A coin dealer and major GOP donor at the center of a scandal in Ohio state government was charged Thursday with illegally funneling $45,400 in contributions to President Bush’s re-election campaign.
Thomas Noe was accused in a federal indictment of giving money directly or indirectly to 24 friends and associates, who then made the campaign contributions in their own names. In that way, he skirted the $2,000 limit on individual contributions, prosecutors said.
“It’s one of the most blatant and excessive finance schemes we have encountered,” said Noel Hillman, section chief of the Department of Justice’s public integrity section.
Calls to the White House and Noe’s attorneys were not immediately returned. Prosecutors said the Bush campaign has cooperated with their investigation.
Noe also is under investigation over an ill-fated $50 million investment in rare coins he managed for the state workers’ compensation fund. Noe has acknowledged that up to $13 million is missing, and Ohio’s attorney general has accused him of stealing as much as $6 million. No charges have been filed in that case, though state officials say they plan to file charges.
Prosecutors would not reveal the names of the people to whom Noe gave money to contribute or say if any of them would be charged. The indictment said Noe and those who gave his money to Bush had conspired together to violate the contribution limits.
Two people who received just over $20,000 from Noe recruited others who then gave money in their own names, the indictment said.
The coin dealer personally contributed more than $105,000 to Republicans, including Bush and Gov. Bob Taft, during the last campaign.
An investigation into Noe’s coin investments led to ethics charges against Taft for failing to report golf outings and other gifts. The governor pleaded no contest in August and was fined $4,000.
U.S. Attorney Gregory White said prosecutors were negotiating Noe’s surrender with his lawyer.
Noe’s attorney, Bill Wilkinson, said in a statement that Noe’s surrender was complicated by the fact that Noe was in South Florida and that many courthouses there were still closed because of Hurricane Wilma.
If convicted, Noe faces up to 15 years in prison and fines up to $950,000.
The Sky Report has secretly filmed one of America's most controversial Christian ministers praising the London bombings.
Fred Phelps says that terrorist outrages and natural disasters such as Hurricane Rita are examples of God's wrath against countries such as America and Britain for tolerating homosexuals and homosexuality.
Fred Phelps, who set up the controversial Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, told our undercover reporter about the attacks, which killed 52 people:
"Oh I am so thankful that happened. My only regret is that they didn't kill about million of them. England deserves that kind of punishment, as does this country (America)".
The church, which has 150 followers, recently started picketing funerals including those of American soldiers killed in Iraq, waving banners such as "Thank God 9/11", "God Hates Fags" and "Aids Cures Fags".
The Sky Report investigation includes secret filming inside the church's fortified compound during a weekly service in which Fred Phelps also denounced the Roman Catholic Church as the "biggest paedophile organisation in the history of the world".
Phelps made news just last month when the Daily Telegraph reported that the Swedish royal family were consulting lawyers after discovering that he had made outrageous claims about their sexuality on the internet.
Several members of the Westboro Baptist Church congregation were planning to visit Sweden - placards in hand - ready to spread their message that Sweden is, "a land of sodomy, bestiality and incest''.
All men dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, to make it possible.
Rep. Tom DeLay appeared in court Friday for the first time since his indictment, but his arraignment on conspiracy and money laundering charges was delayed pending a hearing on his request for a new judge in the politically charged case.
DeLay, who has stepped aside at least for the time being as House majority leader, did not speak during the brief court session, and was not called on to make a plea. But at a news conference shortly afterward, he attacked the prosecutor in the case as politically motivated, and said, "I will absolutely be exonerated."
Inside the courtroom, Judge Bob Perkins told defense lawyer Dick DeGuerin that "the best way for me to handle" the request for a new judge would be to defer further proceedings.
That set the stage for a pointed exchange between the two men that seemed as much a campaign debate as a courtroom exchange.
In respectful tones, DeGuerin noted that Perkins had donated money to MoveOn.org, a liberal organization that he said has been "selling T-shirts with Mr. DeLay's mug shot on it."
