Thursday, September 11, 2008

No lipstick zone

There was some actual political news yesterday that didn't deal with lipstick. First, the WaPo reports the following:
Government officials in charge of collecting billions of dollars worth of royalties from oil and gas companies accepted gifts, steered contracts to favored clients and engaged in drug use and illicit sex with employees of the energy firms, federal investigators reported yesterday.

The report from Inspector General Earl E. Devaney contains fresh allegations about the practices at the beleaguered royalty-in-kind program of Interior's Minerals Management Service, which last year collected more than $4 billion worth of oil and natural gas from companies given contracts to tap energy on federal and Indian lands and offshore. The revelations come as Congress is set to consider opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and areas off the coast of Florida for drilling.

Now I understand why Republicans were chanting "Drill, drill, drill" at their convention...then again, maybe it wasn't just oil they were talking about? More...

The inspector general's release comprised three separate reports, including one devoted to the program's former director, Smith, 56, who resigned last year. It alleges that Smith improperly worked part time for Geomatrix Consultants, an Oakland, Calif.-based environmental and engineering firm, and marketed the company to government clients.

Additionally, the report said, Smith had an inappropriate sexual relationship with a subordinate whom he paid to buy cocaine, allegedly promising her a $250 bonus in return. The report stated that Smith admitted to the sexual encounter.

Smith, who now works for a private oil company in Denver, did not respond to requests for comment.
Sex and cocaine are really not the issue here. The issues are bribes, graft, and moving into a promotion in the private industry afterward. Still, if I were doing cocaine, then I'd certainly be prosecuted. So, surely, must be this guy, right? Um, not in Bush's land where cocaine is a youthful indiscretion for Republicans like the President. More:

Investigators referred their findings to federal prosecutors, who did not charge Smith with any criminal wrongdoing and declined to comment on their decision.

Justice officials also declined to comment on their decision not to pursue a criminal case against the highest-ranking official named in the report, Lucy Querques Denett, former associate director of the Minerals Management Service, who worked in Washington. She is accused of improperly arranging a million-dollar deal for two retired employees.
Bribes, illegal contracts, sexual harassment, and cocaine and pot use. No prosecutions. Can we call for the Attorney General to step down NOW? "Drill! Drill! Drill!" Makes you wonder what the lobbyists paid for that chant, doesn't it?

The other story is another tale of familiar Republican behavior and it comes from the Michigan Messenger. It deals with voter suppression. It seems that while the Republican candidates for president and vice president are traveling around the country attempting to convince voters that they are friends of the middle class, that they understand their economic and housing woes, that they support equal rights for all and are interested in representing the poor and middle class in swing states, the Republican representatives in at least one state is using that against the voters that McQueeg/Palin say that they want:

The chairman of the Republican Party in Macomb County Michigan, a key swing county in a key swing state, is planning to use a list of foreclosed homes to block people from voting in the upcoming election as part of the state GOP’s effort to challenge some voters on Election Day.

“We will have a list of foreclosed homes and will make sure people aren’t voting from those addresses,” party chairman James Carabelli told Michigan Messenger in a telephone interview earlier this week.

The Macomb GOP’s plans are another indication of how John McCain’s campaign stands to benefit from the burgeoning number of foreclosures in the state. McCain’s regional headquarters are housed in the office building of foreclosure specialists Trott & Trott. The firm’s founder, David A. Trott, has raised between $100,000 and $250,000 for the Republican nominee.

The Macomb County party’s plans to challenge voters who have defaulted on their house payments is likely to disproportionately affect African-Americans who are overwhelmingly Democratic voters. More than 60 percent of all sub-prime loans — the most likely kind of loan to go into default — were made to African-Americans in Michigan, according to a report issued last year by the state’s Department of Labor and Economic Growth.

You see, the Republicans economic plans helped cause this mess. They profited for a number of years and now working class and middle class Americans are getting shafted by it. The profiteers? Well, they're getting bailed out of the mess by the government (a practice supported by both parties). Now, McQueeg and his lobbyist friends want to disenfranchise - or make suffer further - these voters who might want to vote for a change that might offer them some relief from the incompetent policies of the Republican party. Oh, and make no mistake: Michigan is not the only battleground.

Carabelli is not the only Republican Party official to suggest the targeting of foreclosed voters. In Ohio, Doug Preisse, director of elections in Franklin County (around the city of Columbus) and the chair of the local GOP, told The Columbus Dispatch that he has not ruled out challenging voters before the election due to foreclosure-related address issues.

Hebert, the voting-rights lawyer, sees a connection between Priesse’s remarks and Carabelli’s plans.

“At a minimum what you are seeing is a fairly comprehensive effort by the Republican Party, a systematic broad-based effort to put up obstacles for people to vote,” he said. “Nobody is contending that these people are not legally registered to vote.

“When you are comprehensively challenging people to vote,” Hebert went on, “your goals are two-fold: One is you are trying to knock people out from casting ballots; the other is to create a slowdown that will discourage others,” who see a long line and realize they can’t afford to stay and wait.

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