The Note: I Know I Messed It Up Before

The New York Times -- armed with leaked DOJ internal memos -- reports that senior Justice Department officials overruled government prosecutors and ordered them to slash the penalties sought against the tobacco industry by $120 billion. The top lawyers for the trial team said they "do not want politics to be perceived as the underlying motivation, and that is certainly a risk if we make adjustments in our remedies presentations that are not based on evidence." The lawyers also said the lower penalty recommendations would weaken the department's position in any possible settlement with the industry and "create an incentive for defendants to engage in future misconduct by making misconduct profitable." The decision generated protests from health advocates and Democratic lawmakers, who accused the Bush administration of political motives. LINK

Ethics:

Seems that the boat Rep. Duke Cunningham lives on in Washington and the slip where the boat resides, belong to the same defense contractor who helped Cunningham absorb a $700,000 loss on his home. LINK

"Investigators at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting are examining $15,000 in payments to two Republican lobbyists last year that were not disclosed to the corporation's board, people involved in the inquiry said on Wednesday," reports Stephen Labaton in the New York Times. LINK

"One of the lobbyists, Brian Darling, was paid $10,000 for his insights into Senator Conrad Burns, a Montana Republican who sponsored the provision. This year, he briefly served as a top aide to Senator Mel Martinez, Republican of Florida, but resigned after the disclosure that he had written a memorandum describing how to exploit politically the life-support case of Terri Schiavo."

"Mr. Darling did not return a telephone call seeking comment."

"The other lobbyist, Mark Buse, a former top aide to Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona, said he provided advice on the legislative process over a month and did not talk to any lawmakers. Mr. Buse, who was paid $5,000, said he was hired at the suggestion of Katherine M. Anderson, a former chairwoman of the corporation and a current board member."

The New York Times' Glen Justice tallies Rep. Tom DeLay's legal bills. LINK

As does the hometown Houston Chronicle. LINK

Mary Curtius and Chuck Neubauer of the Los Angeles Times lead with Majority Leader DeLay's five domestic trips for which outside groups picked up the tab. LINK

The Congress:

Anne Kornblut of the New York Times reports that Sen. Mel Martinez is having second thoughts about the wisdom of federal involvement in the Schiavo case. LINK

USA Today has the same thing. LINK

"The Senate may be within one or two votes of passing a constitutional amendment to ban desecration of the U.S. flag, clearing the way for ratification by the states, a key opponent of the measure said Tuesday," reports Andrea Stone of USA Today. LINK

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