All posts by Words Have Power

Oil Companies Picking Californian’s Pockets

When the story first broke in 2003 that Shell Oil was going to shutdown its Bakersfield California refinery there was a great deal of skepticism. Insiders and analysts both suggested that Bakersfield was a viable operation and that even though it only produces two percent of California’s demand, shutting it down would have an adverse impact on gasoline prices in the state.

Shell responded that there weren’t sufficient oil reserves in the Bakersfield area to support an on-going refinery operation and that its small and antiquated facility was simply not cost effective. In fact, Shell was so sure of its position that it never considered trying to sell the refinery to another operator. At least not until public and political outcry drove them to reconsider that position.

The Associated Press tells the story of Bakersfield in the context of big oil’s manipulation of supply and demand to keep gas prices and profit margins high for consumers.

Shell’s position:

Shell portrayed its Bakersfield refinery as old and unfit. One executive said there was “simply no longer an adequate supply of crude oil” nearby.


However, oil reserves are expected to last for decades around Bakersfield and elsewhere, according to industry and government estimates.

Shell’s position:

Imports were impractical at inland Bakersfield, Shell explained. Lynn Laverty Elsenhans, the head of Shell Oil Products US, said the refinery here just wasn’t viable anymore.

  “For this reason, we have not expended time or resources in an attempt to find a buyer and do not intend to do so,” Elsenhans wrote to U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.


Skeptics like U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., got more vocal. They began to suspect that Shell wanted to shut the refinery to sell pricier gas from its bigger refineries elsewhere in the region. By taking a hit at Bakersfield, maybe Shell could come out ahead.

  “They were trying to squeeze the market in every possible way,” Wyden insists.

Shell’s position:

  Shell spokesman Stan Mays denies that. He says it’s “impossible to speculate” on whether Shell would have profited from closing the plant. 
But he indirectly acknowledges that Shell didn’t intend to make the refinery attractive for a competitor: “Who’s going to want to buy it? We’re not going to give crude supply with it.”


  In Bakersfield, government regulators eventually began to nose around, wondering if Shell hoped to game the market. But the company finally hired an investment banker to scout buyers. In January 2005, it announced a sale to truck-stop operator Flying J, of Ogden, Utah, which also runs a small refining business.  In Bakersfield, Flying J’s 350 refinery workers now process 2.7 million gallons of oil a day _ as much as Shell did _ in the churning nest of boilers, piping and stacks venting six stories above the scrubland.

  The new owner won’t discuss current profits but acknowledges making money. With limited oil from Shell, Flying J has kept its boilers busy with crude from other wells, also right here in the valley.

In fact, the refinery is so full of promise that Flying J has decided to spend several hundred million dollars to nearly double its gasoline output. It hopes to make about $85 million more a year in profit.

Gaming the system to generate higher profit margins.
Artifically reduce supply and drive up prices. Its a great system and its an easy scam when you have two oil men running the country and holding hands with Saudi princes.

“A handful of very large companies realize it’s in their mutual interest to keep prices as high as possible,” says Tyson Slocum, an energy expert at the consumer group Public Citizen, founded by Ralph Nader. “I don’t think they’re sitting around a table smoking cigars and price fixing, but I think there are sophisticated ways to manipulate the market.”

Americans continue to enjoy the fruits of Republican control of our government.

Help Us Find Brian Bilbray (CA-50)

Representative Brian Bilbray (CA-50) is missing. Despite the fact that congress adjourned last week and, by the way, there is an election in less than a month, Bilbray has disappeared. Has he’s pulled a Dick Cheney and moved to an undisclosed bunker, where he apparently plans to hide out until after the election.

Polls show Bilbray with a solid lead over Democrat Francine Busby in the 50th district race, but you would think that Bilbray would want to at least remind voters in the 50th that he is, well, their congressman.

Talk about a laid back approach to campaigning.  Bilbray’s campaign web site hasn’t been updated since May 17th.  I can find no evidence on the San Diego County Republican Party website that Bilbray is participating in any campaign events for himself or any other Republican candidate.

