view from mars

"Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day."

Saturday, March 04, 2006

danville register bee has the scoop

Looks like Virgil is ready to talk:


U.S. Rep. Virgil Goode, R-5th, said Friday he received illegal contributions from former MZM Inc. head Mitchell Wade through the mail, at events and sometimes from Wade personally.

[snip]

Goode accepted $46,000 in donations from the company, Wade and its employees since his relationship with Wade began when they met in Charlottesville "in 2001 or 2002," Goode said Friday. The congressman has since donated the contributions to charity.

"It’s just like any other entity or individual," Goode said of receiving the funds. "Some were (donated) at events, and some were in the mail, and some events (Wade) handed it to me."

Goode has repeatedly denied that he knew the donations were illegal. Political analysts have said it is unlikely that Goode would face charges in the matter.

"I have not been contacted by the (Department of Justice)," he said, adding he was not questioned by the grand jury in the case.

[snip]

When asked if his vote is for sale when it means jobs for the 5th District, Goode replied, "When people come by the office, one thing I always talk to them about is, 'What can you bring for the 5th District?'" I've submitted a whole lot of appropriations for jobs in the 5th District."

Goode answered questions Friday after getting his blood pressure checked at a demonstration at the Danville Pittsylvania County Chamber of Commerce office for a program called Dr. Chip, which he helped obtain a grant. It was part of a day that included stops at the Institute for Advanced Learning & Research and Galileo Magnet High School, both in Danville.

Goode said he had received questions about his relationship with Wade from the Martinsville Bulletin and the Franklin County News-Post. He said he intends to answer those questions through a single statement.

"You all are getting an advantage over the others, because I hadn’t gotten my answers all the way together," Goode told a Register-Bee reporter.

From reading that, you might think all Goode received from MZM was $46,000. He has, in his career, in fact received over $90,000 (according to opensecrets.org -- Waldo puts it at over $100,000; either way, a hell of a lot of money.) The $46,000 is the amount that was determined to be illegally contributed by Wade when he reimbursed his employees for their contributions.

So I'm curious which contributions exactly were handed to him by Wade himself in person.

Guess we'll find out more when Goode has his "answers all the way together." Lying is like that -- see you have to make up a story first.

liars for goode

Mark in comments on Waldo's site and Lisa in a post point our attention to this LTE (no permalink available) from State Sen. Frank Ruff (R) in the Farmville Herald:

Rep. Goode Has 'The Highest Character'

Editor, The Herald:

I write in amazement that Congressman Virgil Goode's potential opponents in this fall's election have made the following statements regarding Mitchell Wade and his company:

Al Weed was quoted saying, "there is a strong taint about the whole thing."

Bern Ewert said that he was "very sad about this continuing story" and that he wanted to "bring honest representation to Washington

Let me clearly state what the people of the Fifth Congressional District already understand— that we presently have good and honest representation in Virgil Goode and there is absolutely no "taint" surrounding his name.

I have been privileged to know Virgil Goode for over 30 years. I have always considered Virgil a man of the highest character, integrity and honesty.

Virgil Goode has been working tirelessly to bring jobs and economic opportunity to our communities. Our region has been devastated by the loss of Jobs over the last decade and Congressman Goode is constantly working with local leaders to revitalize the economy in our communities.

I find it truly amazing that anyone would even consider running for any office by attacking an incumbent whose morals are beyond reproach for working to create needed jobs.

Virgil Goode's character is beyond question - his political opponent's motives, in my opinion, are not.

Frank Ruff

Clarksville

And it is through this that one might understand the republican strategy when a fellow Party Member gets caught being naughty -- in our case, accepting suspicious campaign contributions from a defense contractor in a time of war, and then inserting earmarks into a defense appropriations bill that would directly benefit the contributing corporation (aka, war profiteering.)

The Republican's Guide to Skirting the Issue
  • Step 1: Clutch pearls. ("I write in amazement...")

  • Step 2: Accuse truth-seekers of playing politics. ("...that Congressman Virgil Goode's potential opponents in this fall's election have made the following statements regarding Mitchell Wade and his company.")

  • Step 3: Lie. ("[w]e presently have good and honest representation in Virgil Goode and there is absolutely no "taint" surrounding his name.")

  • Step 4: Mount high horse. ("I have been privileged to know Virgil Goode for over 30 years. I have always considered Virgil a man of the highest character, integrity and honesty.")

  • Step 5: Smear. ("I find it truly amazing that anyone would even consider running for any office by attacking an incumbent whose morals are beyond reproach for working to create needed jobs. Virgil Goode's character is beyond question - his political opponent's motives, in my opinion, are not.")


Ruff fails to offer any substantive defense of Goode's little arrangement with MZM in that, well, all he offers about Goode are ad hoc personal praise and those lies about "working tirelessly to bring jobs and economic opportunity to our communities."

