Archive for March 13th, 2008

Feel The Hillmentum!

Don’t count Hillary out yet!

Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato and Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl will reportedly endorse Sen. Hillary Clinton.

The blog of the Boston Globe first reported the pending endorsements, which two Clinton campaign officials have confirmed.

The Clinton campaign earlier today said she is expected to be joined Friday evening by “two special guests” during a rally at Soliders & Sailors Military Museum and Memorial in Oakland. One campaign official today told the Trib that Onorato and Ravenstal are the guests.

Ravenstahl and Onorato could not be reached directly for comment.

Pennsylvania will surely be hers now.

March 13th, 2008 at 10:24pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Clinton,Democrats,Elections,Pittsburgh/PA,Politics

Corruption: Yer Doin’ It Wrong

This is one of my favorite stories of the whole year:

The former treasurer for the National Republican Congressional Committee transferred as much as $1 million in committee funds into his personal and business accounts, officials announced today, describing a scheme that could prove to be one of the largest campaign frauds in recent history.

For at least four years, Christopher J. Ward, who is under investigation by the FBI, used wire transfers to funnel money out of the NRCC and into other political committees he controlled, then shifted the funds into his own personal accounts, the committee said.

“The evidence we have today indicated we have been deceived and betrayed for a number of years by a highly respected and trusted individual,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), NRCC chairman.

The committee also announced that it had submitted to banks five years of audits and financial documents allegedly forged by Ward, some of which were used to secure multimillion-dollar loans. It is a violation of federal bank fraud laws to obtain loans through false statements; such crimes are punishable by up to $1 million in fines and 30 years in prison.


Kelner said that Ward had the sole power at the NRCC to use wire transfers to shift money into any accounts he wanted. “He was able to get a wire transfer without getting a second sign-off,” Kelner said.

After allegedly transferring the NRCC money into accounts he controlled, Ward would move it from those GOP committees into either his political consulting business or his personal bank accounts, Kelner said.


The NRCC, which has been trailing badly its Democratic counterpart in the pursuit of campaign cash, had less than $5.7 million cash on hand Jan. 31, rather than the initial reported total of more than $6.4 million.

The Post reported today that Ward has served as treasurer for 83 committees that raised more than $400 million this decade. The NRCC investigation has sparked widespread jitters among GOP lawmakers on Capitol Hill.


In an election year that holds dismal prospects for congressional Republicans, possible financial problems at the cash-strapped NRCC are the last thing the GOP needed.

“The House Republican brand is so bad right now that if it were a dog food, they’d take it off the shelf,” said retiring Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (Va.), who chaired the NRCC for four years earlier this decade.

See, you Republicans are supposed to steal from American taxpayers and shareholders, not each other. Now you get a teeny little taste of what it’s like to be Grandma Millie, and I couldn’t be more tickled.

(h/t Peterr)

March 13th, 2008 at 09:34pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Corruption/Cronyism,Republicans

CNN’s Choice Of Analyst Comes Back To Bite Them


CNN said it shouldn’t have used a former U.S. attorney who quit his job after allegedly biting a stripper as an analyst about New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s prostitution scandal.

No mention of Kendall Coffey’s past was made when anchor Tony Harris interviewed him Tuesday on the legal questions surrounding Spitzer’s case. Coffey quit his job in May 1996 after being accused of biting a topless dancer on the arm during a visit to an adult club after losing a big drug case.


While Coffey’s past is known to CNN’s booking department, it wasn’t to the person who set up Harris’ segment. CNN spokesman Nigel Pritchard blamed a “miscommunication.”

“Coffey has been a guest on CNN in the past but was probably not the right one for this story,” Pritchard said.

Well played, CNN. Well played.

March 13th, 2008 at 07:23pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Media

Michael Strahan And His Mini Weiner


This is the sort of thing that happens when you win the Superbowl:

Wednesday morning in Times Square a small crowd gathered in the cool shadow of ABC Studios to watch Michael Strahan, defensive end for the Super Bowl champion New York Giants, drive a car.

Not just any car: Mr. Strahan had squeezed his 6’5” frame behind the wheel of the new Mini Wienermobile, a smaller, sportier version of Oscar Mayer’s somewhat famous Wienermobile, also in attendance. Several news photographers — one of whom later told me he had left the vigil outside Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s Fifth Avenue apartment to be here — aimed their cameras in expectation. Behind them, a pack of tourists had begun to assemble and gawk. The tourists had come to the Crossroads of the World for excitement and spectacle; this would do.Mr. Strahan, his knees wedged beneath the dashboard, flashed his broad gap-toothed smile as he eased the car into gear, moving through the cordoned-off lane at about the same speed at which one might walk back to the huddle after an incomplete pass. A young woman in an official Oscar Mayer windbreaker ushered him forward with hand signals, gesturing him to a stop approximately one foot from the front bun of the larger Wienermobile. All told, the vehicle moved about forty feet. And that was that.