Based on the fact that lots of 50th district residents see Bilbray as an outsider opportunist who jumped in when Randy “Duke” Cunningham’s bribery scandal broke, you would think Bilbray would want to be seen and have contact with his constituents in the North County. But, there is no evidence that Bilbray is willing to attend any public forum in the 50th district. Bilbray has refused to accept invitations to several candidate forums and debates. Last week he was a no show at a debate sponsored by the AARP (pdf) after indicating that he might show up.

Isn’t that odd? I mean, think about it, this guy was elected by a slim majority back in June amid charges that he was a carpetbagger who never lived in the district. And, in fact lots of questions were raised about Bilbray’s actual residence of record during the campaign. It certainly looked like his ties to his home in Virginia were a lot stronger than his tenuous residency at his mother’s address in La Costa.

Certainly, Bilbray might feel better not having to stick up for the Bush Administrations botched Iraqi policy. He might not want to field questions about fellow Republican Mark Foley’s predilection for sex chat with congressional pages. But, still you would think he would want to be seen and interact with the people who live in the district.

So, that leaves me with one more thought. Is Brian Bilbray afraid of something? Is there a question out there that Brian Bilbray doesn’t want to come out in a public forum? It seems to me that the only people who hide out are people with something to hide. What is Brian Bilbray hiding?

It’s What They Do When It Counts That Matters

Back in the good old days of April 2006, it looked like a Democrat might be elected to represent California’s 50th Congressional District. Republicans were in disarray after their 50th district stalwart, Randy “Duke” Cunningham resigned, confessed and went off to prison. The best candidate the badly split Republicans could cough up in an early April special election was a lobbyist who had never lived one day in the 50th district.

Polls showed Democrat Francine Busby even or ahead of Republican lobbyist and carpetbagger, Brian Bilbray, and it looked like Busby had a real chance for an upset victory despite the huge Republican voter registration advantage in the district. Money and support were pouring in to the Busby campaign and she looked strong preparing for the June 3 run-off that would decided who filled out the final months of Cunningham’s term.

Then in mid-April the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) went nuclear on Busby with a series of attack ads that made the Swift Boating of John Kerry look like a teenage prank video on YouTube. The NRCC threw millions at the race and worked diligently to discredit Busby.

The most egregious ad the NRCC threw up attacked Busby as being soft on child pornography. The rationale for the NRCC charge was that a teacher, who worked in the Cardiff School District, on whose board Busby serves, was suspected of having child pornography on his personal computer at his home.

The teacher in question was under investigation based on information gleaned from credit card records and other personal information.  As soon as the school district administration was informed of the investigation, the teacher was stripped of his teaching credential and he was placed on administrative leave.  He never entered a classroom or had contact with another student from that time forward.  The teacher subsequently resigned rather than face a school board administrative action to terminate him.

The man behind the NRCC advertising that put the Busby campaign in a defensive mode, none other than Representative Tom Reynolds (NY-26).  Reynolds is the head of the NRCC and in April with the Busby/Bilbray race the only congressional action on the table, Reynolds was free to turn all his time and effort to the attack.

Compare the behavior of the Cardiff School District and board member, Francine Busby, with the behavior of the man responsible for the NRCC’s advertising, in the Foleygate page sex scandal.  By his own admission, Reynolds told “his supervisor,” House Majority Leader Dennis Hastert (IL-14) that Representative Mark Foley’s behavior toward house pages seemed inappropriate.  AND, then, Reynolds walked away.  He didn’t follow-up, he didn’t ask his own chief of staff, Kirk Fordham.  Fordham, would have been a good person to ask as he had spent ten years as Foley’s chief of staff before going to work in the same capacity for Reynolds.

Reynolds is attempting to spin the story by offering up his “sincere” mea culpa that he should have done more and suggesting that others dropped the ball and did nothing to protect congressional pages from his colleague Representative Foley.

“Nobody’s angrier and more disappointed that I didn’t catch his lies,” the New York representative says, referring to Foley, in the television commercial that appeared Friday on stations in Buffalo and Rochester. “I trusted that others had investigated. Looking back, more should have been done, and for that, I am sorry.”

