Feingold Stages Walkout in Judiciary Committee

From ABC News:

Feingold, Specter Clash Over Gay Marriage
Senators Have Fiery Exchange As Judiciary Committee Approves Amendment Banning Gay Marriage


WASHINGTON May 18, 2006 (AP)-- A Senate committee approved a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage Thursday, after a shouting match that ended when one Democrat strode out and the Republican chairman bid him "good riddance."

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Specter's Generosity

Working for Senator Arlen Specter sounds like a pretty sweet gig. You work for Specter, one of your relatives works as a lobbyist, and magically somehow, your relatives clients make out like bandits when it comes to federal money. Go figure. Back in February, Matt wrote about this emerging situation when CREW demanded that the Senate Ethics Committee investigate Specter.

At the time, it had become clear that Specter had pushed $48.7 million to American Defense International, a military contractor whose lobbyist, Michael Herson, is married to Vicki Siegel Herson, whom USA Today describes as "Specter's top appropriations aide." Typical of the Republican leadership, it seems that the only investigation into this matter thus far has been carried out by Specter's own office. The ethics investigation Specter "requested" from the Senate doesn't seem to have gotten off the ground.

The in-house investigation of the matter turned up one other case of Specter favoring an aide's relative's client. Specter helped lobbyist Eric Wallace, whose father Andy Wallace runs Specter's office in Scranton, get a $200,000 grant for his client, Impact Services. His response to this has essentially been to declare the case closed, saying that he and his office have tightened up their policies and are "living and learning."

But it seems a bit too convenient for me that Specter would be confronted with a charge as big as pushing nearly $50 million in pork to a connected lobbyist, respond by opening an internal investigation, and finding only one other, much smaller conflict. Much more likely in my mind is the possibility that this is just a token case thrown up to make Specter look responsible and get the critics off of his back. But that's an awfully small fire for so much smoke. I expect this story to get much worse for Specter before it gets better.

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My Liberal Fantasy: Russ Feingold's 2008 Nomination Acceptance Speech

Good evening, I love New York! Applause. Smiles broadly and waits for silence. And I proudly accept your nomination for President of the United States. Crowd erupts with sustained applause and cheers.

My friends, the time has come for an American renaissance of community, values, and justice. Almost seven years ago in this great city Osama Bin Laden unleashed his terror and the Republican Party unleashed a reign of indecency. Tonight we begin anew in the very city where it all went wrong. We bring hope.

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Now We Know What Specter Wants

Arlen Specter, like most 'moderate' Republicans, confuses me.  What is he after?  What is the psychology of someone who pretends to be pro-choice and moderate in a party of authoritarian cultists.  I guess I have my answer.  Corruption.  Via CREW:

According to a USA Today story, Ms. Siegel is married to lobbyist Michael Herson, who is a co-founder of the firm American Defense International ("ADI"). ADI has apparently received nearly $1.5 million in lobbying fees since 2002 from six clients who, as a result of 13 earmarks offered by Senator Specter, received a total of $48.7 million in set asides. The article states that Senator Specter claimed credit for all of the earmarks in various news releases.

Given that the companies that received the $48.7 million in earmarks paid Mr. Herson's firm nearly $1.5 million in fees, it appears likely that they paid ADI, at least in part, to lobby for those earmarks. As Mr. Herson's spouse, Ms. Siegel indirectly derived a substantial financial benefit from Mr. Herson's representation of those clients. And, as the primary Appropriations Committee staff member for Senator Specter, it also appears likely that Ms. Siegel was involved in securing the passage of those earmarks. As a result, CREW has asked that the Committee immediately commence an investigation into the circumstances that led to the passage of those earmarks and Ms. Siegel's involvement in securing them.

In one sense, this is a relief.  It seems like Specter is just a career politician, motivated by pork and positioning himself to maximize the amount he can get.  If he has to kowtow to extremists in his party to get it, so be it.

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Will Specter Redeem Himself?

In 2004, I broke from much of the progressive blogosphere by tacitly supporting Arlen Specter's reelection bid. My reasoning at the time was simple: if the Democrats did not retake the Senate, Specter would be preferable to Jon Kyl as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. After all, Specter had helped to thwart the nomination of Robert Bork in 1987, the year after his reelection, and he might act similarly after reelection in 2005. Unfortunately, I was wrong in my estimation of Specter's dedication to defending women's right to choice.

But can Specter gain salvation? Is there any way for him to redeem himself? On the eve of Judiciary Committee hearings into the legality of the Bush administration's extrajuridical policy of domestic spying, it sounds like Specter may have finally found his spine. The International Herald Tribune's Brett Knowlton has the story.

The Republican who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee said today that he believed the Bush administration had violated the law with its warrantless surveillance program and that its legal justifications for the program were "strained and unrealistic."

The program "is in flat violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act," said the chairman, Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, who will open committee hearings on Monday.

Despite these tough words, Specter is not there yet. For instance, while Specter clearly believes that the Bush administration's activities are illegal, he -- in a very lawyerlike manner, is unwilling to affirm the constitutionality of the law (the Supreme Court has yet to take a look at the 1978 law). What's more, Specter effectively balked at Democratic calls to subpoena documents from the administration, saying he might consider doing so in the future but is not yet ready to do so now.

But if Specter makes full use of his committee's robust investigative powers to probe the depth of the Bush administration's activities, shedding light on the extent to which the White House circumvented procedures set by law, he could begin to restore some balance to Washington. Moreover, should Specter indeed follow today's rhetoric with real action, a case could be made for further investigation -- and perhaps even impeachment proceedings against the President -- in the case of Democratic control of the House in the 110th Congress.

So call Senator Specter's office and tell him that you believe he should stop at nothing in his investigation into President Bush's domestic spying program. Ask his staffers, "If Senator Specter believes that these activities are illegal, what is he going to do about it?" Specter's Washington number is 202-224-4254; his Philadelphia number is 215-597-7200; his Pittsburgh office is 412-644-3400; and the telephone numbers of all of his other offices are listed here.

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