Archive for the ‘October Surprise’ Category

Looks like the McCain campaign’s attempt at preemptive spin was justified. The Alaska Legislature’s Troopergate report is out (PDF) and concludes that Sarah Palin abused her powers as governor in the firing of the public safety commissioner. Here’s the write-up by the Associated Press:

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Sarah Palin unlawfully abused her power as governor by trying to have her former brother-in-law fired as a state trooper, the chief investigator of an Alaska legislative panel concluded Friday. The politically charged inquiry imperiled her reputation as a reformer on John McCain’s Republican ticket.

Investigator Stephen Branchflower, in a report to a bipartisan panel that looked into the matter, found Palin in violation of a state ethics law that prohibits public officials from using their office for personal gain.

The inquiry looked into her dismissal of Public Safety Commissioner Walter Monegan, who said he lost his job because he resisted pressure to fire a state trooper involved in a bitter divorce and custody battle with the governor’s sister. Palin says Monegan was fired as part of a legitimate budget dispute.

Monegan’s firing was lawful, the report found, but Palin let the family grudge influence her decision-making — even if it was not the sole reason Monegan was dismissed.

This goes back to McCain campaign’s VP vetting process and ultimate decision in asking Palin to be on the ticket. Why the hell did they think it was a good idea to have a candidate who was under an active investigation whose final report was due weeks before the election? It wasn’t a big secret, a simple Google search would have uncovered it. Even though this is the sort of thing the Right used to scream bloody murder about during the Clinton presidency, the GOP base will still love Palin anyway, come hell or high water, and I don’t think it’s going to change any minds among Democratic voters who weren’t going to vote for her anyway.

The ultimate damage to this may be long term, after this campaign is over. If McCain loses and Palin goes back to being governor of Alaska, the rest of her term will be clouded by this investigation. When she’s up for reelection in 2010, it will come back to haunt her, either in the form of a primary challenge or from her Democratic opponent. If she had been exonerated and if she were a genuine asset to the GOP ticket right now, she would have been the frontrunner for her party’s nomination in 2012. Instead, this will be her first, and likely only, shot at national office.

Sarah Palin has been cleared of any wrongdoing in the firing of the Alaska Public Safety Commissioner by… the McCain-Palin campaign.  Feel free to make your own jokes.

Senator Norm Coleman, in the middle of a tight re-election race in Minnesota against Al Franken, got an October Surprise springed on him, courtesy of Ken Silverstein from Harper’s Magazine. The story is about Coleman’s relationship with Minnesota businessman and GOP donor Nasser Kazeminy:

I’ve been told by two sources that Kazeminy has in the past covered the bills for Coleman’s lavish clothing purchases at Neiman Marcus in Minneapolis. The sources were not certain of the dates of the purchases; if they were made before Coleman joined the Senate in 2003, he obviously would not be required to report it under Senate rules. But having a private businessman pay for your clothing is never a good idea if you’re a public official (Coleman was mayor of St. Paul from 1994 to 2002).

Kazeminy did not respond to a request for comment. I’ve been trying unsuccessfully since last week to get Coleman’s press office to give me a direct answer about the matter.

The story hit the Minnesota political press, and they wanted answers immediately. This painful press conference with Coleman campaign manager Cullen Sheehan ensued.

Things were not looking good for Coleman to begin with. Al Franken’s poll numbers have picked up and he’s been getting ahead in recent weeks. After a post-St. Paul convention bounce for John McCain in Minnesota, Barack Obama has been surging in the polls and my guess is Al Franken will be riding his coattails to the U.S. Senate on November 4. The story won’t automatically sink Coleman’s campaign, but it’s an unwelcome distraction that opens up his friendships and business arrangements to further scrutiny.

And for the record – Yes, I did jack the title from The Silence of the Lambs.

Mr. Ayers, meet Mr. Keating

Check out this AP story on the history of the October Surprise, including an interview with John Kerry’s take on the Osama bin Laden video which sank his presidential campaign.

Update: Richard Clarke has written an op-ed on Al Qaeda’s interest in affecting the outcome of foreign elections.  Read it.

A few weeks ago, I facetiously suggested that the FBI and other law enforcement agencies open up a field office on Capitol Hill because of all the investigations going on. They might not do that, but the Feds gave a huge hint that they’ve still got work to do.

FBI willing to go undercover in Congress if necessary
By Greg Gordon
McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON – The new chief of the FBI’s Criminal Division, which is swamped with public corruption cases, says the bureau is ramping up its ability to catch crooked politicians and might run an undercover sting on Congress.

Assistant FBI Director James Burrus called the bureau’s public corruption program “a sleeping giant that we’ve awoken,” and predicted the nation will see continued emphasis in that area “for many, many, many years to come.”

So much evidence of wrongdoing is surfacing in the nation’s capital that Burrus recently committed to adding a fourth 15- to 20-member public corruption squad to the FBI’s Washington field office.

In the past year, former Republican Reps. Duke Cunningham and Bob Ney have pleaded guilty to corruption charges. FBI agents are investigating about a dozen other members of Congress, including as many as three senators. The Justice Department also is expected to begin seeking indictments soon after a massive FBI investigation of the Alaska Legislature.

If conditions warrant, Burrus said, he wouldn’t balk at urging an undercover sting like the famed Abscam operation in the late 1970s in which a U.S. senator and six House members agreed on camera to take bribes from FBI agents posing as Arab sheikhs.

“We look for those opportunities a lot,” Burrus said, using words rarely heard at the bureau over the last quarter century. “I would do it on Capitol Hill. I would do it in any state legislature. … If we could do an undercover operation, and it would get me better evidence, I’d do it in a second.”

By now, I’m sure you’ve all seen or heard about this incident involving George Allen, his supporters, and liberal blogger Mike Stark.

