Posts Tagged ‘October Surprise’

McCain says it’s time for Ted Stevens to go, but his running mate does not.

The Republican presidential ticket appears to be of two minds on whether or not convicted Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens should resign from the Senate. John McCain called on the longest serving Republican senator to step down today in a statement.

“It is clear that Senator Stevens has broken his trust with the people and that he should now step down. I hope that my colleagues in the Senate will be spurred by these events to redouble their efforts to end this kind of corruption once and for all,” McCain said.

His running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, has not called on her home state colleague to resign. While the statement released by the campaign today had the McCain-Palin logo on it, it was a statement only from the Arizona senator. CNN reported Monday that Palin called the conviction a “sad day” for Alaska and said she was confident that Stevens “from this point on will do the right thing for the people of Alaska.” She did not respond when asked if she would vote for Stevens on Nov. 4.

Mixed messages during the last days of the campaign? Not a good idea.

Update: Looks like Sarah Palin figured out it wasn’t a good idea to be seen as potentially aligning herself with a convicted felon. She got with the program and called for Stevens to go.

This time, it’s the McCain campaign vs. the RNC over the Palin wardrobe shopping spree.  The story is so politically toxic, nobody wants to claim responsibility.

Update: This is absolutely stunning. Sen. John Ensign, the man responsible for getting Republican candidates elected to the U.S. Senate, is saying it’s a “fair possibility” that Democrats will get a 60-seat supermajority and points the finger at John McCain, saying during an MSNBC interview that, “There’s no question the top of the ticket is affecting our Senate races and it’s making it a lot more difficult.”

The feds got a clean sweep in their case against Sen. Ted Stevens, with the jury returning guilty verdicts on all seven counts.

Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens was convicted today of lying on financial disclosure forms to hide tens of thousands of dollars in gifts and renovations to his Alaska home that were financed mostly by a powerful business executive and his oil services company.

The verdict was announced just after 4 p.m. in a packed courtroom in U.S. District Court in Washington. Stevens (R) sat quietly as the jury foreman said the panel had reached a unanimous decision and found Stevens guilty on all seven counts of filing false financial disclosure forms.

Jurors, who re-started their deliberations at 9:30 a.m. today when a juror was replaced by an alternate, were somber as they walked into the courtroom to deliver the verdict and did not look at Stevens. No sentencing date has been set, and Stevens’s attorneys are expected to file motions seeking to have the verdict set aside.

Despite the guilty verdict, Stevens remains on the ballot in Alaska, where he is locked in a tight race with Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich.

If he can pull off an upset victory, Stevens could remain in the Senate for months, if not longer, if he chose to appeal the verdict. Tradition allows him to exhaust his appeals before the ethics committee begins expulsion hearings, according to the Historical Office of the Senate.

Talking Points Memo has been all over this story since the beginning and they are a good source to explain what this mess is and how Stevens got himself into it.

Nationally, the implications are pretty simple. Stevens was in a tough reelection race to begin with after the indictment. Now that he’s been convicted a week before Election Day, the GOP can’t put a replacement on the ticket and odds are he is going to lose. If he loses, that puts the Democrats one seat closer to the 60-seat supermajority. However, sentencing is not until January of next year and a lot can happen in 3 months.

Here’s a remote scenario for you (hat tip to kos) by which Republicans might still be able to hang on to his Senate seat: If Stevens manages to win re-election, McCain loses next week, and Stevens is expelled or resigns from the Senate after exhausting the appeals process, Sarah Palin can pick a replacement to fill out his term and keep the seat in Republican hands. Correction: According to the New York Times, Palin would most likely call a special election to find someone to replace Stevens. If this happens, I think it would give the Republicans a better shot of retaining the seat.

Unlikely, but possible.

Update: According to this analysis by The Hill, Ted Stevens was his own worst enemy on the witness stand.

Update II: Now that he’s a convicted felon, Stevens can’t vote for himself next week. (Hat tip to kos)

Update III: The New York Times mentions another intriguing possibility for Stevens – getting a presidential pardon or a commutation of his sentence before George W. Bush leaves office in January.

Update IV: The Hill reports that Stevens will be allowed to vote next week.

What is it about presidential siblings that makes them get into so much trouble? Joe McCain called 911 to complain about a traffic jam. Another round of bad press for the McCain people with only 11 days to go.

Ken Vogel has this interesting story on what records or other relevant information the four major candidates (McCain, Obama, Palin and Biden) are not releasing to the public.

Sam Stein at the Huffington Post:

If Edwards had gotten one of his legendary haircuts every singe week, it would still take him 7.2 years to spend what Palin has spent. Palin has received the equivalent of $2,500 in clothes per day from places such as Saks Fifth Avenue (where RNC expenditures totaled nearly $50,000) and Neiman Marcus (where the governor had a $75,000 spree).

Indeed, the story could not come at a more inopportune time for the McCain campaign. During a week in which the Republican ticket is trying to highlight its connection to the working class — and, by extension, promoting its newest campaign tool, Joe the Plumber — it was revealed that Palin’s fashion budget for several weeks was more than four times the median salary of an American plumber ($37,514). To put it another way: Palin received more valuable clothes in one month than the average American household spends on clothes in 80 years. A Democrat put it in even blunter terms: her clothes were the cost of health care for 15 or so people.

