Senate Majority Project

Thursday, November 03, 2005


Bob Geiger at Yellow Dog Blog has an interesting take on Republican Partisanship in the U.S. Senate. His study shows that so far the Republican-controlled Senate has killed 80 percent of the Democratic sponsored amendments that made it to the Senate floor. Just more evidence of how Republicans have used their majority in the Senate to jam through a far-right agenda that destroys all pretense of bipartisanship.

Senate Uncovers More Abramoff-Cornyn Connections

E-mails released by the Senate Indian Affairs Committee yesterday further document how Republican super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his accomplice Ralph Reed used Sen. John Cornyn to further their scheme to extort millions from unsuspecting Native American tribes in Texas and Louisiana.

In an e-mail commenting on an article where Alabama Coushatta tribal leaders bragged about the number of Texas residents traveling to their casino near the border, Abramoff wrote “Have we launched on Cornyn? We need to do so now.” Reed and Abramoff had already launched a campaign to provide cover for Cornyn’s efforts to close a Tigua casino in Speaking Rock, and had discussed the campaign with Cornyn. The December 19th e-mail seems to outline a new campaign to “persuade” Cornyn to close the Alabama casino as well. A $250,000 check was sent from Capitol Campaign Strategies to Reed’s Century Strategies. And a memo from Abramoff partner Mike Scanlon dated January 6th noted that “The Texas Attorney General filed a lawsuit in federal court on Friday [Jan 4, 2002] to shut down the Alabama Coushatta’s ‘entertainment center’ in Livingston. This means that the threat of a class III facility near Houston has been completely eliminated.” Privately, Scanlon wrote to Abramoff saying “Yeah baby!!! … weeez gonna be rich!!!”

Previous e-mails released by the committee documented Reed and Abramoff’s desire to reward Cornyn for helping their cause. Specifically, in e-mails dated January 6th, after Cornyn sued the Alabama tribe, Reed said, “Hope these developments help with client, I think we should budget for an ataboy for Cornyn.”

On February 11th, Reed forwarded an e-mail to Abramoff containing an Associated Press article saying that Cornyn had won a procedural motion when the Supreme Court refused the Tigua tribe’s application for a stay that would keep their casino open. Reed wrote “can we now get an “attaboy” budget to give these guys air cover?”
Also released yesterday were e-mails detailing a Texas political plan Abramoff designed to defeat Texas Democrats who would frustrate Cornyn’s goal of keeping the Tigua casino closed. Reed specifically asked for help for Cornyn’s Senate race again on July 24, 2002 saying “This is total victory and should lead friends in TX to now want to launch the grassroots effort to insure that those elected officials who stood up for families and against casino gambling have support this fall. It is critical. The Governor’s race is too close to call and the Senate race is within the margin of error.” Previous reports show that Cornyn and the RNC received financial help from rival casino owners seeking to keep the Tigua casino closed.

Scooters Defenders

Republican Senators have been rushing to defend Scooter Libby since he was indicted on five counts of perjury and obstruction of justice last week. Remarkably some of the same Republicans who hyperventilated and rushed to judgment when Ken Starr threw around similar accusations about the last administration seem to have changed their tune. Where Republicans treated accusations of perjury as grounds for removing a president, today they seem to be barely more than parking tickets.

On a recent Meet the Press, Hutchinson discussed possible indictments in the CIA leak case. The Senator hopes that if there is going to be an indictment, "it is an indictment on a crime and not some perjury technicality where ... just to show that their two years of investigation was not a waste of time and taxpayer dollars." [Chicago Tribune 10/30/05].

But Hutchinson was singing a different tune when discussing why she voted for the removal of President Clinton back in 1999, she said "the reason that I voted to remove him from office is because I think the overriding issue here is that truth will remain the standard for perjury and obstruction of justice in our criminal justice system, and it must not be gray. It must not be muddy." [Hardball, 10/24/05]
Recently, Senator Orrin Hatch was on CNN discussing Scooter Libby and the CIA leak case. Hatch dismissed the charges that Libby and other officials may have blocked the investigation of crimes, by saying that the prosecutor has not yet indicted Libby, Rove or others for releasing the identity of a CIA agent. Hatch went on to say, “You will notice one thing. He did not call his wife a covert agent. Now, that was a very telling statement by his attorney because that's what this whole case was supposed to be built on. If there was no underlying crime committed, then one has to ask, why then would you bring five count against a servant in the government who may or may not have done something wrong?”

