My Version of Pelosi’s Statement on Exclusivity

TPMM wrote up a summary of a response Speaker Pelosi gave to a question I asked at a blogger conference call today that has caused a stir. While I don’t disagree with McJoan’s take–if the Speaker had really said immunity was the issue, it would reflect a short-sighted view of FISA (though I’d say the same about other topics, such as segregation; after all, once the government can legally use information that has been improperly collected, that’s toothpaste out of a tube, too)–I’d like to give my version of the conversation, because I don’t think that’s what Pelosi said or meant.

The call was originally supposed to be focused on contempt. So after the Speaker finished telling about the Paul Wellstone Mental Health and Addiction Equity bill, someone (Mike Stark, I think) asked for reassurances that the Democrats would continue to pursue contempt after we win the White House and larger margins in both houses next year. Pelosi spoke at length about how important this contempt fight is because of the separation of powers issue–and stated that this is a better case than when GAO tried to get Cheney’s records on his Energy Task Force. Finally, in response to a follow-up, Pelosi stated that Democrats would continue to pursue the contempt issue after November.

Then, I piped in. I basically asked the idea laid out in this post.

Email providers argue that immunity will contribute to uncertainty. They speak of receiving "vague promises," they demand "clear rules" and "bright lines."

Given that complaints about uncertainty and unclear demands have led these email providers to strongly oppose retroactive immunity, it suggests the requests the email providers got were really murky–murky enough that the requests caused the email providers a good deal of trouble.

If the government was making such murky requests, don’t you think Congress ought to know what those requests were in more detail?

That is, since email providers just made a very strong statement against immunity, shouldn’t we be asking them why they’re opposed to it?

Pelosi, having just spoken at length about about separation of powers, then said that immunity wasn’t the only issue, exclusivity was important as well.

Note, I’m not sure I can dispute Paul Kiel’s description, though I don’t remember Pelosi emphasizing exclusivity in the way his post suggests at all. I certainly didn’t hear her say immunity is the issue, but then I was listening for my answer. (I thought about noting that I have been writing about more than immunity, but decided there were better things to do with the Speaker’s time. She can just go ask Russ Feingold.)

I did, however, restate my question, asking why they don’t bring in Google and Microsoft to find out why the people who got these requests from the government are actually opposed to immunity. She said it sounded like a good idea. (Woo hoo!)

The point is, in my opinion it is utterly wrong to paint what Pelosi said as a strategic statement against immunity and for exclusivity. She said nothing about trading immunity for exclusivity. I took her answer, following so closely on a fairly involved statement about the importance of fights over separation of powers, to simply point back that earlier discussion about contempt.

I think Speaker Pelosi was responding with a focus on ways to make sure Article I regains its power from Article II, not about the nitty gritty of the FISA fight.

59 replies
  1. watercarrier4diogenes says:

    Could you and bmaz organize a training day for the White House Press Corps on how to keep the central focus of the question in front of Pig Missile? It’s not that I have any faith in them, just that I hope a few are not craven, only clueless as to the damage they’re doing. The ‘debate’ on whether Steny Hoyer is the Senate Majority leader today was too depressing to be laughable.

  2. MadDog says:

    EW, did you or do you know if others recorded the conference call? Twould obviously help if one were to have a transcript.

    Secondly, did Speaker Pelosi make any observation on what to expect from the Congressional huffing and puffing wrt to FISA? Like is Immunity alive or dead?

    More, tell us more! *g*

    • emptywheel says:

      I think Mike Stark and (I suspect) several other people have tape recordings. But I think the issue is context, not transcript.

      Also, she didn’t offer any insight on the huffing and puffing beyond that she doesn’t think we’ll have something before the break.

      • selise says:

        But I think the issue is context, not transcript.

        that’s why a complete recording is really important.

        not just for us – but for you too.

        it’s as if you were allowed to read a report (and we’re not), and you aren’t permitted to reread it to refresh your memory.

        sorry to be so grumpy about it… but you’re like the 4th of 5th blogger i’ve read today about some conference call where there is no transcript, no audio file – nothing but the gatekeepers’ reports.

        now, if i have to have a gatekeeper, i’d want it to be you. but it really sucks to have things being arranged to create gatekeepers where it’s not necessary.

        imo, pelosi should be posting the audio file for every media/blogger conference call she does (and so should every other dem).

        and so i beg you – take pity on the poor dfhs who don’t get to listen in and ask for a recording to be made public next time you are on the call.

        seriously. i wish that was the first question asked every single time a blogger was included on one of these conference calls.

