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FEC Orders John Edwards to Repay $2.3 Million in Fed Campaign Funds

John Edwards

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Ex-Sen. John Edwards, a two-time presidential candidate facing federal indictment, got some bad news on Thursday.

The Federal Election Commission ruled that Edward’s 2008 campaign must repay $2.3 million in federal campaign funds, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The LA Times reported that the FEC audit found the campaign received too much much money in campaign funds as part of a matching fund program. The overage was attributed to accounting errors.

The paper reported that it is not uncommon for campaign committees to have to pay back monies.

The FEC ruling was not related to the federal criminal charges against Edwards.  He’s charged with violating campaign laws.

Tracy Schmaler Moving Up to Top Spot at Justice Dept. Public Affairs Office

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Tracy Schmaler, the deputy director of the Justice Department’s Office of Public Affairs, is moving on up.

Schmaler will take over the top spot in the office, replacing Matt Miller, who steps down next week, the website Main Justice reported.

Schmaler, a former reporter for the Vermont Bureau Press, had previously worked for the Sen. Judiciary Committee for Sen. Patrick Leahy.

The Justice Department distributed a statement from Atty. Gen. Eric Holder Jr.:

“Tracy has done an outstanding job as a member of the Department’s senior leadership for the past two and a half years, and I look forward to her continued advice and counsel as she takes on this new assignment. With background as a reporter and time on Capitol Hill, she brings invaluable experience and perspective to the issues the Department faces day in and out.”

Secret Service and FBI Probing Racial Cartoon Faxed to White House and Congress Member

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Some cartoons simply aren’t funny.

The Secret Service and FBI are investigating who faxed a racially charged cartoon to the White House and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Tex),  the Houston Chronicle reported.

The cartoon depicted nooses and lynching posts, the paper reported. The headline included a racial epithet and the cartoon also included two L-shaped lynching posts with “Sheila Jackson Lee” written on one cross bar and “Hussein Obama” written on the second cross bar, the Houston Chronicle reported. The return address on the fax said: “Defecating on Obama.”

“We are aware of the cartoon, and we are taking appropriate measures,” said Secret Service spokesman Robert Novy, according to the Chronicle.

FBI Contacts NYPD About Murdoch Scandal

Bye Bye N.Y.?

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

The signs of spillage from the Rupert Murdoch scandal are popping up in New York City.

The Wall Street Journal’s Devlin Barrett and Sean Gardner report that the FBI has contacted the New York cops and the FBI’s own victims’ assistance office as part of a probe into whether Murdoch’s News Corp. employees tried hacking into voice mails of Sept. 11 victims.

The Journal cited “people familiar with the case.”

The paper reported that the FBI inquiry comes in wake of a report by the Daily Mirror that an unidentified New York cop claimed he was offered money by a News of the World

reporter for private phone details of 9/11 victims.

Paul Browne, a NYPD spokesman, confirmed that his department made formal inquiries into the case, and the FBI had contacted NYPD.

But he said to date the police department had to substantiate the allegations.

Airport Screening Machines to Get Less Personal

file photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Good news for those who think the Transportation Security Administration has gone too far in its efforts to screen airline passengers.

The Associated Press reports that TSA is installing news technology at some airports that will show a generic outline of s peson’s body instead of showing an image of the naked body.

AP reported that the new technology will be used in 40 airports including Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Miami and Newark.

The news service said TSA will eventually use the technology at other airports as well.

OTHER STORIES OF INTEREST

D.C. U.S. Atty. Ron Machen Didn’t Make the Cut

Ron Machen Jr./doj photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

No surprise here.

D.C. U.S. Attorney Ronald Machen Jr. reported for jury duty Monday in D.C. Superior Court, but didn’t make the cut, the Blog of Legal Times reported.

“I appreciated the opportunity to fulfill my civic duty,” Machen said in an e-mail to the Blog of Legal Times. “Much to my chagrin, I did not get the chance to serve on a jury. However, I enjoyed the experience and got to complete a lot of reading.”

The blog reported that Attorney Gen. Eric Holder Jr. reported to jury duty last November in D.C. Superior Court, but got bounced as well.

Here Comes Some Interesting Testimony in Fast and Furious; Hearing Set for Tuesday

Rep. Issa/gov photo

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

Now this should be interesting.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will hold hearings on Tuesday on Operation Fast and Furious and the witnesses should provide some sizzling testimony.

