The Note: Learning to Use Irrationality As a Bargaining Tool

On Sunday, Sens. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) and Carl Levin (D-MI) will sit down with George Stephanopoulos to talk about the questions about troop readiness raised this week by Gen. Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the increase in insurgent attacks in Iraq, and ongoing questions over armor protection for American troops. Also, comedian Jerry Lewis helps kick off a week-long ABC series on chronic pain.

Abramoff, DeLay, travel, and ethics:

The DeLay/Abramoff floodgates opened this day, with lots of new details and some potential leads to chase.

"Two former top aides of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's brokered a political deal here five years ago that helped land island government contracts worth $1.6 million for a Washington lobbyist now the target of a federal corruption probe. . . . Using promises of U.S. tax dollars as bartering chips, Edwin A. Buckham and Michael Scanlon traveled to these remote Pacific islands in late 1999 to convince two local legislators to switch their votes for speaker of the territory's 18-member House of Representatives. They succeeded," write the Los Angeles Times' Walter Roche and Chuck Neubauer. LINK

The duo examine more closely how Jack Abramoff represented the interests of the Northern Mariana Islands, and suggest a very beneficial relationship between Abramoff, who got the contract, and the districts of island lawmakers who reaped the benefits of federal budget measures allegedly supported by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

By implying that the Leader was part of a Rube Goldberg plan that included appropriating federal money, the paper moves the ball.

The Los Angeles Times has a second Abramoff story about Guam. LINK

The Associated Press does some major circle-widening as it reviews Abramoff's contacts with the Bush Administration, using Marianas documents to show that "his team also had extensive access to Bush administration officials, meeting with Cheney policy advisers Ron Christie and Stephen Ruhlen, Ashcroft at the Justice Department, White House intergovernmental affairs chief Ruben Barrales, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick, Deputy Interior Secretary Steven Griles and others." LINK

"At least two people who worked on Abramoff's team at Preston Gates wound up with Bush administration jobs: Patrick Pizzella, named an assistant secretary of labor by Bush; and David Safavian, chosen by Bush to oversee federal procurement policy in the Office of Management and Budget."

"Money also flowed from the Marianas to Bush's re-election campaign: It took in at least $36,000 from island donors, much of it from members of the Tan family, whose clothing factories were a routine stop for lawmakers and their aides visiting the islands on Abramoff-organized trips."

"Two Tan family companies gave $25,000 each to the National Republican Senatorial Committee for the 2002 elections. Greenberg Traurig, too, was a big GOP giver. Its donations included $20,000 to the Republican National Committee for the 2000 elections and $25,000 each to the GOP's House and Senate fundraising committees in 2000 and again in 2002."

The article also reveals correspondence between then-governor George W. Bush and Abramoff's team about the Marianas.

David Rogers in the Wall Street Journal reports that DeLay's 2000 trip to Scotland seems to have been organized with an eye toward recreation:

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