              • selise says:

                there could be a million recordings, but if one isn’t made available, then i’m still SOL.

                so, bottom line, i still think you’re the best. i just knew you would understand about the actual, physical craving for the primary source material. *g*

                • emptywheel says:

                  Well, that, plus I’m pretty sure my impression is fair, but I can’t guarantee it bc I was focused on trying to get Bill Gates called into the House to reject immunity.

                  I was focused.

                  • MrWhy says:

                    Do you have the sense that Bill Gates would be willing to offer a public opinion on the issue of immunity? People listen to what Gates says – he understands technology and its impact.

                    • emptywheel says:

                      Well, honestly, I didn’t raise Bill, Pelosi did. I’d rather see Google’s and MS’s lawyer. But Gates would attract the attention, certainly. I’m just not convinced he’s do the legal issues justice (though I sort of expect CCIA wrote what it did as much for marketing reasons as for legal ones).

                    • klynn says:


                      Thanks for your take on this call. Most appreciated. I agree with your idea on having both Google’s and MS’s lawyers. Giving “context” makes all the difference on interpretation…

                      Did Gates get “called in” and did he have the “where-with-all” on the issues?

                      How about a blog based writing campaign to Google and MS to get them to stand together on this and get their lawyers to D.C. to address House members? Essentially they have started “that process” with the CCIA letter. Our writing campaign would just simply be asking them to build on what is currently “out there” representing them.

                  • selise says:

                    good point… i guess we’ll find out if the house leadership really wants to block immunity – if they do that’s the kind of hearing they’d be having already.

                    but i don’t think they (meaning the leadership only) want to block it, my guess is that they are just trying to get the best deal they can (for themselves not the law).

                    p.s. don’t doubt your interpretation of the call. but i still am looking forward to listening to the whole thing.

  3. bmaz says:

    Interesting that you wrote this. Even reading Kiel’s piece, I was unable to draw the conclusion he appeared to be. Although I didn’t have the other background you relate here, it appeared to me that Pelosi was simply saying that there was more at stake than immunity and that, for instance, exclusivity was an equally important consideration (indeed, if you are only looking forward, exclusivity is easily and arguably more important). Quite frankly, I happen to agree with that thought. I think, however, that for the masses of the public that oppose Bush’s surveillance, immunity has become the symbol and emblem; and a very important one. It is also a dead nuts tie in to the concern she appeared to evince on separation of powers, and a very important one. Frankly, I don’t want either horse traded for the other. And there is no reason they should be; our democratic leaders should have the moxie and fortitude to do the right thing as to both elements of the issue. Likely that they will fail on both.

  4. PetePierce says:

    Peolosi will go to her grave not understanding or caring about the real nuances of FISA. It’s over and what you have in Congress with rare exceptions are Bush supplicants.

    • bmaz says:

      You know Pete, I think she understands the nuances just fine. I certainly don’t know if she is on the same page as we are on what the relative importance of each element is, and what to do about them, but I think she understands. In fact, I think her raising of exclusivity kind of shows that she has a grip on things.

      • MadDog says:

        And if the House Dems, particularly the Dem Leadership, has been analyzing the effectiveness of the Administration’s and Congressional Repugs latest FISA fearmongering salvos, they should be coming to the conclusion that it ain’t working, not at all.

        While individual Blue Dog Dems may have tough re-election races, I hope the Dem Leadership is working on them to understand that standing up to Junya and the Repugs on this issue has more upside than downside.

        • bmaz says:

          Maddog – I agree completely. How many votes will a Blue Dog lose for “upholding the Constitution”? My bet is not many really. The voters in their district that are likely to be hot under the collar are the 19-25 percenters that already were not going to vote for any Democrat, even a Blue Dog. Now, contrast that with the extra effort and motivation that they may receive from the progressives might give them for this one position. I am willing to bet it is nearly a wash; and they get to do the right thing in the process. Should be a no brainer; unfortunately, many of the Blue Dogs truly appear to have no brains.