Update: Marc Ambinder:

That’s one good week of television time in Colorado.

ABC’s Jake Tapper has a good recap of the highlights of Powell’s interview on Meet the Press.

As I said before – this will dominate the news cycle for one or two days. Pundits in the blogosphere and the major media will be aflutter talking about this. Obama clearly controlled the narrative yesterday with the carefully timed announcement of his $150 million fundraising figure and the nod from Powell.

McCain’s problem is that he is running out of time. He has about two weeks to go and not many ways to change or control the media narrative before Election Day. Barring a drastic change in the underlying fundamental dynamic of this election (which happened when the financial crisis hit on September 15), the political environment will continue to favor Obama.

Update: Former McCain adviser Mike Murphy weighs in at TIME’s Swampland Blog. His analysis: “Colin Powell’s endorsement of Obama today is a real sledgehammer blow to the already staggering McCain campaign.” The rest of it is not pretty.

Murray Waas gets a scoop, which I’m sure will be cannon fodder for Obama tonight.

William Timmons, the Washington lobbyist who John McCain has named to head his presidential transition team, aided an influence effort on behalf of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to ease international sanctions against his regime.

The two lobbyists who Timmons worked closely with over a five year period on the lobbying campaign later either pleaded guilty to or were convicted of federal criminal charges that they had acted as unregistered agents of Saddam Hussein’s government.

During the same period beginning in 1992, Timmons worked closely with the two lobbyists, Samir Vincent and Tongsun Park, on a previously unreported prospective deal with the Iraqis in which they hoped to be awarded a contract to purchase and resell Iraqi oil. Timmons, Vincent, and Park stood to share at least $45 million if the business deal went through.

Timmons’ activities occurred in the years following the first Gulf War, when Washington considered Iraq to be a rogue enemy state and a sponsor of terrorism. His dealings on behalf of the deceased Iraqi leader stand in stark contrast to the views his current employer held at the time.

John McCain strongly supported the 1991 military action against Iraq, and as recently as Sunday described Saddam Hussein as a one-time menace to the region who had “stated categorically that he would acquire weapons of mass destruction, and he would use them wherever he could.”

Imagine if this were the case with somebody in Obama’s campaign. The Right would be in an absolute frenzy over it from here till Election Day.

What is it about West Palm Beach that makes its congressmen prone to scandal? ABC News has the scoop:

West Palm Beach Congressman Tim Mahoney (D-FL), whose predecessor resigned in the wake of a sex scandal, agreed to a $121,000 payment to a former mistress who worked on his staff and was threatening to sue him, according to current and former members of his staff who have been briefed on the settlement, which involved Mahoney and his campaign committee.

Mahoney, who is married, also promised the woman, Patricia Allen, a $50,000 a year job for two years at the agency that handles his campaign advertising, the staffers said.

A Mahoney spokesperson would not answer questions about the alleged affair or the settlement, but said Allen resigned of her own accord and “has not received any special payment from campaign funds.”

Senior Democratic leaders in the House of Representatives, including Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL), the chair of the Democratic Caucus, have been working with Mahoney to keep the matter from hurting his re-election campaign, the Mahoney staffers said.

Mahoney was elected two years ago following the abrupt resignation of his disgraced predecessor, Republican Mark Foley, whose lewd internet messages to teenage boys and Congressional pages created a national outrage.

The affair between Mahoney and Allen began, according to the current and former staffers, in 2006 when Mahoney was campaigning for Congress against Foley, promising “a world that is safer, more moral.”

And the story gets better.

Friends of Allen told ABC News that Allen sought to break off the affair when she learned Mahoney was allegedly involved in other extra-marital relationships at the same time.

Her friends say she told them Mahoney threatened that ending the relationship could cost her the job.

“You work at my pleasure,” Congressman Mahoney told Allen on a January 20, 2008 telephone call that was recorded and played for Mahoney staffers. ABC News was provided a copy.

“If you do the job that I think you should do, you get to keep your job. Whenever I don’t feel like you’re doing your job, then you lose your job,” Mahoney can be heard telling Allen.

“And guess what? The only person that matters is guess who? Me. You understand that. That is how life really is. That is how it works,” Mahoney says on the call.

“You’re fired,” Mahoney tells her. “Do you hear me? Don’t tell me whether it’s correct or not.”

Allen says, “Tell me why else I’m fired.”

“There is no why else,” Mahoney responds.

Later, Allen says, “You’re firing me for other reasons. You don’t, you’re not man enough to say it. So why don’t you say it.”

All this from a guy who got elected because of his predecessor’s sex scandal? Yikes. This is manna from heaven for his opponent, who will in all likelihood hammer him upside the head with it for the next three weeks. It’s got Clinton-esque elements: adultery, use of taxpayer money, and litigation.

Keep an eye on this race to see if it gets competitive. It was a Republican district that switched in 2006 in disgust over the Foley scandal, so it could conceivably switch back. An incumbent’s first reelection campaign is usually the most difficult, and it would be a sweet symbolic victory for the Florida GOP if they could reclaim this seat and oust Mahoney because of a sex scandal, even if it isn’t anywhere near as toxic as the one that brought down Foley.

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.