Monday, February 06, 2006

sibel, hastert

miguel writes (thnx):

As I was browsing through the current edition of Vanity Fair this morning, I was surprised to find a letter to the VF editor from an Atlanta-based attorney representing Dennis Hastert, responding directly to the "Inconvenient Patriot" article. To non-Sibelologists, the attorney's response appears to clear Dennis Hastert once and for all of taking illegal campaign contributions from Turkish sources. The attorney writes that all but two of Hastert's contributions of under $200 during the period in question came from people "from Illinios" and during the month of October, 2000 (when Hastert pulled the Armenian Genocide resolution
from the House floor), Hastert received only 6 campaign contributions.
Furthermore, Hastert's lawyer claims something to the effect that Hastert tracks the name and address of ALL his contributors, including those who contributed small amounts, and nothing improper has been found in any of those contributions.

For Sibelologists, however, Hastert's attorney's letter raises more questions than it answers. First of all, the attorney does not make it clear who, if anyone, reviewed Hastert's small campaign contributions. Was it an outside auditor or Hastert's own treasurer? Secondly, the lawyer does not state whether the contributions are available for public review- in fact, the response is so carefully worded that I assume that this data has not been made public, although it's very possible it was turned over to the Federal Elections Commission for the complaint filed by CREW. Also, "people from Illinois" can lead one with the impression that most contributors were U.S. citizens; in fact, Hastert's attorney does not say whether it is confirmed if each small donor has been confirmed to be a U.S. citizen or green card holder. People from Illinois can include temporary residents, including temporary Turkish residents, of the State of Illinois.

Most importantly, however, is that the attorney completely dodges the question of whether an unusual number of checks were received by Hastert for Congress from people with Turkish sounding names. In fact, if Hastert were completely innocent and I were his attorney, that point would strike me as far more important than accounting the number of contributions Hastert received in October, 2000. If Hastert did NOT receive a large number of checks from Turkish nationals, why doesn't the lawyer make this point?

In my opinion, Hastert's lame response to the Vanity Fair article should make all of us more, not less, inclined to believe Sibel Edmond's allegations are true. He has really been ducking the issue, when he could clear most of this up by publishing the names of all his contributors (although Sibel also says Hastert received cash delivered in suitcases to his suburban Chicago home and that money would be difficult to trace).

(By the way, Hastert's attorney who wrote the letter to Vanity Fair is the same lawyer who defended New Gingrich against ethics charges, Randy Evans.)"
great catch!

for the record, here's the relevant section of the VF article:
"Some of the calls reportedly contained what sounded like references to large scale drug shipments and other crimes. To a person who knew nothing about their context, the details were confusing and it wasn’t always clear what might be significant. One name, however, apparently stood out – a man the Turkish callers often referred to by the nickname “Denny boy.” It was the Republican congressman from Illinois and Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert. According to some of the wiretaps, the F.B.I.’s targets had arranged for tens of thousands of dollars to be paid to Hastert’s campaign funds in small checks. Under Federal Election Commission rules, donations of less than $200 are not required to be itemized in public filings.

Hastert himself was never heard in the recordings, Edmonds told investigators, and it is possible that the claims of covert payments were hollow boasts. Nevertheless, an examination of Hastert’s federal filings shows that the level of un-itemized payments his campaigns received over many years was relatively high. Between April 1996 and December 2002, un-itemized personal donations to the Hastert for Congress Committee amounted to $483,000. In contrast, un-itemized contributions in the same period to the committee run on behalf of the House majority leader, Tom Delay, Republican of Texas, were only $99,000. An analysis of the filings of four other senior Republicans shows that only one, Clay Shaw of Florida, declared a higher total in un-itemized donations than Hastert over the same period: $552,000. The other three declared far less. Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Joe Barton, of Texas, claimed $265,000; Armed Services Committee chairman Duncan Hunter, of California, got $212,000; and Ways and Means Committee chairman Bill Thomas, of California, recorded $110,000.

Edmonds reportedly added that the recordings also contained repeated references to Hastert’s flip-flop, in the fall of 2000, over an issue which remains of intense concern to the Turkish government – the continuing campaign to have Congress designate the killings of Armenians in Turkey between 1915 and 1923 a genocide. For many years, attempts had been made to get the house to pass a genocide resolution, but they never got anywhere until August 2000, when Hastert, as Speaker, announced that he would give it his backing and see that it received a full house vote. He had a clear political reason, as analysts noted at the time: a California Republican incumbent, locked in a tight congressional race, was looking to win over his district’s large Armenian community. Thanks to Hastert, the resolution, vehemently opposed by the Turks, passed the International Relations Committee by a large majority. Then, on October 19, minutes before the full House vote, Hastert withdrew it.