Interesting, huh?  When a Democratic candidate does everything possible to protect children, Republicans like Reynolds make up stuff to discredit her.  On the other hand, when a senior member of the Republican leadership is told that one of his colleagues is behaving inappropriately with young men, who are supposedly under the protection of the institution of which Reynolds is a leader, Reynolds passes the buck up and does nothing.

Bringing this back to the 50th district, there are two things to keep in mind here.  First, when Reynolds and crew went after Busby in April, she called upon Republican Brian Bilbray to repudiate the ads and to ask the NRCC to stop running them in his behalf.  Bilbray smirked and said that there was nothing he could do about the ads. 

Bilbray is still smirking as he continues to support Reynolds and Hastert and the rest of the Republican leadership as they twist, spin and lie in an effort to deflect the public from its  perception that they are engaged in a massive cover-up.  Bilbray is just another Republican who has one single interest, reelection.  The needs of the people in his district, the needs of the pages under his protection, none of that matters to men like Bilbray.  Getting power and holding power is what it is all about for them.

San Diego – When Republicans Run A City

The city of San Diego has become the poster child for the effects of Republican municipal leadership. Once hailed as “America’s Finest City,” San Diego is now being called “America’s Cheapest City” or “Enron by the Sea.”

Simply put, San Diego is the victim of the Republican approach to civic governance that is the outcome of two decades of drinking the Ronald Reagan/Grover Norquist cool-aide. Averse to pay as you go government and incapable of taxing anyone but tourists through hotel and car rental fees, the city of San Diego managed to drive itself to technical bankruptcy in ten years thanks to the Republican dominance of its public administration.

San Diego’s financial woes date back to 1996, when the city’s Republican leaders decided to systematically under fund its city employee’s pension fund in order to meet the city’s current financial obligations. This was a pattern of behavior that went on for several years, as successive Republican administrations failed to balance the city’s books. Exacerbating the problem, pension fund managers routinely took actions, some potentially criminal, to increase the city’s pension obligations to future retirees.

The city’s finances began to unravel in 1996, when the City Council voted to increase pension benefits while underfunding the retirement plan. A vote in 2002 continued the practice. The benefit increases, along with the underfunding, stock-market losses and settlements with retirees, have contributed to a pension system shortfall of $1.4 billion.


The fiscal meltdown that resulted sparked investigations by the U.S. Justice Department and the SEC in early 2004. Five former city and pension fund officials were charged with federal fraud and conspiracy in January.

How the 1996 GOP national convention helped put San Diego on the road to financial ruin and more follows.

To make matters worse, while the city’s Republican leaders were stealing money from the city workers pension plan they were illegally shifting the cost of the managing the city’s sewer system from corporate users to the city’s households.

In a $20 million report presented to the city last week, risk management company, Kroll Incorporated lays out the city’s malfeasance and names names. The report stops short of alleging criminal misconduct by city leaders, but it comes very close.

San Diego city leaders “fell prey” to the same type of “corruption of financial management” that afflicted Orange County before it sought bankruptcy and corporations like Enron before it collapsed, the 266-page report issued by Kroll Inc. stated.


The report, which cost the city more than $20 million and took 18 months to produce, outlined numerous cases of wrongdoing by San Diego’s city officials related to the city’s fiscal crisis and offered recommendations to improve fiscal management and accountability.

We didn’t pull any punches,” Arthur Levitt, a former chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission and the head of the Kroll team, told the council and audience.

Two sections of the report concern violations of law concerning the wastewater system and the pension system.

The report names dozens of current and former city officials, both elected and administrative. It doesn’t paint a flattering picture.

Levitt said his group found the past city leadership committed violations of the California Constitution, the city’s charter and municipal code, and federal securities laws.

He decried a culture in which the city’s budget decisions had a lack of transparency and were marked by “artful manipulation.”