          Ismael @12 – In spite of the consistent evidence to the contrary, I hate being ignorant. However, I am on the Wellstone bill. What exactly does it seek to do and/or provide? My guess is, just from the sound of it, Boosh will veto it anyway. Because he is a compassionate conservative asshole.

          Helen @14 – Wow! That sounds like a darn good time. If I wasn’t 3,500 miles away, I would go to that in a heartbeat. Anybody who does go, please take copious notes and file a complete report back here. Please.

      • Fractal says:

        I think she understands the nuances just fine

        yep. esp. given that she is about to become the named plaintiff in a constitutional lawsuit against the Executive Branch, I feel verrry sure that she has been getting extensive briefing & preparation from verry skilled constitutional litigation attorneys. How long would it take for the light to click on in her head that “violating article I of the constitution [and Title 2, U.S.C.] by ordering your attorney general to refuse to enforce your contempt resolution” is just part of the same pattern as “violating the fourth amendment by ordering your CIA and NSA to extort information from the phone companies?”

  5. JohnLopresti says:

    That interchange sounds like a breakthrough, one to which the Speaker will attend in her thorough way. A lot of people did work to clarify the contrast the CCIA letter indicated; I especially liked the tech information in the thread that showed email source and target discernment is too amorphous in the email context to be meaningful, whereas in former analog telephonecalls signal capture definition for warrant purposes was a simpler end-to-end defined process of simply locating specific circuits under the pots topology paradigm. I would expect the Speaker to help her caucus and interested reps across the aisle to add this discussion to what the House will bring to conference.

  6. Ishmael says:

    EW – since you mention the Wellstone bill, could you provide some of the Speaker’s thoughts on the prospects of the bill, the impact it is said to have on mandated coverage in states like California, and the likelihood of a veto? It seems like a huge step forward from the mental health “consumers” context and towards meaningful treatment, despite the lack of mandates.

    • emptywheel says:

      She said nothing about a veto. She said this is a better bill than the Senate bill (and noted that Patrick Kennedy was the sponsor in the House, while Teddy sponsored in the Senate–don’t know waht that means for conference).

      But she was very very thrilled–yes, it should dramatically improve care in this country.

      • Minnesotachuck says:

        It was co-sponsored by my retiring Republican rep, Jim Ramstad, of the MN 3rd District. Ramstad, who is a recovering alcoholic, had first introduced it jointly with Wellstone in the mid-1990s. Kennedy came on board about two years ago after he had had a car accident while apparently intoxicated, and shortly after which he went into treatment. Ramstad reached out to him across the aisle and became his AA mentor.

        Last August I attended for the first time one of the “Town Meetings” he held regularly here in the district. I was the second attendee Jim called on, whereon I told him that while I generally thought well of him and had voted for him in the past, I could no longer do so as long as he ran on the GOP ticket. I said that any good policy gains he might accomplish would be counteracted a hundred times over if my vote made him the 218th Congress Critter that enabled the likes of Boehner, DeLay, etc. to control the House. He tried to reframe my question by claiming that he was not a far right sycophant. I objected that that’s not what I had said, and when at least half a dozen other attendees seconded that he backed off, mumbled a non-descript response, and moved on to the next questioner.

        Later in the meeting someone asked about the healthcare equity bill and he patted himself on the back for having been able to get it to a floor vote for the first time in 12 years of trying. I considered raising my hand and asking him which party controlled the house during those 12 years in the wilderness. But I didn’t because I knew that after our first exchange there was no chance in hell he’d call on me again.

        It was only a few weeks after that series of meetings when Ramstad announced his retirement. My friend Philip, who came with me to the meeting for moral support, has ever since accused me of driving him into throwing in the towel.

  7. Helen says:

    Sorry to go OT so early but there’s a townhall meeting on impeachment in NYC on Sunday that looks mighty interesting. I received the following announcement from Rep. Wexler:

    A Town Hall Meeting:

    “Is Impeachment Necessary to Protect The Constitution?”
    Sunday, March 9th, 4 P.M. to 6 P.M.
    Judson Memorial Church
    55 Washington Square South, NYC.