At the time, he explained his decision by saying that he had received a letter from President Clinton arguing that the genocide resolution, if passed, would harm U.S. interests. Again, the reported content of the Chicago wiretaps may well have been sheer bravado, and there is no evidence that any payment was ever made to Hastert or his campaign. Nevertheless, a senior official at the Turkish Consulate is said to have claimed in one recording that the price for Hastert to withdraw the resolution would have been at least $500,000.

Hastert’s spokesman says the congressman withdrew the genocide resolution only because of the approach from Clinton, “and to insinuate anything else just doesn’t make any sense.” He adds that Hastert has no affiliation with the A.T.C. or other groups reportedly mentioned in the wiretaps: “He does not know these organizations.” Hastert is “unaware of Turkish interests making donations,” the spokesman says, and his staff has “not seen any pattern of donors with foreign names.”"
firstly, let me note that i always thought this was inexcusably terrible reporting by david rose - he argues that hastert received a large number of sub-$200 donations, and yet he only looked at 4 other senior repugs as a comparison. Of those, i probably would never have heard of Hunter if it wasnt for the Wilkes shenanigans, Thomas i would probably never have heard of except that michael mack worked for him - and i have no recollection of barton or shaw.

having said that, miguel seems kinda on the money (if anyone has access to that letter, i'd appreciate a full transcript) - it seems odd that the attorney has responded now - 6 months after the initial VF piece. Sibel recently (alex jones interview?) said something like ''we've never even had a response from hastert to the allegations - apart from some michael moore reference" (or x-files, or one of the usual repug dismissals)- so it's odd that they are responding now - let's hope they are feeling some heat and the 'ignore' option is no longer on the table. similarly, it's odd that their defense is restricted to a) 'during the month of October, 2000' b) 'from illinois' c) 'the period in question' d) 'foreign names'

as miguel says, it sounds like an effective denial, but in reality it's nothing of the sort. further to the reaons miguel outlines, it could be that the donations were in cash, in which case it is largely irrelevant what the documentation reveals in terms of where the purported donor says they live and what they claim is their family name.

Even more relevant than all of that though is miguel's observation that "Sibel also says Hastert received cash delivered in suitcases to his suburban Chicago home and that money would be difficult to trace" which kinda renders all the other 'analysis' moot.

The good news is that Hastert apparently felt that he had to respond to the claims at all - however belatedly - hopefully that means that they are feeling some heat. If i'm not mistaken, the $200 thing was something introduced by Rose, not Sibel, and it's probably significant that they tried to respond to that limited claim, rather than any of the more substantive issues (according to miguel's retelling of the vf letter).

all in all, good news.

(and thanks again to miguel for pointing it out - if anyone has any more info, including the letter, pls lemme know)


Anonymous said...

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.

Miguel said...

That sounds like a great idea! David Rose put up a weak defense of his own article in response to Evans letter (I strongly suspect that Rose is being hamstrung by the Vanity Fair legal team in his ability to tell the full story), Sibel is gagged and cannot put up a defense on this point, so it's up to the rest of us to fight back.

To me, the most important point is to get Hastert to release all his campaign donor data to public scrutiny, so we can all evaluate for ourselves. A local reporter in Hastert's district had challenged the Speaker to do just that- here we are 5 months later and nothing has been released (Hastert later told the reporter that he had sent all his data to the FEC and asked them to speed up their inquiry. The reporter later left the publication- it's not clear whether he quit or was fired). If Denny has nothing to hide, why won't he simply release the full list?

lukery said...

good ideas - i'll get onto it.

miguel - do you know who the 'local reporter' is or which newspaper?

(it would be weird if Hastert sent all his info to FEC - because there is no reporting requiring for sub$200 donations)

Miguel said...

Whatever Hastert sent to the FEC was based on the inquiry that was opened by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. In other words, Hastert may have been asked to itemize the previously unitemized contributions as part of FEC enforcement. We can't really say for sure what he sent because FEC is mum about ongoing investigations.

The reporter's name is Ed Fanselow. The newspaper has pulled down his articles but one remains preserved her e from Liberty Post, a right wing blog:

Note Fanselow implies that the Hastert campaign will have to go back and itemize previously unitemized contributions. But the Vanity Fair letter implies it is standard practice for Hastert to track his small contributions.