The hilarity reaches a climax when he writes, "Congressman Goode is constantly working with local leaders to revitalize the economy in our communities," he's referring to the MZM deal in Martinsville that's at the heart of this whole thing.

Hyperboles aside (it's beyond vomit-inducing,) why does Ruff offer absolutely no concrete justification for dismissing suspicion of Goode's insertion of earmarks into bills that would ALMOST CERTAINLY PASS and result in benefits for MZM, and instead immediately pitch a fit about those nasty democrats-who-always-just-want-to-make-people-look-bad?

It's not like Goode has the ability in Congress to basically allocate, without restriction, our money into whatever project he fancies (i.e. whoever has the most influence over him.)

Oh, wait.

Friday, March 03, 2006

goode > harris

I don't really know what it is about this Goode/Harris/Wade/MZM scandal. Call it my white whale, the light to my moth, the magnet to my paperclip.

What passes for governance on the part of those who represent us in Congress really amounts to corporate welfare sloppily coated over with a layer of, well, lies intended to fool us into believing they are Defenders of Populism and fightin' ta keep Murikans safe.

I'm fucking sick of it. What's more, I'm disgusted by Virgil Goode and his, you know, willingness to accept suspicious campaign contributions from individuals representing a corporation and his resulting actions that benefitted that same corporation.

It doesn't get much more black and white than that.

So I'm really surprised that the blogosphere is abuzz with Katherine Harris' version of Goode-gate without sufficient attention to its counterpart, which I believe is very similar. Maybe it's because Harris is generally despised by democrats because of her integral role as disenfranchiser of thousands in Florida in the 2000 election debacle. I mean just look at her (which okay is laughable and I admit one reason I hate her too but it doesn't amount to anything substantive.) Maybe it's because she's so obviously in bed with the Church Channel crowd while at the same time willing to posture herself in front of the camera to ensure maximum boob-ness. Maybe it's because she's running a truly laughable Senate bid. She's just one of those easy-to-hate airheaded corporatist politicians that so crystallizes what the republican party is about that people find it easy and natural to hate her.

Okay so I agree with them and I hate her too for those reasons, but I still have enough hate left in me to be able to devote much MUCH more of that hate and disgust towards Goode.

So let's get back to the thrust of this post and examine the similarities between Goode/MZM and Harris/MZM.
  • Both were recipients of substantial donations from MZM/Wade.
    • These contributions occurred en masse at critical times right before either MZM was awarded taxpayer money (as in the Goode case) or a request to that effect was to be made (as in the Harris case.)
    • Both were pressured to attach earmarks that would benefit MZM to defense appropriations bills (those bills that are never voted down and resultantly filled with fishy corporate welfare add-ons.)
Here are the critical differences:
  • Harris sloppily lied about her involvement and has now hired a lawyer which raises eyebrows.
  • Harris does not sit on an Appropriations Committee.
  • Goode has not sloppily lied about his involvement.
    • He has said consistently, from the beginning, that he was "shocked and amazed" that the contributions were illegal.
  • Goode is a member of the House Appropriations Committee.
When will the blogosphere wake the HELL up and realize that Goode's involvement with the MZM scandal is FAR MORE SUSPICIOUS AND SHADY than Harris'.

Harris just reacted as the ditz she really is. Goode's been smart enough to play dumb since the beginning even though his actions directly led to YOUR money being handed out to MZM projects.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

CQ whores it up for Goode

CQ adds its two cents in an article called "VA 5: Ethics Questions Unlikely to Make Goode Look Bad":

Virginia political veteran Virgil H. Goode Jr. spent 24 years in the state Senate before the 1996 victory that put him in the 5th District House seat he has held ever since. He has won as a conservative Democrat, as an independent, and since his 2002 race as a Republican. And he avoided any serious tinge of ethical controversy along the way.

But last week, Goode found himself mentioned — albeit obliquely — in one of the biggest scandals to hit Congress in years. When Mitchell Wade, former president of the defense contractor MZM Inc., pleaded guilty to bribing California Republican Rep. Randy “Duke” Cunningham, he also admitted to funneling large illegal campaign contributions to Goode and another House Republican, Florida’s Katherine Harris.

Wade skirted campaign finance limits by instructing MZM employees and their spouses to donate funds to Goode and Harris, and then reimbursing them in violation of federal law. The amounts were not paltry: The $93,000 in campaign donations Goode received from MZM associates since 2003, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics, made the firm his single biggest contributor.

The eyebrow-raising aspect of the revelations was the fact that Goode, as a member of the House Appropriations Committee, secured an earmark of $3.6 million for an MZM-run project in Martinsville, a small city located in Virginia’s 5th District. The project eventually brought dozens of jobs to the economically hurting region and was praised by Mark Warner, then the Democratic governor of Virginia.