    Speakers include:

    Bruce Fein – constitutional scholar, former associate deputy Attorney General, & Chairman of the American Freedom Agenda

    Elizabeth Holtzman – former member of Congress & co-author of The Impeachment of George W. Bush: A Practical Guide for Concerned Citizens

    Scott Horton – contributor to Harper’s Magazine, adjunct professor at Columbia Law School, & member of the board of the National Institute of Military Justice and the Council on Foreign Relations Invited Speaker:

    Representative Jerrold Nadler – member of Congress & Chair of the Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties

    Special Guest: John Nirenberg – former professor, college dean, author, & “March in My Name” impeachment activist

    This is a true town hall meeting, so you will be able to questions.

    • Minnesotachuck says:

      Do you have a link to some sort of announcement, so I can send it to my daughters who live there? They might be interested in going.

      • Helen says:

        No link. I just copied the email in it’s entirety. The time and place are in my post. I just checked Wexler’s web page, but there is no info there.

  8. JohnJ says:

    Ouch. To play devil advocate; She can claim to be looking at preventing future abuses while we are consumed by revenge for past abuses.

    Not that I agree, but someone just walking into this situation could easily interpret it that way.

    • Fractal says:

      consumed by revenge

      wise counsel, you are probably right that she is looking at the bigger picture, esp. since she must assume and prepare for a Democrat becoming President.

    • bmaz says:

      That is, although you put it much more succinctly, what I was relating @5 above. If you are thinking only prospectively, and only about wiretapping/FISA itself and not the bigger picture, I think that is right. But if we don’t ever know what went on in the past, and there is never accountability, then we have weakened much more than just our privacy; we have gut shot our Constitution and democracy. They are both critically important principles and neither one should be sold out.

      • selise says:

        i suspect pelosi’s ‘bigger picture’ is more involved with the political implications and ramifications of what is going on and less with the legal or constitutional issues.

        i can just picture her thinking about the dfhs: “don’t they understand what this means for november, some other bill they are horse-trading over?” while we’re thinking “doesn’t she understand what this means for our privacy and rule of law?”

        • phred says:

          Good point selise. FWIW to bring home the political consequences of Pelosi’s actions/inactions the last email I sent her (and my own Rep) was to very pointedly tell them that if they fail to protect the 4th Amendment I will stop supporting Democrats. I realize that is a frustrating position for those working so hard to rebuild the Dem party from within (an activity I support wholeheartedly), I don’t think the Dem leadership is capable of thinking beyond election day ramifications. I truly believe that a threat to their hopes of winning elections is the only threat they will take seriously.

  9. solai says:

    I feel like we have a chance to succeed in this fight. It seems like every time defeat is imminent there is another delay. Some have speculated that there will never be a vote, that repubs don’t want to vote either. So, inaction seems to be a real possibility.
    Or am I reading too much into this?

  10. readerOfTeaLeaves says:

    Wow, glad you were on the call, EW. And your recommendation, per:

    “asking why they don’t bring in Google and Microsoft to find out why the people who got these requests from the government are actually opposed to immunity.”
    makes a ton of sense. That would subject FISA/PAA to a bit of ‘usability testing’, as in ‘What about those PAA requests did you find confusing?… illegal…? … unworkable…? … unmanageable…?’

    Up to this point, it’s as if Congress assumed that the telcos have some guy in a server room waving his hands over a cluster muttering, ‘Abracadabra!’ and the magic ‘just happens’. The CCIA letter starts to call bullshit on that kind of ‘fantasy thinking’; let’s hope Congress calls MS and Google to find out more.

    MD@11, Agree that the Rethug bullying doesn’t seem to be effective. It cheezes me no end that the same asshats who ‘can’t find’ 5,000,000 ‘missing’ GOP emails take it upon themselves to spy on the rest of us.

  11. Sedgequill says:

    There’s a widespread uneasy feeling that FISA revisions are mainly about protecting surveillance and information programs that are legally or illegally underway—some having been running for years—and which there is no plan or intention to stop, and that operational improvements and new programs are under development (heavily involving contracted and cooperating private companies) the scrapping of which would be problematic. There appears to be a certain amount of desperation in the executive branch and in Congress over the prospect that current and planned surveillance and information programs that are not compliant with statutory law, or that would be at risk of being found unconstitutional, would be harder to keep secret if terminated. Retroactive immunity would prevent discovery as part of civil actions; giving legislative authorization to the shadowy, little understood operations that Protect America Act left unhindered would allow current and planned surveillance operations to continue without significant scrutiny. Deep scrutiny is inconvenient to many in Congress, and revelations can be messy, so I expect Congress to agree on some FISA revisions and possibly some form of retroactive immunity. If the bipartisan majorities do strive for a compromise bill, I hope that the voices for liberty can have a shaping influence on the legislation.