“In my judgment San Diego’s problems are not economic, they are political,” Levitt said. (emphasis mine) 

Saying there was a “prevailing culture of political expedience,” Levitt said city officials made a concerted effort to water down a Blue Ribbon committee report that evaluated the city’s financial problems.

“Concern was expressed that disclosure of the truth would derail the city’s effort to issue bonds to build a new baseball stadium,” he said.

Levitt also said the city overcharged homeowners on their sewer bills to subsidize large industrial users. Those actions, according to the report, left the city liable for the return of $265 million in state funds.

According to the report, the city’s pension system was thrown into crisis “by years of reckless and wrongful mismanagement involving any number of city and pension board officials.”

The report said that the renewal of the city’s pension under funding plan in 2002 was “unlawful for a number of reasons,” a contention that City Attorney Michael Aguirre has made repeatedly since he took office in 2004.

This is not a single instance of mismanagement of misconduct. What the Kroll report clearly defines is a ten year history of willful illegal conduct. Conduct that resulted in amended city financial reports that have devastated San Diego’s credit rating.

In Sunday’s San Diego Union Tribune, one of the factors that started the city down the road to financial ruin is identified. According to the UT, the 1996 Republican National Convention in San Diego forced the city to dig deep to come up with sufficient funds to pay for all the frills the national party demand of the convention’s host city.

The convention is now seen by some auditors and investigators as among a string of events that strained San Diego’s tight city finances, leading policy-makers in 1996 to balance the books by paying less into the city pension system than was needed to meet its future obligations to thousands of retirees.


Kroll connected the dots in a 266-page report delivered Tuesday. It cited the convention among a few key things that “put a particularly severe strain” on the city’s ability to meet its annual pension-payment obligation. The other strains were benefit increases and a new method of calculating the city’s retirement costs.

It is indeed ironic that in a community where elected and appointed Republicans have for years proclaimed their belief in law and order and conservative fiscal policy, that financial disaster has been inflicted by these same politicians decisions to steal money from homeowners and retirees. Adding more bitterness to the irony is the fact that the Republican National Convention that the city’s Republican leaders so assiduously courted was one of the unpaid bills that forced those fiscal conservatives to begin their financial ponzi scheme.

Brent Wilkes Speaks

The New York Times was able to do something that federal investigators have been having trouble doing – get key Republican Congress of Corruption money man, Brent Wilkes to speak on the record. In an exclusive interview published today Wilkes tells the story of his life in the world of “transactional lobbying.”

Wilkes instructor in the ways of the Republican congress was former San Diego congressman Bill Lowery. According to Wilkes, Lowery taught him how to “grease palms” in congress. His first class with Lowery was in 1992, when Wilkes was just starting and Lowery was still a member of congress. Wilkes had a business pitch and ten envelopes each containing a check for $10,000.

Mr. Wilkes had set up separate meetings with the lawmakers hoping to win a government contract, and he planned to punctuate each pitch with a campaign donation. But his hometown congressman, Representative Bill Lowery of San Diego, a Republican, told him that presenting the checks during the sessions was not how things were done, Mr. Wilkes recalled.

Instead, Mr. Wilkes said, Mr. Lowery taught him the right way to do it: hand over the envelope in the hallway outside the suite, at least a few feet away.

Wilkes learned quickly that prominent Republican congressman were easily swayed by envelopes filled with money.

Mr. Wilkes described the appropriations process as little more than a shakedown. He said that lobbyists close to the committee members unceasingly demanded campaign contributions from entrepreneurs like him. Mr. Wilkes and his associates have given more than $706,000 to federal campaigns since 1997, according to public records, and he said he had brought in more as a fund-raiser. Since 2000, Mr. Wilkes’s principal company has received about $100 million in federal contracts.