Hatch sure took these offenses seriously when President Clinton was under investigation. The Senator had said referring to President Clinton "If he lies before the grand jury, that will be grounds for impeachment," [York Daily Record 8/17/98]. Wow, grounds for impeachment? That is some serious stuff. The Utah Senator made other comments “for one, worries that if the Senate "finds that perjury and obstruction of justice are not removable" it would send the message that the Senate does not take these offenses seriously” [The Nation 2/22/99]. Hatch believed perjury and obstruction of justice were serious before, why not now?
Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina felt the need to speak on the supposed intentions of the Bush White House by saying: "I really, honestly believe this is the truth, that Joe Wilson, when he wrote the column critical of the Niger event, interjected into the debate that he was sent there by the vice president. And in the White House, they knew that wasn't true. And they tried to set the record straight. And apparently, they didn't violate the law in setting the record straight," Mr. Graham said. [Washington Times 10/31/05]. Graham did not say why revealing the identity of Wilson’s wife, and possibly endangering national security, would set the record straight.

Graham had a different story when talking about President Clinton: “But Lindsey said that hiding evidence, manipulating grand jury testimony or lying to the jury in an active case are impeachable offenses. [AP Newswires 8/10./98].” Huh? That is what the current White House is doing, but Senator Graham said they are setting the record straight, I don’t understand why Senator Graham didn’t say President Clinton was setting the record straight when he made these accusations. Senator Graham also said “For God's sake,'' he told the Senate, ``figure out what kind of person we have here in the White House. [Winnipeg Free Press 2/11/99].” It might be the proper time to direct that question towards President Bush and his staff at the White House.
Senator Graham had also said when referring to President Clinton "You don't wag your finger at people and lie to them. People can forgive you for your sins, but they don't want to be lied to." [The Herald of Rock Hill, S.C. 8/18/99].”

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

John Cornyn and the Abramoff Scandal

This morning, The Senate Indian Affairs Committee held a fourth hearing expected to further expose the degree to which Jack Abramoff defrauded Native American Tribes that hired him as a lobbyist. The hearing today will focus on his work for the Coshutta Tribe in Louisiana which was seeking to lobby the Department of Interior to reject the application of a rival tribe for a casino. Abramoff eventually extracted $36 million from the tribe in part to allegedly convince Texas voter not to legalize gambling.

Testimony of Coshutta Tribe Councilman David Sickey today revealed that Abramoff and Michael Scanlon obtained the contract by over-hyping the threat that gambling could be legalized in Texas, and bragging that they had “critical influence with Texas officials who could defeat Texas gambling.”

Texas’ chief gambling cop at the time was Attorney General John Cornyn. With the help of Abramoff, Scanlon and Ralph Reed, Cornyn rose to prominence in Texas by shutting down the Tigua casino, a client that Abramoff was simultaneously convincing to pay him millions to keep the casino open. [Washington Post, 9/25/2004]

Cornyn won final judgment in the lawsuit to close the casino in February 2002, weeks after formally kicking off his U.S. Senate campaign, saying "I will be a senator who will fight hard for true Texas values, and a conservative senator who will work for and stand beside our great president” [Houston Chronicle, 1/14/2002, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 4/17/2005]

His effort was no doubt helped along by the $4 million anti-gambling campaign funded by Abramoff and run by Ralph Reed – formerly of the Christian Coalition and currently a candidate for Lieutenant Governor in Georgia. E-mails released previously show that Reed and Abramoff were closely connected and receiving inside information from Cornyn’s office and keeping him posted on their efforts over a period of months. And the campaign itself was expressly an effort to provide political cover for Cornyn’s efforts. [U.S. News and World Report, 8/29/2005, Atlanta Journal Constitution, 6/19/2005]

But Cornyn’s race didn’t just profit from the publicity. Near the end of the campaign, Reed wrote to Abramoff saying “I think we should budget for an ataboy for cornyn” [sic]. Abramoff contributed $1,000, the maximum amount legally allowed. Cornyn also received $6,250 in contributions from Las Vegas casino interests who oppose Indian gaming, some of which were made at the same time Cornyn was pushing to close the Tigua's casino. In addition, a rival casino owner, Stanley Fulton, who was seeking to keep the Tigua casino closed, gave $1.25 million to the RNC. The RNC transferred a total of $2.8 million to the Texas Republican Party. Fulton also gave the maximum legal contribution to Cornyn’s Senate campaign. [El Paso Times, 10/30/2002]

Today, Cornyn pleads amnesia, saying he has no recollection of any contact with Abramoff. [Fort Worth Star Telegram, 4/17/2005]

The hearings into Abramoff’s dealings are a start, but the examination should not exclude the hard questions for the public officials and candidates who made his scams possible.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005


Could it be that Senator John McCain is illegally raising soft money to boost a future presidential campaign?