"Let me just say I haven't ever seen that T-shirt, number one. Number two, I haven't bought it. Number three, the last time I contributed to MoveOn that I know of was prior to the November election last year, when they were primarily helping Sen. Kerry," responded the judge.
MoveOn.org denied it was selling any such shirts, and issued a statement that said, "DeGuerin has either bad information or lied in court."
"All we want is a fair trial and a fair tribunal," DeGuerin told reporters outside the courthouse. Prosecutor Ronnie Earle signaled he intends to contest the request for a new judge. "What this means is if a judge had contributed to Crime Stoppers that judge could not hear a burglary case," Earle said. "Carried to its extreme, that is what I think this motion means and I think that's absurd."
"We don't live in a country where political party determines the measure of justice," Earle said, adding that he though DeLay could get a fair trial in the state's capital.
Administrative Judge B.B. Schraub will hold a hearing on whether Perkins should step aside. Schraub is based outside of Austin in the nearby town of Seguin, has been the administrative judge for the region since 1990 and is a Republican. Three Republicans and one Democratic governor have appointed or reappointed him to his job, his assistant said.
It was not clear how much the motion would lengthen proceedings in the case. The Texas congressman has said he wants a speedy trial.
DeLay appeared relaxed as he sat next to his wife, Christine, in the courtroom for what turned out to be a session of roughly four minutes. Earlier, he had entered the courthouse through a side door to avoid the cameras.
DeLay and two political associates are charged in an alleged scheme to funnel corporate donations to GOP candidates for the Texas Legislature. State law prohibits use of corporate donations to elect or defeat state candidates. All three deny wrongdoing.
The case has had a political cast from the outset. The charges arise from a campaign in which Republicans gained control of the legislature, then used their new majority to force through a redistricting plan that netted the GOP additional seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.
DeLay's indictment has roiled Republican politics in Washington, where he was forced to step aside as the No. 2 House Republican. With an eye on the 2006 elections, Democrats have sought to turn him into a symbol of what they depict as an ethically-challenged Republican majority.
But apart from giving up his leadership post — as required under GOP rules — DeLay has been nothing but defiant. He retains a powerful influence in the House GOP high command, has repeatedly attacked Earle and now seeks to force the removal of the judge, who has donated to the organization that DeLay's lawyer described as antithetical to GOP fortunes.
"I will not let a prosecutor who pursues his political enemies by abusing the law and manufacturing baseless charges wreck our justice system," DeLay said at his news conference.
Apart from seeking a new judge, the congressman's lawyers are asking to have the case moved out of Austin, one of the state's most liberal areas.
DeLay turned himself in to the Harris County sheriff's office in Houston on Thursday, avoiding hordes of reporters waiting for him in nearby Fort Bend County, where he lives.
He smiled broadly in a mug shot that was publicly released. DeLay also was fingerprinted, went before a judge and was released on $10,000 bail.
DeLay's co-defendants are John Colyandro of Dallas, who was executive director of a Texas political action committee founded by DeLay, and Jim Ellis, a paid adviser who also runs DeLay's national fundraising committee. They also face conspiracy and money laundering charges, but their attorneys asked that their cases be separated from DeLay's proceedings.
From The Washington Post: A U.N. investigation has implicated senior Syrian and Lebanese officials in the assassination of Lebanon's leading reformer in a move that U.S. and European officials expect will generate new international pressure on the Syrian government of President Bashar Assad.
In blunt language, the report by German prosecutor Detlev Mehlis concluded that the Valentine's Day bombing of former prime minister Rafiq Hariri and 22 others "could not have been taken without the approval of top-ranked Syrian security officials and could not have been further organized without the collusion of their counterparts in the Lebanese security forces."
The report faulted Damascus for failing to fully cooperate with the probe and cited several officials, including Foreign Minister Farouk Charaa for attempting to mislead the investigation by providing false or inaccurate statements. Nevertheless, Mehlis said many leads now point directly to Syrian security officials.
The findings have been eagerly awaited by U.S. and European officials. Along with a second U.N. report on Lebanon due in days, key members of the Security Council hope to use the findings to increase pressure on the Assad government to end years of meddling in Lebanon and to generally change its behavior both at home and throughout the region, including ending support for extremist groups.