Goode strongly denies any connection between his legislative actions and the campaign contributions he received, and declares himself “shocked and amazed” that the MZM-related donations were illegal. Goode said all amounts his campaign could identify as contributions from MZM’s political action committee and employees were sent to charities and non-profit groups.

How nice. Here's what CQ in all its Brilliant and Astute Political Reasoning relied upon in order to make the claim in the title:

But Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia Center for Politics and a well-known political commentator, called Goode’s misfortune only a minor setback.

“This may cut a few points, but he is strong in the southern part of the district,” Sabato said. “People know him well, whether they agree or disagree with him. They know he is not corrupt.”

And in no other place in the article mention another objective viewpoint. Oh, wait:
Democratic activists relish the development, though, seeking to link Goode to a series of ethics controversies that have cast a cloud over several congressional incumbents, most of them Republicans. Lindsey Reynolds, executive director of the Virginia Democratic Party, contended, “When you have culture of corruption of the Republican Party and it hits home, you are always optimistic.”
Lovely. Those damn democrats -- giving a shit about, you know, corruption, bribery, and ethically questionable behavior when handling taxpayer money and having the power to insert any earmark into a bill that is almost certainly guaranteed to pass the House vote. Oh and that bit about the influence to make that earmark coming from ILLEGAL CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS.

So remember how similar the Wade/Goode relationship was with the Wade/Harris relationship? Here's what CQ has to say about Harris:

According to Harris’ statement, the congresswoman’s association with MZM was aimed solely at boosting the economy of southwest Florida’s 13th District, which she has represented for two terms. “Mr. Wade discussed opening a defense plant in Sarasota that would create numerous high-skilled, high-wage jobs in my district,” Harris said.

But that claim spurred one Florida columnist to accuse Harris of lying. Tom Lyons of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune wrote Wednesday, “Harris repeatedly misled journalists and the public about her conversations with defense contractor Mitchell Wade.” He added,“It seems she is so happy to get campaign money that all red flags remain invisible to her.”

Of course this comment is in no way relevant to Mr. Goode's ambivalence to the ethical nature of his respective set of what-would-later-be-discovered-were illegal campaign contributions.

Now, I understand that Harris is running a Senate bid which already seems to be crashing headfirst into the ground. I just wonder why the Goode article seems so, well, shittacularly researched. Why rely on Larry Sabato as their "well-known political commentator" for evidence that would justify the storyline established not only by the title of the piece, but the entire opening passage (and that last bit that basically smears Al Weed and mocks the amount of money he was able to raise, even though that money didn't come from a future felon who illegally contributed about half of Goode's election chest but hey who's counting?)

Let me remind all of you what Mr. Sabato has said in the past -- from Media Matters:

Referring to widely discredited attacks on Senator John Kerry's military service by the anti-Kerry group Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, falsely claimed that "major pieces of this story ... are true." Sabato's remarks came during a discussion on the August 30 edition of FOX News Channel's Special Report with Brit Hume.

Hume asked Sabato about what sort of media coverage a news story had to attract before it could significantly affect a campaign:

HUME: Does it not -- a story have to eventually break into some of the main news organizations for it to really have an impact?

SABATO: Absolutely, it has to, but it also has to be true. And there are at least major pieces of this story -- like Cambodia, like the first Purple Heart, and like the 1971 testimony to the U.S. Senate by Kerry -- that are true.

In fact, all three of the charges by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth that Sabato referenced have been discredited.

So he has no stake in this whole thing, right?

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

pen pals



Precious. I wonder if Justice Alito took his pal James Dobson's advice and showed that little boy his penis.

Sammy and Jimmy have become quite close:

Dear Dr. Dobson:

This is just a short note to express my heartfelt thanks to you
and the entire staff of Focus on the Family for your help and
support during the past few challenging months.

I would also greatly appreciate it if you would convey my
appreciation to the good people from all parts of the country who
wrote to tell me that they were praying for me and for my family
during this period.

As I said when I spoke at my formal investiture at the White
House last week, the prayers of so many people from around the
country were a palpable and powerful force.

As long as I serve on the Supreme Court I will keep in mind the
trust that has been placed in me.

I hope that we'll have the opportunity to meet personally at
some point in the future.

In the meantime my entire family and I hope that you and the
Focus on the Family staff know how we appreciate all that you have
done.

Sincerely yours,

Samuel Alito

Heartwarming.
Not only is it unprecedented for a Supreme Court justice to send a thank you note to an interest group, it is highly unethical. Alito has admitted that he owes his job to a man who told his listeners today to "please be in prayer that by the time that probition on abortion reaches the Supreme Court, there will be one more conservative justice sitting there." From now on, plaintiffs and defendants in cases dealing with issues from abortion to gay rights to school prayer should demand that Alito recuse himself. Alito is deeply embedded in the pocket of the Christian right and perhaps more compromised than anyone could have imagined.
At least the baby Jesus is smiling.

holy crap!