I’m suspecting this tape has been leading local newscasts in Virginia for the past few days. The video has gotten national airplay on cable news when discussing the final days of the Allen-Webb Senate race.

This image, of campaign supporters getting into a physical altercation with a political opponent, is the worst nightmare for a candidate or political strategist. The last thing they want voters to read or hear about in the days before the election are the words “police,” “investigation,” and “criminal charges” in connection with their campaign.

The race was already tight enough as it is, and Allen is being very careful with what he says and who he talks to in the aftermath of the Macaca incident and all of the other mistakes that have made what should have been a shoo-in re-election campaign into a toss-up.

This is one hell of an October surprise, one that the Webb campaign couldn’t have planned any better themselves. If they had the time and money, I’m pretty sure this footage would be used in a political ad for the final days of the race, although it might not even be necessary given the amount of media coverage of the incident. If Allen loses next week, this incident might have been the final nail in the coffin for Virginia voters, even if it didn’t involve Allen himself.

Another October surprise, this one possibly bigger in impact than the one in the Florida governor’s race because if it becomes an issue in the Kean-Menendez race, it could affect which party controls the Senate next year.

Menendez added to corruption lawsuit
Friday, October 27, 2006


Complete coverage: Election 2006

U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez has been added as a defendant in an ongoing lawsuit being brought against Hudson County by a Union City psychiatrist.

The revised federal suit, filed Wednesday by psychiatrist Oscar Sandoval, says that Menendez, as a congressman in the late 1990s, spearheaded a coordinated campaign by Hudson County officials to squeeze political donations and favors from Sandoval, a county contractor.

Sandoval is a controversial figure who was ensnared in a Hudson County corruption investigation that led to the conviction of former County Executive Robert Janiszewski in 2003.

Political pressure

The suit accuses Menendez and his political allies of pressuring Sandoval to give political contributions as a condition of keeping his psychiatric services contracts with Hudson County — and a condition of getting new ones. The pressure came after they learned that the psychiatrist was an FBI informant in the Janiszewski corruption probe, the suit says.

The lawsuit also hitches Bergen County to the tangled ordeal. It claims that Menendez was playing a behind-the-scenes role in 1999 in awarding a contract to provide psychiatric services to the Bergen County Jail. The psychiatrist who made the proposal, however, did not get a contract.

The legal accusations come in the final sprint of an acrimonious — and close — U.S. Senate race between Menendez and Republican Tom Kean Jr., who has made Menendez’s ethics the central issue in his campaign.

An October surprise in the Florida governor’s race, perhaps?

Crist Denies Trysts
GOP frontrunner: I have never had sex with a man
By Bob Norman

A young rising star in the Republican Party has boasted to witnesses of his sexual relationship with Charlie Crist, the frontrunner in the Florida governor’s race who has repeatedly denied that he is gay.

The GOP staffer, 21-year-old Jason Wetherington, told friends at separate social functions in August that he had sex with Crist, according to two credible and independent sources who heard Wetherington make the claim first-hand.

Wetherington, who recently worked as a field director for U.S. Senate candidate Katherine Harris and currently works for state representative Ellyn Bodganoff’s reelection campaign, also named a man whom he said is Crist’s long-term partner, a convicted thief named Bruce Carlton Jordan who also recently worked for Harris in her long-shot Senate bid.

Jordan made headlines recently when the Miami Herald learned that the felon was working as Harris’s travel aide. The newspaper noted that Jordan, 42, was reported to be close friends with Charlie Crist, whom he convinced to attend an annual Florida Funeral Directors Association meeting in 2003.

Jordan was charged in 2003 with stealing thousands of dollars from two organizations for whom he worked, including the Tallahassee-based Florida Funeral Directors Association, where he served as executive director. He completed a 60-day jail sentence in February and will be on probation until the year 2011, according to state records.

When the Herald questioned Crist about Jordan this past August, the frontrunner in the governor’s race told the newspaper that he doesn’t remember the man. “I don’t know who Bruce Jordan is,” he said at the time. “It doesn’t mean I haven’t met him. I don’t know who you are speaking about.”

I asked Crist during a phone interview on Monday morning if he had ever had sex with Jordan.

“No,” he said. “I don’t recall the name.”

I’ve seen no poll evidence indicating Crist is losing support in the Florida governor’s race over this. However, the fact that Crist is even being forced to deny it isn’t good for him politically. If the allegations are true, then in post-Mark Foley Florida it might become an issue. Not only that, but the man believed to be his partner is a convicted felon and he’s denying [not very convincingly I think, if you read further into the article] any ties to him.

Only in an election season as wacky as this one [a quasi-sex scandal, a nuclear test, multiple FBI investigations, and an administration reversal on Iraq policy and rhetoric] would this not be getting more play in the media.

So many investigations, so little time… At the rate they’re going, the FBI, Justice Department, and every other law enforcement agency in the country might as well open a Capitol Hill field office.

WASHINGTON – A land deal involving Rep. Rick Renzi, R-Ariz., is being scrutinized by the U.S. attorney’s office in Arizona, a law enforcement official in Washington said Tuesday.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity while the inquiry is ongoing, said the investigation has been under way for a few months and is still in its very early stages.

The official did not specify what land deal was under investigation.

A spokesman for the Arizona U.S. attorney, Paul Charlton, said he could not confirm or deny an investigation was under way.

Renzi also declined to comment, referring questions to his lawyer, former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods. The lawyer late Tuesday said Renzi was not aware of any investigation and had not been contacted by the U.S. attorney’s office.

At least one transaction involving Renzi has raised questions in Arizona recently.

Records and officials involved in the October 2005 deal say Renzi helped promote the sale of land that netted a former business partner $4.5 million.