Allison Hayward at recently published an appeal from McCain for contributions to a South Carolina (read early primary state) state legislator. In the letter McCain says:
As you know, I rarely ask you to support candidates for state office in states other than your own. However, I must make an exception for a race coming up in South Carolina. …

Rick [Quinn] needs our help. Running statewide is very expensive, and it is important for him to get a strong early start. I hope you will consider sending him a contribution. The easiest way to do that is by logging on to Rick’s website at…
As a South Carolina state legislative candidate, Quinn happily accepts corporate contributions up to $5,000. But under the federal law that is McCain’s namesake, federal officeholders that help state candidates such as Quinn raise money cannot, and must only ask for funds that they could asked for under the federal law. The FEC recently clarified this saying that such funds could be raised so long as …
“written notices are clearly and conspicuously displayed at state candidate fundraising events at which Federally impermissible funds are raised indicating that the covered person is only soliciting federally permissible funds….Alternatively, if written notices are not provided at the event, the covered official may make the following public oral disclaimer: “I am only asking for up to $2,000 from individuals and I am not asking for corporate, labor or minors’ funds.”
[FEC Advisory Opinion 2003-3]

According to Heyward, this solicitation did not contain such a disclaimer.

Is Senator McCain going to FEC prison? Probably not. But he should get a few minutes in the hypocrisy penalty box. In March of this year, McCain joined a letter where he argued for a rule that would “bar Federal officeholders and candidates from soliciting ANY non-Federal funds.” [McCain et al. letter dated 3/28/2005].

Nobody is asking McCain, or anybody else, to unilaterally disarm. And the new federal laws McCain helped write are anything but clear. But we would hope that the media holds McCain to the same level of scrutiny that it does others that are tangled in the web of confusing rules he created and supported.

Monday, October 31, 2005


This morning, CNN turned to Senator Jeff Sessions to comment on Rosa Parks memorial. His glowing comments about Parks, and the civil rights movement, rang a little hollow since prior to becoming a United States Senator he was the only Reagan judicial nominee denied by a Republican-controlled Judiciary Committee. His rejection was in large part because of discomfort over Sessions racially-charged statements, disagreement with mainstream interpretations of the Voting Rights Act, and racially-slanted prosecutions for voting fraud.
  1. In 1984, as a United States Attorney, Sessions unsuccessfully prosecuted a former aide of Rev. Martin Luther King, Albert Turner, alleging voter fraud. [Washington Post 6/6/1985] Turner was one of three civil rights activists whose voter registration drives in black counties attracted notice of white Alabama Republicans as the percentage of African American voters registered in the counties began to increase. Sessions launched an investigation of these counties, but not other predominantly white counties, after the 1984 election. After an exhaustive investigation and several interrogations of African American voters, Sessions could point to just 14 bad ballots out of 1.7 million cast. When the matter came to court, Turner was acquitted in less than four hours. [Wildman, The New Republic, 12/30/2002]

  2. During his unsuccessful confirmation, Sessions admitted to calling the Voting Rights Act of 1965 a "piece of intrusive legislation," a phrase he stood behind even in his confirmation hearings. [Wildman, The New Republic, 12/30/2002]   Today, however, Sessions praised the Act saying: "the Voting Rights Act really fundamentally changed so much of what occurred in the South. People were surreptitiously and systematically, in some cases just blatantly, denied the right to vote in the South. That has been eliminated, of course, by the Voting Rights Act." [CNN Breaking News, 10/31/2005]

  3. Finally, according to sworn statements by Justice Department lawyers, Sessions called the NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union “un-American” and “communist-inspired” and said they “force civil rights down the throats of people.” He also reportedly said of the Ku Klux Klan, “I used to think they’re OK,” until learning that some Klan members were “pot smokers.” Sessions said the remarks were in jest or had been misinterpreted. [1996 Congressional Quarterly Profile]
Before praising civil rights leaders, Sessions should revisit his own civil rights record.