LOOK AT THIS!!!!!!

The University of Virginia announced today that the Dave Matthews Band will headline the grand opening of the new John Paul Jones arena in two concerts.

Larry Wilson, general manager of the University of Virginia’s John Paul Jones Arena, that Dave Matthews Band will play for the grand opening event for the 16,000 seat facility. The band will play on Friday, September 22 and Saturday, September 23, 2006.

The concerts will be the first for the Dave Matthews Band since their appearance at Scott Stadium in April 2001.

So this is my first DMB related entry, a little explanation. Been a fan for like 8 years. Started listening when I was like 16. Pretty freaking influential in my formative late teeniness, but of late their shows have been occasions for overpriced-heavy-drinking and one, er, run-in with the law. First time, I swear. I lost count but I've wasted probably like a thousand dollars over the years in tickets.

AND NOW THIS! FUCKING CAN'T WAIT! That new arena is (going to be) be-yootiful.

+ =

more goode-ness



From the Virginian-Pilot over in Hampton Roads:

Can a congressmen truly believe that multiple employees of Company X are so enchanted with the lawmaker’s performance that they and their spouses spontaneously line up to contribute the maximum amount allowed by law?

Even if such “donations” aren’t reimbursed, it’s a safe bet that many are coerced. And why? Because said congressman can give Company X something it wants.

In Goode’s case, that was a so-called "earmark" (an appropriation for a congressman’s pet project) worth far more than the illegal donations. With Goode’s help, according to The Richmond Times-Dispatch, Congress agreed to spend $3.6 million to set up a center in Goode’s rural Southside district where MZM would do background checks on potential defense suppliers.

The south-central Virginia district, where employment has shrunk precipitously in recent years, benefited through the addition of dozens of MZM jobs. But should U.S. taxpayers pick up the tab for such endeavors on the recommendation of the local congressman alone? And should said congressman get to pad his re-election war chest as a result?

On both counts, no.

After years of cultivating an image as a populist hayseed, Goode may get by with playing the rube on this one. But in the name of Mitchell Wade, earmarks ought to go. And any congressman who claims, as did Goode, to be “shocked and amazed” that some corporations play fast and loose with campaign contributions may be too unsophisticated to work in Washington.
Mmm-hmm.

gazing into katherine harris' crystal ball




As we have come to learn, Katherine Harris (R-FL) has been identified as "Representative B" mentioned in Mitch Wade's guilty plea.

We learn further from this article in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune that Wade had some fairly clear intentions for the benefits he would glean from his illegal contributions to the Honorable Congresswoman from Florida:
Court documents in Wade's criminal case said Wade and Harris, identified as Representative B, discussed funding "in early 2005" for a Navy counterintelligence project and an MZM facility for Sarasota. The documents say the program "was not funded."

Former aides to Harris said she did request funding from the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, but it was not approved.

The amount requested was not clear Tuesday and was not included in a letter to the subcommittee chairman last April, but is believed to be $10 million.Court documents in Wade's case say he made illegal donations to Rep. Virgil Goode, R-Va., in 2003 and 2005 as well as a funding request of Goode in 2005. The documents said an aide to Goode told Wade a defense bill would include $9 million.
Prior to this article, I had only been aware of this from his plea agreement:
After making the illegal campaign contributions to the other Representative, Wade had a personal dinner with the Representative, in which the two discussed the possibility of MZM's hosting a fundraiser for the Representative later in the year, and the possibility of obtaining funding and approval for a Navy counterintellige nce program. That program was never funded.
Goode, you'll remember, didn't have to request funding from the Appropriations Subcommittee. He was already a member of the House Appropriations Committee, and as a result had direct access to defense bills (which are almost never voted down by the House -- I wonder what that more recent $9 million was for...) This seems to be the only detail (aside from the dates) that are different between what came to be as a result of Wade and Goode's relationship and the similar relationship Wade had with Harris.

But it's a critically important difference. It was in this way that Goode was able to secure millions of federal money for the construction of a new MZM facility in Martinsville back in 2003. Here's the whole story from USA TODAY:

Records from the Pentagon and the Virginia Economic Development Partnership (VEDP) show Goode was behind the creation of a military data collection project the Pentagon never requested. The Pentagon awarded the project to MZM, which put it in Goode's south-central Virginia district.

In 2003, Goode said he added a classified provision to a defense spending bill to create the Foreign Supplier Assessment Center, which he understood would be located in his district.

[snip]

...The center was one of about 50 budget requests he has made in the past several years, most of which involved work in his district, he says.

