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June 14, 2007

"Patriot" Games: Murtha Takes Earmarking To Whole New Level As He Tries To Put Vital No-Fly Terrorist Watch List In Hands of Incompetent Home-District Office

If there were such a thing as the Republican Party anymore, this would probably be a good issue to attack the Democrats with.

Alas.

To secure congressional funding for a pet project, Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., made a surprising claim: The little-known National Drug Intelligence Center was about to take charge of the "vitally important" terrorist no-fly list.


The Most Ethical Congress In History Washington

Murtha's news, in a letter he sent to the House Intelligence Committee last month, came as a surprise to the nation's intelligence community. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence already had recommended that the NDIC, in Murtha's hometown of Johnstown, Pa., be closed for poor performance. It also puzzled the Justice Department, NDIC's parent agency, where spokesman Dean Boyd said there are no "current" plans for such a transition.

Murtha got the committee to approve a $23 million "earmark" for the facility, anyway. Intelligence Committee member Mike Rogers, R-Mich., said he and his colleagues never saw Murtha's letter with the apparently inflated claim.

Don't question his commitment to national security, though.

Shock: NYT Identifies Political Affiliation In Democratic Corruption Snafu: Though I suppose, given that it is Barack Obama's ties to an indicted "collector of politicians" that is at question, it would have been difficult for even the NYT to airbrush out the word "Democrat:"

Antoin Rezko, an entrepreneur of considerable charm who found riches in fast food and real estate, is known around Chicago as a collector of politicians.

Back in the 1990s, Mr. Rezko’s office was adorned with framed photos of candidates he viewed as up-and-comers. Among them was Barack Obama, a state legislator whose first campaign donations included $2,000 from Mr. Rezko’s companies. As Mr. Obama built a career that carried him to the Senate in 2004, Mr. Rezko was there with him, holding fund-raisers and rallying support.

Now, as Mr. Obama runs for president, the once-beneficial relationship with his old friend and patron has become problematic.

Last fall, Mr. Rezko was indicted on federal charges of business fraud and influence peddling involving the administration of Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich of Illinois, whose picture was also on Mr. Rezko’s wall. Since then, Mr. Obama, a Democrat, has had to answer questions about a land deal with Mr. Rezko’s wife, Rita, and about other ties to him.

Since early June, Mr. Obama has given to charity more than $21,000 in donations that his Senate campaign had received from Rezko associates now linked to the federal inquiries. He gave away $11,500 from Mr. Rezko himself last fall.

Mr. Obama says he never did any favors for Mr. Rezko, who raised about $150,000 for his campaigns over the years and was once one of the most powerful men in Illinois. There is no sign that Mr. Obama, who declined to be interviewed for this article, did anything improper.

Mr. Obama has portrayed Mr. Rezko as a one-time fund-raiser whom he had occasionally seen socially. But interviews with more than a dozen political and business associates suggest that the two men were closer than the senator has indicated.

Mr. Obama turned to Mr. Rezko for help at several important junctures. Records show that when Mr. Obama needed cash in the waning days of his losing 2000 Congressional campaign, Mr. Rezko rounded up thousands of dollars from business contacts. In 2003, Mr. Rezko helped Mr. Obama expand his fund-raising for the Senate primary by being host of a dinner at his Mediterranean-style home for 150 people, including some whose names have since come up in the influence scandal.

And when Mr. Obama and his wife, Michelle, bought a house in 2005, Mr. Rezko stepped in again. Even though his finances were deteriorating, Mr. Rezko arranged for his wife to buy an adjacent lot, and she later sold the Obamas a 10-foot-wide strip of land that expanded their yard.

The land sale occurred after it had been reported that Mr. Rezko was under federal investigation. That awkward fact prompted Mr. Obama, who has cast himself as largely free from the normal influences of politics, to express regret over what he called his own bad judgment.



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posted by Ace at 01:32 AM

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