talent and ability," adds Kerry. "I also know that this man is eight years older than Jack Kennedy was when he became president of the United States. He is more qualified, more prepared in national affairs and national issues than George Bush was when he became president. He is ready. And I chose him because he's ready."

... To Kerry's reaction to the Senate intelligence report, and whether Kerry would have voted against the war knowing what we know now about the pre-war intelligence:

"What I voted for was an authority for the president to go to war as a last resort if Saddam Hussein did not disarm and we needed to go to war," says Kerry. "I think the way he went to war was a mistake."

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"I know you want to make this black and white, but the difference is - if John Kerry were president of the United States, we would never be in this place," adds Edwards. "He would never have done what George Bush did. He would have done the hard work to build the alliances and the support system."

A Reagan at the Dem convention
The Republicans have Democrat-in-name-only Zell Miller speaking at their convention -- now the Democrats have a crossover speaker of sorts for their convention as well. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that "in a move sure to embarrass Republicans, Ron Reagan will address the Democratic National Convention this month. Reagan, son of former President Ronald Reagan and an outspoken critic of the Bush administration, will be at the podium on the second night of the four-day event in Boston, July 27, in support of stem-cell research, he said Sunday in an interview here."

" ... A registered independent who has long been an outspoken political liberal, Reagan said he would not campaign for Kerry or any other candidate. He said he would vote for Kerry, however, 'as a way to defeat Bush.' Reagan, 46, said he also did not vote for Bush in 2000, despite the fact that Bush's father, George H.W. Bush, was vice president during Ronald Reagan's two terms in the White House."

Lynne Cheney opposes marriage amendment
Echoing her husband's position from four years ago -- but contradicting his current support of a constitutional amendment to define marriage as a heterosexual right only -- Lynne Cheney said yesterday that she believes states should have the final say over the legality of gay marriage, the AP reports.

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"'I think that the constitutional amendment discussion will give us an opportunity to look for ways to discuss ways in which we can keep the authority of the states intact,' Cheney told CNN's Late Edition. The Senate began debate Friday on an amendment that defines marriage as a union of a man and woman as husband and wife."

" ... Cheney has two daughters, both of whom are working in his campaign. The Cheney's gay daughter, Mary, is director of vice presidential operations for the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign. She held a public role as her father's assistant in the 2000 campaign and helped the GOP recruit gay voters during the 2002 midterm elections. She has been less visible this year while traveling with the vice president or working at campaign headquarters in Arlington, Va. As the election nears, she will play a more public role, campaign aides say."

"President Bush said in his weekly radio address Saturday that legalizing gay marriage would redefine the most fundamental institution of civilization. A constitutional amendment is needed to protect marriage, he said. During the 2000 campaign, vice presidential candidate Dick Cheney took the position states should decide legal issues about personal relationships and that people should be free to enter relationships of their choosing."

Lynne Cheney also said her husband's F-bomb on the Senate floor last month was out of character for him, even though he later said the cussing was warranted and refrained from apologizing.

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Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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