"The Pentagon never has asked me for any of these requests," Goode said in written answers to questions from USA TODAY.

[snip]

By the time Goode arranged an initial $3.6 million for the center in 2003, MZM's PAC and its employees had given the congressman nearly $33,000 in campaign contributions, making them at that point by far his biggest financial supporter for the 2004 election.

Goode later urged local and state officials to help MZM open the center in Martinsville, a down-on-its-luck former textile center in his district. Records released under Virginia's open-records law show Goode contacted state economic development officials about the plans on Oct. 1, 2003, the first day of the fiscal year in which the FSAC was to be opened.

Goode says the negotiations were between MZM and Martinsville officials. But the records tell a different story.

The state records say Goode acted as a go-between during negotiations between Wade and MZM on one side and Martinsville and Virginia officials on the other.

The congressman was so involved that officials of the Virginia Economic Development Partnership referred to it in e-mails as "Project Goode."

Wade promised Martinsville up to 150 jobs that paid an average $52,000, jobs that Virginia economic development official Johnny Perez called "like gold," according to records released by the state development partnership under the state's freedom of information law.

But MZM drove a hard bargain.

The company refused any direct government assistance, which would have required it to repay the money if the company didn't meet job-creation targets. MZM insisted on paying only $400,000 for a building that cost the city more than $1 million, records show.

And MZM demanded that it be exempt from property taxes for five years.

Throughout the process, Perez wrote in e-mails to his colleagues, Goode backed Wade and MZM, including when their requests fell "outside normal procedures."


This just keeps getting worse and worse for Virgil.

Get this, about Harris:

An aide to Rep. Katherine Harris quit last year to work for a defense contractor who at the time was pressing the Longboat Key Republican to secure federal funding for a counterintelligence project.

[snip]

The move last April by Mona Tate Yost, Harris' former schedule coordinator, to MZM suggests the contractor was more tightly tied to the congresswoman's office than previously known.

Former aides also said Yost contacted Harris' office soon after leaving on matters that included the status of the funding request that Harris and Wade had discussed. Yost denied she made such contacts in a brief interview on Tuesday, but confirmed she left her job with Harris to work at MZM.

Yost remains an employee of the company that bought MZM last year, Athena Innovative Solutions Inc. She is a contract worker for the Defense Security Service, a Pentagon branch that does counterintelligence and security work for the military. Her title is government and public affairs specialist.

Yost would not comment about how she came to work for Wade, with whom she would have had contact in her four months as Harris' scheduler and assistant, beginning on Dec. 23, 2004. Yost said she started at MZM in May 2005.

Representatives for Athena did not return a telephone message.

I wonder if any of Virgil's staffers later found themselves making a hell of a lot more money at MZM.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

if it walks like a duck


Ruth Marcus in the Washington Post breaks it down:

Last week's guilty plea by Cunningham's co-conspirator, defense contractor Mitchell Wade, illuminates the way easy access to earmarks can corrupt even without bribes -- or, to be a bit more blunt, with the legal bribes known as campaign contributions. The plea agreement describes how Wade wanted his company, MZM Inc., to open a facility in the district of Virginia Republican Virgil Goode (Representative A, in the language of the plea). MZM employees contributed $46,000 to Goode's campaign from 2003 to 2005, making the company his single largest source of campaign cash. Unbeknownst to Goode, but also unsurprisingly, Wade illegally reimbursed his employees and their spouses for their contributions.

And then -- surprise -- Wade asked for federal funding for the facility he wanted to build in the district. As described in the matter-of-fact language of the plea agreement, "In June 2005, Representative A's staff confirmed to Wade that an appropriations bill would include $9 million for the facility and a related program. Wade thanked Representative A and his staff for their assistance." You bet he thanked them: a $9 million contract for a mere $46,000 in contributions -- in comparison with Cunningham's prices, a real bargain.

[snip]

Prosecutors said Harris, like Goode, wasn't aware that the $32,000 she received from MZM employees and spouses was secretly underwritten by Wade -- though he turned up with the checks in hand to deliver them to her personally. Did she and Goode think that all these MZM employees from outside their districts had spontaneously come to the realization that they were the best two members of Congress? When someone who has never given campaign donations suddenly decides -- along with a spouse -- to write out checks for the maximum donation, something fishy is up. When you need the cash, though, there's not much incentive to sniff too hard to discern precisely how odoriferous it is.

It's not about being bribed (yet). It's about looking the other way and handing out YOUR MONEY to corporations who have no problem with flat-out bribery.

It's not about bringing jobs to Martinsville, either. Goode allowed himself to be used by MZM who saw him as an easy target for getting a hell of a lot for their money. And Goode saw no problem using his position on the House Appropriations Committee repaying them for their generosity.