Afterward, as the ever-affable Mr. Strahan posed for photographs alongside the Mini Wienermobile, I spoke to Bill Blansett, an Oscar Mayer Wienermobile representative. Mr. Blansett, wearing a windbreaker that matched his colleague’s, was a Hotdogger, he told me — member of a team of Hotdoggers who toured the country with the six full-sized Wienermobiles and their newer, nimbler sidekick. Being head of his team of Hotdoggers, he suggested I call him Big Dog Bill.


Finally the photo op ended, and Big Dog Bill escorted me into the passenger seat of the Mini Wiener for a quick spin around the block. Unfortunately I wouldn’t be allowed a test drive, he explained — insurance reasons. He settled into the driver’s seat and requested that I buckle my seatbelt. For a moment I imagined us peeling out and tearing through midtown traffic like an angry cabbie, but no such luck — the Hotdoggers are a law-abiding crew and, according to Big Dog Bill, do not push the Wienermobiles past posted speed limits.


Big Dog Bill — of whom it must be said seems to have a good sense of humor about his job — pushed a button and the Oscar Mayer theme song (the one that goes “Oh I wish I were an Oscar Mayer wiener…”) was broadcast over the Wienermobile’s external speakers. We got several stares, and a few smiles, but not the dramatic reaction I was expecting. I suppose I wanted people to pump their fists at us, the way we used to at passing 18-wheelers.

Pretty cool, yet I can’t shake the feeling that it is a sign of the End Times…

March 13th, 2008 at 06:16pm Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Sports,Weirdness

B&W Rubble Photoblogging

Some photos from around a demolition site (actual demolition photos tomorrow, hopefully):

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March 13th, 2008 at 11:42am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Photoblogging,Pittsburgh

Mr. Martin, We’re Ready For Your Close-Up Now


Federal Communications Commission Chair Kevin Martin has two weeks to deliver a truckload of written records to Congress related to over a dozen hot-button FCC issues and policies. They’re being demanded by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair John Dingell (D-MI), who sent Martin the request letter today, cosigned by Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, the ranking Republican on the Committee.

The missive warns Martin that Dingell’s Committee is “investigating allegations from current and former FCC employees and other sources, which we have reason to believe are credible.” The charges concern “management practices that may adversely affect the Commission’s ability to both discharge effectively its statutory duties and to guard against waste, fraud, and abuse.”

It’s no secret that Martin and his subordinates are suspected of putting pressure on career FCC staff to emphasize data or produce studies that come to conclusions that the Chair likes. The biggest blowup concerns a 2003 study on television that suggested that locally owned TV stations produce more local news than nonlocally owned broadcasters�distasteful data for supporters of relaxing the agency’s media ownership rules. When the FCC did not publish this document, Senator Barbara Boxer in 2006 accused the agency of “deep-sixing” the report. Eventually the Commission exonerated itself with an internal audit that a whistle blower in the case called “skewed in its judgments.”

Now Dingell wants all e-mails, handwritten notes, phone conversation records, meeting schedules, and whatever else exists in paper or electronic form since January 2005 involving the audit’s case file, plus all records related to:

  • The Commission’s conclusion in November of 2007 that the cable industry had reached the so-called “70/70” threshold. The Communications Act stipulates that when cable systems with 36 or more activated channels can be viewed by 70 percent of US households and when 70 percent of those households subscribe to them, the FCC can impose “additional rules necessary to promote diversity of information sources.” Up until last year the agency had consistently concluded that while big cable had surpassed the first prong of the test, it had not reached the second. Dingell’s letter specifically wants intel explaining why the FCC based its 2007 decision, which it eventually rescinded, entirely on Warren Communications company data and none other, including the information that the cable industry submits to the agency every year.
  • The FCC’s ten recently commissioned media ownership studies, and documents related to the agency’s decision not to change any of the Commission’s media ownership rules save the newspaper/TV cross-ownership ban.

And that’s only for starters. Dingell and Barton want Martin to hand over any directives involving “limitations or restrictions imposed on FCC employees’ ability to communicate with each other concerning official agency business”; records that illuminate the Commission’s policies on “communications between FCC personnel and outside entities”; documents that explain how the agency decided who would go to the recent World Radiocommunication Conference in Switzerland; a list of all new FCC employee hires and reassignments from March 2005 to the present; and the individual meeting schedules of all Commissioners and all Bureau Chiefs and the FCC’s Inspector General since January 2005.

This request has got to be turning the FCC completely upside down. Significantly, it appears to reflect a bipartisan discontent with Martin’s performance. Democrats and some Republicans are upset over his recent move to relax one of the agency’ key media ownership rules, as well as the rushed manner in which he handled the matter late last year. Other Republicans dislike what they see as Martin’s persecution of the cable industry, especially Comcast. The letter may even reflect some Republican dismay that Martin did not go further in relaxing the Commission’s broadcast ownership guidelines.

This kind of investigation is long overdue – the media are far too important and influential to let the FCC shirk or abuse its oversight duties. I assume Martin will invoke executive privilege and refuse to hand the records over. Or else claim that they’ve gone missing, or that they’ve been purged and there are no backup copies…

(h/t Engadget)

March 13th, 2008 at 07:41am Posted by Eli

Entry Filed under: Corruption/Cronyism,Media,Republicans

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