    Congress really should have Q & A with CCIA members.

  12. Mary says:

    I think Speaker Pelosi was responding with a focus on ways to make sure Article I regains its power from Article II, not about the nitty gritty of the FISA fight.

    Frankly – the only way you do that is to pursue criminal charges against the people who broke the law for George Bush, and against Bush. You can’t do that during 2008, because Mukasey is corrupted and both condoning and advocating for criminal behavior in the Executive Branch and its agents, but you can leave open the criminal avenues until a new President and AG are in office, and then pursue aggressively investigations in Congress and/or hand off for criminal investigations by the AG – – – but that’s all lost if you give away all your bargaining chips now with immunity and amnesty as has been happening over and over.

    So I stand by my belief that Pelosi doesn’t really ever want a full and fair Congressional or prosecutorial investigation of the criminal behaviour, because both she and many others were complicit in too many things. Better to tsk tsk, let everyone walk, and put up a pretence that they have NOW suddenly and legislatively “fixed” things so that they have “reclaimed” power.

    It’s really very simple. As long as there is only Congressional subservience to the violations of law, and not only subservience to it, but papering over it with immunity blessings, then what has been given up is gone, always and forever. Period. We are and stay a nation of torturers. We are and stay a police state. We just are a police state nation of torturers that now and then has periods of grace in office in the Executive.

    The absolute only way to ever reclaim any power in the legislative branch is if people realize that, whatever this President says, and even if he has the kind of corrupted DOJ that has been de jure and de facto for Ashcroft, Gonzales and Mukasey (and the next president will have that – you currently have a DOJ that has willingly worked for years against habeas, against the rule of law, for innercirlce privileged lawbreaking, and to make this a nation a state sponsor of torture – that’s not a culture that changes with one person) — they will know that all it takes is for someone who respects law to be in office for them to pay a price for covertly torturing to give George Bush giggles.

    Once Congress takes that away, as they keep doing, then we have basically an Executive Branch with more power than England’s king had when the colonies rebelled. And you have permanently impoverished the legislature, the judiciary and the nation.

    • phred says:

      Mary — I have to say the whole contempt thing really begs the question of why Congress doesn’t impeach Mukasey immediately. I’m all in favor of sorting out the contempt/executive privilege question, but the other profound issue is permitting an AG that just told Congress and the public to “go Cheney themselves” to remain in office. If I were Conyers I would have begun impeachment of Mukasey as soon as he refused to enforce the contempt citations.

      • bmaz says:

        If you will recall my statement on the fateful day of Mukasey’s insolent testimony; there should be contempt immediately (preferably inherent), while the impeachment process is working. If you can’t get tough every now and then, you get no respect and get run over. Which is exactly what routinely happens to the Dems.

        • phred says:

          Yep, I remember : ) I think you suggested Conyers should have turned the hearing immediately that afternoon into an impeachment hearing. And, as usual, you were right.

  13. Mary says:

    Damn – what bmaz said at 19.

    16 – How, exactly, is ANYTHING prevented in the future when you have a Speaker who has said that if Bush begins breaking any law they pass immediately and with grandiose scope – impeachment is off the table? How is ANYTHING prevented in the future with an AG who will not enforce the law or contempt citations?

    The only way you prevent anything in the FUTURE is by leaving liability intact now and through when administrations change. Then, you have people who have a sword of damocles and who will act with constraint in the future and you have a way to get more infomration and more cooperation and more respect for the law in the future.

    Of course, McCain has already said he won’t investigate or pursue any of Bush’s crimes. For that, I don’t think he can be faulted any more than you would fault politician who takes office promising that, no matter what crimes are committed (anyone ever find out what happened to KSM’s 6 and 8 yo children btw – maybe Nancy can spare a thought during her next group photo with her grandkids) she is adamantly committed to not doing anything.

    Really – how do you ever get respect for the law with that kind of amoral cowardice in office?

    • Minnesotachuck says:

      16 – How, exactly, is ANYTHING prevented in the future when you have a Speaker who has said that if Bush begins breaking any law they pass immediately and with grandiose scope – impeachment is off the table?