Wilkes most publicized congressional connection was convicted Republican felon Randy “Duke” Cunningham, to whom Wilkes provided over $500,000 in bribes (not to be confused with the $706,000 noted above), but the member of congress with the most to lose in the on-going Wilkes’ investigation is Jerry Lewis (CA-41). Lewis’ relationship with Wilkes was facilitated by Bill Lowery, whose lobbying firm is virtually based on its relationship to the powerful Lewis and the earmarks he controls

  Here’s how Wilkes describes that relationship:

“Lowery would always say, ‘It is a two-part deal,’ ” he recalled. “ ‘Jerry will make the request. Jerry will carry the vote. Jerry will have plenty of time for this. If you don’t want to make the contributions, chair the fund-raising event, you will get left behind.’ ”

Lewis continues to try and distance himself from Wilkes, but Wilkes has the goods on both Lewis and Lowery.

In recent months, Mr. Lewis has said that he barely knew Mr. Wilkes and that he did not remember seeing him in nearly a decade. But Mr. Wilkes says their relationship was closer than that.

Ever since they went on a scuba-diving trip together in 1993, he said, Mr. Lewis had referred to him as his “diving buddy.” They occasionally dined together or met at political functions, Mr. Wilkes said. At a Las Vegas fund-raiser in April 2005, Mr. Wilkes said, Mr. Lewis greeted him as “Brento” and hugged him as Mr. Wilkes surprised the lawmaker with $25,000 in campaign contributions.


As he grew more confident, Mr. Wilkes said, he often considered dropping Mr. Lowery, whose fees had escalated to $25,000 a month by 2005, from $2,500. But Mr. Wilkes said Mr. Lowery threatened to block future projects if their relationship ended. Mr. Wilkes said Mr. Lowery had warned several times that doing so could prompt Mr. Lewis to cut off earmarks, saying, “You don’t want me telling those guys on the committee that you are moving on without me.” That meant, Mr. Wilkes said, “I’d be out of business.”

Brent Wilkes bought lots of members of congress. Jerry Lewis is the one with the highest profile, but Wilkes is also closely associated with John Doolittle (CA-4) and Duncan Hunter (CA-52). If Wilkes decides to break his silence with the feds, Duke Cunningham is going to have some company in jail.

Doolittle and Abramoff – It’s Official

(Bumped for visibility – promoted by SFBrianCL)

Today’s Sacramento Bee front pages Representative John Doolittle’s (CA-4) connection with Jack Abramoff. David Whitney of the Bee’s Washington bureau details the close relationship between Abramoff contributions and Doolittle’s intervention in the internal politics of the Northern Mariana Islands.

John Doolittle helped Jack Abramoff secure a lucrative lobbying contract with the commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands in 1999 and then assisted the now-disgraced lobbyist’s efforts to route federal money to the islands and defend its garment industry, newly obtained documents show.

More “real” news about Doolittle and Abramoff follows:

Abramoff’s primary mission as a lobbyist was the protection of the Mariana’s garment industry from government regulation and reasonable worker protection.

The commonwealth is a U.S. territory east of the Philippines whose garment industry has been widely criticized as a collection of sweatshops employing Chinese, Filipino and other immigrant workers at subminimum wages. Clothing from these plants is sold tariff-free in the United States under a “Made in the USA” label.

Workers there have complained of living in prison-like conditions. Women have said they were shunted into the bustling sex industry. Chinese women told U.S. investigators that they were forced to have abortions after becoming pregnant. 

At the time Doolittle was a member of the House Resources Committee, which has jurisdiction over the commonwealth.  Abramoff lobbied to stop reforms from passing in the U.S. Congress that would impose U.S. immigration and wage laws. Efforts to enact those laws have been bipartisan and continue today.

Doolittle has been a leading opponent of the reforms, saying the reported abuses could be halted with aggressive enforcement of U.S. laws already on the books. He stood in lock step on the issue with his mentor, Rep. Tom DeLay of Texas, then the Republican whip and later the House majority leader, who called the Mariana Islands a “Petri dish for capitalism.”

Doolittle’s relationship with Abramoff extends far beyond the work he did for his “friend” in the Marianas, but this is the only case where Abramoff’s financial support to Doolittle was direct, not through others.

Whitney lays out the timeline of Abramoff contributions and ties them directly to Doolittle actions. It is classic pay to play politics, facilitated by Doolittle’s former chief of staff, Kevin Ring, who had direct responsibility for the Marianas account when he join Abramoff’s lobbying firm.