Those slated to testify include: Carlos Canino, ATF Acting Attaché to Mexico; Darren Gil, ex-ATF Attaché to Mexico; Jose Wall, ATF Senior Special Agent in Tijuana, Mexico; Lorren Leadmon, ATF Intelligence Operations Specialist; William Newell, former ATF Special Agent in Charge of the Phoenix Field Division and William McMahon, ATF Deputy Assistant Director for Field Operations (West, including Phoenix and Mexico).

In a press release issued Wednesday, the committee said:

“This Tuesday’s hearing, Operation Fast and Furious: The Other Side of the Border, will feature the testimony of U.S. law enforcement officials who witnessed a different side of the controversial operation. These officials saw the steady stream of Operation Fast and Furious guns recovered at crime scenes in Mexico and were given orders from superiors not to alert Mexican authorities. Members of the Committee will also have their first opportunity to question ATF supervisors who have defended Operation Fast and Furious and the Justice Department’s decisions to committee investigators.

Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the committee said in a statement: “The Acting Director of the ATF has told congressional investigators that the Justice Department is attempting to shift blame in Operation Fast and Furious away from its political appointees.

“Examining the accounts of witnesses who did not participate in Operation Fast and Furious, but were nonetheless disturbed as they watched it unfold is critical to understanding the scope of this flawed program,” Issa said. “uThis testimony is especially important in light of the Justice Department’s willful efforts to withhold key evidence from investigators about what occurred, who knew and who authorized this reckless operation.”

Column: ATF’s Melson May Have a Second Wind; Should FBI Have Used Violent Gun Smuggler as Informant?

Allan Lengel

By Allan Lengel
ticklethewire.com

With the storm surrounding ATF’s Operation Fast and Furious getting more intense by the day, I thought it was time to step back and make some observations.

One: Acting ATF Director Ken Melson, who seemed like a dead man walking earlier this monthafter word got out that he was going to be forced to resign —  may have a little life left in him.  There’s a good chance he’ll be sticking around at least a little while longer.

After all, how bad would it look for the Justice Department to give him the boot at a time he’s expressing concern that the Justice Department is trying to  hush him up and keep him from telling the truth about the faulty operation  that encouraged Arizona gun dealers to sell to straw purchasers — all with the hopes of tracing the guns to the Mexican cartels.

He won’t survive this in the long run, particularly after some report — perhaps the Office of Inspector General — recommends an across-the-board change at the top at ATF. But he may stir up more mud  and try to salvage his reputation.

In the mean time, his statements on the matter, which have been released by bomb-throwers, Rep. Darrell Issa and Sen. Chuck Grassley, have made him look far better than the Justice Department. The Justice Department isn’t looking so good. And the Justice Department can’t paint Melson as some cowboy or  rogue ATF agent. He was one of them. He came from the Justice Department. Now Melson thinks Atty. Gen. Eric Holder’s Justice Department sucks — or at minimum, can’t be trusted.

And then there’s the FBI informant ATF said it knew nothing about. Look for that to become a bigger deal and possibly create a little public relations headache for the FBI.

If you haven’t been following that closely: ATF was looking at some guy, who had a reputation as a violent gun dealer for the Mexican Cartels — only to find out that the FBI was using this guy as an informant. So of course, ATF had to back off.

Shades of Whitey Bulger? Well, in some ways no. There’s certainly no indication of any crooked FBI agents involved.

On the other hand, maybe, just maybe, the FBI needs to  draw the line with some informants  (like Bulger) when it appears their crimes out weigh the benefits of getting the information.

In this case, you do the math.  A violent gun smuggler for the the very very violent Mexican cartels. He should  have been behind bars, then coughed up information to get a better deal at sentencing. You shouldn’t let guys like that run their game and live the good  life.  Sure there’s arguments to made that it’s worth dealing with the devil to bring down multiple devils. But sometimes it just ain’t worth it — when death is part of the equation.

Then there’s the issue of doing the right thing. The FBI was dealing with a major gun runner. It should have given ATF a heads up that it was working the guy. It didn’t. Now, with this mess, who knows. The informant may end up dead as a result of this all coming to the surface.

In any event,  this whole mess can’t be good for anybody and it certainly can’t help the already strained the relationship beween the FBI and ATF.

And unfortunately, this whole Fast and Furious mess is only going to get messier.

Stay tuned.