Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Disclose, Denny

a couple of days ago, 'anonymous' in the comments suggested that we jointly compose a letter to Vanity Fair in response to Randy Evans' most unsatisfying and belated response to An Inconvenient Patriot where Hastert was accused by " several sources in the congress and several sources within the FBI counterintelligence division" of accepting a bunch of small campaign contributions as the price for torpedoing the Armenian Genocide resolution.

Anon's comment in full was:
"Maybe you could take the lead on a response LTE to VF? Here's my suggestion: Post the Evans letter and your drafted response based on Miguel's points. Keeping bumping to the top of page and add a call-out to your readership to suggest new points/questions with a one-week deadline. You post revised drafts on Wednesday and Friday which incorporate the best points your readers raise. Then submit to Rose, the LTE editor and the publisher of VF."
Incidentally, miguel tells me that:
"Hastert later told the reporter (Ed Fanselow) that he had sent all his data to the FEC and asked them to speed up their inquiry."
I haven't been able to (yet) verify that part of the story - however Evans doesn't mention it in his letter to VF. Interesting, no? If Hastert lied to the reporter about that, then he was obviously just trying to kick the can down the road.

The always-helpful and ever-industrious Miguel has penned a proposed letter to VF which he humbly calls a 'first stab':
"Dear Editor,

You published a letter from Randy Evans, Counsel to Speaker J. Dennis Hastert, last month which would, on the surface at least, appear to clear the most powerful member of the U.S. Congress of any suspicion of taking illicit campaign contributions from Turkish nationals in exchange for political favors. However, I would like to point out that Mr. Evans’ letter raises more questions than it answers about the large number of unitemized contributions received by Mr. Hastert from 1996-2002.

Mr. Evans tries to frame the debate about Hastert’s contributions of less than $200 by singling out the month of October, 2000, during which time Evans claims that Hastert’s own records show that the unitemized contributions totalled to “less than $9,200”. The main problem with this line of argument is that Mr. Rose never specified in the article what time frame the Turkish nationals would have made the bundled contributions; in fact, Mr. Rose’s analysis suggest that contributions were made over several years, not just in one single month. More importantly,
however, is that Mr. Evans does not address the question of whether Hastert’s internal records reveal an unusually large number of Turkic sounding names, which would be the primary metric that might indicate that the translated wiretaps were more than “hollow boasts”. Finally, it should be pointed out that Evans’ letter may have given some readers the misleading impression that Hastert has released the list of his previously unitemized donations to public scrutiny. A review of Hastert’s filings with the Federal Election Commission, however, reveals that none of this data has to date been made public. If Mr. Hastert truly “retains
information on the identity and residence of contributors, including those contributing less than $200”, as Evans claims, then one would think the Speaker should back up his Counsel’s claims by publishing all this data to put this issue to rest once and for all. After all, the decisions Dennis Hastert makes on a daily basis affect all Americans, and not just the residents of the Speaker’s own Congressional District."

a pretty good 'first stab' huh?

lemme make a few randomish (and in no particular order) points:

1. we are already behind anon's suggested timeframe, because we only saw the text of the letters today - that's ok though because VF is a monthly magazine.

2. it's a great idea to jointly compose an LTE - but I suggest that we individually also send in our submissions. my guess is that the more LTEs they receive on any particular subject, the more likely they are to publish one of them.

3. having said that, our ultimate goal is to get Hastert to release all of the details of his campaign financing. With that in mind, we need to remember not to get caught in the weeds by poking holes in Evans' response and arguing about details.

4. We should aim to move this beyond the LTE pages of VF. I've been tossing around in my head a couple of broader campaign ideas - I haven't cemented any great ideas yet, but we shuold come up with a plan by Monday morning.

5. Randy Evans has made a career for himself representing dodgy repug causes - so he's undoubtedly pretty smart. We should be cognizant of which rabbit holes he is trying to force us into, and try to reverse-engineer why he is pointing us in that particular direction, and devise a strategy from that knowledge/awareness. eg 'from illinois', 'october 2000', and last but not least, the fact that the only issue that Evans even addressed was the issue of small contributions (rather than the more serious charges)

6. does anyone know if Evans is a new recruit to the Hastert cause? has Evans worked for hastert before? Did Haster recruit him to deal with this particular 'problem'?

7. as per above, can anyone verify that Hastert told Faneslow that he has submitted his contribution info to FEC? can anyone verify whether that has actually been done? and if so, why and when? was it in response to CREW's efforts?

7. re CREW, i emailed them yesterday but havent heard back from them. similarly, Faneslow.

8. re 'Turkic sounding names' as the 'primary metric' - my guess is that we steer away from this line of thinking. i dont know the detail of the reporting requirements of $199 contributions, but if they really were laundering the contributions, then it is likely that the 'donations' were in cash, and the accompanying documentation was probably falsified. if they did a reasonable job trying to cover their tracks, it's likely there are as many Jane Smiths as Ebru Orals.