Mehlis concluded that the complex assassination plot involved several months of preparation and was conducted by a sophisticated group with "considerable resources and capabilities." Although the primary motive was political, some of the perpetrators may have been motivated by issues involving fraud, corruption and money laundering, he added.
Syrian officials have repeatedly denied any role in Hariri's slaying. Earlier this week, Syrian Ambassador Imad Moustapha said, "We are absolutely categoric in saying we had nothing to do with Hariri." Messages to Syrian officials in Washington and at the United Nations were not returned last night.
But Mehlis said the slaying followed a "growing conflict" between Hariri and senior Syrian officials, including Assad. Tensions came to a head during a 10-to-15-minute meeting between the two men on Aug. 26, 2004. The Syrian leader informed Hariri that he wanted to extend for three years the term of Lebanese President Emile Lahoud, a close ally of Damascus, in defiance of the Lebanese constitution -- a move Hariri firmly opposed.
Mehlis's report included excerpts of interviews and statements about the meeting, including several by Hariri's associates and his son, alleging that the Syrian president threatened Hariri if he opposed the plan. Saad Hariri said his father told him that Assad said: "This extension is to happen, or else I will break Lebanon over your head."
In a conversation between Hariri and a Syrian deputy foreign minister tape-recorded on Feb. 1, the former prime minister recalled the meeting with Assad as "the worst day of my life." Hariri then told the Syrian official that Lebanon would no longer be ruled from Syria.
Walid Mouallem, the Syrian official and a former ambassador to Washington, warned Hariri that Syrian security services had him cornered and not to "take things lightly," according testimony given to the commission. Two weeks later, Hariri was dead.
When the commission tried to follow up these leads, Syria refused to provide substantive information, Mehlis reported. Assad refused to be interviewed. And interviews conducted last month produced "uniform answers" that contradicted the weight of evidence, he added.
The commission cited one witness's testimony that a white Mitsubishi with a tarpaulin over its flatbed was used as the bomb carrier and crossed into Lebanon from Syria three weeks before the attack. It was driven by a Syrian army colonel, the report said. The day before the bombing, the same witness said he drove a Syrian officer to the St. George area of Beirut on a "reconnaissance exercise" -- in the area where the assassination took place.
The report listed several officials who witnesses alleged knew about or played an advance role in the assassination. They included Gen. Jamil Sayyed, Gen. Mustapha Hamdan, Gen. Raymond Azar -- senior Lebanese officials who have been arrested -- and Gen. Rustum Ghazali, Syria's most recent intelligence chief in Lebanon. The day before the assassination, the report said, witnesses allege that Ghazali met with the head of Hariri's protection detail, emerging "badly shaken."
Another witness said Hamdan had accused Hariri of being pro-Israeli and had said, "We are going to send him on a trip, bye, bye Hariri." After Hariri's assassination, the witness was "strongly reminded not to discuss the conversation with anyone," the report said.
The report also cited an allegation by one witness against Assad's brother-in-law, Maj. Gen. Asef Shawkat. The unidentified witness told the commission that Shawkat forced an Islamic militant, Abu Adass, to record a tape claiming responsibility for the bombing two weeks before it occurred, to create the misimpression that the attack was the act of a lone suicide bomber.
Peppered with riveting detail, the report said Syrian and Lebanese intelligence officials wiretapped Hariri's phone. But the 54-page report said the full picture would require a more extensive investigation, and called for the international community to help Lebanese authorities continue the probe. U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan announced late yesterday that he will extend the Mehlis mandate to Dec. 15.
The Bush administration said it would not immediately comment. "We intend to read and study it tonight very carefully and decide tomorrow in consultations with other interested governments what the next steps will be," said U.S. Ambassador John R. Bolton. Diplomats expect the report to lead the Security Council to consider action, however.
A second U.N. report on Lebanon is expected next week. It will focus on the implementation of Resolution 1559, which calls for the end of Syria's meddling in Lebanon and the disbanding of armed groups that are tied to Syria.