Of course, Goode got that spot because he flipped on the democrats, voted to impeach Clinton, and added to DeLay's numbers.

It has nothing to do with the Fifth District or our interests.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

mzm and iraq

Found this, looks to be from 2004ish but I couldn't pin down a date:

On March 21, 2003, MZM received a $1.2 million contract from the Defense Department to send 21 interpreters to Iraq. MZM would not disclose any specific information about the contract. But, according to a copy of the eight-page contract, which the Center for Public Integrity received under the Freedom of Information Act, MZM will provide linguists to serve as interpreters for U.S. government representatives, ministries and other government offices, and during interrogations and investigations. The company will "provide collections of foreign language voice signals" and transcribe recorded voice communications. The contract also calls for MZM to "produce written and/or taped materials to support civil affairs and/or psychological operations (PSYOPS)." There are two amendments to the contract, but the Defense Department redacted descriptions of the modifications, and also blacked out the final, post-modification estimated price and the ceiling price for MZM's services.

[snip]

[Update]The value of MZM's contract to provide interpreters for work in Iraq was increased to $3,640,896, reflecting updated figures released by the CPA.

Why did the Pentagon turn to MZM so quickly after the start of the War (indeed, the day after the war began?) It's not as if MZM was a leader in the field, or used frequently as a contractor by the Pentagon before this:

Government procurement records show that MZM, which Wade started in 1993, did not report any revenue from prime contract awards until 2003. Most of its revenue has come from the agreement the Pentagon just cut off. But over the past three years it was also awarded several contracts, worth more than $600,000, by the Executive Office of the President. They include a $140,000 deal for office furniture in 2002 and several for unspecified "intelligence services."

A White House spokeswoman declined to comment.

One of the company's contracts was to provide linguists to the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, the first U.S.-run administrator put in place after the fall of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. The contract, which expired last year, was initially expected to be worth about $1.2 million but grew to $5 million overall, an Army spokesman said.

Hmm, $3.6 million -- $5 million? Tomato, tomahto.

That's chump change -- MZM raked in hundreds of millions of dollars in defense contract work. Here's where it gets really interesting, and where we can begin to see just how much influence MZM may have had not only on the Honorable Congressman Virgil Goode from Virginia (whose relationship with MZM we'll delve into more deeply later,) but on the uppermost echelons of the Bush administration and its marketing of the need for War in Iraq.

Enter NGIC, the National Ground Intelligence Center -- Charlottesville's very own Pentagon intelligence agency whose mission is to gather "integrated intelligence on foreign ground forces and support combat technologies to ensure that U.S. forces and other decisionmakers will always have a decisive edge on any battlefield."

Kind of like the information that led us up to the invasion of Iraq. Kind of like the bad intelligence lies that were peddled in BushCo's marketing of their war. Kind of like the bit about aluminum tubes being used for that mushroom cloud Condi warned would be coming if we didn't act:

Director of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte will review changes made at the Army's National Ground Intelligence Center (NGIC) to address criticism by a presidential commission in March that found there was "gross failure" in the center's analysis of Iraqi arms in 2002, said Gen. Michael V. Hayden, Negroponte's deputy.

Two NGIC analysts, who since 2002 have received annual performance awards, judged in September 2002 that the aluminum tubes that Iraq was purchasing were "highly unlikely" to be used for rocket motor cases because of their "material and tolerances," according to the report of the president's commission on intelligence. The NGIC finding, which the commission termed "completely wrong," bolstered a CIA contention that the tubes were meant for nuclear centrifuges and were evidence that Saddam Hussein was reconstituting a nuclear weapons program.

You'll recall that BushCo. inserted this bit into the 2003 State of the Union address. From Mother Jones:

"Our intelligence sources tell us," President Bush told to the nation on January 28, "that he [Saddam] has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production." The claim, paired with the alleged uranium buy, painted a damning picture of Baghdad's atomic ambitions.

The truth is far less frightening. Saddam did indeed attempt to purchase some highly-refined aluminum tubes. But they were not, as alleged by the Bush administration, to be used in a uranium-enriching centrifuge; rather they were intended to be used in the production of conventional rockets -- at least according to the United Nation's International Atomic Energy Agency, the closest thing to an impartial authority in this case.

What's more, this was well known at the time Bush delivered his address. Indeed, two weeks before the State of the Union, the IAEA said that the tubes "were not directly suitable" for uranium enrichment. Months earlier, the Department of Energy had reached the same conclusion -- as had intelligence experts at the State Department.

