Bill Richardson's Internationalism Direly Needed as US Economy worsens

A quick look at the international dynamics of Richardson's appeal, his international resume, and the ghastly state of USA's domestic and international economy

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DCCC Goes Up on the Air Hitting Heather Wilson for Prosecutor Purge

It has been more than two weeks since GOP Rep. Heather Wilson of New Mexico admitted to breaking congressional ethics laws and still no member of the House, to my knowledge, has stepped forward and asked the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct to initiate an investigation into Wilson's misdeeds. Yet now, at the least, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is moving to put pressure on Wilson for her improprieties by running a radio ad in her district. You can download the ad through the previous link or listen below:


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This is a good start, and I would like to see the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee move ahead with a similar ad targeting New Mexico's Republican Senator Pete Domenici, who is also up for reelection in 2008 and who also has admitted to breaking ethics regulations, in the hopes of cajoling him to retire, which would make it significantly easier for the Democrats to pick up his seat.

That said, for as meaningful the action has been within Congress, in terms of the hearings and subpoenas, within the House, in particular, pressure on Wilson needs to be applied within the institution and not just through the Democrats' campaign arm. As I alluded to above, for the ethics committee to open an investigation into a House member, another member of the chamber must take the assertive step of asking for an investigation, unlike in the Senate where the request of an outside group can prompt an investigation. As I've said twice already in this post (and it bears repeating a third time), Wilson has already copped to breaking ethics laws and should not be allowed to weasel out of punishment within Congress just because of the ethics truce within the House.

Truthfully, I would have liked to have seen the ethics committee move on a query of Wilson's actions before the DCCC went up with an ad. But in the absence of anyone willing to break the ethics truce in the House, I do like the move to target Wilson this early in the cycle, when the prosecutor purge scandal is fresh in voters' minds, because it is a lot cheaper and perhaps even more effective to go after her at this point in the cycle then to wait until the last month or two of the election, when most voters will be tiring of the near-constant barrage of information -- particularly with New Mexico appearing to be a swing state on the presidential level.

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2008 Overview: State Trends Favor Democrats

In 2000, Democrats won a small plurality of the presidential vote (+0.51%) but lost the war.  In 2004, George W. Bush won by a larger margin (+2.46%) but barely hung on.  Democrats came within 10 points of Bush in nine states that were carried by W.  Realistically, these nine states (plus possibly Arizona at +10.47%) are the Democratic targets on the Presidential level for 2008.

In summary, a tie in the popular vote in 2008 is likely to elect a Democrat.  A very tight Democratic win is likely to rely completely on non-southern states.  However, a Clinton sized win  will almost certainly include electoral votes from southern states.  

Three Bush states (Iowa, New Mexico, Ohio)showed a Democratic lean in 2004.  In each case, the state is trending more democratic compared to the national norm.  Any Democrat who carries the Kerry base states plus these three states wins the White House.  A fourth state, Nevada, had such a small Republican lean (+0.13%) that it would likely swing along in a tied or nearly tied election. Results from these states in 2006 showed a continued democratic trend.

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Domenici Lawyers Up with Cunningham Atty. for Prosecutor Purge Case

Over the last few days I've spent a great deal of time writing about the prosecutor purge scandal, specifically looking at how the story will play in New Mexico, which is in many ways at the nexus of the story as two Republican lawmakers from the state, Sen. Pete Domenici and Rep. Heather Wilson, have all but admitted to breaking congressional ethics regulations by contacting (and potentially pressuring) a United States Attorney about an ongoing political corruption investigation. Now the story has continued yet another day as this afternoon Paul Kane and Dan Eggen of The Washington Post report on the paper's website that Domenici is lawyering up in the wake of the decision by the Senate Ethics Committee to open up an investigation into his actions.

Sen. Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.) has hired a top defense attorney to handle the pending ethics investigation into allegations that he pressured a federal prosecutor to bring indictments against New Mexico Democrats on the eve of the 2006 elections.

Lee Blalack, who recently represented former congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham (R-Calif.), who is now serving time in prison for bribery and other offenses, said today that he has signed on as Domenici's attorney in the wake of allegations from fired U.S. Attorney David C. Iglesias. Iglesias alleged that Domenici phoned him at his home and asked about a pending public corruption investigation.

The Senate Ethics Committee announced Monday that it has opened a preliminary inquiry into the matter, which will examine Iglesias's and Domenici's differing accounts of the phone call.

[...]

