Washington Prowler

Schumer’s Mole

Why's Chuck going easy on one of the DOJ insiders? Also: Evangelicals for Romney opposed to Thompson. Plus: Donors in a corner.

By 3.26.07

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INSIDER GAMES
According to Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) staff, Sen. Chuck Schumer was receiving inside information via what they term "back channel" communications from a senior Department of Justice official, who perhaps was hoping to keep his job at the Department in the wake of his involvement in the firing of eight Republican U.S. Attorneys.

"The Senator early on had a pretty good handle on what to expect coming out of the Justice Department as far as documents and the timeline of the firings," says a DSCC source. "Someone was reaching out to him in hopes that he wouldn't get tarred too badly by the scandal. He knew we were going to make a big deal of it."

Given the number of career Democrat attorneys inside DOJ, as well as political appointees looking to protect their reputation in Washington, the candidates for such leakers are many. But several names continue to pop up when the discussions inside the DSCC turn to the firings scandal. One name often rumored is Deputy Attorney General Paul McNulty, a well-known Republican from Virginia, who served as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia before being tapped to replace his close friend, former DAG James Comey. Comey, though out of the Bush Administration, is also thought to be the potential source.

Comey is close to current U.S. Attorney and special prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, who has taken heat for what most reasonable people in Washington consider to be an unfair prosecution of Scooter Libby, former chief of staff of Vice President Dick Cheney. According to DSCC sources, Schumer reached out to Comey, who served as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, more than a month ago to discuss the U.S. Attorney firings. Recently released e-mails from the Justice Department revealed that Comey was actually consulted about the firings.

McNulty, along with his chief of staff, Michael Elston, was intimately involved in the planning and coordination of the firings of the eight U.S. Attorneys. Recent e-mail releases from DOJ revealed both were more involved in the scandal than either had previously discussed. Both attended a meeting on November 27th with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to brief him on the firings.

Yet McNulty, despite undergoing tough testimony before Congress about the firings, has not taken as much heat from Democrats as Gonzales or his senior advisers, most of whom have either resigned or taken a leave of absence.

A SITE FOR SORE EYES
An independent website of evangelicals that supports former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has been using opposition research provided by the Romney campaign, as well as accepting funds from donors steered to the site by the Romney camp. The site does not accept funds directly from the Romney campaign.

Romney has been attempting to build up his credentials among evangelicals for almost two years, particularly since early focus grouping and polling in the South and elsewhere revealed that many evangelicals have a deep distrust of the Mormon faith.

Evangelicals for Mitt appears to be the result of the early efforts of Mark DeMoss, who operates a public relations company out of Atlanta. It was DeMoss who initially approached Romney, and who brought together many of the leaders of the evangelical movement in a meeting with Romney in Boston. From there, a number of evangelical groups began outreach with Romney. DeMoss has no direct ties to the website.

Today, the Evangelicals for Mitt operation has spent its time attacking conservative Republican presidential candidates, most recently former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and unannounced candidate, former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson.

Thompson, who has made it clear that he does not support Roe v. Wade, and who was certified as pro-life by the National Right to Life Committee back in 1994, has continued to state that he is pro-life. But the Evangelicals for Mitt, using research provided by the Romney campaign, has been putting out information on its blog that Thompson, as well as other Republican Senate candidates, were not.

"That's simply not the case," says a Tennessee state Republican Party official. "Anyone who says that men like Thompson and [Bill] Frist weren't opposed to Roe v. Wade wasn't paying attention or just didn't care."

The Romney campaign has targeted Thompson as a serious threat to its ongoing political survival. Recent polls that have just begun including Thompson in surveys show him running ahead of Romney in Iowa, without his having spent a dime.

On Saturday afternoon, Thompson showed further strength by winning the Gwinnett County, Georgia Republican straw poll, receiving more votes than all the other candidates combined.

STRANGE MARKET
Apparently the sad story of Elizabeth Edwards's cancer comes with a higher price not only for the Edwards family, but also for John Edwards's donors. According to prospective supporters of the Edwards campaign, some fundraisers have approached them with higher entry donations to meet Edwards on the campaign trail.

"A week ago, I was being invited to $1,000 a plate breakfasts with Mrs. Edwards. After the announcement the price went up to $1,250," says a New York-based Democrat. "It was an interesting decision, to put it kindly."

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