Read the whole article -- just extraordinary. How does it all tie together? How connected were MZM and NGIS? Walter Pincus at the Washingon Post has this:

Two months after MZM Inc. was given its first order in October 2002 to perform services for the Army's National Ground Intelligence Center (NGIC), the company hired the son of the center's senior civilian official, Executive Director William S. Rich Jr., according to present and former intelligence center employees.
MZM's initial task was to perform a seven-week, $194,000 analysis of "FIRES," a computer program concept to collect blueprints of facilities worldwide to create an intelligence database, according to material provided by the Pentagon.

[snip]

Over the past three years, Rich was joined at MZM by at least 15 former intelligence center colleagues -- analysts and administrative personnel hired, in some cases, to work on the same projects they dealt with as government employees, according to present and former NGIC staffers. "After contract awards, many people were hired away from NGIC at a higher salary, only to return to work on the same programs," according to one contract employee working at the NGIC who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to keep his job.

The Ethics in Government Act's standards differ for executives, managers and workers who leave government employment and take up the same work as a private contractor. But agency leaders once engaged in awarding contracts are barred from then seeking contracts from the same agency.

Right. Now, employment ethical shadiness aside, here's my question: how instrumental was MZM in gathering the faulty data (whether or not it was intentional seems far beyond my amateur journalistic skills) upon which those aluminum tube claims were based? Check this out from Laura Rozen at warandpiece.com:

According to the timeline established in the Pincus article, in September 2002, the NGIC determined that the aluminum tubes Iraq was purchasing were "'highly unlikely' to be used for rocket motor cases," e.g. they were likely to be for a nuclear weapons program -- which was "completely wrong" the Silberman-Robb report found. Then in October 2002, MZM got its first orders from the NGIC, to "perform a seven-week, $194,000 analysis of 'FIRES', a computer program concept to collect blueprints of facilities worldwide to create an intelligence database," Pincus reported. Then in December 2002, according to the Pincus report, MZM hired the NGIC executive director's son, William Scott Rich III. Shortly thereafter, "MZM received multimillion-dollar orders to continue work on FIRES and other programs," Pincus reports.

So is this all about conflict of interest, corruption, bribery, contracting improprieties? Or is there something else going on here? It's not clear. But guess what. The CIA hired a contractor in September 2002 (the month before the NGIC gave MZM its first orders) who also claimed the tubes were for a nuclear centrifuge, eRiposte pointed out to me in the email. Who was that contractor? The Senate Select Intelligence report has redacted it. Here's what eRiposte writes:

...I wanted to bring this to your attention because one of the issues I was planning to discuss in my ongoing series on WMDgate related to the deliberate fabrications and/or misrepresentations by CIA/NGIC on the aluminum tubes issue using a mysterious contractor to “bolster” their claims. The Senate (SSCI) report points out that in September 2002 CIA hired a [REDACTED] contractor who conveniently “confirmed” the fraudulent tubes-as-centrifuges story for the CIA (and NGIC).

Here’s the Senate Report on this mysterious contractor:

---------
( ) Contributing to the CIA's analysis for the extensive September intelligence assessment was an analysis performed by an individual from DELETED who were working under contract with the CIA at the time to provide broad-based technical advice DELETED. The CIA WINPAC analyst, DELETED, requested in September 2002 that they perform an analysis of the tubes. SENTENCE DELETED

( )The contractors told Committee staff that the CIA provided them with a stack of intelligence data and analysis on the Iraqi aluminum tube procurements on September 16, 2002. All of the information was provided by the CIA and the contractors told Committee staff that they did not discuss the data with any agencies other than the CIA. They were provided with NGIC's analysis of the tubes, but said they were not briefed by nor did they ask to speak to NGIC or DOE analysts. One contractor said, "This was internal to the agency." One of the contractors said before joining DELETED he had been given a tutorial on 81-mm rockets by a DOE analyst, but said that the conversation was "pretty meaningless to me because the rest of the issue had not bubbled up at that point." A DOE analyst told Committee staff that he also discussed the issue with the contractor in May of 2001. The contractor produced a paper on September 17, 2002, one day after receiving the information, that said the team concluded, "that the tubes are consistent with design requirements of gas centrifuge rotors, but due to the high-strength material and excessively tight tolerances, the tubes seem inconsistent with design requirements of rocket motor casings." The report referenced NGIC's analysis that the material and quantity of the tubes were inconsistent with rocket motor applications. The report said that while the dimensions "possibly" were suitable for rockets, the tolerances were too stringent and the pressure test requirements were too high.
...

It's obviously unproven. But the implications are truly frightening. Could a contractor accused of bribing US government officials have contributed to the corruption of the intelligence by which the US went to war? I don't know who the contractor was, but it would seem this is a subject worthy of investigative scrutiny. What the Wilkes-Wade-Cunningham larger story reveals is the vulnerability of the US government appropriations and contracting process -- even its most sensitive elements - to unscrupulous people, whose chief interests are not necessarily motivated by concern for the well being of the United States, but, in this case, apparently, self-enrichment. It's really the story of a security breach, and how easily penetrated were two of the most national security-sensitive Congressional committees by those who targeted them and others for just that purpose.
Hmm.