To follow up on both reports, the United States and other nations have been discussing language for two resolutions that could be introduced as soon as next week to hold the perpetrators to account and add new pressure on Syria, according to U.S. and U.N. officials.
Mehlis's probe included more than 400 interviews and reviews of more than 16,000 pages of documents. Among those interviewed was Ghazi Kanaan, the former Syrian intelligence chief in Lebanon, who committed suicide last week.
Mehlis warned that many Lebanese fear the international community may not follow through, leaving them vulnerable to the return of Syrian military and intelligence services and a revenge campaign. Recent bombings and assassinations have been carried out "with impunity," deterring potential witnesses from testifying, he said.
From The Hill: House Resources Chairman Richard Pombo (R-Calif.) may have violated tax laws by accepting international trips paid for by a private foundation, according to a report out yesterday.
The Center for Public Integrity, which co-wrote the report with American Public Media’s “Marketplace” radio news show, alleges that the International Foundation for the Conservation of Natural Resources (IFCNR) funded trips to New Zealand and Japan in 2000 and 2002, respectively.
The trips cost a total of $23,000. Pombo’s wife accompanied the congressman on the first trip; a staff member went along on the second.
The IFCNR is apparently funded in part by donations from Darden Restaurants, the parent of the Red Lobster and Olive Garden chains. The Foundation also has received money from the National Trappers Association and the International Fur Trade Association.
Pombo’s Resources Committee has partial jurisdiction over federal environmental policy such as the Endangered Species Act, which Pombo and others have sought this year to rewrite. Environmental groups have argued that the changes would gut protections.
Justice Department and congressional investigations into the actions of former lobbyist Jack Abramoff have drawn increased scrutiny to congressional travel. Among the allegations facing Abramoff is that he personally paid for some member travel, a violation of House rules.
The potential problem with Pombo’s trips, according to the report, is that the Internal Revenue Service precludes private, nonprofit foundations from funding international travel by government officials.
The report says Pombo could have to reimburse the foundations for the costs of the trip or face what it describes as a stiff fine.
The foundation should have also paid taxes on the trip, but the report alleges that it did not. It could also have to pay a penalty.
Pombo told the Center and Marketplace that he had not been aware that the Foundation was private and that it was governed by different tax rules than trade associations, interest groups, think tanks and other nonprofit groups that routinely pay for congressional travel.
Pombo said he would have his accountant look into the allegations made in the report. Brian Kennedy, a spokesman for the Resources Committee, said that if the review shows that Pombo owes money “he will make good on his debt.”
Foundation President Emeritus Stephen Boynton told investigators for the Center of Public Integrity and “Marketplace” that the foundation asked both Pombo and the House ethics committee if it could pay for the trips and received the OK.
The report also notes that Pombo served as the chairman of the Sustainable Use Parliamentarians Union (SUPU), a subsidiary to the IFCNR that was involved with the trips.
Pombo allegedly served in that capacity from 2000 to July 2004. Rep. Dennis Rehberg, a Republican from Montana, is the current chairman of the group.
Pombo said that he had not had contact with the IFNCR or SUPU for several years. SUPU has only had two meetings, Boynton said.
Where the preamble declares, that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed by inserting "Jesus Christ," so that it would read "A departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion;" the insertion was rejected by the great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mohammedan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination.
-Thomas Jefferson, Autobiography, in reference to the Virginia Act for Religious Freedom
In a move that should come as no surprise, the GOP once again placed the needs of huge cash rich corporations (i.e. large corporate donors) above the needs of average American citizens. This is just another sickening example of the Republican's selling out to corporate America. Americans should be unnerved by this unabashed corporate partisanship.
Congress gave the gun lobby its top legislative priority Thursday, passing a bill that would protect the firearms industry from massive lawsuits brought by crime victims. The White House says President Bush will sign it into law.
The House voted 283-144 to send the bill to the president after supporters, led by the National Rifle Association, proclaimed it vital to protect the industry from being bankrupted by huge jury awards. Opponents, waging a tough battle against growing public support for the legislation, called it proof of the gun lobby's power over the Republican-controlled Congress.