Domenici released a statement Tuesday evening corroborating the overall nature of the call, but he adamantly denied that he mentioned the November elections. He reiterated his previous stance that he in no way pressured Iglesias on any case. He has apologized for asking about a pending investigation.

The fact that Domenici has hired Blalack, a top level defense attorney who not only represented Cunningham (unsuccessfully, as it turned out) but who also has represented former Senate Majority Leader and close Domenici ally Bill Frist through an investigation into his potentially improper stock dealings, underscores the seriousness with which Domenici, and indeed the Republican Party, is taking these allegations. Domenici, who is up for reelection in 2008 but is believed by many not to have fully committed to running for another term, has effectively admitted to malfeasance already by conceding that he did call Iglesias, so at this point he is clearly on the defensive and in a difficult position.

When lawmakers start paying more attention to their legal woes and, more importantly, raising money to pay for their legal defense, they spend less time preparing and raising money for their reelection campaigns. So if the Democrats follow through on the strategy I laid out on this site last week -- running early and relatively inexpensive ads in New Mexico (and perhaps also inside the Beltway) chiding Domenici for his potentially unethical behavior, coupling that with perhaps some direct mail -- I think there's not a bad chance that Domenici will opt for retirement instead of trying for another term (most of which will likely be spent in the minority).

Update [2007-3-7 16:50:31 by Jonathan Singer]: Below the fold, the DSCC chimes in...

Update [2007-3-7 17:36:4 by Jonathan Singer]: Per a relase, Chuck Schumer has the following to say: “Now that it’s clear that there was a concerted effort to purge an impressive crop of U.S. Attorneys, the next step is to identify and question those responsible for hatching this scheme to use U.S. Attorneys as pawns in a political chess game.”

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Wilson Joins Domenici in Admitting to Breaking Congressional Ethics Law

Yesterday Senator Pete Domenici, Republican from New Mexico, all but admitted that he had broken congressional ethics regulations, confessing that he had indeed called the then-U.S. Attorney for his state, David Iglesias, to ask him about the status of an investigation into corruption by a former Democratic official. As Dan Eggen explained on the front page of The Washington Post today,

Legal experts say it violates congressional ethics rules for a senator or House member to communicate with a federal prosecutor regarding an ongoing criminal investigation.

With his statement, Domenici seemed to throw his colleague and protoge, GOP Rep. Heather Wilson, under the bus, because Wilson had also been fingered the previous week by Iglesias as having tried to apply political pressure on him to bring an indictment against his Democratic target before the November elections so that her chances at reelection might be increased (she only won by fewer than 1,000 votes).

But now Wilson, who was caught flatfooted by both the allegations by Iglesias (she previously pled "no comment" in the court of public opinion, a non-denial if there ever was one) and by yesterday's statement by Domenici, has also admitted to running afoul of Congress' ethics standards. Paul Kane and Dan Eggen have the story, also for The Post.

Rep. Heather Wilson (R-N.M.) acknowledged today that she contacted a federal prosecutor to complain about the pace of his public corruption investigations, as the Senate Ethics Committee signaled that it had opened a preliminary inquiry into a similar communication by the state's senior senator, Pete V. Domenici (R).

[...]

The lawmakers' telephone calls to Iglesias appear to put them in conflict with congressional ethics rules, which forbid such contacts to federal agency officials regarding "quasi-judiciary" investigations.

The Senate Ethics Committee released a statement Monday evening declining to address the allegations against Domenici, but noted that any time a legitimate complaint is filed against a senator it begins a preliminary inquiry. The statement, from the chairwoman, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), and Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), the committee's ranking member, noted that preliminary inquiries can lead to more expansive investigations.

Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington, a liberal-leaning advocacy group, filed a complaint with the committee against Domenici on Monday.

This story has legs, alright. Already, the senior Justice Department official who notified the U.S. attorneys that they had been fired has announced his resignation, and committees in both the Senate and the House will hold hearings and listen to testimony from the purged prosecutors tomorrow morning. Combined with the ethics filing by CREW (the complaint and accompanying press release are available here), I'd say this story will likely be among the most watched for at least some time to come. And for two Republican members of Congress up for reelection in 2008 in a state and district, respectively, that are quite balanced between the two parties (if not slightly Democratic-leaning), that's just about the worst news imagineable.

[For more coverage of this story here on MyDD, check out posts on how this might affect the races in New Mexico's first congressional district and the state's 2008 Senate race, as well as the already weakened New Mexico GOP. Also, take a listen to the last fifth or so of this week's MyDD Blog Talk Radio -- about 48 minutes into the program -- for a discussion of the scandal.]

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