After he moved his operation to the Greenberg Traurig law firm and had the commonwealth contract extended for 2001, Abramoff appointed former Doolittle aide Kevin Ring to manage the account.

Over the next 10 months, according to billing records, Ring met or contacted Doolittle or his staffers 19 times to talk about Mariana Islands issues, including appropriations for the islands.

From the beginning when Abramoff needed leverage in internal Marianas politics, he turned to Doolittle. After loosing his Mariana’s lobbying contract in 1998, Abramoff used Doolittle to help get a candidate friendly to his interests, Benigne Fitial, elected to the commonwealth’s legislature.

After losing the commonwealth contract in 1998, Abramoff campaigned in 1999 to get it renewed. Key to his strategy was Benigne Fitial, a supporter and former legislator who for the last decade had been vice president of Tan Holdings Group, operator of garment plants and publisher of the Saipan Tribune, according to published reports.

On Oct. 3, 1999, Doolittle received a $1,000 contribution from Abramoff, the first from the star lobbyist. Three weeks later, Doolittle wrote a letter to Fitial praising his entry into the race and endorsing his election to the commonwealth’s Legislature.

One of Benigne’s first acts after his election was to push “through the commonwealth’s house legislation directing the government to hire Abramoff’s firm, Preston Gates.”

Doolittle was in Abramoff’s pocket and from 1999 on could be counted upon to provide support to Abramoff’s interests in the Marianas.

This is the issue that is going to begin to dismantle Doolittle’s house of corruption.

For more background check with Dump Doolittle and this story over at TPM Muckraker.

CA-50 Turnout Is Key For Busby

(Bumped for visibility – promoted by SFBrianCL)

The most recent SurveyUSA poll in the 50th CD race isn’t good news for the Busby campaign. In a poll of 448 “likely voters,” 47% indicated that they would prefer Republican lobbyist Brian Bilbray, while 45% indicated a preference for Democrat Francine Busby. Here is the SurveyUSA summary:

In a special election in California‘s 50th Congressional District today, 6/2/06, 96 hours till polls open, Republican Brian Bilbray and Democrat Francine Busby are locked in a fierce firefight that could go either way, according to a SurveyUSA poll of 448 Likely Voters, conducted exclusively for KGTV-TV San Diego. 4 days until the 6/6/06 Special Election, Republican Bilbray gets 47%, Democrat Busby gets 45%. Bilbray’s 2-point advantage is within the poll’s margin of sampling error. Voter turnout will decide whether this critical House seat remains in Republican hands, or becomes a Democrat pick-up. Since an identical SurveyUSA KGTV-TV poll released 5/10/06, Bilbray is up 2 points, from 45% to 47%; Busby is unchanged. Bilbray wins 6:1 among Republicans. Busby wins 9:1 among Democrats. Among Independents, Busby had led by 35 points, now leads by 25 points. Bilbray’s support among Independents is up from 19% to 31% in past 3 weeks. SurveyUSA’s turnout model assumes 49% of Likely Voters are Republican, 34% of likely voters are Democrat, and 17% are Independent.

Can Busby Win?  Check the rest.

Bilbray’s 2% advantage is not statistically significant, but what is significant is the fact that Busby’s numbers remain the same in poll after poll. And, the poll numbers are consistent with her 44% actual vote count in the April special election. Busby’s performance in this heavily Republican district is nothing short of phenomenal, but as polling and voting seem to indicate, somewhere around 45% is the peak level of voter support she can enjoy.

For Busby to win on Tuesday, she needs a real reversal in turnout numbers from the traditional voting pattern. According to SurveyUSA, Busby’s chances depend upon getting the under 35 demographic out, while Bilbray needs to get the over 65 crowd to cast their ballots. Busby’s success depends on a consistently underperforming group of voters, while Bilbray’s depends on getting the most reliable group of voters to do their jobs. That does not bode well for Busby.