"This legislation will make the unregulated gun industry the most pampered industry in America," said Kristen Rand, director of the Violence Policy Center.
Under the measure, about 20 pending lawsuits by local governments against the industry would be dismissed. The Senate passed the bill in July.
The bill's passage was the NRA's top legislative priority and would give Bush and his Republican allies on Capitol Hill a rare victory at a time when some top GOP leaders are under indictment or investigation.
"Lawsuits seeking to hold the firearms industry responsible for the criminal and unlawful use of its products are brazen attempts to accomplish through litigation what has not been achieved by legislation and the democratic process," House Judiciary Committee Chairman James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., told his colleagues.
Propelled by GOP election gains and the incidents of lawlessness associated with the passing of Hurricane Katrina, support for the bill has grown since a similar measure passed the House last year and was killed in the Senate.
Horrific images of people without the protection of public safety in New Orleans made a particular impression on viewers who had never before felt unsafe, according to the gun lobby.
"Americans saw a complete collapse of the government's ability to protect them," said Wayne LaPierre, the NRA's executive vice president.
"That burnt in, those pictures of people standing there defending their lives and defending their property and their family," he added, "where the one source of comfort was a firearm."
With support from four new Republicans this session of Congress, the bill passed the Senate for the first time in July. House passage never was in doubt because it had 257 co-sponsors, far more than the 218 needed to pass.
The bill's authors say it still would allow civil suits against individual parties who have been found guilty of criminal wrongdoing by the courts.
Opponents say the strength of the bill's support is testament to the influence of the gun lobby. If the bill had been law when the relatives of six victims of convicted Washington-area snipers John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo sued the gun dealer from which they obtained their rifle, the dealer would not have agreed to pay the families and victims $2.5 million.
"It is shameful that Republicans in Congress are pushing legislation that guarantees their gun-dealing cronies receive special treatment and are above the law," said Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Calif.
Bush has said he supports the bill, which would prohibit lawsuits against the firearms industry for damages resulting from the unlawful use of a firearm or ammunition. Gun makers and dealers still would be subject to product liability, negligence or breach of contract suits, the bill's authors say.
Democrats and Republicans alike court the NRA at election time, and the bill has garnered bipartisan support. But the firearms industry still gave 88 percent of its campaign contributions, or $1.2 million, to Republicans in the 2004 election cycle.
Gun control advocates, meanwhile, gave 98 percent of their contributions, or $93,700, to Democrats that cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Naturally, the common people don't want war, but they can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. Tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and endangering the country. It works the same in every country.
From CNN: A Texas prosecutor tried to persuade Rep. Tom DeLay to plead guilty to a misdemeanor and save his job as majority leader but DeLay refused, the congressman's attorney said Monday.
Dick DeGuerin described such an effort in a letter to the prosecutor in the case, Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle.
DeLay has been indicted on conspiracy and money laundering charges in a Texas campaign finance investigation, both felonies. He was obligated to step aside under House Republican rules.
"Before the first indictment you tried to coerce a guilty plea from Tom DeLay for a misdemeanor, stating the alternative was indictment for a felony which would require his stepping down as majority leader of the United States House of Representatives," DeGuerin wrote.
"He turned you down flat so you had him indicted, in spite of advice from others in your office that Tom DeLay had not committed any crime," the lawyer contended.
Earle had no immediate comment. In a series of filings prior to DeLay's first scheduled court appearance Friday, DeGuerin asked for: A speedy trial, because the indictments "have already had adverse collateral consequences including the temporary loss of Tom DeLay's leadership position in the United States Congress and an unknown effect on the upcoming (March 2006) primary election."
Dismissal of the indictments because, he contended, they failed to allege any act or omission by DeLay and improperly joined two offenses.
Separation of DeLay's case from that of two political associates, because DeLay wants a speedy trial while the associates are pursuing appeals that would delay their cases.
Rep. Tom DeLay will likely be booked in a Texas county jail this week despite attempts by his attorneys to bypass the fingerprinting and mug shot process.
