Monday, January 09, 2006



.1. The Abramoff inquiry is big.

2. As big as the Abramoff probe is, it could extend far beyond the corrupt dealings of Jack Abramoff and his pals on Capitol HIll and K Street.

My friend Karen Tumulty reports in this week's Time that Justice Department prosecutors are running a decent-sized investigation:

Another official involved with the probe told Time that investigators are viewing Abramoff as "the middle guy"--suggesting there are bigger targets in their sights. The FBI has 13 field offices across the country working on the case, with two dozen agents assigned to it full time and roughly the same number working part time. "We are going to chase down every lead," Chris Swecker, head of the FBI's criminal division, told Time.

Nearly 50 agents chasing down Abramoff leads across the country? Republicans far and wide better watch out. (Recall the recent GOP scandal in Ohio, in which the allegedly illegal doings of a top Republican fundraiser stretched to the office of the Republican governor.) On Sunday, The New York Times reported that some of these agents are looking at Alexander Strategy, a leading Republican lobbying firm closely linked to DeLay. Unless the Bush White House dares to muscle the prosecutors, the odds are high that they will nab a bunch of legislators, aides and lobbyists who did shady business with Abramoff, "the middle guy."

Abramoff probably possesses the keys to many different floodgates, several involving DeLay. (How about that deal in which Russian energy interests donated $1 million--via a British law firm--to a political outfit set up by DeLay and did so at a time when there was legislation in Congress to back lMF loan guarantees that would benefit these interests?) But here's why the Abramoff scandal might grow larger than Abramoff's wide-ranging dealings: Once prosecutors start to look for crimes, they often find them. Moreover, once they penetrate a corrupt organization (say, the mob) and begin nailing people, they frequently find sources who squeal on others and disclose crimes unrelated to what brought the investigators knocking.

Look at Sunday's Los Angles Times. As DeLay is sinking, sources are coming forward to tell of misdeeds heretofore unknown to the citizenry. The paper reports:

In a case that echoes the Jack Abramoff influence-peddling scandal, two Northern California Republican congressmen used their official positions to try to stop a federal investigation of a wealthy Texas businessman who provided them with political contributions.

Reps. John T. Doolittle and Richard W. Pombo joined forces with former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay of Texas to oppose an investigation by federal banking regulators into the affairs of Houston millionaire Charles Hurwitz, documents recently obtained by The Times show. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. was seeking $300 million from Hurwitz for his role in the collapse of a Texas savings and loan that cost taxpayers $1.6 billion.

The investigation was ultimately dropped.

This is bigger than people think


You know what, I have to do one more aside. George H. W. Bush raised taxes when he knew it would be TREMENDOUSLY damaging to his political career. He took one for the team. Not the Republican team, the American team. Sure, he shouldn’t have promised it as he was campaigning, but when it came to crunch time, he put his country above politics. Something his son wouldn’t do if you put a gun to his head (which I would never do and would never suggest anyone else does – just in case the Pentagon is tracking me. I’m not as dangerous as the Quakers, but you never know).

Bush Senior was also smart enough not to go into Iraq. He amassed 575,000 troops in a true international coalition to take back Kuwait. His son sent 150,000 of our troops backed up by a rag tag coalition of the dwindling that has left the fight quicker than an Iraqi police unit in Ramadi. Did you know the first Persian Gulf War costs us almost nothing? It was paid for by our allies. I don’t know why people don’t talk about the stark contrast between the first Bush and the second Bush more.

Sr. Vs. Jr.


Iraq has the largest oil reserves behind Saudi Arabia in the Middle East. Yet only ten percent of its land mass has been prospected for oil. Its potential as a producer and exporter is enormous, second only to Saudi Arabia and perhaps, in time, with stability and calm, even greater. Given its known reserves, with extensive investment in its oil infrastructure, Iraq exports could reach 6 million barrels/day in a few years' time (it was reported on Friday that Iraq's exports last month totaled 1.1 million barrels/day, the lowest level since the official end of the conflict in 2003). For Saudi Arabia, striding to maximize its profits from oil, the prospect of absorbing into the marketplace the full magnitude of Iraq's supply capability would in all likelihood ring the death knell to today's elevated level of world oil prices (600 percent higher than the price of oil a half dozen years ago).

My guess is this is why we are in Iraq
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