Bilbray leads by 14 points among voters age 65 plus; Busby leads by 20 points among voters younger than 35. The two candidates are effectively tied among voters 35 to 64. Should younger voters, historically unreliable, vote in unexpectedly large numbers: advantage Busby. Should older voters vote in disproportionately large numbers: advantage Bilbray.

There is one final notation in this equation. Busby’s support has been very consistent from the special election through every poll and survey. Busby’s supporters voted in the special election and will, most likely vote on Tuesday, if they haven’t already sent in an absentee ballot. Bilbray on the other hand has to depend on a turnout of voters, who despite the contentious nature of the April special election, were too busy to cast a ballot then.

By SurveyUSA’s calculation, 20% of “today’s” Likely Voters did not vote in the 4/11/06 Primary. Among these “new” voters, Bilbray leads by 11 points, 49% to 38%.

It comes down to this for Busby, she needs a big turnout of younger voters, while seniors stay home. She needs the potential voters who sat out the special election to stay on the sidelines.

Ultimately, she needs every registered Republican and independent voter to pause before casting their vote and reflect upon the message that they will send to the nation if they ultimately choose Brian Bilbray, a career political hack turned lobbyist, who has never lived in the 50th CD and whose permanent residence is in the state of Virginia, to replace convicted Republican felon Randy “Duke” Cunningham.

“Where Does Brian Bilbray Really Live?”

It’s one thing for Democrats to call Brian Bilbray, Republican lobbyist and 50th CD congressional candidate, a carpetbagger. Considering that Bilbray has never lived in the 50th District and considering that for the last 5 years his residence has been in Virginia, the Democrat’s claim that Bilbray was an carpetbagging opportunist may have been valid, but until now it didn’t resonate.

Things seem to have changed. Yesterday, Democrats claimed that Bilbray has made fraudulent claims regarding his place of residence and that he may have actually claimed three legal residences for different legal purposes. The Union Tribune soft sells the story today, keeping the political aspect up front, but local ABC affiliate, KGTV, has taken a far more aggressive stance and is actually investigating the story.

In a story first run last night and repeated today, KGTV asks, “Where Does Brian Bilbray Really Live?

In fact, there are serious questions about where Bilbray really lives. Virginia property records show Bilbray claims a home in Alexandria, Va., as his primary residence, for tax purposes.

The same is true for a home in Imperial Beach. Bilbray and his wife, Karen, also claim the Imperial Beach home as their primary residence. […]

“I live in Carlsbad, taking care of my mother,” Bilbray said.

He said he has lived in the Carlsbad house since March 2005.

It is the address he used in his declaration of candidacy for the North County congressional seat.

Democrats said Bilbray does not live at that address.[…]

Neighbors told 10News they rarely ever see Bilbray at the house, which is his mother’s home.

“He comes here occasionally to see his mother like boys will do, but he doesn’t live here,” said neighbor Frank Knudsen.

“If he does live here, he must leave late at night and come back early in the morning,” said neighbor Bill Rider.

Another man, who lives right next door, said he wondered when people would catch on that Bilbray does not live here.

It’s not going to help the floundering Bilbray campaign to have television news following him around to see where he sleeps at night.

CA-50 All Tied Up!

A SurveyUSA poll released today finds the race for the CA-50 congressional seat tied, with Democrat Francine Busby and Republican Brian Bilbray each the preference of 45% of likely voters.

The poll represents 442 likely voters sampled May 7-9. By party affiliation 50% of the respondents considered themselves Republican, 32% Democrats and 18% independents. Bilbray is the preference of 82% of the self-described Republicans, while Busby is the preference of 95% of Democrats and 54% of independents.

More details below.

One point of interest, 54% of the Republicans surveyed did not vote in the April 11 special election, where just 35% of the Democrats claimed to have not participated. Bilbray’s number therefore reflect the contribution of self-described likely voters, who did not bother to fill out an absentee ballot or drop by a polling station to choose their party’s candidate for the run-off. What are to odds that this group will now turn out in mass to vote for Bilbray?