      Amen! If fifty years from now historians cite the Bush-Cheney administration as the time when the American democracy was nosed over for its final dive into the turf, Pelosi’s “Impeachment is off the table” statement of May, 2006, will be highlighted as one of the most critical enabling events.

    • bmaz says:

      Yes, and that is exactly why there should be no horse trading on this stuff. If you give immunity and otherwise continue to shine on all the wrongdoing in the past, why in the world would expect or believe that Bushco would adhere to or respect any exclusivity law you pass anyway? They won’t. They will issue signing statements, make secret OLC interpretations, and flat out lie in order to continue doing as they please. And they will do so with impunity. So why give up your ability and avenues to determine what they hell they have done; not to mention that doing so applies the patina of acquiescence and ratification.

      Selise @ 36 – Oh, don’t mistake my thinking that Pelosi understands all the ramifications on all the FISA issues with thinking she will act correctly for the correct reasons. Those are two different concepts, one of which I believe, one of which beyond skeptical of.

  14. Fractal says:

    ten-minute segment on Colber’ Repor’ on Comedy Central just now devoted to mocking GOP fear-mongering on FISA, mocked govt. as wanting to “bug everybody” and mocked “A T & Terrorism” and mocked NSA desire for bulk collection as including “all of our text messages” next to graphic of cellphone texting “Bin Laden is Gr8″

  15. prostratedragon says:

    Oh Lordy, now Fractal’s got me scared to put my handle on this post, talking about bugging everybody (is that the right number of syllables?) and Gr8 folk and such.

    Anyway, I have a habit of noticing wild type puns and homonyms that can make it seem as if one is speaking in code, even when that might not be the case. Here’s a beaut:
    MZM Money Stock, or “money of zero maturity,” calculated by the St.Louis Fed.

  16. Nell says:

    Fractal got the Colbert texting gag wrong; it’s ‘Allah is gr8′.

    It was an excellent ‘Word’.

  17. AZ Matt says:

    EW, this is up from McClachy today:

    Fired U.S. attorney says colleague told him politics was behind his ouster

    WASHINGTON — A longtime protege of President Bush told former U.S. Attorney David Iglesias that he was fired for political reasons and that he shouldn’t fight his ouster, Iglesias says in a new book.

    “This is political,” Iglesias recalls Texas U.S. Attorney Johnny Sutton telling him shortly after he was ousted. “If I were you, I’d just go quietly.”

    Iglesias, a former U.S. attorney in New Mexico, is one of eight federal prosecutors whose firings triggered a yearlong controversy at the Justice Department and led to the resignations of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and 11 other Justice Department officials.

    Iglesias cites the exchange with Sutton in his upcoming book, “In Justice,” as further evidence that he was forced out because Republicans were displeased with his refusal to prosecute Democrats.

    “I couldn’t believe what I was hearing: a U.S. attorney all but admitting that a colleague was being hung out to dry for reasons that had nothing to do with performance or professionalism,” he wrote in a draft of the book, which McClatchy obtained.

  18. AZ Matt says:

    More Stuff on Renzi: Phoenix New Times

    Embattled Congressman Rick Renzi’s biggest victims may be the right-to-life groups he claimed to represent in Washington

    By Sarah Fenske
    Published: March 6, 2008

    When Congressman Rick Renzi was indicted recently on 35 felonies, the surprise wasn’t that the Arizona Republican was going down. Everybody who pays any attention to politics saw that coming.

    Renzi (above) had barely begun his congressional race when he allegedly started dipping into his clients’ money.

    Renzi arrogantly thought he could fool former Arizona Governor Bruce Babbitt.
    Subject(s): Bruce Babbitt, Rick Renzi The surprise came in the details.

    I’ve been following Renzi’s ethical troubles longer than, well, anybody. New Times broke the story that resulted in 27 counts of the indictment: Renzi’s efforts to push land owned by his business partner. Renzi touted an alfalfa field owned by James Sandlin to two groups seeking his sponsorship for legislation — making it clear that buying the 480-acre parcel was the way to his heart (”Deal Breaker,” October 12, 2006). When one of the groups paid top dollar to buy the acreage, Renzi and his partner cashed in.

    Good stuff, huh? But the indictment had more.

    As it turns out, Renzi embezzled money from clients at his insurance agency to finance his first race for Congress.