Cunningham sat on the House Intelligence Committee, and also on the House Appropriations Committee. Goode also sits on the House Appropriations Committee, and we can all agree that Committee wields considerable clout (did this have anything to do with the Pentagon's $5 million contract with MZM for that interpreter work in Iraq back in 2003?) The Roanoke Times offers some perspective:

In the case of Randy "Duke" Cunningham, Wade used cash, a yacht, expensive antiques, cars and other perks to get the California representative to steer defense contracts his way. Cunningham resigned last year after pleading guilty to accepting bribes.

No one has suggested that Goode took such lavish gifts from Wade.

"Virgil is not ostentatious," said Jim Severt, a political consultant and his former chief of staff. "He doesn't need a mansion or a Cadillac, because his life is politics."

But that doesn't make him immune from temptation, Severt added: "I would think that giving him $90,000 in campaign contributions has as much influence on him as giving him a Rolls Royce or a yacht, because politics is all he has."

According to irregulartimes.com:
MZM gave PAC contributions to Goode on the following dates:

9/9/2002 $1,000
3/20/2003 $5,000
3/25/2003 $3,000
3/27/2003 $1,000


$8,000 in PAC contributions by MZM itself, all within a week of that contract being awarded.

Now, it gets better. Waldo does the dirty work, and hunts down this bit from opensecrets.org. Between March 26 and April 7, 2003, Goode had received $29,851 from employees of MZM, including Mitchell Wade and his wife. To put it into perspective, MZM was Goode's top contributor for the last election cycle (2003-2004), contributing $39,551. The next highest contributor gave $12,750.

$29,851 (over 75% of the total money contributed by MZM employees, the biggest group of contributors directly to Goode in 2003-2004 election cycle), and $8,000 from MZM via PAC contributions were given within three weeks following MZM being given a $3.6 million contract for work done in Iraq. Over $37,000 donated by a single corporation, or agents thereof whose contributions were coerced under threat of termination, within three weeks of this contract. It's also notable that excepting two donations, these were the only contributions to Goode or his PAC made by MZM or its employees from 2003-2004. Curiously, the two outliers occurred on March 31, 2004 -- $500 each from two separate individuals employed by MZM, both listed as "Senior Executive Vice President." (As an aside, a similar explosion in contributions by MZM employees occurred in early March 2005, that time totalling over $46,000.)

Shorter last paragraph: Why did MZM donate so much freaking money to Goode or his PAC within three weeks of what appears to be the awarding of its first major Pentagon contract ever? As if such a huge burst of contributions wasn't enough, it occurred right at the time MZM began a long and remarkably lucrative relationship with the Pentagon? Why were these contributions coerced by Wade? Is it just a timely coincidence or is there more to it?

Here's more from irregulartimes.com that more brightly illuminates the relationship that was developing between Goode and MZM in 2003:

On 11/3/2003, the Virginia Tobacco Indemnification and Community Revitalization Commission announced that, thanks to the intervention of one Rep. Virgil Goode, it was happy to provide $250,000 to be provided to a certain company called MZM as an incentive for MZM to locate a facility in Martinsville, Virginia. In addition, $250,000 in incentives would be provided from the Governor’s Opportunity Fund.

That’s $500,000 total. But wait, there’s more money for MZM involved. According to a 11/3/03 press release from the Governor’s office, MZM also received incentives via a $127,000 grant from the Martinsville-Henry County Chamber’s Partnership for Economic Growth. This press release also notes that “U.S. Congressman Virgil H. Goode, Jr. was instrumental in securing this project for Virginia.”

That’s $627,000 received by MZM –that we know of– in this sweetheart deal.

The Martinsville Bulletin of October 31, 2003 reported, “Goode said Wednesday that he was involved in bringing MZM to Martinsville. ‘I am pleased that I was able to alert a first-class company to the strong work force and other attractive business features in the Martinsville-Henry County area and to get the company to take a serious look at locating an operation here,’ the congressman said in a statement issued Thursday. Efforts to lure MZM to Martinsville have taken place quickly. After Goode provided the initial lead, Harned said, the Martinsville Economic Development Department ‘worked very aggressively with this (project) for a month.’”

Fifteen days later, on 11/18/2003, MZM sent another PAC contribution to Virgil Goode, for $1,000.
And what was the nature of that $600,000 "Executive Order of the President" that occurred apparently before 2003? Did it have anything to do with the work on intelligence regarding aluminum tubes that would later prove so instrumental in BushCo's marketing of the invasion of Iraq?

No...just no way, right? Just what kind of story are we sitting on here in VA-05?