This poll was taken before Eric Roach “stood down” in his primary challenge of Bilbray and before Bill Hauf alerted the media that he was seriously considering an “aggressive” challenge of Bilbray in the primary.

All in all, this poll is good news for Busby. She has moved from being slightly behind Bilbray right after the special election (although within that poll’s margin of error) to a dead even tie in a heavily Republican district.

Wilkes the “GOP’s ATM”

Newsweek finds out that Kyle “Dusty” Foggo and Brent Wilkes are friends.  Who knew?

It is a bit of a stretch. Most of the Wilkes’ bribes go to politicians, from guys like Randy Cunningham, up through more important Republicans such as Tom Delay, Jerry Lewis, Porter Goss, John Doolittle, and on right to the top of the party – George Bush. Yet, Foggo may be the thread that unravels Republican corruption all the way to the top.

But the agency’s problems may only get worse, and one reason is Foggo. Federal investigators are looking at the ties of the CIA’s “Ex Dir” to a congressional bribery scandal. Foggo was a high-school football teammate and college buddy of Brent Wilkes’s, a defense contractor who was identified as an unindicted co-conspirator when former San  Diego congressman and ex-Navy air ace Randy (Duke) Cunningham pleaded guilty. The CIA has acknowledged that its internal watchdog is investigating if Foggo helped steer any contracts to Wilkes. According to three sources who declined to be identified commenting on the details of a government probe, there are also indications that the Feds are interested in Foggo’s role in the wider Cunningham bribery scandal. Recent news reports have alleged that Wilkes (who has not been charged with any crime) sponsored poker parties at the Watergate and other expensive Washington hotels, and that he may have been involved in a scheme to provide prostitutes to the disgraced Cunningham.

More on the Repulican’s ATM follows.

Brent Wilkes is a bit more than “a defense contractor.”  Wilkes is a one man defense conglomerate, operating a dizzying array of companies that appear designed for a single purpose, to scam money from the defense and intelligence apparatus of the United States.

Wilkes apparently is big in the transportation industry as well.  At least in the transportation of Republican politicians.  Wilkes’ Group W Transportation operation appears to have been designed to allow Wilkes to ferry key Republican leaders around in the style to which his bribes and contribution had made them accustomed.

Yet Group W, owned by Poway defense contractor Brent Wilkes, has provided personal air transportation for some high-profile passengers — including House Majority Leader Tom DeLay and Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, who has flown on the jet to such locations as Idaho for a hunting trip and Hawaii for a golf tournament.

Brent Wilkes is also a major financial contributor to Republican politicians. Aside from convicted felon Randy “Duke” Cunningham, Wilkes made substantial contributions to California Representatives John Doolittle (CA-4), Jerry Lewis (CA-41) and Duncan Hunter (CA-52).

But, wait there’s more Wilkes largess to politicians.  Wilkes it turns out is also a Bush/Cheney Pioneer – someone who raised at least $100,000 in contributions to the President’s 2004 campaign. In this, Wilkes is on a list of just 327 other dedicated fund raisers. In fact the first name on this list is Jack Abramoff. Distinguished company for Wilkes.

Wilkes is also a a key contributor to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Schwarzenegger rewarded Wilkes with posting to two prestigious public boards. Postions that he asked Wilkes to give up when his involvement with Cunningham became public.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who received $77,400 from Wilkes and his wife, Regina Wilkes, has no such plans [to return the money], according to a spokesman.

Schwarzenegger, however, did ask Wilkes to resign from the Del Mar Fair Board and the State Race Track Leasing Commission the day after Cunningham pleaded guilty.

Schwarzenegger appointed Wilkes to both volunteer positions, continuing a tradition in which governors appoint contributors to such prestigious posts.

Cunningham was the most obvious and illegal of Wilkes bribery enterprises. In may turn out that Foggo will be as egregious and illegal a case as was Cunningham’s, but it is important to remember that Wilkes was what The Left Coaster called “An ATM for the GOP.” His largess was directed at anyone who could help him continue to loot the U.S Government and steal the money of American taxpayers.