The former House majority leader was forced to step down from the post last month when he was indicted by a Texas grand jury. DeLay initially was charged with conspiracy to violate the election code and days later was indicted on charges of money laundering and conspiracy to launder money in an alleged illegal scheme to funnel corporate money to Republican Texas legislative candidates.
DeLay's arraignment is set for Friday before state district Judge Bob Perkins in Travis County, Texas. "Perkins believes that if God was charged with a felony, he would have to go through the booking process, too," said D'Ann Underwood, court coordinator for the judge.
Before Friday, DeLay, a Republican from Sugar Land, Texas, will likely spend about an hour being fingerprinted and photographed, she said. He'll also be required to state his attorneys for the record.
Travis County allows some defendants to do a "walkthrough" booking process, in which the defendant is photographed and fingerprinted. But DeLay's bond amount would be preset so he could immediately pay it and avoid a stay in jail.
DeLay also could waive going before a magistrate to have his rights and charges read to him. At Friday's court appearance, Perkins has the discretion to rule on motions to dismiss the charges, as requested by defense attorneys, but may elect to do so at a later date. The hearing will likely take less than 20 minutes, Underwood said.
It’s interesting that the United States continues to fund both sides of the “War on Terrorism”.
One the one side, we send large amounts of military hardware to Saudi Arabia to prop up a regime that continues to turn out citizens whose sole purpose ends up being the destruction of our way of life. Despite what the House of Saud might say publicly, it is well documented that their country is one of the largest terrorist creating machines in the world. It also directly and indirectly (many times by simply turning a blind eye) bankrolls organizations opposed to the United States on an unprecedented scale.
On the other side of the coin the United States government pours billions of dollars annually into fighting the very terrorists created by the government of Saudi Arabia, which as I stated before, we help prop up.
It’s a great racket. Sell billions of dollars of military hardware to the government that supports your vowed enemy. Then, buy billions of dollars of hardware for your own military from huge defense contractors to fight the very enemy you are indirectly creating.
It’s the perfect circle. A self-fulfilling prophecy, so to speak.
The king of Saudi Arabia says women may eventually be allowed to drive in the kingdom.
Saudi Arabia will fight the "madness" of Islamic terrorism for 30 years if necessary, but it will expand the rights of women and eventually allow them to drive, Saudi King Abdullah has told an American TV channel.
In an interview with ABC's Barbara Walters, the king denied assertions that his government finances schools that teach a fundamentalist philosophy of Islam which can lead to militancy.
Saudi Arabia "will fight the terrorists, and those who support them or condone their actions, for 10, 20 or 30 years if we have to, until we eliminate this scourge," the king said, according to an ABC report of the interview which is due to be broadcast on Friday night.
When asked why groups such as al-Qaida, the terror network led by the Saudi-born Osama bin Laden, had taken root in the kingdom, the king replied: "Madness and evil, it is the work of the devil."
Foreign observers and liberal Saudis have long contended that the way Islam is taught in Saudi schools encourages attitudes that may lead students to become terrorists later.
"For those who level these charges against us, I say provide us with the evidence that this is happening and we will deal with it," the king said. "It is not logical or rational for us to be supporting it.
"We have also regulated our charities and we have closed offices around the world, and we have withdrawn support for institutions that we found to be extremist," he added.
After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, the kingdom took steps to prevent money collected by Islamic charities from being diverted to terrorist groups.
The kingdom was initially faulted for being slow to clamp down on militants and their financing, but it drastically stepped up its measures after al-Qaida-linked groups launched a series of terror attacks on Saudi soil in May 2003.
Abdullah, who became king on the death of his half-brother Fahd in August, told ABC that he was committed to increasing the rights of Saudi women, who are currently not permitted to drive cars and who need a male relative's permission to travel abroad or attend university.
"I believe the day will come when women drive," he said. "In fact, if you look at the areas in Saudi Arabia, the deserts and in the rural areas, you will find that women do drive.
Driving licenses for women "will require patience. In time, I believe it will be possible," the king said in the ABC report, which was posted on the Internet.
But when pressed on whether he would legalize female driving, Abdullah indicated Saudi men were too conservative for such a step any time soon.
"I value and take care of my people as I would my eyes ... I respect my people," he said.