9. re "less than $9,200 was donated in October 2000" - firstly, the resolution flip-flop was on the 19th of the month - is Evans trying to argue that bribes usually come immediately before and immediately after a resolution? Secondly, "Hastert for Congress received $110,860.75 in unitemized contributions in 2001 and $72,275 in unitemized contributions in 2000" - therefore $9200 was simply an average month - why didnt Evans make that point? presumably that would strengthen his case - and we can presume that he isnt an idiot. why isn't that dog barking?

10. Evans: " only five contributors (whose donations amounted to less than $1,000 total) were from somewhere other than Illinois." - is he trying to filibuster? try as i might, i've not been able to come up with a scenario where five contributions of less than $200 can be anything other than "less than $1,000 total"

11. Sibel also makes some great points, of course:
a) "Why did Hastert’s office refuse to provide Vanity Fair with information refuting the claims prior to the article being published despite many attempts by VF?" - there's no good answer to that.

b) sibel also points to another comment that has intrigued me before: "Instead, his colleagues were told to alter the thrust of their investigation – away from elected politicians and toward appointed officials."

c) sibel: "Why doesn’t Hastert disclose all the contributions (those under $200), to all his PACs (he has several)"

d) sibel: "should we refer to Mr. Hastert’s dealing with the named foreign organization via [former House Speaker] Bob Livingston’s lobbying firm (Livingston Group)?" - this is intriguing - i've written extensively about the livingston connection, start here (and more here, and here) sibel has only recently begun discussing the Livingston connection.

12. there's some more on Evans here:
"Quick Summary of Randy Evans

The attorney who responded for Hastert has a rather high profile background himself.

Randy Evans of Georgia has served on the Georgia State Board of Elections since April 2003. He was the head of the legal team for the Bush-Cheney '04 Reelection in Georgia. He is general counsel of the Georgia Republican Party.

He has served as an attorney who advises the House Republican leadership on government ethics. His clients include the former and current Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) and Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.).

Evans has been Chairman of Gingrich Holdings, Inc. Evans is serving as Special Master for the Georgia Supreme Court.

Randy Evans is chairman of the board of the J.C. Watts Companies ( Watts represented Oklahoma’s 4th District in the U.S. House of Representatives for eight years through January 7, 2003. Watts served as Chair of the House Republican Conference and served on a number of key committees during his tenure in Congress, including the Armed Services Committee, the Select Homeland Security Committee, the Military Readiness Subcommittee and the Procurement Subcommittee."

anyways - that's about it for my random thoughts of the evening. the main points seem to be:
a) hastert is feeling some heat (from somewhere?), otherwise they would have kept quiet and not re-opened this can o' pandoras.
b) the time seems ripe for broadening the campaign beyond VF. let me mull some possibilities over the next couple of days - suggestions are most welcome. hopefully i'll hear back soon from a couple of the people ive tried to contact so that i can co-ordinate with CREW et al
c) our main goal is to get denny to disclose all of his campaign contributions - and we need to make sure that all our efforts are directed toward that goal. i.e. we need to resist getting dragged into the weeds by Evans

In the meantime, I've established another blog called Disclose, Denny in case we need it - i'll cross-post there in the meantime.


Miguel said...

"then it is likely that the 'donations' were in cash, and the accompanying documentation was probably falsified."

Lukery, the David Rose article specifically mentions "small checks" so I imagine the illicit donations were mostly in checks, not cash.

calipendence said...

Hmm... A number of us conjecturing as to why they chose to wait six months and release as response now. That does seem curious, as if there's some other pressure happening. Given that Hastert's third in line for the presidency at this time, I wonder if this might be a hint that Bush and Cheney might be considering resigning soon in the wake of the spygate scandals, and that this is a preemptive strike in case Hastert is suddenly put in the spotlight later if his name is suddenly in line to succeed those two, especially if they try to resign before the 2006 elections to keep the executive in Republican hands (in case the Dems win back the House). As you note, these guys aren't stupid, and they probably are playing a pretty shrewd game of chess here. Just want to consider all the possible scenarios here.

Miguel said...

Or it could be that Hastert is feeling nervous about the FEC inquiry, and his lawyer is presenting the line of argument Hastert and his political team will use should damaging FEC info come out.

The most important thing we should all take out of this letter is the fact that Hastert HAS been tracking all his small donations, and he could put an end to all the speculation simply by releasing the data he has already gathered. but he REFUSES to do so and instead has his lawyer confuse the issue with irrelevant points.

What is he hiding?

lukery said...

miguel - yeah - i'm aware of the 'small checks' thing. i wondered whether that might simply be sloppy reporting... if they were trying to keep under the radar, it would make much more sense to pay cash. OTOH, if they were using cheques *and* they were trying to stay under the radar, then i can only assume that nearly all of the cheques came from just a few bank accounts - otherwise, there'd be no point trying to fly under the radar.

the interesting thing, of course, is that if all the donations came from just a few accounts, then it's most likely that the donors broke campaign finance laws by donating more than the legal maximum.

lukery said...

calipendence - good point about succession. if that was their plan, they sure seem to have miscalculated though. they dont seem to have doused any flames.

miguel - the other point about the fact that Haster "HAS been tracking all his small donations" is whether this is unusual or not. If it is unusual, then we've gotta ask why he was tracking these small amounts. Is it so that he can keep score of whether the bribes have actually been paid?