    It makes for a fascinating twist on the old archetype about political corruption. You know: Idealist goes to Washington, fights for change, and eventually gets corrupted.

    That wasn’t Rick Renzi’s story. According to the indictment filed February 20, he didn’t get corrupted while in Congress. No, Renzi sold his soul to the devil just to get to Congress — and, once he arrived, just kept selling it.

    His initial scam was simple. Renzi owned a small insurance brokerage firm. His clients wrote him checks to secure themselves insurance policies — but Renzi instead swiped the money and funneled it to his campaign. When clients learned that their policies had been canceled for nonpayment, Renzi and Company allegedly issued fake certificates to fool clients into thinking they were covered by a different insurer.

    It’s mind-blowingly selfish stuff, made even worse by the fact that Renzi did it while he was running for Congress. And this wasn’t a case of a guy falling behind in the polls who decides that he needs a last-minute cash infusion. Renzi’s race had barely begun in April 2002 when he started dipping into his clients’ money — money that he would eventually use to run ads that painted him as a successful businessman.

    And here’s the real irony. Renzi’s insurance company specialized in nonprofit agencies — particularly right-to-life groups and crisis pregnancy centers.

  19. GeorgeSimian says:

    I don’t get Pelosi’s argument either. In any case, there are a hundred reasons not to pass this FISA stuff. To focus on this immunity or exclusivity thing is a mistake. It’s bad all over.

  20. JohnJ says:

    OT – it is starting to bite them in the ass already:
    From TPMM:

    Based on guidance by Bill Clinton and his reliance on President Bush’s November 2001 order that expands former presidents’ ability to keep internal White House records private, federal archivists will prevent public access to Clinton’s papers on the 140 pardons he issued in his last days…

    (my bold)

    At least SOMEONE is learning after a decade of the Rethug’s tactics.

  21. Sedgequill says:

    I have to think that the Framers believed that Congress has to be willing to come with impeachment when the executive branch flouts the Constitution. No substitute for impeachment—even leaving it to time and elections to restore balance of powers—could have been or should be imaginable.

  22. phred says:

    I should have known that you had something to do with the Speaker’s comments yesterday EW. Well done!

    I saw Kiel’s post first, so I was left with the impression that the Speaker felt both exclusivity and not giving retroactive immunity were important. Is her emphasis on exclusivity motivated by a desire to rein in Bush’s abuse of signing statements or do you think there is more to it than that?

    Given Bush’s dismissal of the prerogatives of Congress to pass legislation that the President must enforce, it seems to me that exclusivity gets right to the heart of the question of whether the President gets to decide what the laws are. In that light, I thought mcjoan’s interpretation of the Speaker’s comment missed a crucial point of attack against the Unitary Executive.

    Ok, off to read the rest of this thread. Thanks for the post and thanks for asking the question! I hope Congress follows through and interviews the email providers as you suggested…

  23. Praedor says:

    I am not concerned about what Pelosi said (except for the vast gulf between her rhetoric and her actions) as I am what Rep Reyes has said. Pelosi, Smelosi. Reyes has come out in a complete 180 and is stating that immunity is no okeydokie with him and that he thinks that a deal can be made.

    No deal! No deal! Yes, exclusivity is important (though FISA is and was broken from the get-go because of its rubberstamp nature and absolute secrecy) but so is the Rule of Law. Immunity throws the Rule of Law away and, de facto, gives the Congressional stamp of approval for complete and absolute violations of the 4th (and 5th) Amendments. It means more of the same. It means that the Constitution does NOT apply any longer.

  24. Sedgequill says:

    CCIA members, both those who provide email service and those who don’t, may to some extent be concerned about regulatory agency favoritism. Companies that have cooperated with government requests without requiring compulsory process—especially if blessed with retroactive immunity—might tend to fare better before appointed regulatory panels. Arguments concerning competition should be attentively heard.

  25. selise says:

    well, if glenn greenwald is right, and he usually is, the house dem leadership has no intention of resisting the bush administrations demands wrt FISA.

    Exclusive capitulation report: House Democratic leadership circulates FISA bill

    As has been expected for a week now, the House Democratic leadership has prepared and is now currently circulating (while trying very hard to keep it confidential) their so-called “compromise” FISA bill. Their soon-to-be-unveiled bill, unsurprisingly, is designed to give the White House exactly what it has demanded, with only the smallest and most inconsequential changes.

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